Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Intelligent Machines

From the Labs: Information Technology

New publications, experiments and breakthroughs in information technology–and what they mean.

Building a Nano Radio
A radio receiver made from a carbon nanotube could be used to wirelessly transmit data from ultrasmall sensors

This carbon nanotube, imaged by a transmission electron microscope, can act as a radio.

Source: “Nanotube Radio”
Alex Zettl et al.
Nano Letters 7: 3508-3511

This story is part of our January/February 2008 Issue
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe

Results: Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California have modified a carbon nanotube so that it performs the functions of a radio, even tuning in the entire FM radio band.

Why it matters: Radios are used in everything from cell phones to nodes in sensor networks, and like other electronics, they are shrinking in size. A nanoscale radio could someday find its way into portable electronics such as cell phones. The researchers also suspect that with its small size, the radio could be inserted into a biological cell to transmit information collected by tiny sensors that detect molecular processes.

Methods: The researchers grew the carbon nanotube on a tungsten surface that acts as a negative electrode; a positive copper electrode is separated from the nanotube by a vacuum gap. A voltage applied to the electrodes causes a current to flow through the nanotube, turning the radio on. Changing the voltage also changes the vibrational rate of the nanotube, tuning it to a different frequency.

Next steps: The researchers are looking to integrate the radio into biological systems.

Fixing Bugs in Hardware
Software diagnoses problems in chip prototypes and offers fast, cheap solutions

Source: “Automatic Post-Silicon Debugging and Repair”
Valeria Bertacco et al.
International Conference on Computer-Aided Design, November 6, 2007, San Jose, CA

Results: Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed software that finds flaws in computer chips and proposes economical fixes. The software is able to repair about 70 percent of bugs.

Why it matters: Before a chip is mass-produced, a proto­type is shipped from the fabrication facility to the chip designers for testing. Currently, engineers can spend up to a year manually inspecting a prototype for mistakes, such as design errors, misplaced transistors, or wires that are too close together. Each time flaws are identified and corrected, a new prototype has to be made and tested. Each iteration can cost millions of dollars, and repeated prototyping delays commercialization. Manual bug-hunting is also prone to error and may result in products with faults that can be exploited by computer viruses.

Methods: Engineers test chip prototypes by hooking them up to probes that send electrical stimuli through them and record the output. The Michigan researchers wrote software that quickly runs through thousands of input signals and analyzes the output, zeroing in on problem areas. Likewise, it identifies ways to fix bugs by running through a series of simulations to find a design variation that offers the fastest and most cost-effective solution, one that may not be obvious to an engineer looking at a wiring diagram.

Next steps: The researchers are looking into some of the debugging challenges specific to multicore processors–chips with more than one processing center.

Become an MIT Technology Review Insider for in-depth analysis and unparalleled perspective.

Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Premium {! insider.prices.premium !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Our award winning magazine, unlimited access to our story archive, special discounts to MIT Technology Review Events, and exclusive content.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly magazine delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

    First Look: exclusive early access to important stories, before they’re available to anyone else

    Insider Conversations: listen in on in-depth calls between our editors and today’s thought leaders

  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus ad-free web experience, select discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly magazine delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning magazine and daily delivery of The Download, our newsletter of what’s important in technology and innovation.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly magazine delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.