AUSTIN, Texas -- The elusive goal of developing nuclear fusion as a viable energy source has been a lifetime ambition espoused by National Instruments’ co-founder, at least for the past 35 years of the existence of his company.
NI's president and CEO James Truchard,, who co-founded the company in 1976 while working at The University of Texas at Austin, mentions the elusive goal of sustainable energy from fusion as part of his opening remarks at what has become an "engineering lovefest", the annual NIWeek. The latest NIweek 2011 was held here last week.
The two dates 1986 and 1976 were marked at NIWeek 2011 held last week in 107 degree F. hot Austin, where some 3300 attended the “big tent” event in the Austin Convention Center. “You are in the hottest place for innovation held in one of the hottest cities,” said Truchard in his keynote who then took the crowd of enthusiastic NI engineers, scientists, and followers on a concentrated history map of laboratory test and measurement equipment.
It was left to Shelley Gretlein, NI’s director of software marketing, to provide the background for four modern application areas that in some ways answer the quest posed by the 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering, defined by the National Academy of Engineering.
Truchard was elected to membership in the National Academy of Engineering in 2007, what is widely considered to be the highest honor given in the engineering profession. As such he was able to help define and tackle the 14 Grand Challenges, and to have users of NI tools come up with partial solutions, including the one of energy from fusion.
Gretlein eloquently presented some of the 14 challenges including: a medical application from Santec; a civil infrastructure application with the Cockrell School of Engineering; a smart grid application with NEXTGen Consultancy; and energy from fusion with the University of Parma (Italy).
Watch the fusion application from NI Week 2011 and other NI presentations here.
The medical application was a Santec Corp. (Japan) portable optical coherence tomography (OCT) imaging system. OCT is a non-invasive imaging technique that relies on analyzing the frequency components of backscattered light from the internal structure of an object or tissue.
NI FlexRIO and FPGA technology was used to create the OCT system that achieved a 4X speed increase and a dramatically smaller footprint compared to the company’s previous rack-mounted OCT system. OCT provides much greater resolution than magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or positron emission tomography (PET) and uses a low-power light source and the corresponding light reflections to create images, similar to an ultrasound method, only with light.
Another OCT project won NI’s annual Graphical System Design Achievement Award, an NI Week highlight that sports a contest that this year was judged by a committee of NI technical experts reviewing the papers and selecting finalists and winners. A total of 130 submissions were received from authors in 20 countries.
Kohji Ohbayashi, of Kitasato University, Graduate School of Medical Science, and his team of researchers created a 3-D OCT medical instrument that can detect cancer during medical checkups without requiring the patient to undergo a biopsy.
To achieve 3-D imaging capabilities, two FPGAs in the system computed more than 700,000 512-point fast Fourier transforms (FFT) every second.
The system has three different real-time display modes: (a) continuous display of rendered 3-D images, (b) continuous 2-D cross-sectional frame scanning in a 3-D cube along each of the axes, and (c) continuous display of all acquired B-scan images.
The GSDAA NI Week 2011 finalists and winners can be viewed here. The full NIWeek 2011 conference presentations can be viewed here.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.