Using chaos theory and an egg-shaped cavity, scientists from Yale University (New Haven, CT), Lucent Technologies Bell Labs (Murray Hill, NJ), and the Max Planck Institute of Physics (Dresden, Germany) developed semiconductor microlasers with more than 1,000 times the power of conventional, disk-shaped microlasers. These tiny energy sources are 0.05 mm in diameter, or as wide as human hair. The researchers say the experimental lasers could either be used to speed up voice, video, Internet, and other forms of communication that use fiber-optic networks or become the basis for entirely new networks. The discovery could allow manufacturers to build computers that would operate with light instead of electrons, with fiber optics replacing wiring. Instead of using the traditional circular laser cavity, Yale physicist A. Douglas Stone suggested changing the shape to an oval or egg. "If it's a circular cylinder, a lot of the laser beam gets wasted and doesn't get out at all," Stone says. Experiments showed that, above a critical deformation level, the light pulses would travel in a bow-tie pattern. They suffer less internal reflection and emit light in four narrow, controllable beams. An enormous increase in output power accompanies this change, Stone says. Each beam has an output of 10 mW, increasing the laser's total output to 40 mW, compared to 40 microwatts in the round cylinder. FAX: (203) 432-2207.
During a teardown of the iPad Air and Microsoft Surface Pro 3 at the Medical Design & Manufacturing Show in Schaumburg, Ill., an engineer showed this "inflammatory" video about the dangers of maliciously mishandling lithium-ion batteries.
Science fiction author Isaac Asimov may have the best rules for effective brainstorming and creativity. His never-before-published essay, "On Creativity," recently made it to the Web pages of MIT Technology Review.
Much has been made over the potentially dangerous flammability of lithium-ion batteries after major companies like Boeing, Sony, and Tesla have grappled with well-publicized battery fires. Researchers at Stanford University may have come up with a solution to this problem with a smart sensor for lithium-ion batteries that provides a warning if the battery is about to overheat or catch fire.
In this new Design News feature, "How it Works," we’re starting off by examining the inner workings of the electronic cigarette. While e-cigarettes seemed like a gimmick just two or three years ago, they’re catching fire -- so to speak. Sales topped $1 billion last year and are set to hit $10 billion by 2017. Cigarette companies are fighting back by buying up e-cigarette manufacturers.
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