Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Better technologies with greater energy efficiencies enhance civilization. The interrelated technologies of electronics, computers, and batteries affect the lives of almost everyone by improving all other technologies and making them more energy-efficient. For example, without electronics, there would be no computers; without computers, no aerospace industry; and without batteries, few portable devices.
Electronics technology is essential to all other technologies, including automotive, industrial, medical, and telecommunications. Progress in electronics during the last six decades has been astonishing. For example, try to imagine the size of your mobile phone if it consisted of vacuum tubes instead of integrated circuits. It might not fit within your neighborhood, let alone your pocket.
Electronics began when Lee DeForest invented the vacuum tubes in 1906. Designed primarily for use as an analog amplifier, a tube contained a heating element so that electrons could flow through the vacuum from a negative cathode to a positive anode, according to the voltages applied to one or more control grids controlled the electron flow. Amplification resulted because small changes in control-grid voltage produced large changes in electron flow. Tube circuits also served as logic elements in early digital computers. Tubes were extremely inefficient because their heating elements required too much power. Tube circuits, which required high voltages, were hazardous to electronics technicians.
Electronics started developing more rapidly when Bell Labs developed the transistor in 1947. A transistor is a small solid-state device that requires no heating element. In a transistor, electrons flow from its emitter to its collector (or vice versa) according to the voltage applied to its base. Transistors, used in both analog and digital devices, require much less power than do vacuum tubes. Transistor circuits, which require only low voltages, are not hazardous to technicians.
Electronics truly began evolving when Jack Kilby invented the integrated circuit (IC) in 1958. An IC consists of multiple transistors, capacitors, diodes, and resistors that have been etched onto a single chip (such as silicon). ICs require less power than do separate transistors. Various ICs contain differing numbers of transistors; some have only a few transistors, others have billions, such as in computer memory ICs. As the electronics evolution continues, future ICs might include nanotechnology.
Computers are part of almost everything we use, including cars, game consoles, kitchen appliances, smartphones, and television receivers. Computer technology is interdependent with electronics technology. You cannot build smaller, faster, and more energy-efficient computers without applying advances made in electronics technology. Likewise, you cannot design and build new electronics devices and components, such as improved ICs, without using the most advanced computer technology (better hardware and software).
Battery technology makes portable electronics devices possible. Batteries are suddenly in the news because people need or want portable computers and electric cars. Almost all battery technologies can scale to larger sizes and capacities. For example, your mobile phone contains a rechargeable NICAD (nickel-cadmium) battery. A larger NICAD battery can start a jet engine. Likewise, new battery technologies that emerge for electronics devices and computers might scale-up sufficiently to store solar and wind power efficiently. Recently, battery technologies have begun developing quickly. For example, new technologies, such as nano beads, indicate that better batteries should soon be available.
Improvements are continually being made in electronics, computer, and battery technologies; their increasing energy efficiencies; and their interrelationships among all other technologies.
Tilly Watts is a technology blogger and proudly calls Houston, Texas her home. She loves sharing tips on how to find the best ElectricityRates in Houston.