• With huge, futuristic, “smart glass” windows, colorful LED lights, and big TV screens, Boeing’s new 787 ‘Dreamliner’ isn’t just a new plane, it’s a great new gadget for passengers.

    Late last month, Japan Airlines launched the first 787 route to the United States, from Tokyo to Boston. Come along for the journey and see what it’s like inside Boeing’s newest, high-tech airplane.

    The first step in my adventure was to get to Boston. One of the main purposes of the 787, which has a long flight range but is not that large, is to connect city pairs like Tokyo-Boston that wouldn’t make sense with bigger or less-efficient aircraft. A key route like New York-Tokyo can handle multiple flights per day with huge planes. But with the smaller, efficient 787, Boston residents can now enjoy direct service to Tokyo, too.

    The 787 is special because it’s the first major commercial airplane to be built mostly from carbon-fiber-composite material instead of metal. This makes it lighter. Coupled with two brand-new engines, it’s about 20% more fuel efficient than the similar-sized 767, which debuted 30 years ago. In today’s airline industry, where fuel costs have crippled profits, that makes a huge difference. And all of a sudden, Boston-Tokyo is a possibility.

    As you might expect, especially from a high-end airline like JAL, the 787 is up-to-date. It’s not a huge plane, like Airbus’s double-decker A380, so you won’t find private, first-class suites, showers, or anything silly like that.

    But there are accoutrements like (supposedly!) a Toto “washlet” toilet in the business-class bathroom; colorful LED lighting; and large, personal TVs for everyone on the plane. The coach seat itself was fine, including a footrest that I didn’t notice until after landing, and a couple of pockets to store earbuds, iPhone, etc. But the under-seat storage was too tight even for my small backpack, and there was a huge box for the in-flight entertainment system that took up valuable leg-stretching space.

    Perhaps the most noticeable cabin feature is the new window design. The windows are the biggest in the industry, and don’t have typical plastic, pull-down windowshades. Instead, they’re “smart glass” with a dimming switch under each window. With five different settings, you can make the window brighter or darker with the push of a button. It takes a few moments for the shading to adjust, but it works pretty well. Even at the darkest setting, the windows are still transparent-blue, so you can see outside without waking your neighbor. But it’s dark enough to sleep next to. Science!

    After a smooth takeoff, almost 90 minutes into the flight, we were served dinner. In economy class, there was a choice between Japanese seafood curry and some sort of cheesy chicken with pasta and vegetables. I chose the chicken, which was… what you’d expect in coach. At least JAL trusted us with real, metal utensils. Later in the flight, some sort of pastry snack was handed out. And then before landing, we received lunch: More cheesy pasta. But who’s flying for the food? Anyway, no special menu for the 787, at least not in coach.


  • led light 10.01.2012 No Comments

    3Dtechnology, a subject of much discussion last year, is now here for real and you can see its imprint in television, computer games, phones, tablets and cameras on show at a trade fair organised by the Board of Investment (BoI) where eco-friendly innovations hog the spotlight.

    Among the highlights of the BoI Fair 2011 is a “Smart Technology Zone” where LG Electronics Thailand is showcasing a concept called “Smilenovation”, which encompasses environmental friendliness and advanced technologies.

    Featured are LG’s home entertainment and mobile communications businesses, including 72-inch full LED 3D television, the largest ever seen in the region, and LG Optimus LTE, which supports 4G connectivity. It is also the first time in Thailand that LG is showcasing its ground-breaking full suite of 3D solutions, including its Cinema 3D television with FPR technology, 3D Home Theatre, 3D projector, Optimus 3D smart phone, and the world’s first glass-free 3D monitor utilising eye-tracking technology.

    Another zone, “Innovative Green Living”, displays home appliances that feature health and energy saving solutions, including air-conditioning. ThinQ technology allows consumers to manage refrigerators, washing machines, ovens and robotic vacuum cleaners via a smart network.

    Under the theme “Tomorrow, Together”, Hitachi Asia features a range of advanced sustainable urban technology and innovations to help create a better society. Entering its pavilion, visitors come face to face with marvellous interactive technology inspired by nature _ beautiful sakura flowers in bloom all around. They can ride to a futuristic town on Hitachi’s Super Express Train, a state-of-art simulation that fascinates visitors with a train journey around Japan where the scenery changes with season.

    Toshiba Thailand has conceptualised its pavilion as a “Smart Community”. It is a futuristic community based on an integrated system of energy, water, transportation, ICT and healthcare solutions in which all components work together to efficiently protect the environment. Technology proposed by Toshiba makes the least use of resources for optimal living conditions.

    Visitors can also sample the latest Toshiba products such as 55-inch LED 3D glass free television, voice activated air-conditioning, the world’s thinnest and lightest tablet PC, the world’s first 3D notebook without glass, and the world’s fastest charging high capacity ion battery.

    At the Panasonic pavilion visitors can appreciate a range of eco-products. The company features a miniature energy-saving city to demonstrate a concept that can be described as “eco-life that connects with the earth”.

    The city features a house, an electric mass transit system, a convenience store, office buildings, and factories: All run by a complete energy system management using energy-saving electrical appliances.

    The city’s energy consumption is controlled by a Home Energy Management System (HEMS) that uses the Internet to connect electronic appliances and audio & visual devices in homes. Energy consumption levels are indicated to alert family members to take steps to control usage. HEMS has also been applied in retail shops to minimise energy costs.

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  • Creating semiconductor structures for high-end optoelectronic devices just got easier, thanks to University of Illinois researchers.

    The team developed a method to chemically etch patterned arrays in the semiconductor gallium arsenide, used in solar cells, lasers, light emitting diodes (LEDs), field effect transistors (FETs), capacitors and sensors. Led by electrical and computer engineering professor Xiuling Li, the researchers describe their technique in the journal Nano Letters.

    A semiconductor’s physical properties can vary depending on its structure, so semiconductor wafers are etched into structures that tune their electrical and optical properties and connectivity before they are assembled into chips.

    Semiconductors are commonly etched with two techniques: “Wet” etching uses a chemical solution to erode the semiconductor in all directions, while “dry” etching uses a directed beam of ions to bombard the surface, carving out a directed pattern. Such patterns are required for high-aspect-ratio nanostructures, or tiny shapes that have a large ratio of height to width. High-aspect-ratio structures are essential to many high-end optoelectronic device applications.

    Unfortunately, these materials can be difficult to dry etch, as the high-energy ion blasts damage the semiconductor’s surface.

    To address this problem, Li and her group turned to metal-assisted chemical etching (MacEtch), a wet-etching approach they had previously developed for silicon. Unlike other wet methods, MacEtch works in one direction, from the top down. It is faster and less expensive than many dry etch techniques, according to Li.

    The process has two steps. First, a thin film of metal is patterned on the GaAs surface. Then, the semiconductor with the metal pattern is immersed in the MacEtch chemical solution. The metal catalyses the reaction so that only the areas touching metal are etched away, and high-aspect-ratio structures are formed as the metal sinks into the wafer. When the etching is done, the metal can be cleaned from the surface without damaging it.

    “It is a big deal to be able to etch GaAs this way,” Li said. “The realisation of high-aspect-ratio III-V nanostructure arrays by wet etching can potentially transform the fabrication of semiconductor lasers where surface grating is currently fabricated by dry etching, which is expensive and causes surface damage.”

    To create metal film patterns on the GaAs surface, Li’s team used a patterning technique pioneered by John Rogers, the Lee J Flory-Founder Chair and a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Illinois.

    Their research teams joined forces to optimise the method, called soft lithography, for chemical compatibility while protecting the GaAs surface. Soft lithography is applied to the whole semiconductor wafer, as opposed to small segments, creating patterns over large areas - without expensive optical equipment.

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  • As if on cue, a big, bronze moon rose over the rim of Lake Tahoe as the evening’s speaker – California Sen. Dianne Feinstein – stood at the podium.

    “Oh my goodness,” Feinstein said, as beams of silvery light rippled across the lake and her audience at the West Shore Cafe and Inn on Monday night. “Is that something – or is that something? Wow!”

    Feinstein was on hand the next day to host this year’s Tahoe Summit, an annual gathering of public and private officials held at the Homewood Mountain Resort. The event, launched in 1997 by former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, serves as a both a pep rally and environmental status report for the health of the world-class lake on the California-Nevada border.

    This year, despite the moon’s serene glow, there were reasons for concern, from dwindling federal funds for restoration at Lake Tahoe to rebellious Nevada politicians who – frustrated with Tahoe’s tough development rules – this year passed a law threatening to pull out of the 42-year-old Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

    The lake itself took a turn for the worse, too. Water clarity dropped from 68.1 feet in 2009 to 64.4 feet in 2010, the second-lowest clarity level on record. The decline caught many by surprise.

    But Feinstein and others, including California Gov. Jerry Brown, showed no discouragement. They unveiled more plans and strategies to restore the lake, and shared hopes of moving beyond litigation to innovation aimed at swapping out the lake’s ailing, pollution-prone infrastructure with more environmentally sound development.

    “If we plan too much, we’re never going to build anything,” Brown said. “And if we build too much we’re not going to have very good plans. Somehow we’ve got to have the builders and the environmentalists … come up with a game plan that will keep Tahoe economically and environmentally sane, sound and sustainable.”

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