Friday, February 29, 2008

Would-Be CIOs Need Far More Than Technical Skills, says Gartner

Experienced IT practitioners, including current chief information officers (CIOs), must target 2008 to begin acquiring at least one or two years of non-IT business unit management experience if they wish to viably pursue new CIO opportunities opening in 2009 or 2010, according to Gartner. Gartner interviews with leading IT recruitment firms show senior executives want their next CIO to have business unit executive experience in non-IT business units.

“For the past few years we have detected some intriguing CIO hiring trends: CIO candidates are not required to have formal technology-oriented backgrounds but they must be able to show that they have managed a non-IT business unit,” said Ken McGee, distinguished analyst and Gartner Fellow. “Professional qualifications and competence are still necessary for those wanting to become CIOs, but these qualities will not be sufficient in coming years.”

Mr McGee said there are two significant trends affecting CIOs:

New CIOs need non-IT, business unit executive experience if they wish to get a new CIO job
New, non-IT duties are being given to more and more “new” CIOs.

To confirm these trends, Gartner spoke with the heads of IT recruitment at four of the largest professional search firms in the world. On a combined basis, these firms place approximately half of all Global 1000 CIOs in any given year.

Gartner asked these executives whether chief executive officers (CEOs) were looking for particular educational backgrounds and technical know-how. The answers from these top recruitment executives were that CEOs had no preferred educational backgrounds: One said: “When push comes to shove, it doesn’t matter.”

Educational discipline may not be central, but technical experience is still an essential part of a CIO’s background. CEOs are also now looking for CIO candidates that have business unit management experience. They want CIOs that have run a department other than IT. One consultant said: “The best overall background today is to have come up through the ranks in technology and spent some time outside in one of the businesses.”

Gartner does not infer that formal technical education and training is no longer important. However, Mr McGee said: “For some time, we have believed that CIOs needed business experience as well. Now we have discovered that leading recruitment executives report business unit management experienceto be an actual requirement of chief executives looking for CIOs.”

“The ability to leverage technology for competitive advantage -- to innovate -- that’s really where the sweet spot is,” said one recruiter.

The IT recruiters noted that experience in rolling out ERP systems meant that many CIOs had particularly good knowledge across the whole range of activity within their businesses. Many have reached the position where they are equipped to take on broader, business responsibilities. Gartner believes that many will want to take on non-IT responsibilities or to leave IT and assume responsibility for businesses that they have recently become experts in.

About this study

Additional information is available in the Gartner report “Meet Your Next CIO”. A relatively new set of expectations is being applied to those vying to become the next CIOs in a rapidly growing number of IT organizations. The report explores how long it will take for those changes to permeate throughout the entire IT department.

Align Pay Practices with IT Strategy to Attract and Retain a High-Caliber IT Workforce, says Gartner

Business leaders are looking for IT to help drive business growth in 2008, resulting in increased pressure for human resources (HR) to assist chief information officers (CIOs) and IT organizations in attracting, developing, and retaining a high-caliber IT workforce, according to Gartner. Gartner has identified 4 key workforce trends that will have the greatest impact on the sustainability of an IT organization.

“CIOs that want to attract and retain top talent in 2008 and beyond must partner more closely with HR to develop competitive pay practices that address IT-specific needs such as skills shortage,” said Lily Mok, research director for Gartner’s human capital management content development group. “Such practices must respond to key workforce trends, which include demographic shifts in workforce composition, increasing virtualization and globalization of the workplace and workforce, and a tightening job market. Being competitive is more than adopting market-proven practices. Pay practices that align with and support the changing IT strategy, as well as workforce expectations, result in higher productivity gains, which ultimately improve business performance.”

According to Gartner, understanding these 4 key workforce trends can help CIOs and HR leaders revive IT pay practices to improve their effectiveness:

Demographic Shift in Workforce Composition Will be One of the Top Issues to Address in 2008 and Beyond: HR and IT leaders will need to reconsider whether a single, generic pay practice has relevancy as an increasingly diverse workforce -- from different generations and with different life cycle needs -- evolves. Incumbent-driven, personalized compensation practices will gain importance because they offer differentiated value propositions to critical talent in each generation.

Technological, Social and Economical Pressure Will Drive the Adoption of a More “Virtualized” Workplace and Workforce: As technology integrates more deeply into our work and home lives, HR and IT leaders will face new challenges managing workplace dynamics and employee relations. Performance management and reward systems will need to recognize and motivate the “out-of-sight” workforce. The pay-for-performance system thus needs to be based more on results than on processes. Team-based reward programs that drive collaboration of virtual teams will grow in importance.

Outsourcing and Offshoring will Gain Momentum as Enterprises Try to Drive Efficiency by Tapping Into the Global Resource Pool: The issue of pay equity vs. competitiveness will be more pronounced in an outsourced or multisourced environment, the latter using permanent staff, contractors and outsourced staff to perform similar work under very different pay programs. Incentive plans designed to motivate and reward teamwork may need to take contributions of the nonemployee workforce into account, with this stipulated in the service contract.

The Job Market Will Become More Competitive as IT Organizations Shift Their Priorities and Seek to Fill Openings With Better Qualified People: The more-competitive job market will refocus enterprises’ attention on assessing the effectiveness of pay programs in attracting, motivating and retaining the workforce. It will also become increasingly important to communicate the value of compensation packages to current workers and potential hires. To recognize individual capabilities and growth potential, more enterprises will consider adopting pay programs to ones that are more competency- or potential-based than job-based, such as career banding.

“Compensation plays a crucial role in creating a competitive total rewards strategy. People want to work for companies that share their success in the form of salaries and incentives. Therefore, changes in pay practices get people’s attention,” said Ms. Mok. “With so much in IT that is changing continuously, HR and compensation professionals should help IT leaders first build a business case demonstrating that pay change -- which goes beyond raises and bonuses -- adds value to the enterprise. Used properly, pay can be a powerful communicator in that it guides employees to focus on enhancing individual and business performance.”

About this study

Contact Gartner for more information on the Gartner Quarterly Trending Report, "Revitalizing IT Pay Practices: Challenges and Alternatives.” The report includes examples from private and public/nonprofit organizations to showcase alternative approaches to base pay and short-term incentive/bonus program designs for IT.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Final Word: 2008's hot new trend: Wait for it... wait for it...

By Craig Wilson, USA TODAY

Every year around this time, prognosticators love to tell us what's going to happen next year.

Not to disappoint, a trend-spotting group at JWT, one of America's largest ad agencies, already has compiled its list of the 10 new trends it sees popping up in 2008. The growing power of women. Blue (think sky and sea) being the new green when it comes to the environment. Tequila replacing wine as a cheaper, trendier alternative. Just to name a few.

I'll confess I'm not much good at trend-spotting. Blasphemous, I know, in this hip and happening world, but by the time I recognize a trend, it's pretty much over. I'm not sure what I'm doing in the meantime, but give me a break. These things happen quickly.

My theory is this: Why get all worked up about something that will be history before my next haircut?

So I was pleased to see the JWT trendmeisters list one trend for the new year that I think might actually be worth investigating. They call it "Rethinking Instant Gratification."

According to the experts, " 'Custom-made and one-of-a-kind' will rise above the mass-produced din of 'now.' Marketers are asking for commitment from consumers who've become accustomed to flitting from one product to another for quick fixes."

Translation: We're upping the snob stakes, willing to wait eons for a handmade, one-of-a-kind handbag since high-end designers such as Vera Wang are now going mass-market.

I'm not sure this is true at all. I have friends who still get impatient when they have to wait for a sofa to be delivered, but I'm willing to go along for the ride. Maybe this is a good trend. Maybe it's time we all slow down and wait for a change.

After watching people get antsy when their five-adjective coffees aren't offered up quickly enough at Starbucks, won't it be interesting to see whether people actually are willing to wait for their pleasures next year?

Including me. I'll admit I can be as impatient as the next guy. Maybe because for years now, I've been told I don't have to wait for anything. Order something online today, and you can pretty much have it the next day. Window blinds included. You've seen the commercials.

Considering how "now" our world is, I'm kind of surprised people still put up with waiting nine months for a baby.

So I was amused the other day when I read about the surge in sales of mega-yachts and how the über-rich have to wait years for them to be custom-built, something the shipbuilders concede is one of the industry's problems. Rich people don't like to wait for things. Will their sorrows never end?

Obviously, they haven't heard about this delayed-gratification trend.

The problem is, how do we go about this? How do we learn to enjoy the joys of not getting everything we want right away? How do we embrace that old lesson that good things come to those who wait?

Like yachts.

And babies.

Will 2008 really be the year of delayed gratification?

We'll just have to wait and see.

Happy new year.


Analysis: Demise of India's IC manufacturing dreams

India's chip manufacturing dreams appear to be doomed as SemIndia's $3 billion-fab project is likely to die a premature death as will another fab planned by India Electronics Manufacturing Corp. (IEMC). In addition, Korean investor June Min's plan to set up India's first fab in Hyderabad has been abandoned in favor of making photovoltaic products.

India had made major strides in the last year, announcing a chip manufacturing policy. The incentive policy was intended to help launch state-of-the-art fabs in the country over the next few years.

But the high expectations here for a domestic chip industry have faded as financial realities reemerge. Both SemIndia's fab, which would use technology from Advanced Micro Devices, and IEMC's fab with partner Infineon Technologies, appear to be dead in the water.

Venture capital firm Sandalwood Partners, Wall Street fund Empire Capital Partners and contract electronics manufacturer Flextronics, which together have pumped more than $30 million into the SemIndia venture, are uncertain about SemIndia's fab strategy, according to sources close to the project.

"There are many uncertainties in the Indian context," said one industry source. "In particular, since the semiconductor industry is a very dynamic and cyclic—with periodic downturns and a highly intensive capital industry—it becomes imperative that any company involved in this area has to be able to manage its investments, capacity allocation, new factories and phasing out of the old technologies in a shorter timeframe.

"This is crucial to the survival and growth of the semi industry. It is not clear that it is yet possible to manage this dynamics in India," the industry source added.

Shifting gears
Despite the uncertainty, SemIndia's Systems unit is emerging as the company's flagship, and its manufacturing capability has bolstered the company's financial performance. Similarly, IEMC outlined revised plans focusing on the photovoltaic market where CEO Rajendra Singh is an expert.

The $25-billion conglomerate Reliance or other deep- pocketed suitors may also be considering a buyout of ailing chip makers like AMD, say industry observers.

Its investors have a simple strategy for SemIndia: From the start, grow SemIndia Systems into a profitable venture. It is the first Indian manufacturer to ship over 1 million ADSL2+ broadband modems in its first year of production. Annual revenues surpassed $25 million in 2007, and its run rate for 2008 is an estimated $80 million.

The Indian manufacturer has overtaken established companies such as D-Link, Huawei, ZTE and other Chinese companies that have long supplied Indian companies.

SemIndia Systems has also recorded substantial growth in less than two years, and investors are forecasting as much as 50-fold growth within the next three to four years if it sticks with back-end manufacturing rather than chip making.

"It is precisely because of this that SemIndia is attracting the attention of many funding institutions, and is likely to announce a substantial additional funding from a handful of U.S. VCs and Wall Street funds," a source said.

New plans
India's electronics market is expected to reach $363 billion by 2015, and domestic demand for semiconductors alone is forecast to reach $36 billion, according to market researcher Frost & Sullivan.

"Sometimes when you are too close to the project you are not able to see where you are going," said one investor. "That was precisely the case with the SemIndia project. Now, we have realized that we were wrong, and to straighten things out we are requesting for the company to change the business model."

IEMC executives have also shelved its fab plans. "We are not planning to set up a fab in India for the time being. We have other plans," said an IEMC executive who asked not to be named.

A key reason is soaring fab costs. The $3-billion investment which SemIndia envisaged in October 2005 now stands at $7 billion. And the question now is, why spend $7 billion when a company could buy an existing chipmaker for the same amount?

According to industry analyst Y. Shashidar, "India has to take smaller steps and move in a right direction. If Indian companies can buyout fabs, they should check out the technology and see whether their business plans could integrate" a fab.

Industry analysts also blame the Indian government's delayed and murky chip policy for the failure to launch a fab here. Policy makers were offering a special incentive package scheme to encourage fab investments, including a 25-percent subsidy on capital expenditures for manufacturing outside special economic zones and 20 percent inside these zones. "However, the form in which the government will provide this subsidy is unclear," financial advisor Deloitte concluded in an internal note on semiconductor investments in India.

Industry experts also wonder what an India chipmaker could offer the global market that Chinese manufacturers can't. With Intel Corp. planning a 65nm fab in China, most observers here agree with an IEMC executive who said India's "big fab story is truly dead."

- Sufia Tippu
EE Times

Silicon photonics move to rule networks

Developments in silicon photonics have moved the technology into the mainstream, according to presenters at the 2008 Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exposition.

The move from copper twisted pairs—which consume from seven or more watts to transmit and receive 10Gbit/s of network traffic—to optical fibers can cut power consumption tenfold, proponents say. Moving further to silicon-based optical components could cut power by half again while driving down costs with CMOS integration.

CMOS gains
"Using silicon in optical networks is no longer just research," said Karen Liu, a VP at Ovum RHK, the telecom research arm of Datamonitor PLC. "Companies are now fabricating optical components in CMOS, which should lower costs and power consumption."

Both IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center and Intel Research have shown silicon lasers and waveguides designed to facilitate optical communications on future CMOS chips. And last fall, Luxtera Inc. announced it was sampling the first CMOS chip designed to plug-and-play with existing optical networks.

Now Lightwire Inc. has also announced it is sampling a CMOS photonics transceiver aimed at replacing existing 220m line-replaceable modules (LRM) with small form factor pluggable modules based on silicon.

Different approaches
"Luxtera and Lightwire are answering different questions about what silicon can be used for in optical networks," said Liu. "Luxtera is answering the question of whether both electrical and optical components can be integrated onto the same chip, and Lightwire is answering the question of whether they should be."

Luxtera's single chip device integrates both an LRM's electrical transceivers and the optical waveguides onto a CMOS chip; Lightwire has divided the labor between a 65nm chip for electrical processing and a 130nm chip dedicated exclusively to the optical functions.

"By using two chips instead of one, we think we can move more quickly to multichannel 40Gbit and 100Gbit versions," said Lightwire founder and chief technology officer Kal Shastri. "Our existing 130nm optical chip design will also work at 40Gbit, so we just have to refine the electrical chip."

So far, Lightwire's strategy appears to be working since the company claims its single channel chip consumes only 400mW, compared to 500mW per channel for Luxtera's four-channel device. When Lightwire moves to a four-channel device, it claims power consumption will be half that of Luxtera's—1W compared to 2W.

Beam splitting
Both Luxtera and Lightwire, as well as IBM and Intel, use a Mach-Zehnder interferometer (MZI) to modulate the laser. Unlike IBM and Intel, which are also trying to craft a laser in silicon, both Luxtera and Lightwire use standard discrete lasers to feed a silicon waveguide, which funnels the beam into the MZI.

An MZI works by splitting a beam into two parallel paths, one of which is modulated with an electrical gate that changes the index of refraction in that path by concentrating the charge. When the two paths are recombined at the end of the interferometer, their phase difference translates into the bits that encode the electrical signal within the light exiting the chip.

IBM, Intel and Luxtera use a traditional MZI architecture with a p-n junction concentrating the charge. This requires the interferometer's two paths to be several millimeters long. Lightwire has developed a patented 3D architecture that stacks the p- and n-type materials, separated by 20A to 24A of silicon dioxide, to form a MOS capacitor, which Lightwire calls a semiconductor-insulator-semiconductor capacitor.

Lightwire claims its capacitor has more surface area to concentrate a charge than a p-n junction, enabling it to reduce the length of the interferometer's two paths to 0.5mm.

"Our charge is concentrated smack in the middle of the device," said Shastri. "As a result we get the maximum phase shift for unit length. Plus, we can use low CMOS voltages of 1.2V instead of 3.3V or 5V, like our competitors."

Up and coming
Lightwire also claims to be able to scale its device more easily, merely by going to thinner gate oxides. That's different from p-n junction-based MZI designs that don't scale well to smaller sizes.

"By going to thinner gate oxides, we can increase the reflective index of the device, and thus can scale down its length very easily," said Shastri.

Lightwire will next design multichannel devices, including both four- and ten-channel devices. They will use a single laser to drive the optical chip, which will then split and modulate each channel separately.

"We will have samples of our current part available in March, and production units in second half of 2008," said Vijay Albuquerque, Lightwire's CEO. "Plus, we have a roadmap that leads directly to 40- and 100Gbit/s parts over the next 12 to 24 months."

Lightwire's CMOS photonics process was jointly developed with the Singapore's Institute of Microelectronics and is fabricated by Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing Ltd.

- R. Colin Johnson
EE Times

Related information

* What is CMOS?
Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor, or commonly referred to as CMOS, is a type of IC which includes microprocessor, microcontroller, static RAM and other digital logic circuits.

IT Talent Shortage Will Change IT Workforce Strategies, says Gartner

A new shortage of skills and talent in IT and business is threatening business growth, according to Gartner. Traditional technical IT skills will not suit the burgeoning demand for developing IT and business together. Several forces are coming together to create a competition for talent. Companies need to adjust their plans for a new reality of constrained resources.

“What constitutes ‘qualified people’ will change. The intersection of business models and IT requires people with varied experience, professional versatility, multidiscipline knowledge and technology understanding -- a hybrid professional, in other words,” said Diane Morello, vice president and Gartner Fellow.

There are simply not enough such people available, according to Andy Kyte, vice president and Gartner Fellow: “This is a massive and devastating skills shortage, and it is coming when there is a surge in the number of projects that are required from IT.”

The supply of people willing and able to understand and respond to business challenges will fall short of the rising demand for business change and growth, Gartner said. This skills shortfall is very different from the shortage experienced during the dot-com squeeze of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Then there were shortages of specific, technical skills and domain-specific expertise. Today, by contrast, there are shortages of people with more general qualifications, experience and business insight. The focus is on understanding and managing business processes and technology -- which take time to mature.

Factors driving demand for talent

Several forces are driving the demand for people with talent covering both IT and business. First, Gartner has found in informal surveys that most large companies are in the middle of various transformation programmes and they see IT as key to transformation. Second, they need unprecedented levels of coordination between IT and the business to meet the challenges of globalisation, focus on customers, innovation, extended value chains and brand mastery. Finally, they are being compelled to modernise and consolidate their legacy IT applications, systems and platforms – if only because they cannot find the people with skills to maintain them.

Factors affecting the supply of talent

Past investments have created a tangle of IT complexity which can only be solved by throwing people at the task. This is unsustainable given the weight of IT-driven business change now underway and increasing concern with differentiation through customised applications intensifies the complexity and creates the legacy assets of tomorrow.

Many chief information officers (CIOs) see outsourcing as a way of making up for the lack of talent but that is not a solution. Suppliers are suffering from the same shortages of skills and talent. Many young people in the West see IT as an unattractive career option: it is both hard work and “uncool.” There is no pipeline of local people emerging with degrees in computer science or related disciplines.

Demographics are making matters worse. People who were born before 1964 -- the baby boomers -- are nearing retirement and are looking forward to part-time work and entrepreneurial activities. College graduates and 20-somethings are heading towards IT-related work in the media and Internet companies. Young students in the United States are not enrolling in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (the STEM disciplines). But these disciplines are attracting students in developing countries. In China, universities graduate about 500,000 IT and high-tech students every year.

Responding to the challenge

“I keep meeting CIOs who say they will be running resource-constrained projects in 2008,” said Mr Kyte. “The constraint is not from the budget but from the lack of the right people.” Companies need to anticipate this constraint in their plans. They must expect to pay more for the same output or reduce the level of output that can be achieved from flat spending. They should explore alternative ways of delivering IT service and keep monitoring markets to spot emerging threats.

Identifying the people, competences and roles that will be required has to be ongoing. Companies are going to need people who offer much more than technical certification or specific skills. They will need people with experience in roles such as project management and business process analysis, preferably with professional expertise in such disciplines as architectures, process modelling and portfolio management. Finally, they will need people with drive, initiative and leadership skills.

About this study

Additional information is available in the report “The Quest for Talent -- You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” (ID Number: G00153872).

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Nokia taps nanotech for next-gen handsets

Nokia has offered first glimpses of the research it is doing in collaboration with the University of Cambridge when it unveiled a shape-changing mobile device concept based on nanotechnology.

Dubbed "Morph," the joint nanotechnology concept was designed to demonstrate the possible future benefits of nanotechnology for mobile devices. Morph is both stretchable and flexible, but Nokia suggests nanotechnology could also allow future cellphones to include self-cleaning surfaces and see-through electronics. The early stage prototype is being shown as part of the "Design and the Elastic Mind" exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art in New York that opened this weekend and lasts until mid-May.

The collaboration between Nokia and the University of Cambridge was first revealed in March 2007. The deal was to work together on an extensive and long term program of joint research projects.

As part of the project, Nokia Research Centre has established a research facility at the University's West Cambridge site and collaborated with several departments—initially the Nanoscience Center and Electrical Division of the Engineering Department—on projects that centered on nanotechnology.

Mark Welland, head of the Department of Engineering's Nanoscience Group at the University of Cambridge and University Director of Nokia-Cambridge collaboration said, "Developing the Morph concept with Nokia has provided us with a focus that is both artistically inspirational but, more importantly, sets the technology agenda for our joint nanoscience research that will stimulate our future work together."

Nokia said that elements of Morph might be integrated into handheld devices within seven years, though initially only at the high end. In the future however, the Finnish firm sees nanotechnology as one day leading to low cost manufacturing and the potential for integrating complex functionality at a low price.

Although very little is being said for now about the Morph's technical capabilities, pictures show how, in theory, the handset would be able to alter its state between a watch-like mode, a credit-card shape and a traditional mobile phone. No dimensions are given, but the Morph appears to be extremely thin irrespective of the state or shape it takes.

- John Walko
EE Times Europe

GPS goes beyond navigation to video games

If you thought it was cool tying a video game to the physical world via consoles equipped with MEMS accelerometers—the technique Nintendo used to make "Wii" a household name—wait until you see what GPS can do to expand the future of video gaming.

In an R&D project called Mediascape, U.S.-based Hewlett Packard Labs, together with a team of U.K. researchers developed a location-based interactive software development platform. The goal is to link a collection of digital media fragments to the physical world using GPS, mobile devices and sensors. As a user with a GPS-enabled mobile phone or PDA walks, the device senses his position and triggers the appropriate media file.

By combining GPS and a digital compass with accelerometers, Mediascape lets gamers "become a mouse and a gamepad," said Patrick Goddi, a senior researcher at HP Labs.

The R&D team is still in "an early phase of exploring the business model" for Mediascape, said Goddi, but the implications of the research are signficant. First, it could define a new generation of video games that can be played in a "physical" or "mobile" environment—inside or out. Second, and perhaps more important, the new platform could serve as an engine for new social networking applications like blogging that are directly linked to physical locations. That fact could enable Mediascape to ride a growing GPS tidal wave in the mobile market.

Beyond navigation
If this year's Mobile World Congress was any indication, GPS is fast becoming more than a technology for car navigation. Nokia, Google and others increasingly view GPS as a key technology for defining a next-generation, "context-based" Internet.

In rolling out its own Maps 2.0 service, Nokia's CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo promised that Nokia would take "navigation out of the car and bring it to the sidewalk." As a user snaps pictures with a camera phone, for example, Maps 2.0 could simultaneously store GPS coordinates in a metadata file, a capability known as geo-tagging.

HP's Mediascape platform would allow users, programmers and Web designers to go further. Using free Mediascape development tools and players released last year, some developers have already created several Mediascape programs, including a treasure hunt and a Yosemite National Park guide wiki-ed by forest rangers. Both programs linked a trail of clues or guide tips with location information.

Mediascape currently uses GPS to determine location, but the research team is planning to release support for Bluetooth beacons and other sensors so it can also work indoors.

HP's Bristol, U.K. group held Mediascape's first developers conference late last year, with more than 200 developers attending. While current Mediascape development is centered on games and education, HP hopes it can be applied to broader consumer and enterprise applications where information and media need to be associated with different locations.

- Junko Yoshida
EE Times

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hydrogen cars go nano‏

Startup QuantumSphere Inc. has claimed that its nanoparticle coatings could make hydrogen easy to produce at home from distilled water, which can bring the cost of hydrogen fuel cells in line with that of fossil fuels.

The company says it has perfected the manufacture of highly reactive catalytic nanoparticle coatings that could increase the efficiency of electrolysis, the technique that generates hydrogen from water. Moreover, the coatings could also eliminate the need for expensive metals like platinum in hydrogen fuel cells.

Boasting 1,000 times the surface area of traditional materials, the coatings can be used to retrofit existing electrolyzers to increase their efficiency to 85 percent—exceeding the U.S. Department of Energy's goal for 2010 by 10 percent. The scheme holds the promise of 96 percent efficiency by the time cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells hit automobile showrooms, according to the company.

"Instead of switching 170,000 gas stations over to hydrogen, using our electrodes could enable consumers to make their own hydrogen, either in the garage or right on the vehicle," said Kevin Maloney, president, CEO and co-founder of QuantumSphere. "Our nanoparticle-coated electrodes make electrolyzers efficient enough to provide hydrogen on demand from a tank of distilled water in your car."

Nano-coated batteriesThe first commercial product inspired by QuantumSphere's technology will debut later this year. A battery using a cathode coated with the startup's nanoparticles offers increased energy density 5x over alkaline cells and power by 320 percent. The first commercial non-rechargeable batteries with this increased capacity will be announced by an as-yet-unnamed major U.S. battery maker in 2H 08.

QuantumSphere also claims to be able to improve rechargeable nickel-metal-hydride batteries to the point where they perform better than the less environmentally friendly Li-ion batteries popular today.

The startup plans to first retrofit existing electrolysis equipment with its nanoparticle electrodes to boost efficiency. Next, it intends to partner with original equipment manufacturers to design at-home and on-vehicle electrolyzers for making hydrogen from water for fuel cells. Finally, the company wants to work with fuel cell makers to replace their expensive platinum electrodes with inexpensive stainless-steel electrodes coated with nickel-iron nanoparticles.

QuantumSphere's nanoparticles are available in four formulations: nickel cobalt, iron cobalt, nickel iron and silver copper. According to the Freedonia Group Inc., the nanoparticles can be sold directly into the catalyst metals market, which it predicts will edge up to $4.7 billion this year.

QuantumSphere is also expected to have an impact on the battery market, which Freedonia estimates will grow to more than $5 billion by 2009. Portable fuel cells and direct hydrogen generation are markets that are growing even faster, with fuel cells estimated to top $11 billion by 2013, according to Wintergreen Research Inc., and hydrogen generation to exceed $15 billion by 2016, according to Clean Edge Inc.

Nanoparticle projectQuantumSphere was founded in 2002 with just $100,000 of private funding and still has not taken in any venture capital, although it did have a public funding round last year. The company's founding goal was to create a thimble full of the nanoparticles it invented. But now, just over five years later, it claims to have surpassed its original goal with a manufacturing plant capable of producing tons of nanoparticles per year.

QuantumSphere claims its current manufacturing capacity is enough for both the battery and electrolysis markets. With an eye on future growth, however, the company has partnered with the OM Group Inc. for mass-producing nanoparticles when QuantumSphere can no longer meet demand.

After perfecting the original invention, for which QuantumSphere was awarded a patent last year, the company hired an engineering team to adapt the nanoparticles for particular applications. Leading that team was director of fuel cell research Kimberly McGrath, a protégé of George Olah, the 1994 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry. Olah, inventor of the direct liquid-methanol fuel cell, serves as a scientific adviser to QuantumSphere.

"We have formulated a nanoparticle coating that has a very high surface area, enabling inexpensive coated stainless-steel electrodes to exceed the performance of the expensive platinum electrodes used today," said McGrath. "We start with raw material that covers about the size of a sheet of paper, but after converting into nanoparticles, it covers a soccer field."

The nanoparticles are perfect spheres, consisting of a couple hundred atoms measuring from 16nm to 25nm in diameter. They are formed by means of a vacuum-deposition process that uses vapor condensation to produce highly reactive catalytic nanoparticles, for which the engineering team has formulated several end-use applications.

"Our biggest engineering challenge was finding a way to get the nanoparticles to stick to metal electrodes," McGrath said. The company has solved that problem, she said, "enabling existing electrolysis equipment to realize a 30 percent increase in hydrogen output just by retrofitting our coated electrodes."

QuantumSphere projects that the efficiency of electrolysis using its nanoparticle-coated electrodes, now at 85 percent, can be increased to 96 percent by the time hydrogen fuel cell automobiles are in wide use. Adjusting for rising gasoline prices, QuantumSphere projects that performing electrolysis at home to power hydrogen fuel cells will be less expensive than burning fossil fuels.

The company has also made progress in its quest to eliminate the need for expensive platinum electrodes inside the fuel cell itself, claiming that today it can replace half a fuel cell's platinum with nanoparticle-coated stainless steel. QuantumSphere hopes to demonstrate fuel cells with no platinum at all in the coming years.

R. Colin Johnson
EE Times

Friday, February 22, 2008

Life is wonder

Many times I think why the life is so wondering, no one never expect to the future and somtimes god will playing with yourlife as a joke ever you don't fun.

I'm confuse, What is the beautiful of life? Can you make it by yourself? Umm...It's hard to say... but you should to know what you can do in your way.

Life is yours. Just do it by yourself.

Have a good life

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hello Blogger

22 Feb 2008

Welcome to my blog at in the name as I call "beemoon" which is I use in every my blogs. This is ther first time that I'll seriously to get money from useful articles. hehehe

If you want to read my articles in Thai language or want to know me better than this, pls go to or both there blogs are my and I hope its could full fill your knowledge in the other side of idea.

see you later.