“Aluminum ‘superatoms’ hint at a new type of superconducting materials” – GizMag, 28 February 2015

Scientists at the University of Southern California (USC) are currently in the throes of uncovering new superconductor materials that could be very useful for the electronics, medical imaging, microscopy, and electric motors industries, amongst other markets.

In electronics, as electrons move through a circuit, they generate electrical resistance and emit waste energy in the form of heat, which is why, for instance, when our laptops overheat, the internal fan turns on and cools it down. Superconductors are helpful because they don’t create resistance and thus, don’t create waste energy, or heat. Currently, the superconductor materials that do exist don’t operate at high temperatures; instead, they bottom out at -210 °F, which doesn’t work for us when our electronics heat up.

However, the USC scientists’ new superconductor materials look promising, since they can work at higher temperatures. The team discovered that they need to utilize clusters of aluminum atoms called “superatoms,” rather than single atoms. Clusters become superconductive at greater temperatures.

Superconductivity can only occur when Cooper pairs take shape in the material. The electron pairs are only slightly bound together—two electrons are not typically attracted to each other. As a pair, the electrons trigger a process that allows the electrons to stay on their prescribed path and prevents them from wasting energy. External factors, such as heat, can disturb the electrons’ fragile balance, which is the reason why superconductors can only operate at low temperatures.

Aluminum superatoms work at temperatures as low as -280 °F; the hope is that using a diverse set of materials will yield a superconductor that functions at higher temperatures. The USC team believes that grouping different metals into superatoms, instead of just aluminum, could direct them to superconductors that will be optimal for electronic industries. Their discovery could allow our technology to operate more efficiently.

(From GizMag)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

March 4, 2015

Phinix LLC

Copyright 2014. All rights Reserved by Phinix, LLC.

www.phinix.net    skdas@phinix.net

Social Share Toolbar

“New Titanium-Making Process Could Result in Lighter Aircraft” – MIT Technology Review, 26 February 2015

The aerospace industry has begun to employ more titanium in the production of aircraft parts, including engine components and fan blades. The lighter metal is invulnerable to corrosion, permits less fuel usage, and is adaptable to carbon composite materials, which can be found in many new aircrafts. Aluminum has typically been used in aircraft manufacturing, however the material conflicts with carbon composites.

Now, New Jersey-based SRI International has developed a new process for manufacturing titanium that is far less costly and uses far less energy than typical means. In addition to the aerospace industry, this new method could also be used for automobile parts, which can also better fuel economies.

SRI International’s technique generates a powder form of titanium, rather than bars. The powder can then be shaped into the form of the products or parts needed, which also means less equipment is required.

SRI has produced a small amount of the titanium using its technique. The company is presently working toward honing its method so that the cost is more economical and more titanium can be made. Like most new metal extraction processes, this development is still far away from commercialization.

(From MIT Technology Review)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

February 26, 2015

Phinix LLC

Copyright 2014. All rights Reserved by Phinix, LLC.

www.phinix.net    skdas@phinix.net

Social Share Toolbar

Patent Law Update

Considerable changes were made to US patent law — America Invents Act (AIA) – on March 16, 2013, looking to benefit big businesses rather than small businesses. Our new regulations will also alter how researchers and universities apply for patents. Major changes include:

  1. “First-to-File” Rule: Before March 16, US patent law abided by the “first-to-invent” rule; however, now it adheres to a “first-to-file” rule. The “first-to-file” rule has largely been the model for the rest of the world, yet the US chose to not follow it. Now the first inventor to the patent office will be granted the patent.
  2. Grace PeriodThe grace period for publications has been significantly shortened. It used to be that university researchers could use the provisions of US patent law to their advantage, since it permitted a fairly generous one-year grace period for almost all publications. New US patent law states that only the inventor’s own publication will now be accepted. The existence of any other publication — which includes a publication, poster, presentation, foreign patent application or offer for sale — will extinguish patentability.
  3. Written Agreements: University researchers must obtain a written research agreement when collaborating with researchers from different institutions. If there is no agreement, any publications co-authored by multiple institutions will be seen as prior art, and could also destroy patentability. However, if a join research agreement is written and signed by all parties, then patentability will remain intact. A joint research agreement should outline the joint research and declared inventions, and should have written agreements for both unfunded and funded shared work. All agreements will be studied prior to filing a patent application.
  4. Provisional Patent Application: Per revised legislation, provisional applications must include an entire documentation of the invention. Before, US patent law allowed inventors to file “cover page provisional applications,” meaning applicants could submit text from journal manuscripts with cover pages.
  5. Challenging Patent Applications: Revised patent law provides a handful of new way to dispute pending and granted patents.

Only time will tell how revised patent law will affect small technology-based entrepreneurial businesses, which are the main engine of America’s economic growth and competitive standing in Tom Friedman’s Flat World.

See also:
Inventors Race to File Patents

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

April 19, 2013

Phinix LLC

Copyright 2013. All rights Reserved by Phinix, LLC.

www.phinix.net    skdas@phinix.net

Social Share Toolbar

“Inventors Race to File Patents” – Wall Street Journal, 14 March 2013

The federal Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) received a flood of patent applications during the week of February 24-March 2 –12,670 to be exact, the highest weekly total of the year. Many anticipate tallies for the remainder of March to be even bigger. Why the sudden influx of applications? The US patent system will be undergoing a few changes that will make it both more expensive and difficult to patent new ideas.

Part of the 2011 federal patent-reform act, also known as the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, took effect this past Saturday, March 16. Before, the US went by a “first-to-invent” system: those who filed patent applications with the PTO had to prove that they were the first to invent the idea, regardless of whether they were the first to apply. After Saturday, the PTO will follow a “first-to-file” system, which is exactly what it sounds like. The PTO will now honor patent applications that are filed first, even if another inventor claims to have come up with the idea first. The rest of the world follows the “first-to-file” system — the US wanted to conform to the world’s system.

The new system is more likely to hurt small businesses and inventors, who often take their time in filings, and is really a gift to big businesses and corporations. There will also be an additional change that might change US innovation all together: an extension of “prior art”.

In order to ensure that an idea deserves patent protection, PTO examiners typically compare patent applications with prior art — or any existing documents and materials that relate to the inventor’s idea. However, now the amount of prior art that examiners will  study has expanded. For example, according to the revised legislation, prior art will now include foreign patent applications in any language. Previously, foreign applications were only accepted as prior art if they were filed in English.

We think that the new patent regulations could damage US invention — the new law has certainly created more hurdles for inventors to jump through, and offered a”big bonanza” to patent lawyers. The reformed law will only give a leg up to big business, a race that smaller inventors might lose. All big companies were small at one time; small companies are the main engine of innovation growth in the US economy, creating most of the new jobs and industries.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

March 19, 2013

Phinix LLC

Copyright 2013. All rights Reserved by Phinix, LLC.

www.phinix.net    skdas@phinix.net

Social Share Toolbar