David Kirkpatrick

April 3, 2010

Lithium-air batteries

Lithium-air batteries may be the short-term solution to lightweight and relatively efficient battery power. Major implications in terms of electric vehicles and handheld electronics.

From the link:

Yang Shao-Horn, an MIT associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and engineering, says that many groups have been pursuing work on lithium-air batteries, a technology that has great potential for achieving great gains in . But there has been a lack of understanding of what kinds of electrode materials could promote the electrochemical reactions that take place in these batteries.

Lithium-oxygen (also known as lithium-air) batteries are similar in principle to the lithium-ion batteries that now dominate the field of  and are a leading contender for . But because lithium-air batteries replace the heavy conventional compounds in such batteries with a carbon-based air electrode and flow of air, the batteries themselves can be much lighter. That’s why leading companies, including IBM and General Motors, have committed to major research initiatives on lithium-air technology.

For further reading here’s the MIT release that spawned this PhysOrg story.

March 10, 2010

Crowd-sourcing blog post ideas

Filed under: et.al., Media, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:56 am

I suppose the idea is alright for bloggers looking for larger audiences, or just too lazy to come up decent ideas on their own. Now on the reader’s side of the coin, being able to request posts on topics you want to read about is a pretty good concept.

From the link:

IBM’s internal records show, for example, that only three percent of the company’s employees have posted to a blog at all. Of those who have, 80 percent have posted only five times or fewer. Many of the people interviewed for the study say they stopped blogging–or never got started–because they didn’t think anyone would read their posts.

In an effort to fix this problem, IBM researchers have been experimenting with a tool called Blog Muse, which suggests a topic for a blog post with a ready-made audience.

“We saw this disconnect between readers and writers,” says Werner Geyer, a researcher at IBM’s center for social software in Cambridge who was involved with the work. The writers surveyed often weren’t sure how to interest readers, and many of their posts got little to no response. Readers, on the other hand, couldn’t find blogs on the topics they wanted to read about.

February 11, 2010

IBM comes up with solar breakthrough

Filed under: Business, Science — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:49 am

There’s been a lot of solar energy news to blog about lately. Nestled in this spate of announcements is a breakthrough at IBM — solar cells created from abundant materials, well a higher proportion of abundant elements, than previous cells. The practical result? Cheaper to produce cells that don’t lose anything in the efficiency department, and cost and efficiency are the two issues that will determine when solar power becomes a viable alternative energy source.

From the second link:

Researchers at IBM have increased the efficiency of a novel type of solar cell made largely from cheap and abundant materials by over 40 percent. According to an article published this week in the journal Advanced Materials, the new efficiency is 9.6 percent, up from the previous record of 6.7 percent for this type of solar cell, and near the level needed for commercial solar panels. The IBM solar cells also have the advantage of being made with an inexpensive ink-based process.

The new solar cells convert light into electricity using a semiconductor material made of copper, zinc, tin, and sulfur–all abundant elements–as well as the relatively rare element selenium (CZTS). Reaching near-commercial efficiency levels is a “breakthrough for this technology,” says Matthew Beard, a senior scientist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, who was not involved with the work.

Copper power: This prototype solar cell uses a copper-based material and has achieved record efficiencies for a cell of its kind.

Credit: IBM Research

Update — head below the fold for IBM’s release on the new solar cell. (more…)

February 5, 2010

Graphene transistors are really fast

Fast like already an order of magnitude faster than the quickest silicon transistors. The IBM prototype graphene transistors run at 100 gigahertz.

From the link:

The transistors were created using processes that are compatible with existing semiconductor manufacturing, and experts say they could be scaled up to produce transistors for high-performance imaging, radar, and communications devices within the next few years, and for zippy computer processors in a decade or so.

Researchers have previously made graphene transistors using laborious mechanical methods, for example by flaking off sheets of graphene from graphite; the fastest transistors made this way have reached speeds of up to 26 gigahertz. Transistors made using similar methods have not equaled these speeds.

Growing transistors on a wafer not only leads to better performance, it’s also more commercially feasible, says Phaedon Avouris, leader of the nanoscale science and technology group at the IBM Watson Research Center in Ossining, NY where the work was carried out.

Speedy switches: These arrays of transistors, printed on a silicon carbide wafer, operate at speeds of 100 gigahertz.

Credit: Science/AAAS

November 27, 2009

Semiconducting nanowires are coming

With all the news about nanotechnology and wiring that’s been coming out over the last year or so, this release is no surprise.

The release:

November 26, 2009

Nanowires key to future transistors, electronics

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. –

Nanowire formation
Download photo
caption below

A new generation of ultrasmall transistors and more powerful computer chips using tiny structures called semiconducting nanowires are closer to reality after a key discovery by researchers at IBM, Purdue University and the University of California at Los Angeles.The researchers have learned how to create nanowires with layers of different materials that are sharply defined at the atomic level, which is a critical requirement for making efficient transistors out of the structures.

 

“Having sharply defined layers of materials enables you to improve and control the flow of electrons and to switch this flow on and off,” said Eric Stach, an associate professor of materials engineering at Purdue.

Electronic devices are often made of “heterostructures,” meaning they contain sharply defined layers of different semiconducting materials, such as silicon and germanium. Until now, however, researchers have been unable to produce nanowires with sharply defined silicon and germanium layers. Instead, this transition from one layer to the next has been too gradual for the devices to perform optimally as transistors.

The new findings point to a method for creating nanowire transistors.

The findings are detailed in a research paper appearing Friday (Nov. 27) in the journal Science. The paper was written by Purdue postdoctoral researcher Cheng-Yen Wen, Stach, IBM materials scientists Frances Ross, Jerry Tersoff and Mark Reuter at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y, and Suneel Kodambaka, an assistant professor at UCLA’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

Whereas conventional transistors are made on flat, horizontal pieces of silicon, the silicon nanowires are “grown” vertically. Because of this vertical structure, they have a smaller footprint, which could make it possible to fit more transistors on an integrated circuit, or chip, Stach said.

“But first we need to learn how to manufacture nanowires to exacting standards before industry can start using them to produce transistors,” he said.

Nanowires might enable engineers to solve a problem threatening to derail the electronics industry. New technologies will be needed for industry to maintain Moore’s law, an unofficial rule stating that the number of transistors on a computer chip doubles about every 18 months, resulting in rapid progress in computers and telecommunications. Doubling the number of devices that can fit on a computer chip translates into a similar increase in performance. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to continue shrinking electronic devices made of conventional silicon-based semiconductors.

“In something like five to, at most, 10 years, silicon transistor dimensions will have been scaled to their limit,” Stach said.

Transistors made of nanowires represent one potential way to continue the tradition of Moore’s law.

The researchers used an instrument called a transmission electron microscope to observe the nanowire formation. Tiny particles of a gold-aluminum alloy were first heated and melted inside a vacuum chamber, and then silicon gas was introduced into the chamber. As the melted gold-aluminum bead absorbed the silicon, it became “supersaturated” with silicon, causing the silicon to precipitate and form wires. Each growing wire was topped with a liquid bead of gold-aluminum so that the structure resembled a mushroom.

Then, the researchers reduced the temperature inside the chamber enough to cause the gold-aluminum cap to solidify, allowing germanium to be deposited onto the silicon precisely and making it possible to create a heterostructure of silicon and germanium.

The cycle could be repeated, switching the gases from germanium to silicon as desired to make specific types of heterostructures, Stach said.

Having a heterostructure makes it possible to create a germanium “gate” in each transistor, which enables devices to switch on and off.

The work is based at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center and Purdue’s Birck Nanotechnology Center in the university’s Discovery Park and is funded by the National Science Foundation through the NSF’s Electronic and Photonic Materials Program in the Division of Materials Research.

PHOTO CAPTION:
Researchers are closer to using tiny devices called semiconducting nanowires to create a new generation of ultrasmall transistors and more powerful computer chips. The researchers have grown the nanowires with sharply defined layers of silicon and germanium, offering better transistor performance. As depicted in this illustration, tiny particles of a gold-aluminum alloy were alternately heated and cooled inside a vacuum chamber, and then silicon and germanium gases were alternately introduced. As the gold-aluminum bead absorbed the gases, it became “supersaturated” with silicon and germanium, causing them to precipitate and form wires. (Purdue University, Birck Nanotechnology Center/Seyet LLC)

October 19, 2009

More optics in the supercomputing future?

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:11 am

Yes, http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/editors/24255/?nlid=2439&a=f.

From the Technology Review editor’s blog link:

This week at the Frontiers in Optics conference in San Jose, Jeffrey Kash of IBM Research laid out his vision of the future of supercomputers.

The fastest supercomputer in the world, the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s IBM Roadrunner, can perform 1,000 trillion operations per second, which computer scientists call the petaflop scale. Getting up to the next level, the exaflop scale, which is three orders of magnitude faster, will require integrating more optical components to save on power consumption, Kash said. (Laser scientists at the conference are also looking towards the exascale, as I reported on Wednesday.)

October 5, 2009

IBM throws down a cloud gauntlet

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:46 pm

By undercutting Google’s  business email service at $36 a year against Google’s $50 annual rate. IBM, old and hoary as it might be, has a strong track record for supporting enterprise-level applications, and a strong case on the difference between consumer and enterprise support — a serious cloud computing issue — but at the end of the day I don’t see Big Blue cutting too far into Google’s expanding empire.

From the link:

Without providing specifics, Google says its corporate users now number in the “hundreds of thousands.” Some companies, including Fairchild Semiconductor International Inc., switched from IBM’s premium e-mail service that costs substantially more than Web-based e-mail.

Now, IBM is counter-punching. IBM thinks the timing for its e-mail alternative is ideal, given that Google’s service suffered a highly publicized outage that locked out corporate customers for nearly two hours last month.

“Candidly, Google has shown itself to be weak” in some areas of e-mail, said Sean Poulley, an IBM executive overseeing the company’s e-mail service. “There is a world of difference between supporting a consumer-grade service and a business-grade service.”

August 28, 2009

Atomic scale image of pentacene

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:54 pm

I’m just going to say wow. You can actually make out the five carbon atoms.

This image of pentacene, a molecule
made up of five carbon rings, was
made using an atomic-force
microscope. Credit: Science/AAAS

From the link:

Using an atomic-force microscope, scientists at IBM Research in Zurich have for the first time made an atomic-scale resolution image of a single molecule, the hydrocarbon pentacene.

Atomic-force microscopy works by scanning a surface with a tiny cantilever whose tip comes to a sharp nanoscale point. As it scans, the cantilever bounces up and down, and data from these movements is compiled to generate a picture of that surface. These microscopes can be used to “see” features much smaller than those visible under light microscopes, whose resolution is limited by the properties of light itself. Atomic-force microscopy literally has atom-scale resolution.

August 16, 2009

DNA scaffolding and circuit boards

A release red hot from the inbox:

IBM Scientists Use DNA Scaffolding To Build Tiny Circuit Boards

Nanotechnology advancement could lead to smaller, faster, more energy efficient computer chips

SAN JOSE, Calif., Aug. 17 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Today, scientists at IBM Research (NYSE:IBM) and the California Institute of Technology announced a scientific advancement that could be a major breakthrough in enabling the semiconductor industry to pack more power and speed into tiny computer chips, while making them more energy efficient and less expensive to manufacture.

  (Photo:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20090817/NY62155-a )
  (Photo:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20090817/NY62155-b )
  (Logo:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20090416/IBMLOGO )

IBM Researchers and collaborator Paul W.K. Rothemund, of the California Institute of Technology, have made an advancement in combining lithographic patterning with self assembly – a method to arrange DNA origami structures on surfaces compatible with today’s semiconductor manufacturing equipment.

Today, the semiconductor industry is faced with the challenges of developing lithographic technology for feature sizes smaller than 22 nm and exploring new classes of transistors that employ carbon nanotubes or silicon nanowires. IBM’s approach of using DNA molecules as scaffolding — where millions of carbon nanotubes could be deposited and self-assembled into precise patterns by sticking to the DNA molecules – may provide a way to reach sub-22 nm lithography.

The utility of this approach lies in the fact that the positioned DNA nanostructures can serve as scaffolds, or miniature circuit boards, for the precise assembly of components – such as carbon nanotubes, nanowires and nanoparticles – at dimensions significantly smaller than possible with conventional semiconductor fabrication techniques. This opens up the possibility of creating functional devices that can be integrated into larger structures, as well as enabling studies of arrays of nanostructures with known coordinates.

“The cost involved in shrinking features to improve performance is a limiting factor in keeping pace with Moore’s Law and a concern across the semiconductor industry,” said Spike Narayan, manager, Science & Technology, IBM Research – Almaden. “The combination of this directed self-assembly with today’s fabrication technology eventually could lead to substantial savings in the most expensive and challenging part of the chip-making process.”

The techniques for preparing DNA origami, developed at Caltech, cause single DNA molecules to self assemble in solution via a reaction between a long single strand of viral DNA and a mixture of different short synthetic oligonucleotide strands. These short segments act as staples – effectively folding the viral DNA into the desired 2D shape through complementary base pair binding. The short staples can be modified to provide attachment sites for nanoscale components at resolutions (separation between sites) as small as 6 nanometers (nm). In this way, DNA nanostructures such as squares, triangles and stars can be prepared with dimensions of 100 – 150 nm on an edge and a thickness of the width of the DNA double helix.

IBM uses traditional semiconductor techniques, the same used to make the chips found in today’s computers, to etch out patterns, creating the lithographic templates for this new approach. Either electron beam or optical lithography are used to create arrays of binding sites of the proper size and shape to match those of individual origami structures. The template materials are chosen to have high selectivity so that origami binds only to the patterns of “sticky patches” and nowhere else.

The paper on this work, “Placement and orientation of DNA nanostructures on lithographically patterned surfaces,” by scientists at IBM Research and the California Institute of Technology will be published in the September issue of Nature Nanotechnology and is currently available at: http://www.nature.com/nnano/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/nnano.2009.220.html.

For more information about IBM Research, please visit http://www.research.ibm.com/.

To view and download DNA scaffolding images, in high or low resolution, please go to: http://www.thenewsmarket.com/ibm.

Photo:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20090416/IBMLOGO
http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20090817/NY62155-b
http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20090817/NY62155-a
PRN Photo Desk, photodesk@prnewswire.com
Source: IBM
  

Web Site:  http://www.research.ibm.com/

July 2, 2009

Cloud computing and Wall Street

Looks like IT tight budgets at financial firms are the rubber and cloud computing is the new road.

From the link:

Can new technology initiatives help pull Wall Street out of the danger zone? A new survey released by IBM and Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) finds that IT budgets are tight on Wall Street, but things are loosening up, and there’s going to be plenty of demand for new technology initiatives in the near future as firms on the Street look to “transformational” solutions to help better manage risk.

The survey of more than 350 Wall Street IT professionals found a “significant” increase in interest in new technologies and computing models, in particular cloud computing, as firms seek to overcome budgetary restrictions and skills shortages. Almost half of the respondents now see cloud computing as a disruptive force.

The past year has seen marked growth interest in cloud computing. The number of respondents predicting that cloud computing would force significant business change more than doubled (from 21% in 2008 to 46% in 2009), making it the top disruptive technology, ahead of operational risk modeling and mobile technologies.

Major initiatives underway at most Wall Street firms include enhancing electronic trading tools (69%), improving data capacity and bandwidth (58%), and improving technology framework and infrastructure
(58%). It can be assumed that the last item includes SOA efforts.

December 19, 2008

Nanotech transistor from IBM to improve cell phone

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:11 am

I’ve done some recent blogging on nanotech transistors (this post is on the very subject of the post you’re reading) and it looks like IBM has something gearing up for market-ready to improve cell phone range and battery life.

From the second link:

Researchers at the company are using nanotechnology to build a future generation of wireless transceivers that are much more sensitive than the ones found in phones today. They’ll also be made with a less expensive material, according to IBM. The catch is that the new chips probably won’t make it into consumers’ hands for another five or ten years.

The scientists, sponsored by DARPA (the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), have built prototype transistors with the new material, called graphene. It is a form of graphite that consists of a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb pattern. Graphene’s structure allows electrons to travel through it very quickly and gives it greater efficiency than existing transceiver chip materials, said Yu-Ming Lin, a research staff member at IBM in Yorktown Heights, New York. The project is part of DARPA’s CERA (Carbon Electronics for radio-frequency applications) program.

October 21, 2008

Oil and gas simulation seminars from IBM and CD-adapco

The release:

IBM and CD-adapco Announce Important Oil & Gas Simulation Seminars for Houston

“Downhole Dynamics” and “Petrochemical Plant and Equipment Improvement” to Showcase Practical Business Benefits of 3-D Simulation on High-Performance Computers, on October 21

Houston, Oct. 6, 2008:  IBM and CD-adapco are pleased to announce co-sponsorship of two important Oil and Gas industry seminars in Houston on October 21, covering the business benefits of using 3-D simulation (Computer-Aided Engineering and Computational Fluid Dynamics-CAE/CFD) to tackle tough engineering challenges in the development and operation of equipment and subsystems within key segments of the industry.

“Downhole Dynamics” (9:00 AM – 1:30 PM, including lunch) will explore how Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE) simulation of flow, thermal, and stress/vibration performance in drilling and development of wellbores for optimal petrochemical production can provide significant advantage in overcoming engineering development challenges in key areas.

“Petrochemical Plant and Equipment Improvement” (Noon-4:30 PM, including lunch) will show how simulation of flow, thermal, and stress/vibration performance during design and modification of plant systems and equipment to improve performance and extend useful operating life can provide significant advantage in overcoming key development challenges.

“IBM and CD-adapco have a long history of delivering leading edge solutions to Oil and Gas customers. CD-adapco’s CAE/CFD solutions combined with IBM’s technologies will provide customers a fast, scalable and a highly available environment that improves customer productivity and brings huge time savings to our customers,” said Par Hettinga, Segment Manager – CAE and Petroleum, within the IBM Systems & Technology Group -Deep Computing.

“We have found great resonance for our CAE/CFD solutions within the global Oil and Gas industry and are pleased to have the opportunity, along with IBM, to showcase relevant technologies and some customer case examples in Houston, in connection with our recent establishment of a full-service Houston office,” said Dennis Nagy, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development and Energy Sector Director at CD-adapco.

Both seminars will be held at the Hilton Garden Inn-Houston Galleria. For further information and registration, go to http://www.cd-adapco.com/downhole and  http://www.cd-adapco.com/plant.

IBM is the world’s leading provider of high performance computing systems and the largest information technology company. For more information about IBM, visit:                           http://www-03.ibm.com/servers/deepcomputing

CD-adapco a the leading global provider of full-spectrum engineering simulation (CAE) solutions for fluid flow, heat transfer and stress, For more information, please visit http://www.cd-adapco.com/.

October 1, 2008

The trouble with technology contracts

Filed under: Business, et.al., Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:41 pm

According to this CIO.com article, technology contracts are time-bombs waiting to go off in the face of those who think their interests are being protected.

From the link:

In the past, legal documents, whether private placement, merger and acquisition, or documenting a large commercial transaction, used a time-tested formula established by quality lawyers. The deal process was a sophisticated one, done using a mature contracting process. The lawyers involved even understood what it was they were doing.

The problem these days largely surrounds tech and telecom contracting. Usually, the first draft of the contract comes from the seller of the services. It might be services like managed network services, the development and maintenance of a website with Web 2.0 features, or for the customization of some software. While in many ways the Web 2.0 world is more sophisticated than the go-go dotcom 1990s, more often than not these deals still show the wisdom of the 20-minute-old dotcom driving the deal. (All that’s missing are pimples on the documents.)

However, don’t think this arises only when doing deals with smaller or startup companies. I once did a deal with IBM and I smiled when I read the master agreement because it was a well-written document crafted by some major New York law firm. It had the pro-IBM bias that I expected, but it’s simple to negotiate it back toward the middle (as your vendor is kicking and complaining—and lying—that you’re the most difficult customer they’ve ever had).

September 25, 2008

Nanotech process to improve computers

This nanoscale process will make computers smaller, faster and more efficient. Sounds good to me.

From the link:

Scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara have made a major contribution to this field by designing a new nanotechnology that will ultimately help make computers smaller, faster, and more efficient. The new process is described in today’s Science Express, the online version of the journal Science.
For the first time, the UCSB scientists have created a way to make square, nanoscale, chemical patterns –– from the bottom up –– that may be used in the manufacture of integrated circuit chips as early as 2011. It is called block co-polymer lithography.

Five leading manufacturers, including Intel and IBM, helped fund the research at UCSB, along with the National Science Foundation and other funders. The university has already applied for patents on the new methods developed here, and it will retain ownership.

Atomic Force Microscope image of a square array of 15nm pores formed by the new technology.
Atomic Force Microscope image of a square array of 15nm pores formed by the new technology.

September 22, 2008

Service Oriented Architecture meet Occam’s razor

Filed under: Business, et.al., Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:30 pm

Here’s the definitive definition of Service Oriented Architecture according to CIO.com:

 

Forget all that. I have what might be the world’s simplest definition of SOA, and my definition has the distinction of being able to shed light on why SOA is becoming popular now, as opposed to decades ago when companies like IBM were trying to get it off the ground under different names.

SOA is a networked subroutine.

Anything you add to that definition is unnecessary window dressing. In most cases, the subroutine will perform business functions, but why can’t you build a scientific function as a process, too? Of course you can, and it would still be SOA. You may end up using Web services as part of your implementation, but it’s still SOA, isn’t it? In most cases, SOA should contribute to business agility, otherwise you probably shouldn’t concern yourself with it. But the benefits of using SOA do not define SOA. Failures at reaping benefits from SOA are still based on SOA, aren’t they?

August 19, 2008

World’s smallest SRAM

From KurzweilAI.net — just wow!

Kudos to IBM, AMD, Freescale STMicroelectronics, Toshiba and CNSE

Researchers Build World’s Smallest SRAM Memory Cell
PhysOrg.com, Aug. 18, 2008

IBM and its development partners — AMD, Freescale, STMicroelectronics, Toshiba and the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) — have announced the first working static random access memory (SRAM) for the 22 nanometer technology node.

The new SRAM cell (basic building block) has an area of 100 square nanometers, breaking the previous SRAM scaling barriers.

Key enablers of the SRAM cell include band edge high-K metal gate stacks, transistors with less than 25 nm gate lengths, thin spacers, novel co-implants, advanced activation techniques, extremely thin silicide, and damascene copper contacts.

 
Read Original Article>>

March 14, 2008

Passing the Turing Test

From KurzweilAI.net:

AI researchers think ‘Rascals’ can pass Turing test
EE Times, Mar. 12, 2008Passing the Turing test–the holy grail of AI (a human conversing with a computer can’t tell it’s not human)–may now be possible in a limited way with the world’s fastest supercomputer (IBM‘s Blue Gene) and mimicking the behavior of a human-controlled avatar in a virtual world, according to AI experts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

“We are building a knowledge base that corresponds to all of the relevant background for our synthetic character–where he went to school, what his family is like, and so on,” said Selmer Bringsjord, head of Rensselaer’s Cognitive Science Department and leader of the research project.

“We want to engineer, from the start, a full-blown intelligent character and converse with him in an interactive environment like the holodeck from Star Trek.”
Read Original Article>>