Here are some of the interesting new technologies I’ve run across in recent weeks:
Faster Data Speeds. Researchers at Aalborg University, MIT and Caltech have developed a new mathematically-based technique that can boost Internet data speeds up to 10 times. In a nutshell they code data packets and embed them within an equation. The equation can be solved when all of the packets are received at the other end.
While this sounds complicated, it is vastly faster than the current TCP/IP standard that is used to transmit packets. With TCP/IP once a data file begins to be transmitted the packets must be both sent and received in order, and they use the same data path over the Internet. If a packet is bad or gets lost the TCP/IP process slows down trying to find the missing packet. But under the new technique, different packets can take different paths on the Internet and it doesn’t matter if they are receive in the right order. They are reordered as the equation is solved.
In prototype trials this speeded up data transmissions from between 5 and 10 times. And transmissions are inherently safer because all of the packets don’t take the same path, making it a lot harder to intercept them. This technology can apply to any data transmission network. This is one of those changes that is a fundamental breakthrough because we have been using TCP/IP for decades and everything is geared to use it. But this has promise to become the new data transmissions standard.
Any Surface Can be an Antenna. Scientists at Southeast University in Nanjing China have developed a meta-material that can turn any hard surface into an antenna. They do this by embedding tiny U-shaped metallic components in the surface. These little Us act like what is called a Luneburg lens. Normal lenses are made out of one material and refract light in a consistent way. But a Luneburg lens is made up of multiple materials and can bend the light in multiple ways. For example, these materials can be used to focus on a point that is off to the side of the lens (something normal lenses can’t do) or they can radiate all incoming radiation in the same direction.
These meta-material surfaces can be designed to act as an antenna, meaning that almost any surface could become an antenna without having to have an external dish or receiver. Perhaps even more interesting, these same meta-materials can be used to scatter radiation which could make fighter jets invisible to radar.
Another Step Towards Photonic Chips. Researchers at Stanford have developed an optical link that uses silicon strips to bend light at right angles. This adds a 3D aspect into the chip topography which will help to accommodate the speeds needed by future faster computers. The can be reconfigured on the fly to use different light wavelengths making it possible to use the strips to change the nature of the computer as needed. This is one of the many steps that is needed to create a purely photonic computer chip.
Cooling With Magnets. Scientists in Canada and Bulgaria have developed a way to produce cooling using magnetic fields. This works by removing ferromagnetic materials from magnetic fields which causes them to cool down. They have found several substances that are efficient in heat transfer. Further, they are using water as the heat transfer fluid eliminating harmful hydrofluorocarbons. This can be used for refrigerators or air conditioners without the coils and pipes by just rotating the cooling element in a magnetic field.
Synthetic Gasoline out of Water. German company Sunfire GmbH has developed a process that can make synthetic fuel from water and carbon dioxide. The technology has been around for a long time and uses a process called the Fischer-Tropsch process. But the company has found a way to make the process far more efficient. The fuel that is produced has a high energy coefficient of 50%, similar to diesel fuel, compared to a much lower efficiency for gasoline between 14% and 30%. But the company thinks they can get the efficiency up to 70%.
The interesting thing about the technology is that it is carbon neutral since it takes the carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to create the fuel, as compared to pulling it out of the ground. The are also numerous benefits from having a more efficient. With this technology we can keep our gasoline cars without having to rely on the petroleum industry. It could help to take the politics out of oil and could let us cut back on the amount of petroleum we need to refine.
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The first one appears to be network coding. It’s not about faster data rates – at least not directly. It extends error correcting codes to cover message erasures (dropped packets), using path diversity. I’m aware of at least one start-up trying to commercialize it. Very cool technology. Despite a challenging path to adoption, it could become a game-changer in wireless.