Tag Archives: high speed comms

The future of holes

H already in my alphabetic series! I was going to write about happiness, or have/have nots, or hunger, or harassment, or hiding, or health. Far too many options for H. Holes is a topic I have never written about, not even a bit, whereas the others would just be updates on previous thoughts. So here goes, the future of holes.

Holes come in various shapes and sizes. At one extreme, we have great big holes from deep mining, drilling, fracking, and natural holes such as meteor craters, rifts and volcanoes. Some look nice and make good documentaries, but I have nothing to say about them.

At the other we have long thin holes in optical fibers that increase bandwidth or holes through carbon nanotubes to make them into electron pipes. And short fat ones that make nice passages through semi-permeable smart membranes.

Electron pipes are an idea I invented in 1992 to increase internet capacity by several orders of magnitude. I’ve written about them in this blog before: https://timeguide.wordpress.com/2015/05/04/increasing-internet-capacity-electron-pipes/

Short fat holes are interesting. If you make a fabric using special polymers that can stretch when a voltage is applied across it, then round holes in it would become oval holes as long as you only stretch it in one direction.  Particles that may fit through round holes might be too thick to pass through them when they are elongated. If you can do that with a membrane on the skin surface, then you have an electronically controllable means of allowing the right mount of medication to be applied. A dispenser could hold medication and use the membrane to allow the right doses at the right time to be applied.

Long thin holes are interesting too. Hollow fiber polyester has served well as duvet and pillow filling for many years. Suppose more natural material fibers could be engineered to have holes, and those holes could be filled with chemicals that are highly distasteful to moths. As a moth larva starts to eat the fabric, it would very quickly be repelled, protecting the fabric from harm.

Conventional wisdom says when you are in a hole, stop digging. End.


Increasing internet capacity: electron pipes

The electron pipe is a slightly mis-named high speed comms solution that would make optical fibre look like two bean cans and a bit of loose string. I invented it in 1990, but it still remains in the future since we can’t do it yet, and it might not even be possible, some of the physics is in doubt.  The idea is to use an evacuated tube and send a precision controlled beam of high energy particles down it instead of crude floods of electrons down a wire or photons in fibres. Here’s a pathetic illustration:

Electron pipe


Initially I though of using 1MeV electrons, then considered that larger particles such as neutrons or protons or even ionised atoms might be better, though neutrons would certainly be harder to control. The wavelength of 1MeV electrons would be pretty small, allowing very high frequency signals and data rates, many times what is possible with visible photons down fibres. Whether this could be made to work over long distances is questionable, but over short distances it should be feasible and might be useful for high speed chip interconnects.

The energy of the beam could be made a lot higher, increasing bandwidth, but 1MeV seamed a reasonable start point, offering a million times more bandwidth than fibre.

The Problem

Predictions for memory, longer term storage, cloud service demands and computing speeds are already heading towards fibre limits when millions of users are sharing single fibres. Although the limits won’t be reached soon, it is useful to have a technology in the R&D pipeline that can extend the life of the internet after fibre fills up, to avoid costs rising. If communication is not to become a major bottleneck (even assuming we can achieve these rates by then), new means of transmission need to be found.

The Solution

A way must be found to utilise higher frequency entities than light. The obvious candidates are either gamma rays or ‘elementary’ particles such as electrons, protons and their relatives. Planck’s Law shows that frequency is related to energy. A 1.3µm photon has a frequency of 2.3 x 1014. By contrast  1MeV gives a frequency of 2.4 x 10^20 and a factor of a million increase in bandwidth, assuming it can be used (much higher energies should be feasible if higher bandwidth is needed, 10Gev energies would give 10^24). An ‘electron pipe’ containing a beam of high energy electrons may therefore offer a longer term solution to the bandwidth bottleneck. Electrons are easily accelerated and contained and also reasonably well understood. The electron beam could be prevented form colliding with the pipe walls by strong magnetic fields which may become practical in the field through progress in superconductivity. Such a system may well be feasible. Certainly prospects of data rates of these orders are appealing.

Lots of R&D would be needed to develop such communication systems. At first glance, they would seem to be more suited to high speed core network links, where the presumably high costs could be justified. Obvious problems exist which need to be studied, such as mechanisms for ultra high speed modulation and detection of the signals. If the problems can be solved, the rewards are high. The optical ether idea suffers from bandwidth constraint problems. Adding factors of 10^6 – 10^10 on top of this may make a difference!


22nd century speculative sci-fi super-chemistry

Helium is unreactive, because it has two electrons in a shell that holds two electrons. It doesn’t want any more, and doesn’t want to lose any.

Well, stuff that! There could (and should) be a physical state where it shares those electrons with another atom. On checking the web, it turns out that in plasma conditions it can exist (excimer), though it isn’t much use in ordinary everyday life.

OK, so helium can be forced eventually to play, even if not especially nicely. What about carbon? Carbon has 4 electrons in its outer shell and wants 8 so is happy to form 4 covalent bonds with other atoms. So it is much nicer to play with than helium. However…..

Suppose, just suppose, that having shared its outer electrons, we can do some sort of sub-chemistry with its inner ones. OK, I know that isn’t quite the norm. What sort of thing would we have to do to make atoms engage in some sort of super-chemistry with their inner electron shells? Stupid question, possibly, but I am a futurologist, not a historian, (or a chemist) and know that old barriers don’t always last.

The reason I am interested in is that I am brainstorming new kinds of carbon materials, just for fun. We already have several allotropes with some great and useful properties. Diamond is quite strong, graphene is stronger, but a bit thin, so wouldn’t it be nice to have a 3D material like diamond but which has better bonds? I was drawing some pretty pics of graphene and noticed an optical illusion appearing, where it starts to look cubic, except that some of the lines are missing. Each point in a cubic array has 6 links, or bonds, not 4. Diamond has 4 , but if a super-diamond had 6, it might be better still.

So, we can get 4 carbon bonds with the outer electrons easily enough, but IF we could somehow get the two inner ones to play in some sort of virtual excimer as well … what should happen is that we could make a cubic form of carbon. Which, idly speculating, should exist as a sort of solid plasma. At very high temperatures, far beyond what diamond could cope with. Being able to withstand high forces at high temperatures, and conducting electricity, it would be possible to build one hell of a plasma rifle with it. Or an electron pipe that could carry a billion times higher data rates than optical fibre. http://thisshouldbeok.wordpress.com/2011/04/09/electron-pipe/

We can’t do it yet, but just for the record, you saw it here first.