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With the acquisition of the new instrument and an accompanying nanoindenter, studies at the College of Engineering are entering a new and advanced era of materials characterization.

During re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, temperatures on the surface of NASA’s space shuttle would reach a searing 1,650 degrees Celsius. Yet, inside the orbiter, astronauts sat safe and sound, protected from the fiery descent by special tiles that also preserved the shuttle’s critical components.

Engineers spent months developing those tiles, subjecting them to a process called materials characterization, in which the mechanical and microstructural properties of substances such as metals and composites are tested and examined under extreme conditions.

Scanning electron microscope opens new avenues of research

A new scanning electron microscope at the College of Engineering should assist in accelerating the application of advanced materials in a multitude of industries. Photo: College of Engineering, University of Miami

University of Miami researchers James Coakley and Giacomo Po know the process better than anyone. And now, their research—which ranges from improving the performance of superalloys in gas turbine engines to investigating the ability of materials to withstand the harsh environment of a potential fusion reactor—stands to benefit immensely from a new scanning electron microscope (SEM) and testing tool at the College of Engineering that promises to accelerate the application of advanced materials in a multitude of industries.

Coakley and Po, assistant professors of mechanical and aerospace engineering, installed the SEM just before the Thanksgiving holiday, testing its sub-nanometer imaging capabilities shortly after.

They have paired the device with a new in-situ nanoindenter, an instrument that will allow the researchers to subject materials to extreme conditions within the SEM to study how the substances respond to such harsh conditions. Together, the nanoindenter and SEM are able to operate up to 1,000 degrees Celsius, mimicking some of the materials of the high-temperature environment will be subjected to in the real world.

“With in-situ SEM micromechanics, we’re able to observe what happens to the microstructure of materials under high temperatures and loads, and this helps in developing new ideas to optimize materials for use in extreme environments,” Po said.

It is a concept that is one of the key provisions of President Barack Obama’s Materials Genome Initiative, a multiagency endeavour designed to fast-track the discovery, manufacture, and use of advanced materials to address challenges in clean energy, national security, and human welfare.

As such, Coakley and Po will conduct extensive physical modelling of materials behaviour. “Normally, structural materials are the limiting factor in high-temperature components and being able to predict their behaviour is the key to enable new technologies,” Po explained. “With the advance of integrated computational materials engineering, the idea is that we can integrate materials optimization at each phase of the design flow. And we can only do that if we know exactly how materials are going to behave under specific types of loads.”

Coakley said the new microscope and accompanying nanoindenter fill a void at the College of Engineering that prevented researchers from delving deeply into the underlying science of materials characterization. “But that’s what these tools will help us do—link real-world observations with microscopic behaviour and the critical science,” he said.

Coakley, an expert in a class of materials called nickel-based superalloys, which are the most advanced heat-resistant metals used in jet engines, is excited about the implications the devices hold for his research. In one project, he hopes to enhance the microstructures of superalloys. And in another ongoing initiative, he is employing 3D printing to create novel metal matrix composites of greater strength and stiffness for the aerospace industry.

He hopes to secure National Science Foundation funding for both projects.

Po also works with nickel-based superalloys but in the area of advanced heat exchangers. In a U.S. Department of Energy-funded project, he is trying to design a lightweight heat exchanger capable of operating up to 800 degrees Celsius.

But it is another DOE-supported project that Po is most excited about. In that study, he is examining materials that can withstand the extraordinarily high temperatures that are produced by nuclear fusion reactors. Infusion, which powers the sun and the stars, lightweight atoms are brought together at temperatures of tens of millions of degrees to release energy. Mimicking the way the sun produces such energy offers the prospect of an inestimable source of energy on Earth, but duplicating the process is still years away.

“One of the challenges in building the type of machine that could harness that energy is the material,” Po explained. “Future fusion devices are probably going to be the harshest environments for any material that humankind will ever create. We’re looking at one of the strongest materials for that application—tungsten.”

“Establishing the SEM laboratory during the current pandemic was a challenge that could only be overcome by a college-wide team effort led by Interim Dean Daniel Berg; supported by Helena Solo-Gabriele, associate dean for research; and executed by our facilities team of Troy Thompson and Elie Merheb,” Coakley said.

Coakley and Po see the new SEM and nanoindenter being applied in other research areas at the University, from biomedicine to civil engineering. “This is a major step,” Coakley said, “Truly a strong foundation that will expand materials characterization at the University of Miami.”

Source: University of Miami

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

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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. 

SEE: Hardware inventory policy (TechRepublic Premium)

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


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


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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GeoSim: Photorealistic Image Simulation with Geometry-Aware Composition

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Humans can synthesize unperceived events in their heads, for instance, to imagine how an empty street would look during rush hour. The similar capability of computers may be useful in film making or augmented reality.

A recent paper proposes GeoSim, a realistic image manipulation framework that inserts dynamic objects into existing videos.

GeoSim Photorealistic Image Simulation with Geometry Aware Composition

Image credit: Unsplash/Kimi Lee

This method uses the data captured by self-driving cars to build a 3D assets bank. Then 3D scene layout from LiDAR readings and 3D maps is used to add vehicles in plausible locations. The Intelligent Driver Model is used so that the new objects have realistic interactions with existing ones and respect the flow of traffic. Neural networks are employed to seamlessly insert an object by filling holes, adjusting color inconsistencies, and removing sharp boundaries. It is the first approach to fully consider physical realism and outperforms prior research by qualitative and quantitative measures.

Scalable sensor simulation is an important yet challenging open problem for safety-critical domains such as self-driving. Current work in image simulation either fail to be photorealistic or do not model the 3D environment and the dynamic objects within, losing high-level control and physical realism. In this paper, we present GeoSim, a geometry-aware image composition process that synthesizes novel urban driving scenes by augmenting existing images with dynamic objects extracted from other scenes and rendered at novel poses. Towards this goal, we first build a diverse bank of 3D objects with both realistic geometry and appearance from sensor data. During simulation, we perform a novel geometry-aware simulation-by-composition procedure which 1) proposes plausible and realistic object placements into a given scene, 2) renders novel views of dynamic objects from the asset bank, and 3) composes and blends the rendered image segments. The resulting synthetic images are photorealistic, traffic-aware, and geometrically consistent, allowing image simulation to scale to complex use cases. We demonstrate two such important applications: long-range realistic video simulation across multiple camera sensors, and synthetic data generation for data augmentation on downstream segmentation tasks.


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Acer Announces Chromebook 511, Chrombeook Spin 512, TravelMate Spin B3, Two More Laptops Aimed at Students

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Acer Chromebook 511, Acer Chromebook 311, Acer Chromebook Spin 512, Acer Chromebook Spin 511, and Acer TravelMate Spin B3 have been announced by the company. Designed with students in mind, the laptops are tested to meet the MIL-STD 810H durability standard, as per Acer. While the prices and availability of the laptops in the US and Europe have been revealed, it is not yet known when they will be available in in India.

Acer Chromebook 511 price, specifications

Acer Chromebook 511 (C741L) will be available in the US in April starting at $399.99 (roughly Rs. 29,200) and in Europe in March starting at EUR 399 (roughly Rs. 35,400.)

The Chromebook 511 by Acer is an 11.6-inch laptop powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c SoC. As per the company, it can last up to 20 hours on a single charge. It has 4G LTE connectivity. Acer Chromebook 511 has mechanically anchored keys and a drainage system built into its keyboard to protect the device’s internals from accidental spills.

Acer Chromebook 311 price, specifications

Acer Chromebook 311 (C722) is priced at $299.99 (roughly Rs. 21,900) in the US and will be available there starting this month. It will be available in Europe for EUR 269 (roughly Rs. 23,900) in March. It is aimed at “surviving the mishaps of a typical school day and is also suitable for more vulnerable young learners.”

This device is powered by a MediaTek MT8183 processor that the company says is designed around a number of industrial durability and safety standards. The keys have been mechanically anchored with two wings that extend out under the chassis. It has about 20 hours of battery life and has an option touch screen.

As per Acer, the Chromebook 311 is compliant with the MIL-STD 810H standard and can survive falls of up to 48.03-inch and withstand up to 60kgs. Acer also claims that the device can withstand up to 330ml of water.

Acer Chromebook Spin 512 price, specifications

[Acer Chromebook Spin 512] (R853TA) will be available in the US in April starting at $429.99 (roughly Rs. 31,455) and in Europe in March 2021, starting at EUR 399 (roughly Rs. 35,400). It comes with 8GB RAM and 64GB storage.

It is powered by an Intel processer and has integrated Wi-Fi 6 and Antimicrobial Corning Gorilla Glass displays. It has a 12-inch HD+ IPS display and 3:2 aspect ratio screen for more vertical viewing. As per the company, Acer Chromebook Spin 512 has a battery life of 10 hours.

It has an 8-megapixel MIPI world-facing camera and an 88-degree field-of view HDR webcam along with a privacy shutter. Acer Chromebook Spin 512 also includes antimicrobial coating.

Acer Chromebook Spin 511 price, specifications

Acer Chromebook Spin 511 (R753T) will be available in the US in April starting at $399.99 (roughly Rs. 29,300) and in Europe in March 2021, starting at EUR 369 (roughly Rs. 32,700). It is available in an 8GB + 64GB storage variant.

It has an 11.6-inch display in a compact chassis and is powered by an Intel processer. Acer Chromebook Spin 511 has a battery life of up to 10 hours, an 8-megapixel MIPI world-facing camera and an 88-degree wife field-of view HDR webcam. It has Wi-Fi 6 connectivity.

Acer Chromebook Spin 511 has a shock absorbent bumper and reinforced design. Two reinforced USB 3.2 Type-A ports and Bluetooth 5.1 are also included.

Acer TravelMate Spin B3 price, specifications

Acer TravelMate Spin B3 laptop will be available in the US in April starting at $329.99 (roughly Rs. 24,100), in Europe in Q2 2021 starting at EUR 409 (roughly Rs. 36,300), and in China in February, starting at CNY 2,499 (roughly Rs. 28,200).

It is powered by an Intel Pentium Silver processor. Acer TravelMate Spin B3 includes a durable keyboard that can flip around to turn the laptop into a tablet and is specially designed for classrooms, as per Acer. It can also be placed into tent mode, where the keyboard props up and balances the display.

It has up to 12 hours of battery life and a moisture-resistant touchpad. The display is covered with a layer of Antimicrobial Corning Gorilla Glass. It has an optional Wacom AES pen and a 5-megapixel HDR front-facing camera. Acer TravelMate Spin B3 laptop has Wi-Fi 6 and 4G LTE connectivity. The front cover of the device also includes a battery-level indicator.

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