Sustainability Group to Focus on Business Processes and Technology

Designers interested in new approaches to sustainability practices in the corporate world should take a look at the new Innovations in Environmental Sustainability Council project launched by IBM and the World Environment Center (WEC). The group, which will include representatives from large companies like GM, Coca-Cola, and Boeing, will explore how innovations in business process and technology can solve sustainability issues involving materials, energy, water, infrastructure, and logistics.

Members will share their own best practices with other companies, and have pledged to incorporate these sustainability strategies and technologies more deeply in their own operations.

According to an interview with the WEC over on GreenBiz:

“When you look at the companies coming together under this council, they have been implementing sustainability in their individual businesses for some years now, so I think what they’re looking to do is take sustainability to the next level, in terms of best practices and looking to further differentiate themselves in the marketplace.”
—  Terry F. Yosie, WEC president and CEO

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Lithium Air Batteries Could Boost Electric Vehicle Range

Despite all the media attention devoted to electric vehicles, the number of electric cars on the road is still fairly small. For example, in their first year of availability in the U.S., the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt achieved sales of just over 17,000 units. Cost is still an issue for many consumers, but one other factor holding back sales is “range anxiety.” All electric vehicles can only run so far on a single charge, and there aren’t that many publicly accessible charging stations, especially in rural areas. Consumer Reports found that the Leaf, for instance, was only good for about 65 miles during a cold snap.

The solution to the range problem will come through better battery technology, and researchers at IBM have come up with what they claim is a practical, affordable option: a lithium air battery that can power a vehicle for 500 miles. Breaking that range barrier would greatly expand the market for electric vehicles, while providing engineers in a variety of fields with a new extended-range battery option. Continue reading

IBM Researchers Create Nanotech Memory

Every time I buy a new hard drive, I always feel like I’ll never fill it. That was the case with my 8GB hard drive and continued to be true when I got my terabyte drive. Of course, I’ve always filled them, or come close enough that I’ve had to whittle down non-essential files. One part of the problem is that programs continue to grow larger, and the other part is that more and more information has become digital. I used to keep photos in a shoebox, now they are on my hard drive. The same is true for CAD files, simulation data and more.

So, if you are like me, you should rejoice at the recent findings by an IBM research team. As part of a five-year drive to devise a new angle on data storage, the team turned to nanotechnology. They began by seeing how much information they could store on a single atom, but they quickly learned that even a combination of two atoms wasn’t stable enough to maintain information integrity.

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IBM Predicts What Design Engineers Will Produce in Five Years

Science fiction frequently becomes science fact, a truth that anyone who watched Captain Kirk talk into a flip-top mobile communications device will understand. Even technology that seems to be on the fringe isn’t necessarily as unlikely as it might seem. Of course, the future is more than just better smart phones. Read on to find out what IBM, one of the most prolific innovators in the world, thinks design engineers will be incorporating into products by 2017. Continue reading

MIT Sees the Light on Optical Chips

MIT researchers are one step closer to creating photonic chips that use light beams instead of electrons to perform computational tasks. The research team developed a light-based diode that could lead to a low-cost way to create integrated optical circuits.

MIT’s research team published a paper on the new device in the journal Nature Photonics in November.

We already use fiber optics for communication systems, but when data reaches a computer the information has to be converted to electronic form to be processed, then changed back to light again. The folks at MIT were looking for a way to skip that conversion step in order to increase efficiency.

A photonic chip could transfer information at the speed of light, and could someday allow engineers to work in the cloud without worrying about broadband bottlenecks.

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