Developments to Watch
BEATING SWORDS INTO CELLULAR PHONES
CELLULAR-PHONE OWNERS may soon benefit from the end of the cold war. Onetime foes Electrotechnical University of St. Petersburg and Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico are helping Superconducting Core Technologies Inc. in Golden, Colo., develop materials for more sensitive receivers for cell phones and, eventually, satellite dishes. It's the first fruit of the Industrial Partnering Program, which Congress enacted last year to find work for Russian scientists not related to weapons.
SCT is working on combining two types of thin films onto one receiver chip. One type is superconducting when chilled by a tiny compressor, making it sensitive to faint cellular signals. The other film type is ferroelectric--a property that makes signals travel through it more quickly when a voltage is applied. A change in the voltage alters the resonant frequency of the receiver, so it picks up desired signals with great precision and filters out noise effectively. SCT plans field trials this summer.EDITED BY NEIL GROSS