To understand a Quick Response (QR) code and its power, you first need to get familiar with a regular bar code.
Bar codes are optical, machine-readable representations of data. This data is represented in a linear, or one-dimensional, fashion with each bar of a bar code embedded with certain information. The cumulative set of these bars provides a snapshot of factual data about the item that it is placed with a level of end-user interactivity that is limited. Data in bar codes is merely part of a brief, one-way knowledge exchange: how much does the item cost, who signed for the package; how much does the pallet weigh, etc.?
With QR codes, data can be embedded on a two-dimensional matrix – both vertically and horizontally. This arrangement allows much more storage per code – up to several hundred times the amount of data carried by ordinary bar codes. It also allows the flexibility of embedding different types of data, including those that encourage further information discovery and active engagement on the part of the user. For example, hotlinks to websites; contact information that can be stored, dialed or e-mailed by touch; sales material like menus with usable coupons; garden planting guides; movie reviews in video format; interactive maps and more can be readily and quickly accessed from devices (typically smart phones) with reader applications. This act of linking from a user’s device directly to physical world objects is called “object hyperlinking” or “hardlinking.”
A PRACTICAL BENEFIT OF A QR CODE CAN BE SEEN IN THIS SCENARIO
For a high school science class, each student is assigned a chemical element and told to explain all aspects about the element. One student is researching Oxygen, and collects almost everything he wants to include in his report, but is still looking for something unique. After a little extra digging, he comes across a poster of the periodic table where QR codes have been used to represent each element. He scans the code for Oxygen and goes directly to a documentary video clip from the University of Nottingham, giving him just the information he needs for his report. Want to know what he found? Scan the QR code in the image or check out “The Periodic Table of Videos” – a great collection of QR codes put to use.
Originally Published in Headline Discoveries
Consisting of a group of 15 lanthanide elements plus yttrium, the rare earth elements are all metals, grouped together on the periodic table due to their similar properties.
What sets these elements apart from others on the periodic table is the arrangement of their outer electrons. These electrons can change energy states and release visible light (fluorescence). They can absorb light or UV rays and re-emit the energy as a red or green glow. Additionally, many of the elements of this group have strong magnetic properties. When alloyed with other metals, the result is a very compact, yet strong, magnet.
It is these two main properties that have made these elements highly desirable in the production of today’s high technology devices.
Color televisions use europium and yttrium oxides to produce red colors and praseodymium and neodymium to reduce glare on screens. Cameras and binoculars with optical lenses are made with lanthanum oxide while other lanthanide compounds are used in high-intensity lighting and even street lights.
Because of their rich and varied optical properties, rare earth elements are used in glazes for earthenware (adding erbium oxide produces a pink lemonade hue). Europium, the most visible of all the rare earth elements, emits blue and red light when added to phosphors used in the production of computer monitors (even those in small, personal devices such as iPods and cell phones).
Their magnetic property has made them useful in green technology as well. Wind turbines use lanthanide-flecked supermagnets to generate electricity. Auto engines are being made more efficient by using an iron alloy of terbium and dysprosium. This blend expands and contracts efficiently in the presence of a magnetic field, helping sensors, actuators and injectors to perform better. Car batteries used in electric-powered vehicles also rely heavily on rare earth elements.
The technology explosion of the past two decades has seen a rise in demand for rare earth elements. These elements are mined in many areas around the world, including countries such as Brazil, India, China, Vietnam, the United States, Nigeria and Canada. Currently, China has the largest operations available for the mining and processing of rare earth elements. It is expected that more operations will be developed around the world in the near future as demand for high-technology devices rises and because future uses are being explored in fields such as laser technology, telecommunications and medical diagnostics.
Originally Published in Headline Discoveries
I'm April Bailey, a freelance writer and editor for hire who has been writing about various topics for many years. Most of my early print work was destroyed in a major house fire. Luckily, I was able to pull some copies from an old PC and have posted them here. Other items on this blog reflect my current articles and blog posts written for online publications and copied here so I never lose my work again!