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Skoltech researchers have found a way to use chemical sensors and computer vision to determine when grilled chicken is cooked just right. These tools can help restaurants monitor and automate cooking processes in their kitchens and perhaps one day even end up in your ‘smart’ oven. The paper detailing the results of this research, supported by a Russian Science Foundation grant, was published in the journal Food Chemistry.

In new Skoltech research ‘e nose and computer vision help cook

Image credit: Pixabay (Free Pixabay license)

How do you tell that chicken breast on your grill is ready for your plate? Well, you probably look at it closely and smell it to make sure it is done the way you like it. However, if you are a restaurant chef or head cook at a huge industrial kitchen, you cannot really rely on your eyes and nose to ensure uniform results up to the standards your customers expect. That is why the hospitality industry is actively looking for cheap, reliable and sensitive tools to replace subjective human judgement with automated quality control.

Professor Albert Nasibulin of Skoltech and Aalto University, Skoltech senior research scientist Fedor Fedorov and their colleagues decided to do just that: get an ‘e-nose’, an array of sensors detecting certain components of an odor, to ‘sniff’ the cooking chicken and a computer vision algorithm to ‘look’ at it. ‘E-noses’ are simpler and less expensive to operate than, say, a gas chromatograph or a mass spectrometer, and they have even been shown to be able to detect various types of cheeses or pick out rotten apples or bananas. Computer vision, on the other hand, can recognize visual patterns – for instance, to detect cracked cookies.

The Skoltech Laboratory of Nanomaterials, led by Professor Nasibulin, has been developing new materials for chemical sensors; one of the applications for these sensors is in the HoReCa segment, as they can be used to control the quality of air filtration in restaurant ventilation. A student of the lab and co-author of the paper, Ainul Yaqin, traveled to Novosibirsk for his Industrial Immersion project, where he used the lab sensors to test the effectiveness of industrial filters produced by a major Russian company. That project led to experiments with the smell profile of grilled chicken.

“At the same time, to determine the proper doneness state, one cannot rely on ‘e-nose’ only but have to use computer vision — these tools give you a so-called ‘electronic panel’ (a panel of electronic ‘experts’). Building on the great experience in computer vision techniques of our colleagues from Skoltech CDISE, together, we tested the hypothesis that, when combined, computer vision and electronic nose provide more precise control over the cooking,” Nasibulin says.

The team chose to combine these two techniques for a way to monitor the doneness of food accurately and in a contactless manner. They picked chicken meat, which is popular across the world, and grilled quite a lot of chicken breast (bought at a local Moscow supermarket) to ‘train’ their instruments to evaluate and predict how well it was cooked.

The researchers built their own ‘e-nose’, with eight sensors detecting smoke, alcohol, CO and other compounds as well as temperature and humidity, and put it into the ventilation system. They also took photos of the grilled chicken and fed the information to an algorithm that specifically looks for patterns in data. To define changes in odor consistent with the various stages of a grilling process, scientists used thermogravimetric analysis (to monitor the amount of volatile particles for the ‘e-nose’ to detect), differential mobility analysis to measure the size of aerosol particles, and mass spectrometry.

But perhaps the most important part of the experiment involved 16 PhD students and researchers who taste-tested a lot of grilled chicken breast to rate its tenderness, juiciness, intensity of flavor, appearance and overall doneness on a 10-point scale. This data was matched to the analytical results to test the latter against the perception of humans who usually end up eating the chicken.

The researchers grilled meat just outside the lab and used the Skoltech canteen to set up the testing site. “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to wear masks and perform testing in small groups, so it was a rather unusual experience. All participants were given instructions and provided with sensory evaluation protocols to do the job properly. We cooked many samples, coded them, and used them in blind tests. It was a very interesting experience for people who are mainly material scientists and rely on data from sophisticated analytical tools. But, chicken tissues are materials too,” Fedorov notes.

The team reports that their system was able to identify undercooked, well-cooked and overcooked chicken quite well, so it can potentially be used to automate quality control in a kitchen setting. The authors note that, to use their technique on other parts of the chicken – say, legs or wings – or for a different cooking method, the electronic ‘nose’ and ‘eyes’ would have to be retrained on new data.

The researchers now plan to test their sensors in restaurant kitchen environments. One other potential application could be ‘sniffing out’ rotten meat at the very early stages, when changes in its smell profile would still be too subtle for a human nose.

“We believe these systems can be integrated into industrial kitchens and even in usual kitchens as a tool that can help and advise about the doneness degree of your meat, when direct temperature measurement is not possible or not effective,” Fedor Fedorov says.

Source: Skoltech




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New sodium oxide paves way for advanced sodium-ion batteries

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Skoltech researchers and their collaborators from France, the US, Switzerland, and Australia were able to create and describe a mixed Na(Li1/3Mn2/3)O2 oxide that holds promise as a cathode material for sodium-ion batteries, which can one day complement or even replace lithium-ion batteries. The paper was published in the journal Nature Materials.

New sodium oxide paves way for advanced sodium ion batteries

Image credit: Pixabay (Free Pixabay license)

Lithium-ion batteries are powering the modern world of consumer devices and driving a revolution in electric transportation. But since lithium is rather rare and challenging to extract from an environmental standpoint, researchers and engineers have been looking for more sustainable and cost-effective alternatives for quite some time now.

One option is sodium-ion technology, as sodium is much more abundant than lithium. Na-ion batteries, however, still struggle to provide high energy density and cycling stability. Thus, the search for an optimal design for Na-based cathodes is underway in laboratories across the world.

Skoltech Professor and Director of the Center for Energy Science and Technology Artem Abakumov and PhD student Anatolii Morozov were part of an international team that studied the compound Na(Li1/3Mn2/3)O2, patented by Renault. This compound showed promise as a cathode material with high energy density, no voltage fade over multiple charge cycles, and moisture stability.

“We have performed all the transmission electron microscopy (TEM) studies using the equipment at Advanced Imaging Core Facility of Skoltech. We investigated the crystal structure of Na(Li1/3Mn2/3)O2 by electron diffraction and directly visualized it with atomic resolution scanning transmission electron microscopy techniques. Furthermore, we investigated this material at various states of charge by TEM, which allowed to trace the evolution of its crystal structure during the electrochemical cycling,” Morozov says.

Among other things, the team found that the new compound possesses a reversible specific discharge capacity of 190 mAh/g, which is relatively high values for sodium-ion battery cathode materials. According to Morozov, it also demonstrates a good capacity retention and moisture resistance, which is unusual for compounds of this kind. “Moreover, no significant voltage fade was observed during prolonged cycling of Na(Li1/3Mn2/3)O2; it’s a key drawback of similar Li-rich layered cathode materials,” the Skoltech PhD student says.

However, despite these promising properties, Na(Li1/3Mn2/3)O2 exhibits a large voltage hysteresis during charge and discharge, which leads to a decrease in the energy efficiency of the cathode material and can become an obstacle in commercial implementation. “We assume that the appearance of a large voltage hysteresis is associated with the migration of Mn within the structure. Thus, in the future it is necessary to develop a model for cation ordering and find a path to control it to overcome this issue,” Anatolii Morozov notes.

“The team used Titan Themis Z electron microscope at our Advanced Imaging Core Facility (AICF), which allows to visualize single atoms in the crystal lattice of a material and study its structure and how it relates to the properties of that material. But top-level equipment is necessary but not enough for impressive scientific results; we see the skills of our staff scientists and students as crucial and invest a lot in the development of those skills. With Prof. Abakumov being a Research Advisor of AICF, close scientific collaboration between our team and Skoltech scientists becomes possible. This gives Skoltech competitive advantage when it comes to the implementation of complex research projects or development of unique technologies.” notes Yaroslava Shakhova, Head of the Skoltech Advanced Imaging Core Facility.

Other organizations involved in this research include Chimie du Solide-Energie, Collège de France; Sorbonne Université; Renault Technocentre; Réseau sur le Stockage Electrochimique de l’Energie (RS2E); Université d’Orléans; Université de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Paul Scherrer Institute; The University of Sydney; Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering, Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation; University of Illinois at Chicago; University of Montpellier.

Source: Skoltech




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Vi Weekend Data Rollover Offer Extended Till April 17: All the Details

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Vi (Vodafone Idea) has extended its weekend data rollover offer till April 17 from its previous end date of January 17. The company started the data rollover system back in October last year for its prepaid customers and it allows them to carry forward their daily unused data to the weekend. The updated time frame can be spotted in the terms and conditions section on the official Vi website. The weekend data rollover offer is still available with the same plans as before.

Vi website has been updated to show that this promotional offer is applicable from October 19 2020 to April 17 2021. This gives users another three months to enjoy the benefits of weekend data rollover as the offer was initially supposed to end on January 17. The minimum recharge value to avail this offer is Rs. 249 and is valid for unlimited packs with daily data. It is valid for Rs. 249, Rs. 299, Rs. 399, Rs. 449, Rs. 595, Rs. 599, Rs. 699, Rs. 795, and Rs. 2,595 plans. Currently, all these plans are listed on the website with weekend rollover along with an additional offer such as double data, 5GB extra data, or one year subscription to Zee5.

Every plan offered by Vi comes with some amount of data limit, that may not always be completely used. This results in some data being wasted as it resets the next day. With the weekend rollover system, Vi customers will be able to make use of whatever data is unused throughout the week, over the weekend.

Customers should note that unused data between Monday 0000 hours to Friday 2400 hours will be accumulated and made available between Saturday 0000 hours and Sunday 2400 hours. Post that, any and all unused data will be forfeited. The terms and conditions also state that Vi reserves the right to discontinue, modify, or withdraw the roll over or other product features subject to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) regulations.


What will be the most exciting tech launch of 2021? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.

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For preschoolers and soldiers: 4 new Acer Chromebooks meet military and toy safety standards

acer travelmate spin b3 lifestyle 1

Two models have antimicrobial coating and a spill-resistant gutter system to keep up to 11 ounces of liquid away from internal components.

The Acer TravelMate Spin B3 meets both military durability standards as well as toy safety rules.

Image: Acer

Even after several product announcements at CES 2021, Acer has more laptop news with five new products designed for the classroom. These laptops meet durability standards designed for military use as well as safety guidelines from toy manufacturers.

Several of the products feature zero-touch enrollment which means that IT departments can drop ship the laptops and automatically enroll the devices into a school’s system as soon as a student connects to the internet.

Here are the highlights of these new products. 

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Travelmate Spin B3

This convertible laptop is built for the toughest environment with extra durability. It is certified to meet ASTM toy safety standards and military-grade durability standards. It has a keyboard with mechanically anchored keys and a moisture-resistant touchpad. The processor is an Intel Pentium Silver and the battery life is up to 12 hours. The laptop has an HD webcam and Wi-Fi 6. According to Acer, the laptop can withstand up to 132 pounds of downward force, for those times when technology is too hard to grasp. 

The device has a drainage system that can redirect up to 11 ounces of liquid away from the internal components out of a drain in the bottom of the chassis. Also, the touch display is covered with a layer of antimicrobial Corning Gorilla Glass that can reduce the growth of odor and stain-causing microorganisms, according to the company. To boost the cleanliness factor even more, there is an optional BPR and EPA-compliant antimicrobial agent in the keyboard coating, touchpad, and palm-rest surface. A Wacom AES pen and a 5MP HDR front-facing camera are other optional features.

The Acer TravelMate Spin B3 (TMB311R-32) will be available in North America in April starting at $329.99; in EMEA in Q2 starting at €409; and in China in February, starting at ¥2,499.

Chromebook Spin 512 and 511

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Image: Acer

These two new convertible Chromebooks are also for the school environment with designs that meet military and toy durability standards and the specially designed gutter system to reduce damage from accidental spills.

The Spin 512 and Spin 511 come with an 8MP MIPI world-facing camera and an HDR webcam. Both have antimicrobial Corning Gorilla Glass display, ideal for education settings in which students share devices. Both devices have 360-degree hinges and N4500 and N5100 Intel processors. The new Acer Chromebooks will be available with up to 64GB eMMC storage and up to 8GB RAM.

The Acer Chromebook Spin 512 has a 3:2 aspect ratio HD+ IPS display. It also has an antimicrobial agent in the coating on the keyboard touchpad and palm area that is proven to show a consistently high microbial reduction rate against a broad range of bacteria. The Acer Chromebook Spin 512 will be available in North America in April starting at $429.99.

The Acer Chromebook Spin 511 is smaller with an 11.6-inch HD IPS display. 

The Acer Chromebook Spin 512 (R853TA) will be available in North America in April starting at $429.99; and in EMEA in March 2021, starting at EUR 399. The Acer Chromebook Spin 511 will be available in North America in April starting at $399.99; and in EMEA in March 2021, starting at €369.

Chromebook 511 and Chromebook 311

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Image: Acer

These two new clamshell 11.6-inch laptops also feature compact designs and military durability. Both laptops meet leading toy safety standards. The 511 has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c Compute Platform and 4G LTE connectivity. Battery life is up to 20 hours, according to the company. It will be available in North America in April starting at $399.99.

The Chromebook 311 has a Mediatek MT8183 processor and was designed around industrial durability and toy safety standards for younger students. A touch screen is optional. It provides up to 20 hours of battery life. It will be available in North America in January starting at $299.99.

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