Friday, August 29, 2008

The Texas Petawatt Laser Facility Dedicated by Kay Bailey Hutchison

The Texas Petawatt laser facility was dedicated yesterday with the President of UT, John Powers and the US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison standing up to provide thanks and remarks for this notable event.

The design is based on the Lawrence Livermore National Labs version. The lab can generate 190 joules compressing this energy to a pulse duration of less than 170 femtoseconds (a femtosecond is one quadrillionth of a second).

The goal of the project is to generate energy using chirped pulse amplification. Chirped pulse amplification originally came from the area of radar but has been extended into the field of optics for laser applications. The chirped pulse amplification method takes a short, low-energy laser pulse, stretches it in time by a factor of about 10,000, and amplifies it. It then compresses the final, amplified pulse back down to a duration near that of the initial laser pulse, according to this source. By generating such high energy the lab seeks to study the elements of matter in extreme conditions such as those found in supernovas and brown dwarfs.

In dedicating the Petawatt Laser one speaker used a quote from Edwin Hubble,
"Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science."
You can see a video of the internal lab at this YouTube site.

Best regards,
Hall T.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Wireless Power – New Steps from MIT

Last year I blogged on wireless power which used the technique of vibrating a piezoelectric circuit with an ultrasonic wave and converting that circuit vibration into mechanical power to charge a battery. A player in this field appears to be Powercast which doesn’t define clearly their technology but appears to use the piezo crystal technique.

Splashpower is a commercial example using magnetic coupling to transfer energy through wireless means. Implementations of this sort require near contact of the device and vibration source.

MIT now has a technique using two magnetic coils to create what is similar to magnetic inductive coupling. The difference is that the MIT solution uses resonance to transfer the energy. By using two coils that have the same resonate frequency they are able to transfer power through the air. In this case they are using a 10 MHz frequency to transfer over a distance of two meters.

While the efficiency is far from commercial in its application it highlights an area of research worth pursuing. It’ll be interesting to see where they take this.

Best regards,
Hall T.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

MIT Technology Review’s Top 10 Emerging Technologies for 2008

One of my favorite reads is MIT’s Technology Review because they truly write about emerging technology. While not all of the technologies make their way into widely used applications, the magazine’s Top 10 list serves as a bellwether on the direction of technology. This year’s list, includes:

1.Modeling Surprise
2.Probabilistic Chips
4.Wireless Power
5.Atomic Magnetometers
6.Offline web applications
7.Graphene Transistors
9.Reality Mining
10.Cellolytic Enzymes

Nanoradio sounds interesting. According to Wikipedia, it’s the implementation of radio on the nanoscale. Researchers at Berkeley were able to make a Nanoradio using carbon nanotubes to act as the antenna, tuner, and amplifier of a radio. It uses mechanical vibration rather than RF waves to capture the signal.

Commercial applications have attached themselves to the name. According to this company’s website it is the convergence of wireless with fixed telephony.

Best regards,
Hall T.

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Laws of Exponential Growth Drive Emerging Technology Adoption

We all know Moore’s Law which states that the number of transistors on a chip doubles every 2 years. This explains the growth of computing power at an exponential rate. This type of growth is not confined only to processing power but can be found in other areas of technology. There’s Metcalf’s Law which states the value of a network increases exponentially based on the number of nodes or users in the network. Then there’s Cooper’s Law which states that the data capacity of wireless communications doubles roughly every two years. Then there’s Kryder’s Law which states that the capacity of hard drives doubles every year – even faster than Moore’s Law.

This partially explains the advance of technology over the past 30 years. It’s not just the computation processing that has progressed but also the wireless, storage, and networking capabilities as well.

Best regards,
Hall T.