Following my retirement, we have closed our company for new business.

Please do not hesitate to contact me directly, our email portal remains open and I would be delighted to hear from you and provide ongoing support or advice.

Richard Thomson

Companies represented up to the end of December 2023. Please now contact them directly.

k-Space Associates, Inc.
Phone: +1 (734) 426-7977

Phone: +49 8761 76 24 0

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Thinking man's (or woman's) car

'I think therefore I park' could be the strap line for a future Nissan car if work with Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland comes to fruition. Research on Brain Machine Interface (BMI) systems at EPFL already allows disabled users to manoeuvre their wheelchairs by thought transference alone. The next stage is to adapt the BMI processes to the car, and driver, of the future. Using brain activity measurement, eye movement patterns and by scanning the environment around the car in conjunction with the car’s own sensors, EPFL and Nissan aim to have the car predict what the driver plans to do and then assist with the manoeuvre in complete safety. Will anyone then fail the driving test?

Monday 28 November 2011

imec HBT

Belgium based research consortium Imec has developed a heterojunction bipolar transistor device with peak f(max) values above 450GHz as a key enabler for millimetre-wave low-power circuits to be used in automotive radar applications. Imec used a silicon-germanium: carbon heterojunction bipolar transistor process technology which improves device performance by adding small amounts of germanium and carbon to the silicon transistor base. Compared to III-V HBT devices, SiGe:C HBTs combine high-density and low-cost integration, making them more suitable for consumer applications.

Friday 25 November 2011

Laser light bulbs?

Recent work at Sandia Laboratories may lead to a review on the use of lasers as well as LEDs for higher amperage illumination applications because of human preferences. Volunteers were show a test-box scene illuminated via different light sources. Tests showed that there was a statistically significant preference for the diode-laser-based white light over the warm and cool LED-based white light, but no statistically significant preference between the diode-laser-based and either the neutral LED-based or incandescent white light.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Pending material shortages?

A Geological Society meeting recently discussed the issues surrounding the shortages of minerals. The shortage of rare-earth elements over the past year being a case in point. China, responsible for more than 90% of the world's supply of these elements, prioritized its own economy's demand and started to limit export and worldwide disruptions ensued. Interestingly the EU has drawn up a list of fourteen economically important raw materials that are subject to a higher risk of supply interruption. As well as the rare earth elements the list includes Ge, In, Ga, Sb, Ta, and Be. The EU will be monitoring material availability and discussing actions as required.

The geologists do have concerns over the limits to material availability but this stems not so much from the fear that resources will run out. The so called "peak metal", the anticipated turning point from globally increasing to decreasing production when minable deposits become scarce, is not yet in their view on the horizon. The bigger issues being demand surges coming up against political/monopolistic actions by governments or companies thus causing bottlenecks and shortages. Building more mines is one approach but the social and environmental consequences are non-trivial.

Monday 21 November 2011

And on Caltech

The Times Higher Education has published its World University Rankings for 2011-12 and California Institute of Technology (Caltech) tops the list in the engineering and technology sector, followed by Harvard, Stanford and Oxford Universities. The ranking methodology is based on assessing thirteen performance indicators across five areas: Teaching; Research; Citations; Industry income and International outlook. The rankings for physical sciences will be published later this year.

Thursday 17 November 2011

The sun shines on Tokai

The Tokai University Solar Car Team was the first to cross the line in the 2011 World Solar Challenge held in Australia. The competition is for electric vehicles and the winner is the first to cover the 3,000km between Darwin and Adelaide. A major feature of the challenge being the efficiency based on energy management. The solar cars are allowed a nominal 5kW hours of stored energy and all other energy must come from the sun or be recovered from the kinetic energy of the vehicle. The Tokai team left Darwin on 16th October and arrived at the finishing line four days later with a total drive time of 32.75 hours and an average speed of 91.54 km/hour. Of the thirty seven starters only seven completed the full journey. Confirmation of the result apparently awaits a review as one team has lodged a protest.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Newton, Franklyn and a dead student

The Royal Society has announced that its historical journal archive has been made permanently free to access online. Around 60000 historical scientific papers are available to be searched with those over 70 years old being freely available. The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society appeared in 1665 as the first peer reviewed journal. The archives include Newton's first paper (1672) on the colour properties of light; Franklyn's famous 1752 paper on safely using a kite to investigate the properties of lightning and the slightly less well known 1665 paper by a Dr Wallis describing the death and subsequent post mortem of a student struck by lightning whilst boating in a thunder storm. One trusts he was an arts graduate.

Monday 14 November 2011

3rd K-Alpha this year

We are pleased to announce the third K-Alpha XPS sale in the UK this year, to a well-known industrial group with significant experience in XPS. The K-Alpha proved the match of all our competition, commented Richard Thomson, RTA Instruments Director. We ticked all the boxes with a high specification product that is also suitable for a multi-user environment.

Friday 11 November 2011

The sun, the moon and the truth

According to Buddha, three things cannot be long hidden - the sun, the moon and the truth. Someone should try telling that to the unnamed Texan actor who has filed a $1 million lawsuit against a show business database for revealing her true age. Unfortunately, as Oscar Wilde noted, the truth is rarely pure and never simple. Neither Buddha nor Oscar Wilde had to cope with the internet and the rapid electronic dissemination of everything from truths and honest opinions to malicious spite and lies. The electronic blog age enables one, frequently anonymously, not only to enquire, inform and comment but also to slur and defame individuals and organisations. This non-trivial matter is being reviewed by the UK parliament and a Draft Deformation Bill (First Report) has been published. It recommends that where complaints are made about comments from identified authors the website should promptly publish a notice of the complaint alongside it. The complainant can then apply to a court for a "takedown" order which if granted, should result in the comment being removed, if the website is to avoid the risk of a defamation claim. However where potentially defamatory comments are anonymous, the website should immediately remove them on receipt of a complaint, unless the author agrees to identify themselves.

Whilst the above have already raised issues of freedom of speech, it is interesting to note that the parliamentarians also clearly state that scientists and academics must not be left in fear of being sued simply for doing their job. They recommend that the legislation extends qualified privilege to peer reviewed articles in scientific or academic journals. The reviewers quote the historic examples of the safety of smoking and the risks associated with a drug such as Thalidomide, where the truth eventually emerged only following persistent and impartial research. They note that a process of critical review is essential with work being published and subsequently challenged by others. Furthermore, the committee says that there is convincing evidence that defamation law is being used to silence members of the medical and scientific community in order to protect products and profits. They felt that it is unavoidable that efforts to uncover the truth and expand the limits of our understanding may sometimes turn out to be wrong or to clash with the commercial and personal interests of other individuals and corporate organisations.

Whilst ultimately these things have to be decided in a court, it will be very interesting to see the eventual guidance given to the judiciary concerning deciding which "peer review articles" or "scientific or academic conference" are appropriate for qualified privilege.

Wednesday 9 November 2011

kSA 400 Users - Win an iPad 2!

If you are a current kSA400 user, we would like to solicit your help again in adding to our RHEED image and movie database for the benefit of all users. The goal of this library is for you to have reference RHEED images and movies, with embedded description, available within the kSA400 software and at your fingertips. For more information, click this link.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

k-Space Newsletter Fall 2011

The latest newsletter from k-Space Associates features "k-Space is Expanding --- AGAIN!"; "k-Space Wins Phase II SBIR for In-Situ Monitoring During HgCdTe MBE Growth"; "New! kSA 400 Version 5.0 Software Now Available".

Thursday 3 November 2011

A kilogram of graphene?

Research at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) using graphene is underpinning a big change to the SI system of units. The goal being to relate all of the unit definitions to fundamental constants of nature. One of the key units to be redefined is the kilogram, currently defined by a physical lump of platinum-iridium. The other is the ampere. The goal is to define the kilogram in terms the Planck constant, h, and the ampere in terms of the electron charge, e. The Quantum Hall effect defines a relationship between h and e and is therefore key in any 'quantum-based' redefinition of mass and current. Experiments tested the quantum Hall effect in different materials in order to prove whether or not it is truly universal. NPL compared the quantum Hall effect in graphene with that observed in GaAs/AlGaAs and confirmed that the quantum Hall effect is truly universal with an uncertainty level of several parts in 1011, thus supporting the quantum based redefinition of both the kilogram and ampere.

The full paper is available this link.

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Noble efforts

Last week saw the annual presentation of the 2011 Ig Nobel Prizes. As always this is a fascinating event and two prizes were of particular note this year: 1) Peace Prize: Arturas Zuokas, the mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania, for demonstrating that the problem of illegally parked luxury cars can be solved by running them over with an armoured tank. 2) Mathematics Prize: Dorothy Martin of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1954), Pat Robertson of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1982), Elizabeth Clare Prophet of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1990), Lee Jang Rim of Korea (who predicted the world would end in 1992), Credonia Mwerinde of Uganda (who predicted the world would end in 1999), and Harold Camping of the USA (who predicted the world would end on September 6, 1994 and later predicted that the world will end on October 21, 2011), for teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations. Jobs at CERN beckon?