Winner Take All (2008)

Is there one project among these five that is most likely to succeed? Vote here!

3 min read

We've narrowed out list of Winners for this issue down to five. Now it's your turn. Vote in our poll below for the overall winning technology.

But don't stop voting there. We're looking for the two projects most likely to succeed. We will present two awards at at the EE Times Ace Awards event during the Embedded Systems Conferencee in San Jose, Calif., this April. IEEE Spectrum is the association media sponsor for the Ace Awards.

The IEEE Spectrum Emerging Technology Award will be presented to the technology chosen from our five winners as having the most promising potential to provide the greatest financial return from broad commercial application. To vote for this award winner, click here: IEEE Spectrum Emerging Technology Award.

The IEEE Spectrum Technology in the Service of Society Award will be presented to the technology chosen from our five winners as having the most promising potential to provide the greatest overall benefit to humankind. To vote for this award winner, click here: IEEE Spectrum Technology in the Service of Society Award.

Links to each of the five winners are provided below, and on each of the award voting pages.

Winner: Solving the Oil Equation

A team of geophysicists and computer scientists is closing in on the ultimate seismic-imaging code for finding oil. At the Technical University of Catalonia, in Barcelona, Spain, a chapel has been converted into the home of a massively parallel supercomputer, MareNostrum. Francisco Ortigosa, director of geophysics at Repsol YPF, the Spanish oil giant, hopes to use MareNostrum in the Kaleidoscope Project to develop an entirely new class of seismic-imaging codes—the computer algorithms that transform raw data into useful, data-rich images that could reveal new oil and gas reservoirs.

Winner: The Ultimate Dielectric Is...Nothing

IBM packs wires in vacuum to speed chips and save power. Its air-gap technology carves nanoscale holes into the insulation between a chip’s copper wires. Although other companies have been trying for years to improve the insulation of microchip wiring, IBM’s East Fishkill, N.Y., team has made the process work. By embedding cavities of vacuum in the insulation, IBM prevents the electric field between wires from impeding the flow of current and slowing down signal movement. This advance in technology comes just in time to prop up Moore’s Law, which insists that transistor density will double about every 20 months.

Winner: Make Your Very Own Virtual World with OLIVE

Forterra’s OLIVE software makes the business of virtual-world environments real. Forterra Systems of New York City and San Mateo, Calif., has developed a new software package called On-Line Interactive Virtual Environment (OLIVE). The maker’s goal is to enable users to create their own proprietary virtual worlds, and to date users have employed the software, microphones, and headsets to engage in scenarios ranging from a virtual airline training exercise to a dialogue with an irritated customer to an operation in a hospital’s emergency room. OLIVE’s avatars—the computer-generated characters—are natural enough to fully involve users in its world.

Winner: Sprint's Broadband Gamble

A new cellular service will sell high-speed data access instead of phones and phone calls. Sprint’s Xohm service is expected to serve 70 million people; a roaming agreement with Clearwire might add 30 million to the customer base. By combining cellular and high-speed Internet access, Sprint expects to provide seamless Internet access, even to someone in a moving car or train. About one-third of the network’s bandwidth will be allocated to uploading (file transmission). That’s far more than other wireless—or wired—services currently offer.

Winner: Restoring Coal's Sheen

A Swedish energy company, Vattenfall, has taken a novel approach to carbon capture. Its new 30-megawatt clean-coal plant in Schwarze Pumpe, Germany, will test and evaluate oxyfuel (also called oxyfiring), a disarmingly simple process. Instead of burning coal in air, nitrogen is extracted from the air so that the coal can be combusted in an atmosphere of oxygen and recycled flue gases. The resulting flue-gas stream contains almost none of the nitrogen that complicates the separation of carbon dioxide. Once the sulfur has been scrubbed, the flue gases consist essentially of water vapor and carbon dioxide. The water is separated by condensation, and the carbon dioxide can then be compressed and liquefied for shipment to a final storage site. Oxyfuel is of particular interest because it is suited for low-grade and low-sulfur coals and anthracite found in abundance around the world.

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