Showing posts for April 2022
27 April 2022
What alternatives to WiFi are available?
WiFi has been an integral part of our life since the 90s when it first came into being. Originally created for wireless connections in cashier systems under the name WaveLAN, the trademarked WiFi name came into existence just before the turn of the century and hasn’t looked back since.
Alongside WiFi, cellular internet was also thriving, giving people the power to connect to a network through a phone signal. The current rollout of 5G shows that this method of connecting to the internet is also still very popular and getting more advanced by the year.
But since the conception of these two types of communications, several new methods have also been designed, and may be contenders to replace them in future.
How does WiFi work?
WiFi stands for Wireless Fidelity and uses radio waves to transmit signals between devices. The frequency is in the Gigahertz range, as opposed from Kilohertz and Megahertz for AM and FM radio respectively. This is why every iteration of cellular internet has a ‘G’ after it, because the frequency range for WiFi is between 2.4GHz and 5GHz.
But, as with all things, there are limitations to WiFi’s capabilities. Many current devices can’t yet use 5G as they weren’t built to support it, and 2.4G is now so congested it is almost always unusable too.
This WiFi alternative, known as Light Fidelity, was first announced in 2011 during a TED Global Talk by Professor Harald Haas where he demonstrated it for the first time. The system uses light instead of radio waves, so lightbulbs can create a wireless type of network.
Despite the term being first coined by Haas, CSO of PureLiFi, several companies have since introduced products with strikingly similar names that also use light. This type of communication is called Optical Wireless Communications (OWC), which encompasses communications using infrared, ultraviolet and visible light.
Starlink is just one example out of the category of satellite WiFi. The SpaceX subdivision uses a network of private satellites positioned across the globe to provide internet access. Currently the company has around 2,000 working satellites orbiting the planet.
Although this is already an established form of internet access, especially in rural areas, the investment in developing this technology and its versatility makes it a contender for the monopoly on WiFi in the future.
Mesh networks are often used as an extension to a regular WiFi home connection. The short-range network uses two modulation techniques, Binary and Quadrature Phase-shift Keying (BPSK and QPSK). This makes the mesh network devices act like high-speed Ultra-wideband ones.
The system works on the principle that you install nodes, like mini satellites, throughout your house. The nodes all act as stepping stones, which means the WiFi signal at any point in your house will be much stronger than if you only had one central router.
The fibre-optic future
With the recent advent of 5G and the increasing availability of faster WiFi thanks to tech like fibre optic broadband, it’s unlikely it will go out of fashion very soon. But it’s always nice to have a bit of choice, isn’t it?
One huge benefit that comes with the internet is being able to find electronics component suppliers at high speed. Whether you’re on satellite WiFi, cellular, or LiFi, contact Cyclops Electronics today at firstname.lastname@example.org to see how we can help you.
14 April 2022
How transistors replaced vacuum tubes
Electronics has come on leaps and bounds in the last 100 years and one of the most notable changes is the size of components. At the turn of the last century mechanical components were slowly being switched out for electrical ones, and an example of this switch was the vacuum tube.
A lightbulb moment
Vacuum tubes were invented in the early 1900s, and the first ones were relatively simple devices containing only an anode and a cathode. The two electrodes are inside a sealed glass or aluminium tube, then the gas inside would be removed to create a vacuum. This allowed electrons to pass between the two electrodes, working as a switch in the circuit.
Original vacuum tubes were quite large and resembled a lightbulb in appearance. They signalled a big change in computer development, as a purely electronic device replaced the previously used mechanical relays.
Aside being utilised in the field of computing, vacuum tubes were additionally used for radios, TVs, telephones, and radar equipment.
Apart from resembling a bulb, the tubes also shared the slightly more undesirable traits. They would produce a lot of heat, which would cause the filaments to burn out and the whole component would need to be replaced.
This is because the gadget worked on a principle called thermionic emission, which needed heat to let an electrical reaction take place. Turns out having a component that might melt the rest of your circuit wasn’t the most effective approach.
Transistors came along just over 40 years later, and the vacuum tubes were slowly replaced with the solid-state alternative.
The solid-state device, so named because the electric current flows through solid semiconductor crystals instead of in a vacuum like its predecessor, could be made much smaller and did not overheat. The electronic component also acted as a switch or amplifier, so the bright star of the vacuum tube gradually burned out.
Sounds like success
Vacuum tubes are still around and have found a niche consumer base in audiophiles and hi-fi fanatics. Many amplifiers use the tubes in place of solid-state devices, and the devices have a dedicated following within the stereo community.
Although some of the materials that went into the original tubes have been replaced, mostly for safety reasons, old tubes classed as New Old Stock (NOS) are still sold and some musicians still prefer these. Despite this, modernised tubes are relatively popular and have all the familiar loveable features, like a tendency to overheat.
Don’t operate in a vacuum
Transistors are used in almost every single electronic product out there. Cyclops have a huge selection of transistors and other day-to-day and obsolete components. Inquire today to find what you’re looking for at email@example.com, or use the rapid enquiry form on our website.
13 April 2022
Carbon nanotubes being used to develop ‘Smart Clothes’
Since the discovery of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) in 1991, the material has been utilised for commercial purposes in several areas, including anti-corrosion paints, hydrophobic coatings and engineering plastics.
CNTs were one of the materials that made it possible for two-dimensional graphene to be used and researched. On a broader scale, it allowed nanoscience to branch into its own area of study.
The material is made up of a cylindrical tube of carbon atoms, and can be single-walled or multi-walled. On a molecular level, CNTs are 100 times more robust than steel and a fraction of the weight.
But in the last ten years, there have been studies into how the material’s heat and electrical conductive qualities might be used in another everyday product: clothes.
A recent study by North Carolina State University examined CNTs’ usage as a ‘smart fabric’ in 2020. The researchers investigated how its heating and cooling properties could be harnessed to make a cheaper alternative to the current thermoelectric materials being used.
The plan is to integrate the CNTs into the fabric of the clothes, rather than an extra layer, which means the flexible material has an advantage over others currently available on the market.
The low thermal conductivity of CNTs means that heat would not travel back to the wearer, and the same applies to cool air, when an external current is applied.
Heart racing yet?
A study from seven years previously studied how CNTs could be used as a built-in electrocardiogram (ECG) within athletic wear. The nanotube fibres sewn into the clothes monitored heartrate and took a continual cardiogram from the wearer.
The Brown School of Engineering lab, who conducted the research, said the shirt would have to be a tight fit to make sure the material touched the skin, but the t-shirt was still – miraculously – machine-washable.
According to the researchers the enhances shirt actually performed better than a chest-strap monitor ECG when compared in a test, and could connect to Bluetooth devices to transmit the collected data.
In 2018 engineers from the University of Cincinnati, in partnership with the Wright-Patterson Air Force Research Laboratory, conducted a study into how CNT clothes could charge a phone.
This study investigated the applications of CNT clothes in the military, where it could be used to charge the electronics that form part of a soldier’s field equipment instead of weighty batteries. Using a similar technique to the other studies, where CNT fibres were sewn into the clothes.
Will it make fashion week?
Not quite yet. Despite the cheaper-by-comparison cost of the material, the quantity of material required for mass production is too high for what is currently available and is still relatively young and untested. The specialist equipment that would also be needed for CNT textile production would be an investment many manufacturers would decide against.
While CNTs may not be a hugely sought-after material just yet, Cyclops can supply you with hard-to-find electronic components when you need them most. Contact us now at firstname.lastname@example.org to see how we can help you.
06 April 2022
The tech behind the touch screen
Ever wondered how the touchscreen on your phone actually works? It’s such an integral part of our lives and, despite the fast advancements, the technology is still relatively new.
The first touch screen was invented in 1965 by E. A. Johnson and used a type of technology that is still widely used in touch screens today: capacitive.
Different types of touchscreen technology
The two main types of touch screens used are capacitive and resistive, which work in slightly different ways.
This tech, normally used for devices like smartphones and tablets, by making your finger part of the circuit (not in a weird way!). There are layers of glass coated with a conductive material like copper. When a smartphone user touches the screen, your finger is used as a conductor and completes the circuit.
When the ‘touch event’ occurs, the device detects the electrical charge at the location the connection is made, and the screen’s receptors can then pass the signal onto the operating system which will respond.
This is why smartphones don’t really work when you’re wearing gloves, because the conductor is blocked by an insulator. However, devices like styluses and and specially designed gloves are designed at the same level of conductivity, which is why they will work.
Touch screens that need more durability, like the screens on ATMs and self-checkouts, are usually resistive rather than capacitive. In this type of touch screen, a glass or plastic layer is covered by a resistive layer that conducts charge. When a point is pressed on the plastic layer, the two layers touch and change electrical charge at that point.
The downside to this type of touch screens is it won’t detect more than one touch, unlike the capacitive equivalent.
There are several other types of touch screens, including ones that use infrared LEDs and photodetectors, optical sensors, and even ones that use friction and acoustic signals. However, none of these variations are used as widespread as capacitive or resistive.
Components of a touchscreen
The touch screen technology itself is comprised of around 4 layers.
The top layer, or the layer that smartphone users interact with, is the cover lens. This top layer is what we can see and what we interact with.
The next layer is the touch sensor, which is a clear panel made from glass or plastic with an electric current running through it. When a touch is registered the current causes a voltage change, which is sensed by a small microcontroller-based chip called the touch controller, that can determine the location of the touch.
Under the touch sensor is the display, usually a liquid crystal display (LCD) or active-matrix organic light emitting diode (AMOLED) technology.
The final layer to the touch screen is the software, which interprets the signals transmitted to it and can form a response.
In front of the screen
Technology is currently being developed that will even take the ‘touch’ out of touch screen, which can predict the target a consumer is aiming at without them touching the screen. The tech uses AI and sensors to avoid a user needing to physically touch the screen, and so takes out the risk of any bacteria or pathogens being spread via the surface.
So, in a future where we may be more careful of what surfaces we touch, we will wait with anticipation for what touch screen technology could bring.
For peace of mind, Cyclops screen and quality test all the components we stock. For a trustworthy supplier with more than 30 years of experience, get in touch with Cyclops today at email@example.com
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