Archive for the ‘Electronics’ Category

Nokia adapts genetically while Microsoft drops the “Nokia” brand

October 24, 2014
Nokia NMT900 1987

Nokia NMT900 1987

A few days ago Microsoft announced that it was dropping the “Nokia” brand and would continue with “Lumia”.  My first mobile phone ever was an NMT900 in 1988 or ’89. My first five mobile phones were all Nokias. It felt like the end of an era. As if some well loved species was going extinct.

Irish IndependentFor many of us it’s a name synonymous with mobile phones, but Microsoft is now officially axing the Nokia brand in favour of its own Lumia range of Windows smartphones.

The tech giant bought Nokia’s mobile division back in April for $7.2bn along with a 10-year deal to use the Finnish company’s name on smartphones. Now, however, it seems Microsoft wishes to push its own Lumia brand, the most successful iteration of the company’s Windows Phone OS – rival to Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS systems.

The company actually began life in the 19 century as a single paper mill in what was then part of the Russian Empire. It grew into an industrial conglomerate with interests in everything from galoshes to gas masks, with the push into electronics only coming in the 1960s.

From the 1980s to 2000s it had a string of mobile hits (including the famous 3310 – one of the best selling mobile devices of all time, with more than 126 million units sold worldwide) but failed to keep on top of its smartphone competitors.

Windows Phone meanwhile continues to struggle against iOS and Android, with global market falling to 2.5 per cent. Microsoft will be hoping that Nokia’s ever-popular range of capable, low-end devices will eventually shuffle users in developing markets onto its OS, but nothing looks like it will shake Android and iOS in the high end.

But there is no need to be sad.

The brand is not going extinct. It is adapting and changing with the times. The company started with a paper mill and only enetered electronics in the 1960s. Now it has adapted and has returned to profit  – demonstrating the benefits of genetic evolution over stagnating conservation.

The Register: Nokia reported strong results on Thursday even after giving long-suffering shareholders a dividend and taking the hit of a one-time charge.

Profits rose to €353m on earnings of €3.3bn, up from €2.9bn a year ago. 

With the Windows Phone albatross thrown to a reluctant new owner, Nokia is now three divisions: network equipment (Nokia Networks), mapping (HERE) and IPR licensing (Nokia Technologies), but with €2.6bn of income, Networks provides most of the meat.

Nokia Networks sales rose 13 per cent year on year, based on LTE sales into China and North America, the company said. HERE grew 12 per cent, and IP licensing nine per cent to €152m; Microsoft is now a more important licensee. 

The company paid out €1.372bn in dividends and recorded a goodwill charge of €1.2bn against HERE’s profits, the latter reflecting a new evaluation of the division at €2bn.

The HERE charge reflected, “an adjustment to the HERE strategy and the related new long-range plan”. Nokia also spent €220m buying back shares.

Nokia made a string of mapping acquisitions in the Noughties, the largest of which was Navteq for $8.1bn (€5.6bn at the time). The company defended its continuing investment in HERE, declaring that “we continue to believe we have an opportunity to create significant value with the HERE business, as connected cars become more pervasive and as enterprises deploy new location-services to improve their productivity and efficiency”.

Despite all the charges, the company still has €5.4bn in cash and assets.

For a corporation to change its genetic code and shift away from a previously successful habitat and move into new territory is not easy. It needs changes to corporate competences and culture and shape and size – and many of the changes are painful. But Nokia seems to be well on the way to reinventing itself – again.

It is a lesson from the corporate world which should be taken to heart by all so-called conservationists. In the corporate world, continuing with a failing strategy, or a failing habitat or living in past glories does not help survival. It is genetic adaptation (from paper to tyres to gas masks to phones to networks) which provides Nokia with a new future. Similarly, in the animal world, trying to freeze failing species into a failed strategy in an artificial habitat is pointless. Genetic adaptation not stagnating conservation is the way to go.


Could Russian money from Cyprus be fuelling the Bitcoin?

April 7, 2013

In the last 6 months the value of the “virtual” currency the Bitcoin has jumped from $9.7 to $149. It started increasing significantly in February and really  took off in the middle of March this year. It seems too much of a coincidence that the worries (and the rumours) about the Cyprus banks followed the same time-table.

Bitcoin value in US Dollars

Bitcoin value in US Dollars

It is thought that much of the Russian money stashed away in Cyprus – especially the “black” money – left Cyprus before all the restrictions came into effect. That money must have gone somewhere and that somewhere would need not only to be “remote” but which also could provide the possibility of some “laundering” when the money was moved again. The Bitcoin perhaps could provide such a haven. If the bubble bursts in the next few months it could well indicate that the Russian money has moved again, well “laundered” and probably at a profit.

The bitcoin logo

At current values the Bitcoin “hoard” – restricted to be 21 million Bitcoins – represents a little over $3 billion.

The Telegraph reports that

Russia is the country most interested in Bitcoin, internet searches show, after a week in which the controversial electronic currency reached a record high and led to talk of a bubble.

The virtual currency, which allows users to circumvent the banks, burst into the mainstream as the price of a Bitcoin rose to $147 (£96) against the dollar, from under $20 at the start of this year.

Russia is the country now performing the most internet searches for the term “Bitcoin”, according to Google figures, followed by Estonia, the United States and Finland. The UK is not in the top 10.

The data gave weight to the belief that the recent price spike was driven by the crisis in Cyprus, as cuts to depositors’ savings planned under its bail-out further undermined faith in the global banking system.

Russian businesses were thought to account for €19bn of deposits held in Cypriot banks as of September last year, due to tax advantages, cultural links and, in some cases, for reasons of tax evasion. …….

……….. Created by a developer using a psuedonym in 2009, Bitcoin was intended to offer a means of payment that cuts out the banks through a “purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash [that] would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution”.

The coins are “mined” by computer processing, with the system capping the number that can be produced at 21m. The process is technically difficult, meaning it has a cost in terms of equipment and electricity.

A nano-battery on a nano-wire

August 2, 2011

“Nano” will surely be the word of the year in science and “graphene” – I predict – will be the material of the year. No doubt the words will also be used to generate unjustified publicity in many cases. But such is the interest and the potential that the developments in nano-technology will accelerate  and it will not be long before applications are in every-day use. One of the limiting factors is the availability of energy sources at the nano-scale but even that limitation may soon be overcome.

A research team at Rice University have managed to squeeze a whole lithium-ion energy storage device into a single nanowire, which could be used as a rechargeable power source for future generations of nanoelectronics.  The work is reported in a paper published by the American Chemical Society’s Nano Letters

Building Energy Storage Device on a Single Nanowire by Sanketh R. Gowda, Arava Leela Mohana Reddy, Xiaobo Zhan, and Pulickel M. Ajayan, Nano Lett.DOI: 10.1021/nl2017042, July 14, 2011

Abstract Image

Nano-wire battery


Hybrid electrochemical energy storage devices combine the advantages of battery and supercapacitors, resulting in systems of high energy and power density. Using LiPF6electrolyte, the Ni–Sn/PANI electrochemical system, free of Li-based electrodes, works on a hybrid mechanism based on Li intercalation at the anode and PF6 doping at the cathode. Here, we also demonstrate a composite nanostructure electrochemical device with the anode (Ni–Sn) and cathode (polyaniline, PANI) nanowires packaged within conformal polymer core–shell separator. Parallel array of these nanowire devices shows reversible areal capacity of 3 μAh/cm2 at a current rate of 0.03 mA/cm2. The work shows the ultimate miniaturization possible for energy storage devices where all essential components can be engineered on a single nanowire.

From PC World:

A team of scientists has created a battery so small that it fits into a “nanowire,” a wire whose thickness is less than the wavelength of visible light. It’s the smallest battery ever made, and it could end up powering a whole generation of nanotechnology.

The potential of nanotechnology—the practice of building machines so small that they can’t even be seen—has been talked about for decades. In medicine, for example, the idea of creating tiny robots that could enter a person’s bloodstream and target intruders or diseased cells has been touted as one of the most promising applications of the field, but it’s remained purely theoretical.

One of the hurdles standing in the way of such wondrous nanodevices is their power supplies—making batteries at such a tiny scale is difficult. Now a team of engineers from Rice University appears to have solved that problem by creating a battery just 50 microns, or about the thickness of a human hair.

To create the battery (see the diagram), the researchers first coated a nanowire template with a thin layer of copper. They then filled the pores (which create the individual nanowires) halfway with a nickel/tin alloy to create the anodes. At this point, they put on a thin layer of polyethylene-oxide gel, which acts as both an electrolyte and an insulator from the other nanowires. Next they filled the remainder of the pore with a polyaniline material to create the cathodes. A layer of aluminium goes on top to complete the circuit.

Every nanowire is just 150 nanometers (nm) thin. To put that in perspective, the lowest wavelength of visible light is about 400 nm. However, the complete battery is about 50 microns tall, or about the width of human hair. The researchers ended up creating an array of nanowire batteries that was about 0.08 square inches in area, though it’s theoretically scalable to even larger sizes.

With a larger array that includes several layers stacked on top of each other, the tech could theoretically lead to batteries with massive energy density. And since the electrochemical materials don’t contain lithium, they’re easy to synthesize and manipulate at room temperature.

The nanowire batteries aren’t without their limitations, however. After being charged and discharged 20 times, they lose their ability to hold a full charge. The researchers are working on addressing this limitation, however, by playing with the polymer thickness and trying out different kinds of electrodes.

Although it’s in the early stages, the new battery technology could help usher in an era of practical nanomachines. With a real microscopic power source, the science-fiction scenario of tiny machines acting as doctors, builders, and explorers just took a step toward reality.

The team had reported last December on the creation of 3-D nano-batteries

Last December, Ajayan’s team encased vertical arrays of nickel-tin nanowires in PMMA, which is a polymer known as Plexiglas. The Plexiglas was an electrolyte and insulator in this case, and the nanowires were grown by electrodeposition in an anodized alumina template on top of a copper substrate. The template’s pores were stretched with a chemical etching technique, causing a gap between the alumina and the wires, and then the researchers drop-coated PMMA to enclose the wires with a smooth covering. The template was removed with a chemical wash, and a forest of tiny electrolyte-encased nanowires appeared. This particular battery had encased nickel-tin as the anode and a cathode had to be attached to the outside, but in the new battery packs, the cathode is packed into the nanowires.

The team created two versions of the battery pack. The first combines a nickel-tin anode, polyethylene oxide (PEO) electrolyte and polyaniline (PANI) cathode layers, which allows for the efficient movement of lithium ions through the anode to the electrolyte and the cathode. The ions are stored in bulk allowing the device to charge (and discharge) rapidly.

The second version squeezes the same characteristics into a single nanowire, with centimeter-scale arrays containing thousands of nanowire devices where each is approximately 150 nanometers wide. 

The new process uses PEO as the electrolyte, which stores lithium ions and acts as a electrical insulator between the nanowires in an array. The widened alumina pores were drop-coated with PEO to coat the anodes, and leaves tubes at the top allowing PANI cathodes to be drop-coated as well. The circuit is finished off with an aluminum current collector placed at the top of the array. 

Molybdenite to challenge graphene?

January 31, 2011
Mineral molybdenite from collection of Nationa...

Mineral molybdenite: Image via Wikipedia

A new paper from researchers at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne about a new material which could challenge graphene for transistors.

Single-layer MoS2 transistors, by B. Radisavljevic, A. Radenovic, J. Brivio, V. Giacometti & A. Kis, Nature Nanotechnology (2011) doi:10.1038/nnano.2010.279

Physorg reports:

Smaller and more energy-efficient electronic chips could be made using molybdenite. In an article appearing online January 30 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, EPFL’s Laboratory of Nanoscale Electronics and Structures (LANES) publishes a study showing that this material has distinct advantages over traditional silicon or graphene for use in electronics applications.

A model showing how molybdenite can be integrated into a transistor. Credit: EPFL

Research carried out in the Laboratory of Nanoscale Electronics and Structures (LANES) has revealed that molybdenite, or MoS2, is a very effective semiconductor. This mineral, which is abundant in nature, is often used as an element in steel alloys or as an additive in lubricants. But it had not yet been extensively studied for use in electronics.

“It’s a two-dimensional material, very thin and easy to use in nanotechnology. It has real potential in the fabrication of very small transistors, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and solar cells,” says EPFL Professor Andras Kis, whose LANES colleagues M. Radisavljevic, Prof. Radenovic et M. Brivio worked with him on the study. He compares its advantages with two other materials:silicon, currently the primary component used in electronic and computer chips, and graphene, whose discovery in 2004 earned University of Manchester physicists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics.

One of molybdenite’s advantages is that it is less voluminous than silicon, which is a three-dimensional material. “In a 0.65-nanometer-thick sheet of MoS2, the electrons can move around as easily as in a 2-nanometer-thick sheet of silicon,” explains Kis. “But it’s not currently possible to fabricate a sheet of silicon as thin as a monolayer sheet of MoS2.” Another advantage of molybdenite is that it can be used to make transistors that consume 100,000 times less energy in standby state than traditional silicon transistors. A semi-conductor with a “gap” must be used to turn a transistor on and off, and molybdenite’s 1.8 electron-volt gap is ideal for this purpose.

The existence of this gap in molybdenite also gives it an advantage over graphene.

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