David Kirkpatrick

November 18, 2010

Mobile advertising is about to boom

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:30 pm

Ready, or not, here it comes to the tune of an expected one billion-plus buys next year. This Technology Review post on the subject is interesting, but one quote stood out to me:

Can you name some brands whose mobile advertising has been very engaging and useful for the user?

One of my favorite campaigns recently was one that was run by Dunkin’ Donuts, where they were releasing a new iced latte product to the market. When the user went to the screen, the screen frosted over, very much like the frost on the side of a glass for your iced latte, and then with your finger you wiped the frost off the screen.

This was art that was reproducing the experience that people have in the real world, and it brings a real joy to people.

If you can combine the engaging nature of the medium together with that joy, together with the message that ties directly with this product you’re offering, that’s very powerful for the advertiser.

I have the feeling one person’s joy is another person’s total pain-in-the-ass with this campaign.


March 2, 2010

Happy 50th birthday to the laser

Lasers are just cool, and now they have been for fifty years. Hit the link for photos and a thorough Technology Review history on controlling excited photons.

From the link:

This year is the 50th anniversary of the laser, a device used in applications from performing precise surgical procedures to measuring gravitational waves. In 1917, Albert Einstein proposed that a photon hitting an atom in a high energy state would cause the atom to release a second photon identical in frequency and direction to the first. In the 1950s, scientists searched for a way to achieve this stimulated emission and amplify it so that a group of excited atoms would release photons in a chain reaction. In 1959, American physicist Gordon Gould publicly used the term “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation” for the first time. A year later, scientists demonstrated the first working optical laser.

Credit: HRL Laboratories

January 28, 2010

Watch out Kindle …

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:09 am

the iPad is about to start breathing down your neck.

From the link:

The Kindle DX is the same size as the iPad. It has a black and white E-Ink screen, 4 gigabytes of internal storage, 3G access and costs $489. Meanwhile, the cheapest version of the iPad has a full-color touch screen, a powerful processor and graphics chip, 16 gigabytes of flash storage, Wi-Fi and sells for $499.

The cheaper iPad might not have 3G or the same battery life as the Kindle DX (up to 4 days), but on every other count it wins. It has both a gorgeous screen and vastly more functionality. And, while Amazon has established an excellent, easy way to buy books, iTunes, which already has some 125 million customers, will give it a run for its money.

August 21, 2009

New process lowers cost of LEDs

A lot of work has been done in the world of LEDs as a viable, cost-effective lighting source — particularly with OLEDs — and here’s some interesting news on inorganic LEDs and a new technique to help bring manufacuturing costs down for that lighting tech.

From the second link:

A new technique makes it possible to print flexible arrays of thin inorganic light-emitting diodes for displays and lighting. The new printing process is a hybrid between the methods currently used to make inorganic and organic LEDs, and it brings some of the advantages of each, combining the flexibility, thinness and ease of manufacturing organic polymers with the brightness and long-term stability of inorganic compounds. It could be used to make high-quality flexible displays and less expensive LED lighting systems.

Inorganic LEDs are bright and long lasting, but the expense of manufacturing them has led to them being used mainly in niche applications such as billboard-size displays for sports arenas. What’s more, the manufacturing process for making inorganic LED displays is complex, because each LED must be individually cut and placed, says John Rogers, a materials science professor in the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. So display manufacturers have turned to organic materials, which can be printed and are cheaper. While LED-based lighting systems are attractive because of their low energy consumption, they remain expensive. The new printing process, developed by Rogers and described today in the journal Science, could bring down the cost of inorganic LEDs because it would require less material and simpler manufacturing techniques.

August 6, 2009

Practical graphene

The previous post was a bit of skylarking on practical solar power, this post is right here on the ground about a current practical application for graphene. I have a feeling I’ve have the opportunity to do many more posts along these lines about the highly touted nanomaterial.

From the first link:

A startup company in Jessup, MD, hopes later this year to bring to market one of the first products based on the nanomaterial graphene. Vorbeck Materials is making conductive inks based on graphene that can be used to print RFID antennas and electrical contacts for flexible displays. The company, which is banking on the low cost of the graphene inks, has an agreement with the German chemical giant BASF and last month received $5.1 million in financing from private-investment firm Stoneham Partners.

Since it was first created in the lab in 2004, graphene has been hailed as a wonder material: the two-dimensional sheets of carbon atoms are the strongest material ever tested, and graphene’s electrical properties make it a potential replacement for silicon in faster computer chips. Synthesizing pristine graphene of the quality needed to make transistors, though, remains a painstaking process that, as yet, can’t be done on an industrial scale, though researchers are working on this problem.

Vorbeck Materials is making what company scientific advisor Ilhan Aksay calls “defective” graphene in large quantities. Though the electrical properties of the graphene aren’t good enough to support transistors, it’s still strong and conductive.

Vorbeck Materials licensed their method for making “crumpled” graphene from Aksay, a professor of chemical engineering at Princeton University. Vorbeck Materials says the inks made with this crumpled graphene are conductive and cheap enough to compete with silver and carbon inks currently used in displays and RFID-tag antennas. (Another startup working on defective graphene, Graphene Energy of Austin, TX, is using a similar form of the material to make electrodes for ultracapacitors.)

Crumpled graphene: Conductive inks made by startup company Vorbeck Materials contain crumpled graphene. This atomic-force microscope image is colorized to show the topography of a piece of graphene of the type used in the inks; red areas are higher and blue are lower. Credit: Ilhan Aksay and Hannes Schniepp

Crumpled graphene: Conductive inks made by startup company Vorbeck Materials contain crumpled graphene. This atomic-force microscope image is colorized to show the topography of a piece of graphene of the type used in the inks; red areas are higher and blue are lower. Credit: Ilhan Aksay and Hannes Schniepp

July 7, 2009

Ray Kurzweil on beating aging

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:05 am

Guest blogging at Technology Review, futurist Ray Kurzweil writes about combating the aging process.

From the link:

Entropy is not the most fruitful perspective from which to view aging. There are varying error rates in biological information processes depending on the cell type and this is part of biology’s paradigm. We have means already of determining error-free DNA sequences even though specific cells will contain DNA errors, and we will be in a position to correct those errors that matter.

The most important perspective in my view is that health, medicine, and biology is now an information technology whereas it used to be hit or miss. We not only have the (outdated) software that biology runs on (our genome) but we have the means of changing that software (our genes) in a mature individual with such technologies as RNA interference and new forms of gene therapy that do not trigger the immune system (I am a collaborator with a company that performs gene therapy outside the body, replicates the modified cell a million fold and reintroduces the cells to the body, a process that has cured a fatal disease–Pulmonary Hypertension–and is undergoing human trials).

June 26, 2009

Lithium air batteries

Via KurzweilAI.net — These just sound amazing. I’ll leave it at that.

Waterproof Lithium-Air Batteries
Technology Review, June 26, 2009

Lightweight, high-energy batteries that can use the surrounding air as a cathode are being developed by PolyPlus.

Read Original Article>>

June 18, 2009

Turning Buckyballs into Buckywires

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:29 am

Buckyballs are a nanotech that seems to be rarely discussed these days with all the breakthroughs in other areas. Scientists at the University of Cambridge have found a way to turn Buckyballs into Buckywires through polymerization. This steps adds to the utility of Buckyballs considerably. Buckywires should be better than carbon nanotubes in price and possibly performance.

From the link:

The trick that Geng and co have found is a way to connect two buckyballs together using a molecule of 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene–a colorless aromatic hydrocarbon. Repeat that and you’ve got a way to connect any number of buckyballs. And to prove it, the researchers have created and studied these buckywires in their lab, saying that the wires are highly stable.

Buckywires ought to be handy for all kinds of biological, electrical, optical, and magnetic applications. The gist of the paper is that anything that traditional carbon nanotubes can do, buckywires can do better. Or at least more cheaply.

The exciting thing about this breakthrough is the potential to grow buckywires on an industrial scale from buckyballs dissolved in a vat of bubbling oil. Since the buckywires are insoluble, they precipitate out, forming crystals. (Here it ought to be said that various other groups are said to have made buckywires of one kind or another, but none seem to have nailed it from an industrial perspective.)

April 9, 2009

Nanogenerator/solar cell combo

This sounds like a very promising nanotechwith practical applications. I enjoy blogging on both nanotechnology and solar energy research, but it’s always more interesting when the breakthrough are somewhere close to actual real world application.

From the Technology Review link:

Nanoscale generators can turn ambient mechanical energy–vibrations, fluid flow, and even biological movement–into a power source. Now researchers have combined a nanogenerator with a solar cell to create an integrated mechanical- and solar-energy-harvesting device. This hybrid generator is the first of its kind and might be used, for instance, to power airplane sensors by capturing sunlight as well as engine vibrations.

Nanogenerators typically use piezoelectric nanowires–hairlike zinc oxide structures that generate an electrical potential when mechanically stressed–to produce small amounts of power. The first such devices were made by Zhong Lin Wang, a professor at Georgia Tech and director of the institute’s Center for Nanostructure Characterization. Wang hopes that nanogenerators will one day eliminate the need for batteries in implantable medical sensors, and will eventually generate enough power to charge up larger personal electronics.

Nano hybrid: A dye-sensitized solar cell (top) and a nanogenerator (bottom) sit on the same substrate in the new device. Credit: Xudong Wang

Nano hybrid: A dye-sensitized solar cell (top) and a nanogenerator (bottom) sit on the same substrate in the new device. Credit: Xudong Wang

April 8, 2009

VC blogging

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:25 am

Here’s the entirety of a quick-hit post from Brad Feldat Technology Review on VC friends of his who’ve began blogging. I read VC blogs on occasion. They are interesting for a number of reasons, and they offer a lot of inside information for my privately-held clients looking for angel funds.

From the link:

My friends at Highway 12 Ventures have started a blog.  The gang at Highway 12 is based in Boise, ID and has built a very interesting portfolio throughout the Rocky Mountain region.  Plus they are great guys.

Fortunately they put Lijit on their blog for search so I didn’t have to badger them about into using it and it made it easy for me to add them to the brand spanking new Venture Capital Bloggers Network powered by Lijit.

February 26, 2009

Nanotube devices closer to market

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:50 am

I can blog all day about nanotechnology breakthroughs and we can get excited about the theoretical improvements nanotech promises, but the proof in the pudding is getting nanotech to the market. Particularly some of the more dramatic applications. Improving existing items through nanotech is great, but I want the game-changers to get out there in the real world.

It look like electronic application for nanotube devices are getting close to that point. Couldn’t happen too fast for me.

From the link:

Circuits made from carbon nanotubes are intrinsically faster than those made from silicon. But while products from tennis rackets to bike frames take advantage of nanotubes’ light weight and strength, no commercial devices have yet exploited their remarkable electrical properties.

That’s partly because researchers have had difficulty creating films or other assemblies of nanotubes that preserve those properties: nanotube arrays, for example, proved nowhere near as electrically conductive as tubes taken singly. But a number of groups have found ways around that ­obstacle, and the result has been a flurry of prototype electronic devices that use nanotubes. Here is a sampling.

Stretchy speakers: A transparent, stretchable film of carbon nanotubes made by Shoushan Fan at Tsinghua University in China can act as a loudspeaker even when mounted on a waving flag. Credit: American Chemical Society

Stretchy speakers: A transparent, stretchable film of carbon nanotubes made by Shoushan Fan at Tsinghua University in China can act as a loudspeaker even when mounted on a waving flag. Credit: American Chemical Society

Ultra high-density computer memory

Density to the tune of 10 terabits per square inch through use of a nanomaterial.

From the link:

The self-assembling of materials known as block copolymers could provide a low-cost, efficient way to fabricate ultra-high-density computer memory. Block copolymers, which are made of chemically different polymers linked together, can arrange themselves into arrays of nanoscale dots on surfaces, which could be used as templates for creating tiny magnetic bits that store data on hard disks. Until now, though, there was no simple, quick way to coax the block copolymer to make the desired arrays over large areas.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst have found a simple way to coat square inches of substrate with block copolymers. The highly ordered pattern formed by the copolymers could be used to create hard disks with 10 terabits squeezed into a square inch, the researchers report this week in Science.

February 11, 2009

Stem cell research – free at last!

Well not quite free just yet, but the day is coming and it couldn’t come too soon. Among many, many bad science policies the US suffered under Bush 43, completely wrecking stem cell research through withholding federal funds was up there.

Thankfully some private and state money came through to keep the US from completely falling behind other countries in this vital medical research area, but Bush 43’s policies hurt and probably have cost American lives because of so-far-undiscovered breakthroughs related to stem cell research.

From the Technology Review link:

Three years ago, when Rene Rejo Pera was setting up a new lab at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), she had to make sure she had two of everything: one microscope for her federally funded lab, for example, and one for a privately funded replica next door. Because of funding restrictions on stem-cell research ordered by President George W. Bush in 2001, this was a redundant scenario played out in labs across the country. The edict specifically limited federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research to a small number of cell lines already in existence, leaving scientists who wanted to conduct cutting-edge research in this area scrambling for private money.

Scientists are now looking forward to an end of that edict. President Barack Obama promised during his campaign to overturn the order, and most expect the action to happen soon. “The imminent change in policy will quite literally allow us to take down these walls and integrate the laboratories in a way that will make the work move much more efficiently,” says Arnold Kriegstein, director of the Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCSF.

February 4, 2009

Saving energy with swarm logic

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:25 am

I doubt this has a whole lot of utility for the home — unless you happen to live in a really, really big place — but for larger buildings the tech sounds very promising.

From the Technology Review link:

Air-conditioning units and heating systems are examples of power-hungry equipment that regularly switches on and off in commercial buildings. When these devices are all switched on at once, power consumption spikes, and a building’s owners are left with hefty peak-demand charges on their electricity bills.

A startup based in Toronto says that it has come up with a way to reduce energy use by mimicking the self-organizing behavior of bees. REGEN Energyhas developed a wireless controller that connects to the control box on a piece of building equipment and functions as a smart power switch. Once several controllers have been activated, they detect each other using a networking standard called ZigBee and begin negotiating the best times to turn equipment on and off. The devices learn the power cycles of each appliance and reconfigure them to maximize collective efficiency.

The goal is to avoid everything coming on at the same time without sacrificing individual performance. The devices work through this problem using a “swarm algorithm” that coordinates activity without any single device issuing orders.

January 23, 2009

Carbon nanotube electronics hit the market

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:39 am

Very exciting news here. A transparent plastic product with a carbon nanotube coating will be the first electronic nanotube product to hit the market. Lots of promising applications with this product.

From the link:

The first electronic product using carbon nanotubes is slated to hit the market this year. Unidym, a startup based in Menlo Park, CA, plans to start selling rolls of its carbon-nanotube-coated plastic films in the second half of 2009.

The transparent, conductive films could make manufacturing LCD screens faster and cheaper. They could enhance the life of touch panels used in ATM screens and supermarket kiosks. They might also pave the way for flexible thin-film solar cells and bright, roll-up color displays. The displays could be used in cell phones, billboards, and electronic books and magazines.

In all of these applications, the nanotube sheets would replace the indium tin oxide (ITO) coatings that are currently used as transparent electrodes. ITO cracks easily and is a more expensive material. “The cost of indium has gone up by 100 times in the last 10 years,” says Peter Harrop, chairman of IDTechEx, a research and consulting firm based in Cambridge, U.K.


Nanotube shrink-wrap: A small sample of the carbon-nanotube-coated plastic film that could be used as the see-through electrodes in touch screens, roll-up displays, and thin-film solar cells. Credit: Unidym

Be on the lookout …

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:31 am

… for this new phishing attack. Sounds like it might catch the unwary.

From the link:

A vulnerability in major browsers recently discovered by Trusteer could make this trick much more dangerous, by allowing for “in-session phishing” and a more tailored attack. Using this new vulnerability, a phisher could detect, via the hacked site, when a user was already logged in to a banking website. The hacked site could then launch a pop-up warning the user that her session has timed out and asking her to reenter her login details. This approach would be less likely to raise a red flag, says Klein, since the pop-up does not appear completely out of the blue.

The core vulnerability discovered by the Israeli researchers is a Web browser flaw that lets the phisher see what other websites a person is visiting. Klein explains that a certain JavaScript function, commonly used by online retailers, financial institutions, and other sites, leaves a footprint revealing that the user is logged in to that site. Klein says that protections such as pop-up blockers wouldn’t necessarily derail the attack because the hacked site could itself be altered to seem like a request to log in again.

December 19, 2008

LinkedIn founder returns

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:28 am

An AP report via Technology Review:

After taking a back seat for nearly two years, LinkedIn Corp. founder Reid Hoffman is reclaiming the CEO’s job and bringing in former Yahoo Inc. executive Jeff Weiner to help steer the online professional network through its next phase of growth.

Hoffman’s return as chief executive, announced Wednesday, comes as a surprise, given LinkedIn’s success since he recruited Dan Nye to take over the reins of the Mountain View-based company in February 2007.

With Nye at the helm, privately held LinkedIn says it has been profitable as its revenue rose tenfold and the number of people creating profiles on its Web site more than quadrupled to 33 million.

The success helped LinkedIn raise $80 million in venture capital this year in a series of investments that valued the company at about $1 billion.

Find me on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/davidkonline

Numonyx developing new flash memory

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:25 am

In a down market one company is still innovating.

From the Technology Review link:

Flash memory is a major reason for the ubiquity of handheld gadgets, from MP3 players to video games. But this year has been rough on companies that manufacture flash memory chips. Supply is outstripping demand, as the economic downturn has many people postponing purchase of the newest gadgets. Research firm iSuppli projects that worldwide flash revenue will plummet 14 percent in 2008 and slip another 15 percent in 2009. And Toshiba, the second-largest flash manufacturer, announced that it would slash production by 30 percent next year, after posting the lowest profit in four years.

Amid all this turmoil, however, Swiss memory startup Numonyx has announced a slew of new high-capacity flash products that cover a broad range of applications. There are chips designed to be integrated into devices such as mobile phones and navigation systems, added as storage in computers, and used in high-capacity memory cards.

The new chips have transistors that measure only 41 nanometers across, down from the 48 to 57 nanometers of Numonyx’s previous chips. Fabio Gualandris, vice president and general manager of the data management group at Numonyx, says that the 41-nanometer chips indicate the company’s rapid progress since April, when it was launched to commercialize technology from Intel and STMicroelectronics.

December 18, 2008

Caffeine test strips

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:03 am

A stocking stuffer from Technology Review for the C8H10N4O2 fan on your list.

From the link:

D+caf Caffeine Test Strips

$10 for a pack of 20

In a 2002 story on innovative biosensors, we wrote that “researchers have long hoped for ways to make cheap and long-lasting artificial antibodies.” One of the companies that, in the intervening six years, developed just such a technology was Silver Lake Research, which claims that it can produce antibodies geared to any particular molecular target. Silver Lake has introduced antibody tests that municipalities can use to assess water supplies and that commercial farms can use to look for pathogens in cattle, but the company’s first consumer product is a test for caffeine in supposedly decaf coffee and tea. Dip one of its tiny test strips into a fluid sample, and stripes on the strip will change color if the sample contains more caffeine than advertised.

December 17, 2008

Graphene improving transistors

Haven’t blogged about the nanotech material graphene in a while. Here’s some exciting news from Technology Review.

From the link:

A pair of research groups, working independently, report making graphene-based transistors that work at the highest frequencies reported to date. The new transistors are a promising first step toward ultrahigh radio-frequency (RF) transistors, which could be useful for wireless communications, remote sensing, radar systems, and weapons imaging systems.

The reports come from researchers at the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, NY, and at the HRL Laboratories in Malibu, CA. The IBM transistors work at frequencies up to 26 gigahertz. Both the IBM and HRL work was funded by the U.S. military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Kostya Novoselov, a physicist and graphene researcher at the University of Manchester, in the U.K., says that the results are “a really big step forward to demonstrating that high-frequency graphene transistors should work.”

Graphene, a flat sheet of carbon atoms, is a promising material for RF transistors. Typical RF transistors are made from silicon or more expensive semiconductors like indium phosphide. In graphene, for the same voltage, electrons zip around 10 times faster than in indium phosphide, or 100 times faster than in silicon.

Graphene transistors will also consume less power and could turn out to be cheaper than those made from silicon or indium phosphide. Yu-Ming Lin, who led the work at IBM, says that silicon technology is extremely mature, but graphene could “achieve device performance that may never be obtained with conventional semiconductors.”

Jeong-Sun Moon, HRL Laboratories

Speedy carbon devices: Researchers at HRL Laboratories create high-frequency transistors on top of two-inch-wide graphene pieces by patterning metal electrodes and depositing insulating aluminum oxide on top of the graphene. Credit: Jeong-Sun Moon, HRL Laboratories

Semantic web on the desktop

Semantic web tech news from Technology Review.

From the link:

People naturally group information by topic and remember relationships between important things, like a person and the company where she works. But enabling computers to grasp these same concepts has been the subject of long-standing research. Recently, this has focused on the Semantic Web, but a European endeavor called the Nepomuk Project will soon see the effort take new steps onto the PC in the form of a “semantic desktop.”

Those working on the project, coordinated by the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), have been toiling for three years to create software that can spot meaningful connections between the files on a computer. Nepomuk’s software is available for several computer platforms and now comes as a standard component of the K Desktop Environment (KDE), a popular graphical interface for the Linux operating system.

The idea of a semantic desktop is not new. The Open Source Applications Foundation and SRI, two nonprofit organizations, have both worked on similar projects. But previous efforts have suffered from the difficulty of generating good semantic information: for semantic software to be useful, semantic information needs to be generated and tagged to files and documents. But without useful applications in the first place, it is hard to persuade users to generate and tag this data themselves.

Microsoft releasing security patch for IE today

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:19 am

Microsoft is putting out an emergency patch for Internet Explorer today. If you don’t have automatic update turned on and you use IE (particularly IE7) go and get the “critical” patch.

From the Technology Review link:

Microsoft Corp. is taking the unusual step of issuing an emergency fix for a security hole in its Internet Explorer software that has exposed millions of users to having their computers taken over by hackers.

The “zero-day” vulnerability, which came to light last week, allows criminals to take over victims’ machines simply by steering them to infected Web sites; users don’t have to download anything for their computers to get infected, which makes the flaw in Internet Explorer’s programming code so dangerous. Internet Explorer is the world’s most widely used Web browser.

Microsoft said it plans to ship a security update, rated “critical,” for the browser on Wednesday. People with the Windows Update feature activated on their computers will get the patch automatically.

Thousands of Web sites already have been compromised by criminals looking to exploit the flaw. The bad guys have loaded malicious code onto those sites that automatically infect visitors’ machines if they’re using Internet Explorer and haven’t employed a complicated series of workarounds that Microsoft has suggested.

December 8, 2008

Thin-film solar

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about a solar breakthrough. Not sure if the spate earlier this year came on the heels of a lot of concurrent research, or if everyone was just trying to announce early-versions of coming tech because oil was so high priced.

If it was the latter expect little alternative fuel news since the market pressure won’t be there until oil heads back toward three figures a barrel. That might be a while.

At any rate efficient thin-film solar sounds like a promising tech.

From the link:

Researchers at MIT have unveiled a new type of silicon solar cell that could be much more efficient and cost less than currently used solar cells. Materials science and engineering professor Lionel Kimerling and his colleagues presented results of the first device prototype at a recent meeting of the Materials Research Society in Boston.

The design combines a highly effective reflector on the back of a solar cell with an antireflective coating on the front. This helps trap red and near-infrared light, which can be used to make electricity, in the silicon. The research team is licensing similar technology to StarSolar, a startup in Cambridge, MA.

The researchers applied their light-trapping scheme on thin silicon cells that are about five micrometers thick. Their prototype solar cell is 15 percent more efficient at converting light into electricity than commercial thin-film solar cells. Project leader Peter Bermel, who is StarSolar’s chief technology officer, says that sophisticated computer simulations suggest that much greater gains in efficiency are possible.

Lirong Zeng

Light trapper: A transmission electron microscopy (TEM) image shows the back surface of a five-micrometer-thick silicon solar cell. The alternating layers of silicon and silicon dioxide form an excellent light reflector. The crests and troughs send the reflected light into the silicon at a low angle that keeps it trapped inside the silicon for a long time, increasing the efficiency of the cell. Credit: Lirong Zeng

November 26, 2008

Obama and the internet

Filed under: Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:59 am

After deftly harnessing the web during the long campaign, it’s expected the Obama administration will continue its groundbreaking political use of the internet. During the campaign Obama garnered a half a billion dollars from over 3 million donors and utilized the net for all manner of organization (you can find a blog post of mine on his campaign’s tech here.)  

From the first link:

With the campaign having learned what kinds of results you get from social-networking sites, viral videos, email lists, and text-messaging, it’s not hard to imagine that this administration will operate far differently than its predecessors. Sure, it’s not clear what shape it will take: how much YouTube, how much social-networking, how many email blasts from the White House or from proxies. Getting it right will be tricky. But clearly, Obama’s recent “radio address” on YouTube is a taste of things to come. I spoke yesterday with Thomas Gensemer, managing partner of Blue State Digital, the company that set up the social networking tools for the campaign (and which supplied the numbers above). He said: “My biggest outsider claim is this: The way the campaign helped inform critical decision-makers of the value of digital assets, means [these assets] will have a significant role in the ongoing administration.”

November 14, 2008

Nanotube speakers

Filed under: Arts, Media, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:32 am

Just wow.

From the Technology Review link:

Made by researchers at Tsinghua University in Beijing, the carbon nanotube speakers can play music just as loud and just as high quality as conventional loudspeakers do, even while being flexed and stretched.

Conventional loudspeakers use magnets and moving parts to produce sound-pressure waves. The nanospeakers work by the thermoacoustic effect. Alternating electrical current running through the thin films of nanotubes heats the surrounding air, causing it to expand and contract, creating sound waves.

These transparent thin-film speakers could be mounted on displays, eliminating the need for separate speakers. But one of the coolest things about the loudspeakers is that they’re flexible and stretchable, allowing the researchers to imagine singing jackets.

The research was published online in the journal Nano Letters.

November 7, 2008

Gratzel solar cells

It really is amazing to me the progresss going on right now in solar power. The article uses the same qualifier, but this does sound like a promising technology.

From the link:

Dye-sensitized solar cells, sometimes called Grätzel cells after their inventor, Michael Grätzel, a chemistry professor at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, in Switzerland, have long been considered a promising technology for reducing the cost of solar power. They’re potentially cheaper to make than conventional solar cells and can be quickly printed. But this potential hasn’t been realized because to achieve efficiency levels high enough to compete with conventional solar cells–about 10 percent–it’s been necessary to use volatile electrolytes that need to be carefully sealed inside the cells, an expensive and unreliable step in the manufacturing.

Now Grätzel, along with Peng Wang, a professor at the Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, have made efficient solar cells that use nonvolatile electrolytes, with the best achieving efficiencies of 10 percent. They also showed that the solar cells remained stable when exposed to light and high temperatures for 1,000 hours. The advance “pushes the technology close to over the ’10 percent hump,’ which is where a thin-film technology needs to be to be economically competitive,” says Tonio Buonassisi, a professor of mechanical engineering at MIT.

Dye-sensitized solar cells called Grätzel cells (pictured here) will be far more efficient and durable thanks to new electrolytes and dyes.

Solar flex: Dye-sensitized solar cells called Grätzel cells (pictured here) will be far more efficient and durable thanks to new electrolytes and dyes.

October 30, 2008

A molecular clock

This is a cool story from Technology Review.

From the link:

A Fast, Programmable Molecular Clock

The bacteria-based timepiece could be used as a biosensor for changing environmental conditions.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
By Emily Singer

UC San Diego bioengineers have created the first stable, fast, and programmable genetic clock that reliably keeps time by the blinking of fluorescent proteins inside E. coli cells. The clock’s blink rate changes when the temperature, energy source, or other environmental conditions change. Shown here is a microfluidic system capable of controlling the environmental conditions of the E. coli cells with great precision–one of the keys to this advance.
Credit: UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering

A molecular timepiece that ticks away the time with a flash of fluorescent protein could provide the basis for novel biosensors. The clock, or synthetic gene oscillator, is a feat of synthetic biology–a fledgling field in which researchers engineer novel biological “parts” into organisms.

To create the clock, scientists genetically engineered a molecular oscillator composed of multiple gene promoters, which turn genes on in the presence of certain chemicals, and genes themselves, one of which codes for a fluorescent protein. When expressed in E. coli bacteria, the feedback system turns the fluorescent gene on and off at regular intervals.

October 24, 2008

Verdasys offers safe financial transactions on infected boxes

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:23 am

This seems like a tech to look into — a level of protection to make certain your online transactions are secure.

From the link:

You’re about to go online to make a financial transaction, but you don’t realize that your computer has been breached by malicious hackers: it’s loaded with malware and spyware. Verdasys believes that its tool, SiteTrust, can intervene at this point to keep your identity safe. SiteTrust buries itself deep in a computer’s operating system, where it can take fundamental control of most of the machine’s operations. Malware can’t attempt to interfere in an online transaction without SiteTrust’s knowing.

Credit: Courtesy Verdasys

Product: SiteTrust

Cost: Free to customers through participating financial institutions

Source: www.sitetrust.net

Company: Verdasys

October 20, 2008

Solar may be ready to pop …

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:49 am

… if this tech holds the promise that looks, well, promising.

From the link:

Sun + Water = Fuel

With catalysts created by an MIT chemist, sunlight can turn water into hydrogen. If the process can scale up, it could make solar power a dominant source of energy.

“I’m going to show you something I haven’t showed anybody yet,” said Daniel Nocera, a professor of chemistry at MIT, speaking this May to an auditorium filled with scientists and U.S. government energy officials. He asked the house manager to lower the lights. Then he started a video. “Can you see that?” he asked excitedly, pointing to the bubbles rising from a strip of material immersed in water. “Oxygen is pouring off of this electrode.” Then he added, somewhat cryptically, “This is the future. We’ve got the leaf.”

What Nocera was demonstrating was a reaction that generates oxygen from water much as green plants do during photosynthesis–an achievement that could have profound implications for the energy debate. Carried out with the help of a catalyst he developed, the reaction is the first and most difficult step in splitting water to make hydrogen gas. And efficiently generating hydrogen from water, Nocera believes, will help surmount one of the main obstacles preventing solar power from becoming a dominant source of electricity: there’s no cost-effective way to store the energy collected by solar panels so that it can be used at night or during cloudy days.

October 17, 2008

Organic solar cells go into mass production

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:14 am

One step closer to my rooftop.

From the link:

In a significant milestone in the deployment of flexible, printed photovoltaics, Konarka, a solar-cell startup based in Lowell, MA, has opened a commercial-scale factory, with the capacity to produce enough organic solar cells every year to generate one gigawatt of electricity, the equivalent of a large nuclear reactor.

Organic solar cells could cut the cost of solar power by making use of inexpensive organic polymers rather than the expensive crystalline silicon used in most solar cells. What’s more, the polymers can be processed using low-cost equipment such as ink-jet printers or coating equipment employed to make photographic film, which reduces both capital and manufacturing costs compared with conventional solar-cell manufacturing.

The company has produced its cells in a relatively small pilot plant with the capacity of creating about one megawatt of solar cells a year. The large gigawatt capacity of the plant was made possible by the fact that Konarka does not require specialized equipment to make its solar cells. Indeed, the factory and equipment were formerly owned by Polaroid and used to make film for medical imaging. With minor modifications, the same equipment can now be used to make solar cells. Richard Hess, Konarka’s president and CEO, says that the company’s ability to use existing equipment allows it to scale up production at one-tenth the cost compared with conventional technologies.

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