It's All About Innovation

One thing that's not lacking in our industry is innovation. It's happening all around us. The list of technical advancements in today's products is pretty impressive and encompasses a wide variety of disciplines from aerospace to automotive to solar, just to name a few. Frequently, I receive press releases, news items, or articles promoting some new innovation that promises to speed up something or make something go farther. Consider these recent news items.

“Intel's Plan to Replace Copper Wires,” a recent article by Kate Greene in the MIT Technology Review, talks about an optical cable the company is developing and hopes to release next year. The cable will be used to connect external devices, such as a hard drive, to a PC. Called Light Peak, it will be capable of transferring different types of data at high speed such as accommodating hard-drive backup, high-definition video, and network connection all at the same time.

Equipped with gallium arsenide optical devices, Light Peak cables initially will accommodate 10 Gb/s with later iterations handling 40 Gb/s and upward to 100-Gb/s transfer rates. To achieve the higher transfer rates, Intel will utilize silicon photonics, a technology it has successfully worked with in the past. Since Light Peak will not be used in harsh environments, Intel can optimize manufacturing practices to minimize the cost of the cable.

Silicon nanotube electrodes could be the next innovation to extend the time between charges for batteries used in electric vehicles, according to a recent article by Katherine Bourzac in the MIT Technology Review. The nanotubes are said to take up to 10 times more lithium when charging than conventional graphite electrodes, allowing them to store more energy. As noted in the article, today's lithium-ion batteries need charging after operating only 30 minutes while batteries with silicon electrodes should be able to last three to four hours between charges.

Nanotubes have some advantages over conventional electrodes. Because there are so many individual tubes, they provide a much larger internal surface area, enabling the electrode to store more charge. Also, the shape of the electrode accommodates the expansion and contraction when charging and discharging.

Researchers have developed only nanotube anodes that currently must be used with conventional cathodes. Until a comparable nanotube cathode is perfected, possibly in the next three years, the capabilities and benefits of this technology can only be anticipated.

Also new in the innovation category is an instrument that I saw at the AUTOTESTCON Show in mid-September. Aeroflex was demonstrating its new 7200 Configurable Automated Test Set (CATS), a synthetic instrumentation platform for software-defined radio in addition to having the capabilities to test other military radar and avionics systems.

For me, the innovative part of the CATS is the GUI. When I first saw it, it reminded me a little of the Apple iPhone display. The touch screen is very feature-driven and intuitive, allowing a number of functions to be displayed, minimized, moved, and reconfigured—with just a touch and swipe of your finger. Check it out at

Paul Milo
Editorial Director
[email protected]

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