Researchers have observed individual atoms interacting for the first time

Researchers have observed individual atoms interacting for the first time:

For the first time, researchers have managed to capture images of individual potassium atoms distributed on an optical lattice, providing them with a unique opportunity to see how they interact with one another.

While capturing these images is a feat in itself, the technique could help researchers to better understand the conditions needed for individual atoms to come together and form exotic states of matter like superfluids and superconductors.

“Learning from this atomic model, we can understand what’s really going on in these superconductors, and what one should do to make higher-temperature superconductors, approaching hopefully room temperature,” team member Martin Zwierlein from MIT said in a statement.

To capture the images, the team took potassium gas, and cooled it only a few nanokelvins – just above absolute zero. To put that into perspective, 1 nanokelvin is -273 degrees Celsius (-460 degrees Fahrenheit).

At this extremely cold temperature, the potassium atoms slow to a crawl, which allowed the team to trap some of them inside a two-dimensional optical lattice – a complex series of overlapping lasers that can trap individual atoms inside different intensity waves.

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Ultrasound has been used to ‘jumpstart’ a coma patient’s brain for the first time

Ultrasound has been used to ‘jumpstart’ a coma patient’s brain for the first time:


Researchers in the US have pioneered the use of ultrasound to successfully ‘restart’ brain activity in a coma patient for the first time.

It’s too early to say if the technique will be safe and effective every time, but it could give doctors a non-invasive option for treating those who would otherwise be stuck in a vegetative state.

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World’s first large-scale tidal energy farm launches in Scotland

World’s first large-scale tidal energy farm launches in Scotland:

The launch of the world’s first large-scale tidal energy farm in Scotland has been hailed as a significant moment for the renewable energy sector.

A turbine for the MeyGen tidal stream project in the Pentland Firth was unveiled outside Inverness in the Scottish Highlands.

After the ceremony, attended by Nicola Sturgeon, the turbine, measuring about 15 metres tall (49ft), with blades 16 metres in diameter (52ft), and weighing in at almost 200 tonnes, will begin its journey to the project’s site in the waters off the north coast of Scotland between Caithness and Orkney.

The turbine will be the first of four to be installed underwater, each with a capacity of 1.5 megawatts (MW), in the initial phase of the project.

But the Edinburgh-based developer Atlantis Resources hopes the project which has received £23m in Scottish government funding will eventually have 269 turbines, bringing its capacity to 398MW, which is enough electricity to power 175,000 homes.

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Researchers prototype system for reading closed books

Researchers prototype system for reading closed books:

MIT researchers and their colleagues are designing an imaging system that can read closed books.

In the latest issue of Nature Communications, the researchers describe a prototype of the system, which they tested on a stack of papers, each with one letter printed on it. The system was able to correctly identify the letters on the top nine sheets.

“The Metropolitan Museum in New York showed a lot of interest in this, because they want to, for example, look into some antique books that they don’t even want to touch,” says Barmak Heshmat, a research scientist at the MIT Media Lab and corresponding author on the new paper. He adds that the system could be used to analyze any materials organized in thin layers, such as coatings on machine parts or pharmaceuticals.

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Breakthrough in materials science: Research team can bond metals with nearly all surfaces

Breakthrough in materials science: Research team can bond metals with nearly all surfaces:

How metals can be used depends particularly on the characteristics of their surfaces. A research team at Kiel University has discovered how they can change the surface properties without affecting the mechanical stability of the metals or changing the metal characteristics themselves. This fundamentally new method is based on using an electrochemical etching process, in which the uppermost layer of a metal is roughened on a micrometer scale in a tightly controlled manner.

Through this “nanoscale-sculpturing” process, metals such as aluminium, titanium, or zinc can permanently be joined with nearly all other materials, become water-repellent, or improve their biocompatibility. The potential spectrum of applications of these “super connections” is extremely broad, ranging from metalwork in industry right through to safer implants in medical technology. Their results have now been published in the prestigious journal Nanoscale Horizons of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

“We have now applied a technology to metals that was previously only known from semiconductors. To use this process in such a way is completely new,” said Dr. Jürgen Carstensen, co-author of the publication. In the process, the surface of a metal is converted into a semiconductor, which can be chemically etched and thereby specifically modified as desired. “As such, we have developed a process which – unlike other etching processes – does not damage the metals, and does not affect their stability,” emphasised Professor Rainer Adelung, head of the “Functional Nanomaterials” team at the Institute for Materials Science. Adelung stressed the importance of the discovery: “In this way, we can permanently connect metals which could previously not be directly joined, such as copper and aluminium.”

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Costa Rica has been running on 100% renewable energy for 2 months straight

Costa Rica has been running on 100% renewable energy for 2 months straight:

Costa Rica ran on 100 percent renewable energy for 76 straight days between June and August this year, according to a new report, demonstrating that life without fossil fuels is possible – for small countries, at least.

This is the second time in two years that the Central American country has run for more than two months straight on renewables alone, and it brings the 2016 total to 150 days and counting.

According to Costa Rica’s National Centre for Energy Control (CENCE), 16 June 2016 was the last day this year that fossil fuels-based energy was used by the national grid. (Data for September is still forthcoming.)

Since then, the country has been powered on a mix of hydro, geothermal, wind, and solar energy, with hydro power providing about 80.27 percent of the total electricity in the month of August.

Geothermal plants contributed roughly 12.62 percent of electricity generation in August, while wind turbines provided 7.1 percent, and solar 0.01 percent.

Just like last year, when Costa Rica managed to power itself for a total of 299 days without burning oil, coal, or natural gas, 2016’s milestone was helped along by heavy rainfalls at the country’s four hydroelectric power facilities.

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New sensor could help fight deadly bacterial infections

New sensor could help fight deadly bacterial infections:

Scientists have built a new sensor that can detect the potentially deadly E.coli bacteria in 15-20 minutes, much faster than traditional lab tests. E.coli can be transmitted in contaminated food and water, posing particular risks to children and the elderly. In the late spring of 2011 a serious outbreak of E.coli bacteria sickened thousands of people in Germany and killed more than 50.

A team of researchers from the Photonics Research Center at the University of Quebec in Outaouais, Canada, under direction of Professor Wojtek J. Bock and collaborators from the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, have built a new sensor that can quickly and cost-effectively detect E.coli over a wide temperature range. The researchers describe the sensor in a paper in the journal Optics Letters.

“Using currently available technologies, which are mostly based on amplification of the sample, it takes several hours to days to detect the presence of bacteria. A fast and accurate detection alternative is, therefore, preferable over the existing technology,” said Saurabh Mani Tripathi, a physicist at the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India. Faster tests for the bacteria could lead to faster treatment of patients, as well as to cheaper and easier environmental monitoring, he said.

The new sensor uses bacteriophages—viruses that can naturally latch onto and kill bacteria. The viruses are bonded to the surface of an optical fiber and will grab E.coli bacteria from a sample and keep them attached. When a beam of light strikes the surface, the presence of E.coli shifts the wavelength in a telltale sign of bacterial contamination.

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How an Inventor You’ve Probably Never Heard of Shaped the Modern World

How an Inventor You’ve Probably Never Heard of Shaped the Modern World:

Many of the inventors who fueled the digital revolution have become household names. And rightfully so. Innovators such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg all contributed mightily to the technologies that have transformed our daily lives and society.

If you’re not an engineer, however, you have probably never heard of the brilliant inventor Rudolf Kálmán, a Budapest-born engineer and mathematician who died on July 2 in Gainesville, Florida, at age 86. His fundamental contribution, an algorithm called the Kalman filter, made possible many essential technological achievements of the last 50 years. These include aerospace systems such as the computers that landed Apollo astronauts on the moon, robotic vehicles that explore our world from the deep sea to the outer planets, and nearly any endeavor that needs to estimate the state of the world from noisy data. Someone once described the entire GPS system—an Earth-girdling constellation of satellites, ground stations, and computers as “one enormous Kalman filter.”

Within his professional community, Kálmán was well known and highly admired, the recipient of numerous awards and honors. In 2009 President Obama awarded him the National Medal of Science. If you have studied any form of robotics, control, or aerospace engineering in the past four decades, then Kálmán’s eponymous filter was as fundamental to your work as the Pythagorean theorem is to high schoolers preparing for the SAT.

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Team tricks solid into acting as liquid

Team tricks solid into acting as liquid:

Two scientists at the University of Central Florida have discovered how to get a solid material to act like a liquid without actually turning it into liquid, potentially opening a new world of possibilities for the electronic, optics and computing industries.

When chemistry graduate student Demetrius A. Vazquez-Molina took COF-5, a nano sponge-like, non-flammable manmade material and pressed it into pellets the size of a pinkie nail, he noticed something odd when he looked at its X-ray diffraction pattern. The material’s internal crystal structure arranged in a strange pattern. He took the lab results to his chemistry professor Fernando Uribe-Romo, who suggested he turn the pellets on their side and run the X-ray analysis again.

The result: The crystal structures within the material fell into precise patterns that allow for lithium ions to flow easily – like in a liquid.

The findings, published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society earlier this summer, are significant because a liquid is necessary for some electronics and other energy uses. But using current liquid materials sometimes is problematic.

For example, take lithium-ion batteries. They are among the best batteries on the market, charging everything from phones to hover boards. But they tend to be big and bulky because a liquid must be used within the battery to transfer lithium ions from one side of the battery to the other. This process stores and disperses energy. That reaction creates heat, which has resulted in cell phones exploding, hover boards bursting into flames, and even the grounding of some airplanes a few years ago that relied on lithium batteries for some of its functions.

But if a nontoxic solid could be used instead of a flammable liquid, industries could really change, Uribe-Romo said.

“We need to do a lot more testing, but this has a lot of promise,” he said. “If we could eliminate the need for liquid and use another material that was not flammable, would require less space and less packaging, that could really change things. That would mean less weight and potentially smaller batteries.”

Smaller, nontoxic and nonflammable materials could also mean smaller electronics and the ability to speed up the transfer of information via optics. And that could mean innovations to communication devices, computing power and even energy storage.

“This is really exciting for me,” said Vazquez-Molina who was a pre-med student before taking one of Uribe-Romo’s classes. “I liked chemistry, but until Professor Romo’s class I was getting bored. In his class I learned how to break all the (chemistry) rules. I really fell in love with chemistry then, because it is so intellectually stimulating.”

Uribe-Romo has his high school teacher in Mexico to thank for his passion for chemistry. After finishing his bachelor’s degree at Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterreyin Mexico, Uribe-Romo earned a Ph.D. at the University of California at Los Angeles. He was a postdoctoral associate at Cornell University before joining UCF as an assistant professor in 2013.

The findings were pursued by a team lead by Uribe-Romo in collaboration with scientists at UCLA’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. It’s a partnership the team is pursuing to see if COF-5 is indeed the material that could revolutionize battery and mobile device industries.

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Scientists just found an advanced form of malware that’s been hiding for at least 5 years

Scientists just found an advanced form of malware that’s been hiding for at least 5 years:

Security researchers have announced the discovery of an advanced malware platform that has operated undetected for at least five years.

According to experts, “ProjectSauron” is so advanced and well designed that it’s likely the work of a state-sponsored hacking group – ie. backed by a government intelligence organisation.

The malware has been active since at least 2011, targeting high-profile networks in Russia, China, Sweden, and other countries.

Researchers at computer security firms Symantec and Kaspersky Lab detected the malware in a joint effort, and say it’s been discovered in more than 30 infected sites so far – including an airline in China, an embassy in Belgium, and an unidentified organisation in Sweden.

Unlike the kind of consumer-targeting malware that affects regular PCs, ProjectSauron – which also goes by the name Remsec – has a more specific focus, although it does run on common Microsoft Windows platforms.

The malware is designed to infiltrate computer networks run by organisations such as governments, military sites, scientific research centres, and corporate IT systems.

It aims to spy on infected networks, opening a back door to compromised systems, logging keystrokes, and stealing personal information, like user credentials and passwords.

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