Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Fabrication time for flexible electronics ranging from disposable displays to plastic solar cells could be reduced from 48 hours to 30 minutes, according to researchers at the Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center for High-rate Nanomanufacturing (CHN). By switching from temperamental block co-polymers to easier-to-use polymer blends, the researchers claim their nanoscale templates can more quickly pattern flexible electronics applications as diverse as biosensors, photovoltaics, displays and semiconductor nanolithography.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 8:00 AM
Monday, December 29, 2008
A team of researchers in Italy and Switzerland found carbon nanotubes to be a biocompatible material that can be attached to specific neurons to enhance their natural signal-processing capabilities. Many studies over the last few years have demonstrated that carbon nanotubes can improve the health of neural networks by promoting cell attachment, differentiation and growth. But the current report is the first to provide an experimentally supported explanation for how carbon nanotubes enhance the efficacy of neural signal transmission. Namely, that they form a mechanical and electrical superstructure which enhances the natural function of individual neurons.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 10:00 AM
Monday, December 22, 2008
Solid-state lighting that replaces incandescent and fluorescent bulbs with light-emitting diodes can reap enormous savings in energy cost, natural resources and pollution, according to a recent study by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. RPI's Troy, New York-based Smart Lighting Engineering Resource Center claims that over the next 10 years savings of more than $1.8 trillion will eliminate the need to burn almost a billion barrels of oil in power plants that would otherwise produce 10 gigatons in carbon dioxide emissions.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 2:43 PM
Friday, December 19, 2008
This week my top stories include how IBM claims the fastest carbon-based graphene transistor, how Argonne National Labs' supercomputer went green, how some markets will continue to grow in 2009, and how Gibson crafted the world's most advanced robot guitar.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 12:49 PM
Thursday, December 18, 2008
IBM Research is claiming the world's fastest graphene field-effect transistor (FET), operating at 26 GHz. Researchers at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center (Yorktown Heights, N.Y.) predicted that the higher electron mobility of carbon will eventually propel the material beyond the reach of silicon into the terahertz range greater than 100 GHz.
BOTTOM LINE: Silicon-based electronics runs out of steam when clock frequencies are raised much above 10GHz, however new materials like graphene and carbon nanotubes will extend the reach of electronics into the THz range.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 1:11 PM
Operators of the supercomputing center at Argonne National Laboratory used innovations in both computer architecture and cooling methods to achieve over $1 million in annual energy savings for its IBM Blue Gene/P supercomputer. Supercomputers typically consume multiple megawatts of electricity. At 557 teraflops, Argonne's Blue Gene/P is one of the fastest supercomputers in the world, but uses as little as one-third the power consumed by other supercomputers.
BOTTOM LINE: Going green can be a matter of degree, and was achieved here by tuning the design of this supercomuter facility rather than adopting expensive new technologies.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 7:46 AM
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
While almost all segments of the electronics industry will be flat or decline in 2009, a few exceptions are possible, according to ABI Research, which predicts that video surveillance and telepresence will continue to "grow explosively" next year. Likewise, the use of Wi-Fi technology for healthcare will continue to expand and RFID technology could even benefit from the tough economic times, since RFID tags increase operational efficiency and boost profits. ABI also forecasts that GPS will continue to grow, especially personal navigation devices, and the smart phone market also will continue to grow in 2009.
BOTTOM LINE: The doom and gloom over next year's markets will not be universal, since there will be some segments that continue to grow despite tight credit, low consumer confidence and oversupplies.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 10:52 AM
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Dark Fire, a new "robot guitar" based on Gibson's Les Paul, features improved automatic tuning functions plus a novel approach to adjusting its tone. Gibson's Chameleon Tone Technology combines digital signal processing with single-pole (P-90), double-pole (Hummbucking) and a piezoelectric (acoustic) pickups, permitting complex sonic profiles to be dialed in. An included Firewire-based computer interface permits supplied software to sculpt the sonic character of the guitar's tone.
BOTTOM LINE: Dark Fire is the most advanced marriage of digital electronics with the guitar's musical heritage. However, Gibson may be too far ahead for many guitarists, since Dark Fire's most advanced features require that players route the guitar's signal through their own PC.
Second-generation 'Robot Guitar' takes the stage
Electronics play noteworthy role in self-tuning guitar
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 8:53 AM
Friday, December 12, 2008
Tired of swerving cars operated by drivers who are text messaging in traffic? Patented technology developed by University of Utah (Salt Lake City) researchers may provide a solution. The scheme blocks all cellphone use while driving. Key2SafeDriving (Kaysville, Utah), the first licensee of the technology, will initially target teenage drivers. The system, currently in prototyping, could be available in as little as six months.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 8:28 AM
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Epson Toyocom is claiming the smallest real-time clock chip fashioned by combining a quartz microelectromechanical system resonator with an ASIC. The chip was wire-bonded in the same 3.4-by-1.7-by-1-mm package. The RX-4571BD model uses a three-wire serial interface; the RX-8571BD uses NXP Semiconductor's I2C bus interface.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 2:24 PM
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI, Troy, N.Y.) researchers report that carbon nanotubes can be used to detect nanoscale magnetic fields by changing their conductance. By embedding tiny nanoparticles of magnetic cobalt into multi-walled carbon nanotubes, the researchers demonstrated that the tiny devices could enable spintronics applications, nanoscale storage devices and ultra-sensitive conductance detectors.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 1:24 PM
Monday, December 08, 2008
Despite a slumping semiconductor market, nanomaterial adoption will accelerate as vendors seek to increase margins by lowering manufacuring costs, according to a market researcher. Nanomaterials will grow at a compound annual rate of more than 40 percent through 2015, according to a report by The Information Network (New Tripoli, Pa.).
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 10:40 AM
Georgia Tech researchers are claiming a 200-fold increase in quantum memory story times, making the technology feasible for secure, long-distance quantum networking. The short refresh time of current quantum mechanisms have limited them to point-to-point connections. By extending the refresh time for quantum memories into the millisecond realm, the Georgia Tech researchers may have made repeaters much easier to implement.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 6:56 AM
Friday, December 05, 2008
This week my top stories include how an implanted hospital-on-a-chip could automatically treat patients even when they are unconscious, how MEMS may already be protecting us from bioterrorism, how fusion reactors are inching toward commercialization, how new coatings are boosting thin film solar cells efficiency by 50 percent, and how aerosol printing can squeeze out another two percent efficiency.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 1:57 PM
MIT researchers said they have succeeded in using radio waves to mix the 50 million-degree C plasma at its Alcator C-Mod fusion reactor. While a host of obstacles remain for bringing commercial fusion reactors online, the ability to use radio waves to quell plasma turbulence has been a stumbling block to further progress.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 9:00 AM
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Germany's Fraunhofer Institute is reporting a 2 percent efficiency gain for silicon solar cells by switching from conventional screen printing to a non-contact aerosol jet printer. Using a printer made by Optomec (Albuquerque, N.M.), Fraunhofer Institute's Solar Energy Systems (Freiburg, Germany), thinner silicon wafers were produced, reducing the cost of making solar cells. The institute said Optomec's aerosol printer delivered 20.3 percent efficiency for solar cells that previously achieved 16 to 18 percent efficiency.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 11:13 AM
A bipartisan commission warned Congress that a biological weapon attack in the U.S. is likely within the next five years, and recommended that President-elect Barack Obama expand federal efforts for early detection of water- and airborne pathogens. "Our margin of safety is shrinking, not growing," the panel concluded in a report. Lab-on-a-chip technology that could sense biological agents could provide early detection of bioterrorism attacks, but so far deployment of the technology has been downplayed.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 4:46 AM
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
An Office of Naval Research program seeks to embed a field hospital-on-a-chip that could monitor a soldier's injuries and administer medications. If successful, the four-year, $1.6 million program would provide U.S. soldiers with a wearable device to constantly monitor vital signs and help treat wounds. Microfluidic laboratories on-a-chip are being crafted for a variety of special-purpose devices that would allow unskilled personnel to perform specialized tests in the field. Inexpensive lab on-a-chip devices are also being designed to lower the cost and increase the speed of common medical tests. A hospital on-a-chip, however, would be the first multipurpose microfluidic chip capable of making complex diagnoses and administering different drugs.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 4:56 PM
Monday, December 01, 2008
Thin-film solar cells that could boost conversion efficiency by 50 percent while cutting materials costs by using less silicon will be reported this week by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers at the annual meeting of the Materials Research Society in Boston. Conventional solar cells use thick, expensive silicon substrates. The MIT researchers said they ran extensive computer simulations and laboratory experiments on 2-micron silicon films that utilize new materials for both front and back coatings. As a result, light is trapped inside the cells' silicon layer, permitting the thin-film to extract as much as 50 percent more energy per photon.
Posted by R. Colin Johnson at 7:12 AM