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Thursday, July 30, 2009


Scientists create 'transparent aluminum,' call it a new state of matter

Categories: Energy & Environment, Engineering & Innovation, Science & Nature

Oxford scientists claim to have created a transparent form of aluminum by bombarding the metal with the world’s most powerful soft X-ray laser. The substance is nearly transparent to extreme ultraviolet radiation and is the latest addition to a growing list of exotic states of matter.

Crossing over from science fiction to fact, ‘transparent aluminum’ was an idea featured in the movie Star Trek IV. The creation of the real material, however, has implications for areas as diverse as planetary science, astrophysics, and nuclear fusion.

Credit: Univerity of Oxford

Credit: University of Oxford

To create the exotic matter, an international team of researchers led by Oxford University scientists used a short pulse from the FLASH laser to ‘knock out’ a core electron from every aluminum atom in a sample without disrupting the metal’s crystalline structure. They report that this turned the aluminum nearly invisible to extreme ultraviolet radiation. Pictured left is an experimental set-up at the FLASH laser facility used to discover the exotic material.

”What we have created is a completely new state of matter nobody has seen before,’ said Professor Justin Wark of Oxford University’s Department of Physics, one of the authors of a paper detailing the findings in this week’s Nature Physics.

‘Transparent aluminum is just the start. The physical properties of the matter we are creating are relevant to the conditions inside large planets, and we also hope that by studying it we can gain a greater understanding of what is going on during the creation of ‘miniature stars’ created by high-power laser implosion

HP's newest supercomputer geared for energy and environment

Categories: Computers & Internet, Energy & Environment

The newest supercomputer in town isn’t for simulating nuclear explosions or the human brain, but rather take on arguably more pressing problems in areas such as climate science, hydrogen storage and molecular chemistry.

Built by HP, the $21.4 million Chinook is a custom-made machine specifically designed for the demands of computational chemistry. It was commissioned for use by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Department of Energy, and is housed at the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL).

The Chinook (named after the king salmon via a user contest) can perform more than 160 trillion calculations per second, ranking it among the top 40 fastest computers in the world. It’s almost 15 times faster than its predecessor, the EMSL MPP2, which could run 11.2 trillion calculations per second.

Chinook is a high performance computer that has been tailored to meet the current and future operational needs of Department of Energy (Photo: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

Chinook is a high performance computer that has been tailored to meet the current and future operational needs of Department of Energy (Photo: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

World's first self-watering desert plant discovered

For years scientists have wondered how the desert rhubarb manages to grow leaves that reach a diameter of up to one meter while other desert plant species typically have small and spiky leaves.

Now, researchers from the University of Haifa-Oranim, have managed to decipher the unique self-watering mechanism of this plant in the Negev desert, which covers half of Israel. The desert rhubarb is the first example of a self-irrigating plant worldwide.

Music 2.0: The future of the music industry

Categories: Computers & Internet, Leisure

The controversial “freemium” business model is one of several flavors of free that could support the next iteration of the music business and other digitally distributed content. Media futurist Gerd Leonhard has a new book on the subject and he recently posted an 18 minute video slide show (in two parts) that covers his concepts. He calls for a fundamental shift from control to compensation and proposes new revenue generatives for digital content that are more collaborative and based on open access. In a nutshell, Leonhard says it’s high time that the reset button is pressed.

Printable batteries

Categories: Computers & Internet, Energy & Environment

Printable electronics have taken off in recent years, and there are now industrial-scale printing machines that can efficiently deposit a variety of flexible electronic components onto flexible substrates to create wearable sensors, displays, smart packaging labels, and other printable products. However, developing printable, flexible energy-storage devices, such as supercapacitors and batteries has lagged behind.

Now, researchers announced a paper-thin battery that can be produced cost-effectively on large scale. Scientists from the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Electronic Nano Systems (ENAS) in Chemnitz, Germany, together with colleagues from TU Chemnitz and Menippos GmbH say the batteries are printed using a silk-screen printing method similar to that used for t-shirts and signs.