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From: FUBHO11/1/2011 10:40:21 PM
   of 227
 

Micron / Samsung TSV stacked memory collaboration: a closer look

Samsung Electronics and Micron Technology have created an industry group to collaborate on the implementation of an open interface specification for a new memory technology called the Hybrid Memory Cube (HMC).






More infomation on the Hybrid Memory Cube (HMC) here.

The stated goal of the Consortium is to “…facilitate HMC Integration into a wide variety of systems, platforms and applications by defining an adoptable industry-wide interface that enables developers, manufacturers and enablers to leverage this revolutionary technology”.
Samsung has had a long list of research and commercial announcements since their initial indications that stacking DRAM was on their roadmap in 2006 [ see for example : “ Samsung presents new 3D TSV Packaging Roadmap”; “ New Samsung 8GB DDR3 module utilizes 3D TSV technology”; “ 3D Integration entering 2011”; “ Samsung Wide-IO Memory for Mobile Products: A Closer Look”; “ Samsung develops 32GB RDIMM using 3D TSV technology”.

Micron has been working for many years on TSV stacking technology and earlier this yearrevealed their intent to enter the stacked DRAM arena with what they called a hyper memory cube [see “ Hyper Memory Cube” 3DIC Technology].

It is thus of interest to understand how/why Samsung and Micron have joined forces in this new consortium.

TSV stacked memory with a controller layer addresses the so called "memory wall" problem. Essentially, DRAM performance today is constrained by the capacity of the data channel that sits between the memory and the processor. No matter how much faster the DRAM chip itself gets, the channel typically chokes on the capacity. Systems are not able to take advantage of new memory technologies because of this latency issue – they need more bandwidth.

The HMC which is now being called a “hybrid memory cube” is a stack of multiple thinned memory die sitting atop a logic chip bonded together using TSV. This greatly increases available DRAM bandwidth by leveraging the large number of I/O pins available through TSVs.
The controller layer in the HMC is the key to delivering the performance boost, allowing a higher speed bus from the controller chip to the CPU and the thinned and TSV connected memory layers mean memory can be packed more densely in a given volume. The HMC requires about 10% of the volume of a DDR3 memory module.

The interface in the control layer is totally different from current DDR implementations and thus the need for a consortium of the major players to standardize this interface.


Micron HMC : (A) schematic representation; (B) showing TSV; (C) the real module

It is claimed that the technology provides 15X the performance of a DDR3 module, uses 70% less energy per bit than DDR3 and uses 90% less space than todays RDIMMs. Current DRAM burns a huge amount of the power in laptops and phones. HMC draws less power because of the wider I/O capabilities and greater I/O bandwidth significantly cut the amount of energy needed per bit - ~ 10% of the energy per bit of a DDR3 memory module.



DIMM vs HMC: 160 Gb/sec Equivalence (Courtesy of Micron Technology)

The prototype shown by Micron and Intel is reportedly rated at 128 Gbps. In comparison, DDR3-1333 modules offer a bandwidth of 10.66 Gbps, current DDR3-1600 devices deliver 12.8 Gbps and DDR4-when commercialized reportedly will achieve 21.34 Gbps.



HMC performance vs todays memory (Courtesy of Intel developer forum 2011)

Micron and Samsung will work with fellow founding members Altera, Open Silicon and Xilinx and hopefully others, to bring the technology to market. Specification for the HMC will be finalized next year. Still to be worked out is who manufactures the HMC.

Looking a little closer we find that Intel has been working closely with Micron on this development. At the recent Intel designer forum (IDF 2011) Intel CTO Justin Rattner demonstrated the Hybrid Memory Cube towards the end of his keynote lecture which can be seen here.

It is not clear at this point whether Intel owns part of the IP or not and it is not clear why Intel is not a member of the Micron / Samsung HMC consortium, but Intel certainly had high praise for the technology which they claim will allow them to continue to “improve the interconnect within computer systems so that communication between the microprocessor, DRAM, storage and peripherals is faster and lower power with each successive generationRattenr also stated that “This hybrid-stacked DRAM, known as the Hybrid Memory Cube (HMC), is the world’s highest bandwidth DRAM device with sustained transfer rates of 1 terabit per second. It is also the most energy efficient DRAM ever built. “

The industry always needs multiple sources for a broad adoption. The cross license agreements that exist between Samsung and Micron [ here] and Samsung and Intel [ here] probably made the formation of this consortium easier to happen.

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From: FUBHO11/2/2011 8:06:13 PM
   of 227
 
The end of an era: Internet Explorer drops below 50% of Web usage

http://arstechnica.com/microsoft/news/2011/11/the-end-of-an-era-internet-explorer-drops-below-50-percent-of-web-usage.ars
By Peter Bright | Published about 11 hours ago

A couple of interesting things happened in the world of Web browser usage during October. The more significant one is that Internet Explorer's share of global browser usage dropped below 50 percent for the first time in more than a decade. Less significant, but also notable, is that Chrome for the first time overtook Firefox here at Ars, making it the technologist's browser of choice.

Internet Explorer still retains a majority of the desktop browser market share, at 52.63 percent, a substantial 1.76 point drop from September. However, desktop browsing makes up only about 94 percent of Web traffic; the rest comes from phones and tablets, both markets in which Internet Explorer is all but unrepresented. As a share of the whole browser market, Internet Explorer has only 49.58 percent of users. Microsoft's browser first achieved a majority share in—depending on which numbers you look at—1998 or 1999. It reached its peak of about 95 percent share in 2004, and has been declining ever since.





Net Applications


Where has that market share gone? In the early days, it all went Firefox's way. These days, it's Chrome that's the main beneficiary of Internet Explorer's decline, and October was no exception. Chrome is up 1.42 points to 17.62 percent of the desktop browser share. Firefox is basically unchanged, up 0.03 points to 22.51 percent. Safari grew 0.41 points to 5.43. Opera has been consistently falling over the last few months, and it dropped again in October, down 0.11 points to 1.56 percent.





Net Applications


In spite of Android sales now outstripping iOS sales, iOS users are far more abundant on the Web. Mobile browsing is currently a much smaller market, with 5.5 percent of Web usage conducted on smartphones and tablets. This small market is also a lot more volatile than the desktop market. Mobile Safari was up by 6.58 points last month to 62.17 points. The biggest single loser was the Android browser, dropping 2.91 points to 13.12 percent. Symbian, BlackBerry and Opera Mini also registered falls, down 2.15 points to 2.55 percent, 0.64 points to 2.04 percent, and 0.27 points to 18.65 percent, respectively.





Net Applications


The trend graph says it all: Firefox's share is flat, with Chrome driving all Internet Explorer's losses.





Net Applications


Safari's long-term dominance in mobile is clear. Also clear is that Android's sales growth isn't at all reflected in its Web usage.





Net Applications


The upgrade trends show a familiar story. Chrome users, who for the most part receive updates automatically, switch to new versions quickly and efficiently. Chrome's "tail" is growing ever longer, though, with about 2 percent of desktop browser users—about 14 percent of Chrome users—using old versons. That number is growing every month, and it appears to be resilient.





Net Applications


Firefox retains its clean split between people on the new, rapid release versions (4-9) and those on the old stable version (3.6). The rapid release users are upgrading fairly quickly, though the cut-overs are neither as rapid nor as automated as those of Chrome. However, almost a quarter of Firefox users are sticking with version 3.6. Until and unless Mozilla produces a stable edition with long-term support, this is unlikely to change.





Net Applications


Internet Explorer, however, continues to see major usage of old versions. Internet Explorer 6 and 7, which aren't current on any supported version of Windows, are still the version used by 25.4 percent of Internet Explorer users, 13.38 percent of desktop users as a total. These are people that can upgrade to either Internet Explorer 8 (if they're using Windows XP) or Internet Explorer 9 (if they're using Windows Vista), but who have, for some reason, refused to do so. Internet Explorer 8 users appear to be switching to Internet Explorer 9 at a slow but steady rate, with the former down about a point, and the latter up by about a point.








The browser usage here at Ars Technica continues to be unusual, with Firefox and Chrome over-represented on the desktop, and Android showing a much stronger performance among mobile user than is seen on the wider Web.

A compelling case can be made that the causes for these two phenomena—Internet Explorer's decline, and Chrome's growth—are closely related. They represent the influence of the computer geek.

Ars Technica's unusual usage figures are not surprising when considering its audience: visitors to the site tend to be technologists and early adopters: Ars readers were among the first to switch to using Firefox as their browser of choice, and similarly they're leading the way with Chrome. While Internet Explorer's decline, Firefox's flatlining, and Chrome's growth have happened faster at Ars than the broader Web, the underlying trends are the same.

This is perhaps not surprising. Ars has more than its fair share of IT decision-makers, both in corporate environments and home environments (I'm sure that many of us know the perils of being the "computer guy" roped in to fix the problems plaguing friends' and family's machine). It might be a few months before a Chrome-using Ars-reading geek starts to recommend it to friends and family, or a few years before he gets approval to roll the browser out across the company whose computers he maintains, but the migration will happen. Technology decisions are usually made by technology people—and technology people read Ars, ditched Internet Explorer for Firefox a few years ago, and are now switching to Chrome.

Firefox appealed to the geek demographic by offering tabs, a wealth of extensions, and active development; geeks enjoy new things to play with, and a browser that's frozen in time, as Internet Explorer 6 was, holds no appeal. Chrome in turn offered a focus on performance and stability, even more active development, and the cachet of being built by Google. Chrome was also quick to offer obvious but useful things such as built-in, robust session restoration, and a useful new tab page (something Internet Explorer 9 replicated, and which is currently in beta for Firefox). Bundling Flash also removed a potential headache, by ensuring that a potentially buggy plugin was kept current and up-to-date. On top of all this, Google has been vocal in pushing its view of how the Web should work, with the VP8 video codec, the SPDY Web protocol, and most recently, the Dart scripting language.

A browser that doesn't appeal to this demographic won't receive the benefit of this kind of on-the-ground advocacy. Mozilla is working to bring some of Chrome's appealing features to Firefox, with its new development schedule and future features such as tab isolation, and though this is currently causing some headaches—there are continued issues with extension compatibility—Firefox's market share is for the most part holding steady. Once Mozilla can get rid of the annoying wrinkles and make updates as pain-free as Chrome's, it might start to win back the attention of the techie demographic, especially if Mozilla can come up with a viable IT-friendly long-term support option.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is strenuously avoiding this same demographic. Internet Explorer lacks small but significant creature comforts such as resizeable text boxes, built-in spell checking, and session restoration, and while it does offer certain extensibility points, they fall a long way short of those offered by Firefox, and as such, its extension ecosystem is a whole lot less rich. It's not enough for Internet Explorer to be a solid mainstream browser: the less technically engaged users who switched to Firefox because a trusted authority told them to aren't going to spontaneously switch back to Internet Explorer, even if it is good enough for their needs. They're going to wait until their techie friend next fixes their PC and tells them that they should consider switching to Internet Explorer because it's "better," just as they did for Firefox and Chrome.

Internet Explorer is still an important browser, with a userbase large enough that few developers can afford to ignore—though sites that don't need global appeal may well be able to safely ignore Internet Explorer 6—and at current rates it will remain important for a few years yet. But until and unless Microsoft makes its browser appeal to the influential geek demographic, it looks as if Internet Explorer has nowhere to go but down.

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From: FUBHO11/25/2011 12:44:24 AM
   of 227
 
TSMC seeing tight capacity for 28nm processes
Cage Chao, Taipei; Jessie Shen, DIGITIMES [Friday 25 November 2011]

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) continues to see orders heat up for advanced 28nm technology, despite a general slowdown in the semiconductor industry, according to industry sources. Order visibility has stretched to about six months, said the sources.

TSMC is expected to see 28nm processes account for more than 2% of company revenues in the fourth quarter of 2011. The proportion will expand further to over 10% in 2012, as more available capacity coupled with rising customer demand boost the output, the sources indicated.

Wafer output using 28nm processes is projected to top 20,000 units a month by the end of 2011, and will expand significantly in 2012 when new capacity at Fab 15 comes online, the sources noted. Fab 15, TSMC's third 12-inch fab, will begin volume production in the first quarter of 2012, and ultimately raise its monthly capacity to the designed level of 100,000 wafers per month.

Altera, AMD, Nvidia, Qualcomm and Xilinx have all contracted TSMC to manufacture their 28nm products. Broadcom, LSI Logic and STMicroelectronics reportedly are among potential clients for TSMC's 28nm technology.

TSMC chairman and CEO Morris Chang remarked during the company's most-recent investors meeting that sales from 28nm process technology would play an important source of company growth.


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From: FUBHO12/6/2011 10:15:41 AM
   of 227
 
IBM’s 3 big chip breakthroughs explained

By Stacey Higginbotham Dec. 5, 2011, 10:32am PT No Comments


inShare34


IBM has made three breakthroughs that could help chips continue following Moore’s Law. Monday at the IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting, IBM showed off the first racetrack memory device that delivers an entirely new means to get electrons to hold data, as well as two materials breakthroughs that could lead to faster chips and even open up new spectrum bands that would be useful for delivering mobile broadband.

Racetrack memory: IBM’s racetrack memory offers the ability to store massive quantities of information like hard drives do but has no moving parts like solid state drives do, so it’s faster. It’s called a racetrack because it pushes electrons around a wire kind of like a car goes around a racetrack. After years of research, IBM said Monday it can make such devices.

This still isn’t mass production, and the big challenge here is making it power-efficient (driving those electronics through the racetrack requires a big current), but it could provide a means to a new type of faster computing. As IBM said in its release, “This breakthrough could lead to a new type of data-centric computing that allows massive amounts of stored information to be accessed in less than a billionth of a second.”

Here is a video I did back in 2010 at IBM’s Spintronics lab that explains racetrack memory and how it relates to storing more data that can be read faster.








Graphene: IBM also made two materials breakthroughs, beginning with a way to build chips using a carbon-based material called graphene. Graphene could offer better wireless chips because it could allow chips to deliver data over higher frequency bands, and also could lead to long-lasting batteries and breakthroughs in clean energy. Taking advantage of higher frequencies means we could use more of the airwaves and help assuage our growing demand for wireless broadband.

The challenge with graphene is figuring out how to use it in today’s chipmaking fabrication plants, to avoid the multi-billion-dollar costs associated with building such a plant solely to produce graphene chips. IBM said today that it had solved this problem– building a graphene-based chip that is compatible with conventional (CMOS) chipmakingtechnologies.

Carbon nanotubes: The carbon nanotube announcement is a bit more out there, with researchers demonstrating the first transistor with channel lengths that are smaller than 10 nanometers built using carbon nanotubes. The channel length refers to how deep the lines on a chip are etched, and the goal is to make those smaller and smaller in order to fit more chips on a wafer and continue pushing Moore’s Law forward.

But as transistor channel lengths shrink, conventional chipmaking technologies are running into a variety of problems, which is why Intel made such a big deal of its 3-D transistorsearlier this year. However, it’s not clear if that advance will continue below 11 nanometers. Of course, as researchers seek ever smaller chips, some are abandoning the idea of the transistor completely with technologies such as DNA computing, Quantum computing and even brain-like computers. For the time being, IBM’s carbon nanotubes are still in that commercialization phase along with these other efforts, so don’t break out the bubbly just yet.

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From: FUBHO12/8/2011 8:19:21 PM
   of 227
 
ReRAM Gains Momentum in ‘Universal Memory’ Race

By Mark LaPedus, SemiMD senior editor

Resistive RAMs (ReRAMs) are one of several next-generation candidates to succeed NAND flash or other memory type, but there are material, production and cost issues associated with the technology.

Elpida, Hynix, IMEC, Micron, Panasonic, Samsung, Sharp and others are working on ReRAM. In fact, Micron and Sony Corp. have quietly forged an alliance in ReRAM. “Micron and Sony have entered into a joint development program (JDP) to co-develop a new non-volatile memory focused on a conductive bridge-type random access memory, ReRAM,” according to a spokesman for Micron.

“Micron entered into the JDP with Sony as part of the company’s regular research and development efforts that involve, among other work, researching various emerging memory technologies,” according to the spokesman.

And this week, IMEC, Macronix, Panasonic and others presented ReRAM papers at IEDM. ReRAM is one of several “universal memory” technologies. Phase-change, MRAM, FRAM and others fall into that category. They are trying to replace DRAM, NAND, NOR or all three. But the problem is the next-generation memory types are still not in production despite years of R&D. They are expensive to make and difficult to scale.

ReRAM is a product that holds potential to replace NAND. “Current charge storage based flash memory technologies are believed to face scaling limitations beyond 18nm,” according to IMEC. “To overcome these, a variety of innovative cell and memory concepts are investigated worldwide. One of the most promising memory concepts is the resistive RAM or RRAM. It is based on the electronic switching of a resistor element material between two stable (low/high) resistive states. The major strengths of RRAM technology are its potential density and speed.”

There are challenges. “However, even if many materials reported to date exhibit good resistive switching properties, the success of a future RRAM technology depends critically on integrability into a conventional, underlying baseline technology, with cost as a key factor,” according to IMEC.




Top-view SEM picture of IMEC's processed ReRAM cell (Source: IMEC)


At IEDM, IMEC presented the world’s smallest, fully-functional HfO2-based RRAM cell, with an area of less than 10x10nm². Imec’s RRAM cell features a novel Hf/HfOx resistive element stack. It couples a cell area of less than 10x10nm² with a reliability endurance of more than 109 cycles.

The cell has fast nanosecond-range on/off switching times at low-voltages. It has a large resistive window (>50) and shows no closure of the on/off window after functioning at 200°C for 30 hours. The device even remained operating failure-free functioning for 30 hours with a thermal stress of 250°C. The switching energy per bit is below 0.1pJ, and AC operating voltages are well below 3V. With these characteristics, IMEC’s cell meets the major requirements for device-level nonvolatile memory.

These results were obtained in cooperation with IMEC’s key partners in its core CMOS programs Globalfoundries, Intel, Micron, Panasonic, Samsung, TSMC, Elpida, Hynix, Fujitsu and Sony.

Another IEDM paper was given by the Nanyang Technological University, Institute of Microelectronics, Peking University, A*STAR, National University of Singapore, GlobalFoundries, Soitec and Fudan University: “We report a high performance, forming-free and self-rectifying unipolar HfOx based RRAM fabricated by fab-available materials. Highlight of the demonstrated RRAM include 1) CMOS technology friendly materials and process, 2) excellent self-rectifying behavior in LRS (>103 @ 1 V), 3) forming-free unipolar resistive switching, 4) wide read-out margin for high density cross-point memory devices (number of word-line >106 for worst case condition).”

The big memory houses are also exploring ReRAM. Last year, for example, Hynix Semiconductor Inc. entered into a joint development agreement with HP to develop memristor technology in the form of ReRAM. The two companies will jointly develop new materials and process integration to deliver ReRAM to market by transferring the memristor technology from research to commercial development. Hynix will implement the technology in its R&D fab.

The memristor, short for “memory resistor,” requires less energy to operate, can retain information even when power is off, and is faster than present solid-state storage technologies.

Meanwhile, Micron, along with Sony, are exploring ReRAM. The move into ReRAM represents Micron’s latest effort in next-generation memories. The company entered the phase-change memory race, when it recently acquired Numonyx, a supplier of NOR flash devices.

Numoynx, formerly the NOR flash units of Intel and STMicroelectronics, was developing phase-change memory. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. is also separately developing phase-change memory.

Earlier this year, Unity Semiconductor Corp. entered into a joint development agreement with Micron. Micron invested in Unity. For the last eight years, Unity has been developing CMOx, a next-generation memory type. CMOx is designed to scale beyond the limitations of the legacy transistor technology currently used in NAND flash memory.

More recently, Micron rolled out the Hybrid Memory Cube (HMC), a 3D DRAM technology for servers and networking systems. In November, Micron and Singapore’s A*STAR Data Storage Institute (DSI) jointly announced that the two companies entered into an agreement to collaborate on the development of spin transfer torque magnetic random access memory (STT-MRAM), a promising alternative non-volatile memory technology for next-generation storage.

As part of the collaboration, Micron and DSI will invest in joint research to develop high-density STT-MRAM devices during the next three years. Meanwhile, Samsung and Hynix are developing STT-MRAM. In fact, Samsung recently bought Grandis, a developer of STT-MRAM. Toshiba and others are also exploring the technology.

Micron is also looking at all next-generation memories. “Considering Micron’s previous high visibility acquisition of Intel’s phase change memory (PCM) program, these new announcement are likely part of the regular activity of all memory companies to keep abreast of any potentially critical new technologies,” said Bob Merritt, an analyst with Convergent Semicondctors LLC, in a blog.

“However, Micron already has a long history in ReRAM that can be traced back to their 2002 licensing of Axon Technologies’ Programmable Metallization Cell (PMC) technology,” he said.

“While the public perception of memory technologies tends to assume that no new technology will be acceptable until it reaches the same cost per bit of DRAM or NAND, we believe that the continued interest in these new and emerging technologies is based on finding other market entry points and an expectation of providing high value to new applications,” he added.

Axon Technologies Corp. has also been trying to commercialize PMC. Adesto Technologies, which is backed by Applied Materials and others, is developing conductive bridge RAM (CBRAM) memory technology. CBRAM was originally developed at Arizona State University and is also known as PMC.

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From: FUBHO1/29/2012 6:35:08 PM
   of 227
 
Davos wowed by device that reads 'code of life' in hours

January 29, 2012 by Dave Clark

medicalxpress.com 
lifetechnologies.com 
invitrogen.com 

A miracle machine that cracks the code of life within hours and could revolutionise healthcare was the talk of Davos, grabbing the imagination of a forum otherwise shrouded in gloom.


Patients will no longer have to wait weeks to know if they have cancer and their doctors will know immediately what kind of disease they have, allowing them to target therapies precisely and to avoid harmful delays or mistakes.


Health officials confronted by superbug outbreaks will be able to identify the bug's strain and begin planning treatment within hours rather than days or weeks, potentially saving thousands of lives.

Soon, researchers in the developing world will take portable DNA sequencers into the field to identify new viruses and verify water quality.

And police investigators will be able to develop a suspect's DNA profile as quickly as their fictional counterparts do in glossy television dramas, while commandos on the battlefield will identify the bodies of friend and foe.

The man behind the revolution is Jonathan Rothberg, master biotechnician and CEO of Ion Torrent, owned by US firm Life Technologies, which produces the Ion Proton -- the world's first desktop semiconductor-based gene sequencer.

Business and political leaders at this year's Global Economic Forum were gripped by pessimism over the economy, but -- at a summit boycotted by Mick Jagger -- Rothberg was received in Davos like a rockstar of science.

"He's a genius. I want to buy his machines," Sami Sagol, a leading Israeli neuroscientist and research sponsor, told passengers on a minibus ferrying delegates through the snowbound streets of the Swiss resort.

"I was sat next to him at dinner. He's amazing," declared a young investment banker swigging beer in a nearby bar, admitting he had found Davos' scientific programme more uplifting than the headline economic debates.

The man himself, geekily excited in a woolly ski hat and loud striped shirt, bursts with enthusiasm for a machine that has brought the once laborious task of gene-sequencing to the era of the semi-conductor microchip.

With no false modesty, he compares the revolution to the transition from the era of room-sized computing machines to desktop microprocessors, and predicts that his technology will follow the computer into laptop and hand-held forms.

"It's the first machine that can do an entire human genome for less than 1,000 dollars. It's the first machine than can read the genome in two hours," he told AFP in an interview in Davos.


"Previously machines would cost more than half a million dollars and it would take weeks to get information on your genome," he said. A genome is the complete DNA code, unique to each individual, which shapes our organism.

"The Proton instrument is designed to do discovery -- find new genes that are involved in cancer, find new genes that are involved in autism, find new genes that are involved in diabetes," he said.

"But it's also designed to be used in a clinical practice to make sure that you give the person the right medicine or the right medicine to the right person. And to help diagnose new born children with ailments."

The Desktop Ion Proton was making its European debut, but the technology is not a pie in the sky dream. It is based on a larger predecessor that is already the world's best selling sequencer.

"Last year in Germany there was a terrible outbreak and a number of people died," he said, referring to a enterohaemorrhagic E.coli (EHEC) infection from contaminated food that killed 52 people and left more than 4,000 sick.

"It was the precursor to this machine and one of the first chips we made that decoded that E.coli outbreak and allowed us to understand that superbug, track that superbug and have a diagnostic for that superbug."

Two factors make the Ion Proton unique. It is the only machine to use a semiconductor chip to sequence genes, previously researchers had to study DNA strands under what were effectively powerful microscopes.

Now, DNA samples can be dropped onto a microchip a couple of centimetres (one inch) across, slotted into the Proton like a SIM card into a mobile, and two hours later the enter six-billion-letter code of life is known.

The second factor is size. The current model squats on a desk like a photocopier and, as a scalable device, it will one day shrink, even to the size of a handheld like the science fiction Star Trek "tricorder".

"So investigators in Africa have asked me for machines that they can use to monitor wild game that's caught to see if there's any new viruses coming in that can interact with man for the first time," said Rothberg.

But, while its enthusiastic inventor foresees dozens of tasks for his machine, its inspiration and initial core use will be in healthcare.

"When my son was born, he was rushed to the newborn intensive care unit because he had difficulty breathing," said Rothberg, recounting the personal trauma that led directly to his breakthrough.

"At that moment I realised that I was less interested in the human genome as an abstract concept and I was completely interested in my son's genome.


"I realised two things: I cared about my son Noah's genome and I needed a technology that scales. And during the time he was intensive care I had the idea to move sequencing to a massively parallel substrate, a chip."

Noah recovered, his disease was not genetic after all, but once the Ion Proton is common in world hospitals, other parents will have a shorter wait.

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From: FUBHO1/31/2012 6:09:30 PM
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A mazon S3 Reports Staggering Growth in 2011

By Marshall Kirkpatrick posted by Glenn Peterson
ReadWrite Cloud
January 30, 2012 9:00 PM

Amazon Web Services just reported jaw-dropping growth in the number of objects stored in Amazon S3 year over year.

"As of the end of 2011, there are 762 billion (762,000,000,000) objects in Amazon S3. We process over 500,000 requests per second for these objects at peak times," AWS Evangelist Jeff Bar wrote on the company's blog tonight. The company reported 262 billion objects in storage in Q4 of 2010. "This represents year-over-year growth of 192%; S3 grew faster last year than it did in any year since it launched in 2006." Independent analysts say this is indicative of the growth of the cloud in general and of Amazon's striking dominance of the market.



"Stunning, isn't it?" Randy Bias, co-founder of Cloudscaling said to me about the news by email. "From 150% to almost 200% growth. That's crazy. 500,000 requests per second at peak. Blows my mind." Bias says these are the big take-aways.

- "S3 growth is accelerating, not just increasing. If other AWS services are accelerating similarly then we will see a major shift this year in AWS usage and likely revenue reporting in SEC filings.

- "This is the largest storage system in the world bar none; there isn't anything like it anywhere else that I'm aware of unless it's some secret government/NSA vault.

- "Check my math, but at 1Kbyte average per object, that would be 780PB of disk storage:

- 762,000,000,000 * 1024 (traditional KB)

- 780288000000000 / 1000 (KB for disk) / 1000 (MB for disk) / 1000 (GB for disk) / 1000 (PB for disk) [ disk capacity is in even 1,000 increments, not multiples of 2 ]

- That's 780PB, but unclear if that's replicated or unreplicated; probably replicated, which means 260PB of data with 3x replication.

- Average of 1Kbyte is probably too low.

- At 100TB per storage system that is 7,222 storage *servers*, each with 36 spindles at 3TB each; that might not be their configuration, but even if it's 2 or 3 times as dense, that is a *lot* of storage servers.

- At those numbers, it's a 26M/month business and a 300M/year run rate, which means it's still roughly 30% of AWS revenue with EC2 being most of the rest.

"I don't understand how people can't see this kind of thing and just have their jaw hit the floor. People are paying for this. At this rate they will have 2 TRILLION objects in another year and it will be a $600M/year business."

What's behind such numbers? Widespread technology change.

"What we are seeing is the geometric explosion of cloud growth from multiple points," Constellation Research analyst Ray Wang told ReadWriteWeb.

"First, broad based adoption driven by consumerization of IT. Second, the shift from transaction to engagement - we have social, mobile, analytical, and other unstructured data. Third, true elasticity has come to fruition as the promise of the cloud gets delivered. People are taking to the cloud because the tools are easy to use and they don't have time or money to provision expensive servers. Instead they are using elasticity, which was the original premise of AWS. We could see it happening last year but this leap in growth is tremendous."


Dave Linthicum, CTO and Founder of Blue Mountain Labs, says Amazon's dominance is clear. "The rapid growth of AWS S3 is pretty much in-line with what I'm seeing in enterprises adopting cloud computing. The reality is that they are the 800 pound gorilla, and continue to gain weight. Unless they do something stupid, they are the storage provider to beat."

Ray Wang concurs. "There are only a few companies in the world who can compete with Amazon," he told me by IM tonight.

"It has established itself as one of the leading contenders. The barriers of entry are high. Very few folks can afford to build the data centers, the software infrastructure, and momentum to be profitable. Amazon is in the same league as Google, Microsoft, IBM, etc. The only other folks that could do it if they woke up are the telco's - but we've all been telling them that for years. They haven't paid attention."


Amazon's Barr explains the growth thusly. "Although we definitely made it easier for you to delete objects using Multi-Object Deletion and Object Expiration, we also gave you plenty of ways to upload new objects using Multipart upload, AWS Direct Connect, and AWS Import/Export," he wrote in his blog post. He concluded by noting that running a system so complex is hard work and pointed to open jobs at AWS.

readwriteweb.com 

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From: FUBHO2/17/2012 5:16:52 PM
   of 227
 
Oxford Nanopore unveils mini-DNA reader

By Clive Cookson, Science Editor

February 17, 2012 5:09 pm

A young British company has made a powerful entry into one of the fastest-moving and most competitive fields of technology – gene sequencing for science and medicine.



Oxford Nanopore, set up in 2005, unveiled on Friday the world’s first miniature DNA sequencer, small enough to fit in the hand.



The company says its technology reads the four biochemical letters of DNA more quickly and less expensively than the established companies in the field.

The corporate leaders in DNA sequencing are two US companies: Illumina, for which Roche of Switzerland launched a $5.7bn hostile bid last month, and Life Technologies, which made a splash with its recent announcement of a machine that could read a whole human genome – 3bn DNA letters – for just $1,000 in less than a day.

What makes Oxford Nanopore’s “strand sequencing” so effective is that it reads the chemical letters on the DNA directly, one by one, as the molecule ratchets through a microscopic nanopore – a round protein structure with a hole in the middle. Each letter is recognised by its distinct electrical signal.

One advantage of the technique is that it can read much longer strands of DNA than other sequencing methods. Another, said Clive Brown, chief technologist of Oxford Nanopore, is that it requires less sample preparation – making it possible for a doctor to read a patient’s DNA directly from a blood sample in the surgery.

Oxford Nanopore said its MINION sequencer, the size of a USB memory stick, would be available commercially this year at a price below $900.

Continues...

ft.com 

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From: Glenn Petersen3/3/2012 4:45:27 AM
   of 227
 
For iRobot, the Future Is Getting Closer

By CHRISTOPHER DREW
Neew York Times
Published: March 2, 2012


iRobot
The iRobot 310 SUGV can gather information in dangerous conditions and lift up to 15 pounds
__________

BEDFORD, Mass. — Ever since Rosey the Robot took care of “The Jetsons” in the early 1960s, the promise of robots making everyday life easier has been a bit of a tease.

Rosey, a metallic maid with a frilly apron, “kind of set expectations that robots were the future,” said Colin M. Angle, the chief executive of the iRobot Corporation. “Then, 50 years passed.”

Now Mr. Angle’s company is trying to do Rosey one better — with Ava, a 5-foot-4 assistant with an iPad or an Android tablet for a brain and Xbox motion sensors to help her get around. But no apron, so far.



With Ava, left, iRobot is trying to do Rosey the Robot of "The Jetsons" one better. Ava will have an iPad or Android tablet for a brain and Xbox motion sensors to help her get around.
____________________

Over the last decade, iRobot, based outside Boston, has emerged as one of the nation’s top robot makers. It has sold millions of disc-shaped Roomba vacuum cleaners, and its bomb disposal robots have protected soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, with Ava, it is using video and computing advances to create robots that can do office work remotely and perhaps one day handle more of the household chores.

In late January, iRobot expanded a partnership with InTouch Health, a small company that enables doctors at computer screens to treat stroke victims and other patients from afar. And this week, Texas Instruments said it would supply iRobot with powerful new processors that could help the robots be more interactive and gradually lower their cost.

“We have a firm belief that the robotics market is on the cusp of exploding,” said Remi El-Ouazzane, vice president and general manager of the Texas Instruments unit that makes the processors.

Mr. Angle’s hopes for broadening the industry’s appeal are shared by other robot companies, which have struggled to expand beyond industrial and military uses, toys and other niche products.

Programming robots to mimic human behavior remains difficult. But the ability to use the tablets as simple touch-screen controllers is attracting more software developers, who are envisioning applications that could enhance videoconferencing, provide mobile security guards and sales clerks and help the elderly live longer in their homes.

And with their own innovations now at the center of the effort, the technology giants — Apple, Google, Microsoft and the semiconductor companies — are also pushing things along.

Mr. Angle, 44, who has been at the forefront of robotics since he was a student at M.I.T., said Ava “is one of the things in our pipeline that I am personally most excited about.” But he cautioned that the robot was still a prototype and would not report for any actual work duties before next year.

Mr. Angle estimates that the early versions of Ava will cost in the tens of thousands of dollars, high enough that the company is focusing first on medical applications with InTouch Health, based in Santa Barbara, Calif.

InTouch already has robots with video hookups in many smaller hospitals, and they have saved lives in emergencies when specialists could not get there in person. But the doctors have to drive and manipulate the robots with joysticks to see the patients.

Mr. Angle said that a tap on Ava’s tablet screen could dispatch it to the right room and free doctors from the more mundane controls. Its mapping system, based partly on Microsoft’s 3-D motion sensor for the Xbox, could enable the robot to hustle to the patient’s bedside without slamming into obstacles.

As time goes on, Mr. Angle says he thinks that businessmen could use the robots as proxies at meetings, speaking and watching wirelessly through Ava’s headgear and even guiding her into the hall for private chats. And if the sticker price eventually gets down to consumer levels, as he thinks it will, Ava could, with arms added, dispense pills to baby boomers or even fetch them cocktails.

Still, given how long other robotic breakthroughs have taken, Wall Street is not sure what to make of all this yet.

As sales of its vacuums and military robots grew, iRobot’s earnings shot up to $40 million last year from $756,000 in 2008, and its stock surged to $38 a share from $7. But with pressure mounting for budget cuts at the Pentagon, Mr. Angle told analysts last month that the company’s military sales could drop by as much as 20 percent this year, and the stock quickly tumbled to $25 to $26 a share.

The company had laid off 55 of the 657 employees it had last fall in anticipation of a slowdown in military sales in the United States, and the head of that division departed last month amid concerns that iRobot had not picked up enough military sales to foreign governments.

Frank Tobe, an independent analyst who publishes the Robot Report online, said that until Ava was equipped to pick up and handle objects, the robot would have limited uses. But he said the partnership with InTouch gave iRobot a much-needed toehold in health care. iRobot plans to invest $6 million in InTouch, and Mr. Tobe said by combining their technologies, the companies could produce devices at a much lower cost and attract more business.

IRobot also faces growing competition from robotics companies in Asia and Europe, many subsidized by governments that believe the innovations will help push their economies forward. But analysts say iRobot has a number of crucial patents. And the company has a strong track record in finding practical uses for robots and getting them to market.

Mr. Angle’s first robot, built in the late 1980s with Rodney Brooks, an M.I.T. professor, was Genghis, a buglike creature that ended up in the Smithsonian. Powered by microprocessors with only 156 bytes of memory, it could walk on six legs. It also showed that robots could be programmed to react to just a few basic rules.

That project piqued Mr. Angle’s interest in building simple, practical robots. He, Dr. Brooks and another M.I.T. graduate, Helen Greiner, started iRobot in 1991, he said, “to make robots that would touch people’s lives on a daily basis.”

But that goal proved harder than they expected, and a decade of trial and error followed. Standing by a display here at the company’s headquarters, Mr. Angle pointed to some of its early efforts, including a robotic doll for Hasbro called My Real Baby and little wooly blue and orange creatures that could scurry and hide.

But, he said, “from the very first moments of iRobot, whenever I would introduce myself to someone on an airplane or wherever, the response nearly 100 percent of the time was not ‘How are you?’ but ‘When are you going to clean my floors?’ They wanted Rosey from ‘The Jetsons.’ ”

“So very, very early on, we knew cleaning was a great application, if only we could figure out how to do it,” he added.

But it was not until 2002 that everything came together, with the introduction of the Roomba vacuum and an urgent military demand for robots that could check out dangerous caves in Afghanistan. Those 50- to 60-pound robots, called Packbots, also turned out to be critical in Iraq in disarming roadside bombs and acting as sentries at checkpoints.

Since then, sales of new versions of the Roomba, which cost $350 to $600 each, have taken off, especially overseas. The company has started selling robots for cleaning bathroom floors, called Scooba, for $280 to $500. It has also developed lightweight robots with video cameras that soldiers can toss into windows before storming a building. They include a 30-pound model and a tiny new five-pounder, called FirstLook, now being tested in Afghanistan. And even if their orders slow, top Pentagon officials remain committed to robots to save money and soldiers’ lives.

The company’s goal, Mr. Angle said, continues to be building robots that can operate more autonomously or provide “remote presence” — tech-speak for enabling people to be in two places at one time.

(Mr. Angle knows something of that language. After he appeared in 2008 as an M.I.T. professor in a film with Kevin Spacey called “21,” the director said he had gotten just what he wanted from Mr. Angle. “You know, you just can’t coach geek.”)

Mr. Angle said he, too, was looking forward to the day when robots like Ava would have arms and even keener sight.

“I like the idea that if you have a party, the robot can recognize faces, take drink orders, go back to the kitchen, load it up and then go back and find those people and deliver the drinks,” he said. “I think that would be awesome.”

nytimes.com 

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From: FUBHO3/19/2012 2:25:10 PM
   of 227
 
Chip Makers Mull Plans to Insert DSA at 14nm

By Mark LaPedus and David Lammers

semimd.com 

Faced with the dreaded multi-patterning era and delays with extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography, chip makers are taking a harder look at a technology that could save the day for the industry: directed self-assembly (DSA). In fact, several IC vendors are mulling plans to implement DSA at the 14nm node or so — an insertion point that is sooner than previously thought, according to one DSA materials supplier.

For some time, there has been a consensus that the IC industry would use 193nm lithography and multi-patterning at 14nm. Then, at 10nm, the IC industry could go with several options: EUV, maskless, multi-patterning or nano-imprint.

Used in conjunction with today’s 193nm lithography scanners, DSA has also been seen as a possible candidate for IC production at the 10nm node. DSA — an alternative patterning technology that makes use of block copolymers — could also turn the IC industry upside down. It could extend 193nm wavelength lithography beyond 10nm, potentially eliminate expensive multi-patterning steps, and possibly push out EUV.

In one example of its enormous potential, DSA, along with 193nm immersion lithography, has demonstrated the ability to print lines and spaces down to 12.5nm — without the need for multi-patterning, said Christopher Bencher, a member of the technical staff at Applied Materials Inc., in a recent interview.

“Some predictions play it safe and target the 10nm node” for DSA, said Ralph Dammel, chief technology officer (CTO) for AZ Electronic Materials, a supplier of materials for DSA and other applications. “However, we see a lot of customer interest for insertion already at 14nm and even higher nodes,” Dammel said. “Teams have been assigned at major customers, not just to study the potential of DSA, but to ready it for near term insertion. My best guess is that we will see some penetration of DSA by 2013/14, and that at the 10nm node, it will become pervasive.”

The early DSA programs among some undisclosed chip makers are expected to kick off this August, which is geared for the 14nm node in the 2015 time frame, he said.

But current block copolymers based on today’s poly(MMA-co-styrene) technology could hit the wall somewhere between 14nm to 10nm. As a result, there is a wave of research to find new copolymers that could extend the technology to 10nm and beyond.

AZ Electronic, Dow, JSR, SEH, TOK and others are racing each other to develop next-generation DSA materials. AZ Electronic, which claims to be the leader in DSA materials, is expected to disclose its new results with the technology at the Semicon China trade show in Shanghai from March 20-22.

DSA is capturing the imagination of the IC industry, but experts are quick to point out that the technology faces some challenges and there is a major debate when it will be ready for prime time. Moshe Preil, manager of emerging lithography and tools at GlobalFoundries Inc., said the industry has taken a “more serious and harder look” at DSA since the SPIE Advanced Lithography event in February. At SPIE, there were several troubling disclosures, namely that EUV and the associated power sources are still far behind the curve.

Preil, who runs the DSA program at GlobalFoundries, stopped short of saying that DSA will be inserted at the 14nm node. The insertion point largely depends upon the progress with the technology, he said.

During a panel session at this week’s Common Platform Technology Forum 2012 in Santa Clara, Calif., T.C. Chen, IBM Fellow and vice president of science and technology at IBM Research, said: “DSA is coming in pretty soon for critical levels. Triple patterning is not really economically feasible.”

During another session at the same event, Lars Liebmann, distinguished engineer at IBM, had a different view, saying that adding “one more mask layer to a complex mask set” for triple patterning is not going to stop companies from going that route if they need it to pattern the critical layers.

Liebmann said DSA could be used at the 10nm node to “make the gratings, which could then be cut with an e-beam. It is not an option for 14nm; it just won’t be ready in time.”

DSA — Next big thing?

Still, GlobalFoundries, Hynix, IBM, Intel, Micron, Samsung, TSMC and others have begun to take DSA more seriously – and for good reason. EUV lithography is late. Maskless and nano-imprint lithography are also not ready.

So, leading-edge chip makers must continue to use today’s 193nm immersion lithography tools for advanced chip production, but they are also forced to implement expensive multi-patterning steps. “Multi-patterning will be here for some time — at least for two more nodes,” said Michael White, director of product marketing for Calibre Physical Verification at Mentor Graphics Corp.

For 20nm, the industry must embrace double-pattering in one form or another. “Triple-patterning will not happen at 20nm,” White said at the Common Platform event. “It’s one of the options for customers at 14nm.”

EUV is largely required because it brings the industry back to single-exposure technology. But if EUV misses its target window at 14nm and emerges at 10nm, White sketched out a troubling scenario: At 10nm or beyond, the industry may end up using EUV and double-patterning simultaneously.

As a result, many hope DSA can save the day. In 2007, DSA landed on the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS) roadmap as a potential solution for lithography at the 10nm node.


IBM's DSA process flow (Source: AZ Electronic)


DSA is not a next-generation lithography (NGL) tool, but it is actually a “complementary” technology. DSA is an alternative patterning technology that enables frequency multiplication through the use of block copolymers. When used in conjunction with an appropriate pre-pattern that directs the orientation for patterning, DSA can reduce the pitch of the final printed structure.

At SPIE, Applied’s Bencher said defectivity, registration and other issues remain some of the key challenges to move DSA into production. DSA is ideal for dense contacts, Fin patterning and other applications, he said.

AZ Electronic, IBM, the University of Wisconsin and others have separately developed rival DSA “process flows” for chip production. IMEC has recently announced the implementation of the world’s first 300mm fab-compatible DSA process line.

Saving the day

Mukesh Khare, director of semiconductor technology research at IBM Research, said some people refer to DSA as “pitch in a bottle.” He himself referred to DSA as “polymer self-assembly” and said IBM has been working on polymers for quite a long time.

Khare said DSA has already been used to produce 25nm line and spaces with good line-edge roughness, using immersion tools. “Lithography defined directing patterns” are capable of 10nm resolution, he said at a session during the Common Platform event. The work is very encouraging, he added, with “defectivity similar to when we first started to play around with immersion lithography.”


(Source: AZ Electronic)


The polymers include materials with much different molecular weights, which separate at various phases. “We are trying to determine the self-assembly morphology,” he added.

DSA is “like the early days of immersion lithography, when there was a similar feeling of exhilaration,” said AZ Electronic’s Dammel. “I won’t go as far yet as to predict that EUV will share the fate of 157nm lithography. But clearly, DSA is on its way to becoming a mainstream, low cost lithography option.”

In 2010, Luxembourg-based AZ Electronic signed an agreement with IBM to co-develop DSA technology. IBM also has a separate deal with JSR Corp. in the arena.

At Semicon China, AZ Electronic will announce that it can reproduce “synthesize performing block copolymers with half-pitch at 10.5nm to 31nm” (See images below). The company said it has completed the first stage of materials learning and samples are ready for ”in-fab process learning.” The company’s block copolymers supports AZ’s own process flow as well as those from IBM and the University of Wisconsin.


AZ tips its own process flow for DSA (Source: Company)


“By late 2011, we had achieved this target,” Dammel said. “IMEC has received materials for all of these flows for use in their DSA pilot line, and we are currently the only supplier who is able to provide gallon samples to them. These samples are low metal, properly filtered, lithographically tested for DSA performance, and meet all requirements for IC production. We now stand ready to provide these materials in quantities for process learning and production insertion, and I think no one else can say that at present.”

Now, the trick is to move DSA from the lab to the fab at or around 14nm. Then, current polymer technology could hit the wall, fueling a new wave of R&D for next-generation materials. “For 10nm, p(MMA-co-styrene) block polymer is no longer a suitable material,” he said. “Its low chi factor implies that a high MW is needed to obtain phase separation, and since MW is related to domain size, the lowest line/space structures that can reliably be made are (about) 11nm.”

AZ and others are developing higher chi materials for 10nm node and below. “With these materials, it will be easily possible to extend DSA to the 8nm node, using guide structures made by immersion lithography using the trick of putting more than one polymer stripe to the guide structure,” he said.

There are a number of promising leads for the newfangled polymer. For example, the University of Queensland in Australia is developing a new class of diblock copolymers called PS-b-PDLA. With PS-b-PDLA, “8nm node type features (are) possible,” he said.

There are at least two tool options for 8nm: 193nm lithography and DSA and/or EUV and DSA. “We may see a co-existence between EUV and DSA,” he said. “But if EUV up and dies, the world doesn’t end.”


AZ shows images using DSA (Source: Company)

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