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AMD Acquires Xilinx for $35 Billion

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AMD has finally confirmed that this week it will be acquiring FPGA maker Xilinx for $35 billion. Xilinx makes FPGA or Field Programmable Gate Array chips. Rumor had it that AMD was buying Xilinx for $30 billion.

FPGA chips can be reconfigured for a wide variety of specialized tasks. These chips are in high demand within the automotive industry, cellular base stations, and other vertical markets. They are programmed to carry out specific tasks.

To analysts, the move means that AMD is boosting its Artificial Intelligence capability to keep up with competitor Nvidia in working with Machine Learning as well as Inference.

According to Semico Research, Xilinx’ Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence capabilities will be a boost for AMD as it moves into AI and ML.

AMD will be in a position to diversify and penetrate new markets that they are yet to get into and which would require massive investments. These are markets like Telcom, Industrial, and Automotive.

Both AMD and Xilinks had invested heavily in their data centers, and the new acquisition means that AMD is in a better position to compete with Nvidia.

Better Leadership

The deal reflects the steady growth of AMD stock from $2 five years ago to $78.88. The company is worth $100 billion.

In going for an all-stock deal, the company has avoided taking on debt which can potentially harm the company.

AMDA is following the example of Intel which acquired Altera in 2015 for $16.7 billion. Altera was the top competitor for Xilinx before the acquisition; which did not turn out well for Intel, due to leadership issues.

The coming together of Xilinx and AMDA is a unification of two companies that can easily complement each other’s strong points.
The deal is the fruition of years of talks between the two companies. The Xilinx leader will remain on board after the merger.

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Scientists fold the Smallest Microchips ever from Graphene

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New developments from physicists from the University of Sussex could lead to faster electronic gadgets. The physicists have created tiny microchip-like objects using ‘nano-origami.’ They foresee phones as well as computers operating many thousand times faster.

The researchers worked with 2D materials, including graphene. They used structural defects within the materials to build the microchips.

These defects affect the properties of the materials, both nano-mechanical and electronic.

The researchers pinpointed the effects of defects like grain boundaries, collapsed wrinkles, and folded wrinkles using Raman mapping and atomic force microscopy.

Graphene acts as a transistor when some distortions are folded into graphene. Transistors are the basic ingredient of electronics. When a graphene strip is folded like that it acts like a microchip.

The graphene strip in question is around 100 times tinier than normal microchips.

Lead researcher Dr. Manoj Tripathi explains the mechanism: “Instead of having to add foreign materials into a device, we’ve shown we can create structures from graphene and other 2D materials simply by adding deliberate kinks into the structure. By making this sort of corrugation we can create a smart electronic component like a transistor or a logic gate.”

The technique relies on Moore’s Law, a law which stipulates that the total sum of transistors within an integrated circuit doubles every two years.

Academics and leaders in the industry have warned that Moore’s law may not necessarily apply for transistors similar in size to silicon chips.

Graphene is a material that provides a possible alternative to silicon and can help to conserve Moore’s law. The researchers are the first to create a microchip using folded graphene.

Said Professor Alan Dalton: “We’re mechanically creating kinks in a layer of graphene. It’s a bit like nano-origami. Using these nanomaterials will make our computer chips smaller and faster. It is absolutely critical that this happens as computer manufacturers are now at the limit of what they can do with traditional semiconducting technology. Ultimately, this will make our computers and phones thousands of times faster in the future.”

“This kind of technology – ‘straintronics’ using nanomaterials as opposed to electronics – allows space for more chips inside any device. Everything we want to do with computers, to speed them up, can be done by crinkling graphene like this.”

Now the researchers are hopeful for further developments in sustainable technology because this process does not require additional materials and can go on at room temperature. It saves energy.

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Self-Erasing Chips could Enhance Security and Curb Counterfeits

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Scientists from the University of Michigan are experimenting with self-erasing chips that make it easier to tell when an electronic device has been tampered with.

The self-erasing chips are capable of sending alerts whenever someone tampers with a sensitive shipment.

The chips were built with a new material that temporarily stores up energy reserves and emits a different color of light as it does so. The chip will erase itself within days using blue light.

At the moment, it is difficult to tell whether counterfeiters have tampered with an electronic device. The device may still operate normally but will be providing a third party with information, according to Assistant Professor Parag Deotare.

A self-erasing bar code on the chip will enable the owner to know when someone opens it and installs a listening device, for example. Bar codes on circuit boards and integrated circuit chips can provide evidence that the items were not tampered with in transit.

The bar codes can also be built to last longer so that they are written into the device for example as software authorization keys.

Researchers laid a three atom-thick semiconductor on a layer of molecules on azobenzenes which shrinks when it comes into contact with Ultra Violet light. These molecules will in turn pull on the semiconductor so that it emits light in longer wavelengths.

You can only read the message when you are looking at it under a specific kind of light. Researchers are also interested in this material as a medium for transmitting secret messages. The message will self-destruct after a while, but it can also be illuminated with blue light which will erase it.

Upon stretching, azobenzene gradually dissipates its stored energy over 7 days as long as it remains in the dark. When exposed to light, this period becomes shorter, and the erased chip can be used to record a different bar code or message.

The semiconductor is very much like nanomaterial but it can emit light in specific frequencies.

Jinsang Kim, a professor of material science and engineering designed the material together with Da Seul Yang, a doctoral student of macromolecular science and engineering. They coated it with the molecules by floating a layer of Nano molecules in water and dropping a silicon wafer into the water so that it comes out coated with the molecules.

Next, the researchers will be working to create a similar material that preserves the message intact for longer than a week and this will improve its use for anti-counterfeit measures.

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research is funding the research, and the University of Michigan is pursuing patents and commercial partners to take this technology to the market.

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What is the future for printing?

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From the humble printing press to 3D printers – this is an industry that has experienced big change. Even in a digital world, printing isn’t dead either. According to Quocirca’s Global Print 2025 study, 64% of businesses said they believe printing will remain important to their daily business even by 2025. So here’s what we can look forward to in the future.

It will become more environmentally friendly

Millions of trees are used for paper and millions of cartridges are sent to landfill each year – but that trend is being reversed. We can anticipate that printing will become much more environmentally friendly in the future to ensure it keeps up with the times. Whether that is only using recycled cartridges and paper or buying high-capacity XL ink cartridges which can last longer efficiency and green concerns will be at the forefront. 

Eco modes will be common in every model and will offer ever-greater eco-friendly performance.

The composition of ink has even been reconsidered to help it last as long as possible too. New formulae have been created to help reduce the ink drying up in the cartridge and it getting wasted.

3D printing will become more advanced

Printing has traditionally been a 2D affair – on paper, card, fabric and plastic. However, in recent times 3D printing has come into the mainstream spotlight. These use materials in place of ink or toner and formulate solid products.

The technology is now even being used to create organs.

  • Researchers at the University of Minnesota created a 3D printed prototype bionic eye and in the UK scientists have used stem cells to 3D print human corneas. 
  • The Netherlands have printed a tooth which can kill bacteria.
  • Switzerland has been successful in creating a 3D printed silicone heart. 

This is where there is room to grow, however. 3D printed organs will transform medicine and enhance people’s lives. Currently, the silicone heart can only beat up to 3,000 times (the average heart beats 80 times a minute, meaning the 3D printed organ will only last 37.5 minutes). While this is a short time, it’s progress. A foundation has now been set and the future will probably see fully-functioning organs coming off the printer.

Printing will become easier

Printing has already been made pretty easy. Once upon a time, it was impossible to print a document without your computer being tethered to it by a cable. Now printers have wi-fi capabilities meaning you can click print on your laptop, computer, mobile phone or tablet – regardless of whether you’re connected with a wire or not. Some printers even have the ability to print when you’re not near it. In fact, you could be out shopping and want to send something to the printer for when you get home via a designated email belonging to your printer. In the future, we may see this become the norm on all printers, making the whole process of printing quicker and easier – and taking the current cutting edge functions to the mainstream.

AI could be an everyday appearance

Artificial intelligence (AI) can play a huge part in the printing industry. In an office setting, for example, it could help to enhance security – with printed materials being scanned to auto approve entry to buildings or access to a printer restricted to employees with the correct permissions.

An ‘intelligent’ printer can also provide forecasts on when you can expect to run out of ink or toner, or when you may need the printer servicing – and your printer could even order more for you. 

Printing has already transformed and evolved so much and as technology also grows, we can expect printing to continue. From the humble printing press to being able to create a heart – printing is not dead yet.  

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