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Technology bulletin

Technology bulletin

All in one: refrigerator, TV, and computer

Ah...a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie! Now for some milk to wash it down. You open your refrigerator door only to find not a drop of milk left. Don't worry...your appliance ordered a fresh supply. Future refrigerators will include this feature and more. A prototype co-developed by Frigidaire Home Products and ICL incorporates a computer, a TV, and, of course, the traditional refrigerator. A flat-panel PC monitor mounted in the appliance door tells the consumer when food products are running low, and helps order them from a grocery service, accessed by the refrigerator through its computer. The computer touch screen provides information and communication, as well as access to television programming. Frigidaire demonstrates the current prototype as part of its latest Frigidaire Gallery Professional Series. The futuristic model comes with a stainless-steel finish and all the modern conveniences, such as ice and water service through the door, a water-filter system, spill-safe glass shelving, and 26.7 cu ft of storage. What else could one want in a modern icebox! Visit: or e-mail: [email protected].

Lots and lots of disk storage using ultraviolet laser diodes

Any concerns about having enough disk space to store computer data may soon be eliminated. Colossal Storage Drive has patents pending on an Optical Holograph Storage technology. The company developed a new way to read and write to a ferroelectric disk storage media using ultraviolet laser diodes with voltage transducer to write, and an UV laser diode and nano-optical transistor to read. Ferroelectric molecules in different orientations can effect the UV photon parameters, such as diffraction, reflectivity, transmissivity, surface topography/morphology, electrostatic field strength, and +/- vector voltage polarity. The Colossal Storage technology allows for infinite non-destructive reads of data on the ferroelectric disk. Other Colossal Storage patents cover the ability to do holographic and 3D storage, increasing densities even further. The optical drive will offer infinite double-sided read and writes for the retention of data storage for 10 years or more. It will have a density of 40 Gbits/sq inch up to 500 gigabits/sq inch. Today's hard drives have around 4 Gbits/sq inch maxing at ~16 Gbits. Colossal Storage hopes to raise venture capital for research and production. E-mail: [email protected].

The fastest encryptor in the east, west, north, and south, too

An encryption program developed at the at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Sandia National Laboratories (Albuquerque, N.M) encrypts data at more than 6.7 billion bits per second. That's 10 times faster than any other known encryptor, say the researchers. A new encryption product currently being built by GTE will be installed in Department of Energy (DOE) and Department of Defense (DoD) high-speed classified computer networks possibly as soon as next year. "It's phenomenal," says Lyndon Pierson, the engineer who designed the apparatus. "We have produced a device that has both the security and bandwidth needed to protect all types of digitized information voice, audio, video, cell-phone conversations, radio and television transmissions, banking and credit card information and general-purpose computer data at speeds previously unimagined." The unclassified encryptor chip, called the "SNL Data Encryption Standard (DES) Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC)," is the fastest known implementation of the DES algorithm, a mathematical transformation commonly used to protect data by cryptographic means. The device consists of 16 sets of 16,000 transistors on an integrated circuit chip the size of a dime. Pierson says it's the 16 sets of transistors that produce the speed of the new encryption device. "Other encryptors have one set of about 16,000 transistors and the data bits are cycled through the transistors 16 times," he says. "In this device the information bits flow through the 16 sets of transistors in clocked cycles where they are encrypted." Simulations predict that the DES ASIC can operate at 9.28 billion bits per second. Currently, the fastest commercial encryptor operates at 0.15 billion bits per second. E-mail: [email protected].

The future of spying lies with the fly

Although they can be quite pesky, insects are amazing fliers. They can take off backwards, fly sideways, and land upside down. A biologist from the University of California Berkeley, sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Defense Advanced Projects Agency, has identified the principles that explain not only how insects stay aloft, but also how they steer and maneuver. Michael Dickinson and his colleagues have discovered that the aerodynamic performance of insects results from the interaction of three distinctly different mechanisms: delayed stall, rotational circulation, and wake capture. These findings are important to the Department of Defense in an effort to design and ultimately construct tiny robotic flies that could be used for such missions as stealthful urban reconnaissance and target tagging. "Dickinson's research results increase the feasibility of creating robotic insects that can perform a variety of operations," says Teresa McMullen, the ONR sponsor of this research. The ultimate goal of the five-year project is to develop a robotic fly, about 5-10 mm in size that can fly a short distance and maintain a stable hover. For more information visit E-mail: [email protected].

It's curtains for noise

Having trouble sleeping? Try a new "quiet curtain" developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA). Krishan Ahuja, regents researcher and head of the acoustics and aerodynamics branch at Georgia's Aerospace and Transportation Laboratory, designed a modular system of curtains that blends aesthetics with audio privacy. The concept is relatively simple: two sheets of noise shielding material are sandwiched between two pieces of fabric and supported by a pocket system. Ahuja determined the noise reduction capabilities of various insert materials and the exterior fabric. A plastic sheet worked best. In benchmark studies, the prototype reduced noise by about seven decibels. By adding a floor extension and valance, noise dropped by 12 dB. This is "akin to saying that if 16 toddlers were screaming, 'I want Mommy,' all at the same time on one side of the curtain, with a 12 dB reduction on the other side, it would appear as though only one toddler was screaming," says Ahuja. Originally designed for use in nursing homes for patients, who have difficulty sleeping, the curtains could also be used in offices, hotels, libraries, schools, homes, or factories. E-mail: [email protected] .

Sensors gauge stresses and strains at high seas

For those who sail, the ability to see in real-time the stresses placed on the mast in high winds is here. By incorporating optical sensing technology into composite mast structures, engineers at Smart Fibres Ltd. (Southampton, UK) developed an "intelligent yacht mast" that can sense potentially catastrophic forces. The smart masts are built using carbon fiber composites laced with optical fibers containing a string of optical sensors throughout. The sensing technology used in the optical fiber employs Bragg grating strain sensor technology developed over the past five years. These sensors are typically a few millimeters in length and are imprinted into the fiber using two ultra-violet wavelength laser beams. When light is launched down the fiber, each sensor acts as a tiny mirror that only reflects one wavelength of light. As the sensor experiences stress or strain, the wavelength of the light reflected changes accordingly. The information picked up by each of the sensors is then transmitted back to a remote optoelectronic data-processing unit, which builds up a picture of the loading placed on the mast and boom throughout their length and lifetime. Lorna Everall, Optoelectronics Manager at Smart Fibres, says, "This technology has brought the idea of an intelligent structure from research curiosity to commercial reality. It heralds a new era in structural design engineering, with the technology being proven within the maritime environment but having wide ranging applications far beyond this." The technology has the potential for use in aerospace, civil engineering, transportation, and offshore uses. More information can be found in the July issue of Materials World, "Smart composites for the marine industry." Fax +44-171-839-2289.

Europe and U.S. to develop giant radio telescope

Representatives from the U.S. and Europe recently signed an agreement to collaborate on the first phase of a new telescope that will image the universe with millimeter wavelengths (between the radio and infrared spectral regions), making it possible to study the origins of galaxies, stars, and planets. The new telescope, named ALMA, for Atacama Large Millimeter Array, will be located in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. ALMA will operate at millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths. An array of individual antennas, each 12 m in diameter, will work together to make precision images of astronomical objects. The goal of the ALMA Project: an array of 64 antennas that can be positioned as needed over an area 10 km in diameter so as to give the array a zoom-lens capability. Paul Vanden Bout, director of the U.S. NRAO, emphasized the technical capabilities needed, saying, "The ALMA Project involves development of a variety of fundamental technologies, including amplification of faint cosmic signals using superconducting receivers and ultrafast digital data-processing technologies that will enhance many related areas of scientific research." The Europe-U.S. agreement may soon include Japan, following an already existing tripartite declaration of intent. E-mail [email protected]. or [email protected].

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