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From: FUBHO12/6/2011 10:15:41 AM
   of 237
 
IBM’s 3 big chip breakthroughs explained

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


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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 237
 
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 237
 
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
   of 237
 
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 237
 
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 237
 
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 237
 
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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To: FUBHO who wrote (134)3/19/2012 5:37:42 PM
From: Brian Sullivan
   of 237
 
Amazon.com to Acquire Kiva Systems, Inc.

SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Amazon.com, Inc. ( AMZN) today announced that it has reached an agreement to acquire Kiva Systems, Inc., a leading innovator of material handling technology.

Amazon has long used automation in its fulfillment centers, and Kivas technology is another way to improve productivity by bringing the products directly to employees to pick, pack and stow, said Dave Clark, vice president, global customer fulfillment, Amazon.com. Kiva shares our passion for invention, and we look forward to supporting their continued growth.

For the past ten years, the Kiva team has been focused on creating innovative material handling technologies, said Mick Mountz, CEO and founder of Kiva Systems. Im delighted that Amazon is supporting our growth so that we can provide even more valuable solutions in the coming years.

Following the acquisition, Kiva Systems headquarters will remain in North Reading, Massachusetts.

Under the terms of the agreement, which has been approved by Kivas stockholders, Amazon will acquire all of the outstanding shares of Kiva for approximately $775 million in cash, as adjusted for the assumption of options and other items. Subject to various closing conditions, the acquisition is expected to close in the second quarter of 2012.


4:54 PM
Amazon ( AMZN) -1.1% AH after agreeing to buy privately-held Kiva Systems, which makes robotic technology for warehouse shelf and pallet systems, for $775M in cash.

5:15 PM More on Amazon/Kiva: Kiva has been growing at an 80% clip thanks to an innovative robot/software solution that automates "the process of picking, packing and shipping" products. Founder Mick Mountz boasts Kiva's solution, which has an average price of $5M, can handle 2x-4x as many orders/hour as a traditional approach. One unanswered question is the extent to which Amazon will support Kiva customers such as Staples, Gap, Saks, and Walgreen. AMZN now +0.1% AH. ( PR) [ Tech, M&A] 1 Comment

I was always interested in possibly investing in Kiva, but it was privately held.

There are lots of cool Kiva robotic videos out there of YouTube:

Warehouse Robots at Work:
youtube.com

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To: Brian Sullivan who wrote (135)3/28/2012 6:24:56 PM
From: FUBHO
   of 237
 
Panel ponders many-core ICs tripping 'the singularity'



Peter Clarke
3/28/2012 12:09 PM EDT

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Will the rapidly increasing processing power being enabled by many-core processors cause the advent of machines with super-human intelligence, an event sometimes referred to as the singularity?

That was the question put to a panel of some of the best minds in multicore processor theory and design assembled on Tuesday (March 27) by analyst Jon Peddie at the Multicore DevCon, part of DESIGN West being held here this week. A small but enthusiastic audience was there to listen.

Peddie set up the debate by referencing Vernor Vinge, a science fiction writer, who had predicted that computing power would be equivalent to human processing power by about 2023. One particular aspect of the concept of the singularity is that once machines either in single units or collectively exceed human intelligence there may be an explosion of machine learning advancement that it would not be possible for humans to fathom, by definition, making the singularity a kind of event horizon.

Another extrapolation of computing progress had 2045 as the year in which it might be possible to buy a machine with the processing power of human brain for $2,000 in 2045.

Pradeep Dubey of Intel parallel computing labs illustrated the progress by saying that a petaflops supercomputer can already simulate a cat's brain. A human brain has 20 to 30 times more neurons and 1,000 times more synapses, he said, so the complete simulation of human brain is only a matter of a 5 or 6 years away. "Exaflops could simulate a human brain," he said.


Dubey said there are currently three approaches: simulate the process with a neuron- and synapse-level model; ignore brain architecture and treat the problem as data and statistical problem; or to build hardware that mimics neurons and synapses.

However, the simulation of the brain is not the same as thinking or generating the emotional intelligence we see in human beings, said Ian Oliver director of Codescape development tools at processor licensor Imagination Technologies Group plc. "We probably have the wrong memory model. The human brain is non-deterministic. It operates on the edge of chaos," he said.

Oliver pointed out that the use of genetic algorithms to derive FPGA designs through evolution produced much more brain-like architectures but were not readily usable in the real world and as such computer and human intelligence appeared to be distinct.

Mike Rayfield, vice president of the mobile business unit at Nvidia argued that the number of processor cores is a red herring. But Intel's Dubey countered that more cores is better saying that massive data engines can capture correlations if not causality. He pointed out that machines can already do some things far better than humans, which is the reason they exist. "We can build planes but we can't build birds," he said.


Next: computers already smarter than humans -- at specific things


eetimes.com

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From: FUBHO4/17/2012 12:43:06 PM
   of 237
 

Boron-treated carbon nanotubes soak up oil from water repeatedly April 17, 2012


[+] This carbon nanotube sponge created at Rice University can hold more than 100 times its weight in oil. Oil can be squeezed out or burned off, and the sponge reused. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)


Researchers at Rice University and Penn State University have discovered that adding a dash of boron to carbon while creating nanotubes turns them into solid, spongy, reusable blocks that have an astounding ability to absorb oil spilled in water.

That’s one of a range of potential innovations for the material created in a single step. The team found for the first time that boron puts kinks and elbows into the nanotubes as they grow and promotes the formation of covalent bonds, which give the sponges their robust qualities.

Lead author Daniel Hashim, a graduate student in the Rice lab of materials scientist Pulickel Ajayan, said

The blocks are both superhydrophobic (they hate water, so they float really well) and oleophilic (they love oil). The nanosponges, which are more than 99 percent air, also conduct electricity and can easily be manipulated with magnets.

To demonstrate, lead author Daniel Hashim, a graduate student in the Rice lab of materials scientist Pulickel Ajayan, dropped the sponge into a dish of water with used motor oil floating on top. The sponge soaked it up.

He then put a match to the material, burned off the oil and returned the sponge to the water to absorb more. The robust sponge can be used repeatedly and stands up to abuse; he said a sample remained elastic after about 10,000 compressions in the lab. The sponge can also store the oil for later retrieval, he said.

“These samples can be made pretty large and can be easily scaled up,” said Hashim, holding a half-inch square block of billions of nanotubes. “They’re super-low density, so the available volume is large. That’s why the uptake of oil can be so high.” He said the sponges described in the paper can absorb more than a hundred times their weight in oil.

Ajayan, Rice’s Benjamin M. and Mary Greenwood Anderson Professor in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and of chemistry, said multiwalled carbon nanotubes grown on a substrate via chemical vapor deposition usually stand up straight without any real connections to their neighbors.

But the boron-introduced defects induced the nanotubes to bond at the atomic level, which tangled them into a complex network. Nanotube sponges with oil-absorbing potential have been made before, but this is the first time the covalent junctions between nanotubes in such solids have been convincingly demonstrated, he said.

“The interactions happen as they grow, and the material comes out of the furnace as a solid,” Ajayan said. “People have made nanotube solids via post-growth processing but without proper covalent connections. The advantage here is that the material is directly created during growth and comes out as a cross-linked porous network.

“It’s easy for us to make nano building blocks, but getting to the macroscale has been tough,” he said. “The nanotubes have to connect either through some clever way of creating topological defects, or they have to be welded together.”

“Our goal was to find a way to make three-dimensional networks of these carbon nanotubes that would form a macroscale fabric — a spongy block of nanotubes that would be big and thick enough to be used to clean up oil spills and to perform other tasks,” said Humberto Terrones of Oak Ridge National Lab.

“We realized that the trick was adding boron — a chemical element next to carbon on the periodic table — because boron helps to trigger the interconnections of the material. To add the boron, we used very high temperatures and we then ‘knitted’ the substance into the nanotube fabric.”

Oil-spill remediation and environmental cleanup

The researchers have high hopes for the material’s environmental applications. “For oil spills, you would have to make large sheets of these or find a way to weld sheets together (a process Hashim continues to work on),” Ajayan said.

“Oil-spill remediation and environmental cleanup are just the beginning of how useful these new nanotube materials could be,” added. “For example, we could use these materials to make more efficient and lighter batteries. We could use them as scaffolds for bone-tissue regeneration. We even could impregnate the nanotube sponge with polymers to fabricate robust and light composites for the automobile and plane industries.”

Hashim suggested his nanosponges may also work as membranes for filtration.

“I don’t think anybody has created anything like this before,” Ajayan said. “It’s a spectacular nanostructured sponge.”

The paper’s co-authors are Narayanan Narayanan, Myung Gwan Hahm, Joseph Suttle and Robert Vajtai, all of Rice; Jose Romo-Herrera of the University of Vigo, Spain; David Cullen and Bobby Sumpter of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tenn.; Peter Lezzi and Vincent Meunier of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Doug Kelkhoff of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; E. Muñoz-Sandoval of the Instituto de Microelectrónica de Madrid; Sabyasachi Ganguli and Ajit Roy of the Air Force Research Laboratory, Dayton, Ohio (on loan from IPICYT); David Smith of Arizona State University; and Humberto Terrones of Oak Ridge National Lab and the Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium.

The National Science Foundation and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research Project MURI program for the synthesis and characterization of 3-D carbon nanotube solid networks supported the research.

Ref.: Daniel P. Hashim, Covalently bonded three-dimensional carbon nanotube solids via boron induced nanojunctions, Nature Scientific Reports, 2012 [DOI: 10.1038/srep00363] (open access)

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