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Graphene: The Ultimate Switch

Graphene could replace the transistor with switches that steer electrons just like beams of light

11 min read
Illustration: Bryan Christie Design
Illustration: Bryan Christie Design

From the outside, transistors seem so simple and straightforward. But inside, they’re actually a mess. If you could watch them working at the level of atoms, you’d see the electronic equivalent of a game of bumper cars. Electrons moving through even the best transistor channel can’t go in straight lines. Instead they’re buffeted continually by a host of imperfections and vibrations, which together put a strict limit on speed and generate a lot of heat in the process.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. By a quirk of quantum mechanics, electrons moving through atom-thick sheets of carbon—known as graphene—don’t suffer much at all from these sorts of collisions. Instead, they behave like massless particles, speeding along in straight lines for long distances just like photons do. And just like light, these electrons can be made to bend or bounce back when they move from one medium to another.

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How to Turn the Lights Back on After a Blackout

Restarting the grid after a total failure is trickier than it may appear

4 min read
​A grid operator works in a control room.
Jacob Hannah/The New York Times/Redux

Restoring power quickly after a major blackout can mean the difference between life and death, but cold starting an entire electrical grid is a complex and delicate process. A hybrid computer model from Sandia National Laboratories that combines optimization, physical simulations and cognitive models of grid operators promises to come up with a fast and reliable plan to get the lights back on.

While power outages are always disruptive, they typically only impact smaller portions of the overall grid. A complete loss of power over the entire network is much more serious, and requires operators to effectively jump start the grid with so-called “black start” generators. This involves a complicated balancing act to avoid mismatches between energy generation and consumption, as different sections of the grid are gradually brought back online. Get it wrong and the grid can collapse again.

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How to Stake Electronic Components Using Adhesives

Staking provides extra mechanical support for various electronic parts

2 min read
Adhesive staking of DIP component on a circuit board using Master Bond EP17HTDA-1.

The main use for adhesive staking is to provide extra mechanical support for electronic components and other parts that may be damaged due to vibration, shock, or handling.

Master Bond

This is a sponsored article brought to you by Master Bond.

Sensitive electronic components and other parts that may be damaged due to vibration, shock, or handling can often benefit from adhesive staking. Staking provides additional mechanical reinforcement to these delicate pieces.

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