a website collaboration between Science Service and the Smithsonian Institution

1963 - Curtis Potter aligns the photoparametric diode for a laboratory test


CD 1967015 E&MP44.146


September 11, 1963

The small, white dot framed behind the round lens is a new space communication device that can detect and amplify signals carried to it on less than one-billionth of a watt of light.

Developed at the Sperry Rand Research Center, the tiny transistor-like device can hike by 100 times the ability of space communication and radar systems to pick up the faintest signals beamed at them from light wave transmitters many millions of miles away.

Called a photoparametric diode, the pin head-sized device is a product of scientists' increasing success in sending information over light waves. In addition to its ultra-sensitivity to light, the diode boasts a frequency response so broad that it can detect and amplify super-high frequency microwave signals as well as low frequency voice signals.

In the photo above technician Curtis Potter aligns the device for a laboratory test.

In space, the diode would be the heart of a complete receiver as small as a matchbox. 

Original Caption by Science Service
Sperry Rand

National Museum of American History


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