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20 kick-ass network research projects

Website morphing, sleep talking PCs, undetectable phishing attacks and unfreezing software among IT researchers' coolest projects

By Network World Staff, Network World
April 30, 2009 03:07 PM ET

Page 2 of 6


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Making quantum computers a reality 

Researchers in the U.K. and the U.S. published a paper detailing discoveries that might bring a fully functional quantum computer one step closer to reality. Quantum computing, which has been researched for decades, has traditionally had a problem of keeping data in a coherent format, making it difficult to run programs or computing tasks. The researchers have found a way to preserve electrons, which store the data, longer, which allows a system to process data more coherently and run programs more effectively. The group's research focused on phosphorus atoms in silicon. The best attempts previously have flowed a current past the electrons via small electrical wires, but that has brought in a lot of quantum noise, removing a key advantage of the material.

Separately, researchers from Toshiba and Cambridge University's Cavendish Laboratory are reporting a breakthrough they say could make quantum cryptography a reality in the near-term. The gist of the research is that they've come up with a much less complicated way (a "decoy protocol" generated using a laser and a compact detector) to support quantum cryptography, one that does not rely on cryogenic cooling or complicated optical configurations.

Making your PC talk in its sleep 

Microsoft and University of California, San Diego researchers have developed a device they say can save on energy costs by enabling end users to put their computers into a "sleep talking" mode that falls somewhere in between awake and sleep modes. They say it could save 60% to 80% on energy usage. The USB device, dubbed Somniloquy, features a low-power processor that works at the PC's network interface level on wired and wireless networks. It boasts an embedded operating system and flash memory, and disguises itself as a sleeping PC to other systems on a network. But it can also wake up the actual PC in times of need, such as if a large file is coming in.

Separately, University of Liverpool researchers have developed software called PowerDown that they say could save big organizations close to $17K per month simply by automating the shutoff of computer systems not being used. 

Giving the boot to rebooting PCs 

NSF-funded researchers are applying ultra-thin ferroelectric materials found on ATM and other smart cards to computers, with hopes that one day this could result in low-power/high-speed memory devices and computers that turn on faster. The researchers, from Cornell University, Penn State University and Northwestern University, reported their findings in the journal Science on April 17 in an article titled "A Ferroelectric Oxide Made Directly on Silicon." The researchers have put strontium titanate on silicon in such a way that the material has been "squeezed into a ferroelectric state," according to the NSF. More research needs to be done to develop faster booting computers, but the researchers are encouraged by initial results.

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