Monday, 30 April 2018

Mars InSight: NASA’s Journey Into the Red Planet’s Deepest Mysteries

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The newest mission to Mars is to launch on Saturday morning. It will search for marsquakes and try to produce a map of the planet’s insides.
via New York Times

Old data, new tricks: Fresh results from NASA's Galileo spacecraft 20 years on

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Newly analyzed data from the Galileo spacecraft's flybys of one of Jupiter's moons two decades ago is yielding fresh insights: the magnetic field around the moon Ganymede makes it unlike any other in the solar system.
via Science Daily
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The 2018 data-taking run at the LHC has begun

Galactic fingerprint

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Space Science Image of the Week: Gaia fingerprints the stars and monitors their motion through the Universe
via ESA Space Science
http://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2018/04/Rotation_of_the_Large_Magellanic_Cloud2

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Friday, 27 April 2018

Mercury's thin, dense crust

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A planetary scientist has used careful mathematical calculations to determine the density of Mercury's crust, which is thinner than anyone thought.
via Science Daily
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Discovery of new material is key step toward more powerful computing

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Researchers have created a new material that represents a key step toward the next generation of supercomputers.
via Science Daily

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Stellar Thief Is the Surviving Companion to a Supernova


Companion to a Supernova Is No Innocent Bystander

In the fading afterglow of a supernova explosion, astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have photographed the first image of a surviving companion to a supernova. This is the most compelling evidence that some supernovas originate in double-star systems. The companion to supernova 2001ig’s progenitor star was no innocent bystander to the explosion—it siphoned off almost all of the hydrogen from the doomed star’s stellar envelope. SN 2001ig is categorized as a Type IIb stripped-envelope supernova, which is a relatively rare type of supernova in which most, but not all, of the hydrogen is gone prior to the explosion. Perhaps as many as half of all stripped-envelope supernovas have companions—the other half lose their outer envelopes via stellar winds.


via Hubble - News feed
http://hubblesite.org/news_release/news/2018-20

ESA and NASA to investigate bringing martian soil to Earth

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ESA and NASA signed a statement of intent today to explore concepts for missions to bring samples of martian soil to Earth.


via ESA Space Science
http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_Spaceflight/Exploration/ESA_and_NASA_to_investigate_bringing_martian_soil_to_Earth

ExoMars returns first images from new orbit

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The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has returned the first images of the Red Planet from its new orbit.

The spacecraft arrived in a near-circular 400 km altitude orbit a few weeks ago ahead of its primary goal to seek out gases that may be linked to active geological or biological activity on Mars.

The orbiter’s Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System, CaSSIS, took this stunning image, which features part of an impact crater, during the instrument’s test period. The camera was activated on 20 March and was tested for the start of its main mission on 28 April.

“We transmitted new software to the instrument at the start of the test phase and after a couple of minor issues, the instrument is in good health and ready to work,” says the camera’s principal investigator, Nicolas Thomas from the University of Bern in Switzerland.

The image captures a 40 km-long segment of Korolev Crater located high in the northern hemisphere. The bright material on the rim of the crater is ice.

“We were really pleased to see how good this picture was given the lighting conditions,” says Antoine Pommerol, a member of the CaSSIS science team working on the calibration of the data. “It shows that CaSSIS can make a major contribution to studies of the carbon dioxide and water cycles on Mars.”

The image is assembled from three images in different colours that were taken almost simultaneously on 15 April.

“We aim to fully automate the image production process,” says Nick. “Once we achieve this, we can distribute the data quickly to the science community for analysis.”

The team also plans to make regular public releases.

The orbiter’s camera is one of four instruments on the Trace Gas Orbiter, or TGO, which also hosts two spectrometer suites and a neutron detector.

The spectrometers began their science mission on 21 April with the spacecraft taking its first ‘sniff’ of the atmosphere. In reality, the sniffing is the spectrometers looking at how molecules in the atmosphere absorb sunlight: each has a unique fingerprint that reveals its chemical composition.

A long period of data collection will be needed to bring out the details, especially for particularly rare – or not even yet discovered – ingredients in the atmosphere. Trace gases, as hinted at from their name, are only present in very small amounts: that is, less than one percent of the volume of the planet’s atmosphere. In particular, the orbiter will seek evidence of methane and other gases that could be signatures of active biological or geological activity.

The camera will eventually help characterise features on the surface that may be related to trace gas sources.

“We are excited to finally be starting collecting data at Mars with this phenomenal spacecraft,” says HÃ¥kan Svedhem, ESA’s TGO project scientist. “The test images we have seen so far certainly set the bar high.”


via ESA Space Science
http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/ExoMars/ExoMars_returns_first_images_from_new_orbit

LIVE: Inside CERN’s antimatter factory

Graphene Flagship on track towards end-market products

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Taking graphene from the lab to the industry is advancing by the leaps, thanks to the coordinated pan-European effort undertaken by researchers in the Graphene Flagship. All 15 Work Packages (WPs) showcased their annual highlights in the result report recently published online. Even though it is undeniable that all research directions produced highly interesting and relevant results, the Flagship Director, Jari Kinarent, singles out two of these breakthroughs.

The first breakthrough was a planned one, a result of long-term, goal-oriented research. A prime embodiment of the Flagship goals and purpose, an optical photodetector and modulator showed record performance that will enable, for example, ultrafast data switches for 5G communications. The other breakthrough was a serendipitous discovery that few-layer graphene flakes destroy monocytes, which may find its use in treatment of leukemia. The Director used this example to point out that research cannot always be planned in detail, and that a basic research component must remain even when the focus shifts towards higher technology readiness levels.

The WP “Enabling Research” focuses on exploring new concepts and applying them to novel applications. One such application is in lithium-ion batteries that rely on transport of lithium ions between the active electrolyte and a solid electrode. The electrodes must be built from materials that conduct electricity but also allow the passage of ions. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research and CNR have discovered that lithium ions readily penetrate between sheets of graphene in bilayer samples, pointing to an opportunity to exploit the excellent carrier mobility of multilayer graphene in novel electrodes. Improved electrode quality should give a new lease on life to lithium-ion batteries, the capacity of which has been under increasing strain due to the rise of high-power mobile computing devices, drones, and autonomous vehicles.

The “Spintronics” WP members demonstrated several key building blocks for spintronic circuitry made of graphene. Namely, researchers showed that spin current can be efficiently injected into a graphene/hBN heterostructure which supports spin transport even at room temperature. In another paper, researchers presented their finding of a room-temperature field-effect spin transistor in a graphene and MoS2 device. Aside from these imminently practical applications, new research uncovered giant anisotropy in spin lifetimes in layered graphene/TMDC devices, showing the path towards spin filtering. The fact that all these effects were shown at room temperature is promising for real world applications.

All progress of technology based on graphene relies on optimizing the material for different applications and developing scalable synthesis methods. These are two key goals of the “Enabling Materials” WP, which exemplifies its progress through three key publications. The first of these reports on the first ever all-printed, all nanosheet transistors, opening the door to printed electronic devices from layered materials. The second paper demonstrates a scalable, bottom-up method of producing graphene nanoribbons, which transform graphene into a semiconductor by opening a band gap. Transistors made of these ribbons showed excellent switching behavior, promising densely packaged high-performance computing devices. The third report outlines a way to functionalize graphene for applications such as sensors, field-effect transistors, and other electronic devices, by first introducing single-atom defects in a graphene sheet, followed by controlled functionalization.

The “Health and Environment” WP is committed to studying the potential health effects of graphene and related materials (GRMs), both on the researcher and on the user of a graphene-based device. Fortunately, last year’s results show that skin reaction to graphene only occurs at extremely high amounts and exposure levels which are unlikely to occur in regular use. Furthermore, it was shown that graphene oxide (GO) can be rapidly degraded by the human immune system and that biodegradation can be enhanced using specific functional groups.

The “Biomedical Technologies” WP makes use of graphene’s excellent electrical and chemical properties combined with its biocompatibility to study potential use in new biomedical applications. For example, the WP researchers have shown flexible neural implants made of graphene that attach to a rat brain, enabling detection of previously unexplored neural activity. The graphene devices are thin, flexible and have very low noise, able to detect slow-wave activity, epileptic activity, and audio-visual responses. Graphene is also being explored as a novel platform for local delivery of drugs. These devices are now entering the preclinical development stages.

WP “Sensors” covers the broad landscape of sensing, including various kinds of physical and chemical sensors. Last year a prototype “electronic nose” was presented, mimicking the workings of a human nose – an array of sensors that are functionalized for different chemicals. Researchers also took pressure and humidity sensors to new heights, detecting pressure changes down to 25 mbar with suspended graphene membranes and constructing a printed graphene oxide humidity sensor that can be monitored wirelessly. There is close collaboration with industrial partners who have developed multiplexed prototypes for applications such as point-of-care detection of cardiac biomarkers.

The “Electronic Devices” WP targets high frequency and high performance electronic devices enabled by graphene and related materials. Last year was marked by the most complex GRM circuit to date, a processor made of 115 MoS2 transistors. Radio frequency and terahertz applications were also pushed forward, with a demonstrated microwave receiver for signals up to 2.45 GHz, a flexible THz detector, and a demonstration of efficient cooling of graphene-based nanoelectronic devices using hyperbolic phonon cooling.

The “Photonics and Optoelectronics” WP makes use of the exceptional electronic and optical properties of graphene for advances in technology to send and receive optical data signals. A key result last year was the demonstration of a detector with a bandwidth higher than 76 GHz, suitable for data rates of more than 100 Gb/s, produced on a 6” wafer. Graphene light modulators have reached bandwidths of 5 GHz for data transfer rates of 10 Gb/s. Finally, the blending of optics and electronics allowed the construction of a highly sensitive extremely broadband graphene-based camera sensor, covering the ultraviolet, visible and infrared parts of the spectrum.

The WP “Flexible Electronics” addresses the use of GRMs in the rapidly growing flexible electronics industry. To this end, members of the WP produced various electronic devices on flexible substrates using GRMs, such as for example flexible, all-solid-state graphene-based supercapacitors, wearable touch panels, a strain sensor, and a self-powered triboelectric sensor.

The WP “Wafer-Scale System Integration” operates towards integration of graphene technology with silicon-based electronics, a key development that is essential to take advantage of graphene’s potential in electronics. Developing processing methods to this end is the run-of-the-mill of this WP, which intersects with other WPs to yield results in high-speed electronics already mentioned earlier. A strong driving direction for this WP is to evaluate and reduce the costs of making graphene devices.

Energy generation is undoubtedly one of the main research directions of modern technological progress. The WP “Energy Generation” looks into ways that GRMs can be used to improve energy generation, including the improvement of perovskite solar cells (PSCs), highly promising next-generation solar power sources with very high efficiency. Flagship researchers made excellent progress in improving the lifetime and performance of PSCs, while reducing the production cost of PSCs. MoS2 interlayers improved the long-term lifetime of PSCs which retained 80% of their initial efficiency after 568 hours of operation in ambient conditions. Adding a reduced graphene oxide spacer layer to a PSC resulted in low-cost production of PSCs with 20% efficiency, retained up to 95% after 1000h of operation. A pilot production line and a 1 kWp GRM-perovskite solar farm are in the pipeline for the next period.

Once energy is produced, it needs to be reliably stored in batteries with high capacity and long lifetimes. Research in the “Energy Storage” WP tackles this challenge, most notably through the use of graphene in advanced electrodes. Combining graphene and silicon nanoparticles resulted in anodes that maintain 92% of their energy capacity over 300 charge-discharge cycles, with a high maximum capacity of 1500 mAh per gram of silicon. Achieved energy density values are well above 400 Wh/kg. In the next phase, a Spearhead project of the Flagship will focus on pre-industrial production of a silicon-graphene-based lithium ion battery. Furthermore, a spray-coating deposition tool for graphene was developed through this WP, enabling large-scale production of thin films of graphene which were used, for example, to produce supercapacitors with very high power densities.

The WP “Functional Foams and Coatings” works on developing new chemical processing and functionalization methods to enable GRMs at high quality and a large scale. These custom materials span a wide range of uses, including sensors, photocatalysis, anticorrosion, energy applications and more. Aside from a strong streak of high-impact publications, work of last year has resulted in several European and German patents and the creation of a spin-out company of the TU Dresden.

The same wide span of uses goes for the WP “Polymer Composites”, that engineers composites that contain GRMs for multifunctional benefits, including enhanced mechanical strength, thermal and electrical conductivity, and low mass density. The specific focus of this WP is on industries that already make wide-scale use of polymers, such as aerospace, automotive, and energy generation. Aside from fundamental studies of the mechanical impact of embedding graphene with a different aspect ratio, orientation, and the degree of stress transfer between graphene and polymer, WP researchers managed to engineer the load-bearing capability of such composites by optimizing the wrinkling of graphene. Finally, the manufacturing sector will benefit from new discoveries that adding graphene oxide and carbon nanotubes leads to electrically conductive rubbers with enhanced strength, as well as icephobic properties.

Finally, the WP “Production” brings together Europe’s very best manufacturing companies into a value chain to enable large scale manufacturing of GRMs and their end products. The focus of this WP is on optimizing throughput from the other WPs that have a production component to real large-scale industry.

These fantastic achievements are a result of coordinated efforts of the 158 Flagship partners across Europe, however the Flagship continues to include new members through the Associated Members and Partnering Projects modules. Associated Members aid in widening participation and broadening horizons of this unprecedented network of industrial and academic partners.

This year phase Core 1 of the Flagship ends, approaching the half-way point of the ten-year project. The Flagship is now present at major trade shows, such as the Mobile World Congress, Medica, and Composites Europe. Licensing agreements are being signed, products propelled to the marketplace, and spin-offs being launched. Core 2 will see the Flagship organized around six Spearhead projects, with clear objectives designed to fulfill market needs. It is becoming clear that the Graphene Flagship is well on track on its main mission of streamlining the passage of graphene research from the lab floor to end-market products.


via Graphenea

A Yellowstone guide to life on Mars

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A geology student is helping NASA determine whether life existed on other planets. He is helping find a marker for ancient bacterial life on Mars. The research could help scientists put to rest one of our most fundamental mysteries.
via Science Daily
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Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Projectile cannon experiments show how asteroids can deliver water

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New research shows that a surprising amount of water survives simulated asteroid impacts, a finding that may help explain how asteroids deposit water throughout the solar system.
via Science Daily
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Ultrahigh-pressure laser experiments shed light on super-Earth cores

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Using high-powered laser beams, researchers have simulated conditions inside a planet three times as large as Earth. The pressures achieved in this study, up to 1,314 gigapascals (GPa), allowed researchers to gather the highest-pressure X-ray diffraction data ever recorded and generate new, more robust models for the interior structure of large, rocky exoplanets.
via Science Daily
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NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Could Potentially Detect the First Stars and Black Holes


Gravitational lensing by a galaxy cluster could bring the early universe into focus for Webb

One of the key science goals of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is to learn about “first light,” the moment when the first stars and galaxies lit the universe. While the first galaxies will be within Webb’s reach, individual stars shine so faintly that Webb would not be able to detect them without help. That help could come in the form of natural magnification from gravitational lensing, according to a new theoretical paper.

A cluster of galaxies can provide the needed gravitational oomph to bring distant objects into focus via lensing. Typical gravitational lensing can boost a target’s brightness by a factor of 10 to 20. But in special circumstances, the light of a faraway star could be amplified by 10,000 times or more.

If Webb monitors several galaxy clusters a couple of times a year over its lifetime, chances are good that it will detect such a magnified star, or possibly the accretion disk of a black hole from the same era. This would give astronomers a key opportunity to learn about the actual properties of the early universe and compare them to computer models.


via Hubble - News feed
http://hubblesite.org/news_release/news/2018-23

Assembly of massive galaxy cluster witnessed for the first time

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For the first time, astronomers have witnessed the birth of a colossal cluster of galaxies. Their observations reveal at least 14 galaxies packed into an area only four times the diameter of the Milky Way's galactic disk. Computer simulations of the galaxies predict that over time the cluster will assemble into one of the most massive structures in the modern universe.
via Science Daily
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Molecular evolution: How the building blocks of life may form in space

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In an experiment that mimics astrophysical conditions, with cryogenic temperatures in an ultrahigh vacuum, scientists used an electron gun to irradiate thin sheets of ice covered in basic molecules of methane, ammonia and carbon dioxide, the building blocks of life. The experiment tested how the combination of electrons and basic matter leads to more complex biomolecule forms -- and perhaps eventually to life forms.
via Science Daily
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Turning graphene into light nanosensors

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Graphene has many properties, but it does not absorb light very well. To remedy this, physicists resort to embedding a sheet of graphene in a flat photonic crystal. Scientists now demonstrate that by altering the temperature in such a hybrid cavity structure, they can tune its capacity for optical absorption. This means graphene-based nano-devices could potentially be used as temperature-sensitive sensors.
via Science Daily

To see the first-born stars of the universe

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ASU-led team aims to use new NASA space telescope to capture light from the first stars to be born in the universe.
via Science Daily
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Magma ocean may be responsible for the moon's early magnetic field

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Around four billion years ago, the moon had a magnetic field that was about as strong as Earth's magnetic field is today. How the moon, with a much smaller core than Earth's, could have had such a strong magnetic field has been an unsolved problem in the history of the moon's evolution. A new model proposes that a magma ocean may be responsible.
via Science Daily
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Gaia creates richest star map of our Galaxy – and beyond

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ESA’s Gaia mission has produced the richest star catalogue to date, including high-precision measurements of nearly 1.7 billion stars and revealing previously unseen details of our home Galaxy.


via ESA Space Science
http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Gaia/Gaia_creates_richest_star_map_of_our_Galaxy_and_beyond

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Uncovering the secret law of the evolution of galaxy clusters

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Using observational data from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Subaru Telescope, the size and mass of galaxy clusters have precisely been measured. The research team analyzed those data and found a simple law that regulates the growth of the clusters. They also showed that the clusters are still young and growing. The newfound law will serve as a tool to clarify the evolutionary history of clusters and the universe.
via Science Daily
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Nonfiction: In This Space Race, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk Are Competing to Take You There

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Two new books, “The Space Barons” and “Rocket Billionaires,” tell the story of the entrepreneurial push to leave Earth.
via New York Times

Getting electrons to move in a semiconductor

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Researchers have shown that a wide-bandgap semiconductor called gallium oxide can be engineered into nanometer-scale structures that allow electrons to move much faster within the crystal structure. With electrons that move with such ease, Ga2O3 could be a promising material for applications such as high-frequency communication systems and energy-efficient power electronics.
via Science Daily

Graphene origami as a mechanically tunable plasmonic structure for infrared detection

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Researchers have successfully developed a tunable infrared filter made from graphene, which would allow a solider to change the frequency of a filter in infrared goggles simply by controlled mechanical deformation of the filter (i.e., graphene origami), and not by replacing the substance on the goggles used to filter a particular spectrum of colors.
via Science Daily

Watch Gaia Data Release

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Gaia’s new star catalogue will be unveiled tomorrow. Watch the media briefing live from ILA at 09:00 GMT/11:00 CEST
via ESA Space Science
http://www.esa.int/About_Us/Exhibitions/ILA_2018/Live_coverage_of_ESA_at_ILA

Monday, 23 April 2018

Face recognition for galaxies: Artificial intelligence brings new tools to astronomy

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A machine learning method called 'deep learning,' which has been widely used in face recognition and other image- and speech-recognition applications, has shown promise in helping astronomers analyze images of galaxies and understand how they form and evolve. In a new study, researchers used computer simulations of galaxy formation to train a deep learning algorithm, which then proved surprisingly good at analyzing images of galaxies from the Hubble Space Telescope.
via Science Daily
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Galaxies grow bigger and puffier as they age

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A new international study has found that galaxies grow bigger and puffier as they age.
via Science Daily
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Scientists create innovative new 'green' concrete using graphene

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A new greener, stronger and more durable concrete that is made using the wonder-material graphene could revolutionise the construction industry.
via Science Daily

Crabs settled in the tunnel

Waiting for Gaia

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Find out why scientists worldwide are excited about Gaia's new data and how it's going to impact all things astronomy
via ESA Space Science
http://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Videos/2018/04/Waiting_for_Gaia

To Europe’s spaceport

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Meet our new space explorers as they begin their journey to Mercury …via Amsterdam airport and Europe’s spaceport in Kourou
via ESA Space Science
http://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Videos/2018/04/To_Europe_s_spaceport!

Ion beam on

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Space Science Image of the Week: Supercomputer simulations show how plasma flows around the spacecraft when BepiColombo fires its ion thrusters
via ESA Space Science
http://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2018/04/BepiColombo_plasma_simulation

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Electrochemical tuning of single layer materials relies on defects

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Perfection is not everything, according to an international team of researchers whose 2-D materials study shows that defects can enhance a material's physical, electrochemical, magnetic, energy and catalytic properties.
via Science Daily

Friday, 20 April 2018

Graphene sets a new record on squeezing light to one atom

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Researchers reach the ultimate level of light confinement -- the space of one atom. This will pave the way to ultra-small optical switches, detectors and sensors.
via Science Daily

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Clear as mud: Desiccation cracks help reveal the shape of water on Mars

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As Curiosity rover marches across Mars, the red planet's watery past comes into clearer focus.
via Science Daily
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Vast stellar nursery of Lagoon Nebula

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This colorful cloud of glowing interstellar gas is just a tiny part of the Lagoon Nebula, a vast stellar nursery. This nebula is a region full of intense activity, with fierce winds from hot stars, swirling chimneys of gas, and energetic star formation all embedded within a hazy labyrinth of gas and dust.
via Science Daily
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Senate Confirms Jim Bridenstine, Trump’s NASA Nominee, on Party-Line Vote

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The Oklahoma congressman’s nomination languished for more than seven months as senators raised objections to his record, and now additional concerns have been raised.
via New York Times

Hubble 28th Anniversary Image Captures Roiling Heart of Vast Stellar Nursery


Hubble celebrates 28th anniversary in style with stunning view of Lagoon Nebula

For 28 years, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has been delivering breathtaking views of the universe. Although the telescope has made more than 1.5 million observations of over 40,000 space objects, it is still uncovering stunning celestial gems.

The latest offering is this image of the Lagoon Nebula to celebrate the telescope’s anniversary. Hubble shows this vast stellar nursery in stunning unprecedented detail.

At the center of the photo, a monster young star 200,000 times brighter than our Sun is blasting powerful ultraviolet radiation and hurricane-like stellar winds, carving out a fantasy landscape of ridges, cavities, and mountains of gas and dust. This region epitomizes a typical, raucous stellar nursery full of birth and destruction.


via Hubble - News feed
http://hubblesite.org/news_release/news/2018-21

NASA planet hunter on its way to orbit

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NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) launched on the first-of-its-kind mission to find worlds beyond our solar system, including some that could support life. Researchers will use spectroscopy to determine a planet's mass, density and atmospheric composition. Water, and other key molecules, in its atmosphere can give us hints about a planets' capacity to harbor life.
via Science Daily
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Scalable manufacturing process spools out strips of graphene for use in ultrathin membranes

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Engineers have developed a scalable manufacturing process that spools out strips of graphene for use in ultrathin membranes.
via Science Daily

CERN’s SPS experiments restart

Happy birthday Hubble!

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Sail across the Lagoon Nebula on the occasion of the Hubble Space Telescope's 28th anniversary
via ESA Space Science
http://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2018/04/Hubble_s_28th_birthday_picture_The_Lagoon_Nebula

McKinsey estimates a $70 billion market for graphene semiconductors in 2030

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Graphene is, among other applications, being regarded as a potential replacement material for silicon, which has begun to show its age in face of extremely rapid technological progress, states a recent article written at McKinsey & Company. Silicon, the primary material used in the semiconductor industry, has historically kept pace with Moore’s law by providing previously unimaginable progress. However, performance improvements are raising the cost of silicon technology, as are slowing performance improvements, while miniaturization is reaching the limits of this material. As silicon appears to be reaching the final plateau on its s-curve, the industry is experimenting with several potential replacement materials, of which graphene is regarded as the most promising one.

There are three leading indicators that silicon technology is reaching its developmental end. First, the performance advances of computers have slowed down considerably. Starting in the 1970s up to the 1990s, computer performance advanced exponentially, according to the McKinsey report. Beyond 1990s and until 2005, computer power was advancing by the leaps. After that time, however, a very noticeable slowdown in progress is more than evident. Similarly, smartphone processor performance advanced rapidly until the year 2013, after which we are witnessing a plateau. Such slowdown affects companies that built their competitive advantages on continued innovation, which are now seeing their lead eroding. As competitors begin to enter the market, prices necessarily fall, which puts financial pressure on market leaders. Such leaders will now be forced to innovate, looking into ways to keep improving device performance.

Background image created by Xb100 - Freepik.com 

The second indicator for the end of the silicon era is the increased cost related to manufacturing smaller electronic circuits. Moving to 14nm resolution several years ago increased capital and R&D costs for fab. The next step (transitioning to 11nm) which is required for faster chips is estimated to increase capital costs by 40%, while R&D costs are expected to rise by 150%. Manufacturing equipment is the dominant capital cost factor, because such high resolutions have surpassed the physical limits of electron beam lithography which has now moved to multipatterning to overcome this barrier.

The third and final indicator is the physical limitation imposed by the small size of today’s transistors. The transistor channels are now so small that quantum effects are starting to play a role, causing noise, leakage, and heat issues. Even though companies that rely on silicon technology must keep investing in performance improvements, given these three looming limitations they are forced to shift their investment towards new materials.

Graphene and other 2D materials hold obvious potential for future-gen electronics beyond silicon. A most striking advantage is their thickness of just one atom or one molecule, which in itself provides advantages over silicon. Key disadvantages of graphene, according to McKinsey, are the long R&D road ahead to commercialization and the risk of unknown hurdles at scale-up to industrial production.

The report identifies two technical and two industrial limitations for the adoption of graphene. The first and most obvious limitation is the absence of a band gap in graphene, which results in the inability to switch transistors off. The second technical limitation is high-quality production on a large scale. The graphene community is aware of both of these limitations and has been working hard to address them, resulting in for example 6” graphene wafers. On the industrial side, one issue is that semiconductor companies have already tied their large investment plans to improving existing fabs, so it will take courage to invest in graphene-based fab. The second industrial issue is that the entire integrated value chain needs to be reworked to include graphene, whereas silicon value chains are well established.

Given these challenges, it comes natural to predict that graphene adoption and market growth will come in the following phases: graphene as an enhancer of existing technology, silicon replacement, and finally revolutionary electronics. In the imminent enhancement phase, graphene will provide incremental performance improvement to cutting-edge devices, such as interconnect speed, transistor lifetime, and heat conduction. McKinsey predicts this phase to last for another 10 years, beyond which graphene will replace silicon, leading to improved feature size for next-gen CPUs and memory. Beyond that, phase three that is predicted to commence at 25+ years, should lead to new and undiscovered applications, perhaps based on spintronics, valleytronics or other quantum computing platforms.

If all goes according to plan, the report predicts a market of about $70 billion for graphene semiconductors by 2030. It is certain that large multinational technology companies are already investing in graphene, and that at least some of them will seriously consider graphene as a potential silicon replacement material. The McKinsey report suggests an “innovation X-ray”, a series of 10 questions for technology executives to consider before making the decision on investing in graphene research. Answering those questions should lead to a “structured innovation” strategy, enabling businesses to participate in these exciting new developments while minimizing the risks.


via Graphenea

Battery's hidden layer revealed

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An international team makes breakthrough in understanding the chemistry of the microscopically thin layer that forms between the liquid electrolyte and solid electrode in lithium-ion batteries. The results are being used in improving the layer and better predicting battery lifetime.
via Science Daily

Trilobites: Diamonds in a Meteorite May Be a Lost Planet’s Fragments

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The space rock crashed in a desert in Sudan in 2008, and the flaws in its embedded minerals are like nothing seen in today’s solar system.
via New York Times

Call for media: Second data release from ESA's Gaia mission

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Media representatives are invited to a briefing on the second data release of ESA's Gaia mission, an astrometry mission to map more than one billion stars in our Galaxy, the Milky Way.


via ESA Space Science
http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Gaia/Call_for_media_Second_data_release_from_ESA_s_Gaia_mission

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Robot developed for automated assembly of designer nanomaterials

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Engineers have developed a robot that can identify, collect, and manipulate two-dimensional nanocrystals. The robot stacked nanocrystals to form the most complex van der Waals heterostructure produced to date, with much less human intervention than the manual operations previously used to produce van der Waals heterostructures. This robot allows unprecedented access to van der Waals heterostructures, which are attractive for use in advanced electronics.
via Science Daily

Meteorite diamonds tell of a lost planet

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Scientists have examined a slice from a meteorite that contains large diamonds formed at high pressure. The study shows that the parent body from which the meteorite came was a planetary embryo of a size between Mercury to Mars.
via Science Daily
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Martian moons model indicates formation following large impact

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Scientists posit a violent birth of the tiny Martian moons Phobos and Deimos, but on a much smaller scale than the giant impact thought to have resulted in the Earth-moon system. Their work shows that an impact between proto-Mars and a dwarf-planet-sized object likely produced the two moons.
via Science Daily
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Flexible TVs and high performance wearable smart tech one step closer

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Flexible televisions, tablets and phones as well as 'truly wearable' smart tech are a step closer thanks to a nanoscale transistor just created.
via Science Daily

What happens to our muscles during spaceflight and when living on Mars?

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The inactivity of astronauts during spaceflights presents a significant risk to their muscles, says a new study. Scientists have simulated the impact of 21-day spaceflights on the body, and the impact of low gravity environments such as the moon or Mars.
via Science Daily
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Where is the Universe’s missing matter?

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Astronomers using ESA’s XMM-Newton space observatory have probed the gas-filled haloes around galaxies in a quest to find ‘missing’ matter thought to reside there, but have come up empty-handed – so where is it?


via ESA Space Science
http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Where_is_the_Universe_s_missing_matter

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Understanding Mercury's magnetic tail

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Theoretical physicists used simulations to explain the unusual readings collected in 2009 by the Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry, and Ranging mission. The origin of energetic electrons detected in Mercury's magnetic tail has puzzled scientists. This new study provides a possible solution to how these energetic electrons form.
via Science Daily
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Looking for extrasolar planets: DARKNESS lights the way

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An international team of scientists has developed a new instrument to detect planets around the nearest stars. It is the world's largest and most advanced superconducting camera.
via Science Daily
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