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Robotic system dismantles EV batteries for recycling 10x faster

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As electric vehicles continue to gain in popularity, one thing we’ll have to deal with down the road is mounting piles of batteries that have reached the end of their lives. Casting their eye toward this future, scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a new robotic system that automatically disassembles spent electric vehicle batteries with great efficiency and safety, making them easier to recycle.

The issue of spent electric vehicle batteries is something that’s on the radar of not just research groups, but big name automakers, too. Nissan has repurposed Leaf batteries to power data centers, Renault has turned its electric vehicle batteries into energy storage systems for the home and chargers at highway rest stops, while Ford is building a US$185-million facility to focus on next-gen batteries, including how they can best be recycled once their job is done.

As it stands today, however, only a tiny percentage of these batteries are recycled, so there is work to do in avoiding tremendous amounts of e-waste. Doing so by hand currently involves first discharging the battery, and then taking it apart piece by piece, which exposes workers to toxic chemicals and power levels potentially as high as 900 volts.

Looking to build a robotic system that can do the heavy lifting, the team actually turned to one previously developed to extract rare-earth magnets from old hard drives. This was adapted for use on spent electric vehicle batteries, with the new disassembly system able to be configured to tackle any type of battery stack, safely undoing bolts and the housing even if the device has charge remaining.

“With our system, when the robot picks up the battery pack and puts it on the production line, it marks the last time a human will touch it until it’s in pieces and parts,” says team leader said Tim McIntyre.

From there, the automated system can disassemble the batteries down to the cell level and pull out different materials for recovery, such as the cobalt, lithium or metal foils. Alternatively, it can extract individual battery modules to be refurbished and reused in energy storage systems. According to the team, the system can disassemble 100 or more battery stacks in the time it would take a human worker to disassemble 12.

“Industry is not limited on the amount of batteries they can take into this process,” says team member Jonathan Harter. “There is a significant backlog already accumulated. The limiting factor is the time it takes to perform the electrical discharge and perform disassembly manually.”

The team is now exploring the idea of building up the system to tackle commercial quantities of spent batteries, but imagine it could also be adapted to electric vehicle drivetrains, which also contain valuable materials.

“Automatic disassembly of components containing critical materials not only eliminates labor-intensive manual disassembly, but provides for an efficient process to separate the components into higher value streams where the critical materials are concentrated into individual feedstocks for recycle processing,” says team member Tom Lograsso. “This added value is an important part of establishing an economically viable process.”

The video below provides a look at the system in action.

ORNL demonstrates robotic EV battery recycling

Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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Source: https://newatlas.com/automotive/robot-ev-batteries-recycling-speed/

NEWATLAS

Review: XGIMI Horizon Pro 4K smart projector is a spectacular package

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We weren’t quite finished being impressed with the XGIMI Halo portable 1080p projector when the Horizon Pro arrived, but this flagship 4K beast is a considerable step up in every department. With enough of a throw distance, it’ll turn entire walls into bright, crisp, clear 4K/60p video screens, yet it’s cheaper than many new TVs, up and running in minutes, and not much bigger than a toaster.

Indeed, while it’s not sold as a portable unit, the Horizon Pro is no trouble at all to carry around, measuring 208 x 218 x 136 mm (8.2 x 8.6 x 5.4 inches) and weighing 2.9 kg (6.4 lb), minus the power brick. It’s an attractive design in slate gray with rounded edges, and it’s easy to mount and aim, whether upside down on the ceiling or on a tripod, thanks to a screw mount underneath.

Connectivity and Audio

Like the Halo, this is a completely self-contained unit that many people will never plug into anything but the power jack. The Android TV operating system is built right in, it hooks up wirelessly to a Wi-Fi network, and its built-in 2 x 8-W Harman Kardon audio system delivers high-quality Dolby DTS virtual surround audio that’s frankly too loud for movie night in my living room at full volume.

If you want to plumb it right into a home theater system, it offers an ethernet LAN input, two USB 2.0 inputs, two HDMI 2.0 jacks, an optical audio port and a headphone jack. Or, you can simply connect it to a Bluetooth audio system and go wireless; that’s what I’ve been doing, just to get access to the kind of floor-shaking bass that a picture this good deserves.

The XGIMI Horizon Pro is compact, clean-looking, smart, fast and powerful
The XGIMI Horizon Pro is compact, clean-looking, smart, fast and powerful

Loz Blain/New Atlas

The Picture

And it is a spectacular picture. At 2,200 ANSI lumens, you won’t see much if you shine it on a Sun-lit wall, nor can it keep up with the peak brightness of my 75-inch QLED TV from all the way across the room – but in the shade it’s bright enough to look great as a daytime TV from shorter throw distances, and once the lights go down, you can back it up for a gigantic 300-inch picture if you’ve got the space.

I don’t. I’ve been forced to make do with about 150 inches, thrown from about 15 ft (4.5 m) away thanks to the Horizon Pro’s 1.2:1 throw ratio. That’s still a ludicrously big screen, although it has proven to me that there’s simply no screen so large that my weirdo children won’t sit more than a foot away from it.

A 150-inch screen has comprehensively proven to me that kids will press their noses up against screens of any size
A 150-inch screen has comprehensively proven to me that kids will press their noses up against screens of any size

Loz Blain/New Atlas

This machine uses an LED projection lamp rated for an enormous 25,000 hours of use (or 17 years at 4 hours a day) before you need to think about replacement. It supports 4K resolutions up to 4,096 x 2,160 pixels at 60 Hz, and will upscale smaller content and smooth out slower content on the fly. The latter in particular can be easily switched off when you turn off the sports stream and put on a movie; many people, myself included, find that movies look godawful when interpolated into high frame rates.

It supports HDR10 and HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) content to boost contrast and dynamic range, and it runs an adaptive AI brightness adjustment system designed to keep the picture consistent and comfortable to look at whatever the ambient light in the room is doing.

There are several brightness modes, and several image modes, including a custom mode that allows you to tweak brightness, contrast, saturation, sharpness, noise reduction and color temperature. There’s also a Game mode, designed to reduce latency from the HDMI inputs down to around 35 ms; that doesn’t feel at all laggy to me in the kind of console games I tend to play, but then I don’t play competitively online.

Even without much tweaking, the image is frankly awe-inspiring. 4K resolution can almost be overkill on smaller screens, but at 150 inches and above, the difference between 1080p and 4K is very apparent. The Horizon Pro pays beautiful homage to well-shot cinema content; it’s a beast.

Lights-out comparison against a 75-inch QLED TV
Lights-out comparison against a 75-inch QLED TV

Loz Blain/New Atlas

Performance and Smart Features

This device is an absolute pleasure to use. For starters, it switches on and presents the Android TV home screen within about five seconds, provided you’ve set it up and switched off the auto-focus. Leave it on, and you’re up and running in about 10 seconds. That gives me a little burst of happiness every time I turn it on, as does the near-silence of its cooling fans.

Likewise, the Bluetooth remote is very quick and responsive, and it’s also got a built-in microphone to give you access to voice control. There are a plethora of apps built in, giving you access to all manner of streaming content, and since most people won’t bother connecting a keyboard or mouse, voice control is a brilliant way to find the content you want quickly and easily rather than hunting for letters with your thumb. I use it constantly. If (when) you lose your remote, you can control it through your phone instead – including voice control – through the AndroidTV app.

Smart remote control includes voice commands. It'd be better if it lit up a bit!
Smart remote control includes voice commands. It’d be better if it lit up a bit!

Loz Blain/New Atlas

As with the portable Halo, the Horizon Pro can’t run the Netflix app natively. This is a Netflix issue, not a XGIMI one, but many users will rightly be furious about it. Fear not, various cheeky scamps have found ways to get Netflix running perfectly on these things, and a quick and easy solution is only a Google search away. Besides that one stumbling block, it’s an Android TV, which means literally thousands of apps are ready to download and go, and the built-in Chromecast unit lets you cast content from your phone, tablet or laptop too.

The auto-setup abilities of the Horizon Pro are absolutely extraordinary. If you point it at a screen with discernible borders, it’ll simply do everything for you, perfectly sizing the screen to fit, levelling it in case you’ve left the box on an angle, and pulling the keystone corners in to straighten the image out if you’re throwing it from somewhere off to the side. It’ll correct from up to a 40-degree angle, vertically or horizontally, if you’re shooting from a tight spot.

XGIMI Intelligent Screen Adaption Technology

What’s more, if some lunk has his noggin in the way, or there’s another obstacle, the projector simply resizes the screen to work around it. It’s quick, it’s clever, it’s practical and it means you spend less time fiddling with the gear and more time getting to the content, which will be a very welcome benefit for folks taking this thing around with them for presentations. Naturally, you can do it all manually if you like. And the auto-focus system is quick, accurate, reliable and easy to recalibrate should you find otherwise.

There have been no less than three operating system updates in the few weeks I’ve been using it, too, so I feel confident in saying it’s well-supported at this stage.

Essentially, the Horizon Pro is very fast and very smart. If I wasn’t fiddling about in the menus for the purposes of this review, I’d very rarely need to look at them; this thing just works, and I appreciate how difficult it is to make a device this easy to use.

Android TV operating system is built-in, and starts up within seconds
Android TV operating system is built-in, and starts up within seconds

Loz Blain/New Atlas

Pricing and Availability

XGIMI has priced the Horizon Pro at US$1,699. It’s not the cheapest 4K projector you’ll find around, but it still feels like excellent value to me given its 2,200-lumen brightness, its beautifully-integrated Android TV OS, its quality audio system, connectivity options, smart features and generally impressive performance.

If 4K isn’t a priority, XGIMI also offers a 1080p version simply called the Horizon, which brings you absolutely everything the Horizon Pro does, but at a lower resolution, for a considerable discount at US$1,099. Both are available directly through the XGIMI website.

Our city has been in hard lockdown again for the last… well, I don’t really know, time has lost all meaning again. But there has never been a more perfect time to test a projector like this, and my family and I have been flogging the Horizon Pro mercilessly since it arrived several weeks ago. In that time, we’ve watched a ton of movies, played a bunch of Playstation games so freakin’ big it’s made my head spin, and I’ve used it to take the kids to dozens of live music concerts and wild rave parties through the magic of YouTube.

Rooftop Beatles and onesies, that's what I call a Friday night
Rooftop Beatles and onesies, that’s what I call a Friday night

Loz Blain/New Atlas

Pointed at a 30-dollar sheet screen hung off the wall, it has created many, many moments of abject awe in my household – even without being able to invite guests over, and it’s never once done anything to slightly annoy me, apart from not being allowed to run Netflix for all of the six minutes it took me to get around that. It’s a kickass home theater in a single step. Based on my experiences, I’d recommend it without reservation.

Check out a promo video below.

Introducing XGIMI Horizon Series

Source: XGIMI

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Source: https://newatlas.com/home-entertainment/xgimi-horizon-pro-review-4k-smart-projector/

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UK study identifies groups at risk of low response to COVID-19 vaccines

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Early data from an ongoing UK study investigating COVID-19 vaccine responses in immunocompromised subjects indicates up to 60 percent of this cohort have effective immune responses to current vaccines. As well as identifying those patient sub-groups most at-risk of sub-optimal vaccine responses, the research is looking at the efficacy of booster doses in immunocompromised patients.

As vaccine clinical trials generally recruit healthy adult populations they cannot offer insights into how at-risk populations may respond. Over the last few months a growing body of evidence has started to accumulate suggesting those with weakened immune systems may not respond effectively to COVID-19 vaccines.

This data has led to several countries beginning third-dose booster programs for immunocompromised populations. However, detailed immunological studies in these patient groups is limited.

Early in 2021, as COVID-19 vaccines began being administered widely in general populations, a large study commenced looking at responses in immunocompromised patients. Called OCTAVE (Observational Cohort Trial T cells Antibodies and Vaccine Efficacy in SARS-CoV-2) the study plans to enroll over 3,000 subjects in a variety of immunocompromised sub-groups, including patients with end-stage kidney or liver disease, those with gastrointestinal disease on immune suppressive therapy, vasculitis, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and patients undergoing stem-cell transplants.

“The roll-out of the vaccine programme was extremely important for these vulnerable groups of patients, however due to their underlying medical conditions and treatments, which can weaken their immune systems, we were concerned that people with these medical conditions may not receive optimal protection, so it was, and remains, extremely important to investigate this unanswered question,” explains Iain McInnes, who is leading the OCTAVE study.

Preliminary data from the OCTAVE study has been now published on The Lancet’s pre-print server. The results, yet to be peer-reviewed and formally published, comprise the first 655 subjects in the study.

Looking at serological immune responses the research found 40 percent of the entire cohort generated sub-standard antibody responses to two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, compared to an average response in healthy adults. Approximately 11 percent of all patients in the study failed to generate any antibodies at all in a four-week period following two vaccine doses.

A striking 90 percent of patients with ANCA-associated vasculitis responded poorly to COVID-19 vaccines. This cohort were mostly being treated with a drug called rituximab, which is a targeted immune B cell depletion drug.

Other low-responding patient cohorts included 54 percent of patients with inflammatory arthritis and 51 percent of patients with hepatic disease. At the other end of the spectrum, only 17 percent of patients with solid cancers and 21 percent of patients on haemodialysis showed sub-optimal responses to COVID-19 vaccines.

“On the whole, and as predicted, people who are taking drugs to suppress their B cells (which are the cells that make the antibodies) responded least well,” says Eleanor Riley, an infectious disease researcher from the University of Edinburgh who is not working on the OCTAVE study. “However, some other potentially ‘at risk’ groups actually responded quite well, meaning they are not as ‘at risk’ as we might have feared. This information will be very useful to clinicians in advising their patients.”

The OCTAVE study is ongoing, and is expanding to include investigations into how these vulnerable patient populations respond to booster doses currently being rolled out in the UK. McInnes says it is good news 60 percent of subjects studied so far are responding well to COVID-19 vaccination.

“While 40 percent of these clinically at-risk patent groups were found to have a low or undetectable immune response after a double dose of the vaccine, we are encouraged that this figure isn’t higher,” says McInnes. “However, it is possible even partial protection may be clinically beneficial, and this is something we will closely monitor.”

The new research has been published on The Lancet’s preprint server.

Sources: University of Glasgow, University of Birmingham

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Source: https://newatlas.com/health-wellbeing/covid19-vaccine-responses-immunocompromised-chronic-disease/

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Oppo previews upcoming smartphone camera technology

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Oppo held an online presentation earlier today to show off the next-gen camera technology that’s coming to its future phones, including a new image sensor, and a continuous optical zoom module with integrated optical image stabilization.

The first imaging development to be introduced by Oppo’s Imagine Director Simon Liu was the company’s next generation RGBW sensor, where 50 percent of the RGGB pixels in the array have been replaced with white sub-pixels with the aim of delivering clearer and brighter images in low-light conditions.

The next-generation image sensor employs white sub-pixels for brighter, clearer images in low-light conditions
The next-generation image sensor employs white sub-pixels for brighter, clearer images in low-light conditions

Oppo

The technology was first introduced to an Oppo smartphone with the IMX278 sensor in 2015’s Oppo R7 Plus, which unfortunately suffered moiré and color accuracy problems. To solve this, Oppo’s engineers have now employed pixel isolation technology to eliminate troublesome signal crosstalk, and combined this with a pixel binning algorithm embedded in the sensor to greatly reduce moiré while improving color accuracy.

As a result, the company reckons that 60 percent more light is received by the sensor compared to previous generation RGB sensors, along with a reduction in noise of 35 percent. The new sensor will start to make its way into Oppo products from Q4 2021.

Graphic showing the new 85-200-mm equivalent continuous optical zoom module in operation
Graphic showing the new 85-200-mm equivalent continuous optical zoom module in operation

Oppo

To get closer to distant subjects, and help steady the shot, a new 85-200-mm equivalent continuous optical zoom module has been developed, with built-in 5-axis optical image stabilization. Oppo adopts a G+P (glass plus plastic) lens array that moves the lenses inside the module for the promise of a “smooth transition throughout the zoom range with image quality comparable to that of a professional camera.”

To keep things on the level, the stabilization setup will employ a lens-shift mechanism for horizontal and vertical shifting when the movement is low, but will dial in sensor-shift and algorithmic assistance when the shake is higher. The new image stabilization system will see commercial release in Q1 2022.

Graphic showing the 5-axis optical image stabilization technology
Graphic showing the 5-axis optical image stabilization technology

Oppo

Earlier this month, the company revealed its latest attempt to get rid of notches and punch holes for front-facing cameras, and finished its online presentation with a summary of the tech. Instead of reducing pixel density, the company has made the pixel area smaller “to ensure a 400-PPI high-quality display even in the camera area.” Transparent wiring is also used, each pixel circuit drives just one pixel instead of two, and algorithms are used ensure consistent onscreen color/brightness accuracy. Sadly, Oppo didn’t reveal when users can expect this development to make its way into actual product.

You can watch the Oppo Future Imaging Event in the video below.

OPPO Future Imaging Event – August 19

Source: Oppo

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Source: https://newatlas.com/mobile-technology/oppo-next-generation-smartphone-camera-technology-preview/

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Strange supersolid state of matter created in new dimension

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Besides the basic well-known states of matter – solid, liquid, gas and plasma – there are many exotic states being conjured up in the lab. One of these, known as a “supersolid,” was only confirmed a few years ago, and now researchers at the University of Innsbruck have created it in a new two-dimensional form.

A supersolid isn’t what it may sound like. Essentially, its atoms are arranged in a rigid crystalline structure, like a regular solid – but they can also flow with zero viscosity, like a superfluid. That sounds like a paradox, but scientists have thought it to be theoretically possible since the 1960s – and in 2017 it was finally experimentally confirmed.

Several teams of researchers have made supersolids using another state of matter called a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC). These are made up of a low density gas cloud of atoms cooled down to almost absolute zero, and at that point, they exhibit strange quantum quirks that aren’t normally seen on such a large scale. All the atoms in the BEC exist at every point within the cloud at the same time, in a phenomenon called delocalization.

In previous experiments, supersolids were only made one-dimensional, so that the atoms could only flow in one direction. Now, the Innsbruck team has given them a whole new dimension to play in, like upgrading them from moving along a string to moving around a piece of paper. This BEC was made of dysprosium atoms, and magnetic interactions between the atoms caused them to arrange themselves into droplets, which themselves lined up in a grid.

“Normally, you would think that each atom would be found in a specific droplet, with no way to get between them,” says Matthew Norcia, an author of the study. “However, in the supersolid state, each particle is delocalized across all the droplets, existing simultaneously in each droplet. So basically, you have a system with a series of high-density regions (the droplets) that all share the same delocalized atoms.”

The team says that this breakthrough could allow physicists to study a whole new range of quantum weirdness that a one-dimensional supersolid cannot.

“For example, in a two-dimensional supersolid system, one can study how vortices form in the hole between several adjacent droplets,” says Norcia. “These vortices described in theory have not yet been demonstrated, but they represent an important consequence of superfluidity.”

The research was published in the journal Nature.

Source: University of Innsbruck via Eurekalert

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Source: https://newatlas.com/physics/supersolid-two-dimensional-state-matter/

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