Rocks, Paper, Scissors….Memristor?

Consider the game of Rocks, Paper, Scissor. Three components. Three pieces that make up a rather historical game. What if a fourth component was introduced to the game? What would that fourth component look like, and what would its properties be. Wouldn’t this drastically alter the way the game is played?

Yes.

This is happening now in the world of electronics and circuits and stands to revolutionize an entire set of rules. What was once three fundamental devices (resistor, capacitor, and inductor), now has a fourth family member called the memristor.

Basically, this new device remembers how much charge was passed through, either forwards or backwards. Disregarding all the technical jargon, I wonder how this will effect chip manufacturing and design. 

Might the smallest invention or innovation ultimately have the most profound effect? 

There is simply nothing like true innovation.

What happens if you play Rocks, Paper, Scissors, _____________? Try it.

 

On the Microsoft/Yahoo merger…

“No one wants it (the Microsoft-Yahoo merger) to happen. The only reason it’s being considered is that the management of Windows Live has been so ineffective that they can’t ship anything worth using. They are consistently behind what consumers want, and unlike the old Microsoft, they are so poorly managed that they can’t even copy everyone else. “

-Anonymous source to Mary Jo Foley of ZDnet

So adding more layers of complexity to an already dwindling organization is going to help? Microsoft is better off staying focused on XBOX and bridging the gap between media and the living room.

Where did their core competencies go?

Google, Microsoft head to MadTown

The amount of countless hours I’ve spent in UW-Madison’s Engineering Hall, should earn me the “GAL” or “Get a Life” award. Instead I will receive a degree in Electrical Engineering from UW-Madison. And perhaps the same reasons I decided to attend this University, are now being considered by Google, as they too plan on setting up shop in Madison, Wisconsin.

In a statement to The Badger Herald, Google representatives said, “We are opening an office in Madison because the city offers an excellent quality of life, a deep local talent pool and commitment to education at all levels, including the University of Wisconsin.”

Madison, WI

Photo © UW-Madison University Communications

And anyone that has ever stepped foot in Madison could agree with that statement. But being that Google is a worldwide leader in software and computer architecture, its main focus will be within the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Leading this Madison/Google operation will be “retired professor emeritus of Electrical and Computer Engineering James Smith and 1980s computer engineering graduate James Laudon.”

Add a new Biomedical research to the list as well, and Madison will continue to lead the way as one of the premier research facilities in the world.

Some other great programs within my department, that I have been lucky to be a part of.

  • WEMPEC – Wisconsin Electrical Machines and Power Electronics Consortium
  • WCAM – Wisconsin Center for Applied Microelectronic Devices

It is extremely rewarding to see that my department, its students, and faculty members, have yet another great achievement to add to the list. 

Academia: Radiation in the THz range

With my college career coming to an end, I decided to start a series of posts entitled “Academia”. In each post, I will discuss a project or research I have been involved in.

In this first post of the series, I will briefly discuss my research in terahertz generation. In the spring of 2007, I had the distinct honor of working under Professor Leon McCaughan, a professor in the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Under his supervision, I studied the properties of:

  • Guided wave photonic devices and circuits
  • Quantum optics
  • Far infrared (terahertz) generation and spectrocopy
  • Waveguide and photonic crystal theory

More importantly, I had the opportunity to take part in one of his research projects and work along side of other extremely talented students and researchers . A description of the project:

“Terahertz (THz) radiation is of great current interest for imaging science and technology. Applications include time-domain spectroscopy (e.g., the dielectric response of molecules in the far infrared), medical imaging in a new radiation band, detection and imaging for homeland security and defense applications, as well as communications.”

Within the project, I spent many hours in the Wisconsin Center for Applied Microelectronic Devices developing photolithography and reactive ion etching techniques to produce a THz photonic crystal in Silicon. By creating this photonic cystal, we were attempting to create a control in order to provide tunablity to the light source. Prior to the fabrication of the 2D crystal, we also undertook some computer-based model calculations.

Pictures from the research here:

Picture of 2D photonic crystals.

2-D photonic crystal integrated ‘superstate’

Myself and two of my colleagues in the lithography bay.

Description of the project (can be found on www.nsf.gov)

Thank you to Professor Leon McCaughan for a truley invaluable experience!

Investing in the Machines

Investing in internet companies is relatively straight forward. Find good people with a good idea, and let the programming begin. But what about all of the other industries out there? I recently read a post by GigaOM’s

“I don’t want to believe it’s the end of startups trying their hand against the likes of AMD or Intel, but until we come to a breakthrough in materials, ways to reduce the IP hurdles or the cost of masks and design, entrepreneurial chip engineers will have to focus on power management and cooling, MEMS and RF.”

There is a bit of a catch 22 here. The scientific breakthroughs needed to make chip-making more cost effective are going to either come from the large chip makers themselves (Intel, AMD) or research institutions and universities. Either way, the chip makers maintain their lead in the market place (they may even buy up some of the patents), or the small startups will still require that big initial investment in the machines, lithography labs, clean rooms and every other expensive component needed.

Might it be beneficial for Intel to initiate a program with a model that looks like Y-Combinator or Betaworks, but for microprocessor design and manufacturing? If so, beneficial to who?