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24 Posts authored by: Eavesdropper



Copper based ICs have reached nano-meter densities, with wire so small, that no current seizes to flow. The University of Cambridge professors John Robertson and Santiago Esconjauregui have devised a possible future solution. They are growing Carbon Nanotube in greater density than ever before, up to 5 times the most current working technology.


Through the annealing step, the deposit of catalyst onto a substrate are heated creating groupings of nanoparticles. The next step grows the nano-tubes. Normally, this process does not yield tubes that can carry sufficient amounts of current for use in ICs. But in the professor's case that place multiple deposits and annealing, produces bundles of nano-tubes capable of handling the current necessary. They claim that even higher densities are possible.


This is good step towards Carbon Nano-Tubes replacing copper in microchip manufacturing, but controlling the positions and laying out an actual circuit with Robertson and Esconjauregui's achievement has not been shown. And, they are only 2 people.


Which brings me to a realization. With so many people working with carbon nanotube and like technology, they all need to be pulling in the same direction. A global initiative will take us all into the future, now. Just a thought.




A.I. space travel

Posted by Eavesdropper Mar 28, 2011


Spacecraft and rockets with no personnel onboard  are controlled by people on the earth's surface. There is one major issue with this arrangement, time to action responses. When a rocket's onboard sensors discover an error, it relays the information back to earth and operators from there figure a way to handle the situation. The further the craft sits from earth, the longer it takes to handle a problem.



The Institute of Space and Astronautical Science at JAXA seek to eliminate the delay by creating an artificial intelligence to handle much of a space vehicle's operations. The rocket, called Epsilon, will be able to diagnose issues, make repairs, provide and implement solutions. The Epsilon will make its first space flight in 2013.



I was under the idea that there was something like this already in place, some sort of error checking and correcting on board. This new knowledge makes space travel look a little less high tech. See more at the JAXA Site.






CRISP has developed a multi-core processor that will test and repair itself, sort of. There is an on-board resource manager that will test to see if a core is malfunctioning, and if so, send the tasks to a functioning core. The idea is to create a chip that will always work 100% of the time regardless of internal component failures. ‘‘Because of the rapidly growing transistor density on chips, it has become a real challenge to ensure high system dependability. The solution is not to make non-degradable chips, it's to make architectures that can degrade while they keep functioning, which we call graceful degradation. With the right dependability infrastructure many-cores can be a solution', says Hans Kerkhoff accociate professor at the University of Twente.


Still in the design, prototype, stage, this technology may very well be the standard future of chip design. My old critic is what is the "resource manager" gets corrupted due to a bad core? I'm sure more details will emerge over time on how they will handle such events.


CRISP stands for Cutting edge Reconfigurable ICs for Stream Processing. It is a collaborative effort from the University of Twente, Tampere University of Technology, Thales Netherlands, Recore Systems, Atmel, and NXP at the moment.





materials_breakthrough_image.jpgthermal material system.jpg


“As electronics become more advanced, we are approaching the point where conventional materials like copper can’t take the heat. For computing to go faster and electronics systems to become more capable, better cooling solutions such as GE’s prototype substrate will be required to allow this to happen,” says Dr. Tao Deng, a senior scientist at GE Global Research.



GE and DARPA are teaming up to create a new "Phase-Change" material that in its prototype form demonstrated 2x thermal conductivity of copper at 1/4th the weight. The material is also able to withstand 10x gravity environments. Since this is a military endeavor, the gravity requirement means this will be used about aircraft. An additional unique feature brings "surface engineered coatings that both repel and attract water." Condensation will become less of an issue. Often, waterproof coatings on PCBs are used in military devices, but could wear away or peal under certain circumstances.



Dr. Tao Deng's blog has just started, I will keep an eye on this one to bring more breakthroughs and announcements as they happen.






The purpose is to watch the person who made the lunch, make it, while you eat it. And also, so the preparer can watch you eat it. A never ending cycle. Researchers at Ochanomizu University have embedded a camera and LCD touchscreen into a lunchbox (bento). The video starts playing as soon as the box is opened, and likewise, recording begins. The team wants to make the camera smaller and add a bit of video editing ability to the lunchbox (a sentence rarely uttered in history). 


The teams purpose is to spread the love on making and enjoying the lunch, but they fail to see the real potential. Watching TV shows, movies, youtube videos over lunch. I'm sure this device will pop up in the news again, in a leaner, better form. Good luck researchers.




Missouri University of Science and Technology is resolved to make a handheld scanner that can see through anything. Similar to airport scanners, this hand held camera used millimeter and microwave signals to peek inside. In real time, this camera takes 30 frames per second and can construct a representation of objects at different layers. No word on the depth it can go, but the team calls it “non-intrusive.” Originally conceived Dr. Reza Zoughi in 1998, the first prototype was made in 2007. Since then the design has been made smaller and more portable. Currently the system runs off of a battery about the size of a laptop power cell. Zoughi said about the product’s future, “Further down the road, we plan to develop a wide-band camera capable of producing real-time 3-D or holographic images." As of 2010, this concept is patented. At the moment, objects to be scanned have to pass between the camera and a backplane. The team is hard at work to eliminate the pass through feature and just make it a camera. Although modesty will soon be a thing of the past, it is an impressive achievement.




Samsung has taken DRAM to a whole new level, 12.8GB/sec, a great increase over the former LPDDR2. In the process, reducing power consumption by 87%. The increase in data transmission is due to the increase of I/O pins to 512 from the 32 the prior gen memory used. Currently at 1Gb, Samsung plans to release 4Gb modules by 2013. We should see the introduction of this memory in Samsung's future tablets and cell phones. Samsung also hopes to be at the forefront of the DRAM memory demand of a speculated 16.5% boost by 2014. See more about this mem at



A complete computer system in 1 cubic millimeter. Onboard is a low power microcontroller, memory, battery, wireless radio, solar cell, and a pressure sensor. This system is meant to be an implantable eye pressure monitor for glaucoma patients. I'm sure a patient would feel this think, despite the size. Think about getting a splinter. Created by three professors from the University of Michigan, Dennis Sylvester, David Blaauw, and David Wentzloff, the project was presented at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) in San Francisco.


"Our work is unique in the sense that we're thinking about complete systems in which all the components are low-power and fit on the chip. We can collect data, store it and transmit it. The applications for systems of this size are endless," Sylvester said.


Blaauw said, "When you get smaller than hand-held devices, you turn to these monitoring devices." He continued, "The next big challenge is to achieve millimeter-scale systems, which have a host of new applications for monitoring our bodies, our environment and our buildings. Because they're so small, you could manufacture hundreds of thousands on one wafer. There could be 10s to 100s of them per person and it's this per capita increase that fuels the semiconductor industry's growth."


Wentzloff, speaking of the onboard antenna, "This is the first integrated antenna that also serves as its own reference. The radio on our chip doesn't need external tuning. Once you deploy a network of these, they'll automatically align at the same frequency."


The system uses an aggressive sleep mode scheme. It wakes every 15 minutes to take readings at about 5.3 nanowatts. The battery charges in 1.5 hours of sunlight, or 10 hours of indoor lighting. But if it is implanted, how can this happen? It can store up to a week's worth of data.


See more about the team at their personal sites.
David Wentzloff:

David Blaauw:

Dennis Sylvester:



The first (sequential) logic circuit has been built using carbon nanotubes. The fast manufacturing process has been developed to print these circuits on TFT with a plastic sub straight resulting in a flexible circuit board. Professors Yutaka Ohno from Nagoya University in Japan and Esko I. Kauppinen explained, nanotube networks contain both metallic and semiconducting nanotubes. While a greater amount of metallic nanotubes increases the transistor’s charge-carrier mobility, it also decreases the on/off ratio. Since both of these characteristics are important for overall transistor performance, the researchers in the new study found a way to optimize both characteristics by fabricating a nanotube network with certain unique properties. For instance, the network’s morphology consists of straight, relatively long (10 micrometers) nanotubes (30% of which are metallic) compared to other nanotube networks. The new network also uses more Y-junctions than X-junctions between nanotubes. Since Y-junctions have a larger junction area than X-junctions, they also have lower junction resistance. Using this nanotube network, the researchers fabricated TFTs that simultaneously demonstrate a high charge-carrier mobility and on/off ratio, offering significantly better performance than previous nanotube-based transistors. After building the transistors, the researchers fabricated an IC capable of sequential logic, the first such circuit based on carbon nanotube transistors to date. This is the first step towards building similar circuits with memory.



Faster mobile device access is close at hand. SanDisk Corporation recently announced its next generation of iNAND and iNAND Ultra embedded flash drives featuring smaller and thinner form factors. Available in packages as small as 11.5mm x 13mm x 1mm, SanDisk's new iNAND and iNAND Ultra e.MMC products support the increasing demand for slimmer and more compact smartphone and tablet designs. The company reduced its iNAND package sizes by using advanced 24nm generation NAND memory chips, which are more compact than previous versions, and reduced its iNAND package heights by using advanced packaging technologies. iNAND EFDs are based on SanDisk's three-bit-per-cell NAND flash technology and iNAND Ultra EFDs are based on SanDisk's two-bit-per-cell NAND flash technology. SanDisk iNAND EFDs come in a variety of storage capacities ranging from 2GB to 64GB for quick integration into handset and other designs that require an e.MMC interface. With managed physical partitions, customizable attributes and advanced power failure immunity, SanDisk iNAND EFDs feature highly reliable boot code and application storage device capabilities in addition to being a mass storage solution. iNAND drives use advanced caching technology that improves system responsiveness, and are designed based on SanDisk's usage analysis capabilities. iNAND EFDs are based on both MLC and X3 technologies. For more information visit:,-thin-and-highly-mobile-devices



Pelican, a California startup company, is trying to make a big name for themselves by being a little outside the box. They a promoting a new camera for cellphones that consists of 25 small cameras. The concept is to spread available light over the 25 lenses as opposed to the large one it they are replacing. Image quality is improved by this capturing of more light, and performs extremely well in low light conditions. The final imaged is a collage of the 25 smaller pictures.

Pelican also boasts that the 25 different pictures add an element of 3D depth to any one picture, and gesture capture is the main goal of this feature. Added as a front facing camera could allow us all to use our smartphones without ever touching it. Although they are pushing this tech for portable devices, I would like to see this on my desktop or laptop for similar gesture control. This camera system is also much smaller than what is used now, any phone could use a trim these days.More at



Engineers and scientists collaborating at Harvard University and the MITRE Corporation have developed and demonstrated the world's first programmable nanoprocessor. “This work represents a quantum jump forward in the complexity and function of circuits built from the bottom up, and thus demonstrates that this bottom-up paradigm, which is distinct from the way commercial circuits are built today, can yield nanoprocessors and other integrated systems of the future,” said Charles M. Lieber, who holds a joint appointment at Harvard's Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The work was enabled by advances in the design and synthesis of nanowire building blocks. These nanowire components now demonstrate the reproducibility needed to build functional electronic circuits, and also do so at a size and material complexity difficult to achieve by traditional top-down approaches. Moreover, the tiled architecture is fully scalable, allowing the assembly of much larger and ever more functional nanoprocessors. An additional feature of the advance is that the circuits in the nanoprocessor operate using very little power, even allowing for their miniscule size, because their component nanowires contain transistor switches that are ‘nonvolatile’. This means that unlike transistors in conventional microcomputer circuits, once the nanowire transistors are programmed, they do not require any additional expenditure of electrical power for maintaining memory. “Because of their very small size and very low power requirements, these new nanoprocessor circuits are building blocks that can control and enable an entirely new class of much smaller, lighter weight electronic sensors and consumer electronics,” said Shamik Das, the lead engineer in MITRE's Nanosystems Group.



OK, so it can’t reach the energies produced at the LHC or Tevatron, but this is still pretty impressive. Engineers at a micro-electro mechanical systems conference that was held recently in Cancun, unveiled this tiny cyclotron device, which can speed argon ions down a 5-millimeter accelerator track. Their chip-size cyclotron can guide argon ions with around 1.5 kiloelectronvolts of energy down a 5-millimeter accelerating track before whipping them around a 90-degree turn. The system boosts the ions’ energy by 30 electronvolts. That’s not very much energy, but unlike its larger cousins, this accelerator has no need for bulky magnets and instead uses an electric field set up between parallel electrode guide rails to accelerate and steer its particle beam. Yue Shi, an electrical and computer engineering graduate student at Cornell University, constructed three versions of the accelerator; two on silicon-on-insulator (SOI) chips and one on a printed circuit board. Each had a straight, segmented acceleration track and either a 1-, 2-, or 4-mm turning radius. To test the design, she fired a stream of argon ions with around 1.5 keV of energy from a commercial ion source into each chip’s tracks. Electric fields between four segments in each chip’s acceleration track gave the ions a kick before they raced into the turn. Then another electric potential between two electrode curbs pulled ions around the bend. Only those ions with just the right amount of energy made it through. So, by detecting ions at the finish line, Shi confirmed that they truly got a boost. A few hurdles remain, including a more efficient way to grab ions from the 75-micrometer-wide beam. Lots of ions are lost in the transition, Shi said. But the device at least proves the concept that you don’t need humongous frozen magnets and cavernous spaces to speed up some particles.




Recently Marvell announced the world’s first ‘ultra-low power, ultra-high performance’ 1.5 GHz three-core processor that is the first to feature 3D graphics performance with quad unified shaders for 200 million triangles per second delivered on mobile devices. According to Marvell, the Armada 628 can deliver dual stream 1080p 3D video and 3D graphics performance with quad unified shaders for 200 million triangles per second delivered on ultra-low-power, long battery life smartphones and tablets. The Armada 628 is also the first to incorporate a System-on-a-Chip (SoC) design with three ARM cores and six additional processing engines, totaling nine dedicated core functions. An Armada-equipped smartphone would be able to play 10 hours straight of 1080p HD video or 140 hours of music on a single charge. Some of the key features of the tri-core processor include: Up to 1.5 GHz for the two main cores and 624 MHz for the third low power core. 1 MB System Level 2 Cache. 1080p dual stream 3D video applications (30 FPS, multi-format). Ability to project images on multiple simultaneous displays: 2 LCD’s, 1 HDMI, 1 EPD controller. Peripherals supports: USB 3.0 Superspeed Client, MIPI CSI, MIPI DSI, HDMI with integrated PHY, UniPro, Slimbus, SPMI. The Armada 628 is the first mobile CPU to offer USB 3.0. The CPU is compatible with RIM OS, Android, Linux, Windows Mobile, and full Adobe Flash. According to Marvell the CPU is currently available for sampling to customers but there is no word yet on when we can expect it to be incorporated into smartphones or tablets in the U.S. market.




Computer engineers at North Carolina State University have developed hardware that allows programs to operate more efficiently by significantly boosting the speed at which the ‘cores’ on a computer chip communicate with each other. The core, or CPU, is the brain of a computer chip; most chips currently contain between four and eight cores. In order to perform a task more quickly using multiple cores on a single chip, those cores need to communicate with each other. But there are no direct ways for cores to communicate. Instead, one core sends data to memory and another core retrieves it using software algorithms. “Our technology is more efficient because it provides a single instruction to send data to another core, which is six times faster than the best state-of-the-art software we could find,” said Dr. James Tuck, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State. Tuck goes on to explain the new technology, called HAQu, “It’s not hardware designed to communicate data on its own, but is hardware that expedites data-sharing using existing data paths on a computer chip.” Because HAQu uses these existing data paths, the research team compared it to software communication tools – even though it is a piece of hardware. HAQu is also more energy efficient. “It actually consumes more power when operating but, because it runs so much more quickly, the overall energy consumption of the chip actually decreases,” said Tuck. The next step for the research team is to incorporate the hardware into a prototype system to demonstrate its utility in a complex software environment.


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