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Non-volatile ferroelectric RAMS

Posted by RobertBradbury on March 16th, 2005

A group of physicists (Naumov, Bellaiche & Fu) at the Univ. of Arkansas are reporting in Nature the exploration of phase transformations in non-volatile ferroelectric memories composed of Pb(Zr,TI)O3. They are finding that the minimum size of nanodiscs/nanorods able to retain a bistable state is of the order of 3.2 nm. That translates to 60×1012 bits/sq. inch (7+ terabytes/sq. in).

Obviously there are a couple of problems here. The first would be how do you read or write a nanorod every 3.2 nm? Of course this may drive the need for improved nanowiring and/or nanomechanical head positioning. The second would be the claim regarding "low-temperature structural bistability". How low does the temperature actually need to be? If one needs a room full of refrigeration equipment to allow a nanoscale memory to retain its data then the applications may be somewhat limited. E.g. you aren't going to see it in an iPod.

SIA questions ability of U.S. to lead nanotech

Posted by RobertBradbury on March 16th, 2005

At a news conference in Washington D.C. today a number of SIA leaders questioned the ability of the U.S. to retain its lead role in the semiconductor industry as it moves into nanoscale technologies. They called for a number of solutions including increased funding for the NSF of 7%/yr. In contrast, as reported by Thomas Freidman in the NY Times on Dec. 26, 2004, the proposed Bush-Republican 2005 budget specified a $100M cut to the NSF. (The actual budget request is open to debate as is seen here and here.) For comparison purposes the NSF budget is slightly less than $6B while the war in Iraq from March 2003 thru 2005 is estimated at $207B.

Clearly the industry leaders recognize that long term R&D support is required and because the financial markets do not seem to have worked out a model which could enable this they must turn to the government for support. It would seem that those involved in politics are not quite as able to connect the dots as one would hope. One could double funding for the NSF for 15 years for the cost of a war. The advancements in nanotechnology that such R&D could provide could so advance the quality of life of people in places such as Iraq that there would be significantly fewer incentives to become a terrorist or an insurgent. Two extremely simple problems — clean water and sufficient electricity — could be significantly dealt with through applications of nanotechnology in Iraq. Why is there no focus on these approaches to uplifting their population? �

Nanomemory coming soon?

Posted by RobertBradbury on March 16th, 2005

Nature materials is reporting on the development of static "flash" memory based on antimony telluride "cells" that are flipped between amorphous and crystalline states. These cells may be able to be scaled to 10 nm. The architecture is very simple as it simply requires sensing the resistance of the cell to determine whether it is in a one or zero state. This is distinctly different from current DRAM memory cells which are based on the storage of electrons within a capacitor. Because the electrons leak out of the capacitor it is necessary to include electronics that restore the state of the memory on a continual basis.

“More Than Human” now available

Posted by RobertBradbury on March 14th, 2005

Foresight Senior Associate Ramez Naam informs us that his book More Than Human has been released.

Here's a description of the book:
"More Than Human is about our growing power to alter our minds, bodies, and lifespans through technology. Over the last 5-10 years scientists and doctors have learned an incredible amount about how to enhance memory, improve physical performance, rewrite our genes, alter the rate of aging, and even how to connect our brains directly with computers and robots. This is not science fiction – this is the research happening in labs around the world right now, research that's restored sight to blind men and women, created mice that live to the age of 200 in "human years", and given the paralyzed the ability to control computers just by thinking about it."


IBM provides access to Blue Gene

Posted by RobertBradbury on March 14th, 2005

For those who didn't notice it in several sources (here, here or here), IBM has announced external access to its Blue Gene supercomputer. It provides 5.7 Teraflops in a single rack. Obviously IBM has the ability to hook a large number of these together should they choose to do so. 175 racks gives you a petaflop.

HP gets serious about molecular electronics

Posted by RobertBradbury on March 14th, 2005 is reporting that HP Labs in conjuction with Applied Physics A will be having an "invitation-only international nanotechnology symposium" on March 25. They intend to outline the HP combined strategy (fundamental scientific research into nanometer scale quantum effects; defect tolerant architectures for molecular components; and cost-effective fabrication methods) for implementing robust molecular electronics.

My only question is "When will we see the results?"

Millipede comes out of the lab

Posted by RobertBradbury on March 12th, 2005

PhysOrg is reporting that IBM Zurich is showing off its Millipede storage device at CeBIT. For those unfamiliar with this device it uses cantilever arms to read & write a polymer medium.

As the pits that the cantilevers read & write are ~10nm in diameter it is definitely a nanoscale device. The storage density is approximately 1 terabit per sq. inch. That capacity in that size implies that one should be able to fit the contents of a entire college education into a handheld device.

Its a nanophone!

Posted by RobertBradbury on March 11th, 2005

It would appear that TI is delivering chips for wireless phones based on its 65nm process. The chip architecture description is rather impressive. Because the circuit density is so high it allows the implementation of system-on-a-chip solutions incorporating both analog and digital functions. Also of interest is that the process may end up in Sun's UltraSPARC® processors.

But it gives real meaning to the statement "Could you pass the nanophone…"

Tricks of chemical synthesis

Posted by RobertBradbury on March 10th, 2005

It would appear that scientists at UIUC have invented a process that allows the use of high-intensity ultrasound to generate both hollow nanospheres and hollow nanocrystals of molybdenum disulfide and molybdenum oxide. These have interesting applications in catalysis. As other work on nanocatalysts from scientists at CBEN at Rice shows using palladium on gold nanoparticles to break down TCE — its the surface area that counts. If you can get to the inside of a sphere (or crystal) and the walls aren't too thick, don't you have twice as much surface area?

Nanoparticle self-assembly

Posted by RobertBradbury on March 10th, 2005


ROLLA, Mo. ñ Dr. Jee-Ching Wang, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering at the University of Missouri-Rolla, recently received a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation to support his work on modeling nanoparticle self-assembly.

The CAREER Award is NSFís most prestigious award given to assistant professors in tenure-track positions. The CAREER program recognizes and supports the early career development activities of those teachers and scholars who are to become the academic leaders of the 21st century.


Better batteries and semiconductors

Posted by RobertBradbury on March 7th, 2005

New Scientist is reporting that Altair Technologies has a new Lithium ion battery that uses lithium titanate nanocrystals to significantly decrease the recharge time (to minutes) and significantly increases the number of recharge cycles the battery can tolerate.

On top of this Science Daily is reporting that Georgia Tech scientists are using probabilistic bits (PBITs) to construct probablistic transistors (PCMOS) which use 100 times less power than conventional transistors.

The combination of these two approaches would yield a laptop that could probably last a week without recharging (which is great for long conferences) and wouldn't need a new battery every 6-12 months.

Moore’s Law: good to go…

Posted by RobertBradbury on March 5th, 2005

I would note of interest an article (just look at the pictures) from the recent Intel Developers Forum (IDF) to see where Intel intends to go. They are planning for chips based on a 22nm process by 2011. On a more subtle note they appear to be seriously considering 'die-stacking' to allow the 'chips' to grow in 3D. This has the potential of significantly reducing interconnect delays between processors and memory and/or stacked multi-processors [see Note 1]. That would imply significant performance improvements without having to figure out the messy process of trying to wire chips with buckytubes or DNA.

The only thing one can say is that the next decade is definitely going to be the "nanodecade" [see Note 2].

Nanotechnology and Jewelry

Posted by RobertBradbury on March 4th, 2005

Roland Piquepaille writes "Today, we'll look at nanotechnology under an unusual angle: the impact on the jewelry industry. In this long article, "The Weird World of Precious Metal Nanotechnology," published by AJM Magazine (The Authority on Jewelry Manufacturing), Michael Cortie, professor at the University of Sydney, Australia, explains why gold is often used by nanotechnologists. Not only gold exhibits very interesting properties at the nanoscale level, but it's also a bargain when compared to current prices of carbon nanotubes. And gold — and silver — nanoparticles can offer a range of unusual colors, suitable for fine jewelry or luxurious coatings. Finally, Cortie envisions smart jewelry made possible through the use of nanotechnology, such as a pendant that could include cell phone capabilities. Read this overview if you don't have enough time to read the original story."

Briefing Document: NANOBOTS NOT NEEDED

Posted by RobertBradbury on March 3rd, 2005

Mike Treder writes "SUMMARY: The popular idea of so-called nanobots, powerful and at risk of running wild, is not part of modern plans for building things ìatom-by-atomî by molecular manufacturing. Studies indicate that most people don't know the difference between molecular manufacturing, nanoscale technology, and nanobots. Confusion about terms, fueled by science fiction, has distorted the truth about advanced nanotechnology. Nanobots are not needed for manufacturing, but continued misunderstanding may hinder research into highly beneficial technologies and discussion of the real dangers.

More…. [Ed. note -- well worth reading]…

Nanosystems animations in Museum of the Future

Posted by Christine Peterson on February 26th, 2005

Two molecular mechanisms from the book Nanosystems have been animated by Gina Miller: a rotary sorter and a molecule binding and orienting mechanism. Such graphics are highly useful for communicating molecular machine concepts to both technical and non-technical audiences. Great job, Gina!

A to Z of Nanotechnology — see AZoNano

Posted by Christine Peterson on February 23rd, 2005

If you haven't already run across AZoNano, give the site a look. A collaboration of AZoM in Australia and IoN in Scotland, the site aims "to become the primary Nanotechnology information source for the science, engineering and design community worldwide." That's an ambitious goal, but in any case, it's a useful site and completely free of charge.

Molecular electronic switch

Posted by RobertBradbury on February 21st, 2005

As reported by Eurekalert, scientists at Arizona State University have demonstrated an oligoaniline switch which demonstrates "negative differential resistance" (a decrease in current with increased voltage). This property would allow such molecules to function as a basis for a number of elements (memories, logic elements, etc.) that could be built into molecular computers. The abstract from Nano Letters is here.

For those unfamiliar with Nano Letters it is well worth following to keep pace with nanotechnology from a molecular chemistry perspective. This month's issue is covering topics such as nanotube optoelectronics, single-electron quantum dots, protein nanotubes and single molecule transistors.

Nanotech seen as “very important” for Costa Rica

Posted by Christine Peterson on February 21st, 2005

Some countries have not yet jumped on the nanotech bandwagon, but Costa Rica isn't one of them: "Nanotechnology research in Latin America has received a boost with the inauguration of the National Laboratory for Nanotechnology, Microsensors and Advanced Materials (Lanotec) in Costa Rica….'The development of nanotechnology is very important for the technological development of Costa Rica,' says [Jeannette] Benavides…"

Nanotech to be used in “brand protection”

Posted by Christine Peterson on February 20th, 2005

From Intellectual Property News: "Brand protection technologies, once used exclusively to prevent and detect counterfeit passports and currency, are now being applied to packaging, products and production techniques. Controversial in nature, brand owners lead the way in implementing radio frequency identification (RFID), nanotechnology, DNA coding, and digital watermarks to allow their investigators, law enforcement, customs, distributors and ultimately consumers verify the authenticity of items."

Security and nanotechnology

Posted by RobertBradbury on February 18th, 2005

Three interesting articles appeared today on /. related to security which bear some thought when we think about nanotechnology.

The first involves the ChoicePoint Identity Theft problem. This involves perhaps 40,000 people in California and more than 110,000 people nationwide (in the U.S.) whose complete personal information has been lifted from an integrated identity database maintained by ChoicePoint. The scary part seems to be that they weren't checking their own customers with respect to their trustability — they were selling the information in the database to allow their customers to confirm that J.Q. Public could actually be trusted and weren't doing that themselves.

The second, involves good old Microsoft warning the the next generation of Windows spyware inserts itself into the kernel using "rootkits". This potentially effectively negates all normal virus scanning software. Its a case of the virus scanning software asking "Do you have any viruses installed here?" and the system responding, "No sir, absolutely not sir, we wouldn't even consider retaining spyware, malware, viruses or worms on this system, sir!" Microsoft has some proposed solutions — boot up a copy of windows from a CD-ROM and compare the binaries to make sure they exactly match the binaries on your hard drive. And of course that is likely to happen because as we all know everyone in the world is running with the most recent MS security patches installed…

And finally, there is the nice little comment about the T-Mobile web site that allowed one cracker (Nick Jacobsen) to log into the T-Mobile web site (details) and not only download lots of information about the secret service agents investigating him but he also managed to access Paris Hilton's account and some of the pictures she had been taking on her phone.

Oh I am predicting such a bright future for nanosecurity experts…