Posts Tagged ‘experimental’

Vacuum tubes could revolutionize computer chips?

No, I’m fairly sure I haven’t lost my mind … that really is the right headline.

According to a resent paper published in the American Institute of Physics, nanoscale vacuum “tubes” manufactured using conventional chip making techniques have operated at frequencies as high as .46 THz.

Dr. Meyya Meyyappan, Director at the Center for Nanotechnology at the NASA Ames Research Center, has highlighted the advantages of nanoscale vacuum devices which include resistance to hard radiation and significantly improved operating frequencies.

The increased operating frequency comes about because of the speed at which electrons travel through different materials. The speed of electron travel through silicon is comparatively slow, through graphine it is approximately 100 times faster and through a vacuum it approaches the speed of light.

While the cavity is not technically a vacuum it contains so few atoms of any other material, such as oxygen, it is functionally the same. This also gives the vacuum nanoscale device an advantage in space where hard radiation can disrupt an electron’s travel through silicon leading to errors or sometimes permanent failure.

Dr Meyyappan estimates that vacuum nanoscale components will run ten times faster than the best conventional silicon chips and who knows what advances the future will hold. Faster chips will aid in signal processing and more capable software defined radios.

Do you want to monitor every CW & PSK31 transmission on the 40M band at once? With a vacuum “tube” rig you may be able to!

Something old, something new.

Something old …

As a young boy in Australia my two favorite hangouts were my grandfather’s shed or practically anywhere that electronics were sold. The two largest electronic component retailers in my home town were Tandy (Radio Shack) and Dick Smith Electronics. They both sold kits, tools, ‘100 in 1 Labs’ and other assorted gear but Dick Smith eventually became known as the experimenters store due to their greater range.

Original Radio Shack calculator
Tandy is now almost vanished after their aquisition by Woolworths (Despite also owning its competitor Dick Smith) and has converted or closed most of the locations. 
One of the things I have to remember Tandy by is a handy resistor color code calculator. It saw a lot of use in past years while I built kits and experimented but not so much nowdays.
This device also calculated inductor values when flipped over which was handy for some of the older equipment I came across.

If you would like to make one of these yourself then Adafruit Industries has created a PDF document you can print and cut out for create your own resistor value calculator.

The PDF file is available from Adafruit Industries or a copy is also here. Once you print it out, a little cutting and folding should produce something like the example of the right. The Adafruit design uses brass paper fasteners (remember those?) but any fastener could be used that would allow the wheel inside to rotate freely. It would be best to print on heavy card stock if you have the ability as it will give the calculator some strength.

Something new … 

If you happen to have one of those new fangled iDevices you can download Circuit Playground. It has a few more features than the old Radio Shack calculator and looks great on the iPad.

More features are being added but the list at the moment includes:

  • Decipher resistor & capacitor codes with ease
  • Calculate power, resistance, current, and voltage with the Ohm’s Law & Power Calc modules
  • Quickly convert between decimal, hexadecimal, binary or even ASCII characters
  • Calculate values for multiple resistors or capacitors in series & parallel configurations
  • Store, search, and view PDF datasheets
  • Access exclusive sneak peaks, deals & discounts at Adafruit Industries

You can download it from the iTunes Store or, if you have an Android, you can check out ElectroDroid for similar functionality.

As time goes on there are more and more useful utilities available for electronic experimenters on iOS and Android devices. Since more and more equipment today is becoming computerized do iOS and Android devices  represent the future of test equipment?

iMSO-104 iPad Oscilloscope


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