Q&A With IBM's AAAS Fellows

This month, two scientists from IBM Research were awarded the distinction of Fellow by The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Drs. Anna Topol and Andreas Heinrich were honored for their efforts in advancing science applications deemed scientifically or socially distinguished. The new Fellows share details about their work and its industry implications, and advice for future budding AAAS Fellows. 

Andreas Heinrich
Andreas grew up in Germany where he earned a PhD in the material properties of ternary compound semiconductors, before joining IBM’s research Silicon Valley lab in Almaden as a postdoctoral researcher in 1998. Today, he is the project leader for scanning probe microscopy. He and his team work with single atoms, crucial to IBM's research in the field of atomic-scale memory. In 2012, he was part of the team that announced the creation of the world's smallest magnetic memory bit, made of just 12 atoms.


Would you know if your car was being hacked?

Yair Allouche, IBM cybersecurity researcher
Editor’s note: This article is by Yair Allouche, researcher at IBM’s Cybersecurity Center of Excellence in Beer Sheva, Israel.

When my sister reluctantly upgraded to a smart phone, she was concerned that her location, contacts, personal calendar, and even banking information would be vulnerable to cybercrime. And she was right to be concerned. Most of us made the decision to give up a certain amount of security in exchange for the wondrous and practical applications that we can no longer live without. But how many of us are making that same conscious decision when we buy a new car? 

IBM cybersecurity researchers in Israel are developing protection for connected cars by providing cloud-based intelligence to identify cyberattacks and suspicious activity that can endanger the car or its occupants. By offering car manufacturers a hybrid system that can collect, analyze, and cross-reference massive amounts of data from different vehicles, these researchers are bringing IBM’s security smarts from the data centers to the road.


Tired of answering questions? Let a smart machine help.

Koichi Kamijo, a scientist at IBM’s research lab in Tokyo was only 20 questions into a 300-question life insurance form. And he was already exhausted. There had to be an easier way to answer these questions. So, he got together with his colleagues, Ryo Kawahara, Takayuki Osogami, Masaki Ono and Shunichi Amano to come up with a cognitive tech answer to the cumbersome process of finding a life insurance product. And they identified two critical issues with the life insurance questionnaire that needed to be solved to make life plan simulator more user-friendly and useful for consumers and financial planners.
L-R: Masaki Ono, Ryo Kawahara, Koichi Kamijo, Takayuki Osogami
and Shunichi Amano of IBM Research – Tokyo

IBM and ASTRON provide microserver prototypes to three Dutch partners

One 64-bit Microserver
When it goes live by 2024, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope will collect a deluge of radio signals from deep space. More specifically, every day thousands of antennas located in southern Africa and Australia will collectively gather 14 exabytes of data and store one petabyte. The SKA has been called "the ultimate Big Data challenge."

The distributed design of the SKA has a total antenna area of one square kilometer. And due to the large volume of big data it can collect, a high-performance computing architecture with data transfer links with a capacity that far exceeds current state-of-the-art technology must be developed to manage the process of gathering, storing and analyzing the 13 billion-year-old data.


Measuring the Pedestrian Pulse during Johannesburg’s EcoMobility Festival

Editor’s note: This article is by Francois Luus, research scientist at IBM Research-Africa, Johannesburg 

This past October, the central business district of Sandton in Johannesburg, South Africa (named for the combination of the suburbs Sandown and Bryanston) hosted the second annual EcoMobility World Festival

It’s a month-long opportunity for citizens to experience what it would be like to live and work in a city where active street life and social inclusivity is supported by a sustainable and forward thinking urban transportation culture and system that gives priority to walking, cycling and public transport.


Novel nanocomposites made of confined polymers

IBM researchers, with collaborators at Stanford University, have combined their expertise in porous materials for microprocessors and thin film mechanical properties to study the fundamental properties of polymers under confinement.

Their challenge was to fill tiny holes called nanopores (1/10,000 the size of a human hair) with long and bulky molecules. The equivalent of fitting a 300 passenger commercial plane into your car garage. While the latter is physically impossible, polymers can deform to adapt to such a significant form factor change. During this process, their intrinsic properties are dramatically modified – which is precisely what our researchers were looking for. But the results weren’t what they expected.

Q&A: Field-induced conductance switching

IBM 7nm node test chip
Industry experts consider 7 nanometer (nm) technology crucial to meeting the anticipated demands of future cloud computing and big data systems, cognitive computing, mobile products and other emerging technologies.
Microprocessors utilizing 22 nm and 14 nm technology power today’s servers, cloud data centers and mobile devices, and 10 nm technology is well on the way to becoming a mature technology, but the challenges dramatically increase when going below 7 nm or even 5 nm.
At dimensions below 5 nm it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve reasonably high on/off current ratios, mainly because of increasing leakage paths and less control over the doping atoms. To explain the challenge, consider a leaky water faucet even after closing the valve as far as possible, water continues to drip. This is similar to today’s transistor, in that energy is constantly "leaking" or being lost or wasted in the off-state. For these reasons, scientists around the world are exploring novel materials including carbon nanotubes, graphene, 2D layered materials, phase-change materials or single molecules to discover novel type of switching mechanisms with enhanced control over transport at nanometer dimensions.
Appearing today in the peer-review journal NatureNanotechnology, scientists at IBM Research, the University of Zurich and the University of Vienna are reporting on a novel concept to modulate the current through a less-than-3 nm long molecule by more than three orders of magnitude a critical step to control transport for future electric circuits, with applications in signal processing, logic data manipulation, data storage or neuromorphic networks.