IEEE Spectrum Selects Technology Winner and Losers Again

IEEE Spectrum is selecting technology winners and losers again

Spectrum predicted winners
* Google’s Chrome operating system
* Pixel Qi’s dual-mode screen provides both e-paper readability and full-color video.
* Intrinsity’s hot-rodded processor gives cellphones PC smarts.
* IBM helps Russian Railways reinvent the railroad’s data infrastructure.
* NanoGaN’s gallium nitride substrates will help manufacturers make better lasers.

Spectrum predicted losers
* D-Wave Systems’ quantum computers won’t outperform ordinary ones. (I disagree)
* NanoUV’s extreme ultraviolet light source is revolutionary, but that won’t entice chipmakers to use it.
* Cellulosic ethanol— “grassoline”—is an environmental threat rather than a panacea.
* The Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid car is imaginative, daring, and superb, but uneconomical.
* Airport security screening will go a lot faster with a new biometric system that reads passengers’ minds.

Spectrum is very clear in declaring Dwave Systems Adiabatic Quantum Computer a loser

Spectrum: Bigger, costlier and slower than conventional computers and not quantum.

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D-Wave believes it could beat today’s best methods for approximating the solution to difficult optimization problems in financial engineering, logistics, machine learning, and bioinformatics, either by getting the same answer faster or getting a more exact solution.

David DiVincenzo, a leading quantum computing expert at IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center, in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., says that “there has yet to be an established methodology for how [adiabatic quantum computation] could function fault tolerantly,” that is, with effective error correction.

Umesh Vazirani, a computer scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, says D-Wave hasn’t taken into account the need to control the rate of the adiabatic process. “Running the adiabatic algorithm without this ‘tuning’ gives no speedup,” he says.

“This will never work—if you define ‘never’ as ‘not in 20 years.”—Robert W. Lucky

D-Wave’s investors are happy with the company’s progress. “Quite happy,” says Steve Jurvetson, a director at Draper Fisher Jurvetson.

Hartmut Neven, a Google scientist who is using D-Wave’s computer to design and test image-recognition algorithms, says the company is taking a “very sensible approach” and has “a very good chance at getting it to work.”

Rose says the collaboration with Google shows that the company is tackling real-world problems, even if it’s at the proof-of-concept level. “Our ultimate objective is to build systems with spectacular performance on these sorts of problems,” he says.

IEEE Spectrum prediction will clearly be wrong if Dwave does succeed in scaling the system and solving real world problems (like Google image search) in the next five years. If it takes 20 years or longer or never then IEEE spectrum will be right.

Dupont Switchgrass Ethanol

IEEE Spectrum – David Schneider writes

That’s an enormous quantity of land—almost as much as the country now devotes to farming. And even if you covered all that land with switchgrass, it wouldn’t produce enough fuel to supply the country’s diesel trucks and buses, its jet aircraft, or the homes and businesses that use petroleum for heating fuel.

Carpeting the continent with enough switchgrass to displace all that petroleum use is theoretically possible—but it would be an environmental catastrophe on many counts.

Strict U.S. regulations may save forests from being replaced by fields of switchgrass, but elsewhere in the world trees would inevitably be chopped down, either to make way for biofuel feedstock or to grow the crops that switchgrass displaces elsewhere. For this reason alone, DDCE’s project is destined to be a loser, even if it one day proves a commercial success.

So how will this prediction get proven right ? Based on some journal articles that trash switchgrass ethanol now and in the future ? David Schneider sounds like he is saying yes they will do it and probably make a lot of money and me and some other people won’t like it.

NanoGaN’s substrates will grow better, cheaper lasers

Gallium nitride substrates haven’t improved substantially, either, nor has the yield of the laser chips grown on those substrates. Clearly, the company that finds a way to make better growth platforms at lower prices will not only cash in for itself but also lift the entire industry.

A lot of big materials suppliers are in the race, but a dark horse called NanoGaN seems likely to win it. The company, a spin-out from the electrical engineering department of the University of Bath, in England, can make gallium nitride substrates of high quality—and what’s more, it can recycle them, saving scarce and costly gallium.

The market analysis firms Strategy Analytics, Strategies Unlimited, and Yole Développement differ widely in their estimates of the current size of the market for gallium nitride substrates, from a low of $124 million to a high of $515 million, but all three firms agree that the rate of growth will average in the double digits over the next five years. If so, the market NanoGaN will be tapping into could be worth from $172 million to $800 million by 2013.

NanoGaN’s substrate will do far more than provide a more efficient platform for the growth of the 5- to 8-milliwatt, 405-nanometer-wavelength lasers used to read discs in Blu-ray players and game consoles. It should also aid the production of much more powerful 150- to 200-mW violet lasers, which the industry needs for its next challenge: to read the four pairs of layers in a 200-gigabyte high-definition DVD. Future laser printers will use violet lasers instead of today’s red ones, allowing them to double the print quality to 1200 dots per inch; a blue version of the lasers will still be used in tiny, portable color projectors.

Prediction translation (what I am hearing them say about ) – Gallium nitride substrates have to get a market of more than $172 million per year by 2013 and NanoGaN will not get more than 20% of that market.

NanoUV’s unproven light source won’t shine in the next-gen lithography market

According to Peter Choi, nanoUV’s president and director of technology, the source has two plasmas—a very hot, tiny one surrounded by a cylindrical one. The farther you move from the center, the cooler the outer plasma becomes, dropping to a positively brisk 10 000 kelvin at the rim. As the density increases, the index of refraction decreases, which means the EUV rays bend more at the edges than in the middle, thus converging on a point. The device requires more input power than the leading light source candidates, Choi says, but because it’s just a few centimeters long, hundreds of sources can be ”multiplexed” in a many-headed ”Hydra” pattern for greater output power and brightness.

”The question is: What are they going to do with the X-ray ’lightbulb’ when they perfect it? The real problem is the X-ray mask. The thin chrome of current masks cannot stop X-rays, and the thick quartz substrates do block them—hence the need for exotic masks. But the dimensional control and temperature coefficients are showstoppers for those masks.”

Prediction translation (what I am hearing them say about ) – This small company may not succeed with a new EUV light source and EUV lithography might not be the next big thing in 2013.

A lot of players and a lot of competing tech, so a very safe (trivial) prediction.