Archive for the ‘Hardware’ Category

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Android Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0.4 has reportedly started rolling out to the Galaxy Nexus and Nexus S devices

Published on Mar 29, 2012

The Android ICE Cream Sandwich update (version 4.0.4) is now rolling out across SIM free Galaxy Nexus and Nexus S devices in Europe.

Google announced the milestone on its own Google+ page.

The exact announcement read:

‘We’ve started rolling out Android 4.0.4, Ice Cream Sandwich, to UMTS/GSM Nexus S, Xoom Wi-Fi, and HSPA+ Galaxy Nexus devices, and we’ll be rolling it out to more devices in the coming weeks. Some of you will be receiving Ice Cream Sandwich for the first time, while others will be receiving an update to your existing Ice Cream Sandwich experience with stability improvements, better camera performance, smoother screen rotation, improved phone number recognition and more.’

Followed by a load of predictable comments asking when it will be released for other devices, including the HTC Desire HD, Xperia-branded devices, Galaxy Note and Galaxy S2 (network-branded devices).

Google declined to comment when all these other updates would be coming, but everyday we’re hearing about more devices benefiting from the update.

If you do have the Galaxy Nexus or Nexus S, it may be a good idea to check whether the update has arrived. For those with network-branded devices, you may have to wait a little longer for your network to properly test the update before rolling it out.

via Android ICS 4.0.4 rolling out to Galaxy Nexus and Nexus S? – News – Know Your Mobile.

Google and Intel on Tuesday said that the two companies will work together to ensure that future versions of Google’s Android operating system function on Intel’s Atom processors.

The partnership will help Intel compete against ARM chips, which have been supported by Android since 2008. It also underscores the fact that the “Wintel” alliance between Microsoft and Intel isn’t what it used to be.

Top 20 Android Productivity Apps

Intel CEO Paul Otellini showed off a smart-phone running Android on a Medfield chip at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco on Tuesday, though details about the specific version of Android were not revealed.

He characterized the partnership as a step toward bringing Intel-powered phones to market.

Google SVP of mobile Andy Rubin showed up too, signalling the two companies’ continued commitment to a relationship that encompasses Intel’s involvement in Chrome OS, Google TV, and its effort to port Android 3.0 “Honeycomb” to the x86 chip architecture. Rubin said that all future versions of Android will be optimized for x86. Presumably this includes the next major Android release, known as Ice Cream Sandwich, which is expected before the end of the year.

Intel has had trouble convincing mobile device makers to use its x86-based chips because of their power consumption characteristics. Instead, many have preferred the ARM architecture.

Apple, for example, bought chip design company PA Semi in 2008 and has been deploying its own ARM-based A-series chips in its mobile devices. Intel is reportedly interested in manufacturing Apple’s chip designs, a testament to the direction in which the mobile market is moving.

Even Microsoft is moving to support ARM chips in Windows 8, in addition to x86 chips. The company provided details about its ARM support plans at its BUILD conference on Tuesday.

To compete more affectively against ARM designs, Intel is betting on its Medfield chip platform, which includes a low-power Atom design for mobile phones, and on chips arriving in 2012 based on a 22-nm manufacturing process.

Android To Run On Intel Chips – Hardware – Processors – Informationweek.

Tomorrow’s Transistor, Built Atom by Atom

Applied Materials announces the details of a machine for making the next generation of transistors.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

By Katherine Bourzac

  • Chip stack: This illustration shows the layers that make up a gate in a 22-nanometer transistor. The white balls on the bottom are silicon. The light blue balls in the middle are silicon dioxide molecules; the larger turquoise balls higher up are hafnium oxide; and the yellow balls are nitrogen atoms.
    Credit: Applied Materials

Applied Materials, the world’s leading supplier of manufacturing equipment to chipmakers, has announced a new system for making one of the most critical layers of the transistors found in logic circuits.

Applied Materials’ new tool, called Centura, announced at the Semicon West conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, deposits a critical layer in transistors one atom at a time, providing unprecedented precision.

As chipmakers scale transistors down to ever-smaller sizes, enabling speedier and more power-efficient electronics, atomic-scale manufacturing precision is a growing concern. The first chips with transistors just 22 nanometers in size are going into production this year, and at that size, even the tiniest inconsistencies can mean that a chip intended to sell at a premium must instead be used for low-end gadgetry.

Transistors are made up of multiple layers: an active silicon material topped with an interfacing layer and then a layer of a material called a dielectric, which makes up the “gate” that switches the transistor on and off.

Applied Materials sells equipment for depositing these layers, called the gate stack, on top of silicon wafers. In the switch from today’s 32-nanometer to the next generation of 22-nanometer transistors, it’s become trickier to make the gate. The interface and dielectric layers both have to get thinner, and the behavior of the layers can be affected by tiny flaws where the materials touch. And as the layers get thinner, tiny flaws can be magnified even more than in larger transistors made from thicker layers.

Manufacturing accuracy will be even more important in the next-generation three-dimensional transistors that chipmaker Intel will begin producing later this year. In these devices, the active area is a raised strip that the interface and gate layers contact on three sides. This increased area of contact helps these devices perform better, but it also means an increased vulnerability to flaws.

Centura uses atomic-layer deposition, or ALD, which lays down a single atomic layer of the dielectric at a time. This method is more expensive, but it’s become necessary, says Atif Noori, global product manager of Applied Materials’ ALD division. For the heart of the transistor—the gate—to work, “you have to make sure you’re putting all the atoms right where you want them.”

One source of inconsistencies in microchips is exposure to air. In Applied Materials’ new tool, the entire process of depositing the gate stack is done in a vacuum, one wafer at a time. Making the gate stack entirely under a vacuum also leads to a 5 to 10 percent increase in the speed at which electrons travel through the transistor; this can translate into power savings or faster processing. Ordinarily, there’s significant variation in the amount of power it takes to turn on a given transistor on a chip; manufacturing under a vacuum tightens that distribution by 20 to 40 percent.

via Tomorrow’s Transistor, Built Atom by Atom – Technology Review.

Researchers at Stanford University have demonstrated a set of materials that could enable solar cells to use a band of the solar spectrum that otherwise goes to waste. The materials layered on the back of solar cells would convert red and near-infrared light—unusable by today’s solar cells—into shorter-wavelength light that the cells can turn into energy. The university researchers will collaborate with the Bosch Research and Technology Center in Palo Alto, California, to demonstrate a system in working solar cells in the next four years.

 

 

Even the best of today’s silicon solar cells can’t use about 30 percent of the light from the sun: that’s because the active materials in solar cells can’t interact with photons whose energy is too low. But though each of these individual photons is low energy, as a whole they represent a large amount of untapped solar energy that could make solar cells more cost-competitive.

The process, called “upconversion,” relies on pairs of dyes that absorb photons of a given wavelength and re-emit them as fewer, shorter-wavelength photons. In this case, the Bosch and Stanford researchers will work on systems that convert near-infrared wavelengths (most of which are unusable by today’s solar cells). The leader of the Stanford group, assistant professor Jennifer Dionne, believes the group can improve the sunlight-to-electricity conversion efficiency of amorphous-silicon solar cells from 11 percent to 15 percent.

The concept of upconversion isn’t new, but it’s never been demonstrated in a working solar cell, says Inna Kozinsky, a senior engineer at Bosch. Upconversion typically requires two types of molecules to absorb relatively high-wavelength photons, combine their energy, and re-emit it as higher-energy, lower-wavelength photons. However, the chances of the molecules encountering each other at the right time when they’re in the right energetic states are low. Dionne is developing nanoparticles to add to these systems in order to increase those chances. To make better upconversion systems, Dionne is designing metal nanoparticles that act like tiny optical antennas, directing light in these dye systems in such a way that the dyes are exposed to more light at the right time, which creates more upconverted light, and then directing more of that upconverted light out of the system in the end.

The ultimate vision, says Dionne, is to create a solid. Sheets of such a material could be laid down on the bottom of the cell, separated from the cell itself by an electrically insulating layer. Low-wavelength photons that pass through the active layer would be absorbed by the upconverter layer, then re-emitted back into the active layer as usable, higher-wavelength light.

Kozinsky says Bosch’s goal is to demonstrate upconversion of red light in working solar cells in three years, and upconversion of infrared light in four years. Factoring in the time needed to scale up to manufacturing, she says, the technology could be in Bosch’s commercial solar cells in seven to 10 years.

via Solar Cells that See Red – Technology Review.

 

 

Pixel Trickery Helps Create a Brighter Screen – Technology Review.

The iPad’s bright and beautiful screen comes with a cost: a battery that makes up most of the tablet’s weight. A new display technology designed for tablets uses a quarter of the power consumed by most screens while improving the range of colors and the resolution.

The technology, developed by Samsung and its affiliate, Nouvoyance, uses a novel pixel design that lets more of the backlight shine through. It combines this with algorithmic tricks that dynamically dim the backlight based on the image on the screen.

“People want at least 10 hours of battery life on their tablet,” as well as screens that have more color and higher resolution, says Joel Pollack, executive vice president of Nouvoyance.

A standard LCD display uses a pixel architecture called RBG stripe, in which each pixel is made of red, blue, and green subpixels that filter color from a white backlight. The process is extremely inefficient—more than 90 percent of the backlight luminescence is wasted.

Normally, to increase the resolution, the number of pixels needs to increase, as does the number of transistors used to control those pixels. The problem is that the transistors block part of the pixel. Some smaller displays are built with a new process that lets transistors shrink and still supply the amount of current needed to drive a display, but it’s difficult to scale this up to larger displays like those in tablets and TVs. Normally, as the resolution goes up, says Pollack, “the amount of area that light comes through shrinks.”

Nouvoyance’s pixel design, called PenTile, lets more light through in a couple of ways. First, the red, blue, and green subpixels are larger than those in traditional displays. Second, one out of every four subpixels is clear. This means the backlight can use less power and shine brighter.

“Almost no light is absorbed [by the clear pixels], which gives you tremendous advantages for any content that has some component of white,” says Pollack. “And if you start looking at things, almost everything has white to it.”

Fewer subpixels would usually mean a lower resolution. But the PenTile display uses individual sub-pixels to trick the eye into perceiving the same resolution while using about one-third as many subpixels as an RGB stripe panel.

There are already 75 different products on the market using PenTile displays, mostly active-maxtrix organic light-emitting diode (Amoled) displays for phones and cameras. “Current manufacturing technology for depositing the organic materials limits the actual pixel density,” explains Paul Semenza, senior analyst at research firm Display Search. “So by using PenTile, some of the Amoled displays for smart phones have been able to achieve a higher ‘effective’ resolution.”

The PenTile display also uses image processing algorithms to determine the brightness of a scene, automatically dimming the backlight for darker images. A prototype was shown off at the Society for Information Display conference last month in Los Angeles.

“The combination of lower power/higher resolution could be important for tablets,” says Semenza, “given the fact that they are battery powered with large displays, and given the expected shift to higher resolutions.”

But he says manufacturers may yet find ways to use high-resolution transistor arrays, such as those found in smaller screens like the iPhone 4’s Retina display, which “has set a high bar for performance on mobile devices,” Semenza says.