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10 tech to change electronics landscape in 2010

Posted: 23 Nov 2009     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:RFID  lithography  printed electronics  MEMS 

6. Harvesting energy
Energy harvesting is not a new idea. We have had the motion-powered wristwatch for many years. But as electronic circuits move from consuming milliwatts to consuming microwatts an interesting thing happens. It becomes possible to contemplate drawing power for those circuits, not from the electricity grid or from a battery but from a variety of ambient phenomena. And this is expected to have far-reaching impact.

One of the early applications is to have vibration-powered, wireless sensors in place on machinery, in vehicles. The battery-less aspect of such sensors removes the need for maintenance. EnOcean GmbH has pioneered the use of wireless, batteryless switches for use in building automation and is now helping to drive the EnOcean Alliance to form standards.

Nokia is looking at energy harvesting in the context of the mobile phone but has stressed it has no prototype as yet. But in 2010 all makers of mobile equipment have to be looking at energy harvesting to, at least, augment the battery life of their equipment.

7. Bio-electronics and wetware
This might be a bit more on the research side than the development side for 2010, but the coming together of the biological and the electronic is ripe for exploitation. We are used to the inclusion of hardware within animals in the form of under-the-skin tags for animals and heart pacemakers for human beings and the need to improve and reduce the cost of medical care is being felt acutely.

As the industry's capabilities in MEMS and organic electronics fabrication improves the scope for integration of tissues and electronic circuitry increases. Lab-on-a-chip is one manifestation of the technology, and here is an example from IBM disclosed recently, but it is also possible to grow biological cells on electronically addressable substrates. The opportunities for in-vitro diagnostics are clear. Information about the electrical behaviour of individual cells and their reactions to drugs is a major focus for research in cardiac and neural ailments such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease.

So, in short, we expect a lot of research and the continued emergence of bio-electronics as a mainstream activity.

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