February 09, 2007

AMO Manufactures First Graphene Transistors

The AMO nanoelectronics group of Dr. Max Lemme was able to manufacture top-gated transistor-like field-effect devices from monolayer graphene. A conventional CMOS-compatible process has been applied to fabricate a graphene field-effect device – a transistor made from a monolayer of carbon. The observed mobility in the devices exceeds the universal mobility in silicon MOSFETs. Furthermore, a second transistor gate was placed on top of the graphene film for the first time. AMO’s results confirm the high potential of graphene for future nanoelectronic devices.

Georgia Tech's Walt de Heer’s group had already made a few rudimentary graphene structures, including a graphene planar field-effect transistor in 2006.

A two-dimensional sheet of carbon, called graphene, has many of the same interesting properties as one-dimensional carbon nanotubes (CNTs). They conduct electricity with virtually no resistance. Graphene will provide a more controllable platform for integrated electronics than is possible with CNTs since graphene structures can be fabricated as large wafers using existing lithographic techniques. Continuous graphene circuitry can be produced using standard microelectronic processing techniques, which gives scientists a road map for high-volume graphene electronics manufacturing. De Heer’s team has managed to create feature sizes as small as 80 nm–well on the way towards their goal of 10 nm–using electron beam lithography. Electrons move with very little scattering through the resulting graphene circuitry. The researchers have also shown electronic coherence at near room temperature, as well as evidence of quantum interference effects. They expect to see ballistic transport when they make structures small enough.

Reaction to the Dwave Quantum computer introduction

Experts are already duelling over the whether the machine will work. I think the arguments are irrelevent because Dwave has already been fully funded. They will make money when they scale this up this year and next year and make it faster than other methods. So the difference with the cold fusion claim is that cold fusion has only had some laboratory successes or anomalies while this should quickly be able to prove itself in the marketplace. Can it solve problems in far less elapsed clock time ? If yes, Dwave makes a lot of money.

"My gut instinct is that I doubt there is a major 'free lunch' here," Oxford University physicist Andrew Steane told Britain's Guardian newspaper Thursday. He described the prospect of a commercially viable quantum computer as akin to "claims of cold fusion."

But Seth Lloyd, a professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told CanWest News Service on Thursday that D-Wave's prototype -- which is based on ideas Lloyd pioneered -- "looks like a sensible, useful" application of the theory that could seriously kickstart the quantum age of computing.

"They're not likely to demonstrate something unless they already know it's going to work," said Lloyd, noting that four-qubit processors have been tested successfully in laboratories.

Lloyd and one of his graduate students at MIT devised the "adiabatic" acceleration system, employed by D-Wave, that theoretically prevents a quantum computer from crashing under a deluge of data.

Software patch for 2.6% more efficient modern cars

A software patch could make modern cars 2.6% more efficient Once it is determined to be not overly damaging to batteries then it would be ready for widespread use. The software deactivates the dynamo when it is particularly inefficient for the engine to power it, thus improving the overall efficiency of the engine.

Engines of Creation 2.0 available Free

Engines of Creation 2.0: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology - Updated and Expanded is available for free at wowio.com
It has a new look and feel and includes updated information from Eric Drexler. It also includes the Drexler / Smalley debates and comments on the debate.

Trafficking analysis to find who and where nuke bomb makers are

An item related to my port security article, as we get better at catching a larger fraction of the illegal traffic in nuclear materials and dual use materials like beryllium and zirconium a computer model can piece together the partial information on traffic flows to determine who is working on a nuclear bomb and where they are doing it.

The method can be used to track other materials, such as drugs. "We have a lot of interest from a lot of agencies," says Rochau.

New universes will be born from ours

Some physicists have argued that the universe is doomed to be ripped apart by runaway dark energy, while others think it is bouncing through an endless series of big bangs and big crunches. Now these two ideas are being combined to create another option, in which our universe ultimately shatters into billions of pieces, with each shard growing into a whole new universe. The model could solve the mystery of why our early universe was surprisingly well ordered.

Recent work with quantum computers seems to indicate that there are many universes. This new cosmological model feels closer to being right in my opinion.

In the new cosmological model, dark energy becomes very dense and sets the universe expanding at such a rate that it approaches the big rip. The universe tears into small patches that rush away from each other faster than the speed of light. But the destruction is then halted, as the density of dark energy becomes equal to the density of the universe. At this point, each patch crunches in on itself. "All the patches, of which there are a huge number, will separately contract into disparate universes," says Frampton. Each patch will then bounce outwards again, creating a new universe. Crucially, each patch only contains a fraction of the overall entropy of its parent universe - so each new universe starts out in a low entropy state, as required.

Robotic exoskeleton replaces muscle work

A robotic exoskeleton controlled by the wearer's own nervous system could help users regain limb function, which is encouraging news for people with partial nervous system impairment, say University of Michigan researchers.

The ankle exoskeleton developed at U-M was worn by healthy subjects to measure how the device affected ankle function. The U-M team has no plans to build a commercial exoskeleton, but their results suggest promising applications for rehabilitation and physical therapy, and a similar approach could be used by other groups who do build such technology.

Initially the wearer's gait was disrupted because the mechanical power added by the exoskeleton made the muscle stronger. However, in a relatively short time, the wearers adapted to the new strength and used their muscles less because the exoskeleton was doing more of the work. Their gait normalized after about 30 minutes.

The next step is to test the device on patients with impaired muscle function, Ferris said.

DNA lined up for barcode like reading

Researchers have developed a comprehensive, inexpensive and simple way to put DNA into nanoscale troughs.

Using techniques typically reserved for the manufacture of computer chips, the Wisconsin team fabricated a mold for making a rubber template with slits narrow enough to confine single strands of elongated DNA.

The new technique is akin to threading a microscopic needle with a thread of DNA, explains Juan de Pablo, a UW-Madison professor of biomedical engineering and a co-author of the study. The team has a way, he says, of "positioning the DNA molecule right where we want it to be. It is important that we can manipulate it with such fidelity."

The system, says Schwartz, promises bench scientists a convenient and easy way to make large numbers of individual DNA molecules accessible for study. The ability to quickly get lots of molecules lined up for sequencing and analysis, says Schwartz, means entire genomes - for species or individuals - could soon become more accessible to science.

By figuring out a way to take individual DNA molecules and present them in a confined, linear fashion, the genetic information encoded in the arrangement of the base pairs that make up the molecule can be scanned and read like a bar code.

Flow of tiny bubbles mimics computer circuitry: Breakthrough for labs on a chip

MIT researchers have developed a computer chip that runs on microbubbles like these. Photo courtesy / Manu Prakash

From physorg, in work that could dramatically boost the capabilities of "lab on a chip" devices, MIT researchers have created a way to use tiny bubbles to mimic the capabilities of a computer.

A colored montage of a ring oscillator used in the microfluidic computer developed by researchers at MIT. Starting with top left image, and reading left to right, the yellow bubble flows around the ring until it reaches and joins a stream of bubbles. Image / Felice Frankel and Manu Prakash, MIT

The team, based at MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms, reports that the bubbles in their microfluidic device can carry on-chip process control information, just like the electronic circuits of a traditional microprocessor, while also performing chemical reactions. The work will appear in the Feb. 9 issue of Science.

It will be possible to create large-scale microfluidic systems such as chemical memories, which store thousands of reagents on a chip (similar to data storage), using counters to dispense exact amounts and logic circuits to deliver them to specific destinations. The speed of operation is about 1,000 times slower than a typical electronic microprocessor, but 100 times faster than the external valves and control systems used in existing microfluidic chips. This will be a powerful technology for the bootstrap development phase of molecular nanotechnology.

"Bubble logic merges chemistry with computation, allowing a digital bit to carry a chemical payload. Until now, there was a clear distinction between the materials in a reaction and the mechanisms to control them," said co-author Neil Gershenfeld, director of the Center for Bits and Atoms and associate professor of media arts and sciences.

The technology has the potential to revolutionize large-scale chemical analysis and synthesis, environmental and medical testing and industrial production processes, but applications outside of the laboratory have been limited so far by the external control systems-valves and plumbing-required for its operation.

Other applications include combinatorial synthesis of many compositions at the same time, programmable print heads that can deposit a range of functional materials, and sorting biological cells.

The researchers modeled their new microfluidic chips on the architecture of existing digital circuits. But instead of using high and low voltages to represent a bit of information, they use the presence or absence of a bubble. They report on nitrogen bubbles in water, but any other combinations of materials that don't mix would work, such as oil and water.

In the Science paper they demonstrate all of the elements needed for any new logic family, including gates, memories, amplifiers and oscillators.

February 08, 2007

Current and Future port security technology

Port security technology review with a focus on current and anticipated systems related to finding nukes and nuke materials in shipping containers (about 70 million containers per year).

Millimeter radiation and advanced X-ray scattering analysis images appear to provide images detailed enough so that a 30 cm block of lead would stand out.

Since 2002 Seattle’s port has been using gamma ray emitters to scan containers. Beaming the gamma rays into the containers to look for objects. Instead of X-rays, VACIS uses highly penetrative gamma rays at low levels — roughly 5 microrems per hour, or a quarter of what anyone gets simply by standing in a Seattle street — to see through metal containers, detecting anything from possible stolen cars to slight anomalies in density. The system can also effectively see through containers on railroad cars moving 10 mph. The device can detect false walls or ceilings, explosives, weapons, drugs — even people — and whether the cargo matches a manifest. Nuclear material that could be contained in a so-called “dirty bomb,” for example, could be distinguished. They can see through about 4.5 inches of metal. Higher power than the 1.3 Megavolt systems are needed to see through more metal.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office is funding research to explore another imaging and detection capability. The proposed system, called fluorescence imaging in the nuclear domain with extreme radiation (FINDER), could be used to image the isotopic composition of materials inside well-shielded objects, such as cargo containers moving through an inspection terminal.

Livermore researchers are developing a system that combines the capabilities of a Thomson-radiated extreme x-ray (T-REX) system with a nuclear resonance fluorescence technique to detect small amounts of nuclear materials and image their isotopic distribution. The system could be used to inspect well-shielded objects, such as cargo containers moving through a terminal.

Companies with detection systems that are being worked on or already deployed in 2003.CZT detectors (expensive but provides easy to understand readouts, cheaper versions could get widely deployed)
VACIS and other systems for looking through more metal. (metal penetration from a few inches to a foot or more with higher power ratings)
Eagle X-ray scanner for both X-raying and causing nuclear materials to emit more detectable neutrons and gamma rays.
Pulsed fast neutron analysis beams neutrons into cargo containers, which shows the approximate chemical composition of scanned objects.

So there are systems that look like they will be quite effective and systems that are fairly effective now if they were fully deployed and if all of the containers get sent through the installed detectors. However, only some of the ports have enough of the good equipment. So the $1.15 Billion for port security will not have a full rollout until 2011.

Advanced Spectroscopic Portals with sodium iodide detectors can detect at longer ranges. The wired article did indicate problems with how things are currently operated at the ports, so better systems are needed in order to improve actual security. Systems that are more tolerant of sub-par operators and drivers circumventing the detectors.

A senator is saying that by 2007 radiation detection of all containers entering into the 22 busiest seaports must be in place.

The government will be spending many billions.

$6.7 to 8.9 Billion port security bill approved 2006 (spending from 2007-2011)

Parts of the
$30.9 Dept Homeland Security budget relate to port security and to researching new security and sensor systems. Parts of defense and various research budgets are also related.

More detections of activity with this kind of technology can be fed into analysis software to determine who is working on bombs and where they are doing it.

NIST physicists make first two-dimensional pictures of a frequency comb

Advancedment towards optical frequency combs

False-color images of the "fingerprints" of molecular iodine, each taken under different experimental conditions using a NIST frequency brush created with an ultrafast visible laser. The squares within each frame reveal the frequency and intensity of light from individual "bristles" of the brush. The variation in the colors reveal where the iodine absorbs specific optical frequencies. Credit: S. Diddams/NIST

The new technique will enable scientists to measure and manipulate optical frequencies in a massively parallel manner.

NIST physicists and collaborators were the first to compare the operation of multiple femtosecond frequency combs, thereby demonstrating reproducibility, and to verify that both the starting position of a comb and the spacing between the teeth can be controlled precisely. NIST scientists also have demonstrated the most precise synthesis ever of optical frequencies, generating specific colors with a reproducibility of 19 digits. The experiments are a significant step toward next-generation “atomic clocks” based on optical rather than microwave frequencies.

NIST staff and collaborators also have extended the reach of frequency combs. One project extended the wavelength coverage 1,000 nanometers (a measure for wavelengths of light) farther into the infrared than ever before, while another effort at JILA created the world’s first frequency comb in the extreme ultraviolet. In addition, NIST has shown that extremely stable microwave signals can be generated from optical frequency combs.

Frequency combs have dramatically simplified and improved the accuracy of frequency metrology. They also are making it possible to build optical atomic clocks, expected to be as much as 100 times more accurate than today’s best time-keeping systems. Better clocks will lead to studies of, for example, the stability of the constants of nature over time, and enable improved technology for advanced communications and precision navigation systems, such as next-generation global positioning systems.

Today’s best atomic clocks, and the international definition of the second, are based on the natural oscillations of the cesium atom, a frequency in the microwave region of the electromagnetic spectrum. Optical combs provide the equivalent of regularly spaced "gears" that can be used to link the slower "ticks" of microwave-based atomic clocks to the much faster, more precise "ticks" of optical clocks (see graphic below).

Highly accurate measurements of frequencies are also essential for many other advanced fields of science that require the identification or manipulation of atoms or molecules, such as detection of toxic biochemical agents, studies of ultrafast dynamics and quantum computing. As scientists continue to improve frequency comb technology and make it easier to use, it may be applied in many other research fields and technologies, from medical tests in doctor’s offices, to synchronization of advanced telecommunications systems, to remote detection and range measurements for manufacturing or defense applications.

February 06, 2007

Nantero Announces Routine Use of Nanotubes in Production CMOS Fabs

Nantero, Inc., a nanotechnology company using carbon nanotubes for the development of next-generation semiconductor devices, has resolved all of the major obstacles that had been preventing carbon nanotubes from being used in mass production in semiconductor fabs.

Nantero is developing NRAM™ –a high-density nonvolatile random access memory device. NRAM™ is a ‘universal memory’ that is slated to replace all existing forms of storage, such as DRAM, SRAM and flash memory. The revenue potential for NRAMTM, adds up to over $100B when replacing the memory in applications such as cell phones, MP3 players, digital cameras, and PDAs, as well as in networking applications. NRAMTM will also enable the instant-on feature in computers which will eliminate the initialization period when computers are turned on. NRAM™ can be manufactured both as standalone devices and as embedded memory in application- specific devices such as ASIC and microcontrollers.

The companies that will benefit if NRAM succeeds.
Harris & Harris (Nasdaq: TINY)
On Semiconductor (Nasdaq: ONNN)

Memory chips based on the technology were in “pre-producton” in 2006 and should be out sometime in 2007

They are on production fabs

Telescoping nanotubes offer new option for nonvolatile memory

Design of the telescoping carbon nanotube in three positions: (a) equilibrium, (b) inner nanotube in contact with right electrode, and (c) inner nanotube in contact with left electrode. An applied electrostatic force pulls the inner nanotube to the desired position. Credit: Jeong Won Kang, et al.

When one hollow nanotube is inserted into a second (slightly larger) nanotube, scientists can achieve a rapid telescoping motion that can be applied to binary or triple digit memory for future molecular-scale computers.

With platinum electrodes, the scientists’ simulation achieved switching times of around 10**-11 seconds, and data erasing times of around 10**-12 seconds—very competitive with top designs. Jiang and Jeong Won Kang have designed a device that could provide both nonvolatile RAM and terabit solid-state storage based on these telescoping nanotubes.

Jiang said. “It is likely that a functioning prototype of a molecular processor will be demonstrated in the next two to three years, but commercialization will face many challenges, such as the lack of infrastructure for mass production.”

Manmade protein from amino acids not found in natural proteins

Manmade proteins could help scientists design drugs that look and act like real proteins but won't be degraded by enzymes or targeted by the immune system, as natural proteins are.

Structure of the Zwit-1F beta-peptide bundle as determined by x-ray crystallography. The bundle contains eight copies of the beta-peptide Zwit-1F with parallel and antiparallel helices in like and unlike colors, respectively. Credit: Douglas S. Daniels

Schepartz and colleagues built the short protein, or peptide, from â-amino acids, which, although they exist in cells, are never found in ribosomally produced proteins. â-amino acids differ from the alpha-amino acids that compose natural proteins by the addition of a single chemical component—a methylene group—into the peptide backbone.

“The fundamental insight from this study is that â-peptides can assemble into structures that generally resemble natural proteins in shape and stability,” Schepartz said. She added that their findings about the structure of the molecule that she and her colleagues synthesized will help scientists construct more elaborate â-peptide assemblies and ones that possess true biologic function.

Schepartz and colleagues now want to try to bind metal ions to the Zwit1-F structure. Metal ion binding would enable the researchers to begin designing enzymes based on the â-peptide, she explained. “We're also interested in generating versions that can assemble in membranes, as a first step toward making transmembrane proteins composed of â-amino acids,” she said.

This paper shows that protein-like folded structures can be formed by molecules that are protein-like but have chemically distinct backbones. This is conceptually similar to recent demonstrations by Eschenmoser, Herdewijn, Benner, etc., that many nucleic acids that are chemically distinct from RNA and DNA can still form base-paired duplexes. In both cases, the implication is that biology uses its standard macromolecules not because they are uniquely suited to their tasks, but at least in part because of other considerations, such as ease of synthesis, or possibly historical accident."

February 05, 2007

India's plan for energy independence

India needs 400GW of power in 2030 thanks to the Thorium energy forum and Kirk Sorensen for pointing it out

Kalam said that hydroelectric capacity can be increased to 80,000 MW, solar energy to 55,000 MW, wind energy 64,000 MW and nuclear power plants have a target of 50,000 MW capacity. The remaining gap of 15,000 MW can be conveniently filled using solid bio mass and municipal waste, he pointed out. India is now targeting to establish coal-based units with an overall capacity of 56,000 MW by 2030.

DNA nanotechnology research from Sweden

Some ideas and work from a research group in Sweden.
Swede Grad student Björn Högberg presents info at his website.

The group is
Planning to attach a viral motor into a DNA origami setup.
Experimentally added proteins at precise points in a DNA origami setup.
Trying to add metals into DNA framework.
Trying to make building blocks from DNA.

A 127 page pdf on the DNA work he is involved in and planning.

February 04, 2007

Over 200 nuclear plants being constructed, planned or proposed

Businessweek indicates that nuclear players are gearing up to build more than 20 reactors in the USA Overseas, 27 plants are under way, 62 are on order or planned, and an additional 130 have been proposed.

This site has a breakdown of the reactors by country

Canada* 18 now, 2 under construction 1.54 GW, 2 planned 2 GW
China 10 now, 5 under construction 4.1 GW, 13 planned 13GW, 50 proposed, 36GW
India 16 now, 7 under construction 3.2GW, 4 planned 2.8GW, 15 proposed, 11.1GW
Japan 55 now, 2 under construction 2.3GW, 11 planned 15GW
S Korea 20 now, 1 under construction 950MW, 7 planned 8.25GW
Russia 31 now, 3 under construction 2.65GW, 8 planned 9.6GW, 18 proposed 21.6GW

Gore to Silicon Valley: You can save this civilization

New material stiffer than diamond

New material stiffer than diamond created
A material that is stiffer than diamond has been created by mixing particles of the mineral barium titanate and molten tin.

They mixed molten tin, heated to about 300ºC, with pieces of a ceramic material called barium titanium - often used as an insulator in electronic components. The particles were each about one-tenth of a millimetre in diameter and were dispersed evenly through the tin using an ultrasonic probe.

Once ingots of the new composite had cooled, rectangular or cylindrical samples 3 centimetres long and 2 millimetres across were tested for stiffness. The response of the samples to bending was tested by gluing one end to a strong support rod and the other to a magnet with a small mirror attached.

The new material could still have useful applications, says Spearing, perhaps for making shock-protective casings. "You might be able to make a tune-able damper that transmits force very well under certain conditions but behaves differently and is softer the rest of the time," he says

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