Daniel Porter
May 12, 2012

Technology Weeky: Top stories for 5/7-5/11

NVIDIA's latest, the GeForce GTX 670, the company's first GPU built on 28nm architechture. Twenty-eight proves tough-for-business...

Ever since late last year when we heard about difficulties foundries were having with the latest-and-greatest (and smallest) microchip fabrication processes, the buzz has been growing into an increasingly annoying murmur in the back of big semiconductor corporation executives' minds. It turns out that fabricating features only a few chip-maker's dozen of atoms apart is not as easy as microchip manufacturers Intel, Samsung, and TSMC thought. Each of these company's foundries has struggled with low yields and high defect rates, but IDMs like Samsung and Intel have found an advantage in owning both the design and manufacturing aspects of microchip production. TSMC's production limitations, on the other hand, have meant a whole world of inconvenience for customers like Qualcomm and Nvidia, the latter of which released its latest graphics processing unit this week. TSMC has given these two, likely its biggest customers, priority on the 28nm process, but the key word for the latest from these companies is likely to be "scarcity" until TSMC can shore up their production to meet demands (hopefully) sometime before Q3.

Just add water... MIT turns over a new leaf: one that produces hydrogen when it goes swimming in the sun.

Exciting news in the world of clean energy could soon sharpen our focus back on to hydrogen for energy storage. Nanoscale fabrication has opened up the door for two independent publications from MIT and the Brookhaven National Lab that report on steps to bring our hydrogen-powered water-producing dreams one important step closer to reality. By making them cheaper. The Brookhaven team, backed by the DOE, sought to develop a new class of catalyst from readily available, cheap materials -- and were successful: "The production process is both simple and scalable," James Muckerman, the group's principle investigator, said, "making nickel-molybdenum-nitride appropriate for wide industrial applications." What he means is "coming soon to a cutting-edge hydrogen production facility near you." The MIT group focused on a smaller scale and drew on inspiration from some of nature's best solar energy harvesting technologies: leaves. The result: a small graphene-sandwiched "leaf" that bubbles up hydrogen when dropped in sun-lighted water (and not when artistically posed for a photo-op on an actual leaf).

Patent words on the patent wars...

From Judge James Robart of the U.S. District Court of Western Washington when he told Microsoft and Motorola early this week that "the court is well aware it is being used as a pawn in a global, industry-wide business negotiation.” I don't imagine the judge had a smile on his face -- and neither should we. Heidi Duran tackled this latest battle in the international patent wars earlier this week:

"Judge Robart’s statements highlight the problem with these types of cases. The major technology companies have unlimited legal funds to use the courts to their advantage to ensure that their products stay in the market, and ultimately are purchased by the consumer. This is the tangible outcome felt by the public: if the Xbox 360 could be even temporarily import banned in the US, this would have a huge impact on the gaming industry. While a patent infringer should not go unpunished, the current case between Motorola and Microsoft highlights the way patents, and more specifically FRAND patents, can be abused due to lack of clear guidelines.

Nanotech: fair or foul?Nanoparticles like this liposome are the future of drug delivery.

On Wednesday, Dr. Ali Lotfizadeh reviewed some recent exciting advances in nano-biotechnology and makes a fair case for the former:

"Nanotechnology is a burgeoning field of medicine that holds a great deal of promise for enhancing the delivery of drug molecules to target tissues in a selective fashion. Plenty of active research is ongoing in this area."

Here in the future, nanotech is clearly making its way into our lives whether we like it or not. Some would argue that research should involve more investigation into the potentially harmful effects of messing with matter on these scales. In the wake of a May publication of UCLA research detailing potentially harmful effects of nanoparticles on the lungs, Ada Genavia reviewed some efforts to examine the potential impact of widespread nanotechological adoption.