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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.