When will my laptop be totally wireless, even to recharge the battery? The future might be sooner than we thought, and Nanotechnology will be part of it.
There are many types of Wireless Energy Transmission although none of them have gone further than a prototype. For home use, powerbeaming could be the technology to free our portable devices from wires. Powerbeaming works based on a Laser system at one end that beams to a Solar Cell at the other end that transforms light into a DC current.
Current lasers have a 30-60% efficiency that combined with a 40-50% efficiency of solar cells, brings the overall efficiency at a maximum of 30%, still not too bad compared with electric bulbs. But Nanotechnology might boost these efficiencies at both ends.
Solid-state lightning promises up to 100% efficiency to convert electricity into light, once that we have atomically precise manufacturing technologies to arrange light-emitting building blocks in a controlled manner.
Today’s CIGS, CdTE or thin-film silicon are bringing down prices of Solar Cells. The ability to manufacture defect-free nanomaterials would improve efficiency at an exponential rate. With laptops foreseen to be equipped with solar cells in less than 10 years, solid-state lightning beams could be a wireless replacement to a wall socket.
Picture from Wikipedia: NASA prototype of lightweight plane powered by a laser beam and a solar cell.
Nanotechnology aims a the fabrication of a wider range of materials with atomic precision. Advances in nanotechnology will have a huge impact in solving some of the challenges of today, such as global warming, sustainable energy, new cures for diseases, more powerful computers or ultra-high performance materials.
Some of the immediate applications we will see in the coming years include:
Solid State Lighting. OLED and LED could provide close to 100% thermodynamic efficiency, compared to 22% or current artificial lighting
In computing, nanotube transistors would enable faster microprocessors, data storage could be based on DNA structures, and optical transmission would use Optical Waveguides that replace glass by atomically precise crystalline structures that would eliminate the irregularities that cause signal loss.
A bright future that requires atomically precise manufacturing (APM) capabilities to be mastered. Atomically precise productive nanosystems (APPN) are nanoscale APM systems to fabricate nanostructures. APPN exist in nature, such as a ribosome that “manufactures” proteins. Advances in Atomically Precise Technologies, and in particular in APM and APPN, in next years will be key to enable the Nano-Industrial revolution.
We have lived enough IT history to know that reality has exceeded Moore’s Law prediction of computers doubling capacity every 18 months. In fact, the period is now close to 12 months.
Following this exponential growth these are the specs for a $1500 Laptop in 2018, and some accessories:
Microprocessor number of Cores: 256 Cores 1.9 Teraflops
RAM: 500 Gigabytes
Solid-State HD: 32 Terabytes
Flash memory cards (SD-HC, Compact): 16 Terabytes
Wifi: 1 Gbps
Broadband: 8 Gbps
External NAS: 1 Petabyte
iPod 5G: 8TB at $199, 16TB (3.5 million songs) at $299
With the advances in nanotechnology applied to solar photovoltaics cells and more efficient batteries, laptops will be solar powered, and will not need to connect to the power grid with a normal use. The OS user interface will be based in Motion-Sensing Gesture and Speech Recognition.
IBM Supercomputer Roadrunner was recently news for breaking the one Petaflop proccessing power mark. At the current pace, probably with a microprocessor based in nanostructures and fotonic technology, a laptop in 2028 will have the same processing power.
The question is, what use will we give to such powerful machines?
Note: Projection for number of cores assumes 18 months to double capacity, since multiple core technology is relatively new. Flash memory, broadband bandwith and iPod projections follow the pace of 12 month experienced in recent years.