Sunday, July 13, 2008

JJNN Sunday: Leftovers - 01

Welcome again to JJNN for Sunday July 13th, 2008. Today is the day where I talk about any news story that I didn't pick up any other time during the week.

This story is a technology story. The actual story is given here. Matsuda Denko and a team from Tokyo's University of Agriculture and Technology came together to develop a new type of fluorescent lamp that does not rely on a electrical discharge to produce light.

I think everyone has seen if not used fluorescent lamps. These are the type of bulbs that start to flicker when they are about to go out and get really really annoying. These bulbs work by electrical discharge. Basically one side of the long bulb is positive and the other side is negative. After you flip the switch to turn on the bulb charges start to store up on either side of the bulb. There is one thing everyone has to know about electricity, if charges can jump they will jump. After a critical point the charges jump, like the firing of a giant spark plug. This excites the mercury gas which is stored in the bulb. After the mercury gas gets excited it wants to drop back down into it's unexcited state and it does this by releasing UV light. The phosphor on the inside of the bulb gets hit by this UV light and it gets excited as well. The phosphor, like the mercury, wants to drop back down into its unexcited state and it does that by releasing visible light.

That's all well and good, but let's think about this for a second. The bulb depends on a huge electrical discharge to produce light. Huge discharges are not very safe. Also, the inside of the bulb has mercury gas. That is not very healthy for anyone that happens to be around when a bulb breaks open. And if a bulb does break watch out for the phosphor on the inside of the tube as well. All in all, it is not a very safe way to light your house.

This is where Matsuda Denko comes in. They thought of a new way to make a light bulb. The basic idea can be seen in the picture below.

This new type of bulb (OK, so it's not a bulb but more of a sheet of light) is produced used something called a "nano-silicon battery." Well, this is an isn't a real battery. The nano (which just means really really small) silicon device can not actually store any energy, but it will release a lot of high energy electrons when a current is passed over it. The electrons be produced in a unit that contains xenon gas. Xenon gas is chemically inert and safe for humans. When the gas gets excited by the high energy electrons get excited like the mercury gas in the fluorescent bulbs. The xenon releases UV which hits a fluorescent substance. This gets excited and releases visible light.

I would like to see where this will end up going. It looks like the "bulbs" are actually strips of light. That means that we could light a room just by glueing (or otherwise attaching) strips to the tops of walls and other such places. Depending on the flexibility of the bulb (though I have no reason to think it will be flexible) it could be used in many interesting places.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 水銀(すいぎん). It is pronounced suigin and means mercury. I remember one year working in the physic department there was a minor mercury spill. The surface tension of mercury is so high that is naturally makes a ball when it is out of a container. It was fun chasing those small beads of mercury around.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

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