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Tech-news archive: November-December 2010

Prototype solar fuel machine
New solar fuel machine 'mimics plant life'
(Dec 24, 2010)

A prototype solar device has been unveiled which mimics plant life, turning the Sun's energy into fuel. The machine uses the Sun's rays and a metal oxide called ceria to break down carbon dioxide or water into fuels which can be stored and transported. Conventional photovoltaic panels must use the electricity they generate in situ, and cannot deliver power at night.

Read more. Source: BBC

Nanowires of indium arsenide give researchers the control they need to turn electrons into quantum bits. Image credit: Gemma Plum
Qubit in a nanowire
(Dec 23, 2010)

A type of quantum bit that hinges on the innate link between an electron's spin and its orbit round the nucleus has been developed by physicists in the Netherlands. The system, which should easily integrate with other electronics, is a strong contender for use in future quantum computing or cryptography, according to research published today in Nature.

Read more. Source: Nature

Invisible Man
Invisibility rug hides 'large' objects
(Dec 16, 2010)

Invisibility cloaks were proposed in 2006 and prototypes that can shield objects for certain wavelengths of light have since been built. However, until now, physicists have been unable to fabricate a cloak that could hide macroscopic items at visible wavelengths. Two independent groups have now achieved this feat, by building transparent 'carpet cloaks', made from calcite crystals, that lie over the object to be hidden.

Read more. Source: Nature

IBM nanophotonics chip
Lighting up chips gives computers a brain boost
(Dec 3, 2010)

Computers could soon be rivalling the human brain for speed of thought. The computer giant IBM today unveiled a new type of computer chip that integrates both electrical and optical nano-devices on the same piece of silicon. This could soon make it possible for supercomputers to perform one million trillion calculations – or an exaflop – in a single second.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Maxwell's Demon
Summon a 'demon' to turn information into energy
(Nov 15, 2010)

Demons can unleash arcane energies in physics as well as fantasy. The building of a real-life version of "Maxwell's demon" – which can turn information into useful energy – might mean that future nanomachines can be powered purely by information.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

water-cooled chip stack
Supercomputers 'will fit in a sugar cube', IBM says
(Nov 15, 2010)

A pioneering research effort could shrink the world's most powerful supercomputer processors to the size of a sugar cube, IBM scientists say. The approach will see many computer processors stacked on top of one another, cooling them with water flowing between each one. The aim is to reduce computers' energy use, rather than just to shrink them.

Read more. Source: BBC

Invisibility cloak closer with flexible 'metamaterial'
(Nov 4, 2010)

Scientists in the UK have demonstrated a flexible film that represents a big step toward the "invisibility cloak" made famous by Harry Potter. The film contains tiny structures that together form a "metamaterial", which can, among other tricks, manipulate light to render objects invisible. Flexible metamaterials have been made before, but only work for light of a color far beyond that which we see.

Read more. Source: BBC

Star Wars hologram
Hologram messaging coming of age
(Nov 4, 2010)

It has long been a staple of science fiction films – the idea that you could send a moving 3D representation of someone to any location, even the far side of the galaxy. Now, US researchers claim this fantasy is very close to reality. A University of Arizona team says it has devised a system that can make a holographic display appear in another place and update it in near real-time.

Read more. Source: BBC


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