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Tiny Optical Modulator Speeds Switching

University of California, Berkeley, researchers have created a tiny optical modulator using graphene capable of modulation at speeds of 1 GHz. This is roughly 10 times the capability of current switching technologies. The researchers contend it is theoretically possible to switch at speeds of up to 500 Ghz with the device. The graphene optical modulator is a mere 25 square microns in size and is made from a piece of graphene one atom thick, which means it could fit easily on a chip. “What we see here and going forward with graphene-based modulators are tremendous improvements, not only in consumer electronics, but in any field that is now limited by data transmission speeds, including bioinformatics and weather forecasting,” said UC Berkeley engineering professor Xiang Zhang in a university-released statement. “We hope to see industrial applications of this new device in the next few years.” (SlashDot)(MSNBC)(PCMag)(UC Berkeley)

MIT Researchers Create Super-Sensitive Nanosensors

MIT researchers have created a new type of chemical detector so sensitive that it can detect a single molecule of an explosive material such as TNT. The researchers coated carbon nanotubes with protein fragments normally found in bee venom known as bombolitins, which fluoresce in the presence of nitroaromatic compounds. The signal can’t be seen with the naked eye, so researchers devised a new type of microscope to read the results. The researchers also were able to detect two pesticides using the technology, which means it could eventually be used in environmental sensors, but there is also commercial and military interest in its explosive-detection capability. The full research results are scheduled to be published this week in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (Discover Magazine)(MIT)(“Peptide secondary structure modulates single-walled carbon nanotube fluorescence as a chaperone sensor for nitroaromatics,” The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)

IEEE Group Laying Foundation for Terabit Ethernet

IEEE announced the formation of IEEE 802.3 Industry Connections Ethernet Bandwidth Assessment Ad Hoc group, designed to determine whether faster Ethernet is needed. The group is seeking input and information that will be summarized in a report to be released in 2012. There is some question regarding whether there is a need for 400 G bps Ethernet before working on a terabit standard. John D'Ambrosia, chairman of the new ad hoc group, says they want a broad range of input on the issue. He says the financial services industry is participating and they hope to gather useful data from other industries as well. (SlashDot)(IT World)(IEEE 802.3 Industry Connections Ethernet Bandwidth Assessment Ad Hoc Request for Information)

Government Report: Global Warming Could Impede Wi-Fi, Other Communications

The UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs says global warming could adversely affect Wi-Fi and other communication protocols, according to a newly released report. The report contends that the communications infrastructure needs to be protected from warmer, wetter weather. Caroline Spelman, secretary of state for the department, said at a press event that “higher temperatures can reduce the range of wireless communications, rainstorms can impact the reliability of the signal, and drier summers and wetter winters may cause greater subsidence, damaging masts and underground cables” according to The Guardian. The resulting problems to Internet and telephone, among other forms of communication, could be especially dire in emergency situations, although the full effects are not yet well understood. The report suggests that infrastructure throughout the UK – including roads, rail, and the utility grid – needs to be more resilient. To that end, at least £200 billion is expected to be invested in infrastructure improvements in the next five years. (SlashDot)(The Guardian)(Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Proposed Legislation Would Give Feds Authority over Power Grid in Cyber Emergencies

Pending cybersecurity legislation will grant the US Department of Energy authority over utilities in the event of a threat against the power grid. The administration has yet to take a position on the proposed legislation. However, some industry groups have said its language should be precise and the circumstances under which such action could be taken limited to imminent threats. The prime reason for adopting such legislation is to prevent a repeat of the events in Iran that occurred with Stuxnet. (NextGov)(Renew Grid)(“Discussion Draft,” Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee)

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