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.