David Kirkpatrick

November 16, 2009

Beautiful nanotech image — photovoltaic solar cell

This is a nice gallery of nanotech images from New Scientist. Here’s the description from the series, “Chemist George Whitesides has collaborated with MIT and Harvard photographer-in-residence Felice Frankel to produce No Small Matter, a book of images of the micro and nanoworld.”

From the first image, my favorite:

Sun catchers

This is a close-up of the top side of a photovoltaic solar cell. The cell converts the energy from the sun’s photons into electrical energy by taking advantage of the photo-electric effect. This cell is made of a wafer of crystalline silicon.

Light is absorbed by the wafer and creates charge that is collected by silver conductor lines, shown in the image as the gold-coloured strip. The cell is coated with silicon nitride which acts as an anti-reflective surface, preventing light energy from bouncing away and giving the cell its blue-violet colour.

Rather than attaching solar panels to our roofs, recent research suggests that in the future we could paint solar cells on to our houses, removing the need to rely on expensive silicon wafers.

(Image: Felice Frankel)

November 14, 2008

The future of science fiction

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:47 pm

From KurzweilAI.net — Science fiction is a genre I really enjoy reading, and occasionally writing. Here’s a link to a New Scientist feature questioning six writers on the future of science fiction.

Science fiction special: The future of a genre
New Scientist news service, Nov. 13, 2008

New Scientist asked six leading writers for their thoughts on the future of science fiction.

It special feature also covers the latest science-fiction novels, writers to watch, and results a poll of all-timefavorite sci-fi films and books.

Read Original Article>>

August 14, 2008

Busting the speed of light

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:17 pm

Interesting news from KurzweilAI.net:

Quantum strangeness breaks the light barrier
New Scientist, Aug. 13, 2008

University of Geneva scientists sent pairs of entangled photons to labs 18 kilometers apart, showing that if superluminal signals are responsible for entanglement, they must travel at more than 10,000 times the speed of light.

Read Original Article>>

August 4, 2008

Is our universe uniquely suited for life?

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:47 pm

From KurzweilAI.net:

Is our universe fine-tuned for life? (article preview)
New Scientist Tech, Aug. 2, 2008

The idea that certain aspects of our universe make it uniquely suited to life could well be an illusion, suggests Fred Adams of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, pointing out that “no one has done the calculations.”

So Adams selected a range of possible values for each of three basic constants involved in the formation of stars (the gravitational constant, alpha — the fine structure constant that determines the strength of interactions between radiation and matter, and a composite of constants that determines the reaction rates of nuclear processes) and put them into a computer model that created multiple universes (a multiverse). About a quarter of the stars gave out enough energy to power some form of life, and lasted long enough for life to evolve.

See also: The Anthropic Principle Under Fire

Read Original Article>>

July 11, 2008

Latest breakthroughs — stem cells, solar and hard drives

Here’s a more traditional (for this blog) posting from KurzweilAI.net — a stem cell breakthrough, solar energy harvesting breakthrough, and another breakthrough (see a theme here) in hard drive capacity.

New Technique Harvests Stem Cells at Earlier Stage
HealthDay News, July 9, 2008

Researchers at Vrije Universiteit Brussel have derived human embryonic stem cells (hESC) earlier in the development stage of a blastomere (when it only has four cells), so the whole embryo is not destroyed.

Previously, scientists were able to derive hESC lines at the 8-cell stage, but that methodhad variable success rates and required the cells to be cultured with established hESCs. The new method doesn’t require a co-culture.

The development could make stem cell researcheasier to conduct by not raising as many ethical concerns. It could also change pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), by enabling the biopsy of one cell from a 4-cell stage embryo. This would let the remaining three cells grow into a blastocyst (five-day embryo) that could be implanted into the uterus and develop into a healthy baby. Currently GPD is performed at the 8-cell stage.

See Also Stem cell breakthrough leaves embryos unharmed

Read Original Article>>

Organic dye lets window panes harvest the Sun
New Scientist news service, July 10, 2008

MIT electrical engineer Marc Baldo had developed a method to turn up to 20% of incident light into electricity at a fraction of the cost of conventional photovoltaic cells.

Exotic organic dyes are coated onto an ordinary sheet of glass, trapping light inside the glass and allowing it to be channelled to photovoltaic cells placed along the edges of the sheet. The dyes can absorb light across the visible spectrum and emit it at the longer frequencies needed for optimal conversion.

Read Original Article>>

Seagate’s Latest Desktop HDD Has 1.5TB Capacity
Hot Hardware, July 10, 2008

Seagate announced Thursday three new consumer-level hard drives today, which it claims are the “industry’s first 1.5-terabyte desktop and half-terabyte notebook hard drives.”

The company claims that it is able to greatly increase the areal density of its drive substrates by using perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) technology.

Read Original Article>>

A whole slew of nanotechnology news

In a departure from the usual format, here’s a roundup of nanotech news from the last two days of KurzweilAI.net’s e-newsletter. There’s so much here these bits are taken straight from the email.

Controlling the Size of
Nanoclusters: First Step in Making
New Catalysts
KurzweilAI.net July 10, 2008
Researchers from the U.S.
Department of Energy’s (DOE)
Brookhaven National Laboratory and
Stony Brook University have
developed a new instrument that
allows them to control the size of
nanoclusters — groups of 10 to 100
atoms — with atomic precision. The
device could allow for making
nanoclusters with predetermined
size, structure and…

Nanotubes Hold Promise for
Next-Generation Computing
Wired July 9, 2008
Two groups of researchers have
recently published papers
demonstrating advances in creating,
sorting and organizing carbon
nanotubes so they can be used in
electronics. Stanford electrical
engineers addressed the problem of
getting nanotubes straightened out
so they could be put to work in
chips, by growing the nanotubes on
crystalline quartz,…

Assembling Nanotubes
Technology Review July 10, 2008
Stanford University and Samsung
Advanced Institute of Technology
researchers have developed a new
method for sorting single-walled
carbon nanotubes by electronic type
and arranging them over a large
area; it could be useful for
manufacturing high-performance
displays and other electronic
devices. (Melburne LeMieux /
Stanford University)…

Nanotubes bring artificial
photosynthesis a step nearer
New Scientist news service July 11, 2008
Carbon nanotubes are the crucial
chemical ingredient that could make
artificial photosynthesis possible,
say Chinese researchers. Artificial
photosynthesis could efficiently
produce hydrogen that could be used
as a clean fuel and also mop up
carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
By covalently bonding a large number
of phthalocyanine molecules…

June 30, 2008

Quantum stickiness, Hawking and teh funny

From KurzweilAI.net, micromachine stiction, Stephen Hawking tackles the universe’s inflation and defining humor.

How a quantum effect is gumming up nanomachines
New Scientist news service, June 28, 2008

Researchers are making progress in overcoming static friction, or or “stiction,” which sticks together the parts of micromachines on scales of between 10 and 300 nanometers and limits progress in reducing their size, affecting computer hard drives and other devices with small moving parts.

Stiction is due to the Casimir effect, a quantum-mechanics phenomenon that causes surfaces to be attracted. Methods to reduce its effect include use of patterned surfaces, suspending the components in a liquid, and use of metamaterials.

Read Original Article>>

Hawking ‘close’ to explaining universe’s inflation
New Scientist (article preview), June 28, 2008

Starting with current observations of the universe and working back to narrow down the initial set of possibilities and by treating the early cosmos as a quantum object with a multitude of alternative universes that gradually blend into ours, Stephen Hawking and colleagues think they are close to perfecting an answer to explain why the infant universe expanded so rapidly.

(Subscription required)

Read Original Article>>

Mechanism and function of humor identified by new evolutionary theory
PhysOrg.com, June 27, 2008

Humor occurs when the brain recognizes a pattern that surprises it, suggests Alastair Clarke in the forthcoming book, Humour.

“Now that we understand the mechanism of humour, the possibility of creating an artificial intelligence being that could develop its own sense of humour becomes very real,” he says. “This would, for the first time, create an AI capable of exhibiting one of the defining characteristics that make us human, making it seem significantly less robotic as a result.”

Read Original Article>>

June 26, 2008

Broadband, the US and the future

The New America Foundation — a think tank self-described as investing in, “new thinkers and new ideas to address the next generation of critical challenges facing the United States” — hosted a forum on broadband in the US.

Here’s a quick description from an email I received from the group:

On Monday New America’s Wireless Future Program hosted a policy forum highlighting the critical need for developing an affirmative national broadband strategy to keep the U.S. prosperous in the 21st Century.  We also released a new Issue Brief, by NAF’s Benjamin Lennett, that explains how unlicensed access to TV band ‘white space’ will give a big boost to rural broadband.  

Here’s a link to a PDF of the report’s executive summary.

Update — this post was initially only going to cover the NAF forum, but here’s some interesting broadband news via KurzweilAI.net:

Time reversal allows wireless broadband under the sea
New Scientist news service, June 25, 2008

Researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and NATO Undersea Research Center have developed an “acoustic time reversal” technique that boosts underwater wireless broadband speed by up to three times, or extends the range up to 3500 km.

The system compensates for reduced signal/noise ratio due to phase-delay artifacts from surface and sea-bottom echoes. A receiver first transmits an acoustic carrier signal. The sender then time-reverses what they receive, and also modulates the signal to carry a message.

Read Original Article>>

May 14, 2008

More science fiction turning into science fact

From KurzweilAI.net, taking steps toward an invisibility cloak

New material may be step towards 3D invisibility cloak
New Scientist, May 13, 2008

A researcher at the University of California at Berkeley claims to have made a 3D metamaterial with a negative refractive index, the first 3D material of this kind.

Physicists have in recent years made it possible to bend, or refract, light in the opposite direction to any natural materials. These metamaterials make it possible to create invisibility cloaks that hide an object by steering light around it. The materials and “invisibility cloaks” built so far have all been flat, working only in two dimensions.

The negative refraction index will have to be confirmed by measuring the speed of light in the material.

See Also Physicists draw up plans for real ‘cloaking device’

Read Original Article>>

April 11, 2008

Nanoscale monorail

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:06 pm

From KurzweilAI.net:

Nanoscale freighter hauls its first load
New Scientist news service, April 10, 2008

A nanoscale “monorail” that can creep along a nanotube track has shifted its first load, hauling a gold nugget a distance of 0.5 micrometers.

The central tube is one micrometer long and acts as a rail for the second, smaller, 200-nanometer nanotube. The outer “monorail carriage” is driven by applying current to the inner rail, and can move in both directions along the rail; it can also rotate around it.

The device could be a useful addition to microscopic construction toolkits that researchers hope will advance computing and other fields.

Read Original Article>>

March 20, 2008

Terahertz without a wire

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:13 pm


From KurzweilAI.net:

Terahertz video transfer is foretaste of future wireless
New Scientist news service, Mar. 19, 2008Video footage has been transmitted experimentally (22 meters) using a terahertz wireless signal for the first time, by Terahertz Communications Lab in Braunschweig, Germany.

Using terahertz bandwidth— which ranges from 300GHz to 3 terahertz (THz) — could offer a 1000 fold increase in transmission speed and should open up new frequencies for communication. The as yet untapped terahertz band of the electromagnetic spectrum lies between microwaves and visible light.
Read Original Article>>