10 Tech Concepts You Need to Know for 2007
The nickname for Engineered Cementitious Composites (ECC) is self-explanatory: bendable concrete. Specially coated microscopic polymer fibers slide past each other instead of snapping under stress, so ECC bends without breaking. The material has been used to create stretchable expansion joints for a Michigan bridge, and to allow the coupling beams in a 41-story tower in Yokohama to flex during Japan's frequent earthquakes.
PRAM (Phase-Change Random Access Memory)
Flash memory, with no moving parts to break or wear down, is the data storage technology of choice for devices such as iPods and digital cameras. But phase-change RAM is set to overtake flash entirelyâit uses a chemical found in rewritable discs, which is alternately heated and cooled to store data. The result is memory that's 30 times faster than flash, with more than 10 times the life span.
Printed Solar Panels
Tomorrow's solar panels may not need to be produced in high-vacuum conditions in billion-dollar fabrication facilities. If California-based Nanosolar has its way, plants will use a nanostructured "ink" to form semiconductors, which would be printed on flexible sheets. Nanosolar is currently building a plant that will print 430 megawatts' worth of solar cells annuallyâmore than triple the current solar output of the entire country.
Starting this year, all new U.S. passports will include a radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip