Federal Triangle: Tomorrow
My problem with this article on new technology is that it is one page instead of a few volumes. It pains me to give only a summary description of several items but you will see they are all zingers that can surely change the industrial future. Since I know the people and companies mentioned, I have unique interest to discuss their creativity and can introduce you to their exciting worlds.
The company FastShip Atlantic is a creation of David Giles, an Englishman who adopted America during a career as an aeronautical engineer. When he saw slow rates of change to meet maritime transport needs, he switched attention to defining a new system for door-to-door freight with high speed shipping between Philadelphia and Cherbourg, able to deliver cargo in 92 hours at half the cost of airfreight. FastShip manages a consortium composed of IZAR, the Spanish ship builder; BP Marine; Cargolux; French and American port authorities; JP Morgan to assist the $4 billion financing; and Rolls Royce to provide gas turbines that runs water jet propulsion. The plan begins by building four ships with wave-breaker hull forms 870 feet long (130 foot beam and 33 foot draft) capable of cruising in excess of 40 knots in heavy (state 7) seas. The objective is to time arrivals to within 60 minutes in transatlantic crossings to eliminate demurrage costs, offload and reload in six hours, and make three sailings each way per week. Each 36,400-ton ship can carry 720 containers (40 foot) or 12,500 tons payload in stacks arranged on two, 80,000 square foot decks. Ships will preferentially use dedicated cargo handling terminals capable of moving 5,333 tons per hour net via self-propelled, wheeled trolleys. However, the system is fully capable of military sealift anywhere in the world without need for special terminals.
This new technology changes industrial dynamics. It is of enormous importance to manufacturers because in this globalization era, precise delivery schedules to manage inventory and cut up to three weeks from each end of the supply chain represents billions in annual savings. Look for FastShip operations to begin in about three and a half years.
Examining the web site www.borealis.com reveals a virtual technology firm with a twist. The Borealis company run by Isaiah Cox owns the world's largest, undeveloped magnetite deposit at Roche Bay Canada but is also the parent of three subsidiaries established to capitalize on a) high-torque, low-speed electric motors; b) high-efficiency Peltier chips for cooling devices, and c) chip-based thermionics for direct conversion of (waste) heat to electricity. All are important but the last, Power Chips plc, has near-term potential for major impacts on businesses that use disciplines of industrial heating. Of special interest, Power Chips seeks partners and licensees to exploit their technology.
Heat on a cathode drives electrons to an anode; thermal differential creates current flow when electrons tunnel. To fabricate chips, a doped silicon wafer substrate is overlaid with 0.1-micron titanium film by sputtering on 28-mm diameter wafers. Then, a 1 micron silver film is applied, followed by a 500 micron copper layer grown electro-chemically. With Carnot efficiency of 60-70% conversion, we can anticipate a collector of 6 by 7 inches could generate up to 10 kW with large thermal differentials. So collections from many waste heat sources are predicted to produce useful power at $20 per kW. It works and it is inexpensive. Think of the number of places to use this small, silent, modular, cheap, maintenance free, electric source. Paste a few on your car muffler or on the frame of your rolling mill.
A final suggestion for a disruptive technology that will change industry regards cascaded neural networks (CNN); see www.imagination-engines. com to explore work done by Dr. Steven Thaler and his creation of self-training artificial neural network objects (STANNO) and creativity machines. STANNO capabilities produce self-learning systems to inspect objects or invent new metallics that meet defined performance. This art and science allows machines to mimic the human brain, to do what it uniquely does to perceive, to learn, and to imagine. These words describe the future; machines that can acquire date, convert it to information in an internal or shared, interactive database; and imagine future alternatives. CNNs have worked successfully to learn independently as well as learn from each other to achieve technical and business goals. They can quality inspect complex parts, autonomously invent materials and processes from stored data bases, and analyze complex organization structures, objectives, incentives, even personal interactions, to optimize how a business performs.
The Chinese proverb applies; be careful what you wish for; you just might get it.
These are a few examples of our tomorrow. It can make you feel like a kid at Christmas with great anticipation but also with trepidations awaiting the unknown.