Posts Tagged ‘energy’

Scientists Detect ‘Dark Lightning’ Energy Burst Linked to Visible Lightning

April 25, 2013 1 comment

Apr. 24, 2013 — Researchers have identified a burst of high-energy radiation known as ‘dark lightning” immediately preceding a flash of ordinary lightning. The new finding provides observational evidence that the two phenomena are connected, although the exact nature of the relationship between ordinary bright lightning and the dark variety is still unclear, the scientists said.

Three images, left to right, of the same thundercloud depict a less-than-10-milliseconds-long sequence of events: (left) formation within the cloud of a small channel, or ‘leader,’ of electrical conductivity (yellow line) with weak emission of radio signals (ripples), to (middle) a burst of both dark lightning (pink) and radio waves (larger ripples), to (right) a discharge of bright lightning and more radio waves. (Credit: Studio Gohde)

“Our results indicate that both these phenomena, dark and bright lightning, are intrinsic processes in the discharge of lightning,” said Nikolai Østgaard, who is a space scientist at the University of Bergen in Norway and led the research team.

He and his collaborators describe their findings in an article recently accepted in Geophysical Research Letters — a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

Dark lightning is a burst of gamma rays produced during thunderstorms by extremely fast moving electrons colliding with air molecules. Researchers refer to such a burst as a terrestrial gamma ray flash.

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NASA’s Van Allen Probes Reveal a New Radiation Belt Around Earth

Feb. 28, 2013 — NASA’s Van Allen Probes mission has discovered a previously unknown third radiation belt around Earth, revealing the existence of unexpected structures and processes within these hazardous regions of space.

Two giant swaths of radiation, known as the Van Allen Belts, surrounding Earth were discovered in 1958. In 2012, observations from the Van Allen Probes showed that a third belt can sometimes appear. The radiation is shown here in yellow, with green representing the spaces between the belts. (Credit: NASA/Van Allen Probes/Goddard Space Flight Center)

Previous observations of Earth’s Van Allen belts have long documented two distinct regions of trapped radiation surrounding our planet. Particle detection instruments aboard the twin Van Allen Probes, launched Aug. 30, quickly revealed to scientists the existence of this new, transient, third radiation belt.

The belts, named for their discoverer, James Van Allen, are critical regions for modern society, which is dependent on many space-based technologies. The Van Allen belts are affected by solar storms and space weather and can swell dramatically. When this occurs, they can pose dangers to communications and GPS satellites, as well as humans in space.

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Largest Quasar Ever Discovered Burns 100 Times Brighter Than Entire Milky Way

November 29, 2012 Leave a comment

By Emily Elert Posted 11.28.2012
Glowing galactic center located near a supermassive black hole
Artist's Rendering of Huge Quasar Outflow

Artist’s Rendering of Huge Quasar Outflow ESO/L. Calçada

Astronomers have found a galaxy whose super-luminous nucleus–called a quasar–is burning 100 times as much energy as the entire Milky Way galaxy.

Though theory has long predicted that quasars this powerful should exist, the newly-discovered object, known as SDSS J1106+1939, is by far the most energetic ever observed. The quasar is powered by a supermassive black hole that lies at its center.

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Enough Wind to Power Global Energy Demand: New Research Examines Limits, Climate Consequences

September 10, 2012 Leave a comment

ScienceDaily (Sep. 9, 2012) — There is enough energy available in winds to meet all of the world’s demand. Atmospheric turbines that convert steadier and faster high-altitude winds into energy could generate even more power than ground- and ocean-based units. New research from Carnegie’s Ken Caldeira examines the limits of the amount of power that could be harvested from winds, as well as the effects high-altitude wind power could have on the climate as a whole.

There is enough energy available in winds to meet all of the world’s demand, according to new research. Atmospheric turbines that convert steadier and faster high-altitude winds into energy could generate even more power than ground- and ocean-based units. (Credit: © Thorsten Schier / Fotolia)

Their work is published September 9 by Nature Climate Change.

Led by Kate Marvel of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, who began this research at Carnegie, the team used models to quantify the amount of power that could be generated from both surface and atmospheric winds. Surface winds were defined as those that can be accessed by turbines supported by towers on land or rising out of the sea. High-altitude winds were defined as those that can be accessed by technology merging turbines and kites. The study looked only at the geophysical limitations of these techniques, not technical or economic factors.

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Nanotechnology Used to Harness Power of Fireflies

ScienceDaily (June 15, 2012) — What do fireflies, nanorods, and Christmas lights have in common? Someday, consumers may be able to purchase multicolor strings of light that don’t need electricity or batteries to glow. Scientists at Syracuse University found a new way to harness the natural light produced by fireflies (called bioluminescence) using nanoscience. Their breakthrough produces a system that is 20 to 30 times more efficient than those produced during previous experiments.

Nanorods created with firefly enzymes glow orange. The custom, quantum nanorods are created in the laboratory of Mathew Maye, assistant professor of chemistry. (Credit: Image courtesy of Syracuse University)

It’s all about the size and structure of the custom, quantum nanorods, which are produced in the laboratory by Mathew Maye, assistant professor of chemistry in SU’s College of Arts and Sciences; and Rebeka Alam, a chemistry Ph.D. candidate. Maye is also a member of the Syracuse Biomaterials Institute. “Firefly light is one of nature’s best examples of bioluminescence,” Maye says. “The light is extremely bright and efficient. We’ve found a new way to harness biology for non-biological applications by manipulating the interface between the biological and non-biological components.”

Their work, “Designing Quantum Rods for Optimized Energy Transfer with Firefly Luciferase Enzymes,” was published online May 23 in Nano Letters and is forthcoming in print. Collaborating on the research were Professor Bruce Branchini and Danielle Fontaine, both from Connecticut College.

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In Metallic Glasses, Researchers Find a Few New Atomic Structures

“The fundamental nature of a glass structure is that the organization of the atoms is disordered-jumbled up like differently sized marbles in a jar, rather than eggs in an egg carton,” says Paul Voyles, the principal investigator on the research. (Credit: © marionbirdy / Fotolia)

ScienceDaily (May 11, 2012) — Drawing on powerful computational tools and a state-of-the-art scanning transmission electron microscope, a team of University of Wisconsin-Madison and Iowa State University materials science and engineering researchers has discovered a new nanometer-scale atomic structure in solid metallic materials known as metallic glasses.

Published May 11 in the journal Physical Review Letters, the findings fill a gap in researchers’ understanding of this atomic structure. This understanding ultimately could help manufacturers fine-tune such properties of metallic glasses as ductility, the ability to change shape under force without breaking, and formability, the ability to form a glass without crystalizing.

Glasses include all solid materials that have a non-crystalline atomic structure: They lack a regular geometric arrangement of atoms over long distances. “The fundamental nature of a glass structure is that the organization of the atoms is disordered-jumbled up like differently sized marbles in a jar, rather than eggs in an egg carton,” says Paul Voyles, a UW-Madison associate professor of materials science and engineering and principal investigator on the research.

Researchers widely believe that atoms in metallic glasses are arranged only as pentagons in an order known as five-fold rotational symmetry. However, in studies of a zirconium-copper-aluminum metallic glass, Voyles’ team found there are clusters of squares and hexagons-in addition to clusters of pentagons, some of which form chains-all located within the space of just a few nanometers. “One or two nanometers is a group of about 50 atoms-and it’s how those 50 atoms are arranged with respect to one another that’s the new and interesting part,” he says.

The above story is reprinted from materials provided byUniversity of Wisconsin-Madison. The original article was written by Renee Meiller.

‘Nanofishnet’ Could Be the First Metamaterial to Impossibly Bend Light in the Visible Spectrum

By Clay DillowPosted 04.30.2012 at 2:09 pm

The Nanofishnet Array: Layers of Silver and Glass Carlos García Meca via IEEE Spectrum

Metamaterials hold the elusive promise of the true invisibility cloak, one that bends light right around objects to make them invisible to viewers. But most metamaterials with any kind of potential can only be fabricated in very small sizes, and even the ones that work well–and there are a few–generally don’t work in the visible spectrum. But researchers from Spain and the UK have reported that they have constructed what may be the first practical metamaterial that works in the visible range.

The material was designed with optical switching in mind–sub-picosecond pulsing of light in fiber optics networks or in highly tuned pulsing lasers–but the researchers themselves are convinced that its layered structure could be scaled up into usable, practically-sized objects. Everyone in the materials science community isn’t so optimistic, but the fact that it works at all in the visible range marks something of a breakthrough in the field.

Visible light has been a particularly tough nut to crack when it comes to metamaterials, which essentially bend light unnaturally to achieve a desired effect. Light waves in the visible spectrum tend to degrade to nothing after passing through materials just a fraction of a wavelength thick, so it’s tough to make a metamaterial that can bend light in a predetermined way without also losing the visible light wave altogether.

The UK/Spanish team (from King’s College London and the Valencia Nanophotonics Technology Center, respectively) overcame this through a novel layered construction of silver and hydrogen silsesquioxane (a type of glass). Using a focused ion beam, they punched tiny holes through the layers to create a structure they refer to as a “nanofishnet.” This combination of materials, layering, and nanofishnet structure allows the material to create the necessary negative magnetic permeability (a necessary ingredient for metamaterials that you can learn more abouthere) in the red and near-infrared parts of the spectrum.

By varying the size of the holes in the nanofishnet the team was able to adjust the materials index of refraction, giving them some degree of freedom when it comes to “programming” the material for different kinds of light. So while the team hasn’t created the wundermaterial that will enable our invisibility-cloaked future, they have created a metamaterial that works in one sliver of the spectrum and that could perhaps be cajoled into working in other slivers as well. Click through toIEEE Spectrum for a much more detailed explanation of this.

[IEEE Spectrum]