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Nanotechnology Sweeps Nobel Prizes

Nanotechnology makes a good showing at Nobel Prizes for physical sciences

2 min read
Nanotechnology Sweeps Nobel Prizes

Okay, maybe nanotechnology didn’t win the Nobel Peace Prize, but one could argue that the manipulation of matter at the nanoscale did have a good showing in Physics and Chemistry.

For chemistry the Nobel Prize Committee selected Richard F. Heck, University of Delaware, Ei-ichi Negishi, Purdue University, and Akira Suzuki, Hokkaido University for their development of palladium-catalyzed cross coupling. This technique is widely used now both in the pharmaceutical and electronics industry for building complex carbon molecules that require working with the rather non-reactive carbon atom when in the presence of one of their own.

And the other winner: Graphene. Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, now both at the University of Manchester, won for their research into single atom-thick sheets of carbon, called graphene back in 2004.

This was just a matter of time really considering all the excitement over the last few years with the material. A list of some of the research being done with graphene that has been covered here on the pages of IEEE Spectrum is compiled in this article.

 

One article that was missing from the lists was an interview I did with Phaedon Avouris at IBM’s IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, about IBM’s breakthrough in developing a new method for creating a band gap with graphene.

Discovering new materials and material phenomenon are sometimes revolutionary. But personally I am always impressed by the scientists who make these discoveries into something useful not unlike the way Stuart Parkin at IBM did with giant magnetoresistance (GMR)  (which also won a Nobel Prized for its discoverers) or Phaedon Avouris in creating a band gap that could lead to graphene to be used in electronics.

Anyway, these prizes are a good showing for the much-maligned field of science and technology that works on the nanoscale, let’s call it nanotechnology.

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Two Startups Are Bringing Fiber to the Processor

Avicena’s blue microLEDs are the dark horse in a race with Ayar Labs’ laser-based system

5 min read
Diffuse blue light shines from a patterned surface through a ring. A blue cable leads away from it.

Avicena’s microLED chiplets could one day link all the CPUs in a computer cluster together.

Avicena

If a CPU in Seoul sends a byte of data to a processor in Prague, the information covers most of the distance as light, zipping along with no resistance. But put both those processors on the same motherboard, and they’ll need to communicate over energy-sapping copper, which slow the communication speeds possible within computers. Two Silicon Valley startups, Avicena and Ayar Labs, are doing something about that longstanding limit. If they succeed in their attempts to finally bring optical fiber all the way to the processor, it might not just accelerate computing—it might also remake it.

Both companies are developing fiber-connected chiplets, small chips meant to share a high-bandwidth connection with CPUs and other data-hungry silicon in a shared package. They are each ramping up production in 2023, though it may be a couple of years before we see a computer on the market with either product.

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