Archivio marzo 2010
Yaw, pitch, and roll, all from one MEMS element
By Willie D. Jones
25 March 2010—Nowadays, a phone that doesn’t know where it is or where it’s going can’t really call itself ”smart.” To orient themselves properly, smartphones require not just GPS capability but also an electronic compass, an accelerometer, and increasingly, digital gyroscopes.
The point of a gyroscope is to sense any change in an object’s axis of rotation. Up until now, gyroscopes measured movement around the three axes with three sensors—one for pitch, one for yaw, and another for roll. At most, two of these sensors would be combined on a single die. The best you could do was, say, match up a 3- by 5- by 1-millimeter yaw sensor with a 4- by 5- by 1-mm sensor that would detect pitch and roll. But on 15 February, STMicroelectronics unveiled a 4- by 4- by 1-mm gyroscope whose single sensing structure tracks all three angular motions. It’s a triumph of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) engineering.
”Cellphone companies continually demand smaller size, less power, and lower cost,” says Jay Esfandyari, MEMS product marketing manager at ST. ”The aim now is to eventually shrink the [gyroscopes] significantly in the near future, down to about the [3-mm square] average footprint of accelerometers” typically used in smartphones.
Di seguito si riporta il sommario:
- What you missed in the last issue
- Lost in translation? Get the right type of Korean patent translation for your needs
- How do EPO examiners work with Chinese documentation?
- News from Asia
- “East meets West”
- IPscore – patent portfolio analysis
- PDF/A is coming: new PDF archive format starting April 2010
- How users helped shape GPI
- Patent analysis on a big scale
- New IPC version 2010.01
- Simulating technology progress using patent data
- Publications corner
- High-level meetings in Japan discuss PATSTAT
- Virtual event calendar for first half of 2010
- World Patent Information
- Other news
A strong material inspired by abalone shells could be applied over large areas.
By Katherine Bourzac
For decades, materials scientists have looked to naturally existing composites as inspiration for tough, lightweight materials that could lighten vehicles. Such materials could save on fuel costs, protect airplanes, and be used in engine turbines that run more efficiently. The material that lines abalone shells, called nacre, has been of particular interest: it’s lightweight and strong, yet shatter-resistant. But mimicking the microscale structures responsible for its properties has been difficult, and hasn’t resulted in materials that can be manufactured on a large scale.
Now researchers in Helsinki, Finland, have developed a simple method for making large-area, nacre-like papers and coatings that could be painted on building walls and airplane skins for lightweight reinforcement. The researchers will work with the Finnish paper company UPM to commercialize the material.
“The excitement with nacre is that its properties are impressive when you consider what it’s made out of: calcium carbonate and a protein,” says Robert Ritchie, chair of the materials science and engineering department at the University of California, Berkeley, who is not involved with the coatings research. Nacre’s combination of interconnected plates of a very hard but shatter-prone material with an infill of a very soft but ductile material results in a composite whose properties are better than the sum of its parts. By starting with better materials, such as industrial ceramics and polymers or metal, it should be possible to make a synthetic composite whose properties are even better than those of nacre.
Most efforts to mimic the nacre structure’s combination of hard and soft materials have centered on structural materials that could provide a lightweight alternative to steel in building and vehicle frames and engine turbines. Steel is tough–that is, it doesn’t fracture when it’s stressed. Materials such as ceramics can’t be used for structural applications because they’re not tough. They can hold up under the stress of a great weight, but they’re prone to shattering. Last year, for example, Ritchie’s group made a nacre-like material that is the toughest ceramic ever made. In the form of a coating, such a strong, tough material could reinforce walls and airplane skins without adding significant weight. Previous work on making tough biomimetic coatings has stayed in the lab because these materials involved very laborious processes, such as dipping a glass slide in two solutions 1,800 times, to make thin coatings over small areas.
La società statunitense Solar Road all’inizio dello scorso ottobre dichiarò di avere in progetto un’alternativa ‘solare’ al tradizionale manto stradale: si parlò infatti di nuovi moduli che sarebbero stati in grado di ripagarsi mediante la produzione di energia rinnovabile. Grazie al finanziamento da 69mila dollari concesso dall’USDOT, il Dipartimento dei trasporti statunitense, il prototipo è finalmente stato realizzato e sembra più vicina la realizzazione di nuove autostrade costruite posizionando moduli fotovoltaici contenenti luci al LED che ne disegnino la segnaletica orizzontale ed integrati con elementi autoriscaldanti che evitino le formazioni di ghiaccio nei climi nordici.
I nuovi elementi includono inoltre microprocessori per il controllo delle comunicazioni, strumenti utili visto che riescono a comunicare eventuali malfunzionamenti nella rete creando una sorta di autostrada ‘intelligente’.
Ogni singolo modulo risulta costituito da tre strati: in superficie troviamo un materiale ad alta resistenza capace di far passare la luce, resistere alle intemperie, sopportare importanti carichi di peso e proteggere l’elettronica a LED posizionata al di sotto di esso. L’ultimo strato, che forma la base del pannello, consiste nella sede dei collettori e nella rete di trasmissione di tutti i dati raccolti.
Applied Materials makes the equipment needed to produce the biggest solar panels in the world.
By Katherine Bourzac
In 2006, semiconductor-equipment giant Applied Materials got into the solar-power market in a big way. At the company’s headquarters in Santa Clara, CA, you can see just how big: a ceiling-mounted crane lifts a piece of glass the size of a garage door onto a table for testing. The glass sheet, covered with a thin orange film of amorphous silicon, is destined to become one of the world’s largest solar panels.
Applied Materials developed the equipment to produce these extremely large photovoltaic panels in order to lower the price of solar power–crucial if solar is to compete on price with fossil-fuel electricity. The value of a solar installation comes down to the cost of each watt of power it can produce over the lifetime of a panel, and Applied Materials’ panels bring down costs in two ways. The equipment for manufacturing thin-film solar cells operates more efficiently when the panels are bigger. And larger modules need less hardware and labor to wire them together and support them.
Applied Materials, which was already the largest equipment supplier to the semiconductor and liquid-crystal-display industries, brought its expertise to solar power in 2006. The company’s photovoltaics and its display backplanes are both based on glass panels coated with amorphous silicon. Its production facilities were already set up to make those panels in 10 sizes, so achieving the best cost per watt was simply a matter of picking the right surface area, says Jim Cushing, senior director of the photovoltaic-equipment line. The result was “by far the fastest ramp to production in the PV industry,” he says–from lab to market in just under two years.
Applied Materials now sells a complete set of equipment for transforming large glass panels into thin-film solar cells, transporting it to manufacturers in several shipping containers. The company claims that each factory using its equipment can produce enough solar cells every year to generate 80 megawatts of power, enough to provide energy for 35,000 U.S. homes during peak hours of electricity use.
La Direzione Generale Lotta alla Contraffazione – Ufficio Italiano Brevetti e Marchi ha pubblicato il primo numero della Newsletter IPR Desk World, pensato per offrire un’adeguata e mirata e puntuale informazione sull’attività svolta a beneficio delle imprese dalla rete dei Desk presenti nel mondo per la tutela della proprietà industriale.
A new tool can be used to collect, analyze, and visualize large quantities of data.
By Erica Naone
Vast quantities of data are freely available on the Web, and it can be a potential treasure trove for many businesses–providing they can figure out how to use it effectively.
A company can, for example, comb through data from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and court records prior to acquiring another company to see if any of its intellectual property is tied up in legal action. In practice, however, going through so much information takes time and effort to orchestrate.
IBM hopes that a new tool, called BigSheets, will help users analyze Web data more easily. The company has developed a test version of the software for the British Library.
“The ability of any user to do their own types of interesting analytics is coming of age,” says Rod Smith, vice president of emerging Internet technologies for IBM.
BigSheets is built on top of another piece of software called Hadoop. This is an open-source platform for processing very large amounts of Web data by splitting up tasks and handing them off to a cluster of different computers. Hadoop is often used to analyze large amounts of unstructured Web data.
BigSheets uses Hadoop to crawl through Web pages, parsing them to extract key terms and other useful data. BigSheets organizes this information in a very large spreadsheet, where users can analyze it using the sort of tools and macros found in desktop spreadsheet software. Unlike ordinary spreadsheet software, however, there’s no limit to the size of a spreadsheet created through BigSheets.
To use BigSheets, a user would point the tool at a set of URLs or a repository of data. Lists of terms can be used to organize the data into rows and tables, and these can be adjusted later.