Wednesday, December 26, 2007

"ENERGY: Ford: hydrogen fuel feasible"

In order for hydrogen-powered automobiles to succeed, the fuel needs to be pumped into tanks as easily as gasoline--and without the threat of Hindenburg-like disasters. Sandia National Laboratories recently suggested an alternative technology for synthesizing carbon-based fuels so that the current U.S. fuel distribution system can be used. Now, Ford Motor Co. has emerged with an autocatalytic reaction scheme involving three hydrides that could someday enable hydrogen to be pumped into tanks as easily as gasoline.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"CHIPS:HD audio immune to interference"

In the crowded 2.4-GHz wireless band where everything from Wi-Fi to Bluetooth to cordless phones and microwave ovens operates, high-definition audio communications strategies have to be nimble to avoid interference. By combining very small packet sizes with an adaptive frequency allocation algorithm, STS Inc. (Amsterdam, The Netherlands), a fabless chip maker, claims to have nixed interference while maintaining high-definition (HD) audio within a power budget that maintains long battery life for portable devices — albeit with proprietary protocols that are incompatible with other manufacturers' devices.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"ALGORITHMS: Optical supercontinua finally explained"

Supercontinuum generation in optical fibers (the conversion of ultrashort pulses into broad spectrums of light) has helped to enable optical clocks that are accurate to within a second every million years, for which Roy Glauber, John Hall, and Theodor Hansch received the Nobel Prize in 2005. Since then, many researchers have generated supercontinua in optical fibers for coherence tomography, metrology and biomedical applications, despite the fact that the mechanism behind it has remained obscure. Now researchers at the University of Bath (England) claim to have explained the mechanism enabling supercontinuum generation.

"OPTICS: Optical supercontinua finally explained"

Supercontinuum generation in optical fibers (the conversion of ultrashort pulses into broad spectrums of light) has helped to enable optical clocks that are accurate to within a second every million years, for which Roy Glauber, John Hall, and Theodor Hansch received the Nobel Prize in 2005. Since then, many researchers have generated supercontinua in optical fibers for coherence tomography, metrology and biomedical applications, despite the fact that the mechanism behind it has remained obscure. Now researchers at the University of Bath (England) claim to have explained the mechanism enabling supercontinuum generation.

Friday, December 07, 2007

"ALGORITHMS: Dark matter spawns dark stars"

Dark matter and dark energy comprise 96 percent of the universe, or so says the "standard" theory; but where (and what) are dark matter and dark energy? Scientists call them "dark" because their presence has to be deduced from gravitational data about the visible universe, which indicates the presence of 74 percent more energy, and 22 percent more matter, than we see through our telescopes. Just this year, however, newly proposed theories have offered new explanations of dark energy and dark matter. Dark energy, for instance, was recently explained as the quantum "pressure" of empty space and dark matter as located in a halo around the galaxies. Now, researchers at the University of Utah (Salt Lake City) have an explanation for how dark matter, powered by weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs), enabled the creation of vast dark stars.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

"MATERIALS: IBM unveils smallest silicon modulator"

Optical interconnections on silicon herald a future in which photons will replace electrons to shuttle high-speed data streams between multiple microprocessor cores. A key component is an electro-optical modulator that permits one core's electrical output to modulate a silicon laser beam into a coded stream of pulses that can be routed to the input of any other core. IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center (Yorktown, N. Y.) said Thursday (Dec. 6) it has succeeded in shrinking a 10 Gbit/sec Mach-Zehnder electro-optic modulator down to 100 microns, at power levels comparable to today's discrete optical devices.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

"ALGORITHMS: Smartpen aids blind engineering students"

Innovation plus invention have been combined to enable blind students to attend college engineering classes on a equal basis. A "smart" pen with an embedded microprocessor lets students feel notes written on sheets that raise up when stroked while students listen to annotated audio.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

"MATERIALS: Gate leakage, down and out?"

A high-k dielectric process for CMOS transistors promises to turn the International Semiconductor Roadmap into a freeway by eliminating the gate-leakage problem at advanced nodes down to 10 nanometers. Overheating due to excessive gate leakage is the number one hurdle to reaching advanced semiconductor nodes below 45 nanometer. Now, a process with 1 million times less gate leakage could enable rapid migration to advanced nodes, according to Clemson University researchers.

Monday, December 03, 2007

"ENERGY: Energy harvesting matures"

At least two energy harvesting companies are reporting sharp increases in sales to customers who are finding all types of ordinary uses for power harvesting devices in advance of widespread deployment of wireless sensor networks.

Friday, November 30, 2007

"ALGORITHMS: Researcher claims to have found missing dark matter"

As much as 96 percent of the known Universe seems to be missing. Called dark matter or dark energy, the missing elements do not appear to emit or reflect enough electromagnetic radiation to be directly observed. Researchers at McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario) now claim to have located the missing dark matter in a halo around galaxies. Using a supercomputer to create the most accurate model yet of galaxy formation, the researchers claim the missing matter was there all along, just not where researchers expected it to be.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

"MATERIALS: NIST on road to perpetual motion with 'superfluidity' demo"

Perpetual motion is forbidden by the laws of classical physics, but in the quantum realm frictionless motion is possible. For instance, a closed loop of superconducting wire can exhibit perpetual motion, albeit only for electrons traveling around the frictionless loop of wire. If only such frictionless motion could be demonstrated for a fluid, then "superfluidity" could realize the frictionless motion of atoms around a torus, thereby enabling ultra-sensitive rotational sensors to be built.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"ALGORITHMS: Freescale offers touch-panel software 'absolutely free'"

Frank Zappa made fun of the "absolutely free" concept by selling a full-priced album by that name in 1967. Now, 40 years later, Freescale Semiconductor Inc. (Austin, Texas) is making good on the "absolutely free" offer, with software to create capacitive touch panels and virtual rotary dials. This library of "absolutely-free" touch-panel software was unveiled on the eve of Freescale's Technology Forum (Nov. 28-29, 2007) in Shenzhen, China.

"MATERIALS: Carbon transistors touted as outperforming amorphous silicon"

Processing semiconductors at room temperature could enable large-scale applications like electronic billboards and ultra-low-cost applications like disposable RFID tags. But most room-temperature transistors have dismal electron mobility measured in the hundredths of centimeters2 per volt second (cm2/Vs). Now, Georgia Institute of Technology researchers are claiming to have perfected a method of making room- temperature transistors that are 100-times faster--as fast a amorphous silicon--by fabricating their channels from thin films of carbon-60 (C60), also knows as buckyballs or fullerenes.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"CHIPS: Solid-state terahertz emitter devised"

A unique, inexpensive solid-state source of terahertz radiation has been demonstrated by Argonne National Laboratories, working with researchers in Japan and Turkey. Terahertz (THz) frequencies can penetrate clothing, leather, fabric, cardboard, paper and some building materials, but not metal or water. Since they are non-ionizing (unlike x-rays, which can knock your electrons out of orbit, terahertz emitters enable "x-ray vision" applications without the health hazards, for everything from security scans to medical and dental imaging.

Monday, November 26, 2007

"MATERIALS: Superinsulators rival superconductors"

Superconducting metals work by binding electrons into pairs called Cooper pairs whose motion can be coupled into long chains of electrons. Those electrons are synchronized with the conductor's lattice vibrations (when cooled near absolute zero), thereby avoiding the collisions with metal atoms that define resistance. Now a Brown University researcher claims to have discovered Cooper pairs in superinsulators that, when cooled near absolute zero, offer infinite resistance--acting as perfect blocks to conduction. Superinsulators may someday be wired together with superconductors to create supercircuits that generate zero heat.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"MEMS: Mass market makes a MEMS move'

Micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) penetrated the mass market two decades ago, when they enabled air bags to trigger fast enough to catch passengers before they hit the steering wheel or windshield. MEMS chips gained a major business-market design-win a decade ago, when they began to be used to fabricate the high-precision ink-jet print-heads that displaced impact printers. Now, MEMS chips are entering the consumer-electronics mainstream with the same invigorating effect. Most recently, we're seeing MEMS technology being used in Nintendo's Wii and Apple's iPhone, and this may just be the beginning. The real volume customers will be the mainstream consumer-electronics makers adding MEMS chips to their ubiquitous devices.

Friday, November 16, 2007

"ALGORITHMS: Electronics play noteworthy role in self-tuning guitar"

The world's first self-tuning guitar will be demonstrated by Gibson Guitar Corp. at music stores nationwide on Dec. 7, 2007--just in time for Christmas. But you better start saving up now, for the initial price tag for the limited-edition (4,000 )blue-silverburst Les Paul Robot Guitar will be $2,500--about $800 more than Gibson's least expensive U.S.-built Les Paul, which range in price from $1700 to $5000. However, don't fret if you don't have the scratch, because a standard edition self-tuning "robot" guitar will go on sale in January 2008

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"ENERGY: LEDs shine as replacement for lightbulb"

What are claimed to be the first white light-emitting diodes (WLEDs) to achieve a high color-rendering index were recently demonstrated by an international collaborative team of researchers. This could answer the last remaining stumbling block to universal adoption of white LEDs to replace incandescent bulbs and fluorescent tubes.

"MATERIALS: 'Haptics' display sought to bring graphics to the blind"

The EE who co-invented the electret microphone was recently recruited to help create the world's first graphical "haptic" display for the blind. James West, an electrical engineer, was awarded America's highest honor--the National Medal of Technology--for his work on the electret's charged polymer film that converts motion into an electrical signal. For the National Science Foundation funded haptic-display project, West wants to turn this concept around, by sending signals to an electro-active polymer that responds with motion on its surface. The researchers hope their efforts will result in a display of graphical patterns for the blind to feel with their hands.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"MEMS: RF-MEMS aims to tune mobile wireless"

As an aspiring fabless semiconductor house, WiSpry Inc. (Irvine, Calif.), recently laid claim to sampling the world's first integrated radio-frequency (RF) micro-electro-mechanical system. The MEMS chip--a digital capacitor array on a CMOS die--can match a cell phone's antenna impedance dynamically, rather having it set at the factory, saving dropped calls and extending battery life. And that's just the start, says WiSpry, for its forthcoming line of RF-MEMS devices, which the company says eventually will yield the holy grail of RF: software radio--an ultra-wideband communications channel that can be tuned to different bands anywhere in the spectrum.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"MATERIALS: Silicon circuits made ink-jet printable"

Silicon ink for printing electronic circuitry atop flexible foil substrates was unveiled today at the Printed Electronics conference (Nov. 12-15, 2007, San Francisco). Kovio, Inc. (Sunnyvale, Calif.) described its "green" silicon ink for thin-film transistors (TFTs) that achieve the performance of polysilicon transistors, but at a third their price and consuming only 5 percent of the chemicals and 25 percent of the energy of single-crystal silicon. Kovio claimed that radio-frequency identification tags using its silicon ink will drop Kovio's price from 15 cents today to 5 cents by 2008, when Kovio begins volume production of its inkjet-printed RFID tags.

Monday, November 12, 2007

"QUANTUM:D-Wave taps Google image search for quantum computer"

The world's first commercial quantum computer will be strutting its stuff at the annual SC07 supercomputing conference this week (Reno, Nevada, November 10-16). By collaborating with Google's expert on its forthcoming search-by-image capability--acquired by Google last year when it bought Neven Vision--D-Wave Systems Inc. (Vancouver, B.C.) will demonstrate how quantum computers can perform Neven-based image-recognition tasks at speeds rivaling those of humans.

"MEMS: breed a new batch of consumer-pleasing devices"

Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) have revolutionized every industry that has adopted them, according to presenters at the MEMS Executive Conference earlier this month in San Diego. For instance, the MEMS accelerometer has greatly enhanced the safety of automobiles with airbags. Likewise, the Nintendo Wii's motion-based controller has changed the gaming landscape, while Apple's iPhone has set a new standard for cell phones. Now, MEMS chips, combined with the smart software that utilizes them, are being designed into cell phones at a pace reminiscent of camera phone adoption, enabling a new breed of consumer-pleasing electronic devices.

Friday, November 09, 2007

"ALGORITHMS: Software specialist FogClear focuses post-silicon"

First silicon, the initial prototype of a new chip design, often involves days of tedious, labor-intensive debugging and mask repairs before production-ready chips can be produced. Most problems with initial prototypes can be diagnosed, but repairing problems deep inside a chip becomes increasingly difficult as design rules shrink and mask levels are added. Some have proposed adding extra tunable structures to affect repairs post-silicon. FogClear, a software-only approach to post-silicon debugging, was unveiled this week by University of Michigan researchers at the International Conference on Computer-Aided Design. FogClear aims to make obsolete the "first silicon" moniker by repairing errors in prototypes in hours rather than days. Proponents said this can be accomplished by merely changing one of the top interconnection layers.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

"MEMS: TI embraces digital mics"

Digital microphone pioneer Akustica Inc. said it has gained a design win in Texas Instruments' latest stereo audio codec chips. Dallas-based TI claims to be the first to add a digital microphone input to its codecs used in cellphones and other consumer audio devices. TI's TLV320 includes a I2S (Integrated Interchip Sound) pin enabling Akustica's digital microphone to bypass the usual analog-to-digital converter.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

"MEMS: chips sprout wings"

Micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) downsize the sensing element in a detector to reduce costs, improve accuracy and offer integration rivaling semiconductors. Unfortunately, the world does not downsize just because the element being used to sense it does. Consequently, the smaller MEMS devices become, the more easily they are clogged by dust and other particulate. Now Omron Electronic Components LLC (Schaumburg, Ill.) claims to have solved this problem for MEMS air-flow sensors with an innovative mechanical architecture it dubs the "penguin."

Monday, November 05, 2007

"MEMS: Optical signals interact with MEMS"

Micro- and nanoscale mechanical structures have long been used to sculpt and channel optical signals, from waveguides to resonators, but lately the direction of influence has reversed.
Now optical signals are being used to manipulate these mechanical structures. Recently, researchers at both the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge) and Cornell University (Ithaca, N.Y.) demonstrated new methods of using optical signals to control mechanical structures, at least one group of material scientists proposing to close the feedback loop.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

"CHIPS: ASICs added to MEMS wafers"

Microelectromechanical system (MEMS) chips are currently joined to separate CMOS ASICs after separate wafers are diced. A new technique called "chip-on-MEMS" bonds ASIC dice atop an entire MEMS wafer before dicing, according to developer VTI Technologies Oy.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

"WIRELESS: Motorola prototype validates metal-oxide for WPAN device"

Wireless personal area networking (WPAN) got another boost today, when Motorola Labs (Tempe, Ariz.) announced that its joint-development agreement with Phiar Corp. (Boulder, Colo.) had succeeded in validating metal-insulator electronics as a viable alternative to semiconductors for millimeter wavelength 60-GHz WPAN devices. IBM recently announced a deal with Taiwan's MediaTek to supply chip sets for the IEEE 802.15.3c WPAN standard using IBM's silicon germanium (SiGe) BiCMOS radios. Motorola claims to be developing a rival 60-GHz radio sans semiconductors.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"MATERIALS: 'Shrink-wrap' formation of carbon-60 observed"

When the late Harold Kroto, Robert Curl and the late Richard Smalley won the 1996 Nobel Prize for their 1985 discovery of carbon-60, they speculated on how they believed it was created. The trio called these hollow spheres of 60 carbon atoms arranged in interlocking pentagons "fullerenes," (and sometimes "buckyballs") to celebrate their resemblance to the geodesic dome invented by Buckminster Fuller. They called fullerenes' construction method "shrink wrapping," because they believed that fullerenes started out as sheets of graphene that were wrapped into giant spheres of a thousand or more atoms, then shed atoms by "evaporation" until they reached the smallest possible formation, carbon-60. Unfortunately, when Smalley died, in 2005, the shrink-wrap hypothesis had yet to be confirmed. Now, however, Sandia National Laboratories claims to have experimental confirmation

Monday, October 29, 2007

"CHIPS: Electronic nose starts sniffing"

An electronic-nose technology will be demonstrated Tuesday at the Composites at Lake Louise Conference in Alberta, Canada. The electronic nose, invented by Massachusetts Institute of Technology electrical engineer mimics biology through a low-cost thin-film fabrication technique that combines the best aspects of organic and inorganic materials. By directly writing sensor films to a quartz substrate with an experimental Hewlett Packard programmable ink-jet printhead, the researchers can create arrays of smell sensors that work like a nose, but which can be calibrated to sense the aroma of noxious gases including those wafting off toxins and explosives.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

"ALGORITHMS: Apple takes wraps off iPhone development"

Apple has unveiled an iPhone development center to spur software developers to create application programs. So far the center supports only Web-based applications, but Apple reaffirmed its commitment to provide a native application development environment by February 2008. The iPhone Development Center guides developers through the intricacies of Web 2.0 application development for both the iPhone and the iPod Touch. Videos guide developers through basic design and interface issues, then progress to content management, compatibility issues and optimization strategies. Code libraries and example applications are also provided.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"MATERIALS: Atom smasher unleashes new isotopes"

You might have thought that scientists had already cataloged the 118 natural elements--from hydrogen to silicon to uranium--and their various isotopes. Unfortunately, only the first eight elements--hydrogen to oxygen--have had all their isotopes recorded. Recently, Michigan State University's National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL) began smashing atoms in hopes of cataloging the isotopes for the other 110 elements on the periodic table. So far, they've found three never-before-observed isotopes of silicon, aluminum and magnesium.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"OPTICAL: Optical antenna helps QC laser hit the spot"

Spectral scanners using tiny semiconductor quantum-cascade (QC) lasers hold promise for handheld devices that can read out the chemical composition of nearly any sample. Unfortunately, QC laser's wavelengths are measured in microns, limiting scanners to micron-scale resolution, since a focused laser's spot cannot ordinarily be smaller than its wavelength. Now the co-inventor of the quantum-cascade laser has devised an optical antenna that enables QC lasers to perform submicron scans by focusing the laser's spot with nanoscale accuracy.

Monday, October 22, 2007

"WIRELESS: Pinyon's 25-cent antenna wins over Siemens"

Beam-steerable phased-array antennas--a technology perfected by the military for tight, secure radio-frequency (RF) communications--will become commonplace in residential communications soon, according to Pinyon Technologies Inc., a startup co-founded by Gil Amelio--the former CEO of Apple Computer and National Semiconductor. Today, Pinyon is coming out of its research-and-development phase with a dozen claimed design wins for the Airwire antenna. These 2.4-to-5.8-GHz antennas, based on a proprietary shorted-slot technology, add only 25 cents to a bill-of-materials. Siemens Home and Office Communication Devices is Pinyon's latest design win for Bluetooth and ultra-wide-band (UMB) devices--together called Turbo Bluetooth. Pinyon also claims a dozen other original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are licensing its antenna for WiFi, WiMax and Wireless USB devices, and soon for both 3G and 4G mobile phones, the design wins for which it plans to announce by 2008.

"WIRELESS: WPAN chip set promised"

Wireless personal area networks (WPANs) for the digital living room and digital office are the promised outcome of a joint-development effort announced by IBM and MediaTek. The companies have already begun development of an IEEE 802.15.3c-compatible chip set for WPANs. IBM will supply its 60 GHz radio cast in BiCMOS SiGe, and MediaTek will mate to it a baseband chip, resulting in a complete silicon solution for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) of WPAN devices. The multi-year effort is scheduled to coincide with finalization of the WPAN standard at IEEE, which is aimed at providing individual rooms with wireless gigabyte data connections. Theoretically, all the interconnections of components in a room could be wireless using WPAN, including transmission of high-definition video and high-speed file transfers that sync an iPod in seconds.

"WIRELESS: Startup tries proprietary path to wireless hi-fi"

Touting a successful pairing of wireless and hi-fi audio, fabless chip vendor Avnera Corp. (Beaverton, Ore.) today will announce chip sets for wireless audio connections in the 2.4-GHz band that outperform data-oriented wireless connections in range, freedom from interference, automatic network configuration and full CD-quality sound. But the proprietary approach means the chip sets are not interoperable with other brands.

Friday, October 19, 2007

"MATERIALS: Metamaterials to enable 3-D displays"

Metamaterials use composite resonators that can bend light any which way, potentially cloaking regions of space from visibility by diverting light around them. Now a mathematician has offered a blueprint for casting metamaterials into hollow fibers to create cloaked tunnels, each of which masks the light ascending from a planar pixel array to illuminate a 3-D display. By arraying the tiny cloaking tunnels in 3-D, light from the planar pixel array would travel up through the fibers unobserved except for their glowing ends, which would appear to be floating in space.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

"MATERIALS: Metamaterials tackle communications wavelengths"

The world's first communications-wavelength metamaterial was recently demonstrated by a Princeton University design fabricated at Alcatel-Lucent. The clever semiconductor architecture sidesteps the need to craft nanoscale mechanical structures by alternating layers of indium gallium arsenide with layers of aluminum indium arsenide.

Monday, October 15, 2007

"MATERIALS: Nanotube probe invented"

Carbon nanotubes have exceptional electron mobility, but their extremely small size makes it exceedingly difficult to integrate them into transistors. One barrier to commercialization of nanotube-based circuitry is the lack of quick and easy ways to accurately measure their performance. IBM's T. J. Watson Research Center has demonstrated a characterization technology for carbon-nanotube transistors that it claims is quick and accurate. By focusing a laser on the nanotube that is being tested, IBM measures the shift in Raman phonon frequency to determine whether the nanotube is metallic or semiconducting and to measure its electron- or charge-density. This type of probing method, absent until now, is essential to characterizing nanotube materials capable of commercialization.

Friday, October 12, 2007

"MATERIALS: Carbon-impregnated plastic: Strong as steel! Thin as cellophane!"

Nanomaterials are often cited as being up to a thousand times stronger than steel, but researchers have had a difficult time transferring that strength to bulk materials. Now, an engineering professor at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) claims to have invented a "brick-and-mortar" technique that achieves that goal by mimicking the way oysters embed calcium carbonate into an organic matrix to create sea-shells--one of the strongest materials found in nature. The result is a material as strong as steel, but ultra-thin and transparent.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

"ALGORITHMS: EE attempts to unify prosthetic design"

An electrical engineer is determined to unify neural-prosthesis research by applying graphical state diagrams to bring together the disparate approaches taken by other experimental groups. Neural prosthetics convert brain activity into control signals that can drive electronics, but the algorithms that make the link have been unique to each implementation. Now, Lakshminarayan Srinivasan's state diagrams appear to offer a single method to conjure the intentions of a patient from the signals in his or her brain, then translate that into actuation of a prosthetic device.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

"NANOTECH: for flip-chips blows hot and cold"

Nextreme Inc. (Research Triangle Park, N.C.) claims to have solved the over-heating problem with modern flip-chips with its thermal copper pillar bumps. The technology embeds a thermoelectric cooler into each bump, which can either help cool chips, or can be used in reverse to generate energy from waste heat.

"CHIPS: Lab-on-a-chip enables quick test for avian flu"

Singapore research collaborators recently demonstrated a lab-on-a-chip that can detect avian flu (H5N1) in less than 30 minutes. Lab-on-a-chip bird flu tests, created by the University of Colorado, have been validated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for U.S. medical clinics. Now Asia, where influenza is entrenched in poultry according to the Singapore researchers, has access to a flu chip, too. The lab-on-a-chip was developed by Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). Collaborators there propose that medical- and humanitarian-aid workers throughout Asia head off a global pandemic by performing routine examinations using the while-you-wait test.

Friday, October 05, 2007

"ALGORITHMS: 'Mind reading' technology aims to help control computers"

Next week, a "mind reading" technology will be demonstrated at the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology (UIST 2007, Oct. 7 to 10). Using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), Tufts University researchers have successfully crafted machine learning algorithms that deduce users' "stress levels," while performing tasks with varying levels of mental workload (from bored to overwhelmed) and adjust the man-machine interface to match.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

"ROBOTICS: Darpa hatches plan for insect cyborgs to fly reconnaissance"

Cyborg insects with embedded microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) will run remotely controlled reconnaissance missions for the military, if its '"HI-MEMS" program succeeds. Hybrid-Insect MEMS--a program hatched earlier this year at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa)--aims to harness insects the way horses were harnessed by the cavalry.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

"CHIPS:First organic circuits cast"

Organic semiconductors aim to self-assemble complex circuitry by precipitation of thinly spread solutions. Thin films of organic semiconductors have been cast into n- and p-type transistors separately, but the world's first gate to use both was recently fabricated at the University of Washington (Seattle) and Stanford University (Palo Alto, Calif.). The complementary organic semiconductor (COS) circuitry was created from nanowires that self-assembled at room temperature from solutions of organic semiconductors. The semiconductor inverter gate that was produced (hexathiapentacene for p-type and perylenetetracarboxyldiimide for n-type) had a gain exceeding of 8, an on/off ratio of 104 and electron mobility on the order of one-hundredth of a square centimeter per volt-second.

Monday, October 01, 2007

"CHIPS: IBM fabs graphene FETs"

Graphene field-effect transistors (FETs) using a single layer of carbon atoms atop a silicon wafer have been successfully fabricated at IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center (Yorktown Heights, N.Y.). Although the technique is a decade away from widespread commercialization, IBM is currently working on radio frequency (RF) applications of the technology for discrete devices planned by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

"ALGORITHMS: Researchers seek to patent 'memory doubler' algorithm"

In the opening scene of "Johnny Mnemonic," the film version of the William Gibson short story, Keanu Reeves loads a "memory doubler" to increase his brain implant's storage capacity. Now a new "memory doubler" algorithm for embedded RAM has been invented by NEC Laboratories America, Inc. and Northwestern University. Dubbed Crames, for Compressed RAM for Embedded Systems, the memory doubler partitions existing RAM into a solid-state disk that has two-time compression with minimal latency. Crames will be unveiled in an NEC smart cellphone to be introduced in Japan this fall.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"ALGORITHMS: Neutrons image quantum states"

Last week scientists reported that the neutron was not electrically neutral after all. Now, this week, neutrons are reported to enable images to be made of "spooky" quantum states where a binary "1" and a binary "0" can be simultaneously maintained. The researchers, led by the London Centre for Nanotechnology (LCN), showed the world's first images of quantum entanglement in the prestigious scientific publication, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

"ALGORITHMS: Kaufman award honors Brayton"

Design automation pioneer Robert Brayton is to receive the Nobel Prize of the EDA Industry--the Phil Kaufman Award 2007. Brayton is credited with seminal contributions to the fundamental design automation algorithms used to fabricate integrated circuits, ranging from logic synthesis to the silicon compiler.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"ALGORITHMS: Musicians harness DSPs to craft guitar effects"

If you see the band Sparta during its current nationwide tour with Velvet Revolver, then you may wonder how Sparta's lead guitarist so quickly switches from the distortion-drenched tone on "Erase it Again" to the sweet vibe of "Air." The answer is not that roadies are running around connecting different amps between songs, but that Sparta's lead guitarist, Keeley Davis, is harnessing a Freescale DSP in a guitar effects "POD" from Line 6 that instantly swaps preset tones.

Friday, September 21, 2007

"ALGORITHMS: Physicist: steroid use can pop home runs 50%"

A professor in solid-state physics, who ordinarily studies subjects such as thin-film deposition on semiconductors, took some time off to study home run hitters who take steroids. The Tufts University (Medford, Mass.) professor's surprising finding was that the use of steroids that add just 10 percent to muscle mass would increase bat speed by only 5 percent, enough to raise a slugger's home run production by a surprising 50 percent.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

"ENERGY: Scientists charged! The neutron's not so neutral after all"

Every engineering student is taught that electrons have a negative charge, protons a positive charge and neutrons are electrically neutral. Now, scientists claim to have discovered that neutrons are not as neutral as they thought. Using data confirmed by three separate particle accelerators, University of Washington researchers claim that neutrons have three layers of charge--negative/positive/negative--that together sum to zero, accounting for the historical belief that neutrons are neutral. However, the new, more detailed understanding of how that neutrality comes about could enable a new breed of nuclear energy generators and weaponry.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"ALGORITHMS: Electronics help predict global warming"

Earth's vast polar ice caps reflect sunlight, keeping the planet cool. As they melt, global warming accelerates. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that the ice-packed caps may disappear between 2050 and 2100, but the panel admits that its prediction of the year they completely melt is only a guess. Now, by making detailed measurements of the polar ice's permeability, using models originally conceived for solid-state semiconductors, scientists are refining global warming predictions. University of Utah mathematician Ken Golden is currently on an Australian research ship in the Antarctic, pioneering the electronic modeling of ice permeability.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"CHIPS:Freescale soups up Fords"

Freescale Semiconductor unveiled an automotive-qualified version of its i.MX31 applications processor. The processor meets Automotive Electronics Council Q100 specs, demonstrating the ability to operate within a "40 C to 85 C temperature range. Ford Motor Co.'s 2008 models will use the Freescale i.MX31 processor in their Windows CE-based in-car communication and entertainment system, called SYNC.

"CHIPS: IBM touts single-chip phone"

Seven RF front-end functions can be integrated onto a single CMOS chip using silicon-on-insulator technology, according IBM Corp., which unveiled its CMOS 7RF SOI semiconductor technology Wednesday (Sept. 12). IBM said it would provide the single-chip CMOS solution for RF front ends used in cellphones. RF front-end functions in cellphones are currently handled by five to seven chips, including at least two using expensive gallium arsenide technologies. IBM claims its RF front-end will reduce costs by eliminating the need for GaAs as well as by reducing chip counts in wireless devices. IBM predicts its customers, cellphone chip set makers, will initially utilize its technology to reduce chip counts to two or three chip sets before implementing a single-chip solution.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"ALGORITHMS: Airline flights get less turbulent"

If you have flown American skies lately, you may have noticed shorter, smoother trips east of the Rockies. That's because a new turbulence detection and avoidance system is being tested (so far with success) by select United Airlines flights. New turbulence analysis software designed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) maps patches of rough air and compares the maps against the real-time flight paths of airliners. Alerts are sent to pilots giving them advance notice and presenting alternative routes enabling them to thread paths between turbulent regions without changing their arrival times. This should not only result in smoother flights but also save fuel and reduce delays on the ground.

Friday, September 07, 2007

"ENERGY: Photonic thruster pulses into existence"

Photonic thrusters have been imagined by engineers for about 35 years, but a recent demonstration of an experimental spacecraft propulsion system using a laser-based thruster will be described at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics's annual Space 2007 Conference (Sept. 18, Long Beach, Calif.). NASA funded the successful testing of the photonic laser propulsion (PLP) system earlier this year by the Bae Institute (Tustin, Calif.) Bae claims to have removed the last stumbling block to using photonic thrusters for spacecraft propulsion, by integrating an optical cavity into a laser that traps the beamed photons, thereby amplifying their light pressure by 3000-times.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

"NANOTECH: Initiative aims to reduce cost, power usage of embedded microchips"

The Institute for Sustainable Nanoelectronics, a joint effort aimed at lowering the cost and power consumption of embedded microchips with nanoscale solutions, was recently founded with $2.6 million in seed money. The Singapore institution will reflect the joint efforts of Houston's Rice University and Singapore's Nanyang Technological University. The centerpiece to the initiative is the probabilistic CMOS, which Rice researcher Krishna Palem has demonstrated running a cell phone display using five times less power than conventional embedded chips.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

"ALGORITHMS: Bootstrapped learning beats AI"

SRI International recently has won the role of system integrator for a new approach to AI funded by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (Darpa). Called Bootstrapped Learning, the initial phase begins immediately, funded by a $10 million, 15-month plan to develop the cornerstone for the program: a learning system called Phased Learning through Analyzing, Teaching and Observation (Plato). If all phases of the development program are completed, up to $27 million will be invested in the program by Darpa over the next 3 1/4 years. Bootstrapped Leaning scraps the unachievable goals originally set for AI expert systems in favor of a feasible one: learning a task from a human instructor, such as teaching an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to fly itself.

Friday, August 31, 2007

"ALGORITHMS: New video service will offer science papers, demos"

A new video service called SciVee offers authors of peer-reviewed papers the opportunity to hawk their discoveries with video demonstrations. Unlike YouTube, SciVee will also present article text alongside a video clip window, giving viewers the option to review papers. Below the text and video are drop-down windows for figures, references and keywords as well as a cumulative rating, voted on by viewers, and a blog-style comment area.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

"MATERIALS: IBM demos single-atom memory, molecular switch"

Even the highest density hard-disk drives use approximately 1 million magnetic atoms to store a single bit of information. IBM's Almaden Research Center (San Jose, Calif.) has demonstrated the ability to store a bit on a single atom, portending hard drives with ultra-high storage capacity. Simultaneously, IBM's Zurich Research Lab has demonstrated a molecular switch that could replace current silicon-based chip technology with processors so small that a supercomputer could fit on a chip the size of a speck of dust. IBM's claims its atomic-scale demonstration promises to pack up to 1,000 times as much information on a hard disk than current technologies. Such hard disks could store 30,000 full-length movies on a device the size of an iPod.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

"ALGORITHMS: Software confirms human-to-human spread of avian flu"

The avian flu has not yet become pandemic, but the first requirement for its spreading--human-to-human infections--has been confirmed by software designed by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (Seattle). The avian flu, known officially as H5N1, must mutate before it can be passed among humans and thus be capable of spreading worldwide via airplane travelers. New software, called TranStat--the first program capable of real-time analysis of such infectious-disease outbreaks--has concluded that the dreaded human-to-human mutation occurred in 2006 in Indonesia.

"ENERGY: Ball lightning's frightening . . . but finally explained"

Ball lightning has puzzled scientists for centuries. These orbs of electrical charge bounce like balls, squeeze under doors then reform into orbs, and sometimes even float in mid-air. Now, a Ukrainian scientist claims to have solved the mystery of ball lightning—it is, he said, an aerosol of nanoscale batteries short-circuited by surface discharge to spontaneously generate mega-amperes of current.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"ENERGY: Rochester, N.Y., bids to be first green U.S. city"

The United States' first Hydrogen Village—designed to demonstrate the feasibility of switching from fossil fuels to cleaner-burning hydrogen—has broken ground in the Rochester, N.Y. metropolitan area under the auspices of the U.S. Green Building Council. The council recently certified Rochester's road map to become the leader in community-supported green technologies, green buildings and all the infrastructure necessary to become the first green U.S. city. The charter includes plans to establish an exemplary Hydrogen Village consisting of hydrogen production, distribution and refueling centers in downtown Rochester.

"ALGORITHMS: NASA confirms Einstein"

NASA astronomers have found a new way to perform fundamental physics research on ultra-dense objects like black holes, yielding the latest confirmation of Einstein's theory of relativity. NASA experimentally confirmed Einstein's predictions about space-time distortions by observing the spectral line from hot iron atoms whirling in a disk around a neutron star at 40 percent the speed of light. The spectra shifted to longer wavelengths and broadened asymmetrically by virtue of the Doppler effect in combination with the "beaming" effect predicted by Einstein's special theory of relativity.

Monday, August 27, 2007

"MATERIALS: Metal oxide nanotubes: lower-cost alternative to carbon?"

Nanotubes historically have been synonymous with organic carbon nanotubes, but no more. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta) have defined a new class of inorganic nanotube materials that are analogous to volcanically formed minerals found in Japan and New Zealand. By combining aluminum oxide with silicon and germanium the researchers are creating single-walled nanotubes that are less expensive to fabricate than carbon nanotubes, and which offer properties that are easier to control.

Friday, August 24, 2007

"CHIPS: IBM's Cell BE-based cluster to aid U. of Maryland research"

IBM Corp. said it will endow the University of Maryland's Baltimore County campus with the components for one of the most powerful cluster supercomputers in the world. Next month, IBM will deliver 24 Cell Broadband Engines (BE) for the UMBC Multicore Computing Center. Based on the same Cell processor that powers Sony's Playstation 3, the system will include a dozen IBM BladeCenter QS20s, each with dual 3.2-GHz Cell Broadband Engines. The 24 processors will be connected by Gigabit Ethernet and 20-Gbit/second Infiniband links. IBM said it will also provide software, support engineers, and endowments to selected graduate students working on parallel processing algorithms.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

"MATERIALS: Rocket propels prosthetic arm"

Developers at Vanderbilt University are perfecting a rocket-powered prosthetic arm that promises to give amputees a fast, powerful, responsive substitute for a missing limb by 2009. The experimental arm and hand, complete with articulated fingers and opposable thumb, uses an adapted liquid rocket fuel and could provide the best option yet for limb replacement, according to its creators. The bionic arm is one of three projects under way to create a good-as-original prosthetic limbs under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Revolutionizing Prosthetics program.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

"CHIPS: Intel demos 40-Gbit/s silicon laser"

Intel and academic electrical engineers (EEs) recently demonstrated the world's first mode-locked silicon evanescent laser, a device capable of performing optical functions on CMOS chips. This is instead of translating from optical-to-electrical then back from electrical-to-optical, as is standard procedure for telecommunications applications of lasers today. The silicon laser emitted 40 billion pulses of light per second (40-Gbit/sec), and was built on the hybrid silicon/indium phosphide platform developed last year. The joint-development effort between Intel Corp. (Jerusalem) and the University of California (UCSB; Santa Barbara) produced a new silicon laser that delivered highly stable ultra-short pulses of laser light, which can be used in a variety of ways: for high-speed data transmissions at multiple wavelengths, for remote sensing using Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging), for processor-to-processor optical communications on multi-core chips, and for highly accurate optical clocks.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

"CHIPS: NIST improves hard-disk heads, MRAMs"

Magnetic materials for hard-disk heads use the same magnetic tunnel junctions (MTJs) as do the magnetic random access memories (MRAMs) IBM announced it was developing with TDK yesterday. Now, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) claims to have invented a process for fine-tuning MTJs for the next generation of HD heads, and perhaps even to enable denser MRAMs.

"NANOTECH: New U.S. institute eyes next generation of nano engineers"

In a partnership among industry, the federal government and U.S. universities, the budding National Institute for Nano-Engineering (Nine) promises to engage undergraduate and graduate students in nanotechnology projects as a way to reinvigorate the United States' global standing in engineering and science. Coinciding with the President's Aug. 9 passage of the America Competes Act, which provides funding for the establishment of Innovation Institutes to address science and engineering discovery and education, Nine promises to popularize nanotechnology and deepen students' commitments to three key themes: nanoelectronics, nanoenergy generation and nanomanufacturing.

Monday, August 20, 2007

"CHIPS: IBM teams with TDK on MRAM"

IBM Corp. is launching a joint research and development project with TDK Corp. to create high-density magnetic random access memories (MRAMs) in four years. The new multiyear program will aim for a 20-fold increase in the memory density of MRAMs by switching to a writing mechanism, called spin-momentum transfer, that draws less power and uses smaller bit cells. The only commercially available MRAMs today, such as those from Freescale, are based on the old magnetic-field data-writing, but the new method being explored by IBM and TDK uses less power and smaller bit cells. Reading is still accomplished by sensing a change in resistance.

Friday, August 17, 2007

"QUANTUM: Q-bits put new spin on quantum computing"

Ionic rain irrigates forests of nanotubes, while ionic winds blow cool breezes over chips. Now, the ionic solid-state harbors the flag-ship of quantum computing--quantum bits. Q-bits can now be encoded on the spin of the electron that makes a quantum dot ionic, promising cheap, ultra-low-power and easy-to-fabricate quantum computers, according to researchers at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), the University of California (San Diego) and the Naval Research Laboratory (Washington, D.C.). Quantum computing could enable uncrackable encryption codes, accounting for the funding of such researcher by the National Security Agency (NSA). Quantum-computing milestones are no new thing these researchers who had already demonstrated the world's first quantum gate in a semiconductor.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

"CHIPS: Ionic winds can cool chips"

Just as ionic rain can irrigate a forest of nanotubes, ionic winds can cool the surface of chips. Harnessing ionic winds to accelerate charged air between high-voltage electrodes can enhance a chip's heat-transfer coefficient by 250 percent, according to Purdue University (West Lafayette, Ind.). Its chip-sized ionic wind engine prototype, funded by Intel Corp., works by overcoming the "no-slip" effect that ordinarily keeps the air molecules nearest the chip surface relatively stationary. The ionic wind engine prototype consists of two high-voltage electrodes positioned on either side of a chip's backside. By putting a thousand voltage potential between the electrodes, air molecules become charged and an ionic wind is generated between them across the surface of the chip. Ordinarily the "no-slip" effect in air flow keeps the air molecules closest to a surface increasingly stationary, thereby inhibiting thermal transfer. However, if ionic wind engines could be integrated in arrays on the backside of chips, then normal cooling fans would become more than double their efficiency because air near the surface of chips would no longer be stationary.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

"ENERGY: Paper battery is rechargable"

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute researchers said they have developed a paper-thin battery by immersing a carpet of vertical nanotubes in an ionic liquid electrolyte. The result is a cellulose paper that stores electrical energy. The RPI team produced a supercapacitor by placing a second nanotube electrode on the other side of the paper. They then added a lithium electrode atop the paper, creating what they claim is a paper-thin rechargable battery.

Monday, August 13, 2007

"MEMS: Ten-minute cancer screening possible"

A new in-office test for oral cancer that takes only 10 minutes will soon be available using lab-on-a-chip microfluidic electronics, according to scientists supported by the National Institutes of Health. Billed as the world's first fully automated, all-in-one test, the lab-on-a-chip electronic reader, which is about half the size of a toaster, can scan cells brushed from the inside of the mouth with a swab.

"SENSORS: New York bridge to get wireless monitor"

Monitoring the structural integrity of New York state bridges could become a model for wireless sensor networks nationwide. Researchers at Clarkson University will make New York the first state with a 24/7 wireless bridge monitoring system. The state will spend up to $500,000 to deploy the first wireless sensor network for monitoring bridge stress. The project is being funded by the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority. Clarkson University has also begun working with TransTech Systems Inc. (Schenectady, N.Y.) to craft a commercial version of Janoyan's group's wireless bridge monitoring system.

"SENSORS: Sensor nets bridge safety gap"

Engineers in laboratories nationwide are perfecting embedded sensor networks that could alert crews to defects in critical structures well before the problems cause catastrophic failures such as the recent collapse of Minneapolis' I-35W bridge. Structural health monitoring (SHM) is a sensor-based preemptive approach that could supplement the current system of visual inspections and follow-on tests of bridges, buildings, aircraft and other safety-critical structures. But SHM sensor systems have not been deployed in the United States, even though they theoretically would safeguard structures 24/7, wherever it is deployed.

"ALGORITHMS: Aiming at terabit disk media"

Perpendicular recording techniques promise to more than double density capabilities in the next few years, increasing from the 200 Gbits/square inch that longitudinal recording techniques pack today to as high as 500 Gbits/square inch. Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. proposes that to double density again, to the terabit per square inch domain, researchers add nanoscale patterns to preformat the location of bit cells in perpendicular media. This is a capability it demonstrated recently in cooperation with nearby Kanagawa Academy of Science and Technology (Japan).

Monday, August 06, 2007

"MEMS: NASA launches software-defined radios in space"

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has begun a program to develop MEMS technologies that reduce the size, weight and power of its radio transceivers. Of particular concern to NASA is miniaturizing the radios for its space-constrained extra-vehicular activities (EVAs) known as "space walks." NASA proposes that industrial partners begin developing reconfigurable multiband MEMS chips that can be inserted into future frequency-agile software-defined radios. The exploration of space imposes daunting specification goals on component suppliers--demanding a combination of small size, light weight, low power, radiation immunity, vibration tolerance and extreme longevity. Luckily, those specifications read almost like a definition of microelectromechanical systems, putting MEMS in space from the earliest Shuttle launches.

"ALGORITHMS: Switching perpendicular recordings can strengthen domain walls"

Perpendicular magnetic recordings can now be switched from hard (permanent) to soft (erasable) by way of a discovery recently made at the University College London. Using a designer material with strong anisotropy, the researchers demonstrated how to switch magnetic domains from permanent to erasable by applying a longitudinal magnetic field to modulate the domain-walls' strength.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

"OPTICS: Consortium claims solar-cell efficiency record"

What is claimed to be the world's highest efficiency solar cell--42.8 percent, compared with 15 percent for conventional solar cells--was reported recently by a consortium that includes the University of Delaware, where the technology was pioneered, and E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (DuPont), which plans to commercialize the approach. Funded by a three-phase, $100-million program called the Very High Efficiency Solar Cell (VHESC) program at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), the consortium's three-year goal is to achieve 50 percent efficiencies at a cost of $1,000 per square meter--the cost of conventional solar cells today.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

"OPTICS: Organic solar cells gain ground"

A new composite material for plastic solar cells, formulated at Ohio State University, offers what researchers there claim is the best bet yet for beating the relatively high cost of grid-supplied electricity. Building on the best aspects of previous attempts to construct organic dye-sensitized solar cells, these researchers promise to best today's inorganic silicon-based solar cells, and beat the cost of traditional electricity generation sources in just a few years.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

"CHIPS: Circuit-sized quantum effect observed"

Magnetic quantum effects have been harnessed for the first time at the lithographic scale of semiconductors by researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the ISIS particle accelerator (U.K.). The international team reports chaining together 100 atoms of yttrium barium nickel oxide into a quantum spin-chain that, in effect, turned the 30-nanometer long magnetic molecule into a single element. The observed quantum effect holds the promise of using these unusually large magnetic molecules as switch, memory, or computing elements in future semiconductor circuits.

Monday, July 30, 2007

"NANOTECH: Carbon nanotubes aim for cheap, durable touch screens"

Unidym Inc., a subsidiary of Arrowhead Research Corp. (Pasadena, Calif.), claims its transparent nanotube-based thin films will enable consumer electronic devices like Nintendo's handheld video games to use a more durable touch screen that combines the stronger-than-steel properties of carbon nanotubes with the transparency of exotic indium-based films. With its carbon-nanotube-based thin films, Unidym is trying to claim a segment of the over-$1-billion market for transparent electronics today. Unidym is making tough nanotube thin films which it claims can replace transparent indium-based films with cheaper more durable carbon-based materials.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

"CHIPS: Researchers edge closer to spintronics"

Future semiconductors encoding bits on the spin of electrons—called spintronics—promise to meld the advantages of optical-like polarization with silicon's ubiquitous infrastructure. The first step toward that goal—electronic injection and detection of spin-polarized electrons—has been demonstrated for the first time by Ian Appelbaum's research group at the University of Delaware (Newark).

"ALGORITHMS: Humans deal computer a loss in poker challenge"

The humans won and the computer lost in The World's First Man-Machine Poker Championship, which pitted two poker masters against a computer program, called Polaris, at the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) conference this week, in Vancouver B.C.
Phil "The Unabomber" Laak, a mechanical engineer and winner on the World Poker Tour, and Ali Eslami, a gaming consultant turned professional poker player, beat Polaris in the last two matches, even though Polaris won one match and played to a draw in the first two matches.

Monday, July 23, 2007

"ALGORITHMS: Computer takes on champs in poker challenge"

The world's First Man-Machine Poker Championship is pitting two poker masters against a computer program, called Polaris, at the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) conference (Vancouver B.C.). Polaris was programmed by the University of Alberta and is competing against Phil "The Unabomber" Laak, a mechanical engineer and winner of the World Poker Tour.

"CHIPS: Can metal-insulator electronics do it better, sans semiconductors?"

Ultrahigh-speed electronics is quickly approaching a "terahertz gap" between semiconductors that top out at hundreds of gigahertz and optical frequencies that hit hundreds of terahertz. Promising to span that breach, where wavelengths are measured in millimeters, is a new breed of metal-insulator electronics that inventor Phiar Corp. (Boulder, Colo.) has demonstrated at frequencies up to 3.8 THz. Phiar claims its technology surmounts hurdles in many applications for which it already claims to have industry development partners, including 60-GHz antenna-edge frequency conversion, parallel flash solid-state storage drives, monolithic millimeter-wave radar, integrated terahertz detector arrays for safe "X-ray vision" systems and chip-to-chip RF interconnects.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

"CHIPS: IBM gets the lead out of its chip packages"

A lead-free process that lowers the cost of packaging flip-chip devices has entered volume production at IBM Corp.'s East Fishkill, N.Y., fab. As one of the first production facilities to use the technique, Controlled Collapse Chip Connection New Process (C4NP), IBM projects that it can achieve 99.7 percent yields. Flip-chip solder bumps are deposited by electroplating, which involves dipping wafers into a chemical bath, eletro-depositing the bumps, then disposing of the toxic chemicals in the bath. C4NP, which has been under development since 2004, uses a nozzle to inject molten solder into a wafer-scale mold. Bumps can then be applied to the entire wafer.

Monday, July 16, 2007

"OPTICS: Magnetic doping brightens OLEDs"

Efficiency is the name of the game for flat-panel display technologies. This is especially important for extending the battery life of cellphones, digital cameras, personal digital assistants and other portable devices that use organic LED displays. Now, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) claims it can make OLEDs 30 percent more efficient by doping them with magnetic nanoparticles. As a bonus, the introduction of magnetism into the OLED material enables brightness to be controlled without the addition of electrical contacts.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

"ALGORITHMS: Recipe for low-cost medical tests: FISH and chips"

Ultra-expensive medical tests such as fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) provide early warnings for a variety of diseases that can be cured if caught in time. Unfortunately, only the wealthy can routinely have them performed, because the reagents used in such tests can cost as much as $1 million per gram. Now an electrical engineer at the University of Alberta (Edmonton, Canada) has designed a programmable microfluidic chip—reminiscent of the Star Trek "tricorder"—that performs FISH and similar tests with a fraction of the reagents normally required. That can speed the time-to-results by at least tenfold and cut the costs from as much as $1,000 to as low as a dollar.

Monday, July 09, 2007

"ALGORITHMS: An electronic cure for cancer?"

Curing cancer is usually the domain of medical doctors, but now biomedical engineers at Virginia Tech and the University of California at Berkeley have invented a promising electronic therapy. Using short electrical pulses that target only cancer cells, together with real-time monitoring via electrical impedance tomography, the procedure has already been shown to cure cancer in lab rats. Currently the group is treating mice, and human trials are slated for 2008.

"MEMS: There's more to MEMS than meets the iPhone"

Score microelectromechanical systems a big assist on the iPhone. That's because Apple couldn't have rotated its Web pages from portrait (vertical) to landscape (horizontal) to match the orientation of an iPhone without using MEMS. The STMicroelectronics accelerometer used in the iPhone supplies analog acceleration values for all three directions, covering a range of ±2 g's. That makes it suitable not only for sensing orientation but also for applications that Apple could add at any time.

Friday, July 06, 2007

"ALGORITHMS: Mechatronics transforms driving experience"

In the feature film Transformers, which opened last week, mechatronic robots from the planet Cybertron invade Earth in search of that which endowed life on them. In the real world, mechatronic robots from the planet Earth invade Mars in search of that which endowed life on us. In both cases, mechatronics--the melding of electronics, mechanics, computers and control engineering--have spawned lifelike robots that can navigate and gather intelligence autonomously. Once dismissed as a fad, mechatronics has fulfilled its promise of smart autonomous electromechanical systems, used both in NASA's Rover, searching for signs of life on Mars, and in the modern car. The latter has been transformed into a vehicle of "robotic manipulators"--from antilock brakes to antiskid control to collision avoidance and, eventually, driverless cars. "You can call us autobots, for short," said Optimus Prime, the "good guy" robot in Transformers. But autobots is also a fitting moniker for the ultimate goal of automotive mechatronics: driverless cars.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

"ENERGY: Vibrations good for harvesting electricity"

By converting vibrations into usable power, researchers are enabling the battery-free operation of ultra-low-power wireless devices for everything from medical implants to that black-box under the seat of new automobiles. If a sensor is needed but it is inconvenient to supply power--from the inside of a jet engine to the heart's aorta valve, for example--energy harvesters are being designed to convert environmental gradients into usable electrical power.
The latest batch of energy harvesters for vibrations use piezoelectric actuators sized to match the energy required by the application, from centimeter-sized fibers ruggedized to supply milliwatts in harsh environments, all the way down to micron-sized actuators fabricated using micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) to supply microwatts to wireless sensors.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"CHIPS: Cell-transistor interface clears biolectronics hurdle"

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute (Munich, Germany) have developed a cell-transistor interface that they believe will usher in a new era of bioelectronics, allowing cells to be manipulated and studied without destroying them in the process.
In a demonstration prepared by institute biochemist Peter Fromherz, living cells were grown atop an array of transistors, thereby enabling the silicon chip to monitor the cell activity directly. The chip was used to test the effect of new drugs on the living cells. The results were then read out instantly from the chip, in an application that the researchers said could hasten drug development.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"ALGORITHMS: Freescale's platform pitch: Lose the remote"

The era of the remote control ends today (June 26), according to a presentation on the entertainment control platform (ECP) at the Freescale Technology Forum (Orlando, Fla.).
Using the same wireless radios as ZigBee, Freescale Semiconductor Inc. (Austin, Texas) has defined a simpler networking protocol for controllers and controlled devices that it claims enables wireless interoperability among multiple consumer electronics devices from multiple manufacturers many of which Freescale says will announce ECP-compatible products before Christmas.

"ALGORITHMS: Freescale teams with Mocana to secure network nodes"

Freescale Semiconductor Inc. is bundling its Power quad integrated communications controller (PowerQuicc) embedded microprocessor with Mocana Corp.'s Device Security Framework software. The move is being announced Tuesday (June 26) at the Freescale Technology Forum in Orlando, Fla. Freescale's PowerQuicc -II, -II Pro and -III series microprocessors already have an on-chip encryption/decryption engine, but until now application engineers had to program it themselves. With the Freescale-Mocana bundle, designers working with PowerQuicc will have access to preprogrammed security services that execute asynchronously without loading the main core.

Monday, June 18, 2007

"CHIPS: First military-temperature MRAMs ready to serve"

Freescale Semiconducutor Inc. today is announcing the first Mil-spec extended-temperature-range magnetic RAMs (MRAMs), providing the last piece of the puzzle for the potential customers who have funded much of the memory category's development. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa; Arlington, Va.) has poured millions into MRAM development programs since 1994. Freescale's MRAMs handle a temperatures of -40 to +105 degrees C to serve the military, avionics and space applications for which MRAMs were conceived. To expand its market and drive down costs, Freescale will also aim its extended-temperature offering at automotive electronics, where MRAMs could be used for such applications as self-configuring airbags.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"ENERGY: Heat generates electricity"

Acoustically coupled transducers can directly generate electricity from heat, researchers reported on June 8 during the annual meeting of the Acoustical Society of America here. The team's so-called thermoacoustic prime mover consists of back-to-back heat exchangers with an intervening stack of materials tuned to a resonant acoustic frequency. When heat goes in, a resonant sound is generated and acoustically coupled to a piezoelectric transducer, which converts the sound into electricity.

Monday, June 11, 2007

"ENERGY: Wireless energy transfer turns on bulb in MIT demo"

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have demonstrated the wireless powering of a light bulb for the first time. They achieved the feat using a technique dubbed WiTricity, which employs magnetically coupled resonance between matched antennas. The MIT team now has demonstrated the concept by remotely powering a 60-watt bulb from a distance of six feet.

Monday, June 04, 2007

"ENERGY: Ramjet designer's new pitch: safe, cheap fusion reactor"

There's a way for fusion reactors to sidestep high-temperature plasmas, steam turbines, neutron radiation and even nuclear waste--and still generate inexhaustible nuclear energy for less money than Google's annual electricity bill. That's the position, and latest mission, of physicist Robert Bussard. In the 1960s, Bussard proposed the ramjet, a paper engine design that would power deep-space vehicles by collecting hydrogen atoms in space and feeding them into a fusion reactor. Now, in a proposal titled "Should Google Go Nuclear?" ( 1996321846673788606), Bussard presents an alternative to thermonuclear fusion. He claims an inertial electrostatic confinement (IEC) reactor can provide fusion power that is simpler, cleaner and cheaper than would be possible under the various routes now being pursued by the Department of Energy.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

"ALGORITHMS: Fast TCP accelerates Web"

Network congestion, like vehicular traffic jams, is getting worse. No matter how fat the pipe, the antiquated Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) never fully utilizes the available bandwidth. FastSoft Inc. (Monrovia , Calif.) claims to have redesigned network protocols—dubbed Fast TCP—so networks make maximum use of available bandwidth with existing routers and without new equipment.

Friday, May 25, 2007

"ENERGY: Researchers: starch, enzymes release hydrogen from water for fuel"

University and government researchers are investigating whether a blend of starch, enzymes and water could produce hydrogen fuel for future cars. The Energy Department has mandated that ethanol from plant sources should power 30 percent of vehicles by 2012, and that a "hydrogen economy" based on fuel-cells should power vehicles by 2020. Teams from Virginia Tech, University of Georgia and Oak Ridge National Laboratory claim their technology exceeds DoE's goals with a biomass/fuel cell conversion process they claim is cheaper, more compact and organic.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

"ENERGY: Water-fueled engine appears on the horizon"

An EE professor at Purdue University has found a way to produce hydrogen that replaces the need for gasoline by mixing water with beads of an aluminum-gallium alloy. The discovery could lead to engines that essentially burn water, instead of gasoline, since the gallium is not consumed in the reaction and the aluminum can be recycled. Purdue has patented the process and has issued an exclusive license for it to an Indiana startup company, AlGalCo LLC.

"MEMS: High-def digital mics to debut"

Akustica Inc. will announce a CMOS MEMS microphone family for high-definition applications including voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) at Computex next month (June 5-9) in Taipei, Taiwan. The new family of CMOS microphones uses a microelectromechanical system (MEMS) diaphragm that conforms to the Telecommunications Industries Association's TIA-920 specification for wideband digital transmission telephony. Separately, Akustica has landed two more design wins for its existing AKU2004 digital microphone arrays at Gateway Inc. The personal computer maker's new Thin & Light Convertible Notebooks, models C-120X and E-155C, use Akustica's CMOS MEMS digital microphones.

Monday, May 14, 2007

"NANOTECH: Nanomaterials show promise as energy boosters"

Lithium-ion batteries could get a twofold boost in charge storage capacity from a nanotechnology developed at the Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory and announced May 8 at the 211th Meeting of The Electrochemical Society (Chicago). Separately, Georgia Institute of Technology researchers, working with their counterparts at Xiamen University in China, have devised a tetrahexahedral (24-facet) nanocrystal that they claim can increase the catalytic activity per unit area in fuel cells as much as fourfold. In April, another group at Georgia Tech announced a nanomaterial to enable three-dimensional solar cells that would capture nearly all the energy from sunlight, rather than reflect part of it. That could boost the efficiency of photovoltaic (PV) systems while simultaneously reducing the systems' size and weight, according to Georgia Tech.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

"CHIPS: Xuuk's eye-counting technology mimics Google"

Xuuk Inc. has unveiled an eye-counting video camera that could enable the highly successful Google business model to be extended online to brick-and-mortar advertisers. With Eyebox, brick-and-mortar advertisers can determine which billboards or products people are looking at in mall corridors or on store shelves, and count them in the same manner that Google counts clicks for online ads. The Eyebox consists of a palm-sized video camera surrounded by infrared light-emitting diodes and a Universal Serial Bus interface. Software running on an attached computer can determine whether someone is looking at the camera by recognizing the "red eye" spot, which only appears when a viewer is looking directly at the camera.

Monday, May 07, 2007

"CHIPS: IBM commits to ultimate dielectric: air gaps"

The road map to advanced semiconductor nodes calls for ultralow-k dielectrics to reduce parasitic capacitance between adjacent metal lines, especially on interconnection layers, at the 32-nanometer node and beyond. Now IBM Corp. has vowed to commercialize the ultimate dielectric--a pure vacuum--between metal lines of its 32-nm chips, thereby reducing parasitic capacitance on interconnection layers by 36 percent.

"MEMS: Microelectromechanical systems made EDA-capable"

Why does every company making microelectromechanical systems chips seem to have a MEMS guru? The answer, according to SoftMEMS LLC, is that the current crop of electronic design automation tools don't have built-in MEMS capabilities. SoftMEMS is looking to change that. It is in the business of adding MEMS capabilities to EDA software, thus mitigating the need for MEMS experts.

Friday, May 04, 2007

"NANOTECH: HP licenses imprint litho tech to Nanolithosolutions"

Nanolithosolutions Inc. will develop a tool module that fits into a mask aligner to perform imprint lithography, the company said Thursday (May 3). The Carlsbad, Calif.-based company becomes Hewlett-Packard Co.'s first licensee for its nanoimprint lithography technology. Imprint lithography is based on the ancient art of embossing, adapted to nanoscale patterning of semiconductor wafers. A circuit pattern is embossed into a silicon dioxide "stamp," which is then stepped and pressed into a prepared layer on a silicon substrate. After that, illumination by an ultraviolet flash hardens the layer into the nanoscale circuit pattern, which then can be fabricated into devices using conventional CMOS etching and deposition. Nanolithosolutions' tool for nanoimprint lithography will fit into a standard mask aligner, permitting a stamp to be stepped across a wafer to reproduce the fine-line geometries of circuits too small to be created with traditional photolithographic techniques. In essence, the tool transforms commonly used mask aligners into a maskless nanoscale imprint lithography production tool.

"NANOTECH: Green nanotechnology is easy, says study"

A new study details how nanomaterials can be created that are not only safe, but also cost less and perform better than conventional materials. "Green Nanotechnology: It's Easier Than You Think," was written by the Washington D.C. think tank, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The new study, which is free online, is based on a series of dialogues with scientists, policymakers and industry representatives about green nanotechnology.

Monday, April 30, 2007

"MEMS: exec sees billion-dollar markets"

Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) are poised to leverage the economies of scale that have driven the semiconductor industry, enabling a bright future of new devices with lower cost, superior performance and increasingly diminutive size. So says MEMS expert Kaigham (Ken) Gabriel, the co-founder of Akustica Inc. (Pittsburgh) and a veteran MEMS developer. With MEMS accelerometers making it into million-unit consumer devices such as Nintendo's Wii controller, and with MEMS microphones breaking into the cell phone market, Gabriel predicts billion-dollar MEMS markets over the next few years.

Monday, April 23, 2007

"NANOTECH: IBM claims highest resolution MRI"

IBM Corp. will demonstrate what it claims is the world's first nanoscale MRI capable of imaging structures as small as 103 atoms. Called magnetic resonance force microscopy (MRFM), the new technique takes a page from atomic-force microscopy to overcome the sensitivity limitations of a conventional MRI. Using a magnetic-force tip capable of 1.4 million Tesla/meter fields rather than conventional induction coils, IBM's MRFM is said to be capable of spatial resolutions of better than 90 nm, compared to 3 microns for the best conventional MRIs. IBM also said it was able to image volumes as small as 650 zeptolitres, 60,000 times smaller than the previous record holder.

Friday, April 20, 2007

"NANOTECH: Aerosol monitor proposed to track exposure to toxic nanomaterials"

A Washington think tank is investigating development of a universal monitor for nanomaterials. Nanomaterials are already being manufactured with nanostructures similar to toxic workplace substances like asbestos. For now, there is no easy way to test the health effects of nanomaterials. Standard monitoring procedures are in place for most known toxic materials. But current monitoring techniques measure only the amount of material present, comparing that against known toxic exposure levels. Until the necessary parameters are determined for nanomaterials, it remains impossible to measure toxicity or monitor exposure.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

"ENERGY: 'Negative stiffness' used to damp vibrations"

Angstrom-level accuracy is needed to stabilize platforms used in applications like microelectromechanical system testing, nanoscale metrology and semiconductor fabrication tools. One company is developing products based on a mechanism called negative stiffness to cancel vibrations. Since the 1960s, the best way to isolate precise instruments like atomic-force and scanning-tunneling microscopes along with fab tools from vibration was passive air tables that support weight on a cushion of air. A recent alternative is using active electronic feedback to send cancelling forces that damp out oscillations in springs. Paltus claimed his patented negative stiffness mechanism outperforms active systems while undercutting the price of passive systems.

Monday, April 16, 2007

"MEMS: Freescale goes multidice, gets smarter"

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's requirement that all new passenger vehicles include electronic stability control starting in 2012 will save up to 10,000 American lives each year, NHTSA predicted last week. Even before that mandate emerged, microelectromechanical-system chip maker Freescale Semiconductor Inc. was on the trail of a combo MEMS sensor capable of implementing ESC. Freescale's ESC chip will capitalize on two trends driving MEMS development: integration of multiple sensing elements into one package and integration of more intelligence, to embed decision-making functions at the point of sensing and to enable communication over sensor networks. Freescale plans to serve those trends in its automotive MEMS offerings as well as smart multisensor MEMS chips for consumer applications, such as portable media players, cellular phones, global positioning systems, medical monitors and E911 locator devices.

Friday, April 13, 2007

"NANOTECH: Studies warn of nanoparticle health effects"

Scientists at the University of California at San Diego and the nearby Veterans Affairs Medical Healthcare System in La Jolla recently concluded that magnetic nanoparticles may be hazardous to your health. Experiments revealed that iron oxide particles less than 10 nanometers in diameter stunt the growth of nerve cells. Separate in vitro experiments at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have also concluded that nanotubes shorter than 200 nanometers interfere with human lung cells. Both groups called for animal testing that would not only quantify the toxic effects of nanomaterials on living organisms but also characterize the most toxic types of nanomaterials. Currently the National Science Foundation (NSF) spends almost 10 times more on developing nanomaterials than on engineering to prevent their toxic effects.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"CHIPS: IBM uses 'racetrack' to advance memory storage"

A key current-reducing technique in the development of magnetic racetrack memories has been demonstrated by IBM Corp. fellow Stuart Parkin and colleagues at the company's Almaden Research Center. By drilling down into a silicon chip with a U-shaped magnetic nanowire called a racetrack, the researchers hope to greatly expand the capacity of memory storage devices.

Monday, April 09, 2007

"ENERGY: Nanogenerator harvests power from waves"

Opportunities for harvesting energy from the environment—for instance from vibrations—to power small electronic devices or to recharge batteries has prompted more than a dozen startups to create microsized power generators. Now even smaller, nanoscale generators have been demonstrated to produce electrical power from vibrations.
Georgia Institute of Technology researcher Zhong Lin Wang last year demonstrated that zinc oxide nanowires produce current when flexed with an atomic-force microscope. Now Wang has harnessed that nanogenerator effect in an array of nanowires that could produce as much as 4 watts/cubic centimeter.

"MEMS: M/A-COM qualifies MEMS oscillator for smart munitions"

The world's first design win for microelectromechanical-system oscillators is a high-reliability military application--a wireless transmitter that streams real-time telemetry data back from smart munitions to remotely guide them to their target. Discera Inc. will announce today that M/A-COM (Lowell, Mass.) will use its MOS-1 MEMS oscillator in a wireless transmitter built for smart munitions. During testing, M/A-COM removed some warheads, allowing munitions to be retrieved after impact--and Discera's oscillators were still ticking.

"ENERGY: Power-harvesting technology enters phase two"

Many years of innovation in power harvesting have brought some maturity to solar, wind, geothermal and even wave technologies. Solar panels have become ubiquitous, General Electric has mastered the megawatt-caliber wind and geothermal turbine, and younger companies like Finavera Renewables have harnessed ocean-wave motion with electrical- generator technologies. On the horizon, however, is a new wave of power harvesting. A variety of technologies eliminate the need for batteries through the use of innovative transducers that generate electricity by virtue of converting the linear motion of pushing a button, the vibrations on an aircraft, the fluctuations of a magnetic field, the radio waves that fill the air and ever-present environmental gradients such as changes in temperature.

Friday, April 06, 2007

"NANOTECH: Researchers report advances in nanotechnology"

Several nanotechology advances have been reported, including a nanoneedle invisibility cloak, the brightest nanoparticle and the highest temperature superconductor.

Monday, April 02, 2007

"MEMS: Bosch bets big on tiny MEMS"

Robert Bosch GmbH claims to be the world's largest manufacturer of micoelectromechanical-system-based sensors, with production levels that exceed 100 million MEMS chips per year. In 2005 the company spun off subsidiary Bosch Sensortec GMbH to expand its MEMS offerings beyond automotive applications and into consumer and other products. Bosch has also licensed its proprietary deep-reactive ion-etching MEMS production technique to SiTime Corp. to manufacture oscillators and timing chips. Robert Bosch sensor engineering vice president Horst Münzel and Bosch Sensortec general manager and CEO Frank Melzer recounted the history of MEMS development at Bosch and shared its plans for the technology in a conversation with EETimes.

Friday, March 30, 2007

"CHIPS: Cheaper avenue to 65 nm?"

Patterning 65-nanometer features on chips involves expensive techniques that have prompted leading chip makers like Texas Instruments to begin relying on foundries. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and spin-off company Focal Point Microsystems (Atlanta), now claim to have devised a cheaper, easier way to pattern at the 65-nm node. Called 3D multiphoton lithography, the technique still lacks the throughput needed by chip makers today. But within a few years, the researchers hope their process can be scaled down to lower nodes faster and more cheaply than the exponentially increasing cost of scaling down traditional lithography techniques.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

"CHIPS: Shaped-foil inductor could reduce size, cost for energy applications"

Inductors smooth current flow in voltage conversion applications, but add significant bulk and cost, especially to high power applications like hybrid vehicles. Now a shaped-foil inductor design is offering loss reductions as high as 50 percent compared to conventional inductors. The shaped-foil design was invented at Dartmouth College (Hanover, N.H.) and has been licensed to West Coast Magnetics (Stockton, Calif.).

Monday, March 19, 2007

"MEMS: A pioneer charts MEMS' trajectory"

Kurt Petersen has been called a "founding father of MEMS" because of his pioneering research work on microelectromechanical systems at IBM Corp. in the 1970s. He has co-founded four MEMS startups, the most successful of which, NovaSensor, has delivered hundreds of millions of MEMS sensors worldwide. Petersen also pioneered the fusion of MEMS and microfluidic technology in a biological detection system made at another of his startups, Cepheid. It's now used by the U.S. Postal Service to screen mail for possible anthrax contamination. Petersen's most recent startup, SiTime Corp., plans to substitute MEMS and CMOS chips for all the billions of bulky quartz-crystal oscillator cans that maintain time bases for everything from watches to the electronics on printed-circuit boards. He recently told EE Times' R. Colin Johnson where he sees MEMS going in the future.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

"MEMS: Consumers moving MEMS into mainstream"

MEMS technology keeps moving into the mainstream. An industry analyst at the Globalpress Electronics Summit here said the future of microelectromechanical systems will be consumer-driven. According to Walker, the current MEMS market is expected to acellerate over the next few years as consumer products begin driving the market. MEMS manufacturing technology combines both mechanical and electronics properties, and is compatible with nanotechnology, Hence, MEMS is enabling what Walker called "the ultimate systems-on-a-chip." By 2010, Walker said, MEMS components could be a $10 billion market, while products enabled by MEMS technology could grow to as much as $95 billion.

Monday, March 05, 2007

"MEMS: HP takes MEMS, Moore to nanotech era"

Hewlett-Packard Co. pioneered microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) for printheads in the 1980s. By combining integrated electronics with microfluidic channels, HP realized what it calls the "thermal-inkjet Moore's Law." Today's printheads feature Pentium-class microcontrollers on the front side of the chip, with the back side covered with microfluidic channels supporting up to 3,900 inkjet nozzles. Now HP is applying its expertise in MEMS and CMOS integration to extend the semiconductor Moore's Law, from seismic-grade sensors to maskless lithography to nanotechnology approaching the atomic scale. Tim Weber, direc- tor of research and development for HP Labs' Technology Development Operation, described that work to EE Times contributing editor R. Colin Johnson.

Friday, March 02, 2007

"MEMS: switch tops 26 GHz"

MEMS switch maker TeraVicta Technologies Inc. on Monday (March 5) will announce what it claims is the world's fastest MEMS switch at the Globalpress Electronics Summit. The 26.5-GHz, single-pole, double-throw switch measures 3.25 by 4.5 by 1.25 mm and is aimed at digital television, satellite communications and phased radar applications. The new MEMS switch is TeraVicta's second product, following its 7-GHz MEMS switch introduced last year, which targets automated test equipment (ATE) and RF wireless applications.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

"MEMS: SiTime lands MEMS design wins"

SiTime Corp. announced at the Globalpress Electronics Summit that it had new MEMS oscillator design wins from three unidentified customers, including one order for 1 million units. All three of the companies make consumer electronics devices, including cellphones. The oscillators will allow the customers to shrink their devices by eliminating bulky quartz crystals from their pc-boards. When SiTime (Sunnyvale, Calif.) adds quartz crystal makers like Micro Crystal (Grenchen, Switzerland) to its customer list, it will boast orders for over 50 million MEMS oscillators.