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  • richardmitnick 10:57 am on April 24, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "We Just Got The Best Evidence Yet of an Exotic 'Supersolid' State of Matter", Applied Research & Technology, BECs-Bose–Einstein condensates, , , Researchers worked with two such quantum gases producing BECs of isotopes of erbium (erbium-166) and dysprosium (dysprosium-164), , , Supersolids   

    From Science Alert: “We Just Got The Best Evidence Yet of an Exotic ‘Supersolid’ State of Matter” 


    From Science Alert

    24 APR 2019

    (Uni Innsbruck)

    Scientists have observed the clearest evidence yet of an incredibly rare and exotic theoretical phase of matter called a supersolid – and while it only lasted experimentally for a fleeting instant in the lab, it’s the longest we’ve ever glimpsed such paradoxical strangeness to exist at all.

    Supersolids were first theoretically predicted to exist a half-century ago, fusing both the rigid characteristics of solids and the flowing characteristics of liquids at the atomic level.

    What this means is that somehow, as impossible as it sounds, the atoms that make up these strange supersolid materials are spatially arranged in such a way that they resemble a crystalline structure, while simultaneously embodying the liquid-like properties of superfluidity.

    Scientists have been studying supersolid matter for decades, both theoretically but also experimentally, trying to replicate and somehow observe them in the real world, mostly in experiments with an isotope of helium called superfluid helium-4.

    However, despite many attempts – including a purported breakthrough in 2004 – firm proof for a helium-based supersolid still remains elusive.

    But there’s another way of potentially tricking supersolids into existence, with more recent attempts centred around ultra-cold quantum gases such as Bose–Einstein condensates (BECs). In these condensates, particles that make up the gas become so cold, they begin to show supersolid behaviour.

    “Recent experiments have revealed that such gases exhibit fundamental similarities with superfluid helium,” says experimental physicist Lauriane Chomaz from the University of Innsbruck in Austria, the first author of a new paper on this research.

    “These features lay the groundwork for reaching a state where the several tens of thousands of particles of the gas spontaneously organise in a self-determined crystalline structure while sharing the same macroscopic wavefunction – hallmarks of supersolidity.”

    In the new experiments, Chomaz and fellow researchers worked with two such quantum gases, producing BECs of isotopes of erbium (erbium-166) and dysprosium (dysprosium-164).

    Both of these gases are remarkable for featuring strong dipolar interactions, which, when tweaked sufficiently by ultra-cold temperatures, promotes atomic grouping into ‘droplet’ formations that themselves promote supersolidity.

    “For several years, researchers have known these BECs have the ingredients for supersolidity,” quantum researcher Tobias Donner from ETH Zürich, who wasn’t involved with the study, explains in a Physics overview piece.

    “First, they are superfluids. And second, under certain conditions, the atoms will segregate into several dense droplets, providing the necessary density modulation.”

    Although erbium-166 and dysprosium-164 are both good candidates for inducing supersolid behaviour, the team’s results showed the two gases are not equal.

    In the experiments with the erbium isotope, the supersolid state observed was “only transient”, senior researcher Francesca Ferlaino explains; in contrast, the dysprosium BEC demonstrated “unprecedented stability” for a supersolid.

    “Reaching the phases via a slow interaction tuning, starting from a stable condensate, we observe that erbium-166 and dysprosium-164 exhibit a striking difference in the lifetime of the supersolid properties, due to the different atom loss rates in the two systems,” the authors write in their paper.

    “Indeed, while in erbium-166 the supersolid behaviour survives only a few tens of milliseconds, we observe coherent density modulations for more than 150 ms in dysprosium-164.”

    Of course, 150 milliseconds might not seem very long to you and me, but for an incredibly exotic and quasi-impossible phase of matter that has to be coaxed into existence to be seen at all, it’s actually “remarkably long-lived”, to quote the research team.

    Despite that long life, the researchers stop short of proclaiming these results offer the unambiguous proof of supersolidity we’ve been looking for, describing the work as “evidence for hallmarks of this exotic state in ultracold dilute atomic gases”.

    That said, it’s clear we’re edging ever closer to even more exciting breakthroughs, especially since this research follows close on the heels of two other very recent experiments [Physical Review X] [Physical Review Letters] honing in on supersolid states in dipolar quantum gases.

    For solid proof of the supersolid, it may only be a matter of time.

    The findings are reported in Physical Review X.

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 9:50 am on April 24, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Capturing the behavior of single-atom catalysts on the move", Applied Research & Technology, , , ,   

    From SLAC National Accelerator Lab: “Capturing the behavior of single-atom catalysts on the move” 

    From SLAC National Accelerator Lab

    April 23, 2019
    Glennda Chui

    A new study precisely controlled the attachment of platinum atoms (white balls) to a titanium dioxide surface (latticework of red and blue balls). It found that their positions varied from being deeply embedded in the surface (lower left) to standing almost free of the surface (upper right). This change in position affected the atoms’ ability to catalyze a chemical reaction that converts carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide (upper right). (Greg Stewart, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

    Scientists are excited by the prospect of stripping catalysts down to single atoms. Attached by the millions to a supporting surface, they could offer the ultimate in speed and specificity.

    Now researchers have taken an important step toward understanding single-atom catalysts by deliberately tweaking how they’re attached to the surfaces that support them – in this case the surfaces of nanoparticles. They attached one platinum atom to each nanoparticle and observed how changing the chemistry of the particle’s surface and the nature of the attachment affected how keen the atom was to catalyze reactions.

    Key experiments for the study took place at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, and the results were reported in Nature Materials yesterday.

    “We believe this is the first time the reactivity of a metallic single-atom catalyst has been traced to a specific way of attaching it to a particular supporting structure. This study is also unique in systematically controlling that attachment,” said Simon R. Bare, a distinguished staff scientist at SLAC’s Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) and a co-author of the study.


    “This is an important scientific breakthrough, and understanding on a fundamental level how the structure relates to the reactivity will ultimately allow us to design catalysts to be much more efficient. There is a huge number of people working on this problem.”

    Harsh treatment, good results

    Bare and other SLAC scientists were part of a previous study at SSRL [Nature Catalysis] that found that individual iridium atoms could catalyze a particular reaction up to 25 times more efficiently than the iridium nanoparticles used today, which contain 50 to 100 atoms.

    This latest study was led by Associate Professor Phillip Christopher of the University of California, Santa Barbara. It looked at individual atoms of platinum that were attached to separate nanoparticles of titanium dioxide in his lab. While this approach would probably not be practical in a chemical plant or in your car’s catalytic converter, it did give the research team exquisitely fine control of where the atoms were placed and of the environment immediately around them, Bare said.

    Researchers gave the nanoparticles chemical treatments – either harsh or mild – and used SSRL’s X-rays to observe how those treatments changed where and how the platinum atoms attached to the surface.

    Meanwhile, scientists at the University of California, Irvine directly observed the attachments and positions of the platinum atoms with electron microscopes, and researchers at UC-Santa Barbara measured how active the platinum atoms were in catalyzing reactions.

    Breaking through the surface

    A platinum atom has six binding sites where it can hook up with other atoms. In untreated nanoparticles, the atoms were buried in the surface and firmly bound to six oxygen atoms each; they had no free binding sites that could grab other atoms and start a catalytic reaction.

    In mildly treated particles, the platinum atoms emerged from the surface and were bound to just four oxygen atoms apiece, leaving them two free binding sites and the potential for more catalytic activity.

    And in harshly treated particles, the atoms clung to the surface by only two bonds, leaving four binding sites free. When the researchers tested the ability of the variously treated nanoparticles to catalyze a reaction where carbon monoxide combines with oxygen to form carbon dioxide – the same reaction that takes place in a car’s catalytic converter – this one came out on top, Bare said, with five times greater activity than the others.

    “While this study shows the importance of understanding the dynamic nature of catalysts,” Christopher said, “the next challenge will be to translate the findings to industrially relevant systems.”

    SSRL is a DOE Office of Science user facility. The changing positions of the platinum atoms on the particle surfaces were imaged and observed with transmission electron microscopy using state-of-the-art facilities recently established at the Irvine Materials Research Institute (IMRI) at UC-Irvine. Detailed experimental insights obtained in the study were correlated with predictions made by theorists at the University of Milano-Bicocca in Italy.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    SLAC/LCLS II projected view

    SLAC is a multi-program laboratory exploring frontier questions in photon science, astrophysics, particle physics and accelerator research. Located in Menlo Park, California, SLAC is operated by Stanford University for the DOE’s Office of Science.

  • richardmitnick 8:29 am on April 23, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "A day in the life of a midnight beam master", Applied Research & Technology, , Ben Ripman- operations engineer at the SLAC accelerator control room, , , SLAC SPEAR3, ,   

    From SLAC National Accelerator Lab: “A day in the life of a midnight beam master” 

    From SLAC National Accelerator Lab

    April 16, 2019 [Just today 4.23.19 in social media]
    Angela Anderson

    In SLAC’s accelerator control room, shift lead Ben Ripman and a team of operators fine-tune X-ray beams for science experiments around the clock.

    When is a day not a day? When you work in the central nervous system of the world’s longest linear accelerator, open 24-7.

    “There’s a constant cycle of people coming and going,” says Ben Ripman, an operations engineer at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

    Ben Ripman, operations engineer at the SLAC accelerator control room (Angela Anderson/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

    He might start at 8 a.m., at 4 p.m. or at midnight. But the shift rotations are no barrier to his passion for the job – leading a team of control room operators who deliver brilliant X-ray beams for scientific experiments.

    Control room operators spend most of their workdays (or nights) in a room filled with monitors, three deep and crowded with numbers, charts and graphs. Those displays track the status of thousands of devices and systems in the linear accelerator that runs through a tunnel below Highway 280 and feeds SLAC’s X-ray laser, the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS).


    The accelerator boosts electrons to almost the speed of light and then wiggles them between magnets to generate X-rays. That X-ray light is formed into pulses and optimized for materials science, biology, chemistry, and physics experiments.

    The entire operation is monitored in the control room, which also serves SPEAR3, the accelerator that produces X-rays for the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL).



    Another set of monitors, staffed by SLAC Facilities, tracks water, compressed air and electricity systems that serve the lab campus.

    Ripman and his fellow operators are experts in reading these digital vital signs. But they are also some of the most knowledgeable people at the lab when it comes to the entire physical machine.

    “We know the accelerator from beginning to end,” he says. “When an operator adjusts something from the control room, they can picture that machine part and what it is doing.”

    For LCLS, they measure the amount of energy in individual X-ray pulses being fed to experimental hutches and often spend hours improving the pulses: tweaking magnets, adjusting the undulators, tuning the shape and length of the electron bunches.

    Some days the control room is quiet, and the operators focus on training and individual projects. On other, more challenging days when the machine is running in exotic modes, they work elbow to elbow with physicists.

    “We love this machine, but the accelerator was built decades ago and can be cantankerous,” Ripman explains. “When things do go wrong, it’s like a game of pickup sticks – one problem triggers another and you need to know how it all fits together.”

    An important part of the job is knowing who to call for help. “We wake up a lot of people in the middle of the night,” Ripman says with a smile.

    Control room operators also make sure everyone who goes into the accelerator tunnel stays safe.

    There are two ways to get into the accelerator. For minor repairs and inspections, people take keys from special key banks that block the accelerator from turning on until all the keys have been returned. On official maintenance days, the doors are thrown open.

    “On those days, maintenance crews, engineers and physicists descend into the tunnel and swarm the machine to resolve as many issues as possible before we have to summon them out again,” Ripman says. “We search the machine to make sure everyone is out before it’s turned back on.”

    Almost all of the displays in the control room were designed by the operators, he says. “We are known to hide ‘Easter eggs’ in them, but you have to get in our good graces to find out about them.”

    New operators take more than a year to get trained and proficient, Ripman says. “People come with a physics degree, but there is not a lot of formal coursework you can take on accelerator operations – it’s a lot of on-the-job training.”

    It was that hands-on learning that drew him to the job in 2010.

    “I was a nerd in high school,” Ripman admits proudly, “Stephen Hawking was my hero.” After studying physics and astronomy in college, Ripman worked as a contractor for NASA before joining SLAC. On his off hours, he plays board games and travels several times a year for card tournaments. He also loves hiking, skiing and snowboarding, and is a member of the Stanford University Singers.

    His favorite thing about the job? “My coworkers,” he says. “I have the privilege of working with smart, fun, quirky people. We all get along quite well, and there’s a great camaraderie.”

    Operators leave sticky notes with jokes or short messages for the next shift and share stories about their days and nights in the accelerator’s brain.

    Like the one about a ghost calling from an abandoned tunnel. But that’s a tale for another night…

    LCLS and SSRL are DOE Office of Science user facilities.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    SLAC/LCLS II projected view

    SLAC is a multi-program laboratory exploring frontier questions in photon science, astrophysics, particle physics and accelerator research. Located in Menlo Park, California, SLAC is operated by Stanford University for the DOE’s Office of Science.

  • richardmitnick 1:14 pm on April 22, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "More Than a Million New Earthquakes Spotted in Archival Data", , Applied Research & Technology, Earthquakes in California,   

    From Eos: “More Than a Million New Earthquakes Spotted in Archival Data” 

    From AGU
    Eos news bloc

    From Eos

    19 April 2019
    Katherine Kornei

    By reanalyzing seismic records, researchers found a plethora of tiny earthquakes in Southern California that trace new fault structures and reveal how earthquakes are triggered.

    Little temblors like those detected in the new data are much more numerous than the building-toppling quakes like the one that ripped through San Francisco in 1906. Credit: The U.S. National Archives

    Every 3 minutes. That’s how often an earthquake struck Southern California from 2008 to 2017, new research published in Science shows.

    National Geographic

    Scientists have discovered over 1.6 million previously unknown earthquakes, most of them tiny, by mining seismic records. These results, which constitute the most comprehensive earthquake catalog produced to date, reveal in detail how faults crisscross the Golden State and shed light on how one earthquake triggers others.

    “Having a better earthquake catalog is just like having a better microscope,” said Robert Skoumal, a geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif., not involved in this study. “We are able to take a closer look at the location of faults, how those faults rupture, and how they interact with each other.”

    Small and Numerous

    A tenet of earthquake science motivated Zachary Ross, a seismologist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, and his collaborators: Earthquake catalogs are always incomplete. That’s because small earthquakes, many of which are too tiny to feel, are always lurking below the limit of detectability. And these little temblors are much more numerous than the building-toppling, highway-churning beasts that make headlines.

    “For every magnitude unit you go down in size, you get about 10 times as many,” said Ross.

    Ross and his colleagues used data from over 500 seismometers in the Southern California Seismic Network to tease out small, previously unrecorded earthquakes.

    They used a technique called template matching, which involves using the seismic waveforms of known earthquakes as templates and then looking for matches in seismic data collected nearby.

    “The shaking that’s recorded…will look almost the same,” said Ross. “They’re seeing all the same rocks as they’re traveling along.”

    Down to the Noise

    “We’re basically at the noise level of the instrumentation.”
    Ross and his team combed through a decade of seismic records using over 280,000 earthquakes as template events. They found over 1.6 million new earthquakes as small as magnitude 0.3. Such low levels of ground shaking can also be caused by construction-related vibrations, ocean waves, and nearby aircraft, said Ross.

    “We’re basically at the noise level of the instrumentation.”

    Using small differences in the arrival times of seismic waves from an earthquake, the scientists calculated the hypocenter of each new event. This information, along with an earthquake’s timing and magnitude, allowed Ross and his colleagues to assemble detailed maps of Southern California’s earthquakes.

    Video by Caltech

    The new earthquake catalog does a far better job of tracing fault lines and revealing how earthquakes trigger others compared with older records, said Ross.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Eos is the leading source for trustworthy news and perspectives about the Earth and space sciences and their impact. Its namesake is Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, who represents the light shed on understanding our planet and its environment in space by the Earth and space sciences.

  • richardmitnick 10:48 am on April 22, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Optimizing Network Software to Advance Scientific Discovery", Applied Research & Technology, , , CSI-The computer is installed at Brookhaven's Scientific Data and Computing Center, DiRAC-Distributed Research Using Advanced Computing, Intel's high-speed communication network to accelerate application codes for particle physics and machine learning,   

    From Brookhaven National Lab: “Optimizing Network Software to Advance Scientific Discovery” 

    From Brookhaven National Lab

    April 16, 2019
    Ariana Tantillo

    A team of computer scientists, physicists, and software engineers optimized software for Intel’s high-speed communication network to accelerate application codes for particle physics and machine learning.

    Brookhaven Lab collaborated with Columbia University, University of Edinburgh, and Intel to optimize the performance of a 144-node parallel computer built from Intel’s Xeon Phi processors and Omni-Path high-speed communication network. The computer is installed at Brookhaven’s Scientific Data and Computing Center, as seen above with technology engineer Costin Caramarcu.

    High-performance computing (HPC)—the use of supercomputers and parallel processing techniques to solve large computational problems—is of great use in the scientific community. For example, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory rely on HPC to analyze the data they collect at the large-scale experimental facilities on site and to model complex processes that would be too expensive or impossible to demonstrate experimentally.

    Modern science applications, such as simulating particle interactions, often require a combination of aggregated computing power, high-speed networks for data transfer, large amounts of memory, and high-capacity storage capabilities. Advances in HPC hardware and software are needed to meet these requirements. Computer and computational scientists and mathematicians in Brookhaven Lab’s Computational Science Initiative (CSI) are collaborating with physicists, biologists, and other domain scientists to understand their data analysis needs and provide solutions to accelerate the scientific discovery process.

    An HPC industry leader

    An image of the Xeon Phi Knights Landing processor die. A die is a pattern on a wafer of semiconducting material that contains the electronic circuitry to perform a particular function. Credit: Intel.

    For decades, Intel Corporation has been one of the leaders in developing HPC technologies. In 2016, the company released the Intel® Xeon PhiTM processors (formerly code-named “Knights Landing”), its second-generation HPC architecture that integrates many processing units (cores) per chip. The same year, Intel released the Intel® Omni-Path Architecture high-speed communication network. In order for the 5,000 to 100,000 individual computers, or nodes, in modern supercomputers to work together to solve a problem, they must be able to quickly communicate with each other while minimizing network delays.

    Soon after these releases, Brookhaven Lab and RIKEN, Japan’s largest comprehensive research institution, pooled their resources to purchase a small 144-node parallel computer built from Xeon Phi processors and two independent network connections, or rails, using Intel’s Omni-Path Architecture.

    The computer was installed at Brookhaven Lab’s Scientific Data and Computing Center, which is part of CSI.

    With the installation completed, physicist Chulwoo Jung and CSI computational scientist Meifeng Lin of Brookhaven Lab; theoretical physicist Christoph Lehner, a joint appointee at Brookhaven Lab and the University of Regensburg in Germany; Norman Christ, the Ephraim Gildor Professor of Computational Theoretical Physics at Columbia University; and theoretical particle physicist Peter Boyle of the University of Edinburgh worked in close collaboration with software engineers at Intel to optimize the network software for two science applications: particle physics and machine learning.

    “CSI had been very interested in the Intel Omni-Path Architecture since it was announced in 2015,” said Lin. “The expertise of Intel engineers was critical to implementing the software optimizations that allowed us to fully take advantage of this high-performance communication network for our specific application needs.”

    Network requirements for scientific applications

    For many scientific applications, running one rank (a value that distinguishes one process from another) or possibly a few ranks per node on a parallel computer is much more efficient than running several ranks per node. Each rank typically executes as an independent process that communicates with the other ranks by using a standard protocol known as Message Passing Interface (MPI).

    A schematic of the lattice for quantum chromodynamics calculations. The intersection points on the grid represent quark values, while the lines between them represent gluon values.

    For example, physicists seeking to understand how the early universe formed run complex numerical simulations of particle interactions based on the theory of quantum chromodynamics (QCD). This theory explains how elementary particles called quarks and gluons interact to form the particles we directly observe, such as protons and neutrons. Physicists model these interactions by using supercomputers that represent the three dimensions of space and the dimension of time in a four-dimensional (4D) lattice of equally spaced points, similar to that of a crystal. The lattice is split into smaller identical sub-volumes. For lattice QCD calculations, data need to be exchanged at the boundaries between the different sub-volumes. If there are multiple ranks per node, each rank hosts a different 4D sub-volume. Thus, splitting up the sub-volumes creates more boundaries where data need to be exchanged and therefore unnecessary data transfers that slow down the calculations.

    Software optimizations to advance science

    To optimize the network software for such a computationally intensive scientific application, the team focused on enhancing the speed of a single rank.

    “We made the code for a single MPI rank run faster so that a proliferation of MPI ranks would not be needed to handle the large communication load present for each node,” explained Christ.

    The software within the MPI rank exploits the threaded parallelism available on Xeon Phi nodes. Threaded parallelism refers to the simultaneous execution of multiple processes, or threads, that follow the same instructions while sharing some computing resources. With the optimized software, the team was able to create multiple communication channels on a single rank and to drive these channels using different threads.

    Two-dimensional illustration of threaded parallelism. Key: green lines separate physical compute nodes; black lines separate MPI ranks; red lines are the communication contexts, with the arrows denoting communication between nodes or memory copy within a node via the Intel Omni-Path hardware.

    The MPI software was now set up for the scientific applications to run more quickly and to take full advantage of the Intel Omni-Path communications hardware. But after implementing the software, the team members encountered another challenge: in each run, a few nodes would inevitably communicate slowly and hold the others back.

    They traced this problem to the way that Linux—the operating system used by the majority of HPC platforms—manages memory. In its default mode, Linux divides memory into small chunks called pages. By reconfiguring Linux to use large (“huge”) memory pages, they resolved the issue. Increasing the page size means that fewer pages are needed to map the virtual address space that an application uses. As a result, memory can be accessed much more quickly.

    With the software enhancements, the team members analyzed the performance of the Intel Omni-Path Architecture and Intel Xeon Phi processor compute nodes installed on Intel’s dual-rail “Diamond” cluster and the Distributed Research Using Advanced Computing (DiRAC) single-rail cluster in the United Kingdom.

    DiRAC is the UK’s integrated supercomputing facility for theoretical modelling and HPC-based research in particle physics, astronomy and cosmology.

    For their analysis, they used two different classes of scientific applications: particle physics and machine learning. For both application codes, they achieved near-wirespeed performance—the theoretical maximum rate of data transfer. This improvement represents an increase in network performance that is between four and ten times that of the original codes.

    “Because of the close collaboration between Brookhaven, Edinburgh, and Intel, these optimizations were made available worldwide in a new version of the Intel Omni-Path MPI implementation and a best-practice protocol to configure Linux memory management,” said Christ. “The factor of five speedup in the execution of the physics code on the Xeon Phi computer at Brookhaven Lab—and on the University of Edinburgh’s new, even larger 800-node Hewlett Packard Enterprise “hypercube” computer—is now being put to good use in ongoing studies of fundamental questions in particle physics.”

    See the full article here .


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    BNL Campus

    BNL Center for Functional Nanomaterials



    BNL RHIC Campus

    BNL/RHIC Star Detector


    One of ten national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical, and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and national security. Brookhaven Lab also builds and operates major scientific facilities available to university, industry and government researchers. The Laboratory’s almost 3,000 scientists, engineers, and support staff are joined each year by more than 5,000 visiting researchers from around the world. Brookhaven is operated and managed for DOE’s Office of Science by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited-liability company founded by Stony Brook University, the largest academic user of Laboratory facilities, and Battelle, a nonprofit, applied science and technology organization.

  • richardmitnick 8:16 am on April 22, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, , Hydrophones, MERMAIDs, ,   

    From Science Magazine: “These ocean floats can hear earthquakes, revealing mysterious structures deep inside Earth” 

    From Science Magazine

    Apr. 17, 2019
    Erik Stokstad

    A MERMAID undergoes testing off Japan’s coast in 2018. ALEX BURKY/PRINCETON UNIVERSITY

    A versatile, low-cost way to study Earth’s interior from sea has yielded its first images and is scaling up. By deploying hydrophones inside neutrally buoyant floats that drift through the deep ocean, seismologists are detecting earthquakes that occur below the sea floor and using the signals to peer inside Earth in places where data have been lacking.

    In February, researchers reported that nine of these floats near Ecuador’s Galápagos Islands had helped trace a mantle plume—a column of hot rock rising from deep below the islands. Now, 18 floats searching for plumes under Tahiti have also recorded earthquakes, the team reported last week at the European Geosciences Union (EGU) meeting here. “It seems they’ve made a lot of progress,” says Barbara Romanowicz, a geophysicist at the University of California, Berkeley.

    The South Pacific fleet will grow this summer, says Frederik Simons, a seismologist at Princeton University who helped develop the floats, called MERMAIDs (mobile earthquake recorders in marine areas by independent divers). He envisions a global flotilla of thousands of these wandering devices, which could also be used to detect the sound of rain or whales, or outfitted with other environmental or biological sensors. “The goal is to instrument all the oceans.”

    For decades, geologists have placed seismometers on land to study how powerful, faraway earthquakes pass through Earth. Deep structures of different density, such as the cold slabs of ocean crust that sink into the mantle along subduction zones, can speed up or slow down seismic waves. By combining seismic information detected in various locations, researchers can map those structures, much like 3D x-ray scans of the human body. Upwelling plumes and other giant structures under the oceans are more mysterious, however. The reason is simple: There are far fewer seismometers on the ocean floor.

    Such instruments are expensive because they must be deployed and retrieved by research vessels. And sometimes they fail to surface after yearlong campaigns. More recently, scientists have begun to use fiber optic communication cables on the sea floor to detect quakes, but the approach is in its infancy.

    MERMAIDs are a cheap alternative. They drift at a depth of about 1500 meters, which minimizes background noise and lessens the energy needed for periodic ascents to transmit fresh data. Whenever a MERMAID’s hydrophone picks up a strong sound pulse, its computer evaluates whether that pressure wave likely originated from seafloor shaking. If so, the MERMAID surfaces within a few hours and sends the seismogram via satellite.

    The nine floats released near the Galápagos in 2014 gathered 719 seismograms in 2 years before their batteries ran out. Background noise, such as wind and rain at the ocean surface, drowned out some of the seismograms. But 80% were helpful in imaging a mantle plume some 300 kilometers wide and 1900 kilometers deep, the team described in February in Scientific Reports. The widely dispersed MERMAIDs sharpened the picture, compared with studies done with seismometers on the islands and in South America. “The paper demonstrates the potential of the methodology, but I think they need to figure out how to beat down the noise a little more,” Romanowicz says.

    Since that campaign, the MERMAID design was reworked by research engineer Yann Hello of Geoazur, a geoscience lab in Sophia Antipolis, France. He made them spherical and stronger, and tripled battery life. The floats now cost about $40,000, plus about $50 per month to transmit data. “The MERMAIDs are filling a need for a fairly inexpensive, flexible device” to monitor the oceans, says Martin Mai, a geophysicist at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia.

    Between June and September of 2018, 18 of these new MERMAIDs were scattered around Tahiti to explore the Pacific Superswell, an expanse of oddly elevated ocean crust, likely inflated by plumes. The plan is to illuminate this plumbing and find out whether multiple plumes stem from a single deep source. “It’s a pretty natural target,” says Catherine Rychert, a seismologist at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom. “You’d need a lot of ocean bottom seismometers, a lot of ships, so having floats out there makes sense.”

    So far, the MERMAIDs have identified 258 earthquakes, Joel Simon, a graduate student at Princeton, told the EGU meeting. About 90% of those have also been detected by other seismometers around the world—an indication that the hydrophones are detecting informative earthquakes. Simon has also identified some shear waves, or S-waves, which arrive after the initial pressure waves of a quake and can provide clues to the mantle’s composition and temperature. “We never set out to get S-waves,” he said. “This is incredible.” S-waves can’t travel through water, so they are converted to pressure waves at the sea floor, which saps their energy and makes them hard to identify.

    In August, 28 more MERMAIDS will join the South Pacific fleet, two dozen of them bought by the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China. Heiner Igel, a geophysicist at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany, cheers the expansion. “I would say drop them all over the oceans,” he says.

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 7:51 am on April 22, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Mirror array for LSS", Applied Research & Technology, , , ,   

    From European Space Agency: “Mirror array for LSS” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency



    The giant 121-segment mirror array used to reflect simulated sunlight into the largest vacuum chamber in Europe seen being hoisted into position within ESA’s technical heart back in 1986.

    This mirror array remains an integral element of ESA’s Large Space Simulator at the ESTEC Test Centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. It is used to subject entire satellites to space-like conditions ahead of launch. At 15 m high and 10 m in diameter, the chamber is cavernous enough to accommodate an upended double decker bus.

    Satellites are lowered down through a topside hatch. Once the top and side hatches are sealed, high-performance pumps create a vacuum a billion times lower than standard sea level atmosphere, held for weeks at a time during test runs.

    This mirror array is made of 121 separate hexagonal segments. Its task is to reflect a 6-m diameter beam of simulated sunlight into the chamber, at the same time as the walls are pumped full of –190°C liquid nitrogen, together recreating the extreme thermal conditions prevailing in orbit.

    By re-orienting the individual segments a much tighter beam can be focused, helping to simulate higher intensity sunlight, such as the 10 solar constants experienced in the vicinity of Sun-scorched Mercury, for testing the ESA/JAXA BepiColombo mission.

    Artistic rendition ESA/JAXA BepiColombo

    The LSS has tested dozens of space missions over the years, including many of ESA’s largest: as well as BepiColombo, the 8-tonne Envisat and the 20-tonne Automated Transfer Vehicle.

    ESA Envisat

    ESA Automated Transfer Vehicle annotated

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

    ESA50 Logo large

  • richardmitnick 6:55 am on April 22, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "New experiment dives into quantum physics in a liquid", Applied Research & Technology, Kastler Brossel Laboratory in France, , , Superfluid liquid helium,   

    From Yale University: “New experiment dives into quantum physics in a liquid” 

    Yale University bloc

    From Yale University

    April 18, 2019
    Jim Shelton

    The space between two optical fibers (yellow) is filled wth liquid helium (blue). Laser light (red) is trapped in this space, and interacts with sound waves in the liquid (blue ripples). (Image credit: Harris Lab)

    For the first time, Yale physicists have directly observed quantum behavior in the vibrations of a liquid body.

    A great deal of ongoing research is currently devoted to discovering and exploiting quantum effects in the motion of macroscopic objects made of solids and gases. This new experiment opens a potentially rich area of further study into the way quantum principles work on liquid bodies.

    The findings come from the Yale lab of physics and applied physics professor Jack Harris, along with colleagues at the Kastler Brossel Laboratory in France. A study about the research appears in the journal Physical Review Letters.

    “We filled a specially designed cavity with superfluid liquid helium,” Harris explained. “Then we use laser light to monitor an individual sound wave in the liquid helium. The volume of helium in which this sound wave lives is fairly large for a macroscopic object — equal to a cube whose sides are one-thousandth of an inch.”

    Harris and his team discovered they could detect the sound wave’s quantum properties: its zero-point motion, which is the quantum motion that exists even when the temperature is lowered to absolute zero; and its quantum “back-action,” which is the effect of a detector on the measurement itself.

    The co-first authors of the study are Yale postdoctoral fellows Alexey Shkarin and Anya Kashkanova. Additional authors are Charles Brown of Yale and Jakob Reichel, Sébastien Garcia, and Konstantin Ott of the Kastler Brossel Laboratory.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Yale University Campus

    Yale University comprises three major academic components: Yale College (the undergraduate program), the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the professional schools. In addition, Yale encompasses a wide array of centers and programs, libraries, museums, and administrative support offices. Approximately 11,250 students attend Yale.

  • richardmitnick 5:30 pm on April 18, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, Handedness, , , , Skyrmions – quasiparticles akin to tiny magnetic swirls,   

    From Lawrence Berkeley National Lab: “Electric Skyrmions Charge Ahead for Next-Generation Data Storage” 

    Berkeley Logo

    From Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

    April 18, 2019
    Theresa Duque
    (510) 495-2418

    Berkeley Lab-led research team makes a chiral skyrmion crystal with electric properties; puts new spin on future information storage applications.

    VIDEO: Simulation of a single polar skyrmion. Red arrows signify that this is a left-handed skyrmion. The other arrows represent the angular distribution of the dipoles. (Credit: Xiaoxing Cheng, Pennsylvania State University; C.T. Nelson, Oak Ridge National Laboratory; and Ramamoorthy Ramesh, Berkeley Lab)

    When you toss a ball, what hand do you use? Left-handed people naturally throw with their left hand, and right-handed people with their right. This natural preference for one side versus the other is called handedness, and can be seen almost everywhere – from a glucose molecule whose atomic structure leans left, to a dog who shakes “hands” only with her right.

    Handedness can be exhibited in chirality – where two objects, like a pair of gloves, can be mirror images of each other but cannot be superimposed on one another. Now a team of researchers led by Berkeley Lab has observed chirality for the first time in polar skyrmions – quasiparticles akin to tiny magnetic swirls – in a material with reversible electrical properties. The combination of polar skyrmions and these electrical properties could one day lead to applications such as more powerful data storage devices that continue to hold information – even after a device has been powered off. Their findings were reported this week in the journal Nature.

    “What we discovered is just mind-boggling,” said Ramamoorthy Ramesh, who holds appointments as a faculty senior scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and as the Purnendu Chatterjee Endowed Chair in Energy Technologies in Materials Science and Engineering and Physics at UC Berkeley. “We hadn’t planned on making skyrmions. So for us to end up making a chiral skyrmion is exciting.”


    When the team of researchers – co-led by Ramesh and Lane Martin, a staff scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and a professor in Materials Science and Engineering at UC Berkeley – began this study in 2016, they had set out to find ways to control how heat moves through materials. So they fabricated a special crystal structure called a superlattice from alternating layers of lead titanate (an electrically polar material, whereby one end is positively charged and the opposite end is negatively charged) and strontium titanate (an insulator, or a material that doesn’t conduct electric current).

    But once they took STEM (scanning transmission electron microscopy) measurements of the lead titanate/strontium titanate superlattice at the Molecular Foundry, a U.S. DOE Office of Science User Facility at Berkeley Lab that specializes in nanoscale science, they saw something strange that had nothing to do with heat: Bubble-like formations had cropped up all across the device.

    Bubbles, bubbles everywhere

    So what were these “bubbles,” and how did they get there?

    Those bubbles, it turns out, were polar skyrmions – or textures made up of opposite electric charges known as dipoles. Researchers had always assumed that skyrmions would only appear in magnetic materials, where special interactions between magnetic spins of charged electrons stabilize the twisting chiral patterns of skyrmions. So when the Berkeley Lab-led team of researchers discovered skyrmions in an electric material, they were astounded.

    Simulation of the cross-section in the middle of the polar-skyrmion bubble. (Credit: Berkeley Lab)

    Through the researchers’ collaboration with theorists Javier Junquera of the University of Cantabria in Spain, and Jorge Íñiguez of the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology, they discovered that these textures had a unique feature called a “Bloch component” that determined the direction of its spin, which Ramesh compares to the fastening of a belt – where if you’re left-handed, the belt goes from left to right. “And it turned out that this Bloch component – the skyrmion’s equatorial belt, so to speak – is the key to its chirality or handedness,” he said.

    While using sophisticated STEM at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry and at the Cornell Center for Materials Research, where David Muller of Cornell University took atomic snapshots of skyrmions’ chirality at room temperature in real time, the researchers discovered that the forces placed on the polar lead titanate layer by the nonpolar strontium titanate layer generated the polar skyrmion “bubbles” in the lead titanate.

    “Materials are like people,” said Ramesh. “When people get stressed, they respond in unpredictable ways. And that’s what materials do too: In this case, by surrounding lead titanate by strontium titanate, lead titanate starts to go crazy – and one way that it goes crazy is to create polar textures like skyrmions.”

    Through the researchers’ collaboration with theorists Javier Junquera of the University of Cantabria in Spain, and Jorge Íñiguez of the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology, they discovered that these textures had a unique feature called a “Bloch component” that determined the direction of its spin, which Ramesh compares to the fastening of a belt – where if you’re left-handed, the belt goes from left to right. “And it turned out that this Bloch component – the skyrmion’s equatorial belt, so to speak – is the key to its chirality or handedness,” he said.

    While using sophisticated STEM at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry and at the Cornell Center for Materials Research, where David Muller of Cornell University took atomic snapshots of skyrmions’ chirality at room temperature in real time, the researchers discovered that the forces placed on the polar lead titanate layer by the nonpolar strontium titanate layer generated the polar skyrmion “bubbles” in the lead titanate.

    Custom-designed scanning transmission electron microscope at Cornell University by David Muller/Cornell University

    LBNL THEMIS scannng transmission electronic micsoscope

    “Materials are like people,” said Ramesh. “When people get stressed, they respond in unpredictable ways. And that’s what materials do too: In this case, by surrounding lead titanate by strontium titanate, lead titanate starts to go crazy – and one way that it goes crazy is to create polar textures like skyrmions.”

    Shining a light on crystal chirality

    To confirm their observations, senior staff scientist Elke Arenholz and staff scientist Padraic Shafer at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source (ALS), along with Margaret McCarter, a physics Ph.D. student from the Ramesh Lab at UC Berkeley, probed the chirality by using a spectroscopic technique known as RSXD-CD (resonant soft X-ray diffraction circular dichroism), one of the highly optimized tools available to the scientific community at the ALS, a U.S. DOE Office of Science User Facility that specializes in lower energy, “soft” X-ray light for studying the properties of materials.


    Simulations of skyrmion bubbles and elongated skyrmions for the lead titanate/strontium titanate superlattice. (Credit: Berkeley Lab)

    Light waves can be “circularly polarized” to also have handedness, so the researchers theorized that if polar skyrmions have handedness, a left-handed skyrmion, for example, should interact more strongly with left-handed, circularly polarized light – an effect known as circular dichroism.

    When McCarter and Shafer tested the samples at the ALS, they successfully uncovered another piece to the chiral skyrmion puzzle – they found that incoming circularly polarized X-rays, like a screw whose threads rotate either clockwise or counterclockwise, interact with skyrmions whose dipoles rotate in the same direction, even at room temperature. In other words, they found evidence of circular dichroism – where there is only a strong interaction between X-rays and polar skyrmions with the same handedness.

    “The theoretical simulations and microscopy both revealed the presence of a Bloch component, but to confirm the chiral nature of these skyrmions, the last piece of the puzzle was really the circular dichroism measurements,” McCarter said. “It is amazing to observe this effect in materials that typically don’t have handedness. We are excited to explore the implications of this chirality in a ferroelectric and how it can be controlled in a way that could be useful for storing data.”

    Now that the researchers have made a single electric skyrmion and confirmed its chirality, they plan to make an array of dozens of electric skyrmions – each one with a diameter of just 8 nm (for comparison, the Ebola virus is about 50 nm wide) – with the same handedness. “In terms of applications, this is exciting because now we have chirality – switching a skyrmion on or off, or between left-handed and right-handed – on top of still being able to use the charge for storing data,” Ramesh said.

    The researchers next plan to study the effects of applying an electric field on the polar skyrmions. “Now that we know that polar/electric skyrmions are chiral, we want to see if we can electrically manipulate them. If I apply an electric field, can I turn each one like a turnstile? Can I move each one, one at a time, like a checker on a checkerboard? If we can somehow move them, write them, and erase them for data storage, then that would be an amazing new technology,” Ramesh said.

    Also contributing to the study were researchers from Pennsylvania State University, Cornell University, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

    The work was supported by the DOE Office of Science with additional funding provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s EPiQS Initiative, the National Science Foundation, the Luxembourg National Research Fund, and the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness.

    See the full article here .


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    Bringing Science Solutions to the World

    In the world of science, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) is synonymous with “excellence.” Thirteen Nobel prizes are associated with Berkeley Lab. Seventy Lab scientists are members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), one of the highest honors for a scientist in the United States. Thirteen of our scientists have won the National Medal of Science, our nation’s highest award for lifetime achievement in fields of scientific research. Eighteen of our engineers have been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, and three of our scientists have been elected into the Institute of Medicine. In addition, Berkeley Lab has trained thousands of university science and engineering students who are advancing technological innovations across the nation and around the world.

    Berkeley Lab is a member of the national laboratory system supported by the U.S. Department of Energy through its Office of Science. It is managed by the University of California (UC) and is charged with conducting unclassified research across a wide range of scientific disciplines. Located on a 202-acre site in the hills above the UC Berkeley campus that offers spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay, Berkeley Lab employs approximately 3,232 scientists, engineers and support staff. The Lab’s total costs for FY 2014 were $785 million. A recent study estimates the Laboratory’s overall economic impact through direct, indirect and induced spending on the nine counties that make up the San Francisco Bay Area to be nearly $700 million annually. The Lab was also responsible for creating 5,600 jobs locally and 12,000 nationally. The overall economic impact on the national economy is estimated at $1.6 billion a year. Technologies developed at Berkeley Lab have generated billions of dollars in revenues, and thousands of jobs. Savings as a result of Berkeley Lab developments in lighting and windows, and other energy-efficient technologies, have also been in the billions of dollars.

    Berkeley Lab was founded in 1931 by Ernest Orlando Lawrence, a UC Berkeley physicist who won the 1939 Nobel Prize in physics for his invention of the cyclotron, a circular particle accelerator that opened the door to high-energy physics. It was Lawrence’s belief that scientific research is best done through teams of individuals with different fields of expertise, working together. His teamwork concept is a Berkeley Lab legacy that continues today.

    A U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratory Operated by the University of California.

    University of California Seal

    DOE Seal

    • Arushi 6:58 am on April 19, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      Your blog seems pretty informative. Instead of just NASA can you write about the discoveries of other organizations as well so that the science lovers can get every aspect of physics in your blog? BTW love your blog💝


      • richardmitnick 3:31 pm on April 19, 2019 Permalink | Reply

        I cover much more than NASA. I cover universities and science institutions all over the world. There is a concentration on Astronomy and Physics, but I also cover volcanology, earthquake science, ASD, HPC, . What you need to do is read the blog or access the Facebook Fan page, http://facebook.com/sciencesprings which is a pretty rich experience if you do not want to bother seeing the blog posts in full.


        • Arushi 5:15 pm on April 19, 2019 Permalink

          Okay buddy. I’m not much into science but I surely do find physics and astronomy pretty interesting. I’ll check out your Facebook page for sure.


        • richardmitnick 7:20 pm on April 21, 2019 Permalink



  • richardmitnick 1:14 pm on April 17, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "What Is the Most Dangerous Volcanic Hazard?", 1 Pyroclastic Flows (also known as hot ash flows or pyroclastic density currents), 2. Ash Fall, 3. Lahars (also known as volcanic mudflows), 4. Tsunamis, 5. Lava Flows, Applied Research & Technology, ,   

    From Discover Magazine: “What Is the Most Dangerous Volcanic Hazard?” 


    From Discover Magazine

    April 17, 2019
    Erik Klemetti

    The 2015 eruption of Calbuco in Chile, with the city of Puerto Montt in the foreground. Wikimedia Commons.

    Volcanoes can be pretty dangerous. Thankfully, we’ve gotten better over the last half century at getting people out of the way of volcanic hazards. However, many hundreds of millions of people still live close enough to volcanoes to feel the impact of an eruption — especially when the volcano decides to have a spectacular eruption.

    There are a lot of misconceptions out there about what the most dangerous aspects of a volcanic eruption might be. I think many people picture lava flows cascading down the sides of a volcano and imagine that the searing rivers of molten rock are what will do you in.

    Well, they’re right in one respect: stay in the path of a lava flow and you will likely cease being alive. But luckily, lava flows are actually pretty easy to avoid as they move rather slowly, rarely up to ~30 km/hr (20 mph) but more likely less than 8 km/hr (5 mph). You can probably out-walk most lava flows.

    So, what is it that makes volcanoes so deadly if it isn’t the copious volumes of lava they can produce? Here’s a little countdown of what I think are the most dangerous volcanic hazards based on the number of deaths associated with them, the potential for damage to houses and infrastructure, the frequency with which they occur and the difficulty of avoiding them.

    5. Lava Flows: After all that pre-amble about lava flows, here they are! Though lava flows may not cause many fatalities, the potential damage to infrastructure and homes is very high. Lava flows are also very common at certain types of volcanoes, so with that combination of frequency and destructiveness, we need to take lava flows seriously. The 2018 eruption at Kīlauea is a perfect example, where there were no fatalities but over 700 homes destroyed. However, the lava can be deadly in rare cases. This can happen when the composition and temperature of the lava means it is especially runny, so it travels fast. An eruption of Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo produced lava flows that moved through the city of Goma killing dozens.

    Lava flow from the 2018 eruption of Kīlauea in Hawaii. USGS/HVO.

    4. Tsunamis: Tsunamis can be generated by geologic events other than eruptions — in fact, they are more common with earthquakes. However, volcanoes can produce these deadly ocean waves when part of the volcano collapses during an eruption. Most recently, the 2018 eruption of Anak Krakatau killed over 420 people when most of the relatively-small cinder cone collapsed during an eruption. The predecessor to Anak Krakatau — Krakatau itself — generated a massive 30-m tsunami when it collapsed into a caldera in 1883. That eruption and tsunami killed over 35,000 people along the Sunda Strait in Indonesia. Other volcanoes, like Unzen in Japan, have had deadly tsunamis as well.

    Anak Krakatau not long after the 2018 collapse that generated a deadly tsunami. Alex Gerst – ISS/ESA.

    3. Lahars (also known as volcanic mudflows): You might be tempted to think mudflows couldn’t be too deadly, but these rivers of volcanic (and other) debris generated by snow and ice melt during an eruption or heavy precipitation on a volcano are very hazardous. Lahars have the consistency of wet cement and they flow at tens of kilometers per hour down river valleys. Many times, that allows for enough forewarning to escape if you are downriver, but the 1985 eruption of Nevado del Ruiz in Colombia proved that a lack of preparation can lead to over 20,000 deaths. Due to their density, lahars can destroy infrastructure and homes and bury towns (and people) rapidly. They can happen without an eruption, such as when old volcanic debris gets mobilized during heavy rain or snow melt. That’s why volcanoes like Mt. Rainier have lahar warning systems for the towns downslope from the volcano.

    The town of Chaitén buried by lahar deposits from the 2008 eruption of Chaitén in Chile. Flickr.

    2. Ash Fall: It might look like snow, but volcanic ash is nasty. It’s made of tiny pieces of volcanic glass and other debris, so if you can imagine inhaling broken glass, well, you get the idea. It can be carried for potentially thousands of kilometers depending on the size of the eruption and winds. When it piles up, the ash can destroy roofs, contaminate water, annihilate vegetation and even block out the sun. If you are unlucky enough to breathe in the ash, it will coat the inside of your lungs and cut them up, people can die from the silica cement in their lungs and/or from more or less drowning in those fluids. Volcanic ash in the atmosphere can disable jet engines, so flying through even dilute ash clouds is a bad idea. Ash fall can be persistent as well, with a volcano producing ash that might accumulate a few millimeters or centimeters thick for months to years — and as I mentioned with lahars, you can get the ash moving again with heavy rains or even with winds.

    Buildings destroyed by ash fall at Clark Air Base in the Philippines during the 1991 eruption of Pinatubo. USGS.

    1 Pyroclastic Flows (also known as hot ash flows or pyroclastic density currents): If you’re looking for that one-two punch of destruction and potential for major fatalities, it is hard to beat a pyroclastic flow. Imagine a cloud of hot volcanic gases and debris that ranges in size from tiny specks of ash to massive boulders, all moving down a volcano at over 300 km/hr (190 mph) at a temperature over 600ºC. You, your city, everything is toast. Some of the deadliest pyroclastic flows buried Pompeii in 79 A.D., wiped St. Pierre off the map during the 1902 eruption of Pelée, erased towns surrounding El Chichón in Mexico in 1982, snapped enormous trees as they flattened forest at Mount St. Helens in 1980 and buried entire valleys during the 1912 eruption of Novarupta in Alaska and 1991 eruption of Pinatubo. They are landscape-altering events that occur in mere moments. If you don’t get buried in the hot debris, you’ll be sizzled to death in the volcanic gases or choke on the ash.

    Pyroclastic flow from Mount St. Helens in June 1980. USGS.

    Pyroclastic flows are generated a number of ways: a collapsing ash column from an eruption, a collapsing lava dome at the top of a volcano or an explosive eruption that moves sideways. Some recent research on pyroclastic flows suggests that they move so far and fast because they travel on a bed of air like a hovercraft. This allows them to travel tens of kilometers from the volcano and “leap” over obstacles. Even seasoned volcanologists can be caught off guard by unpredictable travel of pyroclastic flows. A 1991 eruption of Unzen killed Maurice and Katja Krafft, famed volcano documentarians, along with USGS volcanologist Harry Glicken. Pyroclastic flows need to be taken seriously because you will not survive being in the path of these clouds of volcanic fury.

    See the full article here .


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