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The New Indelible Memories

It’s a three-way race in the multibillion-dollar memory sweepstakes

17 min read
Engineer at Texas Instruments’ Kilby fab in Dallas, Texas, holds up a 200-mm wafer containing developmental 64MB ferroelectric RAM chips.
Engineer at Texas Instruments’ Kilby fab in Dallas, Texas, holds up a 200-mm wafer containing developmental 64MB ferroelectric RAM chips.
Photo: Brent Humphreys

Billions of chips in today’s computers, automobiles, cellphones, media cards, and those clever keychain memories are literally powerless when idle, yet they dispense data and instructions at the flick of the on-switch. They are almost all flash memory chips, a type of electrically erasable and programmable read-only memory.

Nonvolatility, flash’s property of retaining data for years when unpowered, is crucial for most electronic systems any more complicated than a light bulb. A flash chip in a computer tells it how to boot up. In a cellphone, it holds the instructions and data needed to send and receive calls, and stores phone numbers. Electronic products of all types, from microwave ovens to industrial machinery, store their operating instructions in flash memory.

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Caltech Team Launches Experimental Space-Based Solar Array

The satellite will test some of the tech needed to wirelessly beam power from orbit

4 min read
A lightweight gold-colored square frame for a solar power array, seen flying in space with Earth in background.

Artist's conception of Caltech's Space Solar Power Demonstrator in Earth orbit.

Caltech

For about as long as engineers have talked about beaming solar power to Earth from space, they’ve had to caution that it was an idea unlikely to become real anytime soon. Elaborate designs for orbiting solar farms have circulated for decades—but since photovoltaic cells were inefficient, any arrays would need to be the size of cities. The plans got no closer to space than the upper shelves of libraries.

That’s beginning to change. Right now, in a sun-synchronous orbit about 525 kilometers overhead, there is a small experimental satellite called the Space Solar Power Demonstrator One (SSPD-1 for short). It was designed and built by a team at the California Institute of Technology, funded by donations from the California real estate developer Donald Bren, and launched on 3 January—among 113 other small payloads—on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

“To the best of our knowledge, this would be the first demonstration of actual power transfer in space, of wireless power transfer,” says Ali Hajimiri, a professor of electrical engineering at Caltech and a codirector of the program behind SSPD-1, the Space Solar Power Project.

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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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