Optoelectronics

Optoelectronics play a critical role in the electronics industry. At one end, it provides the isolation needed in industrial systems. At the other, optoelectronics enables the transmission of data around the world using fibre optic cables.

In this section, New Electronics keeps visitors up to date with developments in the optoelectronics market, covering topics ranging from optocouplers to lasers to infrared emitters.

Tracksure sensor system to transform rail networks

Monitoring the rail network is a costly and time consuming endeavour, but the University of Huddersfield’s Institute of Railway Research (IRR) has developed a new sensor system that could transform the way in which networks are maintained by turning rail vehicles into track monitors.

Technology to improve firefighter safety

Building fires are, by their very nature, inhospitable environments. The combination of heat, a potentially toxic atmosphere, poor visibility and an unstable building can have fatal consequences, so it’s no surprise to find out that technology is being brought to bear in an attempt to improve safety, particularly when it comes to communication with and location of firefighters committed to a building.

Choosing between PCAP and resistive touchscreen technologies

Resistive touchscreens are typically found in retail electronic point of sale (EPOS) devices and companies have traditionally used them in industry. These have several layers, including two thin transparent, electrically resistive layers, separated by a thin space. When an object such as a fingertip or stylus tip presses down on the outer surface, the two layers touch to become connected. These touchscreens simply need enough pressure for the touch to be sensed and can be used while wearing gloves or other personal protective equipment (PPE).

Affordable next generation clusters

Sophisticated graphics displays in the instrument cluster are a proven way for makers of premium vehicles to add consumer appeal and cachet to new high-end models of car. Audi has won rave reviews for its ‘Virtual Cockpit’ instrument cluster in the 2016 TT roadster.

CEMs engage in communication technology

The demand for better communications systems has grown exponentially in recent years and wireless communication technology is now truly pervasive, but the pace of the technology’s continual development presents Original Electronics Manufacturers (OEMs) with challenges.

The rise of the hyperscale data centre

The modern data centre is becoming more complex as it attempts to handle the proliferation in mobile devices and billions of newly connected devices, all of which are increasing the pressure on data infrastructure. Customer expectations have never been higher and they will expect a seamless level of service, even as the demand for data increases exponentially.

Focusing light on industry’s problems

One of the longest established such centres in the UK, the Institute of Photonics at the University of Strathclyde is working in optogenetics and neurophotonics, as well as more traditional areas such as solid state lasers.

Connector to combat passive inter modulation on mobile networks

Passive inter modulation – PIM – is ‘unwanted interference’ which tends to occur when two or more interacting signals either interfere with one another or are affected by outside interference. While PIM is not new, the development of Long Term Evolution (LTE), 4G and 5G generation networks means that it has become more important as an issue. These networks have proven to be far more vulnerable to the effects of PIM, as well as to other signalling problems.

Fighting fibre with G.Fast broadband

Offering really high speed fixed broadband to all who need it would seem to mandate rolling out optical fibre to the customers’ premises, according to the industry and a number of operators and equipment manufacturers are trying to show this is true - but only up to a point. They point to a bewildering array of technology and economic options for upgrading broadband networks, with emerging standards and technologies targeting legacy ‘last mile’ copper connections.

Maximising the potential of fibre optic communications

The Electronic and Electrical Engineering department at University College London (UCL) has been linked almost inextricably with the development of the communications industry. Professor Polina Bayvel, head of UCL’s Optical Networks Group (ONG), pictured below, explained: “It’s a special department; the first electronic and electrical engineering department in any UK university.”

Communicating data in the IoT

The Internet of Things is evolving to provide greater intelligence at the node, converting raw data into smart information. With less data to communicate, it becomes more cost-effective to integrate low power RF transceivers into the node module. Certification to wireless protocol standards ensures interoperability and the emergence of open tools will make support for these standards less onerous to developers.

Enabling robust data communications within a high voltage BMS

The primary purpose of the battery management system (BMS) is achieving reliability, performance and longevity of battery packs. As part of this, the battery management electronics measures each cell voltage and transmits this information to a central processor. For high voltage battery strings – such as is typical for automotive drivetrains –a modular distributed pack is an attractive choice. Battery modules can serve as the basic building block for multiple pack designs. Modules also allow for optimal weight distribution and maximum use of available space. The biggest challenge is the datalink required to operate the pack as a single unit.

New technologies widen touchscreen opportunities

A quiet revolution is taking place in the projected capacitive touchscreen market. Rapid industry developments are delivering touchscreens which are thinner, higher performance, more reliable and lower cost. The impetus behind many of these developments is the fact that indium tin oxide (ITO), the long standing conductive material of choice for phone and tablet touchscreens, has limitations and consequently is being superseded by alternative materials. ITO has never been widely used in large format AV and kiosk applications, but some of the technologies that are being developed to replace it could.

Addressing the need for ultra-small ambient light sensors in wearable products

In today’s wearable health and fitness market, where consumer electronic backlight displays continue to get thinner, having an ambient light sensor (ALS) capable of being integrated into the thinnest backlight displays is becoming ever more important to designers of these devices. The proliferation of cell phones and the demand for a better user experience has driven a higher adoption rate of ALS in touchscreen smartphones. In these display management applications, automatically controlling the backlight intensity with an ALS ensures the best possible user experience while extending battery life.

Can optical technology solve the high performance computing energy conundrum?

In summer 2015, US president Barack Obama signed an order intended to provide the country with an exascale supercomputer by 2025. The machine would be 30 times more powerful than today’s leading system: China’s Tianhe-2. Based on extrapolations of existing electronic technology, such a machine would draw close to 0.5GW – the entire output of a typical nuclear plant. It brings into question the sustainability of continuing down the same path for gains in computing.

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