LEDs wonder

I attended a series of microscopy workshops this week. The imaging technology has advanced a lot over the years.

It is nice to see scientific theories put to practical use. For example the physics of total internal reflection. We learnt in secondary school that when light hits an object and the incidence angle is larger than its critical angle, total internal reflection is achieved. At the same time an evanescent wave is released. I never understood what good can the evanescent wave be used.  Now engineers figured it can be used in microscope to image cell surfaces, which is very useful to study membrane trafficking.

My trainer was explaining how LED is now used to illuminate the sample, replacing traditional filament bulb. LED switches on and off more quickly and it emits less heat than filament bulb. He then made a comment that intrigued me. He commented this LED technology was made possible thanks to car makers like Audi and Mercedes. These car makers have developed the LEDs so bright that it can be used as car headlights.

Quite unbelievable huh?  I would have expected the microscope companies to be the one who developed the technology, since they basically study light and its properties. But I guess the car markers like Audi was determined to have their signature LED headlight design on the cars which drove them to develop the technology.

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Technology: Print me a Stradivarius | The Economist

How a new manufacturing technology will change the world
Feb 10th 2011 | from the print edition

THE industrial revolution of the late 18th century made possible the mass production of goods, thereby creating economies of scale which changed the economy—and society—in ways that nobody could have imagined at the time. Now a new manufacturing technology has emerged which does the opposite. Three-dimensional printing makes it as cheap to create single items as it is to produce thousands and thus undermines economies of scale. It may have as profound an impact on the world as the coming of the factory did.

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