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NEW MATERIALS FOR MANUFACTURING – Technology Quarterly @ The Economist.

The ability to understand the properties of materials at the tiniest scales not only lets people do old things better; it lets them do new things. In Edison’s day, using light to send messages was the province of the Aldis lamps that flashed messages in morse code from ship to ship. Laser diodes—semiconductor devices engineered to produce a much purer light than LEDs—can flicker on and off in a controlled way billions of times a second. In an astounding number of applications where information has to get from A to B—be those end points a DVD and a speaker, a bar code and a supermarket checkout or the two ends of a transatlantic fibre-optic cable—laser diodes are doing the work. For all its seeming abstraction, the virtual world is built on very real, very well-understood materials.

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Massive article, worth the read, get comfy-send-to-kindle.