Some of the old Vacuum pumps used mercury. It is too far off topic on APUG but their are a few hardy folks who have built there own tubes/Valves.
Originally Posted by michaelbsc
The existing commercial makers of Tubes tend to be from China and Russia and exist mainly on the Guitar market, often using tooling that was designed for Soviet Military production.
I would guess that the level of technology required to make a Black and White paper, and to make a vacuum tube are on the same order of magnitude. Unlike Film making, there is the posibilty to find the machinery that used to be used to rebuild Picture Tubes for B&W TV sets. The smallest setups would fit in a double garage and conatin the "tricky bits.
As far as Film, I an crossing my fingers taht one of Foma or Ilford can hold on and successfully downsize or diversify to fit the market.
I still live just beyond the fringe in Stittsville
The vaccum tube analogy is a good one. We looked at a related technology - ribbon microphones - that were also obsolete and came up with acoustic nanofilm to finally make them manufacturable and durable, and sound better, and made a bundle. Ham radio was a big part of the knowledge base that made it possible.
Light sensitive photonic nanomaterials are a hot area today and are in their infancy. Silver based photography is the original photonic nanomaterial. Light sensitive material science is in its earliest stage today.
I visited Ilford two months ago, and TIP too. Both are fine places with excellent people, mostly serving existing markets, and are therefore self-limited. New markets, such as Lomography, expose newcomers and create new product opportunities.
Linear growth/decline curves are passe, and overly simplistic. The world is a much more complex place, fragmented, with no "mainstream" like we had for decades.