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Rice University's James Tour

A very tough memory

A 10-atom-thick film of graphite – the same material found in pencil lead – may pave the way toward extremely robust computer memory with greater capacity.

Researchers led by Rice University’s James Tour have discovered that ultra-thin graphite film, called graphene, can be broken with an electrical impulse and restored with another, creating a binary switch of the kind that underlies modern computing.

Graphene-based memory yields an immediate increase in the amount of memory that can reside on a single chip, because each device is connected with only two wires rather than the three required by conventional transistors. “That saves a lot of real estate on a silicon chip,” says Tour.

A major Silicon Valley company is funding Tour’s research as a potential replacement for the flash memory devices now used in many handheld electronics.

Graphene “may get into areas flash memory just can’t because flash isn’t resilient enough,” Tour says. “These have been run at 200 degrees Celsius, which would fry flash memory, and they ran fine. And they just laugh at high-energy radiation. They could be very good for space exploration and the military.”

And stacking the graphene in layers may pave the way for the long-term goal of three-dimensional memory storage, which could yield small devices with truly mammoth capacities.

“It’s a totally new way of looking at storing memory,” Tour says.

Flash memory accounted for $23 billion in worldwide sales in 2008, according to Databeans Research Group.

For more information, contact James Tour at tour@rice.edu.

Texas Innovator eNERGY/UTILITIES

Balls of energy

Home Energy Americas, LLC (HEA) will manufacture the Energy Ball through its McKinney-based affiliate, VAWT Manufacturing. The Energy Ball is a small wind turbine that can power homes and businesses more efficiently than traditional propeller turbines. HEA will also distribute its Solar PV panels and Solar Heat Tubes.

Resembling an eggbeater atop a weather vane, the Energy Ball can be installed in residential or industrial areas. It has six curved rotor blades that are attached to the rotor hub at both ends. When the rotor turns, it resembles an elongated sphere. Wind moves parallel to the rotor hub through the rotor. The ball operates at very low wind speeds – two meters per second (m/s) – and begins producing electricity at 3 m/s.

The system is easy to install and produces no emissions or sounds. The company estimates that in places where the average wind speed is faster than 15 mph, a one-meter turbine could generate up to 500 kilowatt-hours (kwh) a year, while a two-meter energy ball can supply 1,750 kwh a year. One kwh is the electricity needed to burn 10 100-watt light bulbs for an hour.

For more information, contact Home Energy Americas, LLC, at info@homeenergyamericas.net or (972) 548-1190, or visit www.homeenergyamericas.com.

ELECTRONICS

Noise be gone

Audience, in Mountain View, Calif., has developed a system based on human hearing that separates a caller’s voice from annoying background noise.

The technology, which is currently available on some phones in Asia, uses two separate microphones and a microchip that partially mutes ambient sounds while highlighting the speaker’s voice. The system could become a major feature for service providers, who often take the blame for poor sound quality on mobile handsets.

For more information about Audience’s cell phone noise-dampening technology, visit www.audience.com, or call (408) 356-3099.

You’re entitled

The “You’re Entitled” campaign earned awards from the Texas Association of Counties Leadership Foundation and the American Association of Highway Administrators.

Texas InnovatorGOVERNMENT

Transfer that title

An innovative Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) video is helping educate Texans on the need for a vehicle transfer notification form.

“When you sell a vehicle or trade one in to a dealership, filing the vehicle transfer notification within 30 days removes your liability from anything the new owner might do with your old car or truck,” says Rebecca Davio of TxDOT.

TxDOT partnered with tax assessor collectors in Hays, Travis and Williamson counties and produced the video “You’re Entitled.” The video aired across the state.

Following the video’s release in July 2007, form submissions in July and August rose 77 percent.

For more information, call TxDOT’s help desk at (512) 465-7611, or e-mail vtr-cis@dot.state.tx.us.

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