Getting a tweet from Elon Musk on my mobile device is way cool.
Communicating is what this article and a newspaper does. We hope. The mobile phone is a communications tool. As I become more dependent on mobile technology devices I’ve gotten interested in the future of mobile communications technologies. More of us use phones, more applications are emerging that increase our dependency on phones. Elon Musk communicated expectations for his recent successful satellite launch and 2nd successful booster reentry on his mobile phone. Getting a tweet from the Elon on my personal device, very cool. Millions of others think it’s very cool too.
We depend on each other at least as much as we depend on our phone I hope. We depend on each other for survival, for love and to make sure our lives have meaning beyond survival. The common habit is to depend on people we know. How much can I count on a phone dependent relationship? And a separate question altogether is how much can I depend on the mobile communications in the future? I can do something to improve my human networks. What can I do about my dependence on mobile communications devices? I depend on the capability of my smart phone. Next step is to better understand the mobile devices and their future in my community and my life.
While having dinner with 4 graduate students and their mentor last week, the discussion turned toward jobs. These students are enrolled in Business Administration 590, an interdisciplinary capstone class a requirement in the last semester of graduate school. Three of the students and their mentor were recently in the military; one is still on reserve duty. As we discuss mobile communications we could not avoid military jargon. Smaller electronics that provide remote access, reliability, ability to redeploy easily with assured access were essential tools in the lives of these guys. All of their communication tools had been tested in battle. In conventional warfare, these are tools of the current war fighter. Now in civilian life, these men understood the importance of studying their mentor’s company Microgravity Materials, a New Mexico company.
In these classes, student teams typically work with a company on a complex problem. At the core of this capstone project was the problem of describing the importance of pure crystals that are used in the manufacturing of semiconductor materials and the role of Microgravity Materials. Ok, I know I might be losing you. Silicon Valley. Not interested. We live in the Mesilla Valley. Yet, you use millions of semi-conductors every day and powering them cost us money.
This is a thought experiment. Picture ink flowing from your pen as you write a message on an index card. See ink as energy or electrons, little particles flowing onto a paper. Digital conversations or emails and texts start with you pressing a key, not a pen. When we think of it this way, we can see energy as ink moving across paper, and electrons moving across a transistor. Work with me here. The thing I want you to know, the transistor captures your energy like ink captures your energy. We know how much paper we use. Lots. Well, each mobile conversation or digital conversation uses energy. The energy is managed by transistors made up of silicon semiconductor materials. A semiconducting material is more efficient when electrons flow easily through it. Picture a hose. If there is a kink in the hose the water does not flow well. A good semiconductor lets electrons flow like water over Niagara Falls.
The semiconductor we were examining in this BA 590 class is an improvement on existing transistor materials. It is a wide bandgap semiconductor transistor material. It can handle higher voltages, so it cuts down on energy waste. Power supplies like adaptors that we use to charge our cell phones, lap tops and tablets use 2% of all US electricity. Power supplies use switching transistors.
We use our mobile devices, tablets and lap tops to watch tv shows and to Skype now. Microgravity Materials, founder Rich Glover discovered and patented a process where exposing wide bandgap wafers to microgravity allows the molecules on the wafer to align and eliminate almost all imperfections on the wafer. The wafer is used to make the transistors. Few imperfections in the semiconductor materials allow the electrons to flow more freely.
I’ve known Rich for ten or eleven years now. He first started using the spaceport in 2008. He wanted to examine can being in space add value to a product. It took him years of mostly trial and error to get to this point. The validation of the student experience, along with the research results from NASA Ames and Stanford University researchers provide me a better understanding of how Americans succeed. We talk, network and out innovate our competitors, and improve on our own technologies. And we can do this in New Mexico.