Friday, February 26, 2010

"GADGETS: Eight New E-Paper Displays Vie for Your Eyeballs"

Today, every popular ebook uses the same Vizplex display from E-Ink. Apple's forthcoming iPad will use a conventional LCD, but eight other display alternatives will offer longer battery lifetimes and novel features that could win you over. Look for a wide variety of display types to differentiate e-paper applications in 2010-to-2012. R.C.J.

Amazon's Kindle, Barnes & Noble's Nook, Sony's Reader, Hearst Newspaper's Skiff, Spring Design's Alex, iRex's Digital Reader and Hanvon's WISEreaders all use the same electrophoretic display technology branded Vizplex by its inventor, E-Ink (a wholly owned subsidiary of Primeview International, Hsinchu, Taiwan). Electrophoretic displays use tiny microcapsules containing the same black and white pigments as ink and paper, creating a display uncannily similar to real paper. The reason for E-Ink's virtual monopoly on e-reader displays is that its electrophoretic technology has no backlight, so your battery does not run down while you are reading a page like on Apple's iPad. Plus, electrophoretic displays use the same black and white pigments as real ink and paper, just contained inside tiny microcapsules, making its pages appear uncannily similar to real ink on paper. But in 2010-to-2010 eight other display vendors will be offering competing displays that offer different features that may just be your brand of "eye candy."

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

"WIRELESS: Metamaterials Meld Multiple Modes onto Single Antenna"

One of the world's first mobile phones to use metamaterials--LG's BL-40--allows multiple radio modes to share a single smart antenna. Invented by Rayspan, now a single antenna can meld today's 3G, GMS, WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS with tomorrow's 4G WiMax and LTE standards. Look for thinner, sleeker mobile phones thanks for metamaterial antennas.

Today's multimode mobile phones and other devices, from netbooks to wireless modems to GPS navigators, require complex multielement antennas that need expensive radio-frequency (RF) switches and complicated matching networks when utilizing different communications bands and protocols. But by harnessing the metamaterials recently made famous for their experimental applications as invisibility cloaks, Rayspan (San Jose, Calif.) can now build a single antenna for all communications signals.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"ENERGY: Green Fuel Cell Aims to Power Home, Industry Off-Grid"

Will tomorrow’s electricity be generated off-grid by fuel cells burning bio-gas from landfill waste? Bloom Energy is already powering pilot projects at Google, eBay, Walmart, Staples, Federal Express and 15 other leading corporations, with more signing up every day. Look for a Bloom Box in your backyard within the decade. R.C.J.

Bloom Energy board member Colin Powell, the former U.S. secretary of state, joins California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today to announce an energy revolution that could enable both industry and homes to generate their own electricity off-grid. Called a Bloom Box, the fuel cell-based system strips the electrons off of natural gas to create electricity with twice the efficiency of conventional gas electricity generators, and can also run off of bio-gases from landfill waste.
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"CHIPS: Carbon Life Forms to Create Like-Minded Microchips"

Life on Earth could have evolved from silicon—the same as today's microchips—but natural selection instead evolved carbon-based life. Now human engineers are realizing that the same principles that enabled life to emerge from carbon compounds could also solve the problems facing future electronics. Look for carbon microchips to begin supplanting silicon over the coming decade. R.C.J.

Silicon microchips are the mainstay of all current electronic devices today, but could soon be replaced by carbon-based microchips that harness carbon's higher speed but without generating the excess heat plaguing silicon chips today. To prove the point, IBM Research recently demonstrated the world's fastest carbon transistor for the Carbon Electronics for RF Applications (CERA) program--a 100GHz model more than 20 times faster than the silicon CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductors) transistors used today.
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Monday, February 22, 2010

"GADGETS: E-books: Battle brews over display alternatives"

E-paper displays can replace virtually any printed page with a nonvolatile image that is changed electronically. Beyond e-paper versions of books and periodicals, developers envision applications for blueprints, maps, shelf labels, signage, smart cards and even "skins" that cover your iPhone with changing patterns. Look for e-paper to displace virtually every kind of traditional print product over the next decade. R.C.J.

Until a few weeks ago, the biggest worry for E Ink, maker of the Vizplex technology used in Amazon's Kindle and a host of other e-book readers, was the two dozen or so e-paper competitors looking to loosen its grip on the market. Then Steve Jobs announced Apple's iPad tablet, which uses a standard LCD display that sacrifices e-paper's readability and zero-power modes but offers higher refresh rates and full color. Will consumers sacrifice "green" e-paper on the altar of fast color, relegating the nascent technology category to a niche? For the analysts who track the display market, the question is a page turner, and they're of a mixed mind on the likely conclusion. Check out all the possible alternative in this story.
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Friday, February 19, 2010

"WIRELESS: Pico Projectors Marry Mobile Phones"

Mobile phones are incorporating pico projectors for on-the-spot presentations, or for just sharing photos with friends, projected up to 100 inches wide. Four phones showcased that feature at Mobile World Congress. Look for pico-projectors to become standard on mobile phones within five years. R.C.J.

Mobile phones are incorporating pico projectors for on-the-spot presentations, or for just sharing photos with friends, projected up to 100 inches wide, according to Texas Instruments, which has downsized its digital light processors (DLPs) from the big-screen cinema for pico projectors shown in four mobile phones from Samsung, LG and NTT DoCoMo at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Feb. 15-18, 2010. Pico projectors shrink down the mechanisms of a full-size projector to the size of a microchip. TI's DLP, for instance, uses thousands of tiny mirrors fabricated on a micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) chip.

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"CHIPS: Artificial Retina Enables Blind to See Again"

And the blind shall see again, by implanting an artificial retina that sends picture to the brain from an eye-glasses mounted camera. Look for widespread restoration of sight for the blind within five years. R.C.J.

Silicon retina prostheses capable of being implanted inside the eyes to restore sight are entering the third generation with the aim of enabling reading, facial recognition and unaided mobility for previously blind patients. The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded major responsibility for the development of a third-generation retina prosthesis to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL, Livermore, Calif.). The third-generation artificial retina will enable previously blind people to read, recognize people's faces and restore mobility so that people can navigate about the world again using their sight.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"CHIPS: Carbon semiconductors clear CMOS hurdle"

Silicon complementary oxide metal semiconductors (CMOS) are getting too hot to handle, but cool-running carbon-based CMOS now stands ready to take its place. Look for pure crystalline sheets of doped carbon, called graphene, to replace silicon-based CMOS chips in five to ten years. R.C.J.

Carbon semiconductors fashioned from pure crystalline sheets of graphene outperform silicon but have lacked a foolproof method for creating the p- and n-type devices required for complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) transistors. Now the Georgia Institute of Technology claims to have a devised a one-step graphene doping process, paving the way for commercial fabrication. Georgia Tech's technique uses a commonly available spin-on-glass (SOG) material applied to graphene sheets. The grayscale material can be patterned to provide either p-type or n-type doping by merely varying the dose of radiation.
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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"ALGORITHMS: Smarter Algorithm Predicts Failures Before the Crash"

Anticipating needs before they materialize has revolutionized just-in-time manufacturing, but why not transfer just-in-time to maintenance too. After all, why wait until a system has failed before replacing it? Why not replace it just before it fails? Now the National Center for Atmospheric Research claims to be able to sense impending doom before electronic systems fail. Look for maintenance monitoring software to blossom over the coming decade. R.C.J.

Remember in Arthur C. Clarke's "2001: A Space Odyssey" when the HAL-9000 computer recommended that Dave replace a circuit board before HAL's predicted date of its failure? Now National Center for Atmospheric Research researchers claim to have invented such an algorithm that can predict failures in—what else—spacecraft-like satellites. The agency has high enough hopes for the technique to have patented it, and plans to develop versions that can predict failures in any system with observing instruments, such as transportation systems like automobiles, buses, trains and aircraft, as well as in power plants, nuclear reactors, radars arrays, observatories and surveillance cameras.
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Monday, February 15, 2010

"MEMS: TI slims DLP for cellular pico projectors"

Pico-projectors enable a mobile phone to project an image up to 120-inches wide onto almost any flat, whitish surface--for instance presentations or just to share your photos. Look for every mobile phone to have a pico-projector built-in within five years. R.C.J.

Texas Instruments today unveiled its newest digital light processor chip which will enable nHD resolution pico projector modules for the smallest of mobile phones. The DLP chip was announced at the Mobile World Congress (Barcelona, Feb. 15-18, 2010). Texas Instruments pioneered the micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) technique of creating millions of movable micromirrors on a chip which reflect the light projected onto them thereby forming images on any projection screen—from the "big screen" at the digital cinema, to home projection televisions and now to hand-held pico projectors. The nHD format (640-by-360 pixels) allows DVDs to be viewed at nearly their full resolution for sharp images even when they are projected at sizes over 50-inches diagonal.
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"MEMS: Freescale says low-power accelerometer smarter, too

MEMS accelerometers handle an increasing number of functions that users are coming to expect from their mobile devices, such as automatically switching from landscape to portait orientation. Look for every mobile phone to use an accelerometer within three years. R.C.J.

The user experience for mobile devices will soon get richer according to Freescale Semiconductor Inc., which announced its new generation of three-axis micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) accelerometers Monday (Feb. 15) at the Mobile World Congress. Freescale (Austin, Texas) claims the devices set a record for low-power consumption and provide smarter built-in gesture recognition algorithms.
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Thursday, February 11, 2010

"ENERGY: Smarter Solar Cells Made Cheaper, More Plentiful"

IBM Research recently broke the world's efficiency record for inexpensive, thin-film solar cells by substituting widely available elements for the rare elements that make photovoltaic devices so expensive today. Look for IBM-licensed thin-film solar cells to begin appearing within three years. R.C.J.

If only an hour's worth of the sun's energy pouring down on the Earth could be harvested, it would power the entire planet for a year, according to David Mitzi, who leads the team at IBM Research (Yorktown Heights, N.Y.) which developed its world's record holding thin-film solar cell. IBM's low-cost manufacturing technique nevertheless results in a new world's record for kesterite thin-film solar cells, 9.6 percent efficiency – 40 percent higher than the previous world record of 6.8 percent set last year by a Japanese research group at Nagaoka National College of Technology.
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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

"WIRELESS: Fujitsu's Smarter RFID Tags Track Loads of Laundry"

RFID tags have been revolutionizing inventory control and now track expensive assets, but have yet to crack the inexpensive asset market, which is Fujitsu's aim with its new UHF tags. Look for RFID tags to begin tracking garments in hotels and rental agencies in 2010. R.C.J.

The millions of commercial textiles cleaned every day -- from linens to uniforms to cleaning rags -- can now be logged, tracked and reconciled using a smarter RFID technology that scans whole hampers simultaneously. When the new Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel opened this month in Vancouver, British Columbia—just in time for the Winter Olympics—it served as the showcase for a smarter radio frequency identification (RFID) system that is tracking its 10,000 employee uniforms and 25,000 bathrobes, towels, tablecloths, sheets and other linens. All 35,000 textiles in Fairmont's real-time inventory have now been made smarter by having Fujitsu WT-A511 RFID tags sewn into them.
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Monday, February 08, 2010

"CHIPS: OmniVision CMOS imagers debut"

OmniVision pioneered back-side illumination for commercial imagers--whereby light enters the backside of the chip through a window to directly shine on photodetectors--and has now introduced its scaled down second generation back-side illumination CMOS imager. Look for other CMOS imager makers to move to back-side illumination in the next few years. R.C.J.

OmniVision Technologies, Inc. will show its second-generation back-side illuminated CMOS imaging chip to OEMs during next week's Mobile World Congress (Barcelona, Spain Feb. 15-18, 2010). OmniVision (Santa Clara, Calif.) uses a novel backside illumination technique in which photodetectors are fabricated at the bottom of the chip stack situated on a transparent window. After fabricating metal interconnection layers, the chip is then flipped so that its photodetectors are on top (under the window).
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Friday, February 05, 2010

"CHIPS: IBM demos 100-GHz graphene transistor"

Its official--carbon transistors are faster, lower power and scale down without heating up, as demonstrated by the world's fastest graphene transistor. Look for carbon to replace silicon as the material of choice for electronic chips by the end of the decade. R.C.J.

A 100-GHz transistor has been demonstrated by IBM Research. Fabricated on new 2-inch graphene wafers and operating at room temperature, the RF graphene transistors are said to beat the speeds of all but the fastest GaAs transistors, paving the way to commercialization of high-speed, carbon-based electronics. IBM has patterned graphene transistors with a metal top-gate architecture (top) fabricate on 2-inch wafers (bottom) created by the thermal decomposition of silicon carbide. Almost four times faster than previous demonstrations, the graphene transistors were fabricated at the wafer scale using epitaxially grown graphene processing techniques that are compatible with those used to fabricate silicon transistors..
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Thursday, February 04, 2010

"ALGORITHMS: Magnetism seen as key to superconductivity"

Supercooled superconductors are already levitating trains magnetically and imaging magnetically, motivating researchers worldwide to speculate that magnetism is the common source for superconductivity. Look for room temperature superconductors by the middle of the century. R.C.J.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers are citing evidence that high-temperature superconductivity derives from the same mechanisms regardless of material That finding has prompted speculation that magnetic spin excitations that couple electrons is the key ingredient for superconductivity. Spin excitations in a superconducting material's performed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory support the theory that magnetic properties cause high-temperature superconductivity. High-temperature superconductivity could result in ultra-fast electronic devices that capitalize on high-speed electrons traveling in a material whose resistance has been reduced to zero. Levitating trains, ultra-sensitive sensors called superconducting quantum interference devices and nuclear magnetic resonance imaging use superconductors. Superconductor devices must be super-cooled, which relegates their use to high-end applications. If room-temperature superconductors could be perfected, then electronic devices could operate faster through electron transport without resistance.
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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

"WIRELESS: NIST Shrinks Antennas 50-fold with Metamaterials"

Smarter antennas can be made 50 times smaller by harnessing the unusual properties of metamaterials, periodically spaced free-air elements that reverse the natural direction of reflected radio waves. Look for near microscopic antenna designs in the future able to shrink a cell phone down to finger-ring size. R.C.J.

Metamaterials were made famous a few years back by opening the door to invisibility cloaks. Now scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology , the University of Arizona (Tucson) and Boeing Research & Technology (Seattle) have repurposed metamaterials to create a "Z-antenna" design that is 50 times smaller than today's antennas—enabling a cell phone antenna to be shrunk small enough to fit on a finger ring. The researchers hope their novel antenna designs will enable pint-sized emergency communications devices, ultra-small sensors and portable ground-penetrating radar devices that can find underground tunnels, caverns and similar geophysical features.
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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

"CHIPS: IBM Preps Carbon Transistors for Post-Silicon Era"

IBM Research demonstrated a carbon-based transistor technology that could make obsolete silicon-based CMOS chips over the next decade. Look for graphene semiconductors to begin taking over for silicon chips by the end of the decade. R.C.J.

The International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors predicts that the silicon-based CMOS transistor technology used by microchips today will run out of steam by the end of the decade, but IBM Research (Yorktown Heights, N.Y.) has a ready replacement already on the drawing board: carbon-based transistors. IBM paved the way for commercialization of carbon-based semiconductor chips with its dual-gate bi-layer graphene field-effect transistors.Unfortunately, graphene field-effect transistors (FETs) have dismal on-to-off current ratios that are hundreds of times smaller than silicon. The key to enhancing graphene's on-to-off ratios, according IBM, was its invention of a bi-layer construction method for graphene transistors.
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Monday, February 01, 2010

"CHIPS: Graphene wafers ready to fab carbon chips"

Carbon chips will likely replace silicon circa 2020, with one holdup being the difficulty in fabricating pure crystalline sheets of carbon--graphene--on big wafers. Look for semiconductor researchers to announce commercial availability of graphene wafers within three years. R.C.J.

The next-generation of semiconductors could be based on carbon instead of silicon, according to Penn State researchers ,who claim to have perfected a method of fabricating pure sheets of carbon semiconductor—called graphene—on 100 millimeter (4-inch) wafers. Penn State's Electro-Optics Center Materials (EOC) Division claims its process can be used to fabricate graphene chips that are 100-to-1,000 times faster than silicon, as well as enable more sensitive sensors, electronics, displays, solar cells, sensors and hydrogen storage devices.
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