When it comes to technology, sometimes the little things matter most. Things like quarks, carbon nanotubes, very low voltages, and filaments. While the 20th Century was often called the Atomic Age, the 21st Century is looking to be the Sub-Atomic Age. In the August 2015 installment of the Direct Energy Buzz, we’re going to look at some very cool and very tiny innovations that could change technology and our lives in a very big way.
The Great Quantum Leap Forward
In 2010, scientists at the University of Science and Technology of China in Shanghai announced they had teleported more than 1100 quantumly entangled photons in 4 hours over 60 miles. In March, 2014, physicists at the University of Geneva have succeeded in teleporting the quantum state of a photon to a crystal over 25 kilometers of fiber optic cable. Just recently, researchers in Belgrade and at MIT managed to quantumly entangle 3,000 atoms.
Does this mean we’ll be soon able to beam people from one end of the planet to the other? No. The real break-through comes in the realm of quantum computing and networking. Entangled photons can have their quantum states manipulated. In a quantum computer, that state can represent a 1 or 0 or even both. The information about the photons’ quantum states can be transmitted down a fiber-optic cable to a quantum memory module where the states are imposed onto other photons and the message is decoded. Data networks become insanely fast and secure.
That’s why China is building a 1200-mile network between Beijing and Shanghai as the world’s first long-distance quantum encryption network. How realistic is it? Asian marketing giant, Alibaba, plans on investing $1 billion into the technology.
Graphene is known as one of the strongest materials on earth: stronger than steel and a thousand times more conductive than copper at room temperature — and it’s only one atom thick. But up until a short time ago, no one knew what what to do with it.
Enter the Boron Nitride Nanotube (BNNT), the strongest, lightest, most thermally conducting, and most chemically resistant fiber known to exist. It’s also a very good insulator. Paired with graphene, the two would make not only a great digital on/off switch — actualy, it would make a totally awesome digital on/off switch because the two materials together can conduct or stop single electrons rapidly without getting too hot.
Silicon-based semiconductors, like those that make up computer processor chips, run into lots of heat problems created by faster switching speeds. While graphene-BNNT switches might not be as miraculous as quantum computers, their nanocircuitry possibilities may revolutionize future consumer electronics.
LEDs Look Back to Edison
By now, everyone has heard how LED light bulbs are far more efficient than the Edison-style incandescent light bulb. While LED bulbs don’t emit enough heat to power your Easy Bake Oven, their circuitry and driver chips do produce enough heat that requires them to have bulky heat-sinks.
Why? In a typical LED bulb, a number of single-package LEDs (the most common is the very tiny surface-mounted 2835 LED) are wired together. Though very small, the packaged driver chip and LED circuits together can create an appreciable amount of heat, which will wear out circuits and the controller chips in the LED light bulb over time, reducing its efficiency.
But what if LEDs separated from the driver chips and instead incorporated into a new structure that looked like an old-style filament light bulb but didn’t have the same inefficiencies?
Welcome to filament LED lamps. In this emerging lighting trend, tiny LED chips are mounted onto a transparent filament substrate to allow for even dispersal of light and then covered in a phosphor resin that helps modulate the red and blue LEDs into an even white light. Not only does the Edison shape appeal to consumers, it helps some versions of bulb keep it cooler.
One manufacturer, Plessy has devised versions that can be produced by existing “high volume automated glass lamp manufacturing lines,” which could further reduce their price. Such a product might be just what budget LED bulb-maker Cree needs. Last month Cree announced it was restructuring its LED products business due to LED component pricing costs and many of its older-generation bulbs not selling as well.
Do you have any updates or interesting electronics technology news that you find exciting? Share with us in the comments!