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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Some more

Lewis's Law of Travel: The first piece of luggage out of the chute doesn't belong to anyone, ever.

Monday, November 05, 2007


A consultant is a person who borrows your watch, tells you what time it is, pockets the watch, and sends you a bill for it.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

IBM turns chip industry trash to solar industry treasure

IBM Corp. is scheduled to announce today that is has developed a way to easily refurbish scrap material left over from the creation of microchips so it can be used in solar energy panels, a process that could save money and help feed the solar industry's growing appetite for silicon.

Big Blue said it plans to share the technique with the semiconductor industry. Analysts say it could be widely adopted.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


All his life he has looked away... to the horizon, to the sky, to the future. Never his mind on where he was, on what he was doing. -- Yoda

JouleSort: A Balanced Energy-Efficiency Benchmark

The energy efficiency of computer systems is an important
concern in a variety of contexts. In data centers, reducing
energy use improves operating cost, scalability, reliability,
and other factors. For mobile devices, energy consumption
directly affects functionality and usability. We propose and
motivate JouleSort, an external sort benchmark, for evaluating
the energy efficiency of a wide range of computer systems
from clusters to handhelds. We list the criteria, challenges,
and pitfalls from our experience in creating a fair energyefficiency
benchmark. Using a commercial sort, we demonstrate
a JouleSort system that is over 3.5x as energy-efficient
as last year’s estimated winner. This system is quite different
from those currently used in data centers. It consists of
a commodity mobile CPU and 13 laptop drives, connected
by server-style I/O interfaces.

Read the paper here.

Google's paper on power provisioning for data centers

Large-scale Internet services require a computing infrastructure that
can be appropriately described as a warehouse-sized computing
system. The cost of building datacenter facilities capable of delivering
a given power capacity to such a computer can rival the recurring
energy consumption costs themselves. Therefore, there are
strong economic incentives to operate facilities as close as possible
to maximum capacity, so that the non-recurring facility costs can be
best amortized. That is difficult to achieve in practice because of
uncertainties in equipment power ratings and because power consumption
tends to vary significantly with the actual computing activity.
Effective power provisioning strategies are needed to determine
how much computing equipment can be safely and efficiently
hosted within a given power budget.

Read the paper here here.

Silicon nanoparticles enhance performance of solar cells

Placing a film of silicon nanoparticles onto a silicon solar cell can boost power, reduce heat and prolong the cell’s life, researchers now report.

“Integrating a high-quality film of silicon nanoparticles 1 nanometer in size directly onto silicon solar cells improves power performance by 60 percent in the ultraviolet range of the spectrum,” said Munir Nayfeh, a physicist at the University of Illinois and corresponding author of a paper accepted for publication in Applied Physics Letters.

A 10 percent improvement in the visible range of the spectrum can be achieved by using nanoparticles 2.85 nanometers in size, said Nayfeh, who also is a researcher at the university’s Beckman Institute.

In conventional solar cells, ultraviolet light is either filtered out or absorbed by the silicon and converted into potentially damaging heat, not electricity. In previous work, however, Nayfeh showed that ultraviolet light could efficiently couple to correctly sized nanoparticles and produce electricity. That work was reported in the August 2004 issue of the journal Photonics Technology Letters.

To make their improved solar cells, the researchers began by first converting bulk silicon into discrete, nano-sized particles using a patented process they developed. Depending on their size, the nanoparticles will fluoresce in distinct colors.

Nanoparticles of the desired size were then dispersed in isopropyl alcohol and dispensed onto the face of the solar cell. As the alcohol evaporated, a film of closely packed nanoparticles was left firmly fastened to the solar cell.

Solar cells coated with a film of 1 nanometer, blue luminescent particles showed a power enhancement of about 60 percent in the ultraviolet range of the spectrum, but less than 3 percent in the visible range, the researchers report.

Solar cells coated with 2.85 nanometer, red particles showed an enhancement of about 67 percent in the ultraviolet range, and about 10 percent in the visible.

The improved performance is a result of enhanced voltage rather than current, Nayfeh said. “Our results point to a significant role for charge transport across the film and rectification at the nanoparticle interface.”

The process of coating solar cells with silicon nanoparticles could be easily incorporated into the manufacturing process with little additional cost, Nayfeh said.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Atanu Dey on ICT

Atanu is a development economist and a very perceptive individual. He also has a lot of common sense that's becoming increasingly rare in this information overloaded world. Atanu on the digital divide.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Supergyre identified by the Aussies

The aussies have broken new "ground" in identifying an undersea current that links the three southern hemisphere oceans. It would have been easier if they could ask a whale :)
From Science Daily
Australian scientists have identified the missing deep ocean pathway – or ‘supergyre’ – linking the three Southern Hemisphere ocean basins in research that will help them explain more accurately how the ocean governs global climate.The new research confirms the current sweeping out of the Tasman Sea past Tasmania and towards the South Atlantic is a previously undetected component of the world climate system’s engine-room – the thermohaline circulation or ‘global conveyor belt’.

Wealth from Oceans Flagship* scientist Ken Ridgway says the current, called the Tasman Outflow, occurs at an average depth of 800-1,000 metres and may play an important role in the response of the conveyor belt to climate change.

So, What's Life anyway ?

A startling discovery, something that makes you go back to first principles and question the very axioms on which your value system rests. Inorganic interstellar life ! Read on

From : Science Daily
Could extraterrestrial life be made of corkscrew-shaped particles of interstellar dust? Intriguing new evidence of life-like structures that form from inorganic substances in space have been revealed in the New Journal of Physics. The findings hint at the possibility that life beyond earth may not necessarily use carbon-based molecules as its building blocks. They also point to a possible new explanation for the origin of life on earth.Life on earth is organic. It is composed of organic molecules, which are simply the compounds of carbon, excluding carbonates and carbon dioxide. The idea that particles of inorganic dust may take on a life of their own is nothing short of alien, going beyond the silicon-based life forms favoured by some science fiction stories.

Now, an international team has discovered that under the right conditions, particles of inorganic dust can become organised into helical structures. These structures can then interact with each other in ways that are usually associated with organic compounds and life itself.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Ultrafast quantum computer: optically controlled electrons

Some more on the rapidly expanding portfolio of controlled light. Qbits meet photons.

Susan Clark and Kai-Mei Fu, both of Stanford University, and Thaddeus Ladd and Yoshihisa Yamamoto, both with Stanford University as well as the National Institute of Informatics in Tokyo, have published their results on the new scheme in a recent issue of Physical Review Letters.

“We still don't know what a final quantum computer will look like,” Ladd explained to “Large scale quantum computation is a technology that is still very far away from being implemented, and will probably incorporate many new ideas that have not been imagined yet. The important development in this paper is finding a physical implementation of an existing theoretical idea [using phase gates to couple non-local spins] and estimating the speed.”

On a single semiconductor chip, the researchers combine fast single-bit rotations and fast two-qubit gates, both of which are optically controlled. In quantum computing, the orientation and phase of the electron spin serve as the bit state, and the gates are responsible for performing reversible operations on input data to produce output data.

The semiconductor chip is a square millimeter in size, and consists of a loop of cavities—together, this apparatus is called a “loop-qubus.” Each cavity holds a quantum dot, which is a small piece of semiconductor that contains, in this scheme, a single electron. By focusing optical pulses at individual quantum dots, the electron spins rotate, changing the state of the bit.

The architecture is built on the idea of using phase gates to couple non-local spins. The optical pulses can provide a means to couple distant electron spins, or qubits, so that the phase of one qubit can depend on the phase of another qubit. When coupled, the qubits’ spin states form a “qu-bus,” which is the basis of a two-qubit gate.

The operating speed of a quantum computer is measured by its clock signal, which could take many different forms. In the optical control scheme, the pulses, which could be supplied by a laser, provide a clock rate for the system. Ladd explained that there are several limitations on speed for quantum computers.

“In quantum computing, not only is the state of the bit (0 or 1) important, but also the phase of the bit,” he said. “How quickly we can control the phase of the qubit, in our scheme, depends on the magnetic field. Increasing the magnetic field increases how fast the phase for any single qubit changes in time and ultimately sets the limit of how fast we can control our qubits. In the article, we give the limit of about 100 GHz, which is assuming a very high magnetic field, which would require superconducting magnets to achieve.

“The second limitation on speed is the time it takes for the phase of one qubit to change the phase of another,” he continued. “This must be done with pulses that are slower than the rate light moves in and out of each optical cavity, so this brings the speed down to more like 10 GHz. Finally, as the computer gets bigger, the amount of time it takes for light to propagate around the system will also limit speed, perhaps bringing the speed of physical qubits down to GHz compared to classical computers.”

Friday, August 03, 2007

Lighting fixtures market to exceed $94 billion by 2010

LEDMag reports :
The worldwide market for lighting fixtures is expected to top $94 billion by 2010, according to a report by Global Industry Analysts, Inc.

The lighting industry encompasses industrial, commercial, residential and public lighting, and growth is expected mainly in the end-use sectors of construction and other industrial development activities.

The global lighting fixtures market comprises of several companies engaged in the development and manufacture of a range of fixtures from basic sconces to complex chandeliers. High quality and product innovation remain key competitive strategies for global majors, while price has emerged as a strong competitive platform in recent years.

The report says that solid-state lighting using LEDs and other technologies is expected to play a major role in lighting the future. Demand is to be stimulated by highly priced, technologically advanced and long lasting energy-saving products such as non-incandescent portable fixtures, high intensity discharge (HID) lighting, electronic ballasts, and portable fixtures using LEDs. The emergence of solid-state lighting technology that offers increased energy savings and advanced capabilities is poised to act as a significant challenge to existing lamps and fixtures manufacturers worldwide.

Europe currently represents the largest market in the global lighting fixtures market and is projected to cross US$23.5 billion by the year 2009. The Asia-Pacific region is poised to post the fastest compounded annual growth rate among the regional markets, at 6.5% over the ten-year analysis period.

The global lighting equipment market is expected to witness growth mainly in the end use sectors of construction and other industrial development activities. Another factor that is to contribute to growth of the market is booming end-use sectors in developing regions. Growth in industrialization and construction activities in these regions is spurring accelerated demand for lighting equipment.

Also, a rise in living standards, coupled with increased real estate activity, is expected to position China as the leading market for lighting equipment, with growth in the industrialized Western Europe and North America exhibiting less than global average. With the market in these regions mostly dependent on new construction activity, efforts are on to maximize energy efficiency in existing buildings.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

42.8 % and counting

A major landmark has been achieved by a team at University of Delaware. Static concentrator based Si solar cells have achieved 42.8 % combined efficiency. From renewable energy access :
In November 2005, the UD-led consortium received approximately $13 million in funding for the initial phases of the DARPA Very High Efficiency Solar Cell (VHESC) program to develop affordable portable solar cell battery chargers.

The highly efficient VHESC solar cell uses a novel lateral optical concentrating system that splits solar light into three different energy bins of high, medium and low, and directs them onto cells of various light sensitive materials to cover the solar spectrum. The system delivers variable concentrations to the different solar cell elements. The concentrator is stationary with a wide acceptance angle optical system that captures large amounts of light and eliminates the need for complicated tracking devices.

The VHESC would have immediate application in the high-technology military, which increasingly relies upon a variety of electronics for individual soldiers and the equipment that supports them. As well, it is hoped the solar cells will have a large number of commercial applications.

Today, the American soldier carries a pack that weighs nearly 100 pounds of which about 20 pounds are the three-day supply of batteries needed to power their gear. The DARPA program aims to dramatically reduce the battery logistics pipeline and provide the soldier with more power at reduced weight, thus improving mobility, survivability and the availability of advanced electronic technologies on the battlefield.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Death Head moth (Acherontia styx)

There is still a lot of fauna left in Bangalore. Photographed this beauty is a dark corridor of my house on 20th July 2007. Beautiful specimen. The lighting used was a 50 lm 1 W power led driven 350 mA 4000K flashlight at a viewing angle of about 40 deg supplemented by the camera's xenon flash. Click on the image for the full res image.

Graphene Nanoelectronics: Making Tomorrow’s Computers from a Pencil Trace

Physorg has this report:
A representation of conduction channels on a graphene nanoribbon interfaced with gold contacts. Researchers believe graphene’s extremely efficient conductive properties can be exploited for use in nanoelectronics.

The world is running out of copper and other metals. This is a very important development.


A black cat crossing your path signifies that the animal is going somewhere. -- Groucho Marx

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Nanocrystals Key to Better Fuel Cells

A new way to make cubic zirconia with very small crystal sizes could be key to making hydrogen fuel cells more reliable and cost-effective.

The invention by a team led by Zuhair Munir, distinguished professor of chemical engineering and materials science at UC Davis, was recently included in Nanotech Briefs magazine's Nano50 awards for 2007. The awards recognize technologies, products and people most likely to impact the state of the art in nanotechnology.

Fuel cells combine hydrogen fuel and oxygen from the air to release energy, leaving only water as a waste product. Fuel cells could be an alternative power source for vehicles and other uses, but there are significant challenges to their widespread use. Current fuel cells run at temperatures of 1,500 to 1,800 degrees F (800 to 1,000 degrees C). Just reaching working temperature requires energy, and the heat quickly wears out metal, plastic and ceramic components. Prevailing fuel-cell designs also require an expensive platinum catalyst.

The new technology could allow fuel cells to run at much lower temperatures, 122 to 212 degrees F (50 to 100 degrees C).

Munir, Umberto Anselmi-Tamburini and Sangtae Kim at UC Davis invented a method to make oxides such as cubic zirconia (zirconium oxide) with extremely small grain sizes, on the order of 15 nanometers. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter, or the size of a few atoms. At that scale, the crystals conduct electricity very well, through the movement of protons. The material could be used in fuel cells that are based on chemical oxides.

Munir was also recipient of the 2007 UC Davis Prize for Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarly Achievement. The prize includes a cash award of $35,000, thought to be the largest of its kind in the nation.

A patent application has been filed for the technology. A paper describing the technique was published in the journal Applied Physics Letters last year. The Nano50 awards will be presented during the National Nano Engineering Conference in Boston, Nov. 14 and 15, 2007.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

We love kalamari

My kids could feast on this beastie for a year :)
One of the largest giant squid ever found has washed up on a remote Australian beach, sparking a race against time by scientists to examine the rarely seen deep-ocean creature.

The squid, the mantle or main body of which measured two-meters (6.5 feet) long, was found by a walker late on Tuesday on Ocean Beach, near Strahan, on the western coast of island state Tasmania.

"It's a whopper," Tasmanian Museum senior curator Genefor Walker-Smith told local media on Wednesday. "The main mantle is about one meter across and its total length is about eight meters."

Scientists would take samples from the creature, identified by state parks officials as an Architeuthis, which can grow to more than 10 meters (33 feet) in length and weigh more than 275 kilograms (606 pounds). The Tasmanian animal was 250 kg, Pemberton said.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

new Wildlife photo blog

A friend of mine Ulhas Anand has started this very nice blog themed on the photographs that he takes. Ulhas is a long time conservation activist and birdwatcher. Worth looking at especially if you want good pictures of south india flora and fauna.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

ACPI standard explained

MIPS / Watt is the ultimate metric to measure the efficacy of computing. With the race to develop faster and quicker machines a proliferation of high power consumption devices have hit the marktet. The article below explains the ACPI standard and how it reduces consumption in modern PC's.
Read more here.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

ALPL develops worlds smallest LED driver

The title says it all. Hate to boast but i need to :)

Goldman Sachs on renewables

Money like water finds its own level. The buzz on renewables has been getting louder for some time and i guess big money knows when it is time to switch on the sun.
From (where else :)

Goldman Sachs, the investment bank heavyweight long known for its enthusiasm for alternative fuel sources, outlined five events Thursday it says are key to the rising sector's growth.

1 - Enacting renewable portfolio standards - These standards, known as RPS, require utilities to buy a certain amount of power from renewable resources - usually between 10 and 25 percent. The idea is to provide a reliable market where producers of renewable electricity can sell their energy.

About half the states now have them, and the energy bill currently under debate in the Senate includes a proposal to set a national RPS at 15 percent.

But the proposal faces stiff opposition from the electric utility industry and senators from the Southeast. They say some areas of the country, like the relatively windless Southeast, have far fewer renewable resources available, and therefore setting RPS standards should be left up to the states.

2 - Boost enforcement of RPS standards - There are plenty of RPS standards out there and plenty more feel-good proposals, said Tim Kingston, a Goldman managing director, in a speech at the Renewable Energy Finance Forum on Wall Street. "But unless you put real teeth into it, the incentives that drive money into that space are not going to be there."
3 - Enact a carbon cap-and-trade system or a carbon tax - Carbon dioxide is one of the primary greenhouse gases contributing to global warming. Burning fossil fuels is one of the main ways carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere.

There have been several proposals either to cap carbon emissions or impose a tax on fossil fuels in order to cut their use. The United States has so far rejected those calls, instead opting for a voluntary approach that has not resulted in an overall reduction of carbon emissions.

But with the Democrats now in control of Congress, Kingston expects the prospect of a cap or a tax to be revisited.

"We're confident one or the other will be implemented soon," he says.

4 - A significant increase in fossil fuel prices - Oil prices have skyrocketed in the past few years, more than tripling since 2002.

Most analysts blame surging demand - mainly from the United States and developing nations - that has led to oil consumption amounts that are nearly equal to the amount the world produces.
The slim difference between production and consumption has deepened the effect of geopolitical tensions, refinery problems, natural disasters and other events, as the world is less able to deal with a disruption in supply. This has pushed prices even higher.

The high prices and high demand have also attracted the attention of investors, further inflating prices.

Some analysts say this scenario is not going to change and may only get worse as the world's oil consumption continues to grow, although this view is by no means unanimous.

5 - The 2008 presidential election - The Bush administration has so far opposed both mandatory carbon regulation and renewable portfolio standards. Most renewable energy investors hope the next administration will be more receptive to these ideas.

New polymer to increase energy density

Science daily reports
North Carolina State University physicists have recently deduced a way to improve high-energy-density capacitors so that they can store up to seven times as much energy per unit volume than the common capacitor. High performance capacitors would enable hybrid and electric cars with much greater acceleration, better and faster steering of rockets and spacecraft, better regeneration of electricity when using brakes in electric cars, and improved lasers, among many other electrical applications.A polymer called PVDF has interested physicists as a possible high-performance dielectric. It exists in two forms, polarized or unpolarized. In either case, its structure is mostly frozen-in and changes only slightly when a capacitor is charged up. Mixing a second polymer called CTFE with PVDF results in a material with regions that can change their structure, enabling it to store and release unprecedented amounts of energy.

The team, led by Vivek Ranjan, concluded that a more ordered arrangement of the material inside the capacitor could further increase the energy storage of new high-performance capacitors, which already store energy four times more densely than capacitors used in industry. Their predictions of higher energy density capacitors are encouraging, but have yet to be experimentally tested.

Friday, June 29, 2007

what out (CFL's) here i come

A road map that probably curdles the blood of the CFL vendors.Cree is the first vendor of the block with these numbers. However given that Philips and Osram are the biggies in this game and have a decent opto-electronic inventory themselves we will probably not see too much blood on the roads :)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Dust to Dust

New Scientist Environment has this report on a microwave technology to turn plastics back into Diesel oil and gas. Could be the way to handle these mucky plasitcs. I like the idea of stuffing the car tank with plastic bags and driving to work.
A US company is taking plastics recycling to another level – turning them back into the oil they were made from, and gas.

All that is needed, claims Global Resource Corporation (GRC), is a finely tuned microwave and – hey presto! – a mix of materials that were made from oil can be reduced back to oil and combustible gas (and a few leftovers).

Key to GRC’s process is a machine that uses 1200 different frequencies within the microwave range, which act on specific hydrocarbon materials. As the material is zapped at the appropriate wavelength, part of the hydrocarbons that make up the plastic and rubber in the material are broken down into diesel oil and combustible gas.

GRC's machine is called the Hawk-10. Its smaller incarnations look just like an industrial microwave with bits of machinery attached to it. Larger versions resemble a concrete mixer.

"Anything that has a hydrocarbon base will be affected by our process," says Jerry Meddick, director of business development at GRC, based in New Jersey. "We release those hydrocarbon molecules from the material and it then becomes gas and oil."

Whatever does not have a hydrocarbon base is left behind, minus any water it contained as this gets evaporated in the microwave.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Amdahl's Law

Bigger is not better, faster is not quicker. This is the theme of this post.
The Law of diminishing returns is not exactly a new phenomenon, it was originally noticed in parallel computers by IBM engineer Gene Amdahl, one of creators of the IBM System 360 Architecture. The original describes the problem in parallel computing terms however this simplified version pretty much describes the problem in terms of any modern computer system:

"Each component of a computer system contributes delay to the system If you make a single component of the system infinitely fast...
...system throughput will still exhibit the combined delays of the other components." [3]

As the clock speeds goes upwards the actual performance of the CPU does not scale exactly with the clock speed. A 2GHz CPU is unlikely to be twice the speed of a 1GHz CPU, indeed on everyday tasks people seem to have some difficulty telling the difference between these speeds.

The reason for the lack of scaling is the fact that memory performance has not scaled with the CPU so the CPU is sitting doing nothing for much of it's time (HP estimate this at 70% for server CPUs). Additionally the latency of memory has barely improved at all so any program which requires the CPU to access memory a lot will be effected badly by memory latency and the CPU will not reach anything near it's true potential. The CPU memory cache can alleviate this sort of problem to a degree but it's effectiveness depends very much on the type of cache and software algorithm used.

Many of the techniques used within x86 CPUs may only boost performance by a small amount but they are used because of the need for AMD and Intel to outdo one another. As the clock speed increases ever higher the scaling problem increases further meaning that the additional effort has less and less effect on overall performance. Recent SPEC marks for two Dell workstations show that a greater than 50% increase in CPU speed and the addition of hyper-threading results in only a 26% increase in SPEC marks [2]. Yet when the Itanium 2 CPU got an 11% clock speed boost and double the cache the SPEC mark increased by around 50%

Of course there are other factors which effect the performance of CPUs such as the cache size and design, the memory interface, compiler & settings, the language it's programmed in and the programmer who wrote it. Changing the language can in fact be shown to have a much greater effect than changing the CPU [4]. Changing the programmer can also have a very large effect [5].

This is why computing as you know today is not sustainable. Technology vs Hype. Unfortunately we all know who wins this game...

Friday, June 22, 2007

Analysis of Philips's takeover of ColorKinetics

From LED Magazine by Jim Witaker:
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but this deal shouldn't come as a huge surprise; successful, innovative, technology-rich LED lighting specialist attracts the attention of lighting giant with self-professed commitment to solid-state lighting as the future of the lighting industry. A bit of handholding ensues, possibly some flirtation with other potential suitors, then the marriage is announced. And no more squabbling about who gets to light the Empire State Building.

The deal makes a lot of sense on many levels for both sides, much like last year's announcement of cooperation between GE and Nichia. Speaking of which, we can speculate that GE and probably Osram as well would have had a strong interest in acquiring CK. Was there a bidding war that pushed the price offered by Philips up to $34 per share? As I said, this is just speculation.

Among many benefits of the deal, Philips gains an established US-based LED fixture supplier. Philips' own North American Solid State Lighting Luminaires business will be "merged" with Philips CK in Burlington, MA (LEDs Magazine has decided that Philips CK is a lot easier to type than the official name of Philips Solid-State Lighting Solutions.) The Philips group in New Jersey has been around for less than 2 years and has made some progress in architectural and other lighting markets. But these projects have not used Philips LED luminaires, and instead the company has partnered with smaller suppliers and integrators such as LED Effects (see News).

One issue, said Philips, was the time taken to redesign "European" luminaires for the North American market and gain the necessary UL listing. Another issue, in the view of external observers, was patents – there is a widely-held (but unsubstantiated) belief that CK's strong patent portfolio prevented Philips from launching color-changing LED luminaires into the US market. Some industry participants looked forward to the day when Philips would challenge CK head-on, possibly in court. Now the goalposts have been shifted, and the patent dispute between CK and TIR Systems (now also part of Philips) will also quietly disappear. The outcome of this case would have been extremely interesting, since we all wanted to know what the real deal is with CK's core patents (Prior art or not? Obvious or not?). Backed by Philips, the CK portfolio takes on a whole new dimension, and there won't be any more lawsuits. There might, however, be a lot more licensees.

However, this should be viewed as a positive for the solid-state lighting industry, since it removes a degree of uncertainty and allows the industry to move forward. Competitors will view Philips with even more trepidation, since the company is now firmly positioned as a core part of the SSL industry. Philips' existing SSL activities joined with CK and TIR make a powerful combination, not forgetting of course that Philips owns Lumileds, the largest power LED manufacturer*.

Even so, the SSL industry is at an early stage in its development, and there are plenty of opportunities for a multitude of players to compete in a wide range of different applications. The general illumination market is still wide open, and Philips will have to continue to work hard to become the major player in this area – even with CK on board.

* Although Lumileds and CK will now be part of Philips, don't expect CK to start using Lumileds devices exclusively; CK works closely with Cree and Osram and was also using Nichia LEDs in some of its products shown at Lightfair, and this situation will undoubtedly continue. And speaking of Cree; as of the end of March this year Cree held about 4% of shares in Color Kinetics.

Carbon neutral bangalore

A new site that is aimed at educating the public on carbon emissions and energy use reduction has 'sprung' up. It is bangalore centric (smart move) and focussed on the city and its environs. They also seems to have plans to create a portal that serves as a clearing house for 'green' products. Check it out here.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Follow the money

A list of energy investments that have been made by Vinod Khosla. In my personal opinion Corn ethanol is a stupid and in fact criminal idea, being touted as the intermediary to Cellulosic ethanol, which is no where near where it should be technologically. This is gives one a clear picture of the people with "long term vision". I dont think that it is an accident that Corn is in the end.Read and think.

1) Cellulosic - Mascoma, Celunol, Range Fuels, 1 stealth startup

2) Future Fuels - LS9, Gevo, Amyris Biotechnologies, Coskata Energy

3) Efficiency - Transonic Combustion, GroupIV Semiconductor, 1 stealth startup

4) Homes - Living Homes, Global Homes

5) Natural Gas - Great Point Energy

6) Solar - Stion, Ausra

7) Tools - Nanostellar, Codon Devices, Praj

8) Water - 2 stealth startup

9) Plastic - Segetis, 1 stealth startup

10) Corn/Sugar Fuels - Altra, Cilion, Hawaii Bio

The vertical limit

A new (?) project seeking to use high rise space for agriculture is in the pipeline. The basic idea is very similar to what the moties used to do in their cities (Jerry Pournelle & Larry Niven, The mote in god's eye). So life imitates art. Still a good concept though i am not convinced on the energy balance of the system. From the Website:
Advantages of Vertical Farming
Year-round crop production; 1 indoor acre is equivalent to 4-6 outdoor acres or more, depending upon the crop (e.g., strawberries: 1 indoor acre = 30 outdoor acres)
No weather-related crop failures due to droughts, floods, pests
All VF food is grown organically: no herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers
VF virtually eliminates agricultural runoff by recycling black water
VF returns farmland to nature, restoring ecosystem functions and services
VF greatly reduces the incidence of many infectious diseases that are acquired at the agricultural interface
VF converts black and gray water into potable water by collecting the water of
VF adds energy back to the grid via methane generation from composting non-edible
parts of plants and animals
VF dramatically reduces fossil fuel use (no tractors, plows, shipping.)
VF converts abandoned urban properties into food production centers
VF creates sustainable environments for urban centers
VF creates new employment opportunities
We cannot go to the moon, Mars, or beyond without first learning to farm indoors on
VF may prove to be useful for integrating into refugee camps
VF offers the promise of measurable economic improvement for tropical and subtropical
LDCs. If this should prove to be the case, then VF may be a catalyst in helping to reduce or even reverse the population growth of LDCs as they adopt urban agriculture as a strategy for sustainable food production.
VF could reduce the incidence of armed conflict over natural resources, such as water
and land for agriculture


Matz's Law: A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Philips LED's for the London Dome

LED Magazine reports :
Philips Electronics is providing LED-based exterior lighting and displays for the exterior of The O2, the iconic building in London formerly known as the Millennium Dome. Philips has been engaged by AEG Europe, who own and operate The O2, in a multimillion pound deal. AEG is one of the leading sports and entertainment presenters in the world.

Philips has been charged with creating a striking visual design made up of a combination of floodlighting and LEDs. Bright blue LED rings representing the O2 bubbles surround the 12 masts emerging from the dome.

Philips will also provide over 1500m2 of video screens, including LED displays wrapped around the 12 external cylinders around the perimeter of the dome. These 7-m high displays consist of LED nodes mounted on a flexible mesh with 100 mm pitch. The power consumption is 2.1 kW for each cylinder display.

The O2 centrepiece is an indoor Arena for up to 20,000 fans that will host over 150 world-class music, entertainment and sport events in its first year of opening. There will also be a Live Music Club with a capacity of over 2,300, an exhibition space, a cinema complex, and the "Entertainment Avenue." The O2 is an official venue for the 2012 Olympics hosting both the gymnastic and basketball events.

In Peninsula Square, Philips will erect a state of the art 170m2 video screen which will act as an information board. There is also the potential to screen live shows from the Arena and Live Music Club to the public.

Inside The O2, Philips will set up video screens so that visitors can view previous live shows and previews of forthcoming events. The entertainment district surrounding the main Arena will give Philips more opportunities to demonstrate state of the art technology in lighting by making this large public area an interesting and ‘must visit’ attraction.

Additionally Philips will produce innovative lighting designs for the 2,200 capacity Live Music Club, so that the audience can enjoy stunning light shows adapted to suit a variety of live events.

Philips was chosen as a Preferred Supplier as leaders in LED technology and the best in the industry at lighting iconic buildings. Peter Maskell, Managing Director of Philips UK said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to work with AEG in the re-development of the Millennium Dome as an Icon of Entertainment for the 21st Century. A structure as unique as The O2 has presented us with both challenges and opportunities but our experience in the fields of architectural and public space lighting and the construction of large scale video screens has allowed us to rise to these challenges with spectacular results. We look forward to further developing our relationship with AEG as the Greenwich site matures into an established part of the itinerary for visitors to London."

Google invests $10 M in hybrids

USA today reports :
Internet search giant Google (GOOG) hopes to speed the development of plug-in hybrid cars by giving away millions of dollars to people and companies that have what appear to be practical ways to get plug-ins to market faster.

But the money, announced Monday afternoon at Google headquarters in Mountain Valley, Calif., totals just $1 million so far with another $10 million pledged, which might not be enough to move the needle.

Auto development is crushingly expensive, especially when it involves the kind of advanced battery and powertrain technology used in plug-in hybrids.

Though automakers are tight-lipped about what they spend, bringing a plug-in hybrid to market could cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

"Google is not going to get into the business of building and selling hybrid electrics. Our focus is on accelerating their developing through research, testing and investment," says's Dan Reicher, who was assistant energy secretary under former President Bill Clinton. is the philanthropic arm of

Friday, June 15, 2007

Micorcavity plasma lamps

Another interesting technology that may have promise are Al foil lamps. The main attraction is not the efficacy but the cost of manufacture. The Al lamps (each thinner than a human hair) are a sandwitch of Al-Sapphire (Al Oxide) -Al. From Physorg :
Researchers at the University of Illinois are developing panels of microcavity plasma lamps that may soon brighten people’s lives. The thin, lightweight panels could be used for residential and commercial lighting, and for certain types of biomedical applications.
“Built of aluminum foil, sapphire and small amounts of gas, the panels are less than 1 millimeter thick, and can hang on a wall like picture frames,” said Gary Eden, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the U. of I., and corresponding author of a paper describing the microcavity plasma lamps in the June issue of the Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics.

Like conventional fluorescent lights, microcavity plasma lamps are glow-discharges in which atoms of a gas are excited by electrons and radiate light. Unlike fluorescent lights, however, microcavity plasma lamps produce the plasma in microscopic pockets and require no ballast, reflector or heavy metal housing. The panels are lighter, brighter and more efficient than incandescent lights and are expected, with further engineering, to approach or surpass the efficiency of fluorescent lighting.

The plasma panels are also six times thinner than panels composed of light-emitting diodes, said Eden, who also is a researcher at the university’s Coordinated Science Laboratory and the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory.

A plasma panel consists of a sandwich of two sheets of aluminum foil separated by a thin dielectric layer of clear aluminum oxide (sapphire). At the heart of each lamp is a small cavity, which penetrates the upper sheet of aluminum foil and the sapphire.

“Each lamp is approximately the diameter of a human hair,” said visiting research scientist Sung-Jin Park, lead author of the paper. “We can pack an array of more than 250,000 lamps into a single panel.”
Completing the panel assembly is a glass window 500 microns (0.5 millimeters) thick. The window’s inner surface is coated with a phosphor film 10 microns thick, bringing the overall thickness of the lamp structure to 800 microns.

Flat panels with radiating areas of more than 200 square centimeters have been fabricated, Park said. Depending upon the type of gas and phosphor used, uniform emissions of any color can be produced.

In the researchers’ preliminary plasma lamp experiments, values of the efficiency – known as luminous efficacy – of 15 lumens per watt were recorded. Values exceeding 30 lumens per watt are expected when the array design and microcavity phosphor geometry are optimized, Eden said. A typical incandescent light has an efficacy of 10 to 17 lumens per watt.

The researchers also demonstrated flexible plasma arrays sealed in polymeric packaging. These devices offer new opportunities in lighting, in which lightweight arrays can be mounted onto curved surfaces – on the insides of windshields, for example.

The flexible arrays also could be used as photo-therapeutic bandages to treat certain diseases – such as psoriasis – that can be driven into remission by narrow-spectrum ultraviolet light, Eden said.

It should be stressed that while these lamps may have some niche applications, the name of the game from this point on (given the state of the planet) will be high efficacy devices. We expect 100 lm/W to be the entry level by 2010. This leaves LED's (which by that time should achieve 200 lm/W) and Triband phosphor flourescents (maybe about 120 lm/W or so) to handle the bulk of the market. Interesting that Sapphire is used in both LED's (as substrate for GaN) and in Microcavity technology.


We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge. -- John Naisbitt, Megatrends

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The US DoE SSL funding program

The DoE in the US has come up with a funding program to companies working on improving SSL efficiency. The program is for some very specific advances identified by the DoE.
They are

* Internal Quantum Efficiency (IQE)
* Reliability and Defect Physics for Improved Emitter Lifetime and Efficiency
* Phosphors and Conversion Materials
* Extraction Efficiency
* Organic Light Emitter Research
* Strategies for Improved Light Extraction of OLEDs

More details can be had here.

End of Sapphire

An Aussie firm claims that they have grown GaN on a 6 inch (152 mm) glass substrate. Both are big ticket news items as 6 inch substrates can cut cost significantly (as opposed to the 2 inch substrates in vogue now). Further Glass is bound to be cheaper than the sapphire that is currently used to grow GaN epitaxially. While SiO2 is also used it is basically only cree who is onto this technology. From LED Mag:

BluGlass Ltd of Sydney, Australia says it has succeeded in producing what it claims is the world’s first blue light emission from the uniform deposition of gallium nitride on a 6-inch diameter coated glass wafer.

The latest increase in scale offers the LED market the possibility of additional cost efficiencies, claims CEO David Jordan. Compared to current 2-inch industry-standard sapphire or silicon carbide substrates for commercial blue LED production, a 6-inch wafer has nine times the area.

The company is also developing a remote plasma CVD process for low-temperature deposition of GaN.

If it moves tax it!

Some biofuel woes. Newsobserver reports :
Bob Teixeira decided it was time to take a stand against U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

So last fall the Charlotte musician and guitar instructor spent $1,200 to convert his 1981 diesel Mercedes to run on vegetable oil. He bought soybean oil in 5-gallon jugs at Costco, spending about 30 percent more than diesel would cost.

His reward, from a state that heavily promotes alternative fuels: a $1,000 fine last month for not paying motor fuel taxes. He has been told to expect another $1,000 fine from the federal government.

To legally use veggie oil, state officials told him, he would have to first post a $2,500 bond.

Teixeira is one of a growing number of fuel-it-yourselfers -- backyard brewers who recycle restaurant grease or make moonshine for their car tanks. They do it to save money, reduce pollution or thumb their noses at oil sheiks.

They're also caught in a web of little-known state laws that can stifle energy independence.

State Sen. Stan Bingham, R-Denton, is known around Raleigh for his diesel Volkswagen fueled by used soybean oil. The car sports a "Goodbye, OPEC" sign.

"If somebody was going to go to this much trouble to drive around in a car that uses soybean oil, they ought to be exempt" from state taxes, he said.

The state Department of Revenue, which fined Teixeira, has asked legislators to waive the $2,500 bond for small fuel users. The department also told Teixeira, after the Observer asked about his case this week, that it will compromise on his fine.

But officials say they'll keep pursuing taxes on all fuels used in highway vehicles. With its 29.9-cent a gallon gas tax, the state collects $1.2 billion each year to pay for road construction.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Corporate solar is here

As with much else the maveric pair running google have shown the corporate world how not "to be evil". While How evil google is another story the following excerpt shows how you can save money and be the good guy.
At the Mountain View campus Google will be installing a cool 16 megawatt array of photovoltaic solar panels, the largest of any corporate campus in the continental United States, perhaps even one of the largest in the world.

Covering a total of six roofs, four of which are main buildings of the Googleplex alone, and even a few solar panels on support structures among the parking lots.

Generating enough energy to power around 1,000 Californian homes, approximately thirty percent of the peak consumption in several Mountain View office facilities will be sustained on these arrays.

Clean, sustainable and renewable energy sources are part of a project to reduce the environmental impact Google has, as a company.

Improving environmental practices according to Google, is part of their corporate responsibility as corporate citizens, as well as healthy business planning and Google Solar is a practical beginning.

This project will be a large investment in renewable energies, one that Google expects to prove as profitable.

Remember oil lens binoculars

Yes. The dune staple for remote viewing seems to have a bit more of science i thought. New Scientist tech reveals that The first liquid camera lens with no moving parts, and that can switch between two levels of magnification, has been designed by a German research team. The work is an important step towards liquid zoom lenses that can sweep through a range of magnifications.

Liquid lenses bend light using the curved boundary between watery and oily liquids. When the two liquids are held in the right container, the boundary between them can be made to curve in a way that focuses light simply by applying a voltage.

Liquid lenses have attracted much attention because they are potentially smaller than conventional optics and cheaper to build. Samsung has already built them into some cellphones.

But the greatest savings in size and cost can be made with zoom lenses. Altering the focusing power of a set of liquid lenses should provide the same effect as changing the distance between solid, fixed-focus lenses in a traditional zoom lens.

Humour :)

Knebel's Law: It is now proved beyond doubt that smoking is one of the leading causes of statistics.

Thursday, June 07, 2007


Do not clog intellect's sluices with bits of knowledge of questionable uses.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Fuel cell breakthrough

Ecogeek reports :
Acumentrics manufactures 5000-watt solid oxide fuel cell systems (SOFC) for power applications. They are also developing combined-heat-and-power units (which are like boilers that produce electricity) for the home market. In 2000 they acquired a novel fuel cell technology. Since then, they have increased the output of a single fuel cell tube from 1 watt to 60 watts. Today they have over 30 units working in the field, including ones that power visitor’s centers at Exit Glacier National Park in Alaska, and Cuyahoga National Park in Ohio.

One of their key innovations was making ceramic fuel cell technology shatter resistant. It is shatter resistant because of its shape -- it is a tube, not a thin sheet as most others have used --with a special composition of layers that prevents them from flaking off. Solid oxide fuel cells must handle temperature swings from 20 to 800ÂșC. Many other solid oxide fuel cells crack when they are cycled on and off, because of thermal shock.

But what really makes Acumentrics different is that they aren't waiting around for the mythical hydrogen economy. The fuel cells run on natural gas, propane, ethanol, diesel, biogas, and biodiesel. While using non-hydrogen fuel means that the cell will produce CO2, Acumentrics fuel cells consume half as much fuel as a comparable small-engine generator, per kW. So they produce the same amount of electricity, while consuming half as much fuel, and producing half as much CO2.


A radical approach to harness heat as electricity through sound is making the rounds. University of Utah physicists developed small devices that turn heat into sound and then into electricity. The technology holds promise for changing waste heat into electricity, harnessing solar energy and cooling computers and radars.Read more here.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

More corn ethanol turmoil

The WSJ has a report on what is being fed to Pigs and cows now that corn is more expensive.

A very strange thing is happening right now in livestock operations in the United States. As corn becomes a hot commodity for ethanol production, livestock producers are replacing some of their animal feed with products that would look more at home in the candy aisles of supermarkets. According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, producers are feeding their cows and pigs an odd assortment of junk food, including hard candy, trail mix, licorice, chocolate bars, French fries, and cheese curls, among other things.

Why would farmers mix sugary, salty, and high-fat foods into animal feed? Corn prices have jumped to $4 a bushel, twice the level of just a few years ago. And as corn prices go up, it means that farmers have to pay more to get their animals to slaughter weight. They have found, not surprisingly, that tater tots, peanuts, and chocolate chips can pack on the pounds. Some cattle producers have replaced 100 percent of their feed with discarded junk food.

More than half a century ago, the livestock industry started messing with animals’ diets, confining them indoors, and replacing their natural grass diet with a high-protein diet of grain. Why? Thanks to subsidies that encouraged overproduction, corn and soybeans were cheap. But today, with these inputs not quite as alluring, it’s somehow become cost effective to feed livestock—the very animals that eventually end up on our dinner plates—discarded junk food. That’s definitely not a step in the right direction

Osram LED's for Opel head lamps

Osram has developed exterior lighting for a concept car using new thin film Ostar and golden dragon LED's. Quite an achievement given the light output required. From the article
LEDs from Osram Opto Semiconductors have been used for all the exterior lighting on the Opel GTC concept car. Using thin-film LED chip technology, Osram says that its LEDs have received a huge boost in brightness, which reduces the number of devices needed for each specific lighting application.

In each headlight, two Ostar LEDs are used for the dipped beam, with three further OSTAR LEDs providing the high beam.

Parking lights and daylight running lights (DRLs) are provided by Golden Dragon LEDs, and each fog light is equipped with one Ostar LED. For the interior lighting, red TopLEDs from Osram were featured to backlight the dashboard instruments, accen-tuating and complementing the red design accents on the steering wheel and seats of the sports coupe.

In addition, LEDs are utilized in automobiles to increase road safety. These compact light sources have a quicker response time and are brighter than incandescent lamps, factors which contribute to the safety of passengers, par-ticularly in instances when sudden braking is called for.

LEDs give car designers new freedom to give the front and rear light clusters an eye-catching make-over. The front of the Opel GTC is a good example with its large vertical air intakes and trapezoidal grille giving it a smooth yet aggressive appearance.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Wake up Aussies

The BBC reports that the Australian wheat exports have been badly hit by the worst drought in the century. Point is every ton of wheat requires 100's of tons of water to grow. In effect that aussies are exporting the very water that they can ill afford to. The Murray-Darling basin is finished and the water available is barely enough to drink. Finally the ills of food export are catching up with mankind. Food should be locally grown and consumed. For residents of the worlds driest continent to ravage their land in the name of economic development is akin to Kalidasa cutting the branch while sitting on it. The meat & wool business is even more dangerous from the sustainability perspective. It takes 500 tons of water for one ton of beef !

Food or Fuel

More on the corn ethanol issue. Clearly the effects of using a major food crop for fuel has already being felt in the America's. While these are still early days to draw firm conclusions, the trend emerging is clearly scary. One wonders if corn ethanol is a transportation strategy or a population control program. The numbers seem to indicate that the average US grocery basket was dearer by $47/month due to the increased demand for corn as fuel. Read more here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Gold from waste - new twist to 'data' mining

The implications of e-waste are becoming clear day by day. For the record e-waste has 17 times more gold that gold bearing ore and 40 times more copper. Given the prices of metals it looks like mining refineries may soon switch to extracting the metals from waste rather than mining it. China seems to have a lead in this (basically no environmental) with pesants doing this for peanuts. India has a strong recycling industry (informal) and safe e-waste treatment may be the way to go. There are however caveats as the environmental costs are high. This needs to be addressed urgently. In fact e-waste should be recycled in areas where hazardous industries are already using similar processes for different purposes so that the effluent treatment can be centralized and the investments amortized faster.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Hydrogen economy : Ga & Al

Physorg reports
Purdue researchers demonstrate their method for producing hydrogen by adding water to an alloy of aluminum and gallium. The hydrogen could then be used to run an internal combustion engine. The reaction was discovered by Jerry Woodall, center, a distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering. The method makes it unnecessary to store or transport hydrogen - two major challenges in creating a hydrogen economy, said Jerry Woodall, a distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue who invented the process. The hydrogen is generated on demand, so you only produce as much as you need when you need it," said Woodall, who presented research findings detailing how the system works during a recent energy symposium at Purdue.

The technology could be used to drive small internal combustion engines in various applications, including portable emergency generators, lawn mowers and chain saws. The process could, in theory, also be used to replace gasoline for cars and trucks, he said.

Hydrogen is generated spontaneously when water is added to pellets of the alloy, which is made of aluminum and a metal called gallium. The researchers have shown how hydrogen is produced when water is added to a small tank containing the pellets. Hydrogen produced in such a system could be fed directly to an engine, such as those on lawn mowers.

"When water is added to the pellets, the aluminum in the solid alloy reacts because it has a strong attraction to the oxygen in the water," Woodall said.

This reaction splits the oxygen and hydrogen contained in water, releasing hydrogen in the process.

The gallium is critical to the process because it hinders the formation of a skin normally created on aluminum's surface after oxidation. This skin usually prevents oxygen from reacting with aluminum, acting as a barrier. Preventing the skin's formation allows the reaction to continue until all of the aluminum is used.

OLED's at work

A beautiful (that is the right adjective) new keyboard the Optimus has raised the humble keyboard to the the next level. Each key is a complete bitmapped OLED display that allows any character, image or bit map to be assigned to the key. For people who use scripts other than latin this is a major move forward. Yet another amazing LED application.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Commercial : Innovative new off-grid product

Alternate Lighting has introduced a battery backed low cost LED table lamp in AC and Solar chargeable formats. The lightweight 7 LED lamp is targeted at rural households (and given the current power scenario, even metros :) and provides upto 3 hours of off-grid operation. Comes with a built in Ni-Cd battery pack and charger electronics. Quite a unique and off-beat product (even if i have to say so myself :) The lamps are available for online purchase on eBay.

Autonomous valve train & HCCI

A new idea from Purdue seems to be the next big thing in making the IC engined (petrol) auto a bit more eco-friendly. The concept is based on variable valve timing that is facilitated by an autonomous power and control system for the valve train ( i wonder if this can be called a valve train as it has not connection with the crankshaft). The kicker seems to be the fact that the more granular valve control independent of the timing allows the implementation of homogeneous charge compression ignition that in turn pushes up efficiency by about 20 %. Read more here.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

nature: quantum karma - super massive supernovae

What defines krazilec ? Surely leto-2 was referring to super massive supernovae! The natural universe, if obeserved, far exceeds mere human inventivness in granduer. Behold a 150 solar mass super nova and reflect on your physical universe..

Read more below

Berkeley (May 7th, 2007) An exploding star first observed last September is the largest and most luminous supernova ever seen, according to University of California, Berkeley, astronomers, and may be the first example of a type of massive exploding star rare today but probably common in the very early universe.

Unlike typical supernovas that reach a peak brightness in days to a few weeks and then dim into obscurity a few months later, SN2006gy took 70 days to reach full brightness and stayed brighter than any previously observed supernova for more than three months. Nearly eight months later, it still is as bright as a typical supernova at its peak, outshining its host galaxy 240 million light years away.

UC Berkeley post-doctoral fellows Nathan Smith and David Pooley estimate the star's mass at between 100 and 200 times that of the sun. Such massive stars are so rare that galaxies like our own Milky Way may contain only a dozen out of a stellar population of 400 billion.

"This was a truly monstrous explosion, a hundred times more energetic than a typical supernova," said Smith, who led a team of astronomers from UC Berkeley and the University of Texas. "That means the star that exploded might have been as massive as a star can get, about 150 times that of our sun. We've never seen that before."

"Of all exploding stars ever observed, this was the king," said Alex Filippenko, UC Berkeley astronomer and leader of the ground-based observations at the University of California's Lick Observatory in California and the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. "We were astonished to see how bright it got, and how long it lasted."

Based on the Lick and Keck observations, plus data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory, Smith, Pooley, Filippenko and their colleagues argue that the stellar explosion was not your run-of-the-mill supernova, but a possible pair-instability supernova.

Stars with masses at least 10 times greater than our sun end their lives after burning hydrogen to helium, helium to carbon, and on to larger elements until they reach iron, when fusion stops. Toward the end of this process, the heat produced in the core of the star becomes insufficient to support the outer layers, which collapse inward, finishing the fusion process and crunching the core to a neutron star or black hole. The outer layers of the star are blown off in a bright flare-up we observe as a supernova.

For stars much more massive than this, ranging from 140 solar masses to as many as 250, the temperature at the core becomes so great that before the fusion cascade is complete, high-energy gamma rays in the core start annihilating one another, creating matter-antimatter pairs, mostly electron-positron pairs. Since gamma radiation is the energy that prevents collapse of the outer layers of the star, once the radiation starts disappearing, the outer layers fall inward. The net result is a thermonuclear explosion that, theoretically, would be brighter than any typical supernova. In this type of supernova, the star is blown to smithereens, leaving behind no black hole.

"This discovery forces us to go back to the drawing board to understand how the most massive stars die," Smith said. "Instead of just winking away into a black hole, they apparently can suffer these brilliant explosions that can be seen far across the universe. The fact that this thing is so bright, and stayed bright for a long time, makes our chances of detecting them in the early universe much better."

Such pair-instability supernovas should theoretically produce a greater percentage of heavy elements. According to Smith, the radioactive decay of
nickel-56 produces most of the light of a supernova, and this pair-instability supernova produced about 20 solar masses of nickel, compared to maybe 0.6 solar masses in a Type Ia supernova. Astronomers think that a large proportion of the universe's first stars were supermassive stars like this that, upon exploding, seeded the early universe with the heavy elements from which planets and later, humans, were made.

"We may have witnessed a modern-day version of how the first generation of the most massive stars ended their lives, when the universe was very young," Filippenko said.

The star that produced SN 2006gy apparently expelled a large amount of mass prior to exploding, reminiscent of the star eta Carinae, a so-called luminous blue variable which, at 100 to 120 solar masses, is the most massive star in our galaxy.

"This is also very exciting because it suggests that eta Carinae, only 7,500 light years away, might possibly explode in a similar manner, becoming a spectacularly bright star in our sky," Filippenko said.

"We don't know for sure if Eta Carinae will explode soon, but we had better keep a close eye on it just in case," added Mario Livio of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., who was not involved in the research. "Eta Carinae's explosion could be the best star-show in the history of modern civilization."

University of Texas graduate student Robert Quimby first observed the supernova on Sept. 18, 2006 in the galaxy NGC 1260, located in the constellation Perseus. Filippenko's team immediately began observing it with its dedicated supernova search and monitor telescope at Lick, the Katzman Automatic Imaging Telescope.

Filippenko and his graduate student Ryan Foley subsequently obtained spectra of the star using the Lick 3-meter Shane telescope and the DEIMOS spectrograph mounted on the Keck II telescope.

Pooley led the Chandra observation, which allowed the team to rule out the most likely alternative explanation for the supernova, namely that it was an explosion of a white dwarf star into a dense, hydrogen-rich environment.

"If that were the case, this supernova would have been 1,000 times brighter in X-rays than what we detected with Chandra," said Pooley. "This must have been an extremely massive star."

"In terms of the effect on the early universe, there's a huge difference between these two possibilities," said Smith. "One pollutes the galaxy with large quantities of newly synthesized elements, and the other locks them up forever in a black hole."

"One exciting repercussion of this is that, if pair-instability supernovas really are this bright, it gives us hope that the James Webb Space Telescope might actually be able to detect these explosions from the first stars, thereby verifying that they may actually exist," he added.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Solid State ! really

Sheets of glass with a veneer of natural stone backlit by LED's! this is solid state lighting through and through. The light sources are good enough to illuminate the stone and bring out its natural beauty from inside. From the LED Mag article

Lighting designers Chaos Design Consultants have installed an illuminated bar in the atrium of the Hilton Hotel, Heathrow.

Dancer’s Bar consists of 9 panels of a special product consisting of a thin veneer of real natural stone, which is bonded on to glass, the end result being beautiful translucent panels.

In order to produce the "floating" effect required by the client, Chaos installed panels of Prismex behind the veneer of natural stone and then edgelit each panel with a total of 450 white LEDs.
Prismex is an ultra-slim acrylic which makes it ideal to use where space is at a minimum. The acrylic also has a special pattern printed on it, which allows the light to be picked up and evenly spread across the panels.

Techwatch: Nano light sources

The nano buzz around lighting is getting louder. Cornell announces the development of nano-light emitting fibers that could revolutionalize lighting and especially LCD backlighting as we know it. I guess we should welcome 'the sheet screen' if this can be scaled. From the article in Just Chromatography:

Every day scientists continue to surprises us with the new discoveries; however, the most noted and admired by the vast majority of folks as well as science professionals are the achievements and developments in the field of nanotechnology. We all get easily amused when we see the next “nano” research headline because the “nanotech world” is not yet fully understood or explored.

Recently Craighead Research Group at Corenll University reported their next “nano” breakthrough. They created a so-called “Nano-Lamp” - a microscopic collection of light-emitting fibers with dimensions of only a few hundred nanometers.

According to the research article published in “Nano Letters”, the scientists were able to create one of the smallest manmade source of light that world has ever seen. The light-emitting spots on the fibers measure less than 250 nm in diameter which makes this light source smaller than the wavelength of light that they emit - 600nm. The fibers are made from a polymer with ruthenium-based molecules using a complex technique called - electrospinning - when a small droplet of polymer solution is placed on a metal needle tip followed by application of a high voltage between the tip and gold electrodes in a silicon base placed a few millimeters away.

A light-emitting nanofiber spans gold electrodes that are 500 nm apart and ruthenium-based molecules embedded in the fiber light up when exposed to an electric field of 3-4 V. An interesting fact is that when researches applied a high voltage of 100 volts, the orange light was bright enough to be seen by a human eye in the dark.

'Tabletop' fusion back

After a rather rough ride in the 1990's table top fusion or fusion of light atomic nucleii at room temprature (as opposed to the core of the sun) is making a comeback. The US Navy has thrown its weight behind one of the new genere of experiments in this line. Excerpt from :

Cold fusion, the ability to generate nuclear power at room temperatures, has proven to be a highly elusive feat. In fact, it is considered by many experts to be a mere pipe dream -- a potentially unlimited source of clean energy that remains tantalizing, but so far unattainable.

However, a recently published academic paper from the Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SPAWAR) in San Diego throws cold water on skeptics of cold fusion. Appearing in the respected journal Naturwissenschaften, which counts Albert Einstein among its distinguished authors, the article claims that Spawar scientists Stanislaw Szpak and Pamela Mosier-Boss have achieved a low energy nuclear reaction (LENR) that can be replicated and verified by the scientific community.

Cold fusion has gotten the cold shoulder from serious nuclear physicists since 1989, when Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann were unable to substantiate their sensational claims that deuterium nuclei could be forced to fuse and release excess energy at room temperature. Spawar researchers apparently kept the faith, however, and continued to refine the procedure by experimenting with new fusionable materials.

Szpak and Boss now claim to have succeeded at last by coating a thin wire with palladium and deuterium, then subjected it to magnetic and electric fields. The researchers have offered plastic films called CR-39 detectors as evidence that charged particles have emerging from their reaction experiments.

The Spawar method shows promise, particularly in terms of being easily reproduced and verified by other institutions. Such verification is essential to widespread acceptance of the apparent breakthrough, an important precursor to scientists receiving the necessary funding to fuel additional research in the field.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Highway power

wind turbines powered by the breeze generated from the renowned Jersey highways, to help reduce the amount of electricity being used.
The big shocker of this story? The wind turbines won’t be built on the side of the highway. They will be built in under the road. It is proposed to use the power thus generated to run a light railway. Not bad as a lateral idea. How much pertol one needs to burn to make the wind turbines break even is anyones guess :)

Monday, April 30, 2007

Solar plant in ontario

The canadians are putting us a 40 MW solar plant. For a country blessed with so much hydro power this is a move that smacks of vision. Contrast this with Bangalore's bescom whose inept babus claim (on paper) that the situation is normal. This is when the average banglorean faces 2- 6 hours of 'unscheduled' disruption. What the government cannot fix, the people should.
Read more here

Friday, April 27, 2007

The LED pie

Japan as ever seems to be way ahead of the others. The curious thing is how desperate the Chinese are to sell their semi-conductor even though they make a hell of a lot less than the Japanese. The taiwanese production is not a surprise. Funnily the larger the volume the greater the price. That is the led market for you. Read more here.

Light guides from Kaye Effect

Very cool video. Must see. I had no clue that liquids behaved this way. Hat tip : Atanu Dey

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Algae based bio reactors

Something that is much better than all the fuss about corn ethanol which is a silly idea on stilts. This can be viewed as cellulosic ethanol's first and possibly best entry into the industry. From the article in Green power :

BioKing Green Energy NV has developed new, high performance and continuous photo-bioreactors for algae for the purpose of producing biodiesel. BioKing Green Energy NV is a recently formed subsidiary, fully owned by BioKing Inc. It will engage in research and development of algae cultivation as an energy source for the production of biodiesel, which is an economically feasible and eco-friendly alternative to petroleum-based fuels. The production facilities for algae bio fuels will be based in the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal.

Hans and Marco van de Ven, founders of BioKing states: “With the increasing interest in biodiesel as an alternative to petrodiesel, many have looked at the possibility of growing even more oilseed crops as a solution to the problem of peak oil. However, there are two problems with this approach. Firstly, cultivation of even more oilseed crops will usurp valuable space needed to grow food crops to feed mankind. And secondly, traditional oilseed crops are not the most productive or efficient source of vegetable oil. Micro-algae have the highest potential of energy yield in vegetable oil crops. Some species of algae are ideally suited for biodiesel production due to their high oil content, some as much as 50 percent, and their extremely fast growth rates. They can grow in adverse conditions like deserts and saline water. That is why algae are the crop of the future.”

BioKing Inc. is a developer of scalable photo-bioreactors for the production of biodiesel developed with patented technology. They also produce other valuable bio-commodities produced from algae oil. This technology has the potential to dramatically improve biodiesel yields from algae oil.

“After only 3.5 hours inside the newly designed continuous photo-bioreactor system algae can be collected and processed,” van de Ven states. “ With our fast growing algae and our advanced photo-bioreactor it only takes four days to be in full production and to collect the first algae. And the cost of biodiesel feedstock will only be 5 to 10 cents a liter.”

3D nano tower arrays - 2

More details emerge on the latest in Photo voltaics Excerpt below :
The GTRI photovoltaic cells trap light between their tower structures, which are about 100 microns tall, 40 microns by 40 microns square, 10 microns apart—and built from arrays containing millions of vertically-aligned carbon nanotubes. Conventional flat solar cells reflect a significant portion of the light that strikes them, reducing the amount of energy they absorb.

Because the tower structures can trap and absorb light received from many different angles, the new cells remain efficient even when the sun is not directly overhead. That could allow them to be used on spacecraft without the mechanical aiming systems that maintain a constant orientation to the sun, reducing weight and complexity – and improving reliability.

“The efficiency of our cells increases as the sunlight goes away from perpendicular, so we may not need mechanical arrays to rotate our cells,” Ready noted.

The ability of the 3D cells to absorb virtually all of the light that strikes them could also enable improvements in the efficiency with which the cells convert the photons they absorb into electrical current.

In conventional flat solar cells, the photovoltaic coatings must be thick enough to capture the photons, whose energy then liberates electrons from the photovoltaic materials to create electrical current. However, each mobile electron leaves behind a “hole” in the atomic matrix of the coating. The longer it takes electrons to exit the PV material, the more likely it is that they will recombine with a hole—reducing the electrical current.

Because the 3D cells absorb more of the photons than conventional cells, their coatings can be made thinner, allowing the electrons to exit more quickly, reducing the likelihood that recombination will take place. That boosts the “quantum efficiency” – the rate at which absorbed photons are converted to electrons – of the 3D cells.

Fabrication of the cells begins with a silicon wafer, which can also serve as the solar cell’s bottom junction. The researchers first coat the wafer with a thin layer of iron using a photolithography process that can create a wide variety of patterns. The patterned wafer is then placed into a furnace heated to 780 degrees Celsius. Hydrocarbon gases are then flowed into furnace, where the carbon and hydrogen separate. In a process known as chemical vapor deposition, the carbon grows arrays of multi-walled carbon nanotubes atop the iron patterns.

Once the carbon nanotube towers have been grown, the researchers use a process known as molecular beam epitaxy to coat them with cadmium telluride (CdTe) and cadmium sulfide (CdS) which serve as the p-type and n-type photovoltaic layers. Atop that, a thin coating of indium tin oxide, a clear conducting material, is added to serve as the cell’s top electrode.

In the finished cells, the carbon nanotube arrays serve both as support for the 3D arrays and as a conductor connecting the photovoltaic materials to the silicon wafer.

The researchers chose to make their prototypes cells from the cadmium materials because they were familiar with them from other research. However, a broad range of other photovoltaic materials could also be used, and selecting the best material for specific applications will be a goal of future research.

Ready also wants to study the optimal heights and spacing for the towers, and to determine the trade-offs between spacing and the angle at which the light hits the structures.

The new cells face several hurdles before they can be commercially produced. Testing must verify their ability to survive launch and operation in space, for instance. And production techniques will have to scaled up from the current two-inch laboratory prototypes.

“We have demonstrated that we can extract electrons using this approach,” Ready said. “Now we need to get a good baseline to see where we compare to existing materials, how to optimize this and what’s needed to advance this technology.”

Intellectual Property Partners of Atlanta holds the rights to the 3D solar cell design and is seeking partners to commercialize the technology.
Another commercialization path is being followed by an Ohio company, NewCyte, which is partnering with GTRI to use the 3D approach for terrestrial solar cells. The Air Force Office of Scientific Research has awarded the company a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant to develop the technology.

“NewCyte has patent pending, low cost technology for depositing semiconductor layers directly on individual fullerenes,” explained Dennis J. Flood, NewCyte’s president and CTO. “We are using our technology to grow the same semiconductor layers on the carbon nanotube towers that GTRI has already demonstrated. Our goal is to achieve performance and cost levels that will make solar cells using the GTRI 3D cell structure competitive in the broader terrestrial solar cell market.”

Nano towers were covered in this blog previously.

Nemesis found

The prescience of Issac Asimov, the grand old man of science fiction, is scary. For readers of science fiction, 'Nemesis' was a seminal book about (mostly) superluminal flight and the discovery of a red dwarf which is a 'unknown' binary to our own sun. The scary bit is that there is a rocky planet in orbit around the red dwarf that has liquid water and an alien intelligence based on prokaryote lie forms ( a rocky water sustaining planet around a red dwarf is astronomically very rare). In a recent discovery, Euro astronomers have found a planet that matches this in spec a mere 20 light years from earth. So to Nemesis !

Excerpt from the BBC:
Astronomers have found the most Earth-like planet outside our Solar System to date, a world which could have water running on its surface.

The planet orbits the faint star Gliese 581, which is 20.5 light-years away in the constellation Libra.

Scientists made the discovery using the Eso 3.6m Telescope in Chile.

They say the benign temperatures on the planet mean any water there could exist in liquid form, and this raises the chances it could also harbour life.

"We have estimated that the mean temperature of this 'super-Earth' lies between 0 and 40 degrees Celsius, and water would thus be liquid," explained Stephane Udry of the Geneva Observatory, lead author of the scientific paper reporting the result. Moreover, its radius should be only 1.5 times the Earth's radius, and models predict that the planet should be either rocky - like our Earth - or covered with oceans."

Xavier Delfosse, a member of the team from Grenoble University, added: "Liquid water is critical to life as we know it."

He believes the planet may now become a very important target for future space missions dedicated to the search for extra-terrestrial life.

These missions will put telescopes in space that can discern the tell-tale light "signatures" that might be associated with biological processes.

The observatories would seek to identify trace atmospheric gases such as methane, and even markers for chlorophyll, the pigment in Earth plants that plays a critical role in photosynthesis.

Given the recent theories on chlorophyll, they should also look for retinal which was the photosynthetic molecule that preceded chlorophyll on earth and can still be found in halobacteria.

The exoplanet - as astronomers call planets around a star other than the Sun - is the smallest yet found, and completes a full orbit of its parent star in just 13 days.

Indeed, it is 14 times closer to its star than the Earth is to our Sun.

However, given that the host star is smaller and colder than the Sun - and thus less luminous - the planet nevertheless lies in the "habitable zone", the region around a star where water could be liquid.

Gliese 581 was identified at the European Southern Observatory (Eso) facility at La Silla in the Atacama Desert.

To make their discovery, researchers used a very sensitive instrument that can measure tiny changes in the velocity of a star as it experiences the gravitational tug of a nearby planet.

Astronomers are stuck with such indirect methods of detection because current telescope technology struggles to image very distant and faint objects - especially when they orbit close to the glare of a star.

The Gliese 581 system has now yielded three planets: the new super-Earth, a 15 Earth-mass planet orbiting even closer to the parent star, and an eight Earth-mass planet that lies further out.
Gliese 581 is much cooler and dimmer than our own Sun
The latest discovery has created tremendous excitement among scientists.

Of the more than 200 exoplanets so far discovered, a great many are Jupiter-like gas giants that experience blazing temperatures because they orbit close to hot stars.

The Gliese 581 super-Earth is in what scientists call the "Goldilocks Zone" where temperatures "are just right" for life to have a chance to exist.

Commenting on the discovery, Alison Boyle, the curator of astronomy at London's Science Museum, said: "Of all the planets we've found around other stars, this is the one that looks as though it might have the right ingredients for life.

"It's 20 light-years away and so we won't be going there anytime soon, but with new kinds of propulsion technology that could change in the future. And obviously we'll be training some powerful telescopes on it to see what we can see," she told BBC News.

"'Is there life anywhere else?' is a fundamental question we all ask."

Professor Glenn White at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory is helping to develop the European Space Agency's Darwin mission, which will scan the nearby Universe, looking for signs of life on Earth-like planets. He said: "This is an important step in the search for true Earth-like exoplanets.

"As the methods become more and more refined, astronomers are narrowing in on the ultimate goal - the detection of a true Earth-like planet elsewhere.

"Obviously this newly discovered planet and its companions in the Gliese 581 system will become prominent targets for missions like Esa's Darwin and Nasa's Terrestrial planet Finder when they fly in about a decade."