Scientists aim to use lasers to turn light into matter

March 20, 2018 by  
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Scientists at Imperial College London are attempting to use powerful lasers turn light into matter, potentially proving the 84-year-old theory known as the Breit-Wheeler process . According to this theory, it is technically possible to turn light into matter by smashing two photons to create a positron and an electron. While previous efforts to achieve this feat have required added high-energy particles, the Imperial scientists believe they have discovered a method that does not need additional energy to function. “This would be a pure demonstration of Einstein’s famous equation that relates energy and mass: E=mc2, which tells us how much energy is produced when matter is turned to energy,” explained Imperial Professor Steven Rose . “What we are doing is the same but backwards: turning photon energy into mass, i.e. m=E/c2.” The Imperial team’s system centers around two lasers , which create two different kinds of photons to be smashed. One photon has the energy equivalent to ten thousand times that produced by visible light, while the other has that of one billion times that of visible light. Both lasers are aimed at two small targets in the target chamber, where the charged particles are deflected and documented. The team will be observing the particles bouncing from the collision to see if they were successful in creating matter from light . Related: New quantum tunneling application captures electricity from Earth’s heat If the scientists successfully convert light into matter , they will have proven an old theory once thought impossible to confirm while offering a glimpse into the earliest moments of our universe. “When Gregory Breit and John Wheeler first proposed the mechanism in 1934, they used the then new theory of the interaction between light and matter known as quantum electrodynamics (QED),” explained study co-leader Dr. Stuart Mangles. “Whereas every other fundamental prediction of QED has since been demonstrated experimentally, the ‘two-photon Breit-Wheeler process’ has never been seen. If we can demonstrate it now, we would be recreating a process that was important in the first 100 seconds of the universe and that is also seen in gamma ray bursts, which are the biggest explosions in the universe and one of physics ‘ greatest unsolved mysteries.” Via Phys.org Images via Imperial College London

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LEED Gold lab by the ocean can withstand flooding and hurricane-force winds

February 20, 2018 by  
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GLUCK+’s new research facility for Duke University boasts beautiful coastal views as well as impressive eco-friendly credentials. Recently crowned LEED Gold , the Dr. Orrin H. Pilkey Research Laboratory in Beaufort, North Carolina features a slew of sustainable elements from use of recycled materials and reduced water use to energy-efficient heating and cooling technologies designed to cut energy costs by 30 percent. The state-of-the-art facility’s most salient sustainability feature, however, is the engineering behind the building’s ability to weather storm surges and hurricane-force winds. Located on the southern tip of Pivers Island, Pilkey Research Laboratory is the first new research building constructed at Duke University Marine Laboratory since the 1970s. In response to current concerns of sea level rise and other extreme weather, GLUCK+ made weatherproofing the 12,000-square-foot lab a priority. To protect against storm surges, the building is made up of a series of boxy volumes of varying sizes arranged in a pinwheel formation. In a nod to the waterfront campus’ existing buildings, the lower volumes are clad in cypress, whereas white cement board covers the upper volume. Related: GLUCK+’s Green-Roofed Pavilion Pool House Melts Into the Landscape of Lake George, NY The asymmetrical volumes are centered on an area called the Collisional Commons, a public meeting area for informal interactions. Here, views of the coastline can be enjoyed through full-height glazing that also opens up to outdoor seating. All regularly occupied rooms also have access to surrounding views and abundant natural light and ventilation. Faculty offices, a PhD bullpen, teaching lab, a video conference room and service spaces surround the commons. The laboratories with equipment-intensive research spaces are housed in the upper level. + GLUCK+ Via Dezeen Images by Paul Warchol

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LEED Gold lab by the ocean can withstand flooding and hurricane-force winds

Spectacular aerial sculpture hovers above a Madrid plaza

February 20, 2018 by  
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A symphony of color has taken to the air above Plaza Mayor. The instantly recognizable aerial sculpture is the work of none other than American artist Janet Echelman , who the City of Madrid commissioned to help celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Plaza Mayor. Titled 1.78 Madrid, the sculpture “explores the cycle of time” and the far-reaching effects of natural phenomenon and the built environment on our lives. Unveiled February 9 this year, 1.78 Madrid was displayed for a 10-day celebratory event that concluded yesterday. Highly engineered colorful fibers 15 times stronger than steel by weight were braided, knotted, and spliced together to create a dynamic form that constantly changes in the wind and provides a soft counterpoint to Plaza Mayor’s hard edges. At night, the sculpture was illuminated with colored lights. 1.78 Madrid is the latest addition to Echelman’s Earth Time Series that began in 2010 with works exhibited across the world. According to project statement on Echelman’s website, the number “1.78” within the title “refers to the number of microseconds that the day was shortened when a single physical event shifted the earth’s mass, thus speeding up the planet’s rotation of one day,” however it’s not clear what specific event the “1.78” alludes to. In Echelman’s previous works titled “1.8,” the number was a reference to how the 2011 Tohoku earthquake shortened the length of the day by 1.8 microseconds. Regardless, the cycles of time and causality are explored in all her works. Related: Janet Echelman’s dazzling aerial sculpture maps the devastating power of an earthquake “The artwork reminds us of our complex interconnectedness with larger cycles of time and the systems of our physical world,” continues the project statement. “The sculpture’s materials embody this. When any one element in the sculpture’s network moves, every other element is affected. Our surroundings affect how we feel and how we experience our lives – we are responsible for the way our cities look and function.” + Janet Echelman Images via Janet Echelman , by João Ferrand

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Spectacular aerial sculpture hovers above a Madrid plaza

Scientists create efficient fuel cell powered by solid carbon

January 22, 2018 by  
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Researchers at  Idaho National Laboratory ( INL ) have created a new fuel cell technology that is powered by solid carbon . This technology could make the generation of electrical power through carbon-based fuels, such as coal and biomass, to be done in a more efficient, cleaner manner. The most recent variation on direct carbon fuel cell (DCFC) designs was described in a study published this week in the journal Advanced Materials . According to INL materials engineer Dong Ding, the latest DCFC technology runs at lower temperatures and produces higher maximum power densities than previous designs. Similarly, the latest solid carbon fuel cell tech from INL, which produces a much cleaner byproduct, would make it easier for carbon capture technology to be implemented. While hydrogen fuel cells have made news lately for their promise to produce clean, efficient energy, DCFCs offers the advantage of being able to utilize readily-available fuel sources, such as coal, organic waste, and biomass . “You can skip the energy-intensive step of producing hydrogen,” Ding told Phys.org . However, there are disadvantages in traditional DCFC designs. They have historically required high temperatures to function, which in turn requires expensive materials that are able to withstand such heat . Related: World’s first commercial carbon-sucking plant goes live in Zurich The most recent DCFC design from INL addresses these problems. To deal with the necessary high temperatures, the researchers developed an electrolyte with doped cerium oxide and carbonate, highly conductive materials that can perform under lower temperatures. To increase the efficiency of the fuel cell, the researchers created a 3-D ceramic textile anode that is woven like cloth and maximizes the surface area available for carbon fuel chemical reactions. The design also incorporates a molten carbonate-carbon composite fuel, which allows for better flow. “At the operating temperature, that composite is fluidlike,” Ding said. “It can easily flow into the interface.” Because DCFCs produce pure carbon dioxide without other pollutants, Ding believes it would be much easier to include carbon capture technology into the design. While a shift to carbon-free renewable energy is necessary to mitigate climate change , this new DCFC technology may ease the transition. Via Phys.org Images via Idaho National Laboratory

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This result is of cosmic significance, says scientist of new form of matter

December 11, 2017 by  
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Physicists at the University of Illinois have announced they have discovered a new form of matter known as excitonium. Although theorized more than half a century ago, excitonium was only recently confirmed in experiments by the research team, which also included scientists from University of California at Berkeley, and University of Amsterdam. Excitonium is composed of a type of boson, a composite particle whose unique qualities enable the new form of matter to serve as a superconductor, superfluid, or an insulating electronic crystal. In this regard, it could be used to bolster existing technologies, aid the development of new ones, or help to bring clarity to some of the most vexing mysteries of quantum mechanics. Excitonium is composed of excitons, a combination of electrons and the empty “holes” left by empty electron states. When in an excited state, electrons on the edge of an energy level in an atom can jump to a different energy level , leaving a “hole” behind. This hole then acts with a positive force, trying to pull the negatively charged electron back to its original space. While scientists had envisioned such a state of matter , they were only recently able to identify it through a novel technique. Their work was documented in a study published in the journal Science . Related: Scientists locate half of the universe’s missing ordinary matter Although further study is needed, the implications of excitonium’s demonstrated existence is substantial. “This result is of cosmic significance,” said study co-author and University of Illinois Professor Peter Abbamonte in a press release. “Ever since the term ‘excitonium’ was coined in the 1960s by Harvard theoretical physicist Bert Halperin, physicists have sought to demonstrate its existence… Since the 1970s, many experimentalists have published evidence of the existence of excitonium, but their findings weren’t definitive proof and could equally have been explained by a conventional structural phase transition.” Via Futurism Images via  Peter Abbamonte/U. of I. Department of Physics and Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory and  L. Brian Stauffer/University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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This result is of cosmic significance, says scientist of new form of matter

America’s first private high-speed train could take 3M cars off the roads

December 11, 2017 by  
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America isn’t known for high-speed rail travel. But a new express train project taking off in Florida could shake up that perception. Brightline , owned by Florida East Coast Industries , will be the country’s first private, high-speed rail service, and will allow people to travel from Fort Lauderdale to Miami in half an hour, on trains powered by diesel electric engines. Floridians could soon get around Southeast Florida in around an hour aboard Brightline. The $3 billion project could take up to three million cars off the roads, on trains the company says were “designed with green in mind” with diesel electric engines that are quieter and spew less emissions . They’ll operate in Florida’s densest population corridor, where over six million people live and tourists continually visit. Related: Amtrak purchasing new high-speed trains to speed up travel between New York, Boston and Washington DC Brightline will start transporting travelers from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale this month, and in early 2018 into downtown Miami . Phase 2 will take people all the way to Orlando . Much of Brightline’s marketing revolves around ease, advertising frequent departures and the ability to book on the fly. They say rideshares will be waiting at their modern stations, and while traveling people can take advantage of free WiFi. All Aboard Florida obtained state approval earlier this year to sell bonds to finance Brightline, and said no public money will go towards paying for it. The Brightline project is the first test into an American foray into high-speed rail, according to Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions director John Renne. The vehicle speeds still won’t be as fast as some trains in other countries. Brightline trains will travel at 120 miles per hour (mph) at their fastest, but during the rollout they’ll operate at around 80 mph. The company has not yet confirmed ticket prices; a 2015 study they commissioned suggested it could be around $16 to go from Miami to West Palm, which is around $10 more than the price to journey on a government-run train on a similar route. + Brightline Via Brightline and NPR Images via Brightline and Brightline Twitter

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America’s first private high-speed train could take 3M cars off the roads

Scientists observe ‘diamond rain’ similar to that found on icy giant planets

August 24, 2017 by  
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You may have heard that icy planets like Neptune and Uranus experience diamond rain. But now, scientists have been able to mimic conditions of those planets and observe diamond rain at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California. Since it’s difficult for us at this point to directly observe the interiors of these planets, such research could help scientists better understand and classify worlds. For a long time, scientists have hypothesized that diamond rain arises over 5,000 miles below the surface of planets like Neptune and Uranus. In this recent experiment, a group of researchers simulated the conditions of these planets “by creating shock waves in plastic with an intense optical laser ” in the laboratory , according to a recent press release. They were able to observe that almost every carbon atom of the plastic was incorporated into diamond structures. The diamonds were tiny – only around a few nanometers wide – but on Uranus and Neptune, the researchers think the falling diamonds could weigh millions of carats. Related: Mysterious object near Neptune just made space a lot weirder Study lead author Dominik Kraus of research center Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf said in a statement, “We can’t go inside the planets and look at them, so these laboratory experiments complement satellite and telescope observations.” The scientists think diamond rain could produce an energy source, generating heat as it falls. Beyond observing a neat phenomenon, the experiment could help scientists learn about how elements mix together under pressure in the interiors of planets, providing them with more information on a planet’s defining features. These researchers plan to apply their methods to study the processes of other planets as well. Nature Astronomy published the study online this week. 23 scientists of institutions in Germany, Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom contributed to the research. Via SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory Images via Greg Stewart/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

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Fly down a zipline in the Willy Wonka-esque Future Forest in London

August 24, 2017 by  
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Bompas & Parr are like real-life Willy Wonkas—and they brought their magic touch to the inside of a UK shopping mall. The design duo launched a free ‘Future Forest’ in the Westfield London shopping center with the theme of urban reforestation. The immersive experience is an incredible indoor forest playground with a fantastical Fruit Cloud, electricity-producing plants, a historic tree circus, and even a 40-meter-long zip-line that starts atop a 5.3-meter-high treehouse. The Future Forest is envisioned as rural escapism in the concrete jungle that promotes relaxation, health, and wellness as well as environmental awareness . “Imagining how we can co-exist in nature is one of the key challenges facing our collective future, where we face increased urban populations while climate change and pollution threatens the stability of the natural world,” says Harry Parr, Director of Bompas & Parr. “We’ve tried to bring to life these concerns in a fun and interactive way that conveys important messages and delivers big on the fun factor too. What better way to engage young people in the future of our urban environment than by zorbing through Westfield or experiencing the fruit cloud?” Related: London to Launch Edible Fireworks Display to Ring in the New Year! The temporary nature-inspired installation first popped up earlier this summer at Westfield Stratford City and has now moved to Westfield London , where it will stay until August 28. The move to Westfield also comes with the new addition of the Adventure Zip-Line that offers an exhilarating 40-meter descent front the top of a treehouse . It is the only indoor zip-line in the UK, and free to the public. A Fruit Cloud that immerses visitors in a breathable aromatic cloud with regularly changing flavors, as well as other inspiring installations, complements the zip-line. + Bompas & Parr Images © Ann Charlott Ommedal and Bompas & Parr

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Fly down a zipline in the Willy Wonka-esque Future Forest in London

A wave of buckets hijacks public space in Mexico City

August 24, 2017 by  
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How much fun can you have with paint buckets? The designers at Factor Eficiencia and 5468796 Architecture prove that objects as mundane as paint buckets can be transformed into a vibrant public space with the power of creative thinking. The interactive installation, called ‘One Bucket at a Time,’ is a wave-shaped space with seating developed for MEXTROPOLI 2017, a four-day architecture festival in Mexico City. Mexico City is one of the largest cities in the world with a population of over 20 million. Unsurprisingly, traffic is a nightmare in the city as is the shortage of available parking. To capitalize on the situation, thousands of “viene viene” entrepreneurs swarm the city streets, using painter’s buckets to claim a piece of the street in order to charge drivers a fee in exchange for parking in the illegally claimed spot. Inspired by this hijacking of public (parking) space, Factor Eficiencia and 5468796 Architecture created One Bucket at a Time, a pop-up installation made from paint buckets. Related: Giant animal faces take over Mexico City’s forest for environmental awareness Curled up on the edges, the wave-like pavilion is created with a grid of ropes that form the underlying structure. The attached buckets are strong enough to withstand the weigh of visitors who walk, run, and play on its modular surface. Overturned buckets are also used as seating around the installation. “By using buckets—a symbol of holding the public space hostage—we are highlighting and questioning this pervasive condition, and also empowering people of Mexico City to reclaim ownership of their public space, one bucket at a time, even if only for a few days,” wrote the designers. + Factor Eficiencia + 5468796 Architecture Via Contemporist Images by Jaime Navarro

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Scientists invent the world’s first microchip powered by biological systems

December 28, 2015 by  
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Researchers at Columbia University have successfully created the world’s first computer chip powered by an isolated chemical biological process. Natural systems emit enormous amounts of energy that is often underutilized. This new bio-chip represents a high-tech version of “working with nature” and is producing promising results in the laboratory. Read the rest of Scientists invent the world’s first microchip powered by biological systems

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