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Return of the Vacuum Tube

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the and-it-only-wants-revenge dept.

Science 313

sciencehabit writes "Peer inside an antique radio and you'll find what look like small light bulbs. They're actually vacuum tubes — the predecessors of the silicon transistor. Vacuum tubes went the way of the dinosaurs in the 1960s, but researchers have now brought them back to life, creating a nano-sized version that's faster and hardier than the transistor (abstract). It's even able to survive the harsh radiation of outer space."

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313 comments

Gives a whole new meaning... (5, Funny)

Toe, The (545098) | about a year ago | (#40093591)

...to the phrase "a series of tubes."

Re:Gives a whole new meaning... (2)

Moheeheeko (1682914) | about a year ago | (#40093657)

To quote the now very happy Space Pirates:

"TUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUBES!"

Re:Gives a whole new meaning... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40093727)

In Future Soviet Russia, vacuum tubes deprecate YOU!

Soviet Russia (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40094453)

When Viktor Belenko defected to Japan with a MiG-25 fighter jet in 1976 (state of the art Russian aircraft back then, meant to counter our F-15) it was discovered that most of the electronics onboard the aircraft were built with micro-miniature vacuum tubes! The reason being that the fighter jet was designed for presumably nuclear war situations, and the Russians wanted to ensure that EMPs from nuclear explosions would not permanently damage the electronics, so the aircraft could still fly and fight even after exposure to any nearby nuclear explosions that were still distant enough to not physically destroy the aircraft.

Sweet (4, Funny)

Hatta (162192) | about a year ago | (#40093605)

Now I can have a tube amp in my mp3 player.

Re:Sweet (2)

aix tom (902140) | about a year ago | (#40093771)

Dang. Have to undo botched moderation so I have to come up with a moderately witty reply. ;-)
So, how about:

Yeah, you can. But the backpack with the cooling system might get heavy.

Re:Sweet (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about a year ago | (#40093863)

You laugh, but I would *love* to have an AM radio in my MP3 player. So far I have not found any..... now maybe with microtubes, it will be possible.

Re:Sweet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40094005)

Just think about the marketing possibilities for those premium price, portable high-end flac and mp3 players. Finally they might have a tube based headphone amplifiers.

Re:Sweet (3, Interesting)

Dogtanian (588974) | about a year ago | (#40093983)

Now I can have a tube amp in my mp3 player.

Well, they released a motherboard around a decade back with integrated vacuum tube based audio. [neoseeker.com]

I remembered this as being a separate soundcard, but I couldn't find reference to anything like that online, so I might have been wrong. Still, given that onboard audio isn't- or at least wasn't back then- generally considered to be the best (i.e. not what the audiophiles would have gone for), this seems like a strange mix. As if the valve/tube-based PCI card wouldn't have been weird enough, mind you. :-)

Re:Sweet (2)

jiriw (444695) | about a year ago | (#40094141)

MP3 player? I want a Pip-boy with 'em tiny tubes!

And a reservation for a room in Vault 101 to go with it.

Playing (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40093631)

How will these affect my guitar tone?

Amps (5, Informative)

Aeros (668253) | about a year ago | (#40093633)

These are still widely used in some of the best amps out there.

Re:Amps (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40093779)

Yeah, but from an audiophile perspective its not just the use of tubes, it's the combination of the components used and the characteristics of them individually and as a whole which contribute to the pleasing tube sound. The "sag" added by the big power transformers required to develop the plate voltages being one example. And are the tubes runnin' as hot as they should be?

Too often musical instrument companies slap tubes in something small as a gimmick, but it ain't gonna do much for your sound unless you can drive those tubes at the maximum plate voltages for that punchy, harmonically rich, real tube sound.

Don't forget that various forms of vaccuum tubes (Klystron, TWT, etc.) have always been preferred in high-power applications because of their signal fidelity at high-power.

-- Ethanol-fueled

Reel to reels as well (4, Informative)

John3 (85454) | about a year ago | (#40093781)

And they are used in some of the best old-school reel-to-reel recorders. I don't know if they are making new components with tubes, but older tube pre-amps for Ampex and Scully tape recorders are prized by some audiophiles for their "warm" sound. They are also great for creating distortion...over-driving tube pre-amps creates some nice distortion effects which digital components would just clip.

But (and I'm speaking as someone who has been out of radio and audio for many years...I own a hardware store), from what I've seen and heard there are some pretty awesome digital programs that can duplicate nearly any pre-amp ever made. Based on what my daughter can do with her Mac (Protools, FInale, etc) I am pretty impressed at the sounds that can be processed even in a home environment with no need for tubes.

On the other hand, my tube pre-amps do keep the basement warm. :)

Re:Amps (5, Insightful)

EdZ (755139) | about a year ago | (#40093905)

Most expensive, maybe, but best? Not if your goal is a transparent amplifier: one that takes an input, and reproduces that output as accurately as possible with a higher amplitude. Valves suck at this. An entire branch of mathematics (control theory) was developed to compensate for the horrendous non-linearities of vacuum tubes.

You may like the distortions produced by tube amps (or transistor amps outputting those same distortions via DSP), but don't pretend they're better at reproducing sound. They are demonstrably not.

Re:Amps (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40094281)

The comment you are responding to is most likely referring to guitar amps... at least that's how I am reading it. Guitar amplifiers in general are not designed to accurately amplify the unaltered sound of the instrument plugged into it, but to intentionally add color. If you correlate 'best' with 'highest priced'... you are indeed in the highly respected, high quality boutique tube amp market.

Re:Amps (2, Insightful)

Panoptes (1041206) | about a year ago | (#40094467)

Tubes (or valves, as they were known in the UK) had one big quality advantaqe - noise level. A valve amplifer could produce dead silence: tranny amplifiers, even the best, had a faint but audible slushy hiss.

Re:Amps (3, Informative)

Alien Being (18488) | about a year ago | (#40094599)

You have that backwards. Tubes are inherently more linear than transistors. Transistors have small ranges of linear operation and require complex bias control and feedback for audio use. In addition, the harmonic distortion of tubes is primarily even-order which sounds smoother than the odd-order harmonic distortion of transistors.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valve_amplifier#Advantages [wikipedia.org]

Re:Amps (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40094363)

I'll fix that for you; These are still widely used in some of the most ridiculously expensive amps out there, mostly used for bragging and showing off

Re:Amps (4, Interesting)

Zordak (123132) | about a year ago | (#40094569)

<memorylane> One of my lab partners in my EE Lab class played bass guitar. He wanted a tube pre-amp, but didn't want to spend $1,000 for it. So we built one as our lab project. We pulled a transformer out of an old Hammond organ, pulled tubes out of some old random stuff in a cabinet in the lab, threw in a pair of 12,000 uF caps, and four ceramic diodes for the rectifier. Then we had to code our own SPICE model for the tube so we could simulate it. That was one stout amp. Except the transformer put out a really unstable power waveformm, so one of our ceramic diodes exploded (tripping a breaker and taking out power in that wing), which was actually kind of cool. But we had to find a different transformer. Another time I accidentally grounded the 600-V node, which blew a big hole in our trace line and evaporated the solder off of one of our caps. The edges of the trace line survived, so we soldered the cap back in, powered it up, and it worked great. It was perfect except we were never able to get rid of the 60 Hz hum when it was plugged in. If you unplugged it, you could play for about a minute before the caps drained, and it sounded spectacular.</memorylane>

I miss those days. Now I just sit around writing patents and pleadings all day.

Vacuum tubes have never left! (5, Interesting)

mpoulton (689851) | about a year ago | (#40093643)

Almost every TV broadcast transmitter and most FM radio broadcast transmitters still use vacuum tubes for the high power output stages. Every microwave oven uses a vacuum tube to produce the microwaves. Most radar transmitters use vacuum tubes for the output stages, and often for signal generation too. The fact is that semiconductors have simply not been able to catch up to vacuum tubes for high power applications at UHF frequencies and above. 1960's technology still reigns supreme.

Re:Vacuum tubes have never left! (1, Informative)

Ihmhi (1206036) | about a year ago | (#40093759)

Don't forget guitar amps. You're not gonna get the same aesthetics out of silicon. The best amps all pretty much use vacuum tubes.

Re:Vacuum tubes have never left! (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40093811)

Uh... Microwave ovens use a magnetron http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microwave_oven#Design

I've repaired many a Microwave ovens and I have never seen any vacuum tubes.

Nathan

Re:Vacuum tubes have never left! (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40093927)

Uh... Microwave ovens use a magnetron http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microwave_oven#Design [wikipedia.org] I've repaired many a Microwave ovens and I have never seen any vacuum tubes.

Too smart for your own good. A magnetron [wikipedia.org] is a vacuum tube [wikipedia.org]. Not all vacuum tubes are transparent. Hell, the "vacuum tube" in the article has neither a tube or a vacuum!

Re:Vacuum tubes have never left! (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40093935)

As long as we're quoting Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cavity_magnetron
The cavity magnetron is a high-powered vacuum tube that generates microwaves using the interaction of a stream of electrons with a magnetic field.

Re:Vacuum tubes have never left! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40093977)

A magnetron IS a vacuum tube... (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetron)

Re:Vacuum tubes have never left! (4, Informative)

digitig (1056110) | about a year ago | (#40093989)

Uh... Microwave ovens use a magnetron http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microwave_oven#Design [wikipedia.org]

I've repaired many a Microwave ovens and I have never seen any vacuum tubes.

Nathan

Indeed they do use magnetrons. And to quote from the first line of the Wikipedia article on magnetrons" [google.co.uk] "The cavity magnetron is a high-powered vacuum tube..." (my emphasis). Do you repair the microwaves with your eyes closed?

Re:Vacuum tubes have never left! (-1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about a year ago | (#40093943)

>>>Every microwave oven uses a vacuum tube to produce the microwaves.

Really? When I opened my microwave to replace a burned-out bulb, there was no tube in there. Just an exposed element which (I presume) emits the microwaves. I bet no-tube is standard for ovens. ----- And I think you mean 1890s technology.

Re:Vacuum tubes have never left! (2)

Pentium100 (1240090) | about a year ago | (#40094099)

The device that produces the microwaves is called a magnetron and is a vacuum tube (vacuum tubes do not have to be made of glass, in fact, a lot of early vacuum tubes used in radios were metal).

Re:Vacuum tubes have never left! (-1, Offtopic)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about a year ago | (#40094545)

Thanks for modding me down jackass. You could have INFORMED me of that fact without punishing me with a -1 whip. (And if it wasn't you, then I direct my comment to the other fucker that did it.)

Re:Vacuum tubes have never left! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40094585)

You've retroactively earned it.

Re:Vacuum tubes have never left! (-1, Troll)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about a year ago | (#40094665)

>>>You've retroactively earned it.

Burj in hell tuerhf cufiekr. and STOP PSOTUNG under anonymnous cowerard. Post under your own Id aso wwe fna mod you dowsn and destro6y oyurt kdarm a, yous tudpic ock-0suck,ign BACATrrd,.

Re:Vacuum tubes have never left! (4, Informative)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | about a year ago | (#40093991)

1960's?

The amplifying triode vacuum tube was invented near 1907.
The transistor itself in 1947.

Re:Vacuum tubes have never left! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40094357)

1960 was around when the patent for integrated circuits was filed.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Kilby.

Re:Vacuum tubes have never left! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40094027)

I think "vacuum tube" in this case means the tubes that semiconductor diodes, transistors and the like, replaced.

Re:Vacuum tubes have never left! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40094153)

I am unsure why this is, and maybe you can enlighten me.

At low power levels (e.g. <10kw) transistorised VHF/UHF output amplifiers are fine. Additionally, you can get a higher power output by operating multiple VHF/UHF output amplifiers in parallel - which also gives some redundancy for transmitter maintenance.

So, why not combine dozens (or hundreds) of transistor output stages to get the equivalent of a single valve-based amplifier? That way, you get the same output power, but you never need to replace any burned-out tubes.

I know that major TV and radio transmitters are still using valves, and in some cases this is making the transmitters very hard to maintain as the parts are no longer manufactured (c.f. BBC Droitwich), so I really don't get why the transistor revolution isn't yet complete.

Oh, and another thing. HVDC substations replaced their mercury valve rectifiers many years ago because new silicon-based technology could do the same job, at the same power level, with much less hassle. That's a higher level of power than broadcasting.

Re:Vacuum tubes have never left! (3, Informative)

Pentium100 (1240090) | about a year ago | (#40094627)

So, why not combine dozens (or hundreds) of transistor output stages to get the equivalent of a single valve-based amplifier? That way, you get the same output power, but you never need to replace any burned-out tubes.

Because then the circuit would be much more complex (the need for matching all the small transmitters so they all work well in parallel) and a failed transistor could result in a lot of failed transistors. Tube circuits are simpler and tubes can tolerate overloads better.

Oh, and another thing. HVDC substations replaced their mercury valve rectifiers many years ago because new silicon-based technology could do the same job, at the same power level, with much less hassle. That's a higher level of power than broadcasting.

As the result of a rectifier is DC, it is simpler to combine a lot of smaller components in parallel and they dissipate less power than a transmitter would (since the output devices have to operate in linear mode in a transmitter, while they are on or off in a rectifier)

But in outer space... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40093673)

aren't they just called "tubes"?

Re:But in outer space... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40093753)

I believe they become pressure vessels.

Re:But in outer space... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40093789)

Perhaps, but owing to their legacy use as analogs of the modern transistor, the Brits call them "valves." Hook a bunch of these nano-valves up to the interweb pipes and see what happens.

Re:But in outer space... (1)

jslarve (1193417) | about a year ago | (#40093813)

Not a good enough vacuum (particles, gasses, solar wind, etc)

Re:But in outer space... (4, Informative)

compro01 (777531) | about a year ago | (#40094063)

No, space is a far far harder vacuum than anything we can currently manage on-planet.

A vacuum tube still has between 1 million to 1 billion molecules per cubic centimetre, depending on tolerances. The best vacuum we can currently make has about 100k molecules per cubic centimetre.

Interplanetary space has about 10. Interstellar space has about 1. Intergalactic space has about 1 per cubic metre (10,000 cubic centimetres).

Re:But in outer space... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40094497)

> 1 per cubic metre (10,000 cubic centimetres).

1,000,000 cc

Re:But in outer space... (2)

Ihmhi (1206036) | about a year ago | (#40093831)

And if we could align them in a series, we'd have Internet in space! BRILLIANT!

Search for drugs in airports? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40093677)

The technology could therefore be used at airports to safely scan for illicit drugs, for instance.

Why do people aim so low? I would love a terrahertz processor... war on drugs? what a waste.

But will they be able to run Linux? (0)

Razgorov Prikazka (1699498) | about a year ago | (#40093679)

Sorry, making the mandatory remark here. :-)

Re:But will they be able to run Linux? (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about a year ago | (#40093877)

It's not mandatory. It's also not applicable to components.

Re:But will they be able to run Linux? (0)

Razgorov Prikazka (1699498) | about a year ago | (#40094349)

It remains mandatory and as of the whole of the post, it is intended humoristic. A clue to that is the so-called 'smiley', a combination of a colon, a dash and a bracket at the end of the sentence.
But, you're right, it's not applicable to individual components.
When these are made into a contraption capable of processing however, I will make this remark again. :-)

Re:But will they be able to run Linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40093979)

Or blend?

News for who? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40093681)

"Peer inside an antique radio and you'll find what look like small light bulbs. They're actually vacuum tubes — the predecessors of the silicon transistor. Vacuum tubes went the way of the dinosaurs in the 1960s,

Umm, what? Is that needed? Half of the summary is full of information nerds already know. Dumbing down of /. stories again? Is this part of the broader plan to make this site more appealing to PHBs and business intelligence analysts? :( /sorry bad day here

Re:News for who? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40093931)

When I was a kid you could still find DIY tube testing machines at your local drug store. Though, even then both the corner drug store and tubes were on their way out.

A teenager reading Slashdot today is not likely to be familiar with how early electronics were cobbled together with glass, wires, metal plates, and high voltages. Indeed I'm amazed that engineers were able to get something as impressive as NTSC color television to work with nothing but vacuum tubes.

Re:News for who? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40094007)

Dude, really, relax and take some prozac or ritlin or something. The sumarizer only did a C&P of the first paragraph of the article. You wanna get any more in-depth than the basics, go RTFA. Sure, the poster could have been a bit more original and less mass-markety but at least he got the post out there. You wanna add brains to the front page, go out there, read some pertinent scientific articles, and submit a summary to your level of quality. Many of us don't have the time to complete a High Quality write-up, but we want to make sure the information gets on here, so we slap a C&P, hit submit, and go back to our business.

Disclaimer: I am not the submitter of this summary.

Re:News for who? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40094201)

I believe that anyone younger than 30 now stands a damn good chance of never seeing a vacuum tube or even know of their existance.

You are the idiot.

Re:News for who? (1)

dyingtolive (1393037) | about a year ago | (#40094577)

I'm 28 and I've seen my grandfather's old television repair kit from "the good ol' days". Thing is full of them. Having that been said, I've never actually PERSONALLY had a vacuum tube TV.

500 GHz (2)

Dr. Tom (23206) | about a year ago | (#40093729)

low power, high frequency, rugged, ... I say, these things might be useful

Re:500 GHz (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40094373)

As they are the complete contrary of actual vacuum tubes,
i believe the will sound like shit in an amplifier...

Re:500 GHz (1)

ninjackn (1424235) | about a year ago | (#40094491)

Low power? Maybe compared to traditional vacuum tubes. TFA says the nano vacuum tubes have a threshold voltage of 10V. Modern FETs are a magnitude less.

Old is new (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40093761)

Whats old gets new again, whats new gets old. Keep seeing all these whippersnappers nowadays wearing the same clothes I wore years ago. Get off my lawn!!

Re:Old is new (1)

Dutchmaan (442553) | about a year ago | (#40093815)

I saw a kid the other day wearing the *exact same* Members Only jacket that I wore in middle school in the 80's... I felt a mix of surprise and sadness... with just a touch of annoyance.

Re:Old is new (5, Funny)

SomeJoel (1061138) | about a year ago | (#40093837)

Keep seeing all these whippersnappers nowadays wearing the same clothes I wore years ago.

You should have thought of that before you donated them.

condescend much? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40093777)

They're actually vacuum tubes

I hardly think that people on a techie site (either this one or the one with TFA) have to be told what tubes are. It hasn't been THAT long since tube testers were around in drug stores, and even if you're too young to remember that, you at least have SEEN devices with tubes and know what the hell they're for.

Umm... right? Right?

Integrated Circuits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40093847)

RCA developed a thermionic integrated circuit in the late 50s. An entire electronic device with dozens of "tubes" inside a single glass envelope.

Ahistoric Hyperbole Rant Warning (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40093851)

Vacuum tubes did not go the way of the dinosaur in the 1960's. The 60's were just the beginning of the end. You could still buy vacuum tubes in the late 70's and early 80's. I have distinct memories of the tube tester kiosk (lots and lots of sockets) at our local K-Mart in Arlington, TX.

The failure mode was almost always the heater element burning out. So you'd just look for the one that didn't glow, pull it out, and take it to the store and buy a new one, just like getting a replacement oil filter for the car.

Vacuum tubes have always been radiation-hardened due to their large size and high voltages; typical supply voltage is 300 V.

Also, I call bullshit on the speed of electrons being a factor. It's the speed of the electromagnetic wave that matters, and light travels at light speed (which is around 2*10^8 m/s in copper).

And seriously, NASA and the military jumping on this? With what money? Both have switched to commercial off-the-shelf components for a lot of their work, and there isn't the budget to make custom chips like the old days. There's not enough volume there to get the kind of low prices from mass production you get for consumer gear, so this would only lead to more stories of "NASA's wasting taxpayer money buying $50000 computers that are less powerful than your desktop."

Ranting aside, the most amusing thing about this technology? It's what they used in the Lensman series.

Re:Ahistoric Hyperbole Rant Warning (5, Informative)

scharkalvin (72228) | about a year ago | (#40094029)

Actually an open heater was NOT the way most tubes died. The coating on the cathode that emits electrons when heated gradually decays and emission drops off to the point that the tubes transconductance is too low for it to operate. But the heater rarely burns out, at least not in indirectly heated tubes. Another way they die is that air gradually leaks in and the vacuum becomes too poor. The silver flashing on the side of the tube will then turn a milky white as the chemical "getter" that absorbs air has absorbed all that it can. Once the getter coating is depleted the tube will become gassy. A tube can also die from shorts when closely spaced elements break loose from vibration and touch. Over heating will soften the elements and cause the same effect. Tubes can handle a much higher percent of overload than solid state devices however. Tubes computers were never faster than solid state ones even if the tubes themselves were faster. Because of their size the total wiring in a tube computer is much longer than in a solid state system. In transistors it is the "holes" in the crystal structure that "move" and the speed of light in silicon is lower than in a vacuum for electromagnetic waves. Still these waves have less distance to propergate in an IC than a bunch of interconnnected tubes. Finally note the description of this new tube technology, it is really a "vacuum state" IC. I always wondered when nanotechnology would be applied to thermionic "valves" (as they say across the "pond").

Re:Ahistoric Hyperbole Rant Warning (2)

Pentium100 (1240090) | about a year ago | (#40094207)

I have a few devices that use vacuum tubes and I have not encountered a tube that heats up but does not work due to low emissions. They all either work acceptably or not light up at all (a tube full of air also does not light up, at least from the nominal heater voltage). Maybe in the USSR made tubes the heater is the first to go.

Then again, I do not have a tube tester (always planning to build one, but always find something better to do), so maybe most of the tubes in my devices have really low emission, but the devices work OK, so I don't bother replacing the tubes with unused ones to see if the performance changes.

Re:Ahistoric Hyperbole Rant Warning (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40094419)

>In transistors it is the "holes" in the crystal structure that "move"
Incorrect. The carrier could be holes or electrons depending if it is the P type or the N type.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bipolar_junction_transistor#NPN
>To allow for greater current and faster operation, most bipolar transistors used today are NPN because electron mobility is higher than hole mobility.

Re:Ahistoric Hyperbole Rant Warning (1)

evil_aaronm (671521) | about a year ago | (#40094051)

and light travels at light speed (which is around 2*10^8 m/s in copper).

Um, light travels in copper? How's that work?

light, not necessarily visible (1)

Chirs (87576) | about a year ago | (#40094437)

"light" is another term for "electromagnetic radiation"

Although one could quibble about whether or not a EM radiation travels in a copper wire, and technically the speed of progagation of the signal in a copper wire is roughly 0.96c while in a coax cable it's more like 0.66c.

Interesting (1)

Bob-taro (996889) | about a year ago | (#40093879)

It mentions that the scale of these things is 150nm, which sounds pretty large compared to modern cpu features. Still, it's a very interesting development.

They never went away. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40093893)

I regularly travel for business to east asia, and over there you can just walk to an electronic store and buy a radio with vacuum tubes. and you can also buy brand new replacements in the cheap. While in Russia I bought a tube russian amp head for a friend. And my friend swears it sounds better than a marshall amp head.

Re:They never went away. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40094297)

east asia. we have always been at war with them.

Not really a vacuum tube (2)

eclectro (227083) | about a year ago | (#40093965)

There is 1) no vacuum and 2) there is no "tube." While there is an electron emitter, this device should be called a MOSFET.

Make them yourself! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40093973)

Learn how to make them yourself:

http://dangerousprototypes.com/2012/05/03/homebrew-electronic-tubes

Remember this? (1)

neros1x (2492908) | about a year ago | (#40094003)

I wanted to build a HTPC around this mobo back in the day:http://www.retrothing.com/2007/07/vacuum-tube-pc-.html, but AOpen didn't continue it for very long. Maybe now someone will bring it back.

Outer space is not the limit (4, Interesting)

Cochonou (576531) | about a year ago | (#40094009)

From a radiation engineering point of view, outer space is not the most stringent environment. It is actually significantly more forgiving than a lot of useful earth orbits or the radiation belts of the gas giants (but of course, you can hardly replace a failed transistor in space...).
These "vacum tube like" diamond field emission devices have shown radiation tolerance from 10 to 100 Mrad (1 MGy in SI units), so we are more talking about the levels required for operation in nuclear reactors or close to the beam of particle accelerators.

TFS (-1, Flamebait)

cffrost (885375) | about a year ago | (#40094035)

sciencehabit writes

"Peer inside an antique radio and you'll find what look like small light bulbs. They're actually vacuum tubes — the predecessors of the silicon transistor.

Thanks for talking to us like we're a bunch of fucking Luddite ignoramuses. I guess we are, compared to you, since you have a "science habit," and we're just a pack of morons, amirite?

Vacuum tubes went the way of the dinosaurs in the 1960s [...]

Wrong. If you're going to be act like a goddamn know-it-all, at least get your facts straight.

Re:TFS (2)

thestudio_bob (894258) | about a year ago | (#40094125)

Vacuum tubes went the way of the dinosaurs in the 1960s [...]

Wrong. If you're going to be act like a goddamn know-it-all, at least get your facts straight.

Hey, it's ok cffrost. Just calm down.

We all know dinosaurs still exist.

Vacuum tubes? NOTHING to see here; move along. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40094059)

Vacuum tubes? NOTHING to see here; move along.

Vacuum tubes are very much alive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40094085)

The article makes it seem like tubes have gone the way of the dinosaur. While they may have disappeared from consumer electronics, they are quite well in the world of hi-fi audio, as well as electric guitar amplification due to their dynamics, distortion, and harmonic characteristics compared to transistors.

Just walk into a Guitar Center and any of the amps worth their salt there will be full of tubes in the preamp and poweramp. Heck, there are $2000+, digital processors designed to specifically mimick the distortion characteristics of vacuum tube circuits. While tubes are a bad idea compared to transistors for modern electronics, when it comes to audio there are still clear advantages.

Re:Vacuum tubes are very much alive (2)

epyT-R (613989) | about a year ago | (#40094393)

If you're' looking for that 'classic' sound with its harmonic distortions, then yes.. if you're looking for accurate sound, then no.

these "news" are off by some 10 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40094139)

In university I heard such "news" from my lecturer. That was more than 10 years ago.

Obligatory science fiction reference... (3, Interesting)

dpilot (134227) | about a year ago | (#40094227)

"Tales of the Flying Mountains" by Poul Anderson

It's a collection of short stories about the "Asteriod Republic" wrapped in a frame of the first interstellar flight. One of the stories features a military vessel whose electronics were built with "TEMMs" - Thermionic Emission Micro-Miniaturized - featured for its radiation hardness.

O... M... G... (3, Interesting)

JamesP (688957) | about a year ago | (#40094331)

The article is painful in some aspects

Electrons move more slowly in a solid than in a vacuum, which means transistors are generally slower than vacuum tubes; as a result, computing isn't as quick as it could be.

I'm flabbergasted.

Meyyappan, who co-developed the "nano vacuum tube," says it is created by etching a tiny cavity in phosphorous-doped silicon. The cavity is bordered by three electrodes: a source, a gate, and a drain. The source and drain are separated by just 150 nanometers, while the gate sits on top. Electrons are emitted from the source thanks to a voltage applied across it and the drain, while the gate controls the electron flow across the cavity

This is really a vacuum tube if you add a high dose of immagination. Really

The separation of the source and drain is so small that the electrons stand very little chance of colliding with atoms in the air

Makes me wonder if tunneling plays a part here

Television circuit boards: 1975 (1)

michaelmalak (91262) | about a year ago | (#40094463)

Vacuum tubes went the way of the dinosaurs in the 1960s

Cutting the summary writer some slack, ignoring audiophile amps, ignoring guitar amps, ignoring microwave ovens, ignoring broadcast equipment, and even ignoring cathode ray tubes (which still outnumbered flat panel sales through 2004), consumer television sets didn't go "solid state" until 1975 (I remember it being a big deal to have the "solid state" badge on the front of a new-fangled TV because it meant you didn't have to wait (as long) for it to warm up).

What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40094499)

No "nanotube" comments?

That makes my house Jurassic Park (1)

marxzed (1075971) | about a year ago | (#40094515)

Three valve/tube loaded guitar and bass amps means I've got a dozen or so "Dinosaurs" living in my lounge room. Not like they are relics either two of the amps are post 2000 designed and built units (Blackstars).

The Tube Dance (3, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | about a year ago | (#40094593)

When I was a young kid, my mother would fix the TV by pulling out all of the TV tubes, wrapping them in news pages, and then carrying them all down-town to a big drug store which had a coin-operated tube-tester machine. She'd plug them into the matching slots one by one and see which ones were good and which were sour. I couldn't help her because I was too short.

Then she'd go to the back of the store to find matches for the sour tubes based on the codes printed on the tube slots. (Often the label was worn/cooked off the tube itself such that the slot labels on the tester were the only way to tell.)

I'd generally consider her a "technophobe", but she did it in a very routine fashion as if she'd done it dozens of times before. People just got used to tubes back then.

At least TV's were partly repairable. Now the repair costs are often more than a new TV. Oh, and Get off my lawn!

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