I, for One, Welcome Our New Driverless Overlords

Driverless cars are now a thing! You aren’t likely to see one on your commute home tonight, but they are now out there. Testing is still underway, but it seems like we have finally cleared the last hurdle and they now have enough support that the technology is here to stay.

Some people love driving. Live for it even. I am not one of these people. I own a car because of the convenience and freedom it gives me. If someone told me that I could continue to enjoy those freedoms, while also never having to get behind the wheel again, I would say “YES!!!” in a split second. For me, driving has always been a source of anxiety and agitation. Yes, it can be nice to travel down a lovely country road on a sunny day, but that makes up about 1/100th of the driving experience. It’s mostly just stop and go, tedious, frustrating city and highway driving filled with equally bored and frustrated drivers anxious to get off the road and put up their feet at home.

Experts are predicting that we are only a few years from perfected self-driving cars, though the regulatory and logistic aspects will no doubt delay things for a bit more. But wouldn’t it be wonderful to finish a long day at work and spend the 30-45 minute trip home doing something fun and relaxing so that you can open your front door completely ready to put the day behind you?

Personally, I can’t wait. Machines don’t drive drunk or half-asleep, don’t play with their phones, and don’t have their kids distracting them. Human beings accomplish wonderful things, but we really don’t have a lot of good drivers out there. Time to let technology take over.

Google’s driverless car. By Flckr user jurvetson (Steve Jurvetson). Trimmed and retouched with PS9 by Mariordo [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Common Objects That Use Sputter Deposition

Ever heard of sputter deposition? Probably not, unless you work in manufacturing or studied engineering. But I guarantee you’re definitely familiar with some of the hundreds of important, everyday objects that are made possible thanks to sputter deposition.

Sputter deposition is a physical vapour deposition (PVD) technique. Essentially, it’s a way of coating an object with a thin, uniform layer of material. Sputter deposition works by forcing molecules from a source material (like aluminum or nickel) onto the surface of an object (known as the substrate) using a powerful magnetic field. There are a variety of PVD techniques for different applications, but sputter deposition is one of the most common.

Now that you know the basics, let’s look at some essential items that use sputter deposition.

Glass

Think of all the different glass coatings we use in our everyday lives. There’s the anti-reflective coating on your eyeglasses, the tinted glass on your car, and the Low-E coatings that make your window panes more energy-efficient. How did they get there? Magnetron sputtering!

Touch Screens

Just about every cell phone on earth now comes with a touch screen. We often think of touch screens as a simple piece of glass, but they’re really a lot more complicated than that.

Touch screens are made from two sheets of material coated with a resistive substance, like indium tin oxide (ITO). When you press down on the screen, the top sheet touches the bottom sheet and the resistive substances meet. This tells the touch screen control circuit where on the screen you are touching.

Those resistive surfaces are made possible thanks to a uniform sputtering of metal.

linear-sputter

Solar Technology

Solar technology uses something called photovoltaic materials to generate energy. These materials can absorb light photons and release electrons, converting light into energy at an atomic level.

Recently, solar technology has been moving in the direction of thin film solar panels rather than the traditional, rigid panels you’re used to seeing on rooftops. Thin film solar panels use a thin coating of photovoltaic materials, which allows for a new generation of thin-flexible solar panels. This is made possible thanks to —you guessed it — magnetron sputtering.

Want to learn more about sputter deposition? Check out an expert on sputter deposition — Angstrom Engineering is one located right here in Kitchener, Ontario.