New Technology – October 2017

I’ve run across some amazing new technologies that hopefully will make it to market someday.

Molecular Data Storage. A team of scientists at the University of Manchester recently made a breakthrough with a technology that allows high volumes of data to be stored within individual molecules. They’ve shown the ability to create high-density storage that could save 25,000 gigabits of data on something the size of a quarter.

They achieved the breakthrough using molecules that contain the element dysprosium (that’s going to send you back to the periodic table) cooled to a temperature of -213 centigrade. At that temperature the molecules retain magnetic alignment. Previously this has taken molecules cooled to a temperature of -259 C. The group’s goal is to find a way to do this at -196 C, the temperature of affordable liquid nitrogen, which would make this a viable commercial technology.

The most promising use of this kind of dense storage would be in large data centers since this storage is 100 times more dense than existing technologies. This would make data centers far more energy efficient while also speeding up computing. This kind of improvement since there are predictions that within 25 years data centers will be the largest user of electricity on the planet.

Bloodstream Electricity. Researchers at Fudan University in China have developed a way to generate electricity from a small device immersed in the bloodstream. The device uses stationary nanoscale carbon fibers that act like a tiny hydropower generator. They’ve named the device as ‘fiber-shaped fluidic nanogenerator” (FFNG).

Obviously there will need to be a lot of testing to make sure that the devices don’t cause problems like blood clots. But the devices hold great promise. A person could use these devices to charge a cellphone or wearable device. They could be used to power pacemakers and other medical devices. They could be inserted to power chips in farm animals that could be used to monitor and track them, or used to monitor wildlife.

Light Data Storage. Today’s theme seems to be small, and researchers at Caltech have developed a small computer chip that is capable of temporarily storing data using individual photons. This is the first team that has been able to reliably capture photons in a readable state on a tiny device. This is an important step in developing quantum computers. Traditional computers store data as either a 1 or a 0, but quantum computers store also can store data that is both a 1 and 0 simultaneously. This has shown to be possible with photons.

Quantum computing devices need to be small and operate at the nanoscale because they hold data only fleetingly until it can be processed, and nanochips can allow rapid processing. The Caltech device is small around the size of a red blood cell. The team was able to store a photon for 75 nanoseconds, and the ultimate goal is to store information for a full millisecond.

Photon Data Transmission. Researchers at the University of Ottowa have developed a technology to transmit a secure message using photons that are carrying more than one bit of information. This is a necessary step in developing data transmission using light, which would free the world from the many limitations of radio waves and spectrum.

Radio wave data transmission technologies send one bit of data at a time with each passing wavelength. Being able to send more than one bit of data with an individual proton creates the possibility of being able to send massive amounts of data through the open atmosphere. Scientists have achieved the ability to encode multiple bits with a proton in the lab, but is the first time it’s been done through the atmosphere in a real-world application.

The scientists are now working on a trial between two locations that are almost three miles apart and that will use a technology they call adaptive optics that can compensate for atmospheric turbulence.

There are numerous potential uses for the technology in our industry. This could be used to create ultrahigh-speed connections between a satellite and earth. It could be used to transmit data without fiber between locations with a clear line-of-sight. It could used as a secure method of communications with airplanes since small light beams can’t be intercepted or hacked.

The other use of the technology is to leverage the ability of photons to carry more than one bit of data to create a new kind of encryption that should be nearly impossible to break. The photon data transmission allows for the use of 4D quantum encryption to carry the keys needed to encrypt and decrypt packets, meaning that every data packet could use a different encryption scheme.

New Technology – December 2014

MagneticMapHere 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.