March 11, 2006

other tech: Handheld mass spectrometer- Tricorder

More and more people able to drive technology innovation

More and more people are able and will be able to contribute to technological advancement of society Frank Moss, an entrepreneur and former CEO of Tivoli Systems, was named head of MIT's Media Lab in February. Moss, also the co-founder of Stellar Computer and Infinity Pharmaceuticals, has some big shoes to fill. Moss believes entrepreneurs are really the primary vehicle for innovation in our society. Thirty years ago, the primary source for innovation was large corporate labs. That is where all of the money went. Then, 20 to 25 years ago, the source of ideas and creativity shifted to venture funds and startups.

Over the past 20 years, the economy and society changed due to innovation from small independent efforts outside of corporate labs. Technology has enabled startups to have a big influence, and consequently they have had a tremendous effect in the technology scene today. The societal business model is where academic institutions and venture capitalists will be channeling resources and investments. Companies are now paying attention to some of the major socioeconomic problems in the First and the Third World. We have a billion people using computers in the First World. It is still limited to wealthier societies.

In the next 20 years we will see the adoption (increase) to 5 billion to 6 billion. And the kinds of killer apps that are important in that world are not those necessarily centered on communication and commerce.

This goes beyond the global leveling of competition discussed by Thomas Friedman to the leveling of competition between small groups and individuals with large corporations.

One of my predictions is that there will be over 20 million people with 1-5 million and 2 million with 5-30 million. This will increase the amount of angel investors and venture capitalists. The increase in competetent entrepreneurs in the developed countries and in China and India will drive accelerated innovation and competition.

March 10, 2006

Other tech: interesting discussion on Future of computer processors

Paulo Gargini, director of technology strategy at Intel, explains where processor technology is headed

MEMS with its biggest current application being car sensors at 60 million units are too low volume for Intel. There are some interesting possibilities in wireless, making the array of an antenna adjustable by nanotechnology, for example. In five years, MEMS will be much more interesting for Intel.

From 2001 to 2002, 70 percent of carbon nanotubes Intel produced in the labs were semiconducting. Now it is 90 percent. Between 2012 and 2015 Intel plans to have carbon nanotube semiconductors in production. They do not expect them to be mainstream.

For chip stacking, the power dissipation must be controlled. Five to eight or ten packages can be stacked without too much problem. Most mobiles use a microcontroller with NVRAM and RAM stacked. The one on top is very thin, making it very easy to take heat out of the top. Intel is learning to take heat out of the bottom. They'll start with two, learn how to do that, and move on.

Capacitance times mobility sets performance. We've been concentrating on capacitance, because it comes for free with scaling. Now we've got to look at mobility. Strained silicon accelerates mobility by up to a factor of two, but then you reach the limits of silicon. So what else has a high mobility? There are at least six or seven semiconductors with higher mobility. How do you make them? You can't make wafers like you can at the moment. What we can do is selectively deposit other materials on the silicon. So you can't make a [element groups] III/V wafer, but you can deposit the materials on the wafer. Replace islands of silicon with islands of other semiconductors, and you're in a whole new world. Expect it in the second half of next decade.

Other tech: Tracking progress toward Trapped Ion Quantum Computer

Christopher Monroe's (University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor) group has taken one of the first steps toward a multilayered trapped ion quantum compute. As reported in the January issue of Nature Physics, his team fashioned a smaller, squatter version of a conventional trap by alternating layers of gallium arsenide and aluminum-gallium-arsenide. The result was an insulating layer sandwiched between two electrode layers. The researchers carved a channel down the chip and etched the flanking regions into individual diving board­shaped pieces. They were able to load a single cadmium ion into the gap between these pieces. To cool and probe the ion, they shone a laser down the central channel.

A major benefit of chip-based ion traps is that they could be combined into large arrays. The goal is to create a big switchyard in which hundreds or thousands of ions are constantly being shuttled around in small groups, controlled by conventional electronics. In the next few years, researchers predict, ion traps will likely be scaled up from a handful of ions to 50 or 100.

Large scale quantum computers would be very useful in enabling large scale quantum simulations that would help in developing molecular nanotechnology.

March 09, 2006

other tech: IBM supercomputer data sharing record

With advanced file-management software and some system tweaks, IBM has boosted the supercomputer data sharing rate to 102 gigabytes per second 6 times faster than before (15 gBps). At the heart of the breakthrough is the General Parallel File System (GPFS), IBM software that has been available since 2001. GPFS is also open source. GPFS would speed up data access for any multi-processor system that adopted it.

other tech: Making roads safer

Other science: Liquid water found on Saturn's moon


Other tech: Super-efficient CMOS can use 500 times less energy

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology announce energy savings by a factor of more than 500 in simulations with their ultra energy efficient embedded architecture based on Probabilistic CMOS (PCMOS). The research team's PCMOS devices take advantage of noise, currently fabricated at the quarter-micron (0.25 micron) level, and uses probability to extract great energy savings. By mixing chip measurements and simulations, gains have been shown using this technology for such applications as Hyper-encryption as applied to computer security, and through cognitive applications such as speech recognition and pattern recognition as well as image decompression. The gains ranged from a factor of 10 to a factor of more than 500 over conventional architectural approaches.

So instead of a 250 watt power supply for a computer with regular CMOS, you could use PCMOS and run off of a 0.5 watt battery.

Life extension: Longevity modulated without disrupting life-sustaining function

The Salk scientists discovered the protein in studies with worms, a commonly used lab model in genetics; since this signaling cascade including the newly identified protein is conserved across many species, including humans, these findings raise the prospect that one day it might be possible to medically tweak this pathway to slow aging and improve the quality of life without harmful consequences to the body. The scientists individually manipulate the different functions of insulin/IGF-1 signaling without wreaking havoc on the organism's normal functioning. The Smk-1 gene is the first known gene that regulates longevity without affecting other vital functions of the insulin signaling pathway.

Molecular motors rotates objects 10,000 times its size

This is a further advance along light actuated molecular motion.

Ben Feringa and colleagues used a molecule with a central carbon-carbon double bond that functioned as an axle. The upper part of the molecule acted as a rotor while the lower part was the stator. The team added the molecules to a liquid crystal film and illuminated them with light with a wavelength of 365 nm.

The light caused a photochemical isomerization around the double bond and changed the helicity of the molecule from right- to left-handed. A thermal step then caused the molecule to revert to its right-handed state. Two sets of a photochemical step followed by a thermal step resulted in the molecule rotating through 360°.

pre-nano: Follow up on European robots

This site had already pointed out the european mini-robot work. That work has now been covered by the MIT technology review. The work is interesting because it is system work at the macro scale that tries to integrate with manipulation at smaller scales. Currently the smaller scale is at the micro level of biological cells and current atomic force microscopes (which are not accurate enough yet for mechanosynthesis). However, getting robots to work together is a capability that will be useful for the vision of large scale molecular manufacturing.

March 08, 2006

Nanomedicine related: Nanoparticles make biocompatible capsules

University of Illinois scientists say they've developed an innovative strategy of mixing lipids and nanoparticles to produce new drug delivery vehicles. The hollow, deformable and biofunctional capsules could be used in drug delivery, colloidal-based biosensors and enzyme-catalyzed reactions.

other tech: Supercomputer communication at 25 Gbps

NEC's new technology has achieved a transmission speed of 25 gigabits per second, 40 times faster than the Earth Simulator, the fastest supercomputer at present in Japan, which has a transmission speed of 0.5 gigabits per second The technology uses a vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser capable of huge transmissions of data between a central processing unit and a memory device. NEC's new technology surpassed the previous transmission speed record of 14 gigabits per second achieved last year by a researchers' group developing a next-generation supercomputing system for the U.S. Department of Defense.

Just cause its cool: 100 inch TV

Other tech: Advancing towards Z machine plasma Fusion

March 07, 2006

Other tech: Superconductor advance

A new study makes more reliable superconductors with higher critical current density Maximizing oxygen in the Grain Boundary(GB) helps maximize critical current density (Jc), or the maximum current that a superconductor can carry. The superconducting material used in this study was a ceramic compound consisting of millions of microscopic crystals (grains). The WUSTL/Argonne team specifically developed a technique to determine whether a desired maximum number of possible sites are filled with oxygen in the GB, which surrounds every crystalline grain. The GB is a region of misfit between the grains and usually is only a few atoms wide. It is very difficult to determine how much oxygen is really present in the GB. The researchers have developed a method which allows one to estimate this, called pressure-induced oxygen relaxation.

Hopefully this kind of work would lead to higher critical temperatures. In one atmosphere of pressure, the YBCO superconducts at 93 K (or –180 C). YBCOs can superconduct at temperatures as high as 110 K (–163 C) at highest pressure (about 100,000 atmospheres). Maybe adjusting oxygenation and other factors will lead to superconductors with higher Tc that did not need have the high pressures maintained.

Other tech: Gene Therapy advance

March 06, 2006

bulk material: Carbon fiber for cars

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is trying to get commercial-grade carbon fiber to the a price between $3 and $5 per pound. (It is $8-10 per pound now). At the target price, it would become feasible for automakers to use more than a million tons of composites - approximately 300 pounds of composites per vehicle - annually in the manufacturing of cars. The big advantage of carbon fiber is that it is one-fifth the weight of steel yet just as strong and stiff, which makes it ideal for structural or semi-structural components in automobiles. Replacing half the ferrous metals in current automobiles could reduce a vehicle's weight by 60 percent and fuel consumption by 30 percent, according to some studies. The resulting gains in fuel efficiency, made in part because smaller engines could be used with lighter vehicles, would also reduce greenhouse gas and other emissions by 10 percent to 20 percent.

March 05, 2006

other tech/ related tech: Solar panels improving and getting cheaper

A discussion of advances in solar panels is here. The industry needs to get its price down to about $0.52 per watt (cost $0.26) to achieve installed price of under a $1.00/W, (for 13% efficiency Copper Indium Gallium diSelenide / CIGS panels).

Daystar Technology may be reaching $3.00-$3.50/W installed price in 2007 with their Gen II production if everything goes right. They are achieving 20% efficiency in the laboratory. Daystar plans on reducing its installed price to the range of $1.00/W when its Gen III production is tuned up in 2009.

A south African group is getting its cost down to $1.66/watt, which would be about $3-3.50 installed

A comparison of solar cell technology

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