Japanese team opens the way for printed flat panel displays

March 27, 2008

Flat-panel computer displays could be manufactured quickly and cheaply using novel inkjet printing equipment demonstrated by Japanese scientists.

The technique has already been used to produce the delicate wiring and tiny components needed for flexible screens. The new inkjet head is able to produce drops 1,000 times smaller than standard printers, according to the researchers. Writing in the journal PNAS, the team say the technique also improves the performance of printed circuits. “The present work demonstrates the feasibility of employing inkjet technology… for electronic device applications,” the University of Tokyo team write in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This technique can be applied for patterning high-purity electrically functional materials without preparing original patterning masks,” the researchers write. They were able to create finer details by applying a high voltage to the print head, causing drops in the inkjet to explode into one micron droplets. Using ink made of silver nanoparticles held in a solvent, the researchers printed continuous lines two microns wide and components just one micron across. Although these are large by current microprocessor standards – which can have features measured in nanometres (billionths of a metre) – the researchers believe it is good enough for use in TFT screens.

From InAVate Magazine

Mitsubishi Develops World’s Most Efficient Multicrystalline Si Solar Cell

March 25, 2008
Mar 21, 2008 19:11
Motonobu Kawai, Nikkei Microdevices

Mitsubishi Electric Corp scored a world record conversion efficiency rate of 18.6% in a multicrystalline Si solar cell.
The cell uses the company’s new technology called “honeycomb texture,” which was unveiled in February 2008. The efficiency rate was measured at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, a public standards agency in Japan.Thus far, the highest conversion efficiency rate of a multicrystalline Si solar cell was 18.5%. This was achieved by the cell with a new electrode structure called “back contact,” which was developed by Kyocera Corp. Mitsubishi’s latest development indicates that a cell with a standard electrode structure can provide higher conversion efficiency than that of the back contact cell.

Mitsubishi aims to increase its annual output to 500MW in fiscal 2012. Mass-production of cells based on the honeycomb texture technology, which was a key to make the world record, is scheduled to start in fiscal 2010 or later.

When the cell conversion efficiency improves from 16 to 18%, the output is increased by 0.4W per 150mm square cell. With the use of a module composed of an array of 50 cells, the module conversion efficiency will increase by 20W.

To form a honeycomb textured structure, 100 million holes must be made by laser beams on a SiN film formed on the surface of a 150mm square cell. One of the issues for mass-production is to improve the throughput of laser processing equipment, which will be developed in-house. The improvement in throughput will lead to a reduction in the production cost per output.

From Tech-On

Mitsubishi Electric screens deliver peak performance at Audi Alpine FIS Ski World Cup

March 19, 2008

Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Vision mobileSub-zero temperatures, treacherous icy roads and remote mountainous venues are all in a days work for Mitsubishi Electric’s Diamond Vision screens as they provide the big-screen action for this year’s Audi Alpine FIS Ski World Cup tour currently progressing across Europe.

Commencing in November last year, the competition visits 32 resorts across Europe, Canada and the USA before reaching its climax this month at Bormio, Italy. Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Vision provides LED screens for all the European Audi Alpine World Cup events, following the tour as it wends its way from Norway, through northern, central and southern Europe before reaching the Alpine ski resort of Bormio. This is the eighth consecutive year that Diamond Vision has provided LED screens for Audi Ski World Cup organisers, the Federation Internationale de Ski (FIS).

Due to its very nature, just getting access to each race venue provides a major logistical challenge, as Diamond Vision Operations Manager Steve Wood relates; “We operate truck-mounted mobile 44 m² LED screens for most of the venues, but access for the 40′ articulated units is sometimes a little tricky on icy mountain roads. Frequently the mobile rigs need to be towed into position. However even that’s not an option in several of the venues. In these cases, we use modular screens of between 30m² and 70m², flown into position by helicopter.”
Once in position, the screens are expected to operate reliably under extremely harsh conditions. Temperatures of minus 20 degrees Celcius, ice storms and blizzards are not unusual, providing a stiff test of the Mitsubishi screen’s reliability and endurance. Steve Wood comments, “In the last eight years we have experienced some really severe weather conditions, but the Mitsubishi screens have proved themselves to be very reliable and resilient. To date we’ve had no significant failures and have always had our screens operational for every race day, regardless of conditions.”
While the crews generally work on two-week rotations, most of the hardware stays on the road for the whole duration of the tour. “Reliability is obviously important for us as we have limited opportunities for running repairs,” says Steve. “The build quality of the Mitsubishi screens is a major factor in our being able to operate effectively in such harsh conditions over a period of months.”
Mitsubishi Electric’s Diamond Vision screen system is operated by most of Europe’s top screen hire companies, where its reputation for rugged reliability and excellent image quality has made it one of the most widely used screen systems in the world. Available in mobile, modular and fixed installation versions, and in a variety of pitches from 3mm to 25mm, it is also one of the most versatile. For more information on the Diamond Vision system, visit http:www.mitsubishidisplayengineering.com

GE demonstrates OLEDs manufactured by roll-to-roll process

March 18, 2008
A manufacturing process similar to that used for newspaper printing could eventually result in low-cost, commercially viable OLED lighting.

GE Global Research has demonstrated what it claims to be the world’s first roll-to-roll manufactured OLED lighting devices.GE described the demonstration as a key step toward making OLEDs and other high performance organic electronics products at dramatically lower costs than what is possible today. “Researchers have long dreamed of making OLEDs using a newspaper-printing like roll-to-roll process,” said Anil Duggal, manager of GE’s Advanced Technology Program in Organic Electronics.

“Now we’ve shown that it is possible. Commercial applications in lighting require low manufacturing costs, and this demonstration is a major milestone on our way to developing low cost OLED lighting devices.”

OLEDs are thin, organic materials sandwiched between two electrodes, which illuminate when an electrical charge is applied. They represent the next evolution in lighting products. Their widespread design capabilities will provide an entirely different way for people to light their homes or businesses. Moreover, OLEDs have the potential to deliver dramatically improved levels of efficiency and environmental performance, while achieving the same quality of illumination found in traditional products in the marketplace today with less electrical power.

Duggal continued, “Beyond OLEDs, this technology also could have broader impact in the manufacturing of other organic electronic devices such as organic photovoltaics for solar energy conversion, sensors and roll-up displays.”

“For businesses, architects, lighting designers and anyone interested in pushing the envelope to achieve increasingly energy-efficient lighting — and vastly expanded lighting design capabilities — today marks the day that viable, commercialized OLED lighting solutions are coming into view,” said Michael Petras, GE Consumer & Industrial’s Vice President of Electrical Distribution and Lighting.

“We have more work to do before we can give customers access to GE-quality OLED solutions, but it’s now easier to envision OLEDs becoming another high-efficiency GE offering, like LEDs, fluorescent or halogen.”

 From LEDs Magazine

Remote working here to stay

March 14, 2008
Seventy per cent of businesses are doing it, reports Natasha Lomas on Silicon.com

Published: 13 March 2008 12:59 GMT

The megalithic corporate HQ which deforms the city skyline could be a thing of the past if a technology trend toward remote working continues.

In a research report into the 21st century workforce, analyst house Quocirca predicts: “In the future it may make sense for businesses to have more numerous small locations near to centres of population to reduce commuting and be closer to customers. Businesses that do this will rely increasingly on electronic collaboration technology to keep employees in communication with each other.”

While most businesses are still based on a traditional HQ plus branch offices structure, remote working is now commonplace; according to the research, around 70 per cent of enterprises polled said at least a quarter of their staff work remotely at some point during the working week.

Pressure to shrink carbon footprints and attract and retain talented staff could see workforces becoming more distributed, said Quocirca.

The report said: “In the future, carbon taxes may drive businesses to open smaller locations, relying on technology for collaboration between workers and reducing the distance that both employees and customers have to travel.”

The research shows once a business develops a culture of remote working the level of service experienced by remote workers becomes increasingly important to it – or, as Quocirca analyst and report author Bob Tarzey explains, distributed working becomes “a fundamental part of what they do”.

Laptops are currently the most embedded devices in distributed business practices, said Tarzey – having been around for longest – but he said he expects to see that change as more and more business processes are enabled on mobile devices such as smart phones.

The Quocirca research was commissioned by Riverbed Technology.

A separate survey of UK and North American IT chiefs, conducted by network security company AEP Networks, has found 94 per cent either already allow or plan to allow network access to remote workers.

Interactive multi-touch displays point the way to the future

March 11, 2008

We’ve written before on Talkback about new kinds of HMIs which may well change the way we interact with technology in the future. Previously, we’ve blogged about LucidTouch, a system developed jointly by Mitsubishi Electric and Microsoft.  Another very interesting technology being worked on at the moment by Microsoft is called Touchlight. Like LucidTouch, Touchlight acts as a multi-point touch interface allowing sophisticated and intuitive manipulation of on-screen data. However its underlying technology is fundementally different, allowing it to go well beyond what LucidTouch can do. If you’ve ever seen Minority Report, you’ll have a pretty good idea about how this technology can be employed. It’s still early days, but it is – for the want of a better word – a very cool technology.

TouchLight is comprised of an imaging touch screen and holographic projection surface, and uses a stereo pair of video cameras to allow it to interpret gesture-based interaction.[1] Developed by Microsoft Research employee Andrew D. Wilson, Touchlight was first announced in 2005, and since 2006 has been licensed to Eon Reality. [3]

The TouchLight system can both record input from its video cameras and project data simultaneously. Its 3D capabilities allow it to be used as intuitively as a mirror – holding an object like a document close to the screen surface allows a high-resolution image to be captured, which can then be directly manipulated on the same screen. See it in action here  The screen also has a built-in microphone which can detect the user tapping on the surface, thus allowing “click” type interactions through the same interface.

It’s still early days for Touchlight, but some interesting applications have already been mooted, such as in telepresence systems. Virtual meetings which allow delegates to not only see and here each other in psuedo 3D, but swap documents and virtual objects in real time would be just about the coolest technology imaginable. This is one technology that we’ll be following closely.

Wired editor hits back against PR spammers

March 7, 2008

Sorry PR people: you’re blocked – writes Chris Anderson of WIRED magazine

Fed up with receiving vast quantities of inappropriate or badly written press releases, editor-in-chief of WIRED magazine, Chris Anderson, decided to hit back with some spamming of his own. By publishing the email addresses of the guilty senders, Chris hopes their email addresses will be picked up by spambots, resulting in them being similarly deluged by mass-mailed junk.

 I’ve had it. I get more than 300 emails a day and my problem isn’t spam (Cloudmark Desktop solves that nicely), it’s PR people. Lazy flacks (American PR agents -Ed.) send press releases to the Editor in Chief of Wired because they can’t be bothered to find out who on my staff, if anyone, might actually be interested in what they’re pitching. Fact: I am an actual person, not a team assigned to read press releases and distribute them to the right editors and writers (that’s editor@wired.com).

So fair warning: I only want two kinds of email: those from people I know, and those from people who have taken the time to find out what I’m interested in and composed a note meant to appeal to that (I love those emails; indeed, that’s why my email address is public).

Everything else gets banned on first abuse. The following is just the last month’s list of people and companies who have been added to my Outlook blocked list. All of them have sent me something inappropriate at some point in the past 30 days. Many of them sent press releases; others just added me to a distribution list without asking. If their address gets harvested by spammers by being published here, so be it–turnabout is fair play.

From my perspective, this is an interesting  – though fully understandable – escalation of hostilities in the sometimes uneasy relationship between PR and editor. Understandable, because nobody likes to be spammed: Off-the-shelf “media databases” and “journalist lists” combined with inexperienced or over-zealous PRs naturally exposes editors to torrents of unsolicited email. Inevitably, a high percentage of this will be rejected as “junk”. On the one hand, I can really sympathise with the editor on the receiving end of a seemingly endless stream of dull, irrelevant or badly written press releases. But on the other, I think there has to be a little understanding that effective PR does sometimes require us to “chance our arm” a little. Being banished from the land of credibility on your first offence does seem a bit harsh. However, it does also underline the need for PR companies to build and maintain their own databases of contacts rather than rely on bought-in third party products. Journalists are taught to “Do You Own Research”. I don’t think it is unreasonable for journalists to expect the same courtesy from PR companies.