Friday, January 13, 2006

Measurement for Emerging Technologies --- The UK Initiative

While the USA is often seen as the leader in technology development, smaller developed countries sometimes make clear the direction technology is going. New Zealand is a typical bellwether country in adoption of new technologies. Due to its smaller size, it can roll out new technologies more quickly than the USA and so it’s interesting to watch what they do with early phase technologies.

In the area of Measurement the UK, has created an initiative called Measurement for Emerging Technologies (MET) supported by several National Labs.

They focus on five key areas:
- Advanced Materials
- Medical Technologies
- Communication Technologies
- Technologies for Energy and the Environment
- Manufacturing Technologies

Advanced materials includes Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs), polymer LEDS (PLEDS), and e-paper useful for organic and printable electronics, and displays. The key measurement issues here include:
1. Novel methods to characterize the chemical composition of organic multilayer materials using new C60 ion beam technology
2. Reliable and reproducible measurement methods for charge mobility of organic materials and conductivity of nano structured thin films
3. Improved measurement of the optical properties of display materials for product development and quality control.

A second initiative here seeks to develop measurement techniques for multifunctional materials (e.g. magnetic, electronic, optical, etc).
In the medical area new technologies related to tissue engineering and point of care diagnostics come to the front. For tissue engineering, the UK team proposes research into stem cells. To advance this effort, they are looking into biomarkers to identify and characterize biological indicators of a model cell therapy system and early tissue construct.
Diagnostics are moving from the lab to the point of care (POC) in the form of handheld devices. Glucose monitors and other test systems in the hands of the patient to use at home will become common. The MET proposes a series of projects for measuring the performance of such devices and calibrating the results to “gold standard” tests in the lab.

In the area of communications, MET seeks to investigate wireless sensor networks which consist of ad-hoc networks with fault-tolerant communications. There is a need for measuring communications robustness, capability, and reliability.

In the area of energy, MET focuses on fuel cells. The project focuses on the durability of fuel cell systems rather than manufacturing costs.

In the area of manufacturing, MET focuses on two initiatives: Micro and nano particulate measurement, and bioprocessing. Nano particulate measurements include size and distribution of particles under 100 nm. Bio-processing focuses on process improvements using genomics, proteomics, cell culture, fermentation, and bioengineering. The initiative seeks to develop new probe and measurement techniques to complement microfluidic and microarray processes.

Throughout this year, we’ll focus on each of these topics and discuss the underlying technology and advancements along the way.

Hall T.