There have been interesting development in Science & Technology recently that promises a lot of advantages to us the end user, and I think I should you guys on some of them. And to Yvonne (and other people who think that technical terms are as hard to comprehend as an ancient script πŸ˜€ ), for this post I try to explain everything in layman’s terms, so give it a try and read it πŸ™‚ .

Transparent windows solar panel

The solar panels that we have long known are those bulky panels placed on top of the roof to generate electricity. Researchers from MIT has managed to integrate a solar panel into normal transparent windows. The technology works by applying a special dye onto the windows that will absorb a wide range of light frequencies throughout the whole of the window and direct them to the sides of the window. Solar cells (device that converts solar energy into electrical energy) are placed at these sides of the window where the solar energy is directed, and converted those solar energy into electrical energy. As a result, your normal windows become solar panels.

Usage of special dye redirects light to the edge

This technology is less expensive to employ and does not require a lot of space, since the windows are already there. Imagine tall and huge buildings with lots of windows like KLCC, quite a substantial amount of electricity can be produced.

Samsung has started mass-production of 128GB solid state drive (SSD)

Conventional hard disk drive (HDD) uses magneto-optical technology to store and retrieve data. Inside conventional HDD, there is a platter (sort of like a compact disc, but it’s metal alloy instead of plastic) or a stack of platter on which data is stored magnetically. To write and read data from the HDD, there is a read/write head just on top of the platter that will read and write data onto the platter as the platter is spinning.

The fact that the platter needs to spin and the read/write head needs to move cause conventional HDD to have moving mechanical parts, and as such, there is a limitation to how fast they can move. Like a car, there’s a limitation to how fast you can drive it before it shakes violently and fly off the road. Also, like a car, moving parts are subjected to wear and tear, reducing its life and performance over a period of time. And because there are moving parts, more electrical power is needed to make the device work. Solid state drive (SSD) eliminates all that.

Inside a solid state drive (SSD)

To get a picture of what a solid-state drive is and how it works, just look at your normal pendrive. Your pendrive is a solid-state disk. There is no moving parts in it, hence it is called ‘solid state’. There are only electron movements at molecular level that, unlike mechanical motion like cars, have a speed close to that of the speed of light. Your everyday-use pendrive may be able to store 1GB of data (and sometimes you see that cool tech enthusiast guy who won’t accept anything less than 4GB πŸ˜€ ), but SSDs that Samsung has started mass-producing can store 128GB of data, big enough to be used in your laptop or desktop. (There are 256GB model developed, but not yet in mass-production). So, what are the advantages of SSD over conventional HDD? Here are some of them:

  1. Faster read/write rate. The SSD has a read rate of 90MB/s (that’s 90MB in one second) and write rate of 70MB/s compared to the conventional HDD’s 30MB/s. So what does that mean? That means faster computer startup, faster processing, faster data storing, anything in computer that involves hard disk operation – which means pretty much everything – will be faster.
  2. Less power consumption. For laptop, that means longer battery life. Conventional HDD consumes around 33W of power (may be less for laptop hard disk), while SSD only consumes 0.5W in active mode. A big difference, eh?
  3. Silent operation. No movement = no vibration = no sound. Simple.
  4. Smaller. The one Samsung is producing is only 2.5inch diagonal and less than 0.4inch thick. Expect even slimmer laptops.
  5. Longer life span. No mechanical movement means the SSD is not subjected to wear and tear. Conventional hard disk’s typical life span is around 3 – 5 years. SSD can last 20 times longer.

Right now, there’s only one catch. SSD is way more expensive than conventional hard disk. But that is normal with every other newly-introduced product, particularly in the technology sector. But once the market is mature and economies of scale is achieved, price will definitely go down. It’s a promising aspect of the future.

Tech firms team up to produce portable fuel cell

Over the last 10 years, advancement and the performance of consumer electronic device (like handphones, PDA, laptop) measured by the processor speed has increased by a factor of 128 times. However, the amount of energy per cm3 that lithium ion battery (the most common battery that is used with these devices) can provide has only doubled.

Unlike lithium ion and other batteries ofthe same type, fuel cell does not keep energy in the battery substance, but rather, uses fuel (like methanol) to produce energy through chemical reaction. It is much like a car engine, minus the combustion and heat. When the fuel is spent, you just need to refuel it. This eliminates the need to find an electrical outlet to recharge like the lithium ion battery. You just need to carry fuel cartridges which weigh less than one ounce and can fit in your palm. So you’ll have continuous supply of energy even though you’re nowhere near an electrical outlet.

Furthermore, fuel cell battery is more lightweight and more environmentally friendly as it doesn’t contain a wealth of heavy metals. Methanol is also a widely available fuel, inexpensive, and fully biodegradable, allowing it to provide compact, efficient, clean, safe and long-lasting power source.

On Thursday, MTI Micro and NeoSolar has announced a deal to develop fuel cells for NeoSolar’s portable devices. MTI Micro intend to commercialise its Mobion (its fuel cell product range) product beginning in 2009.