Continuous Flow Synthesis Method for Fluorescent Quantum Dots


NANOSPHERESQuantum dots have potential applications in fields as diverse as medicine, photovoltaics, and quantum computing. The Center for Applied Nanotechnology (CAN) in Hamburg are making great strides in making high quality quantum dots available for research and large-scale production.

Quantum dots are nano-scale particles of semiconductor material, which are so small that quantum effects start to directly affect the particles’ electrical, optical and magnetic properties. This has many interesting implications on a larger scale – for example, fluorescent quantum dots can be designed which emit different colors depending only on their size.

The properties of quantum dots have been investigated in labs to a fairly high degree, so current research is focusing on very challenging applications, or on bringing the technology into the commercial realm.

This rapid development puts greater and greater demands on the quality of the nanoparticles – a challenge which CAN is rising to with a continuous-flow production method for their CANdots® product range. Daniel Ness from CAN explains the benefits of this technique:

“Some of our nanoparticle products, including the new Series A nanoparticles with visible-range fluorescence, use our continuous-flow synthetic method. This replaces more conventional batch synthesis, and greatly improves the reproducibility of the product, as well as being much easier to scale to higher production volumes.

“The process is also less dependent on highly trained technicians, as the parameters are easier to control. We are now working on adapting this process for our other CANdots® products, and we have a patent pending on the process itself.”

 

CAN’s new product, Series A Plus, are fluorescent quantum dots made of CdSe, with applications in LEDs and solid state lighting, single particle spectroscopy and as markers for biological imaging. They were launched at the 2013 NSTI Nanotech Expo in Washington.

Daniel Ness, CAN

The CANdots® range covers many more types of quantum dots and nanocrystals, including Series C NIR/IR emitters based on PbS, and Series X rare-earth doped quantum dots with distinctive emission features ideal for tagging and security labelling.

CAN was founded in 2005 as a spin-out from the University of Hamburg, focused on the transfer of their expertise in the production of nanomaterials from research into industry. The center is working with an array of companies and universities to design and develop new nanotechnology products.

CAN are currently seeking industrial partners to work on scale-up of their continuous flow nanoparticle production process, particularly for applications in photovoltaics, LEDs, and life sciences.

                Date Added: May 30, 2013                                 | Updated: Aug 19, 2013

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Researchers Demonstrate Highest Open-Circuit Voltages for Quantum Dot Solar Cells


Nanotubes images(Nanowerk News) U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL)  research scientists and engineers in the Electronics Science and Technology  Division have demonstrated the highest recorded open-circuit voltages for  quantum dot solar cells to date. Using colloidal lead sulfide (PbS) nanocrystal  quantum dot (QD) substances, researchers achieved an open-circuit voltage  (VOC) of 692 millivolts (mV) using the QD bandgap  of a 1.4 electron volt (eV) in QD solar cell under one-sun illumination.
metal-lead sulfide quantum dot Schottky junction solar cell
Schematic of metal-lead sulfide quantum dot Schottky junction solar  cells (glass/ITO/PbS QDs/LiF/Al). Novel Schottky junction solar cells developed  at NRL are capable of achieving the highest open-circuit voltages ever reported  for colloidal QD based solar cells.
“These results clearly demonstrate that there is a tremendous  opportunity for improvement of open-circuit voltages greater than one volt by  using smaller QDs in QD solar cells,” said Woojun Yoon, Ph.D., NRC postdoctoral  researcher, NRL Solid State Devices Branch. “Solution processability coupled  with the potential for multiple exciton generation processes make nanocrystal  quantum dots promising candidates for third generation low-cost and  high-efficiency photovoltaics.”
Despite this remarkable potential for high photocurrent  generation, the achievable open-circuit voltage is fundamentally limited due to  non-radiative recombination processes in QD solar cells. To overcome this  boundary, NRL researchers have reengineered molecular passivation in metal-QD  Schottky junction (unidirectional metal to semiconductor junction) solar cells  capable of achieving the highest open-circuit voltages ever reported for  colloidal QD based solar cells.
Experimental results demonstrate that by improving the  passivation of the PbS QD surface through tailored annealing of QD and metal-QD  interface using lithium fluoride (LiF) passivation with an optimized LiF  thickness. This proves critical for reducing dark current densities by  passivating localized traps in the PbS QD surface and metal-QD interface close  to the junction, therefore minimizing non-radiative recombination processes in  the cells.
Over the last decade, Department of Defense (DoD) analyses and  the department’s recent FY12 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan, has  cited the military’s fossil fuel dependence as a strategic risk and identified  renewable energy and energy efficiency investments as key mitigation measures.  Research at NRL is committed to supporting the goals and mission of the DoD by  providing basic and applied research toward mission-ready renewable and  sustainable energy technologies that include hybrid fuels and fuel cells,  photovoltaics, and carbon-neutral biological microorganisms.
Source: U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

Read more: http://www.nanowerk.com/news2/newsid=32260.php#ixzz2enBBvaor

nanoparticle discovery could hail revolution in nanotube manufacturing


NANOSPHERES(Nanowerk News) A nanoparticle shaped like a spiky  ball, with magnetic properties, has been uncovered in a new method of  synthesising carbon nanotubes by physicists at Queen Mary University of London  and the University of Kent (“Boundary layer chemical vapor synthesis of  self-organized radial filled-carbon-nanotube structures”).

Sea Urchin nanoparticle

Sea Urchin Nanoparticle

Carbon nanotubes are  hollow, cylindrical molecules that can be manipulated to give them useful  properties. The nanoparticles were discovered accidentally on the rough surfaces  of a reactor designed to grow carbon nanotubes.

Described  as sea urchins because of their characteristic spiny appearance, the particles  consist of nanotubes filled with iron, with equal lengths pointing outwards in  all directions from a central particle.

The  presence of iron and the unusual nanoparticle shape could have potential for a  number of applications, such as batteries that can be charged from waste heat,  mixing with polymers to make permanent magnets, or as particles for cancer  therapies that use heat to kill cancerous cells.

The researchers  found that the rough surfaces of the reactor were covered in a thick powder of  the new nanoparticles and that intentional roughening of the surfaces produced  large quantities of the sea urchin nanoparticles.

“The surprising conclusion is that the sea urchin nanoparticles  grow in vapour by a mechanism that’s similar to snowflake formation. Just as  moist air flowing over a mountain range produces turbulence which results in a  snowfall, the rough surface disrupts a flow to produce a symmetrical and ordered  nanoparticle out of chaotic conditions,” said Dr Mark Baxendale from Queen  Mary’s School of Physics and Astronomy.
On analysis, the researchers found that a small fraction of the  iron inside the carbon nanotubes was a particular type usually only found in  high temperature and pressure conditions.
Dr Baxendale added: “We were surprised to see this rare kind of  iron inside the nanotubes. While we don’t know much about its behaviour, we can  see that the presence of this small fraction of iron greatly influences the  magnetic properties of the nanoparticle.”
Source: Queen Mary University of London

Read more: http://www.nanowerk.com/news2/newsid=32172.php#ixzz2eXAe8uxY

Reducing Energy Costs with Better Batteries


3adb215 D BurrisA better battery—one that is cheap and safe, but packs a lot of power—could lead to an electric vehicle that performs better than today’s gasoline-powered cars, and costs about the same or less to consumers.  Such a vehicle would reduce the United States’ reliance on foreign oil and lower energy costs for the average American, so one of the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) goals is to fund research that will revolutionize the performance of next-generation batteries.

In honor of DOE’s supercomputing month, we are highlighting some of the ways researchers are using supercomputers at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) are working to achieve this goal.

New Anode Boots Capacity of Lithium-Ion Batteries

Lithium-ion batteries are everywhere— in smart phones, laptops, an array of other consumer electronics, and electric vehicles. Good as they are, they could be much better, especially when it comes to lowering the cost and extending the range of electric cars. To do that, batteries need to store a lot more energy.

Using supercomputers at NERSC, Berkeley Lab researchers developed a new kind of anode—energy storing component—that is capable of absorbing eight times the lithium of current designs. The secret is a tailored polymer that conducts electricity and binds closely to lithium storing particles. The researchers achieved this result by running supercomputer calculations of different promising polymers until they found the perfect one. This research is an important step toward developing lithium-ion batteries with eight times their current capacity.

After more than a year of testing and many hundreds of charge-discharge cycles, Berkeley researchers found that their anode maintained its increased energy capacity.  This is a significant improvement from many lithium-ion batteries on the market today, which degrade as they recharge. Best of all, the anodes are made from low-cost materials that are also compatible with standard lithium battery manufacturing technologies.

Read More: https://www.nersc.gov/news-publications/news/science-news/2011/a-better-lithium-ion-battery-on-the-way/

Engineering Better Energy Storage

One of the biggest weaknesses of today’s electric vehicles is battery life—most cars can only go about 100-200 miles between charges. But researchers hope that a new type of battery, called the lithium-air battery, will one day lead to a cost-effective, long-range electric vehicles that could travel 300 miles or more between charges.

Using supercomputers at NERSC and powerful microscopes, a team of researchers from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Princeton University built a novel graphene membrane that could produce a lithium-air battery with the highest-energy capacity to date. Because the material does not rely on platinum or other precious metals, its potential cost and environmental impact are significantly less than current technology.

Read More: https://www.nersc.gov/news-publications/news/science-news/2012/bubbles-help-break-energy-storage-record-for-lithium-air-batteries/

Promise for Onion-Like Carbons as Supercapacitors

The two most important electrical storage technologies on the market today are batteries and capacitors—both have their pluses and minuses. Batteries can store a lot of energy, but have slow charge and discharge rates. While capacitors generally store less energy but have very fast (nearly instant) charge and discharge rates, and last longer than rechargeable batteries. Developing technologies that combine the optimal characteristics of both will require a detailed understanding of how these devices work at the molecular level. That’s where supercomputers come in handy.

One promising electrical storage device is the supercapacitator, which combines the fast charging and discharging rates of conventional capacitators, as well as the high-power density, high-capacitance (ability to store electrical charge), and durability of a battery. Today supercapacitators power electric vehicles, portable electronic equipment and various other devices. Despite their use in the marketplace, researchers believe these energy storage devices could perform much better. One area that they are hoping to improve is the device’s electrode, or a conductor through which electricity enters or leaves.

Most supercapacitor electrodes are made of carbon-based materials, but one promising material yet to be explored is graphene. The strongest material known, graphene also has unique electrical, thermal, mechanical and chemical properties. Using supercomputers at NERSC, scientists ran simulations to understand how the shape of a graphene electrode affects its electrical properties. They hope that one-day this work will inspire the design of supercapacitators that can hold a much more stable electric charge.

Read More: http://www.nersc.gov/news-publications/news/science-news/2012/why-onion-like-carbons-make-high-energy-supercapacitors/

A Systematic Approach to Battery Design

New materials are crucial for building advanced batteries, but today the development cycle is too slow. It takes about 15 to 18 years to go from conception to commercialization. To speed up this process, a team of researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) created a new computational tool called the Materials Project, which is hosted at NERSC.

The Materials Project uses supercomputers at NERSC, Berkeley Lab and the University of Kentucky to characterize the properties of inorganic compounds—such as stability, voltage, capacity and oxidation state—via computer simulations. The results are then organized into a database with a user-friendly web interface that allows users to easily access and search for the compound that they would like to use in their new material design. Knowing the properties of a compound beforehand allows researchers to quickly assess whether their idea will be successful, without spending money and time developing prototypes and experiments that will eventually lead to a dead-end.

In early 2013, DOE pledged $120 million over five years to establish the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR). As part of this initiative, the Berkeley Lab and MIT researchers will run simulations at NERSC to predict the properties of electrolytes—a liquid. The results will be incorporated into a database similar to the Materials Project. Eventually researchers will be able to combine the JCESR database with the Materials Project to get a complete scope of battery components. Together, these resources allow scientists to employ a systematic and predictive approach to battery design.

Read More: https://www.nersc.gov/news-publications/news/science-news/2012/nersc-helps-develop-next-gen-batteries/

For more information about how Berkeley Lab is celebrating DOE supercomputing month, please visit: http://cs.lbl.gov/news-media/news/2013/supercomputing-sept-2013/


About Berkeley Lab Computing Sciences

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) Computing  Sciences organization provides the computing and networking resources  and expertise critical to advancing the Department of Energy’s research  missions: developing new energy  sources, improving energy efficiency, developing new materials and  increasing our understanding of ourselves, our world and our universe. ESnet, the Energy Sciences Network, provides the high-bandwidth, reliable connections that link scientists at 40 DOE research sites to each other and to experimental facilities and supercomputing centers around the country. The National Energy Research  Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) powers the discoveries of 5,500 scientists at national laboratories and universities, including those at Berkeley Lab’s Computational Research Division (CRD). CRD  conducts research and development in mathematical modeling and  simulation, algorithm design, data storage, management and analysis,  computer system architecture and high-performance software  implementation.

Lockheed Martin Achieves Patent for Perforene™ Filtration Solution, Moves Closer to Affordable Water Desalination


id29945BALTIMORE, March 18, 2013 – Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] has been awarded a patent for Perforene™ material, a molecular filtration solution designed to meet the growing global demand for potable water.

The Perforene material works by removing sodium, chlorine and other ions from sea water and other sources.

“Access to clean drinking water is going to become more critical as the global population continues to grow, and we believe that this simple and affordable solution will be a game-changer for the industry,” said Dr. Ray O. Johnson, senior vice president and chief technology officer of Lockheed Martin. “The Perforene filtration solution is just one example of Lockheed Martin’s efforts to apply some of the advanced materials that we have developed for our core markets, including aircraft and spacecraft, to global environmental and economic challenges.”

The Perforene membrane was developed by placing holes that are one nanometer or less in a graphene membrane. These holes are small enough to trap the ions while dramatically improving the flow-through of water molecules, reducing clogging and pressure on the membrane.

At only one atom thick, graphene is both strong and durable, making it more effective at sea water desalination at a fraction of the cost of industry-standard reverse osmosis systems.

In addition to desalination, the Perforene membrane can be tailored to other applications, including capturing minerals, through the selection of the size of hole placed in the material to filter or capture a specific size particle of interest. Lockheed Martin has also been developing processes that will allow the material to be produced at scale.

The company is currently seeking commercialization partners.

The patent was awarded by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs about 120,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services.  The Corporation’s net sales for 2012 were $47.2 billion.

University of Houston Launches Nanotechnology Company (w/video)


201306047919620(Nanowerk News) Out of the test-tube, onto your jeans?  How about your patio deck?

A researcher from the University of Houston has turned his  nanotechnology research into reality, launching a nanotech manufacturing company  in the University’s Energy Research Park.

C-Voltaics will manufacture the coatings, designed to protect  fabric, wood, glass and a variety of other products from water, stains, dust and  other environmental hazards.

“After you wash your jeans, the color starts to fade. It means  you can keep your jeans looking better, longer,” Seamus “Shay” Curran, director  of UH’s Institute for NanoEnergy, said. “Or you might have a very nice white  blouse, but the minute you get ketchup or wine on it, you know you’re going to  have to throw it out. You’re not going to have to throw things away because of  fading or stains.”

The coatings, technically known as self-cleaning hydrophobic  nano-coatings, are designed to repel the elements. Curran said they will be  competitively priced.

“If you want to have a successful business, it’s got to be  better and cheaper,” he said. “Consumers aren’t going to pay for it if it’s  not.” UH is a shareholder in C-Voltaics, which Chief Energy Officer  Ramanan Krishnamoorti said is the first nanotechnology company to be spun off  from the University.

 

Nanoco (Quantum Dot Nano-Materials Manufacture) Ready to Roll


QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8Quantum dots developer’s Dow deal a game-changer for digital displays.

The Manchester University spin-off develops and makes quantum dots, tiny, fluorescent semiconductors used to make next-generation electronics. Nanoco’s IP-protected manufacturing method avoids cadmium, a heavy metal banned in many countries, and its trademarked NanoDot technology is used in several applications; solid state lighting, solar panels, even some medical devices.

As we originally predicted, it is in digital displays where the biggest breakthrough has come thanks to a landmark global licensing deal with US giant Dow Chemical (DOW:NYSE) at the start of the year (23 Jan). Quantum dot LED (QLED) displays are set to become the next big trend in consumer electronics.

NANOCO GROUP - Comparison Line Chart (Rebased to first)

Market potential

A report in March from technology analyst Wintergreen Research predicts the QLED display market will hit $6.4 billion by 2019 from a standing start just a couple of years back. The report backs up our theory that once manufacturers learn to integrate quantum dots into products they will be falling over themselves to do so thanks to the technology’s lower energy use and cheaper manufacturing cost.

According to Wintergreen, Samsung (005930:KS) reckons QLED displays could cost half as much as LCD or organic LED (OLED) panels. It also estimates 80% better energy efficiency, for thinner devices with a sharper display.

TVs are a starting point, but expect QLED in smartphones and tablets too as device manufacturers desperately seek ways to defend market share in high margin top-of-the-range products.

As analysts at house broker Canaccord Genuity point out, an increasing number of industry participants share Dow Chemical’s and Nanoco’s confidence that quantum dots are on the cusp of widespread adoption in a $100 billion display market.

Sony (6758:T) already has launched the world’s first quantum dot TV using cadmium-based technology from Nanoco’s privately owned rival QD Vision. But since sales will be barred in many major markets, the US and European Union, mass market products look destined to follow the cadmium-free technology route. Nanoco is already expanding its factory in Runcorn, Cheshire from an annual 25kg capacity to 70kg, beyond initial plans to expand it to 40kg. It is rumoured to be eyeing a brand new set-up in Asia post the Dow deal, with Korea the hot tip.

Liberum sees year to July royalty-based revenues of £4 million rising to £4.6 million in 2014, before the really exciting sales flood in, hitting over £100 million inside five years from a licensing/royalty business model similar to that of UK chip champ ARM (ARM). That would imply over £90 million pre-tax profit thanks to 88% operating margins.

With cash burn running at around £5.5 million a year, its £12.5 million of cash pile should mean Nanoco is unlikely to tap investors for fresh funds. Liberum sees the shares hitting 260p over the next year, while Canaccord is even more optimistic, setting a 275p target price. That could be just scratching the surface of the shares’ longer-term profits potential.

 

$1.5M NSF Grant to Explore Nanoparticle Mass-Scale Manufacturing


Cornell Chronicle  September 9, 2013

NANOSPHERESMaking large quantities of reliable, inexpensive nanoparticles for batteries, solar cells, catalysts and other energy applications has proven challenging due to manufacturing limits. A Cornell research team is working to improve such processes with a $1.5 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to support scalable nanomanufacturing and device integration.

Richard Robinson, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, and Tobias Hanrath, associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, have been awarded a four-year Nanoscale Interdisciplinary Research Team grant through the NSF’s Scalable Nanomanufacturing Program.

Their goal is to improve large-scale, solution-phase synthesis of high-quality nanoparticles – in particular metal sulfides – and demonstrate their integration into devices including battery electrodes and solar photovoltaics.

As Robinson explains, “the properties of colloidal quantum dots can be tuned by changing their size and composition, and the field has really come a long way over the years to learn how to tailor those properties to be ideal for energy applications. We’re really on the forefront of this technology. The problem is that there hasn’t been a way to make a massive amount of particles that are all exactly the same size and composition.  Scalable methods to manufacture nanoparticles could really change the landscape.”

The key to their project will be the use of a reactive precursor that had previously only been limited to aqueous-phase synthesis of nanomaterials. Their method could potentially benefit the application of semiconductors and semi-metal colloidal nanocrystals by providing a nontoxic alternative to metal chalcogenide systems, including the widely used semiconductor cadmium selenide.

Hanrath, co-principal investigator, analogized the research goals with the development of polymers and plastics 50 years ago. Transforming polymers from a bench-scale scientific discovery to a multibillion dollar industry involved “several interesting chemical engineering challenges,” Hanrath noted.

“We’re excited about the prospect of applying similar concepts to develop methods for the scalable production of high-quality nanoparticles to enable the deployment and commercialization of emerging nanotechnologies,” Hanrath said.

The grant, which runs through 2017, also covers outreach and education activities, including an NSF-sponsored K-12 education program to work with high school teachers for enhancing nanoscience curricula.


Nanotech – Future Applications of Graphene: Video


4 DisruptiveSamsung Advanced Institute of Technology, the core R&D incubator for Samsung Electronics, has developed a new transistor structure utilizing graphene, touted as the “miracle material.”

As published online in the journal Science on Thursday, 17th May, this research is regarded to have brought us one step closer to the development of transistors that can overcome the limits of conventional silicon.

Currently, semiconductor devices consist of billions of silicon transistors. To increase the performance of semiconductors (the speed of devices), the options have to been to either reduce the size of individual transistors to shorten the traveling distance of electrons, or to use a material with higher electron mobility which allows for faster electron velocity. For the past 40 years, the industry has been increasing performance by reducing size. However, experts believe we are now nearing the potential limits of scaling down.

Since graphene possesses electron mobility about 200 times greater than that of silicon, it has been considered a potential substitute. Although one issue with graphene is that, unlike conventional semiconducting materials, current cannot be switched off because it is semi-metallic. This has become the key issue in realizing graphene transistors. Both on and off flow of current is required in a transistor to represent “1” and “0” of digital signals. Previous solutions and research have tried to convert graphene into a semi-conductor. However, this radically decreased the mobility of graphene, leading to skepticism over the feasibility of graphene transistors.

By re-engineering the basic operating principles of digital switches, Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology has developed a device that can switch off the current in graphene without degrading its mobility. The demonstrated graphene-silicon Schottky barrier can switch current on or off by controlling the height of the barrier. The new device was named Barristor, after its barrier-controllable feature.

In addition, to expand the research into the possibility of logic device applications, the most basic logic gate (inverter) and logic circuits (half-adder) were fabricated, and basic operation (adding) was demonstrated.

Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology owns 9 major patents related to the structure and the operating method of the Graphene Barristor.

As demonstrated in this research, the institute has solved the most difficult problem in graphene device research and has opened the door to new directions for future studies. This breakthrough continues to keep Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology at the forefront of graphene-related industries.

*Schottky Barrier: Named after a German physicist Walter H Schottky, it is a potential (energy) barrier formed at a metal-semiconductor interface. It prevents an electric charge to flow from metal to silicon. Generally, metal-semiconductor junction would have fixed work function and Schottky barrier height, but as for graphene, Schottky barrier height can be controlled through the work function.

*Work Function: The minimum energy needed to take an electron out of material.

*Inverter: A basic logic gate that converts a digital signal into the opposite level; “0” into “1” or vice versa.

*Half-Adder: A logical circuit that performs addition of two binary digits.

Google-backed O3b is working with Kymeta to build a next-gen satellite antenna


Nanotubes images

Summary:

O3b and Kymeta are trying to build a self-steering non-mechanical satellite antenna using metamaterials. Such an antenna could make O3b’s satellite broadband links mobile, helping further it and Google’s goal of connecting billions of people.

 

 

O3b Networks, a satellite venture with financial backing from Google, put its first four broadband satellites into medium-Earth orbit this summer, and it’s already started signing up customers. ISPs from Somalia to Micronesia have committed to buying capacity when it goes live in 2014, which has gotten O3b thinking about how the ways it can connect those customers.

A cross section of Kymeta's metamaterial antenna

A cross section of Kymeta’s metamaterial antenna

O3b is now working with Kymeta, a Redmond, Wash.,-based satellite antenna startup to develop steerable terminals based on metamaterials technology. The idea is to build an antenna that can dynamically point itself at a satellite overhead using synthetically engineered materials that manipulate the electromagnetic waves around them (Intellectual Ventures, which spun out Kymeta last year, has even said metamaterials could be used to build cloaking devices).

They expect to have their first electronically steered prototype antennas in 2014, though O3b and Kymeta wouldn’t give any details about what kinds of devices or terminals would come out of the partnership. I wouldn’t get your hopes up, however, for a smartphone that connects to the heavens rather than the cellular network.

Kymeta is still working on a larger scale. It’s antennas are connecting boats, trucks and planes, though it is exploring the possibility of a portable antenna terminal the size of a laptop that could be used to connect other devices like phones, tablets and PCs.

Kymeta Plane antenna

Still, building portable or mobile antennas would be a big step over a satellite dishes or mechanically steered antennas pointing at moving specks in the heavens. O3b’s initial customers are wireless ISPs using WiMAX and wireless broadband technologies to provide broadband access and O3b’s satellite links as backhaul. A cheap, efficient antenna with no mechanical parts would be ideal for connecting customers directly as well as giving them a broadband link they can move from location to location.

Google has been relatively quiet about its involvement with O3b since it first invested in it in 2008. But the search giant hasn’t been shy about its intentions to use new technologies to connect the billions of people globally that have unreliable or no access to the internet. It’s exploring white spaces broadband in Africa, and its ambitious — and perhaps crazy — Project Loon would set a wireless broadband network free in the stratospheric winds.

Google has said that satellites would be a component of its grand connectivity plan, and so far O3b and Google’s goals seem perfectly aligned. You only have to look at the name of the company: it stands for the “Other 3 Billion.”