Tag: copper

Graphene spins like nothing else on earth

illustration courtesy Chalmers University of TechnologyScientists at Chalmers University of Technology said that large area graphene preserves electronic spin over a long period.

And that means the window is now open for the long-touted spintronics, promising faster CPUs and memory for computers.

The aptly named Saroj Dash, head of the research group at Chalmers, said: “These results will attract a lot of attention in the research community and put graphene on the map for applications in spintronic components.”

Spintronics, already used in state of the art hard drives but Dash believes there’s more exciting times ahead. “The thin carbon film is not only an excellent electrical conductor, but also theoretically has the rare ability to maintain the electronics with the spin intact,” said Dash.

That means that in spin components of the future, electrons will be able to travel several tens of micrometers with spins staying aligned, something you can’t do with aluminium or copper, Dash said.

The researchers have managed to create graphene through chemical vapour deposition. Dash said: “The CVD graphene can also be easily removed from the copper foil on which it grows and is lifted onto a silicon wafer. There are good prospects for the production of large area graphene on an industrial scale.”

So when, and if, will we see spintronic computers? On that subject Dash is a little more pessimistic. He said: “Whether spintronics can eventually fully replace semiconductor technology is an open question.”

Copper whopper is broadband showstopper

The ITU has standardised G.fast, a broadband technology capable of achieving download speeds of up to 1Gbps over copper telephone wire.

While the rest of the world talks about a move to a higher fibre diet, there is still a lot of copper based phone networks out there which need to get a better broadband speed. To deal with this are suggested changes to the broadband standards on copper including VDSL2 and G.fast.

The standardisation of G.fast started in 2011, and has reached what is known as first-stage approval or consent. This means that it could become a standard by April next year, according to the  ITU.

G.fast increases the bandwidth by using more spectrum. This is like putting on clip on lanes to the M25 on the busy stretches. G.fast will use the 106MHz of spectrum, which compares to the 17MHz or 30MHz used by VDSL2 and the 40MHz used by the fastest LTE-Advanced networks currently being tested.

The only problem is that G.fast only works over short distances, so 1Gbps will only be possible at distances of up to about 100 metres.

G.fast is affected by crosstalk interference, which has to be countered with vectoring. It works by continuously analysing the noise conditions on copper lines, and then creates a new, antinoise signal to cancel it out. 

Germans upgrade using VDSL2

German telecom outfit Deutsche Telekom has been given permission to expand its copper network using vectoring, or VDSL2.

Vectoring uses noise cancellation technology to kill off electromagnetic interference between lines in so-called distribution boxes. It is designed to speed up broadband access over traditional copper wires.

While there is little problem with the technology, so far does not do very well when an area has watchdogs dedicated to local loop unbundling. To make it work the technology can only be installed by one operator. After that the new infrastructure can be used by all operators.

The German federal network agency gave its blessing to Deutsche Telekom to use vector but said the company would have to give its competitors access to the new technology unless alternative networks were available.

Germany is trying to work out how to roll out a fibre optic network and the $104 billion price tag is being shared between the competing companies.

Deutsche Telekom wants to upgrade its copper network via vectoring, or VDSL2 as it waits for the fibre to arrive. It will enable it to offer internet speeds of up to 100 megabits per second, up from current levels of 16 Mbit/s.

In Germany cable companies offer 50 Mbit/s Internet for the same price or less than Deutsche Telekom’s current speeds, and can already supply up to 150 Mbit/s.

According to Reuters, Deutsche Telekom owns about 330,000 such boxes in Germany, while its rivals have connected to about 8,200 of these boxes with their own lines. 

GlobalFoundries stacks up the chips

Chip foundry GlobalFoundries (GloFo) said it has demonstrated technology at its New York State fab that allow chips to be stacked one, on another.

The company said it has demonstrated 20 nanometer silicon wafers with integrated Through Silicon Vias (TSVs).  

That lets 3D chis give another way to increase performance and bandwidth while still keeping down the power requirements.

The TSVs are etched into a silicon wafer filled with a conducting material, letting the vertically stacked ICs communicate with each other.

GloFo puts the TSVs into the silicon before starting the back end of the line process, so avoiding high temperatures and the ability to use copper as the fill material.  The company developed a contact protection scheme to give SRAM functionality.

David McCann, VP of packaging R&D at GloFo, said that the industry has talked about 3D chip stacking for years, but its development shows that the technique will soon become a reality. The next step in development is to assemble and qualify 3D test vehicles in conjunction with its customers.

Intel to put photonics in the motherboard

Intel has announced that it is taking the first steps to replace electrical wires inside the motherboard with super-fast photonics.

According to Computerworld , Intel’s silicon photonic technology will be implemented at the motherboard and rack levels and use light to move data between storage, networking and computing resources.

The advantage is that light is lot faster than any copper and will never be caught if it comes to a straight run.

Justin Rattner, Intel’s chief technology officer, told the Open Compute Summit in Santa Clara, California that silicon photonics technology will be part of a new generation of servers. These, he says, will need much faster networking, storage and processing subsystems.

Intel is making the technology with the server maker Quanta and is showing a prototype server rack architecture that is capable of moving data using optical modules.

At the heart of it all is an Intel silicon switch which supports the chip maker’s Xeon and Atom server chips.

It has taken Intel boffins more than a decade to come up with the technology, Rattner said.  It means that communication could take place at speeds of 100Gbps, if anyone needs to talk that fast. It also means that data is transferred at much high speeds while using lesser power compared to copper cables. Power supplies and fans could be consolidated in a data centre, reducing component costs, he added.

Chipzilla has made silicon photonics modules that can transfer data at 100Gbps, and these are being offered to a few clients for testing.

Rattner thinks that once the servers hit the streets they could redefine server designs. High-speed bandwidth, processing and storage units could be decoupled from servers and stored in separate boxes. Once the infrastructure with silicon photonics is in place, server designs could change even more, Rattner said.

One of the early guinea pigs involved in the test is the social not-working site Facebook.  It is attempting to come up with new server technologies that will lead to the decoupling of computing, networking and storage.

The idea is that the processor, switch and other modules need to work together on power management, protocol support, load balancing and handshakes to make high-speed data transfers possible, Rattner added.

Dell to push ARM server development with Copper

Dell is releasing ARM-based servers to a small number of customers and partners, with a view to a full release in future.

Dell will make a tentative move into the market for low power servers with the limited release of the platform titled ‘Copper’, as it looks towards selling servers for datacentre use.

Although ARM servers might not be as powerful as their x86 counterparts, Dell reckons that the ARM servers will fit nicely with Big Data applications such as Hadoop, due to the small power requirement per watt necessary. 

It is hoped that the small scale shipping of servers can help to provide a basis for ARM ecosystem development.

Dell acknowledged that the market for ARM based servers is reaching an “inflection point”, and it will now be looking to help in the development of and testing of operating systems applications for use on ARM servers.

This will mean promoting an ‘open development environment’, and will look to present a platform for open source developers to continue work on ARM platforms.  

Demonstration clusters will be made available to certain customers, with development at the Texas Advanced Computing Center.

Never mind fibre, there's a future in copper

While many telcos are investing shedloads of cash into fibre based broadband, Alcatel-Lucent thinks that there is more mileage to be squeezed from existing copper connections.

According to Physorgthe outfit is about to release some new gear which will deliver better broadband speeds with standard VDSL2 (stands for Very-high-speed Digital Subscriber Line 2) plus vectoring. Alcatel-Lucent vectoring boosts speeds significantly and can push .broadband speeds of 100 Mbps and beyond.

An article published in Alcatel-Lucent’s TechZine, with the catchy headline “Boosting VDSL2 Bit Rates with Vectoring” by Paul Spruyt and Dr.Stefaan Vanhastel, says a shift to fibre will take years to complete while copper is already in the ground.

Dr Vanhastel said that existing resources can be leveraged to help many countries meet their timelines for universal broadband, and service providers can use the copper infrastructure to deliver higher speeds, in less time, with faster return on investment.

Vectoring is “noise-cancellation technology” and this reduces interference between copper lines. It means that VDSL2 lines can approximate their theoretical maximum speed in real-world conditions by eliminating cross talk.

The technology has been in development since 2001, and Alcatel-Lucent has started testing its vectoring technology with carriers already using VDSL2.

Last year it was tested in field trials with service providers including Belgacom, A1 Telekom Austria, Swisscom, Orange, P&T Luxemburg and Türk Telekom. It managed to improve downstream bit rates by 90 percent to 150 percent. 

Policeman sues for wiretapping

A copper who was disciplined after he was caught beating up a suspect by a woman armed with a video camera, is suing her.

Michael Sedergren got into all sorts of hotwater after he was caught on video beating a guy named Melvin Jones. Jones had bones all over his face broken and became partially blind in one eye.

The video was made by a woman named Tyrisha Greene and Sedergren has decided that she has broken some US wiretapping laws.

These wiretapping laws seem to be stacked in favour of the government anyway. At the moment it seems that any copper can listen in on people’s phone calls just by claiming that the victims were terrorists.

According to Techdirt, Sedergren thinks that his human rights under the US constitution have been threatened by someone being a good citizen and stopping him pummelling a perp.

Of course the constitutional rights of his victims don’t count in this case. The point is that under the US law he might have a case and certainly has a lawyer.

According to Sedergren, Greene should have asked his permission to film him beating up Jones and if he had given it this case would never have happened.

Sedergren has filed a criminal complaint against Greene which means that if he wins she could be jailed for providing evidence of his criminal doings.

If he does win it will put more than just those who filmed Rodney King being beaten up behind bars. It would mean that all that CCTV footage, which we assume was not filmed with the permission of the criminals, would be classified as illegal. 

WTO's ruling on China raw material exports stinks

A WTO report attacking China’s exports of raw materials has cast doubts of reliability.

Dr Xiaolan Fu, a University Lecturer in Development Studies at the Fellow of Green-Templeton College, University of Oxford has said the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruling casts aspersions of double standards.

Her comments come as trade judges ruled earlier this week that China violated trade law by restricting exports of certain raw materials, which were crucial for industrial production, as well as in the electronics world.

The WTO was following up on complaints from the US, the European Union and Mexico, which grumbled that the restraints China imposed on the raw materials, including various forms of bauxite, coke, fluorspar, magnesium, manganese, silicon carbide, silicon metal, yellow phosphorus and zinc, were unfair.

They said the restrictions discriminated against foreign manufacturers and gave an unfair advantage to domestic producers who use them. The ruling mostly focused on raw materials, but also touched on rare earth minerals, which are widely used in technology such as smartphones, tablets, cars and PCs.

Due to the restrictions, the claims went, there has been a limited supply in the global market which meant higher prices.

In its findings, the WTO ruled that China’s export duties were inconsistent with the commitments China had agreed to in its Protocol of Accession. It said that the export quotas imposed by China on some of the raw materials were inconsistent with WTO rules.

In its defence, China said it had kept in with the regulations for some of the raw materials. However, it said for other raw materials its export quotas and duties were necessary for the protection of the health of its citizens.  

However, the WTO argued that China was unable to demonstrate its export duties and quotas would lead to a reduction of pollution in the short- or long-term – and therefore contribute towards improving the health of its people.

The rulings, according to Dr Fu, are more than likely to be challenged by China, as well as being questionable.

She tells TechEye: “China in the 80s and 90s was the main exporter of minerals but the economy has now changed. There are many minerals in the world but the ones China exports are needed for the electronics industry.

“The drive for the report seems to be more about the metals needed for this industry, and if this is the case I’m not confident that the report is fair. Despite it claiming to be a general ruling, it seems it was written in light and in target of these materials. If this is the case there are doubts of the reliability of the report,” she said.

“China has always been open about putting bans on certain exports out of the country.

“And there’s also a hint of double standards going on here. It’s been forced to put a limit on the quota of exports such as textiles, but then when China moves to do the same with other materials it’s found in breach of regulations.

“Further research of the report is needed and it is highly likely that China will appeal this.”

Copper is the new gold

Incidents of theft of copper cable in the UK are on the rise as the world prepares itself for a  shortage of the very useful metal.

The expansion of infrastructure in developing companies like China, India, Brazil and Russia means that, all in all, it’s just another BRIc in the wall.

Copper (periodic ticker number 29) is a ductile metal with high thermal and electrical conductivity. According to a study by Yale University two years ago, all of the copper in ore and all the copper currently in use are likely to be exhausted to bring the developing nations to a level the advanced nations currently enjoy.

That means that the extremely useful Cu may turn out to be more valuable than the not-so-useful Gold (Au).

Even though, according to Bloomberg today, copper futures have fallen because gains are seen to be overdone, a metric ton of copper is $7,000 on hte London Metal Exchange.

China is believed to be hoarding vast amounts of copper. Although there’s stacks of it on the planet, mining it is not particularly easy and some pundits have suggested that reserves could run out in as little as 20 years or so.

It can be recycled. So make sure your copper wires are protected from those copper thieves.