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Posts Tagged ‘Engineering’


Better maps for better self-driving cars?

New research on object detection breaks with long-held principles of radar technologies

Radar technologies were originally designed to identify and track airborne military targets. Today they’re more often used to detect motor vehicles, weather formations and geological terrain.

Until now, scientists have believed that radar accuracy and resolution are related to the range of frequencies or radio bandwidth used by the devices. But a new Tel Aviv University study finds that an approach inspired by optical coherence tomography (OCT) requires little to no bandwidth to accurately create a high-resolution map of a radar’s surrounding environment.

“We’ve demonstrated a different type of ranging system that possesses superior range resolution and is almost completely free of bandwidth limitations,” says Prof. Pavel Ginzburg of TAU’s School of Electrical Engineering, one of the principal authors of the study. “The new technology has numerous applications, especially with respect to the automotive industry. It’s worth noting that existing facilities support our new approach, which means that it can be launched almost immediately.”

The new study was conducted jointly by Prof. Ginzburg, Vitali Kozlov, Rony Komissarov and Dmitry Filonov, all of TAU’s School of Electrical Engineering. 

Preventing the traffic jams of the future

It was commonly believed that radar resolution was proportional to the bandwidth used. Meaning, a good, accurate radar, required a lot of bandwidth, something that could become a limited resource in the future.

“Our concept offers solutions in situations that require high-range resolution and accuracy but in which the available bandwidth is limited, such as the self-driving car industry, optical imaging and astronomy,” Kozlov explains. “Not many cars on the road today use radars, so there’s almost no competition for allocated frequencies. But what will happen in the future, when every car will be equipped with a radar and every radar will demand the entire bandwidth?

“We’ll find ourselves in a sort of radio traffic jam. Our solutions permit drivers to share the available bandwidth without any conflict,” Kozlov says.

The TAU researchers have now demonstrated that low-bandwidth radars can achieve similar performance at a lower cost and without broadband signals by exploiting the coherence property of electromagnetic waves. The new “partially coherent” radar, which uses significantly less bandwidth, is as effective as a standard “coherent” radars in experimental situations.

Using radar for rescue

“Our demonstration is just the first step in a series of new approaches to radiofrequency detectors that explore the impact of low-bandwidth radars on traditional fields,” Prof. Ginzburg concludes. “We intend to apply this technology to previously unexplored areas, like rescue operations — sensing if an individual is buried in a collapsed building — or street mapping — sensing if a child is about to cross the street behind a bus that conceals him.”

Research for the study was supported by an ERC grant and Kamin, and it was conducted at TAU’s Radio Physics Laboratory’s anechoic chamber.

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If you are thinking in English, you might want to study in English!

NEW in the School of EE: English courses

For the first time in Israel, a bachelor’s degree program in Electrical and Electronic Engineering is open and taught entirely in English. Until now, the BSc in Electrical and Electronic Engineering available at Tel Aviv University (TAU) was an outside international program available at a higher cost to international students in Israel. Now however, both Israeli and international students can apply to the School of Electrical Engineering and take courses either completely in English or some in Hebrew depending on their preference.

In light of this exciting change, the Israeli government will provide international students with the same benefits as the Israeli students in regards to tuition costs, making tuition about 1/3 of its original $15,000.

TAU is the largest university in the country. It welcomes over 30,000 students (among them, over 3,000 international students) studying in nine faculties and over 125 schools (is this true?) and departments across the spectrum of sciences, humanities, and the arts. Professor Yossi Rosenwaks, Dean of the Faculty said: “As the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at Tel Aviv University, I have the privilege and pleasure of leading one of the world’s top 100 engineering faculties. The Faculty’s main mission is training engineers who will lead the high-tech industries both in Israel and abroad. In August 2018 Tel Aviv University was ranked 8th in the world in the number and quality of graduates turned entrepreneurs, and the Faculty of Engineering was certainly a major contributor to this achievement!”

Students from all around the world already joined the international school and launched the new academic year at Tel Aviv University in October. They are either Israelis or from over 100 other countries such as USA, India, France, Venezuela, Canada, China, South Africa, Guatemala, Japan, Mongolia and many more.

This is an incredible opportunity for any candidate that always wanted to study Electrical Engineering in English in Israel. Our students’ background are  vast: coming from high school, gap year programs, yeshiva, and even the army. The bilingual school represents the perfect solution for any number of students. “We take special pride in our international program in electrical engineering – the only such program in Israel to date – which attracts dozens of exceptional students from many different lands”, says Dean Rosenwaks.

Another area in which TAU continues to lead among the institutions of higher education in Israel and the world is the hi-tech field. Located in the capital of the startup nation, Tel Aviv University couldn’t find a better place to offer its students a direct path to the industry. It is consistently ranked in the top 20 in the world and #1 in University/Industry research collaboration (Insead Global Innovation Index, 2018).

Tel Aviv University’s Electrical and Electronics Engineering Program was always the perfect gateway to Israeli innovation. With its new bilingual school, it is now the ideal path to world innovation as well.

Our mission is to promote relationships with our faculty and the international academic world, as well as to boost Tel Aviv University’s reputation and visibility as one of the leading science and technology universities worldwide. “My door is always open to all students. I will be happy to hear and learn from each and every one of you. I wish you all fruitful studies and challenging, gratifying research.” (Dean Rosenwaks)

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Robotic “bat” uses sound to map unique environments

The robot mimics bats’ ability to employ sonar to navigate its surroundings, Tel Aviv University researchers say

The “Robat” is a fully autonomous terrestrial robot with bat-like qualities that uses echolocation to move through novel environments while mapping them based only on sound. It was developed at Tel Aviv University.

Bats use echolocation to map novel environments, navigating them by emitting sound then extracting information from the echoes reflected by objects in their surroundings. Many theories have been proposed to explain how bats harness sonar in order to navigate, but few attempts have been made to build a robot that mimics a bat’s abilities. A TAU study about the invention was published today in PLOS Computational Biology.

TAU graduate student Itamar Eliakim developed a robot that uses a biological bat-like approach, emitting sound and analyzing the returning echoes to generate a map of space. Prof. Yossi Yovel of TAU’s Department of Zoology and Dr. Gabor Kosa of TAU’s School of Mechanical Engineering serve as Mr. Eliakim’s advisors.


The "robobat" in action (photo: Etamar Eliakim)

The “robobat” in action (photo: Etamar Eliakim)

“Our Robat is the first fully autonomous, bat-like biorobot that moves through a novel environment while mapping it solely based on echo information. This information delineates the borders of objects and the free paths between them,” says Eliakim. “We’ve been able to demonstrate the great potential of using sound in future robotic applications.”

Prof. Yossi Yovel using a sonar to communicate with bats

Prof. Yossi Yovel using a sonar to communicate with bats

The Robat is equipped with an ultrasonic speaker that produces frequency-modulated chirps at a rate typically used by bats, as well as two ultrasonic microphones that serve as the robot’s ears. It classifies the borders and shapes of the objects it encounters with an artificial neural network, creating a rich, accurate map of its environment while avoiding obstacles. For example, when reaching a dead end, the robot uses its classification abilities to determine whether it is blocked by a wall or by a plant through which it could pass.

Watch a video about the science behind “robotbat” >>

featured image:  Jans Raidel

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Namaste harmful waste

A groundbreaking study addresses the contamination of groundwater and drinking water in India

Prof. Hadas Maman, Head of the Environmental Engineering program at TAU’s Faculty of Engineering, together with Prof. Mohan of IIT Madras in India, are looking for effective ways to prevent the contamination of groundwater and drinking water with runoff from open dumps in and around the city of Chennai, India.

India is the world’s 7th largest country in area and 2nd largest in population. Over the past three decades it has undergone accelerated economic growth, including a rising standard of living, which, in turn, has generated increasing quantities of waste per capita. The systems managing solid waste – collecting it from the private and public domains, treating, separating, recycling and disposing of it by way of landfills or incineration – have not been adapted to the growing needs. The result of this situation is great environmental damage.

‘Garbage juice’

Solid waste discarded as is, in its solid form, is undesirable. In India, open dumps are the most common method for disposing of municipal solid waste. This means that the waste is thrown into the dumpsite with no management or treatment whatsoever of the waste or its products.

In most developing countries almost 90% of the waste is disposed of in dumps (Data from the World Health Organization). In many developed countries, on the other hand, sanitary landfills provide the ultimate option for waste disposal. The ongoing process of urbanization significantly increases the rate at which municipal solid waste is produced. This, in turn is a source of groundwater pollution from dump runoffs that seep into the soil. Interaction between waste and water, especially during the rainy season, or in the summer when fluids seep in from the dumps, generates extremely polluted wastewater called leachate.

Leachates are highly toxic because they contain a liquid extract of waste substances, popularly termed ‘garbage juice’. Many different factors can impact the quality and quantity of leachate, including weather changes, how the waste had been deposited, waste management, compaction, type and composition, structure of the dumpsite, etc.   

Leachates contain large quantities of organic matter. Humic substances comprise a major group, together with ammonia, nitrogen, toxic metals, organic chlorine, phenol compounds, residues of pesticides and phthalates – chemicals used mostly as additives to plastic products, considered major pollutants by the US EPA.

Disintegrating and removing substances

Physiochemical processes have been used successfully for the disintegration and removal of substances from stabilized leachate – as preliminary treatment before biological treatment. In particular, Advanced Oxidation Processes (AOPs) have been extensively used to completely remove various non-biodegradable organic compounds that may be toxic for microorganisms.

Pollution-prevention solutions

The goal of the study is preventing the contamination of groundwater by leachate from open dumps in and around Chennai,  and devising an economically efficient process that can be applied and managed by the local population. In this way we hope to minimize the negative effects of toxic substances penetrating the drinking water on the health of communities surrounding the dumps. Ultimately, we intend to establish a life-changing pilot program. The pilot, to be located at the dumpsite itself, aims to develop a sustainable technology that will combine oxidation (partial degeneration) and a biological process including green basins fed by the treated wastewater, to completely remove organic pollutants and chelate metals. The purified wastewater will be used for irrigation, and plants absorbing the pollutants will be used as fodder. Thus the combined process will both purify the wastewater and improve the social and economic conditions of village communities. In addition, the purified wastewater will be used for growing agricultural crops.  

An open garbage dump in Chennai, India
An open garbage dump in Chennai, India

Basic need!

“Safe potable water is a basic need. A suitable technology alone cannot solve water problems. We must also work together with the local society, so that the community itself is empowered by having potable water, and can independently manage its own water resources and make its own decisions. To create suitable conditions for implementing the technology we must also bring instruction and education, introducing introduce the environmental ideas around, water, energy, agriculture and food,” explains Prof. Maman, already on her way to India, to promote her life-saving project.

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Are repair shops for electronic devices about to become extinct?

Dr. Yakir Hadad of TAU’s School of Electrical Engineering together with researchers from the USA built an electronic device which, when a strong electronic signal passes through, becomes immune to defects

It’s hard to imagine the world without electronics. Computers, smartphones, advanced commerce, medicine and transportation are all based on electronic systems and components. However, advanced electronic components and devices are prone to production defects and wear over time.  This is the main reason for breakdowns after a while. Is it possible to design electronic devices that are not susceptible to wear and failure, and never break down? This question intrigued Dr. Yakir Hadad of TAU’s School of Electrical Engineering. Together with Prof. Andrea Alù and Dr. Jason Zorik of UTEXAS and Prof. Alexander Khanikaev of CUNY, he looked for a creative solution to the problem.

The connection between electrical circuits and soccer

As often happens, the idea for a solution came from a totally different direction – Materials Science. The Nobel Prize in Physics for 2016 was awarded to three British researchers for showing that properties of materials, for example electrical conductivity, can be preserved under certain conditions even when the shape of the material is significantly damaged. This wonderous capability stems from the material’s specific atomic structure and is closely connected to a mathematical field called topology. Topology deals with the geometrical properties of a surface or body that are preserved even when its shape is altered, as long as the deformation is continuous (with no holes formed). Topology attributes a topological number to every object, which essentially denotes the number of holes in it. The topological number of a soccer ball, for example, is 0. A cube and a glass (without a handle) also have a topological number of 0. Thus, in topological terms, these are all equivalent objects. A bagel and a cup (with a handle), on the other hand, have a topological number of 1 because they have one hole, and are therefore not equivalent (topologically) to a glass or a soccer ball. Consequently, it appears that if a topological number can somehow be attributed to a material, some of its properties will not change in case of shrinking, stretching or bending (namely defects), as long as its topology is preserved.

New design for dependable electronic devices

This complex idea has been applied in recent years in various areas – optics, magnetism and more, to design and produce special devices that are immune to structural flaws. In the study published in March 2018 in Nature Electronics, Dr. Hadad and his colleagues demonstrated that a similar effect can be achieved in electrical circuits. Moreover, the immunity to defects can be induced by the electrical current itself as it runs through the circuit, by using the nonlinear properties of the circuit’s components (the components’ properties change in correlation with the current’s intensity). Based on this idea, the researchers designed and built an electronic device which, when a sufficiently powerful current runs through it, become essentially indifferent to defects. The researchers also demonstrated the operation of the device, showing that even when substantial defects were intentionally introduced into the structure, they had no effect on the circuit’s proper functioning. The study’s results open a window onto a new approach to designing more dependable, defect-resistant electronic devices, while demonstrating that combining ideas from different worlds and disciplines can lead to creative solutions for real-world problems.


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