Sunday, October 31, 2010

#CHIPS: "Consortium drives stake thru 'vampire power' heart"

Vampire power is not like flower power, but rather is a force that is constantly draining your mobile devices batteries even when you are not using them. Hopefully, the European Union can once and for all eradicate this vampire force, which after all originated in Transylvania which is a part of Romania, a member of the E.U. Look for the end of the vampire plague within three years. R. Colin Johnson, Kyoto Prize Fellow @NextGenLog
The European Union estimates that "vampire power"--the current drawn by electronic devices in standby mode--consumes as much as 10 percent of your monthly energy bill. Illustration: Victor J. Ochoa.
The European Union estimates that "vampire power" (standby power for electronic devices) already accounts for over 10 percent of the electricity used in homes and offices in Europe and will continue to rise to 49 terrawatt hours by 2014, when over 2 billion computers will be idling in sleep mode burning as much electricity as the combined electricity consumption for Austria, the Czech Republic and Portugal. In addition, the energy consumed by information, communications and consumer electronics will double by 2022 and triple by 2030, according to a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA). To drive a stake through the heart of vampire power, the EU is funding its Steep program, which aims to reduce active power by 10-times as well as drive vampire power into extinction...
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Friday, October 29, 2010

#CHIPS: "Graphene bandgap opened by water vapor"

The next generation of chips will be cast in pure carbon sheets--called graphene--according to industry analysts. What's more, by treating graphene in different ways, the carbon-based material act like a conductor, semiconductor or even an insulator. Many treatments have been proposed, but none as simple as just trapping some humidity inside the package. Look for experimental chips using humidity to evoke semiconducting properties within three years. R. Colin Johnson, Kyoto Prize Fellow @NextGenLog

A graphene film on a silicon dioxide substrate is being electrically tested using a four-point probe.

Carbon sheets—graphene—can conduct electricity up to a million times better than conventional silicon pathways on microchips, making them a strong candidate for future on-chip interconnection layers. To use graphene as a semiconductor, however, requires opening a bandgap across which electrons must jump, thereby enabling the switching operations of a digital computer. Now Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) claims to have discovered a simple method of opening a bandgap in graphene with water. What's more, by controlling the amount of humidity inside chip packages, RPI researchers showed that graphene's bandgap could be tuned for specific applications...
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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

#CHIPS: "IBM, Euro researchers seek CMOS successor"

CMOS chips today--used in everything from cell phones to supercomputers--are running hotter and consuming more standby current by virtue of their leaky gates caused by too much shrickage to make chips ultra-small and cheap. Now the European Union is aiming to solve the problem with a new kind of transistor that runs cooler and consumes almost zero power in standby mode. Look for a new generation of cooler running electronic devices with longer battery life from the E.U. Steep program within three years. R. Colin Johnson, Kyoto Prize Fellow @NextGenLog

Dr. Heike Riel, who leads the nanoscale electronics group at IBM Research Zurich, is part of Project Steep.
Here is what EETimes says about Steep: IBM Research Zurich, Infineon Technologies AG and Globalfoundries Inc. have joined forces with a half dozen European universities and research centers on a mission to cut the power consumption of electronic devices by 10-fold and reduce standby power to zero. Called Steep—because of the steep cutoff slope leading to zero standby power—the European Union-funded project aims to perfect the tunneling field-effect transistor (T-FET) using nanowire channels of silicon, silicon germanium and III-V-on-silicon. The three-year $5.5 million effort aims to create processes that can be run on CMOS lines to facilitate a smooth switchover from today's complementary metal-oxide semiconductors (CMOS) to T-FETs.
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

#ENERGY: Bacteria Grow Organic Local-Area Networks for Fuel Cells

Researchers believe that recently discovered microbial "electrical hairs" work like nanoscale local-area networks, allowing bacteria to communicate shared threats, collective capabilities and other information that helps the colony distribute resources and survive. Look for researchers to harness bacteria to grow nanowires to increase the efficiency of fuel cells within five years. R. Colin Johnson, Kyoto Prize Fellow @NextGenLog

In times of stress, here immobilized in a biofilm, bacteria grow nanowire-like appendages between cells.
Here is what Smarter Technology says about bacteria: The human body has long been known to perform internal communications among nerve cells with electro-chemical signals, but now bacteria have been shown to set up their own external communication links among widely separated cells using organic nanowires...The researchers speculate that in nature, these nanowires are used to normalize the metabolic status a biofilm, whereas they propose repurposing them to form self-repairing structures in organic circuitry like the microbial fuel cells under development at USC.
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Monday, October 25, 2010

#MATERIALS: "Rare earth supply chain: Industry’s common cause"

Rare earths—minerals, metals and their oxides—have been a looming problem for several years but became a political football recently when China reduced its export quotas for the second half. Look for new mines to be dug worldwide over the next five years, but it will take as long as a decade to establish supply chains of rare earths that are completely independent of China, giving it a virtual monopoly until then. RColinJohnson, Kyoto Prize Fellow @NextGenLog

Hybrid automobiles make use of rare earths in almost every major subsystem. 
Here is what EETimes says about rare earths: Jittery markets have responded [to Chinese export quotas] by upping already rising prices for rare earths, and manufacturers with strategic stockpiles have begun tactical hoarding, a move that analysts warn could drive prices even higher. The cost of rare earths hasn’t yet had much of an impact on the pricing of electronic components that use them. But observers see impending shortages for the rare earths used to make the super-strong magnets designed into everything from hard drive heads to smart bombs, the phosphors used in many LEDs and fluorescent lamps, the slurries used for semiconductor polishing, the dopants sometimes used in optical components such as lasers, the magnetic films used for spin-polarized memories and the oxides used in advanced high-k dielectrics. Stepped-up mining operations and accelerated manufacturing schedules in Africa, Australia, Canada, Malaysia, the United States, Vietnam and elsewhere could provide supply-chain alternatives to China, which controls more than 95 percent of the world’s rare earths...
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#CHIPS: "Intel's embedded Xeon tackles avionics"

Mercury computers systems is the first original equipment maker (OEM) to take the steps necessary to transform Intel's server-grade Xeon processors into embedded computers, by soldering down the chips, sinking the excess heat and integrating signal-processing data channels. Look for the first embedded Xeon processor solutions for avionics, satellite and military applications in 2011. RColinJohnson, Kyoto Prize Fellow, @NextGenLog
OpenVPX module squeezes two Intel Xeon processors (brown) each with four cores and six gigabyte (white) into an inch-high 6U rack
Here is what EETimes says about embedded Xeon's: Intel has been touting its server-class Xeon processors as an embedded solution platform for advanced pattern recognition tasks, for instance inside the receiver for radar, video, audio or other sensor signals. Today those signal processing tasks are assigned to ground-based computers necessitating a high-bandwidth connection between it and the sensor.

Embedded pattern recognition can be performed by two quad-core Xeon processors (pink) each with 6Gbyte of RAM (blue) and and FPGA (brown) to offload PCIx to RapidIO and Ethernet.
Putting a Xeon processor in a ruddegized embedded platform enables avionics, space, surveillance and military pattern recognition tasks to be performed in the field rather than back at the data center, powering applications like detecting IEDs (improvised explosive devices) with a Xeon inside a Hummer.
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Friday, October 22, 2010

#CHIPS "CMOS oscillator said to beat quartz"

IDT3C02 oscillator (on top) can be wirebonded to the OEMs application specific integrated circuit (ASIC, on bottom)

Integrated Device Technology Inc. has introduced what it claims is the world's most accurate all-silicon CMOS oscillator with the industry's highest frequency accuracy, measured in parts per million (ppm). Look for timing chips to become integrated with the chips they are controlling thereby eliminating an extra package over the next three years. RColinJohnson, Kyoto Prize Fellow @NextGenLog

IDT mixed signal die for its all-silicon CMOS oscillator houses a large inductor (top) surrounded by its compensation circuitry.
Here is what EETimes says about CMOS oscillators: Synchronizing high-speed digital circuitry needs rock-solid time bases, which usually means quartz-crystal based oscillators. CMOS oscillator makers, however, claim to be pioneering a new breed of digital time bases that are faster than quartz crystals yet smaller and lower power than MEMS
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Thursday, October 21, 2010

#SECURITY Emerging Cyber-threats Predicted for 2011

Information security must deal with evolving threats—a cat-and-mouse game where every new attack is countered by advances in cyber-security, which in turn are sidestepped by redesigned malware tactics. As applications, devices and networks continuously redefine the character of cyberspace, the Georgia Tech Information Security Center re-evaluates threats and recommended responses each year at its annual Security Summit on the Evolving Nature of Cyber Security Threats. Look for cyber security to evolve along with the threats for the foreseeable future. RColinJohnson, Kyoto Prize Fellow @ NextGenLog

Futurist and R&D pioneer Joel Birnbaum predicted the evolution of pervasive computing.
Here is what Smarter Technologies says about cyber security: The Georgia Tech Information Security Center (GTISC) Security Summit debuted the Emerging Cyber Threats Report for 2011, which summarizes the cyber-threat landscape for next year, evaluates the most urgent needs and recommends IT responses to counter the threats. This year, the Cyber Threats Report described three emerging threats for which security experts should prepare: coordinated botnet attacks, social networking breeches and infrastructure penetration that could cause physical damage.
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

#ALGORITHMS: "Design contest: Win $10,000 for a two-minute video"

Win up to $10,000 in Freescale Semiconductor's "How Do You Make Sense of the World Contest." Look for designers cashing in on a $15,000 total purse in time for Christmas shopping. RColinJohnson, Kyoto Prize Fellow @NextGenLog

Here is what EETimes says about sensing your world: Aimed at identifying the most original application of its smart Xtrinsic MEMS accelerometers, pressure sensors and touch sensors, entrants must submit a video showing the unique aspects of their application. Videos must be two- to three-minutes long and uploaded for public viewing by Nov. 5. The contest's objective is demonstrate novel uses of the "four tees"—touch, tap, tilt and transmit—which are made possible by smart sensors with integrated communications abilities. Multiple entries are allowed, but some restriction apply regarding previously demonstrated applications. Read all the rules here.
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#DISPLAYS Smart Electrofluidic Displays Best LCDs

University of Cincinnati Professor Jason Heikenfeld, at left, and doctoral candidate Shu Yang demonstrate how much brighter their electrofluidic display (right) can be using incident light compared to a normal backlit LCD

Organic materials were once touted as the next generation of displays—for instance, Apple is rumored to be introducing a new iPad sporting an OLED display later this year. Unfortunately, the billion-dollar cost of starting up new flat-panel manufacturing lines has display makers extending the lifetime of their existing LCD lines. Now researchers are touting a way to convert LCD manufacturing lines for next-generation electrofluidic displays that are brighter, faster and lower power than LCDs or OLEDs. Look for electrofluidic displays to begin appear in end-user devices within three years. RColinJohnson, Kyoto Prize Fellow @NextGenLog

Pigment fluid can be electrically attracted to the top cavity (making a color) or retreat to below the central mirror (making white), amplifying ambient light in an exceptionally bright display.

Here is what Smarter Technology says about electrofluidic displays: Before the recession, liquid crystal displays (LCDs) were touted as a legacy technology that would slowly give way to organic light-emitting-diode displays (OLEDs). However, the consumer spending slowdown has instead led to LCD manufacturing overcapacity, prompting Sony and Toshiba to scrap plans for new OLED lines. To the rescue is a new electrofluidic display technology that offers displays that are brighter, faster and lower power than LCDs—and yet can be manufactured by retrofitting existing LCD manufacturing lines.
The new electrofluidic display technology uses the same sort of inorganic manufacturing materials as LCDs, allowing their manufacturing lines to be converted over, rather than being made obsolete by organic LED displays. But the biggest advantage of electrofluidic displays is that they require zero power to maintain an image on the screen. Both LCD and OLED displays typically use either fluorescent or light-emitting-diode (LED) backlights for easy reading, but electrofluidic displays instead reflect ambient light.
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#MEMS: "Xtrinsic sensors trigger satellite airbags"

Claiming to shrink the size, increase the reliability and lower the cost of satellite airbag sensors, Freescale Semiconductor unveiled smart Xtrinsic airbag accelerometers using the Distributed Systems Interface (DSI) 2.5 standard at the Convergence 2010 automotive tradeshow in Detroit. Look for faster, safer airbag deployment in future automobiles within three years. R. Colin Johnson, Kyoto Prize Fellow @NextGenLog

High aspect ratio micro-electro-mechanical systems (HARMEMS) uses larger moveable elements to provide overdamped transducers that are immune to high-frequency resonance. 
Here is what EETimes says about airbag sensors: Modern automobiles deploy a variety of airbags depending upon where the impact occurs, requiring that satellite sensors to be deployed around the vehicle to collect and integrate signals to determine whether to trigger front-, side- or other supplemental restraint system (SRS) airbags.
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#CHIPS: "Freescale rolls auto CPUs for in-dash apps"

Fully reconfigurable instrument clusters and customizable apps are turning driver information systems into a mobile touchscreen experience—similar to the way smartphones have transformed cell phones into interactive extravaganzas. Look for in-dash apps enabled by Freescale's new high-end automotive processors announced at this year's Converence in Detroit. R. Colin Johnson, Kyoto Prize Fellow @NextGenLog

Block diagram for Freescale's i.MX534 and  i.MX536 automotive processors show its ARM Cortex-A8 core and many peripherals.

Freescale (Austin, Texas) said its i.MX534 and i.MX536 automotive multimedia processors house two independent graphics processors plus use the latest ARM Cortex-A8 core for running in-dash apps under Android, Linux, QNX or Windows Embedded Compact 7.
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Friday, October 15, 2010

#CHIPS Carbon Microchips Accelerate Beyond Silicon

Pioneering engineering efforts at Georgia Tech are bringing carbon microchips closer to commercialization by fabricating pure carbon sheets—graphene—into the world's largest carbon-transistor array. Look for carbon microchips to begin replacing silicon CMOS chips in five to seven years. RColinJohnson, Kyoto Prize Fellow, @NextGenLog
Georgia Tech's new "templated growth" technique forces graphene sheets (black hexagons) to crystallize on contoured edges on a silicon carbide substrate (source: Georgia Tech).

After the graphene transistor channel is grown, conventional lithography can add a insulating dielectric and gate on top with the source and drain electrodes (gold) at each end of the channel (source: Georgia Tech). 
 Here is what Smarter Technology says about carbon microchips: Researchers around the world are inventing ways to harness carbon—an organic material—to build smaller, faster microchips that sidestep the looming problems with inorganic silicon, which is becoming increasingly difficult to fabricate at the atomic level. IBM, for instance, recently demonstrated how to fabricate field-effect transistors (FETs) by smoothing out carbon into atomically thin sheets, called graphene.
Now the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) has advanced graphene one more step by inventing a "templated growth" technique for fabricating what they claim is the world's largest array of organic carbon-based graphene transistors.
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#CHIPS: "Triple-mode graphene transistors go analog"

Digital circuitry may be destined to migrate from silicon- to carbon-based, but what about analog? These researchers claim that analog functions can also be enhanced by using the ambipolar nature of carbon-transistors to behave as both n-type and p-type transistors, depending on their bias. Look for carbon analog circuitry to evolve along with digital to replace silicon chip by the end of the decade. R. Colin Johnnson, Kyoto Prize Fellow @ NextGenLog

Triple-mode graphene transistors consist of a conventional metal source (S) and drain (D) with graphene serving as the channel (upper left). For the demonstration, a back gate  was used (upper right). When presented with an alternating current input (V[subscript]AC) the output depends the bias voltage--in-phase if its less that the input minimum (third from bottom), out-of-phase if greater (bottom) or frequency doubled if they are equal (second from bottom).
Here is what EETimes says about analog carbon transistors: Post-silicon era transistors fabricated from sheets of pure carbon—graphene—are pioneering a new paradigm for digital circuitry, but what about analog circuits? Now Rice University researchers have demonstrated analog graphene transistors that can not only amplify like p-type and n-type silicon transistors, but can also exploit the ambipolar ability of graphene in a novel frequency-multiplication mode. The Rice researchers demonstrated how such triple-mode graphene transistors can be used to build simpler phase-shift keying and frequency-shift keying circuitry...
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

MEMS# Modeling Tool Adds Simulink Integration

Micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) designers have to use general purpose computer aided design (CAD) tools, before Coventor came along to provide a specialized design suite just for MEMS. But when the MEMS designers had a design finished, the could not port the file directly over to the electronic design automation (EDA) tool to finish the part--that's where Coventor MEMS+ comes in. Look for MEMS- and EDA-chip design groups to exchange files when designing accelerometers, gyroscopes, pressure and other sensors and actuators for the next three years. RColinJohnson @NextGenLog

Coventor's MEMS+ 3D design suite for micro-electro-mechanical systems now integrates with Mathlab's Simulink for  behavioral modeling and verification of functional correctness.
Here is what EETimes says about Coventor MEMS+: MEMS-chip designers can now use Coventor Inc.'s 3-D modeling tool, then verify their designs using MathWorks Inc.'s Mathlab behavioral modeling tool, thanks to modifications made by Coventor (Cary, N.C.) in its latest version of its MEMS+. MEMS+ can now generate schematic symbols and simulation models for The Mathworks' Simulink, Coventor said. MEMS+ already allowed MEM designers to work closely with the CMOS-chip designers by virtue of its tight integration with Cadence Design Systems Inc.'s Virtuoso IC design environment. Now MEMS-chip designers can also use Mathlab's Simulink behavior modeling tools to verify that the design functions correctly.
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#CHIPS: Freescale debuts 'green' digital signal controller

Greener appliances, industrial process controllers and data-center server farms are being made possible, according to Freescale Semiconductor, by its just announced MC56F82xx digital signal controller (DSC). The new greener-DSC combines a high-speed microcontroller core with digital signal processor (DSP) capabilities and pulse-width modulators with nanoscale precision. Look for more "green" alternatives to current chip designs for the foreseeable future. RColinJohnson, Kyoto Prize Fellow @NextGenLog

Freescale's MC56F82xx family takes aim at digital power conversion applications such as board-mounted digital power supplies for servers, industrial and telecom power supplies and advanced motor control.
Here is what EETimes says about DSC: Freescale designed the DSC for advanced motor control as well as for power-conversion applications in on-board digital power supplies used in telecommunications, industry and servers. Its 56900E core provides programmability with DSP capabilities and on-chip peripherals include pulse-width modulators with nanoscale placement accuracy, fast analog-to-digital converters (ADCs) and embedded flash memory for algorithms.
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#SENSORS Medical Breathalyzer to Diagnosis from Exhalation

Just a single exhalation into a medical breathalyzer being developed at Stony Brook University could instantly diagnose patients for cholesterol levels, diabetes and even lung cancer. Look for a revolution in Dr. McCoy-style medical scanners over rest of the decade. RColinJohnson, Kyoto Prize Fellow @NextGenLog

Recent Stony Brook University doctoral graduate Krithika Kalyanasundaram demonstrates the medical breathalyzer which she developed with professor Perena Gouma to detect disease.
Here is what Smarter Technology says about breathalyzers: Using nanoscale sensors developed in the Center for Nanomaterials and Sensor Development, researchers at Stony Brook University in New York have designed medical breathalyzers that recognize signal gases in a single exhalation. Specific sensors could potentially be crafted for nearly any disease, according to the researchers. The National Science Foundation is currently funding pre-clinical trials for a diabetes breathalyzer.

Perena Gouma is the brainchild at Stony Brook University who believes a medical breathalyzer can detect disease just by exhaling into it.
A single-breath exhalation has over 300 identifiable gases, according to lead researcher, Prof. Perena Gouma, director of Stony Brook's Center for Nanomaterials and Sensor Development. The key to identifying disease is developing a sensor for a gas that is only present in the breath for those infected—called a signal gas—such as acetone, which indicates a diabetic's blood sugar level.
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#CHIPS: PRAM Aims to Replace Flash Memory

Diagram shows enthalpy curves sketched for the liquid, crystalline and amorphous phases of a new class of nanomaterials called “BEANs” for Binary Eutectic-Alloy Nanostructures. (Image courtesy of Daryl Chrzan)
Researchers at the University of California Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory claim to have a nano-structured formulation that makes phase-change random access memory (PRAM) the prime candidate to replace flash. By storing bits as a phase-change in a polymer—from amorphous to crystalline—PRAM will achieve terabit densities on chips that can pack hundreds of full-length movies and whole libraries of books into our mobile devices. Look for PRAMs to replace flash over the next five years. RColinJohnson @NextGenLog

Joel Ager, Daryl Chrzan and Eugene Haller (left to right) claim binary eutectic-alloy nanostructure (BEAN can enable quantum dots and nanowires a phase-changing memory elements for optical data storage technologies. (Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt, Berkeley Lab Public Affairs)

Here is what Smarter Technology says about PRAM: As flash memory becomes so dense that atomic-scale defects cause failure, many different approaches are being tried to replace the aging technology—from ferroelectric RAM (FRAM, which uses electrical polarization to enhance its DRAM-like bit cells) to magnetic RAM (MRAM, which stores information in magnetic bit cells). The most promising alternative for future terabit chips, however, is phase-change RAM (PRAM). PRAM stores bits as an amorphous or crystalline state of its polymer bit cell. Now a new formulation invented by researchers from the University of California (UC) Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) aims to enable PRAM to take the baton from flash memories and win the race to succeed it.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

CHIPS# NSF# SRC# Grants Extend Nano Research Effort

Quantum and other unexplored effects need to be harnessed to successfully navigate the pitfalls of atomic scale computing devices, according to industry, academia and government, who are all starting to put their heads together on this problem. The six grant allotted this week are but a few of the pinoneering efforts worldwide to shrink electronic devices down to the atomic scale. Look for quantum computers and ultra-dense memory devices as a result these ongoing efforts within five years. RColinJohnson @NextGenLog

National Science Foundation's concept of renewing nano centers.
Here is what EETimes says about nano: Nanoscale electronics research will be funded through $2 million in grants from Semiconductor Research Corp. (SRC) and the National Science Foundation. The grants were awarded to six existing NSF Centers at U.S. universities. Twenty-four earlier grants were awarded as part of the five-year old public-private partnership program, SRC (Research Triangle Park, N.C.) said. The overall aim of the Nanoelectronics Research Initiative is to spur collaboration among industry, academic and government researchers pursuing nanoscale switching technology to replace traditional silicon transistor within the next decade. The hope is that by building a foundation for transistor alternatives, like quantum mechanics, continued performance enhancements, power reduction and device shrinkage can continue uninterrupted.
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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

#CHIPS Electronic Nose Sniffs out Medical Conditions

National Science Foundation funding could soon give diabetics an alternative to repeatedly pricking their finger for a blood sample. If successful, this electronic nose could potentially be trained to instantly identify many maladies just by sampling your breath. Look for electronic noses for diabetics within two years and for a wide variety of other diseases over the rest of the decade. RColinJohnson @NextGenLog

Electronic nose sniffs out chemical markers for disease with sensors crafted by electrospinning nanofiber and nanowire structures.
Electronic nose sensors can not only detect disease but can also diagnose its progress, according to Stony Brook University researchers. Nanowire-arrays of ultrasensitive sensors offer improved gas sensitivity, faster response and lower level detection than conventional approaches, promising to eliminate the need for blood tests in favor of breath-based diagnoses, the researchers say.
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#CHIPS IBM Probes Atomic Memories, Photovoltaics, Quantum Computers

Incredible memory chip densities will someday result from encoding bits onto individual atoms, according to IBM Research, which has reinvented a microscopy tool for characterizing single-atom memories, molecular-scale solar cells and future quantum computers. Look for atomic-scale chips made possible by pulsed microscopy within four years. RColinJohnson @NextGenLog
Scanning tunneling microscope topograph of an iron atom (large yellow) on a nitride-covered substrate (blue), which someday may enable single-atom bit cells for memory chips
Semiconductor designers today are attempting to design atomically accurate materials using the scanning tunneling microscope (STM) to image individual atoms. Unfortunately, only still images could be made. Now IBM has reinvented STM to work like pulsed lasers, permitting measurements to be made on a sub-nanosecond time scale, resulting in videolike movies of atoms made at rates of billions of frames per second
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#OPTICS Microscopic Antennas for Light Beat Fiber Optics

Optical signals use light not only for telecommunications, but for sensors that can detect even scant amounts of toxins. Most optical signals are routed down fibers like a conduit, but now Rice University researchers are proposing to use microscopic optical antennas to receive light in the same way a cell phone's antenna receives radio waves. Look for super-sensitive detectors built using optical antennas within five years. RColinJohnson @NextGenLog

Artist's rendering of how plasmons in a pair of gold sub-nanometer electrodes concentrate light from a laser. (Image courtesy Natelson Lab/Rice University)
Electromagnetic radiation runs the gamut from long-wavelength radio waves to short-wavelength light waves, but antennas are usually thought of as useful only for radio waves. Since an antenna's size is related to the wavelength it is intended to receive, radio antennas must be a millimeter or longer. Since light's wavelength is measured in nanometers, antennas scaled down to that size should be able to receive the nanometer wavelengths of light.
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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

#ALGORITHMS "Swarm Intelligence Controls Robotic Planes"

Unmanned areal vehicles (UAVs) communicate with each other and the ground to fly in coordinated swarms for search and rescue operations.
Search and rescue could become easier with swarms of unmanned areal vehicles (UAVs) all under the control of a single operator. Today many drones can perform some mission objectives on their own, but not coordinated formation flying, which is necessary for search and rescue as opposed to surveillance or military applications. By encoding swarm intelligence for the UAVs into a ground-based computer, it may be possible to combine autonomy and control for grid-like search operations. Look for swarms of search and rescue UAVs at natural disaster sites within three years. RColinJohnson @NextGenLog

UAVS run Linux on a lithium-polymer battery powered single-board computer with an off-the-shelf WiFi receiver, a GPS module and a ZigBee transmitter.

Here is what EETimes says about swarm intelligence: A new strategy for coordinated flight of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) devised by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology uses coordinated communications to allow a single operator to control an entire swarm of ultra-cheap robotic planes, rather than depending on expensive radar or lasers to locate and coordinate the flight of swarms or UAVs. Created in the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), the Swarming Micro Air Vehicle Network (SmavNet) project uses small (32-inch wingspan), lightweight (under 1 pound) UAVs with an electric motor and two control surfaces (ailerons and elevators) running on a single lithium-polymer battery with a flight-time of 30 minutes. The UAVs use GPS for location and WiFi for communications plus only three inexpensive sensors—a single MEMS gyroscope and two pressure sensors.
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#NANOTECH Nanosprings Could Enable Handheld Medical Scanners

Dr. McCoy's medical scanner on the Star Trek franchise seems almost quaint when you recall it--until you realize we still have no handheld medical scanners today! The next big thing that could finally realize the dream are nanospring biomolecule carriers. Look for handheld medical diagnostic devices to finally arrive within the next three years. RColinJohnson @NextGenLog

Silicon dioxide nanosprings resemble old-style curled-up phone cords, but can carry biomolecules that enable handheld mobile battery-powered medical diagnostic devices that give instant results on a variety of medical conditions.

Here is what Smarter Technology says about nanosprings: Nanosprings aim to enable handheld medical devices that give instant diagnostics, yet are cheap enough to be deployed everywhere—from the rural outback to your doctor's waiting room. Oregon State University researchers recently demonstrated nanosprings holding biomolecules that could be used in bio-sensors for the production of pharmaceuticals and for the micro reactions used in mobile handheld medical "labs on-a-chip."
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Monday, October 04, 2010

#OPTICS "NIST Crafts 'Schrodinger's Cat' from Light"

NIST research associate Thomas Gerrits at the laser table used to create "quantum cats" made of light.
 Schrodinger's Cat is a thought experiment in which the feline was balanced in a paradoxical quantum state—a superposition of being both dead and alive. Now the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) claims to have created a cat made from photons that realizes Schrodinger's long predicted paradox. Look for novel quantum states to play a role in the emerging field of quantum computing over the rest of the decade. RColinJohnson @NextGenLog

These colorized plots of electric field values indicate how closely the NIST "quantum cats" (left) compare with theoretical predictions for a cat state (right). The purple spots and alternating blue contrast regions in the center of the images indicate the light is in the appropriate quantum state.

Austrian physicist Erwin Schrodinger constructed his "cat" experiment as a "reductio ad absurdum" argument against one interpretation of quantum mechanics. Einstein had recently described quantum entanglement in an article suggesting that superposition of opposite states in atomic quanta could also become macroscopic. To illustrate the absurdity of that notion, Schrodinger constructed the situation where a cat could be both alive and dead simultaneously.
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Friday, October 01, 2010

I Won "Kyoto Prize Journalism Fellowship"!

I am honored to have been named a winner of the Kyoto Prize Journalism Fellowship, along with the second winner, Time Magazine senior reporter Alice Park. The Kyoto Prize fancies itself the "younger" Nobel Prize, but has no award in journalism. Instead the "Kyoto Prize Journalism Fellowship" includes a trip to Japan, one-on-one interviews with the prize winners and a commemorative banquet "in the presence of Her Imperial Highness." Look for my stories on the Kyoto Prize winners filed from Japan next month. RColinJohnson @NextGenLog

The Kyoto Prize is one of the world’s most prestigious awards given to those who have made outstanding lifetime achievements in technology, science, or the arts.
Here is what EETimes says about the Kyoto Prize Journalism Fellowship: R. Colin Johnson, veteran technology correspondent for EE Times, has been named a winner of the 2010 Kyoto Prize Journalism Fellowship. Johnson, who is based in Portland, Ore., was one of two winners of the annual fellowship, which was awarded this week in conjunction with the 26th annual Kyoto Prize, Japan’s version of the Nobel Prize. The journalism fellowship is administered by Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. Fellowship winners travel to Japan for one week to attend the Kyoto Prize awards ceremony and interview the prize winners. This year’s recipients include Laszlo Lovasz, the Hungarian-born mathematician who has specialized in a discipline called discrete mathematics. Lovasz “has provided a link among numerous branches of mathematics through his advanced research on discrete structures and algorithms,” the Kyoto Prize committee said...
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