New sensors might stop photographers from being afraid of the dark

One of the biggest issues for any camera is the device's abilities to take pictures or record video in the dark, especially when a flash isn't practical or can't generate enough light. However, with new sensors that have been developed by Canon, all of that may change. On Friday, the company announced a new high-sensitivity 35 mm full-frame CMOS sensor, which is specially designed to work in low-light environments.

By utilizing the increasing sensitivity to light along with low-noise imaging, the sensor allows a camera to pick up images that would have been blurry or obscured entirely by darkness, albeit at lower resolutions. According to a press release from Canon, the sensor will be initially tailored for video use only due to the low quality images produced by the lens. In addition, it's unlikely that the new development will be incorporated into any personal-use devices any time soon. Instead, the technology will be incorporated into gathering images of space for research.

"The company is looking to such future applications for the new sensor as astronomical and natural observation, support for medical research and use in surveillance and security equipment," the company said in the release. "Through the further development of innovative CMOS sensors, Canon aims to expand the world of new imaging expression."

In terms of practical use, Canon claims the lens will operate with just 0.03 lux of illumination, comparable to how bright it is with a partial moon in the sky.

The camera will be seen for the first time at SECURITY SHOW 2013 in Tokyo, Japan from March 5-8. At the exhibition, the public will get the first glimpse of what type of sensor housing Canon will use to incorporate the lens into different devices and what future uses the company has planned. Companies such as S-Bond will be integral in developing bond assembly for sensor housing and different methods for which Canon's lenses can be used in the future.

Volvo unveils new sensors to avoid collisions with cyclists

A couple of years ago, Volvo announced that it would install sensors in some of its vehicles that enabled it to detect pedestrians that entered the path of the driver, which would signal the vehicle to automatically break to avoid impact. Now, the Swedish car manufacturer has announced that is has taken this technology to the next level, unveiling new technologies that will allow the sensors to stop the vehicle when cyclists present a danger.

The update to the car sensors – known as Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection with full auto brake – was revealed to the public earlier this week at the Geneva Motor Show, and will first appear in select Volvo models starting this May.

In a release, Volvo claims that 50 percent of all European cyclist deaths occur due to collisions with vehicles, an enormous problem for urban areas where individuals attempt alternative methods of transportation. The sensor will be best served in preventing cars from striking cyclists that unexpectedly cut in front of vehicles in cases where the driver would not have seen the rider in time. Bike riders will be detected by using a radar to sense the speed and location of the cyclist while the car's camera determines what kind of object it is.

"Our solutions for avoiding collisions with unprotected road users are unique in the industry. By covering more and more objects and situations, we reinforce our world-leading position within automotive safety. We keep moving towards our long-term vision to design cars that do not crash," said Doug Speck, Volvo senior vice president of marketing, sales and customer service in a press release.

Developing proper sensor housing for devices that can detect unforeseen threats on the road are just one of many ways that companies like S-Bond are making roads safer for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians alike.

Aston Martin’s high-performance hydrogen car to hit the road soon

Previously on this blog, we've discussed the progress of electric cars as one of the major ways that car manufacturers are turning to alternative energy technologies. However, luxury carmaker Aston Martin announced at this year's Geneva Motor Show that it would be turning to a different fuel source to stave off gasoline usage: hydrogen.

However, Aston Martin doesn't just want to produce a serviceable low-emissions hybrid vehicle, it wants one that can race.​

Later this year, the company will be entering one its hydrogen-fueled Aston Martin Rapides in the Nurburgring 24-hour race. The goal, according to Autocar, is to achieve the "first-ever race-pace zero emissions lap" during the event. According to CEO Ulrich Bez, the Rapide will use gasoline for just 20 percent of the race, showing that a car doesn't need gasoline in order to compete.

While hydrogen-based fuel cells have been a popular way to incorporate the substance as a fuel source in vehicles, it's not common to use it directly as a fuel source. According to GreenCarReports.com, the move to produce a vehicle that uses gasoline only a fraction of the time is one of many changes for the high-performance car producer, which has been trying to change its image from one that just produces powerful fuel-guzzlers. By spurning electric motors for ones that use hydrogen as a fuel source, Aston Martin can still produce its signature V-8 and V-12 engines, but can also feature lower gas usage.

Considering the reputation of low emission and electric vehicles as low-performance vehicles that can't keep up with their gasoline-powered counterparts, the presence of a powerful hybrid like the Rapide is a good sign for producers of alternative energy technologies. Companies such as S-Bond will continue to raise the bar of what can be accomplished with new, cleaner fuel sources.

Ryobi recalls batteries due to overheating issues

Previously on this blog, we've reported on companies struggling with thermal management technologies, particularly when battery complications lead to overheating in certain devices. Boeing's failure to address such concerns on its 787 Dreamliner was one of the most publicized cases of this in recent memory.

After running into similar concerns, tool manufacturer One World Technologies, which owns Ryobi, has been forced to recall a number of its devices when reports of overheating in its rechargeable lithium 18 V 4Ah battery packs first emerged.

According to a report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the South Carolina-based company received four reports of charging batteries reaching unsafe temperatures, causing the component to "burst" in some instances. The defective batteries can create burn and fire hazards in such instances, although no injuries have been reported.

These incidents show why it is vital for companies to invest into thermal management technologies and to put adequate resources into testing such devices before they're made available to consumers. While Boeing and Ryobi are currently scrambling to deal with the ramifications of their recalls and to get their products back onto the market, the true damage may come down the road.

In addition to forcing customers to return a purchased product, or in Boeing's case, abandon the use of a certain model of airplane, companies that recall products are dealt a heavy blow to their reputations. When a company recalls a product, they force consumers to question how safe their products are to use. That reluctance may be the difference for a customer to make the switch to another product.

Because of this, it should come to no surprise that many successful companies are putting more resources into thermal management technologies and developing safe methods of bonding battery terminals, so as to avoid the over heating concerns that have plagued Boeing and Ryobi.

Automotive regulators must prepare for new technologies

In a market where new alternative energy technologies are constantly in development and companies are in a perpetual state of competition for the newest innovation, automobile manufacturers have released a bevy of new technologies in recent years, some of which fall under vague classifications for government regulators. Such is the case right now for many car producers with the latest developments in LED-headlight technologies.

According to a story on ExtremeTech.com, it may take some time for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to approve the latest headlight designs from foreign manufacturers, such as the new designs from Audi. The headlights, which are based on more complex LED matrices instead of one simple halogen headlight, offer more precise lighting for the driver as well as less glare for cars heading in the opposite direction. While these advancements are a positive for drivers, the headlights also possess more complicated outputs to attach to the car, making it difficult for producers in the U.S. to incorporate them into North American models. The main challenge on that front comes not from the development of the outputs, but the process through which the NHTSA must approve such new elements for vehicles.

"When government is uncertain about a new product or technology, it often chooses to move cautiously," Bill Howard wrote in the story for ExtremeTechnology. "That's good if it's a prescription acne drug that might cause cancer. With car lighting, the benefits (fewer accidents) probably outweigh the drawbacks."

It's an unfortunate circumstance for manufacturers, especially when such technologies can do so much good for transportation in America. Regardless, it's up to companies like S-Bond to continue to develop new advancements for automobiles, especially in terms of alternative energy technologies, in the hopes that continued improvements will force government regulators to catch up to what's available on the market.

Nokia unveils new phone with 35-hour battery

With some manufacturers jamming as many features, services and methods of mobile connectivity as will fit into their newest models of smartphones, it seems as though the latest devices are struggling more than ever to maintain a strong battery life. However, one company is going in the opposite direction, announcing a new phone that will hold its charge for an astonishing 35 days – and it only costs $20.

The Nokia 105, is a bit of a throwback for the Finnish phone producer, which had gained a reputation for producing simple, durable phones before going heavy into the smartphone market in recent years. Like many of its ancestors, the Nokia 105 is marketed as a tough phone with a keypad that is dust-proof and splash-proof. As to features, though, the phone doesn't offer much else.

With a 1.4-inch screen, the Nokia 105 provides little visual feedback for users and features a handful of games and multimedia options. It also lacks a camera. The phone will make calls and send and receive text messages, but that's about it – an unusual concept considering the dominance of smartphones on major markets today.

It's for that exact reason that Nokia is only releasing the phone in smaller, developing countries, as part of an effort to make its devices available to the many people around the globe who wouldn't normally have the money for a cell phone and have only limited access to power sources.

Nokia's move flies in the face of what many cell phone manufacturers are doing. While companies like Apple and Samsung are in a slugfest to find out which one can produce the device that is most aesthetically pleasing and has the most power, it's a fascinating change of pace to see companies like Nokia focusing on a phone's fundamental elements, such as the bonding of battery terminals and thermal management technologies.

Honda to begin bonding aluminum to steel in door panels

After initially struggling with figuring out how to bond aluminum and steel without encountering corrosion issues, Honda has announced that it will be incorporating aluminum into door panels in its models.

In an effort to lower the overall weight of its vehicles to increase fuel efficiency, Honda revealed that it is using a revolutionary new "3-D lock seam" weld that allows them to bond steel and aluminum in the door panels by folding the seam back over and hemming it twice. The automobile manufacturer has been making an effort to use aluminum, which is significantly lighter than steel, in as many instances as it can in new models. According to Honda, the inclusion of aluminum in the production of door panels will lower the weight of the component by 17 percent. The first car to feature this new element will be the North American version of the Acura RLX.

Honda's struggles with the process are no different from any manufacturer that attempts to incorporate methods for joining dissimilar metals into its production process, with common problems including corrosion and attempting to deal with how two different metals handle temperature changes. The latter issue is why thermal management technologies are so important in any production process, so as to deal with the different expansion and retraction rates in the metals, a process that can wreak havoc on any bonding method.

Companies such as S-Bond will be instrumental in the effort to incorporate lighter metals such as aluminum into vehicles without sacrificing the strength and stability that steel provides in a car's frame, but not just in doors. So while Honda appears to have succeeded in figuring out how to bond aluminum in this one particular instance, a bevy of challenges remain for companies attempting to find uses and methods of joining dissimilar metals.

USC researchers announce new battery design with triple the lifespan

By using a breakthrough design for lithium batteries that eliminates one of the main factors for deterioration, particularly in the current generations of lithium-silicon cells, researchers at the University of Southern California have developed a new battery model that boasts vastly improved longevity as well as shortened charging times, as a report published in Nano Research shows.

The revolutionary batteries will be available for use in small electronic devices, cars and everything in between. They will reportedly have triple the life of a conventional graphite-based battery and can be charged in just 10 minutes, according to a release from the University.

The research group, led by USC Viterbi School of Engineering professor Chongwu Zhou, was comprised of a team of graduate students who worked to come up with a solution to a problem faced by nearly all silicon-based batteries on the market today. Currently, the anodes of batteries consist of microscopic-thin sheets of metal – silicon in the case of many newer batters – and create a current by passing lithium ions through the sheets.

However, when the ions pass through the sheets, they force the metal to expand and shrink and, over time, break down. According to the Nano Research report, the USC team scrapped the idea of using sheets all together, instead using a silicon and titanium-based nanotube array structure "that is much more conducive to letting the ions pass through it than the solid sheets.

"It's an exciting research. It opens the door for the design of the next generation lithium-ion batteries," said Zhou, who was instrumental in the design of the arrays, which are less than 100 nanometers wide.

The newly developed array for the battery, which involves both silicon and titanium-based substances, is an example of how bonding dissimilar metals is a vital aspect of developing new energy technologies. Companies such as S-Bond that specialize in the creation of these components will be critical in driving future advances in the industry.

Keeping smart phones cool in a heated competition

As the smart phone market becomes increasingly crowded and competitive, manufacturers are constantly jockeying for the edge in their phone's specs that will push their newest model to the forefront of the market. The biggest showdown in the industry today has emerged between the increasingly popular Samsung Galaxy line and Apple's iPhone. The rivalry between the two companies, though, has focused heavily on screen size rather than the device's features in recent months, with Apple struggling to keep up with its competitors.

Later this month, Samsung is expected to release the Galaxy S4, which will reportedly feature a 4.99-inch screen. Meanwhile, Apple has made attempts to avoid falling behind its competitors with a 4.8-inch screen on its own phone. However, manufacturers have struggled to incorporate the larger screen into iPhone.

Cases such as these are evidence that, even though a company has a design for the newest, groundbreaking phone in mind, the actual production of the device is not so simple. Manufacturers must always consider realities of creating safe and functional hardware, such as dealing with thermal management technologies, while still retaining optimal processing power and features. 

This puts an extraordinary amount of pressure on companies, which are expected to make frequent upgrades to their existing products, with lofty standards placed on the features of each new phone. However, with each new development, there must be corresponding modifications to the device that allow it to handle the increased power. For example, the development of larger screens and more powerful processors is just as important as creating heat sinks that can withstand the increased stress placed upon the device.

While cell phone manufacturers are tasked with the implementation of new features in their new phones, it falls to companies such as S-Bond to develop thermal management solutions that allow such powerful devices to function in such a small package.

Now is the time for advance battery and alternative energy technologies to leap forward

In the month of February we have seen two incidents that have brought the need for advanced battery technologies to the attention of millions of Americans. Earlier this month, sports fans – and fans of funny TV commercials – had their gameday festivities interrupted when a power outage at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, halted the Super Bowl for 34 minutes.

And, more recently, the winter storm playfully named Nemo – reminding many of the animated film “Finding Nemo” – was anything but humorous when hundreds of thousands lost electricity thanks to heavy snowfall and jarring winds. We could even look back a few months further at the outages that lasted for more than a week in some areas following Hurricane Sandy.

Each of these offer strong arguments for a renewed focus on backup power and advanced battery technologies. Not only can they help to avoid the disruption to daily life and major events that come with blackouts, but they also offer a  critical component in the success of alternative energy technologies like solar and wind power installations.

James Greenberger, the executive director of NAATBatt, a trade association representing many companies in the advanced battery technologies industry, recently wrote an article for The Energy Collective. In it, he said that the best and most effective advertisement during this year’s Super Bowl didn’t cost millions of dollars, nor did it last 30 seconds. It was a free 34-minute commercial for better battery and backup power solutions.

“The message that the industry needs to deliver is clear:  While battery backup power systems are by no means a complete solution to power reliability problems, they can provide a margin of power and comfort in moments of grid interruption that would be welcomed and highly valued by millions of American consumers,” Greenberger wrote.

Ultimately, innovative methods for bonding of battery terminals and other power storage technologies can improve the energy efficiency of everything from wind turbines and solar panel installations to eco-friendly cars and more. Could there have been a more effective Super Bowl ad than 34 minutes without power during the biggest sporting event of the year in America?