David Kirkpatrick

February 9, 2010

A solar power game-changer?

I couldn’t say with certainty, but this sure seems like it could be. This is obviously not ready for prime time (three years from serious production), but it is on the short horizon and if the claims bear out this tech completely alters the solar energy playing field.

From the link:

A startup company hopes to bring down the cost of generating power with concentrated sunlight by using microscale solar cells that can utilize twice as much light as other panels, without the need for expensive optics or cooling systems. Panels made from the tiny cells, which the Durham, NC-based company Semprius developed using a novel microprinting technology, also offer significant savings on materials costs. In late January, the company announced a joint agreement with Siemens to develop demonstration systems based on its technology. Semprius plans to begin volume production of the modules in 2013.

Microcell: The solar cells made by Semprius are 600 micrometers on each side and can be combined with high-power optics. The cell itself (the black square at center) is mounted atop a ceramic base with electrical contacts on each side.

Credit: Semprius

July 2, 2009

Moving toward quantum-encrypted communication networks

Very exciting news in milestone setting quantum-encrypted communications networking.

The release:

Researchers unite to distribute quantum keys

Researchers from across Europe have united to build the largest quantum key distribution network ever built. The efforts of 41 research and industrial organisations were realised as secure, quantum encrypted information was sent over an eight node, mesh network.

With an average link length of 20 to 30 kilometres, and the longest link being 83 kilometres, the researchers from organisations such as the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology (formerly Austrian Research Centers), id Quantique, Toshiba Research in the UK, Université de Genève, the University of Vienna, CNRS, Thales, LMU Munich, Siemens, and many more have broken all previous records and taken another huge stride towards practical implementation of secure, quantum-encrypted communication networks.

A journal paper, ‘The SECOQC Key Distribution Network in Vienna’, published as part of IOP Publishing’s New Journal of Physics‘ Focus Issue on ‘Quantum Cryptography: Theory and Practice’, illustrates the operation of the network and gives an initial estimate for transmission capacity (the maximum amount of keys that can be exchanged on a quantum key distribution, QKD, network).

Undertaken in late 2008, using the company internal glass fibre ring of Siemens and 4 of its dependencies across Vienna plus a repeater station, near St. Pölten in Lower Austria, the QKD demonstration involved secure telephone communication and video-conference as well as a rerouting experiment which demonstrated the functionality of the SEcure COmmunication network based on Quantum Cryptography (SECOQC).

One of the first practical applications to emerge from advances in the sometimes baffling study of quantum mechanics, quantum cryptography has become a soon-to-be reached benchmark in secure communications.

Quantum mechanics describes the fundamental nature of matter at the atomic level and offers very intriguing, often counter-intuitive, explanations to help us understand the building blocks that construct the world around us. Quantum cryptography uses the quantum mechanical behaviour of photons, the fundamental particles of light, to enable highly secure transmission of data beyond that achievable by classical methods.

The photons themselves are used to distribute cryptographic key to access encrypted information, such as a highly sensitive transaction file that, say, a bank wishes to keep completely confidential, which can be sent along practical communication lines, made of fibre optics. Quantum indeterminacy, the quantum mechanics dictum which states that measuring an unknown quantum state will change it, means that the information cannot be accessed by a third party without corrupting it beyond recovery and therefore making the act of hacking futile.

The researchers write, “In our paper we have put forward, for the first time, a systematic design that allows unrestricted scalability and interoperability of QKD technologies.”

 

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October 11, 2008

Flexible OLED offers new lighting options

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:28 pm

I’ve done a fair amount of blogging on OLEDs (hit this link for those posts and all my praise for the tech) so I do follow the developments and breakthroughs to a great extent. This application of Organic Light-Emitting Diodes is very exciting because it has the possibility of completely revolutionizing the concept of artificial lighting.

Plus it’s just plain cool.

From the second link:

On a bank of the Mohawk River, a windowless industrial building of corrugated steel hides something that could make floor lamps, bedside lamps, wall sconces and nearly every other household lamp obsolete. It’s a machine that prints lights.

The size of a semitrailer, it coats an 8-inch wide plastic film with chemicals, then seals them with a layer of metal foil. Apply electric current to the resulting sheet, and it lights up with a blue-white glow.

You could tack that sheet to a wall, wrap it around a pillar or even take a translucent version and tape it to your windows. Unlike practically every other source of lighting, you wouldn’t need a lamp or conventional fixture for these sheets, though you would need to plug them into an outlet.

The sheets owe their luminance to compounds known as organic light-emitting diodes, or OLEDs. While there are plenty of problems to be worked out with the technology, it’s not the dream of a wild-eyed startup.

OLEDs are beginning to be used in TVs and cell-phone displays, and big names like Siemens and Philips are throwing their weight behind the technology to make it a lighting source as well. The OLED printer was made by General Electric Co. on its sprawling research campus here in upstate New York. It’s not far from where a GE physicist figured out a practical way to use tungsten metal as the filament in a regular light bulb. That’s still used today, nearly a century later.

August 1, 2008

Quantum cryptography news …

… from PhysOrg.com and Siemens:

Electronic communication is becoming more secure all over the world. Siemens IT Solutions and Services, Austrian Research Centers (ARC) and Graz University of Technology have joined forces to develop the first quantum cryptography chip for commercial use. The chip, which protects data by generating a completely random sequence of numbers from particles of light, replaces the currently used system of key distribution based on mathematical algorithms.

The prototype of the quantum cryptography chip is already available, and the corresponding fiber-optic network for absolutely safe, chip-based data transfer will be presented in October 2008 at Siemens IT Solutions and Services in Vienna.

This is how it works. Quantum cryptography works with individual light particles known as photons, which are generated and coded by an optical array. The security of the data is guaranteed by laws of nature, as photons generate completely random keys. The mathematical formulae used in the past, which could be decrypted with enough time and effort, will soon be a thing of the past.

Once the optical array has sent the light particles to the recipient via fiber-optic cable, each communication partner uses a detector to measure certain properties of the photons. The values are then compared using a communication protocol via the internet. If they match, the chip takes over the processing and uses the results of the measurements to generate a tap-proof