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Cutting-edge tech grabs federal grants

From nanofiber applications to content protection for big-screen movies, new technology projects garner $92 million in funding from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

From content protection for big-screen movies to nanofiber applications, 40 new advanced-technology projects garnered on Tuesday $92 million in funding from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The federal agency's annual grants go to projects in civil engineering, advanced medicine, electronic engineering and computer science, and are designed to aid companies in developing technologies that can later be brought to market.

Nanotechnology received a great deal of attention from NIST, with projects involving nanodevices and nanostructures grabbing more than $12 million in government funding.

A project proposed by General Electric along with the State University of New York (SUNY) Binghamton and Superior MicroPowders looks to use nanotechnology to create materials that can conduct heat from microprocessors to their heat sinks 10 times better than the substances now in use. The project garnered $3.5 million from the agency.

NIST also supported a project aimed at creating anti-piracy measures. The agency granted $2 million to Herndon, Va.-based Cinea to further develop a technology that could foil media pirates who use a video camera to record movies right off the big screen.

We want "to develop and test a prototype technology for distorting unauthorized recordings of digital movies without affecting human visual perception of the original version," the company stated in the summary of its proposal.

Storage also garnered heavy support from NIST. Five companies won almost $12 million from the federal government for a proposal to increase the amount of information that can fit on an old technology: tape systems. The project seeks to deliver multi-terabyte storage--a terabyte is 1,000 gigabytes of data--by increasing the density of information that can be recorded to tape by a factor of 250.

While that project focuses on an old-school technology, another looks to one that's definitely new school: holographic storage. Longmont, Colo., company InPhase Technologies sold NIST on a plan to create a new type of holographic storage that can be rewritten up to 1,000 times.

The Advanced Technology Project awards are intended to accelerate technology research, but they're not designed to support product-development work, according to NIST. Proposals are reviewed by peers in the research community and are funded based on their opinions and on the potential payoff for the U.S. economy.