Tech Tuesday 11/15/18 “Lucy, The Sky Is Diamonds” Edition


Oscar Gordon

A Navy Turbine Tech who learned to spin wrenches on old cars, Oscar has since been trained as an Engineer & Software Developer & now writes tools for other engineers. When not in his shop or at work, he can be found spending time with his family, gardening, hiking, kayaking, gaming, or whatever strikes his fancy & fits in the budget.

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6 Responses

  1. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    So many questions and thoughts today…

    TT[1-3]: I’m assuming these are all things that are possible now because of high-strength composites and glue. You know you’re old when it bothers you to think about just how much of the airliner you’re on is glued together rather than bolted or riveted.

    TT4: I started following OLEDs professionally 20 years ago. It has taken a disappointingly long time for the vendors to solve the last few engineering problems.

    TT6: What does it say that when I read a different article about this satellite last week, my first thoughts were, “How long would the approval process at the FCC (or European equivalent) and the ITU take to get an operating license for the use of different frequencies? Does Brexit mean that Parliament will have to create and fund a whole new agency for space things?”

    TT10: Of course it is. It’s always our fault. Reminds me of the time in graduate school when a woman told me I personally was responsible for 90% of the evil in the world.

    TT11: When in doubt, always check to see if Heinlein invented it first. He had spacecraft that used steam as reaction mass, heated to very high temperatures by passing through a nuclear reactor. IIRC, nuclear thermal rockets, at least on paper, are about twice as efficient as chemical rockets.Report

    • Avatar bookdragon says:

      Your first comment reminded me of an old guy at Bell that I worked with way back when I was a new engineer. He insisted on referring to composites (my specialty) as ‘string and glue’. It was all in good fun though. He was a bright guy and understood the benefits, especially in terms of strength and fatigue life, but always tried to get a rise out of the composites guys with that.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        To be perfectly honest, I don’t really worry that much about the composites and glue. I worry more about the fact that there’s real-time software doing much of the actual decision-making. I’ve written real-time software, and read other people’s. Most real-time programmers aren’t nearly paranoid enough to suit me.Report

  2. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    It’s a good day when Mike finds more than one thing to comment on!

    TT1-3: The composites and epoxy are truly stronger than steel and more resistant to fatigue than other metals, for the weight. What’s interesting is that regulators around the world, and older school engineers, are still figuring out how to analyze and certify composite structures that are designed to maximally leverage the properties of the composites. By that, I mean that often enough, the composite material is treated like ‘black aluminum’, and shaped into traditional beams and shells that we know how to analyze really well. The more complex structures that composites should be formed into require complex computer models to properly analyze, and the old guard still doesn’t fully trust such analysis.

    tl;dr – it’s not just you.

    TT4: Which problems are you thinking of?

    TT11 – I remember those stories.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain says:

      The two biggies were the blue OLEDs and oxygen. At that time, blue OLEDs were only about half as bright as red and green devices, and running them at higher currents to make up for it shortened their usable lifetime by a lot. All of the compounds used for OLEDs break down fairly quickly in the presence of oxygen, so the screen material and coatings/sealants had to be completely impermeable to oxygen and water (as well as not outgassing any oxygen compounds). For plastics, this turns out to be a hard problem.

      The question I was trying to answer at the time was “When will displays large enough that people will demand high definition content become standard issue?” That was an important question for cable companies — where I was working — because HD requires quite a lot more bandwidth than standard def, and bandwidth was/is a scarce resource. I got the timing just about spot on, but was wrong about the technology that would deliver those displays.

      We’ve reached another point where it’s difficult to say which technologies are going to be in wide use ten years out. [Techno-babble warning] Photo-reactive quantum-dot LEDs in place of the color filters in LCD screens are out now, if you’re willing to pay for them, and give a better picture. Ditto for OLEDs. Electro-reactive quantum dot LEDs are more than just lab curiosities, and several small companies are working on the scaling-up problems. So-called “pick and place” LEDs are still hideously expensive (for consumer devices), but are capable of insanely good images.Report

  3. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Tt7 – also according to official Chinese media, they are growing moon cotton on the farside probe.Report