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  • richardmitnick 4:48 pm on February 5, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, ,   

    From Rochester: “Scientists Discover Stem Cells Capable of Repairing Skull, Face Bones” 

    U Rochester bloc

    University of Rochester

    February 01, 2016
    Media Contact
    Leslie Orr
    (585) 275-5774

    A team of Rochester scientists has, for the first time, identified and isolated a stem cell population capable of skull formation and craniofacial bone repair in mice—achieving an important step toward using stem cells for bone reconstruction of the face and head in the future, according to a new paper in Nature Communications.

    stem cells
    The photo shows a blue-stained stem cell and a red-stained stem cell that each generated new bones cells after transplantation

    Senior author Wei Hsu, Ph.D., dean’s professor of Biomedical Genetics and a scientist at the Eastman Institute for Oral Health at theUniversity of Rochester Medical Center, said the goal is to better understand and find stem-cell therapy for a condition known as craniosynostosis, a skull deformity in infants. Craniosynostosis often leads to developmental delays and life-threatening elevated pressure in the brain.

    Hsu believes his findings contribute to an emerging field involving tissue engineering that uses stem cells and other materials to invent superior ways to replace damaged craniofacial bones in humans due to congenital disease, trauma, or cancer surgery.

    For years Hsu’s lab, including the study’s lead author, Takamitsu Maruyama, Ph.D., focused on the function of the Axin2 gene and a mutation that causes craniosynostosis in mice. Because of a unique expression pattern of the Axin2 gene in the skull, the lab then began investigating the activity of Axin2-expressing cells and their role in bone formation, repair and regeneration. Their latest evidence shows that stem cells central to skull formation are contained within Axin2 cell populations, comprising about 1 percent—and that the lab tests used to uncover the skeletal stem cells might also be useful to find bone diseases caused by stem cell abnormalities.

    The team also confirmed that this population of stem cells is unique to bones of the head, and that separate and distinct stem cells are responsible for formation of long bones in the legs and other parts of the body, for example.

    The National Institutes of Health and NYSTEM funded the research.

    See the full article here .

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    U Rochester Campus

    The University of Rochester is one of the country’s top-tier research universities. Our 158 buildings house more than 200 academic majors, more than 2,000 faculty and instructional staff, and some 10,500 students—approximately half of whom are women.

    Learning at the University of Rochester is also on a very personal scale. Rochester remains one of the smallest and most collegiate among top research universities, with smaller classes, a low 10:1 student to teacher ratio, and increased interactions with faculty.

  • richardmitnick 4:31 pm on February 5, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, ,   

    From Waterloo: “Waterloo physicists discover new properties of superconductivity” 

    U Waterloo bloc

    University of Waterloo

    February 4, 2016
    Victoria Van Cappellen
    Rose Simone

    Superconductivity could have implications for creating technologies like ultra-efficient power grids and magnetically levitating vehicles. New superconductivity findings published in journal Science.

    Physicists at the University of Waterloo have led an international team that has come closer to understanding the mystery of how superconductivity, an exotic state that allows electricity to be conducted with practically zero resistance, occurs in certain materials.


    Physicists all over the world are on a quest to understand the secrets of superconductivity because of the exciting technological possibilities that could be realized if they could make it happen at closer to room temperatures. In conventional superconductivity, materials that are cooled to nearly absolute zero ( −273.15 Celsius) exhibit the fantastic property of electrons pairing up and being able to conduct electricity with practically zero resistance. If superconductivity worked at higher temperatures, it could have implications for creating technologies such as ultra-efficient power grids, supercomputers and magnetically levitating vehicles.

    The new findings from an international collaboration, led by Waterloo physicists David Hawthorn, Canada Research Chair Michel Gingras, doctoral student Andrew Achkar and post-doctoral student Zhihao Hao, present direct experimental evidence of what is known as electronic nematicity – when electron clouds snap into an aligned and directional order – in a particular type of high-temperature superconductor. The results, published in the prestigious journal Science, may eventually lead to a theory explaining why superconductivity occurs at higher temperatures in certain materials.

    The findings show evidence of electronic nematicity as a universal feature in cuprate high-temperature superconductors. Cuprates are copper-oxide ceramics composed of two-dimensional layers or planes of copper and oxygen atoms separated by other atoms. They are known as the best of the high-temperature superconductors. In the 1980s, materials that exhibit superconductivity under somewhat warmer conditions (but still -135 Celsius, so far from room temperature) were discovered. But how superconductivity initiates in these high-temperature superconductors has been challenging to predict, let alone explain.

    “It has become apparent in the past few years that the electrons involved in superconductivity can form patterns, stripes or checkerboards, and exhibit different symmetries – aligning preferentially along one direction,” says Hawthorn. “These patterns and symmetries have important consequences for superconductivity – they can compete, coexist or possibly even enhance superconductivity.”

    Scientists use soft x-ray scattering in superconductivity research

    The scientists used a novel technique called soft x-ray scattering at the Canadian Light Source synchrotron in Saskatoon to probe electron scattering in specific layers in the cuprate crystalline structure.

    Canadian Light Source
    Canadian Lightsource synchrotron

    Specifically, they looked at the individual cuprate (CuO2) planes where electronic nematicity takes place, versus the crystalline distortions in between the CuO2 planes.

    Electronic nematicity happens when the electron orbitals align themselves like a series of rods. The term nematicity commonly refers to when liquid crystals spontaneously align under an electric field in liquid crystal displays. In this case, the electron orbitals enter the nematic state as the temperature drops below a critical point.

    Cuprates can made to be superconducting by adding elements that will remove electrons from the material, a process known as “doping.”

    A material can be optimally doped to achieve superconductivity at the highest and most accessible temperature, but in studying how superconductivity happens, physicists often work with material that is “underdoped,” which means the level of doping is less than the level that maximizes the superconducting temperature.

    Results from this study show electronic nematicity likely occur in all underdoped cuprates.

    Physicists also want to understand the relation of nematicity to a phenomenon known as charge density wave fluctuations. Normally, the electrons are in a nice, uniform distribution, but charge-ordering can cause the electrons to bunch up, like ripples on a pond. This sets up a competition, whereby the material is fluctuating between the superconducting and non-superconducting states until the temperature cools enough for the superconductivity to win.

    Future work will tackle how electrons can be tuned for superconductivity

    Although there is not yet an agreed upon explanation for why electronic nematicity occurs, it may ultimately present another knob to tune in the quest to achieve the ultimate goal of a room temperature superconductor.

    Hawthorn and Gingras are both Fellows of the Canadian Institute For Advanced Research. Gingras holds the Canada Research Chair in Condensed Matter Theory and Statistical Mechanics and spent time at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics as a visiting researcher while this work was being carried out.

    Other Canadian collaborators include the Canadian Light Source and H. Zhang and Y.-J. Kim from the University of Toronto.

    See the full article here .

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    U Waterloo campus

    In just half a century, the University of Waterloo, located at the heart of Canada’s technology hub, has become a leading comprehensive university with nearly 36,000 full- and part-time students in undergraduate and graduate programs.

    Consistently ranked Canada’s most innovative university, Waterloo is home to advanced research and teaching in science and engineering, mathematics and computer science, health, environment, arts and social sciences. From quantum computing and nanotechnology to clinical psychology and health sciences research, Waterloo brings ideas and brilliant minds together, inspiring innovations with real impact today and in the future.

    As home to the world’s largest post-secondary co-operative education program, Waterloo embraces its connections to the world and encourages enterprising partnerships in learning, research, and commercialization. With campuses and education centres on four continents, and academic partnerships spanning the globe, Waterloo is shaping the future of the planet.

  • richardmitnick 9:16 am on February 5, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    From DESY: “Scientists film exploding nanoparticles” 


    No writer credit found

    Imaging nanoscale dynamics with unparalleled detail and speed

    Using a super X-ray microscope, an international research team has “filmed” the explosion of single nanoparticles. The team led by Tais Gorkhover from Technische Universität Berlin, currently working at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in the U.S. as a fellow of the Volkswagen Foundation, and Christoph Bostedt from the Argonne National Laboratory and Northwestern University has managed to combine a temporal resolution of 100 femtoseconds and a spatial resolution of eight nanometres for the first time. A nanometre is a billionth of a metre, and a femtosecond is a mere quadrillionth of a second. For their experiments, the scientists used the so-called free-electron X-ray laser LCLS.

    SLAC LCLS Inside
    LCLS at SLAC

    The exposure time of the individual images was so short that the rapidly moving particles in the gas phase appeared frozen in time. Therefore, they did not have to be fixed on substrates as it is commonly done in other microscopy approaches. The team, including researchers from the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science CFEL at DESY, reports its results in the scientific journal Nature Photonics.

    Xenon nanoparticle exploding
    Three states of an exploding xenon nanoparticle. The ultra short flashes of the X-ray laser record these states as a so-called diffraction pattern. From these, the state of the sample can be calculated. Credit: Tais Gorkhover/SLAC

    Most imaging approaches are severely limited when a combination of high spatial resolution and extreme shutter speed is required. Ultrafast optical approaches have a rather coarse resolution due to the long wavelength. Conversely, electron microscopy can yield ultrahigh resolution but demands a rather long exposure time and it requires the particles being fixed to substrates. Therefore ultrafast processes in free nanometre-sized particles cannot be directly imaged with conventional methods. However, the ability to image and understand the dynamics in nanostructures and aggregates is of relevance in many fields, ranging from climate models to nanotechnology.

    The properties and dynamics of nanoparticles can significantly change when they are deposited on a substrate. To avoid any modification, the particles, made of frozen xenon and with a diameter of around 40 nanometres, were imaged during their flight through a vacuum chamber. “Using the intense light of an infrared laser, the nanoparticles where superheated and exploded,” explains DESY scientist Jochen Küpper, who is also a professor at the University of Hamburg and a member of the Hamburg Centre for Ultrafast Imaging (CUI). The explosion was imaged with ultrafast X-ray flashes at different time steps. Küpper’s group helped to implement this so-called pump-probe technique. “The experiment was repeated over and over with a new nanoparticle every time and slightly increased delay of the X-ray flash,” reports Lotte Holmegaard from Küpper’s CFEL group. Subsequently the images were assembled to a „movie“.

    „To our big surprise the exploding particles appeared to be shrinking with time instead of expanding as intuitively expected“ says Gorkhover. This unexpected result could be explained with theoretical models that describe the explosion as a melting process starting on the surface instead of a homogenous expansion. In this process, the solid part of the particle’s core gets smaller and smaller what causes the illusion of a shrinking particle.

    Another very interesting aspect of this new imaging approach is that it is possible to directly image the dynamics in single, free nanoparticles. Most time resolved studies are based on ensembles of many particles and averaging statements in which some important differences such as size and shapes of the particles get lost. “We have already demonstrated the importance to look at one particle at a time in earlier static experiments. Now this approach is also available for time-resolved studies,” says Gorkhover.

    “Our experiments yield unprecedented insight into the non-equilibrium physics of superheated nanoparticles. Moreover, they open the door for a multitude of new experiments where the ultrafast dynamics of small samples is important.“ explains Bostedt. Such dynamics may be of relevance in the formation of aerosols which are of major importance in climate models as they are in a large part responsible for absorption and reflection of sunlight. They may also be interesting for research on laser driven fusion in small targets or the rapidly developing area of nanoplasmonics in which the properties of nanoparticles are manipulated with intense light fields.

    Femtosecond and nanometre visualization of structural dynamics in superheated nanoparticles; Tais Gorkhover, Christoph Bostedt et al.; „Nature Photonics“, 2016; DOI: 10.1038/NPHOTON.2015.264

    See the full article here .

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    DESY is one of the world’s leading accelerator centres. Researchers use the large-scale facilities at DESY to explore the microcosm in all its variety – from the interactions of tiny elementary particles and the behaviour of new types of nanomaterials to biomolecular processes that are essential to life. The accelerators and detectors that DESY develops and builds are unique research tools. The facilities generate the world’s most intense X-ray light, accelerate particles to record energies and open completely new windows onto the universe. 
That makes DESY not only a magnet for more than 3000 guest researchers from over 40 countries every year, but also a coveted partner for national and international cooperations. Committed young researchers find an exciting interdisciplinary setting at DESY. The research centre offers specialized training for a large number of professions. DESY cooperates with industry and business to promote new technologies that will benefit society and encourage innovations. This also benefits the metropolitan regions of the two DESY locations, Hamburg and Zeuthen near Berlin.

  • richardmitnick 8:41 am on February 5, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    From GIZMODO: “Morocco Switches on First Phase of the World’s Largest Solar Plant” 

    GIZMODO bloc


    Jamie Condliffe

    Solar Panels in Morocco
    Image by AP

    Yesterday, Morocco switched on the first section of its new Ouarzazate solar power plant. The new installation already creates 160 megawatts of power and is expected to grow to cover 6,000 acres by 2018—making it the largest in the world.

    The first wave of power production is known as Noor 1. Situated in the Sahara Desert, its crescent-shaped solar mirrors follow the sun to soak up sunlight all day long. The mirrors, each of which is 40 feet tall, focus light onto a steel pipeline that carries a synthetic thermal oil solution. The oil in those pipes can reach 740℉, and that’s what’s used to create electricity: The heat is used to create steam which drives turbines. The hot oil can be stored to create energy overnight, too.

    Noor 1 will be joined over time by Noor 2 and 3 which are expected to be finished by 2018. When those sections come online, the whole plant will cover an areas of over 6,000 acres, which is larger than the country’s capital city of Rabat. With the extra mirrors in place, the plant will generate 580 megawatts of electricity—enough to provide energy for 1.1 million people.

    But, as our own George Dvorsky has pointed out, that wasn’t always to be the case. The initial plan was to deliver the generated electricity to Europe but several partners pulled out. Interventions by the African Development Bank and the Moroccan government saved the project, though, and are now using it to meet Morocco’s own power demands. As of today, it will do just that.

    See the full article here .

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    “We come from the future.”

    GIZMOGO pictorial

  • richardmitnick 6:17 pm on February 4, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, ,   

    From Brown: “Research may explain mysterious deep earthquakes in subduction zones” 

    Brown University
    Brown University

    February 3, 2016
    Kevin Stacey

    Subduction lawsonite undergoes brittle failure at high temperature and pressure, as evidenced by the cracks seen in the sample
    The mineral lawsonite undergoes brittle failure at high temperature and pressure, as evidenced by the cracks seen in the sample above. That brittleness could trigger earthquakes in subduction zones where lawsonite is present. Image: Hirth lab/Brown University

    Earthquakes that happen deep beneath the earth’s surface have long been enigmatic to geologists. Now researchers from Brown University have shown strong evidence that water squeezed out of a mineral called lawsonite could trigger these mysterious quakes.

    Geologists from Brown University may have finally explained what triggers certain earthquakes that occur deep beneath the Earth’s surface in subduction zones, regions where one tectonic plate slides beneath another.

    Techtonic plates
    The tectonic plates of the world were mapped in the second half of the 20th century.

    Subduction zones are some of the most seismically active areas on earth. Earthquakes in these spots that occur close to the surface can be devastating, like the one that struck Japan in 2011 triggering the Fukushima nuclear disaster. But quakes also occur commonly in the subducting crust as it pushes deep below the surface — at depths between 70 and 300 kilometers. These quakes, known as intermediate depth earthquakes, tend to be less damaging, but can still rattle buildings.

    Intermediate depth quakes have long been something of a mystery to geologists.

    “They’re enigmatic because the pressures are so high at that depth that the normal process of frictional sliding associated with earthquakes is inhibited,” said Greg Hirth, professor of earth, environmental, and planetary sciences at Brown. “The forces required to get things to slip just aren’t there.”

    But through a series of lab experiments, Hirth and postdoctoral researcher Keishi Okazaki have shown that as water escapes from a mineral called lawsonite at high temperatures and pressures, the mineral becomes prone to the kind of brittle failure required to trigger an earthquake.

    “Keishi’s experiments were basically the first tests at conditions appropriate for where these earthquakes actually happen in the earth,” Hirth said. “They’re really the first to show strong evidence for this dehydration embrittlement.”

    The work is published in the journal Nature.

    The experiments were done in what’s known as a Grigg’s apparatus. Okazaki placed samples of lawsonite in a cylinder and heated it up through the range of temperatures where water becomes unstable in lawsonite at high pressures. A piston then increased the pressure until the mineral began to deform. A tiny seismometer fixed to the apparatus detected sudden cracking in the lawsonite, a signal consistent with brittle failure.

    Okazaki performed similar experiments using a different mineral, antigorite, which had been previously implicated as contributing to intermediate depth seismicity. In contrast to lawsonite, the antigorite failed more gradually — squishing rather than cracking — suggesting that antigorite does not play a role in these quakes.

    “That’s one of the cool things about this,” Hirth said. “For 50 years everyone has assumed this is a process related to antigorite, despite the fact that there wasn’t much evidence for it. Now we have good experimental evidence of this dehydration process involving lawsonite.”

    If lawsonite is indeed responsible for intermediate depth earthquakes, it would explain why such quakes are common in some subduction zones and not others. The formation of lawsonite requires high pressures and low temperatures. It is found in so-called “cold” subduction zones in which the suducting crust is older and therefore cooler in temperature. One such cold zone is found in northwest Japan. But conditions in “hot” subduction zones, like the Cascadia subduction zone off the coast of Washington state, aren’t conducive to the formation of lawsonite.

    “In hot subduction zones, we have very few earthquakes in the subducting crust because we have no lawsonite,” Okazaki said. “But in cold subduction zones, we have lawsonite and we get these earthquakes.”

    Ultimately, Hirth says research like this might help scientists to better understand why earthquakes happen at different places under different conditions.

    “Trying to put into the context of all earthquakes how these processes are working might be important not just for understanding these strange types of earthquakes, but all earthquakes,” he said. “We don’t really understand a lot of the earthquake cycle. Predictability is the ultimate goal, but we’re still at the stage of thinking about what’s the recipe for different kinds of earthquakes. This appears to be one of those recipes.”

    The study was supported by the National Science Foundation

    See the full article here .

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    Welcome to Brown

    Brown U Robinson Hall
    Located in historic Providence, Rhode Island and founded in 1764, Brown University is the seventh-oldest college in the United States. Brown is an independent, coeducational Ivy League institution comprising undergraduate and graduate programs, plus the Alpert Medical School, School of Public Health, School of Engineering, and the School of Professional Studies.

    With its talented and motivated student body and accomplished faculty, Brown is a leading research university that maintains a particular commitment to exceptional undergraduate instruction.

    Brown’s vibrant, diverse community consists of 6,000 undergraduates, 2,000 graduate students, 400 medical school students, more than 5,000 summer, visiting and online students, and nearly 700 faculty members. Brown students come from all 50 states and more than 100 countries.

    Undergraduates pursue bachelor’s degrees in more than 70 concentrations, ranging from Egyptology to cognitive neuroscience. Anything’s possible at Brown—the university’s commitment to undergraduate freedom means students must take responsibility as architects of their courses of study.

  • richardmitnick 5:42 pm on February 4, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, , Physicist Jak Chakhalian takes an endowed chair at Rutgers,   

    From Rutgers: “Rutgers Names University of Arkansas Physicist First Claud Lovelace Endowed Chair in Experimental Physics” 

    Rutgers University
    Rutgers University

    February 3, 2016

    Media Contact:
    Steve Manas

    The Rutgers Board of Governors has appointed University of Arkansas physicist Jak Chakhalian as the inaugural holder of the new Professor Claud Lovelace Endowed Chair in Experimental Physics. The announcement of the endowed chair and Chakhalian’s appointment was made at the board’s meeting today.

    Chakhalian has been the Charles and Clydene Scharlau Endowed Chair and Professor of Physics at the University of Arkansas since 2012. He joined the faculty in 2006 and was named the Scharlau Endowed Chair as an associate professor in 2010. He begins his Rutgers University-New Brunswick career Sept. 1, 2016, in a five-year term that is renewable indefinitely, and will teach and undertake public service activities in addition to maintaining a high level of research.

    The new endowed chair is made possible by the late Claud W. Lovelace, an esteemed professor in Rutgers University-New Brunswick’s Department of Physics and Astronomy in the School of Arts and Sciences and a renowned expert in the field of physics known as string theory. Endowed chairs, which continue to be a fundraising priority for the university, provide a permanent source of funding and are among the highest honors a university can bestow upon a faculty member.

    Lovelace, who died in 2012, pledged $1.5 million toward the new faculty position – the first gift toward a $27 million challenge grant to establish 18 endowed chairs at the university during the “Our Rutgers, Our Future” fundraising campaign. Because the creation of an academic chair requires a total endowment of $3 million, an anonymous donor matched Lovelace’s $1.5 million pledge to help Rutgers recruit and retain outstanding faculty in a wide range of academic disciplines, including business education and the sciences.

    “We are delighted Professor Chakhalian will continue his internationally recognized career at Rutgers as holder of the Lovelace Endowed Chair and add to the prestige of our acclaimed Department of Physics and Astronomy,” said Richard L. Edwards, chancellor, Rutgers-New Brunswick.

    “These esteemed positions attract world-class scholars, strengthen academic disciplines and enhance Rutgers’ reputation. Faculty selected to hold chairs draw outstanding junior faculty, top graduate students and increased funding for research.”

    Chakhalian’s research is related to one of the most intriguing fields of modern condensed matter physics called artificial quantum materials with strongly correlated electrons. His group has been engaged in the growth of artificial quantum materials as atomically thin films and multilayered structures composed of exotic magnets and insulators, superconductors and ferroelectrics with the aim to design novel quantum structures which cannot exist in bulk materials. He hopes to create new quantum nanostructures for use as a foundation for the next generation of ultra-fast communication and computational devices.

    Chakhalian, who earned his doctorate at the University of British Columbia and was a Max Planck Society Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart, Germany, said his near-term goal at Rutgers is to establish an internationally competitive laboratory for artificial quantum materials and advanced spectroscopies. “I want to lead a group which provides a diverse and exciting research and educational environment for students and early stage researchers for future advanced careers in condensed matter physics and material science,” he said.

    “As mid- and long-term goals, I would like to work with colleagues to create at Rutgers a state-of-the-art, collaboration-driven hub for rationally designed quantum materials with outstanding properties,” Chakhalian added.

    Prior to his recruitment, Chakhalian had presented at department seminars and colloquia. “When I learned about this position, I was truly excited about the opportunity to join colleagues, some of whom I have known for years,” he said. “One of the decisive factors was Rutgers’ unique combination of talented researchers spanning quantum materials synthesis, state-of-the-art experimental facilities and outstanding theory. It’s hard to think of any other university in the country where such synergy would be present.”

    See the full article here .

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    Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is a leading national research university and the state’s preeminent, comprehensive public institution of higher education. Rutgers is dedicated to teaching that meets the highest standards of excellence; to conducting research that breaks new ground; and to providing services, solutions, and clinical care that help individuals and the local, national, and global communities where they live.

    Founded in 1766, Rutgers teaches across the full educational spectrum: preschool to precollege; undergraduate to graduate; postdoctoral fellowships to residencies; and continuing education for professional and personal advancement.

    Rutgers Original seal

  • richardmitnick 5:32 pm on February 4, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, Exoskeletal help for permanently injured people,   

    From Berkeley: “A new-generation exoskeleton helps the paralyzed to walk” 

    UC Berkeley

    UC Berkeley

    February 3, 2016
    No writer credit found

    Until recently, being paralyzed from the waist down meant using a wheelchair to get around. And although daily life is more accessible to wheelchair users, they still face physical and social limitations. But UC Berkeley’s Robotics and Human Engineering Laboratory has been working to change that.

    The robotics lab, a team of graduate students led by mechanical engineering professor Homayoon Kazerooni, has been working for more than a decade to create robotic exoskeletons that allow those with limited mobility to walk again.

    New exoskeleton
    Steven Sanchez, who was paralyzed from the waist down after a BMX accident, wears SuitX’s Phoenix. “If I had this it would change a lot of things,” he says. (Photo courtesy of SuitX)

    This week, a new, lighter and more agile exoskeleton, for which the Kaz lab developed the original technology, was unveiled earlier this week: The Phoenix, by SuitX, a company that has spun off the robotics lab. Kazerooni is its founder and CEO.

    The Phoenix is lightweight, has two motors at the hips and electrically controlled tension settings that tighten when the wearer is standing and swing freely when they’re walking. Users can control the movement of each leg and walk up to 1.1 miles per hour by pushing buttons integrated into a pair of crutches. It’s powered for up to eight hours by a battery pack worn in a backpack.

    “We can’t really fix their disease,” says Kazerooni. “We can’t fix their injury. But what it would do is postpone the secondary injuries due to sitting. It gives a better quality of life.”

    Kazarooni and his team have developed a series of exoskeletons over the years. Their work in the field began in 2000 with a project funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to create a device, now called the Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton (BLEEX), that could help people carry heavier loads for longer. At that time, Kazerooni also realized the potential use for exoskeletons in the medical field, particularly as an alternative to wheelchairs.

    The team began developing new devices to restore mobility for people who had become paraplegic.

    In 2011, they made the exoskeleton that helped Berkeley senior Austin Whitney, paralyzed from the waist down in a 2007 car accident, make an epic walk across the graduation stage to receive his diploma. Soon after, the Austin Project was created in honor of Whitney, with a goal of finding new technologies to create reliable, inexpensive exoskeleton systems for everyday personal use.

    Today, the Phoenix is one of the lightest and most accessible exoskeletons to hit the market. It can be adjusted to fit varied weights, heights and leg sizes and can be used for a range of mobility hindrances. And, although far from inexpensive at $40,000, it’s about the half the cost of other exoskeletons that help restore mobility.

    Read more about SuitX’s Phoenix suit in the MIT Technology Review.

    See the full article here .

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    Founded in the wake of the gold rush by leaders of the newly established 31st state, the University of California’s flagship campus at Berkeley has become one of the preeminent universities in the world. Its early guiding lights, charged with providing education (both “practical” and “classical”) for the state’s people, gradually established a distinguished faculty (with 22 Nobel laureates to date), a stellar research library, and more than 350 academic programs.

    UC Berkeley Seal

  • richardmitnick 4:56 pm on February 4, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, , Protecting spacecraft   

    From DLR: “The end of radio silence… 

    DLR Bloc

    German Aerospace Center

    …wind tunnel tests simulate a new method for communicating with spacecraft”

    01 February 2016


    Michel Winand
    German Aerospace Center (DLR)
    Corporate Communications
    Tel.: +49 2203 601-2144
    Fax: +49 2203 601-3502

    Dr.-Ing. Ali Gülhan
    German Aerospace Center (DLR)
    Institute of Aerodynamics and Flow Technology, Department Supersonic and Hypersonic Technology
    Tel.: +49 2203 601-2363
    Fax: +49 2203 601-2085

    DLR Wind Tunnel test
    Test device in plasma flow

    Entering a planetary atmosphere is one of the most critical mission phases for a spacecraft. The enormous amount of heat generated not only places heavy thermal loads on the material of the re-entry vehicle, it also gives rise to an electrically charged plasma that flows around it. This blocks radio signals, with the result that the spacecraft is unable to communicate with its ground stations for several minutes. In a joint project, researchers at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) are working with colleagues at Stanford University in California to find a solution to this problem.

    The phenomenon of ‘re-entry blackout’ during the transition from the vacuum of space into the atmosphere of a planet has occupied generations of scientists and engineers since NASA’s Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programmes in the 1960s and 1970s. At altitudes of 40 to 90 kilometres, radio waves cannot penetrate the plasma flows created by shock heating, thus preventing data transmission. As a result, critical information that might contribute to the success or failure of a mission is unavailable. During the Space Shuttle era, the problem was partly solved by the shape of the shuttle. Its design caused the existence of areas with a lower plasma flow density, thus enabling communication. Factors such as the angle of entry, speed (usually Mach 20 to 25) and the shape of the spacecraft all affect the density of the ionised gas flow.

    Tests in a heated wind tunnel

    In January 2016, a test campaign took place using the arc-heated wind tunnel operated by the Supersonic and Hypersonic Technology Department at the DLR Institute of Aerodynamics and Flow Technology in Cologne, to search for solutions to this problem. Realistic test conditions were recreated together with US scientists from Stanford University, led by Siddarth Krishnamoorthy. The test device, consisting of a heat shield with a transmitter placed behind it, was exposed to a plasma flow heated to several thousand degrees. An antenna was installed outside the hot gas flow to receive the radio signals.

    Negative voltage, positive effect

    The key to the new approach for preventing re-entry blackouts is a negative voltage field generated in the vicinity of the transmitter’s antenna. The negative voltage diverts the ionised plasma flow, thus opening a window for the radio signals. This window cannot be kept open continuously. Therefore, the voltage is pulsed for intervals of a few milliseconds. This is sufficient to allow for data transmission and reception.

    Until now, the method of using pulsed electric fields had only been developed in numerical simulations. This series of tests represents another step towards future use in space.

    Krishnamoorthy is impressed by the ease of collaboration: “In just three months, we have had the opportunity to test our process in practice and, simultaneously, benefit from DLR’s experience in this area.”

    Ali Gülhan, Head of the Supersonic and Hypersonic Technology Department, has an equally positive opinion: “The cooperation between DLR and Stanford University provides an ideal framework for addressing the problem of communications blackouts.”

    The process under test will be further refined and developed for use in new and existing spacecraft.

    See the full article here .

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    DLR Center

    DLR is the national aeronautics and space research centre of the Federal Republic of Germany. Its extensive research and development work in aeronautics, space, energy, transport and security is integrated into national and international cooperative ventures. In addition to its own research, as Germany’s space agency, DLR has been given responsibility by the federal government for the planning and implementation of the German space programme. DLR is also the umbrella organisation for the nation’s largest project management agency.

    DLR has approximately 8000 employees at 16 locations in Germany: Cologne (headquarters), Augsburg, Berlin, Bonn, Braunschweig, Bremen, Goettingen, Hamburg, Juelich, Lampoldshausen, Neustrelitz, Oberpfaffenhofen, Stade, Stuttgart, Trauen, and Weilheim. DLR also has offices in Brussels, Paris, Tokyo and Washington D.C.

  • richardmitnick 9:06 pm on February 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, , ,   

    From New Scientist: “Shortest ever pulse of visible light spots photons fleeing atoms” 


    New Scientist

    3 February 2016
    Colin Barras

    Light field synthesiser
    Got a light? Christian Hackenberger/Attoelectronics MPQ

    The ultimate high-speed flashbulb just measured how quickly electrons inside atoms respond to light. The work could speed the development of light-based electronics.

    At 380 attoseconds long – 380 x 10-18 seconds – the flashes are the shortest pulses of visible light ever created in the lab.

    Eleftherios Goulielmakis at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany, and his colleagues achieved a similar feat in 2008 when they generated pulses of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) light that were just 80 attoseconds long.

    But making such short pulses of visible light is more challenging – and also more useful. EUV is energetic enough to strip electrons away from an atom altogether. Visible light makes a gentler probe: it energises electrons in an atom, encouraging them to emit light of their own, without actually removing them from the atom’s clutches.

    This time, Goulielmakis’s key tool was a light field synthesiser, which carefully combines several light pulses of known wavelengths to generate the incredibly short flashes. Those pulses are brought together with their wavelengths slightly out of phase, so some parts of the combined light cancel each other out and leave a super-short pulse behind (see video, below). The same principle explains why two ocean waves that are perfectly out of sync will destroy each other on contact and leave an apparently calm surface.

    Kicking out a photon

    Theory suggested that electrons take a few hundred attoseconds [1×10^−18 of a second, quintillionth of a second] to kick out a fresh photon after they’ve been hit by an incoming beam, but the precise figure was unknown. The 380-attosecond-long light pulses are ideal for testing this idea. Not only can the pulses energise the electrons, they can then act as a camera flash, illuminating the process just long enough for scientists to measure the time it takes the electrons to respond.

    Goulielmakis and his colleagues aimed their short pulses at gaseous krypton atoms in a vacuum, and found that the electrons in the krypton kicked out UV photons 115 attoseconds later.

    The atoms behaved a bit like an energy-saving light bulb, Goulielmakis says. “Turn on the switch and the lamp is a bit dim – it takes time to get bright,” he says. “An electron in an atom also needs time to respond and maximise its emission of radiation – it needs about 100 attoseconds.”

    “This work indeed represents a major step forward in the control of electrons,” says Peter Hommelhoff at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany.

    Overtaking electrons

    Goulielmakis and his colleagues plan to extend the work to examine the way electrons behave in other materials – particularly solids.

    “[This] may lead to important new insights into the dynamics of electrons in a wide class of materials,” says Jon Marangos at Imperial College London. Those insights could help improve the design and efficiency of electronic devices.

    Many people predict that computer circuits will eventually use photons rather than electrons to ferry information, but for that to work, photons have to interact with each other inside physical matter – things like the semiconductors used in today’s computers. So exploring how rapidly semiconductors and other solids respond to incoming light will help determine exactly how fast such light-based electronics will be able to operate. “This is the bridge between photonics and electronics,” says Goulielmakis. “We have to make sure we understand it.”

    Journal reference: Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature16528

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 8:22 pm on February 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, , , EEW earthquake early-warning,   

    From Caltech: “White House Puts Spotlight on Earthquake Early-Warning System” 

    Caltech Logo

    Katie Neith
    Tom Waldman
    (626) 395-5832

    Since the late 1970s, Caltech seismologist Tom Heaton, professor of engineering seismology, has been working to develop earthquake early-warning (EEW) systems—networks of ground-based sensors that can send data to users when the earth begins to tremble nearby, giving them seconds to potentially minutes to prepare before the shaking reaches them. In fact, Heaton wrote the first paper published on the concept in 1985. EEW systems have been implemented in countries like Japan, Mexico, and Turkey. However, the Unites States has been slow to regard EEW systems as a priority for the West Coast.

    Earthquake early warning EEW  UserDisplay
    The earthquake early warning (EEW) UserDisplay in action for a scenario M7.8 earthquake. The most intense colors correspond to very strong ground shaking. The banner on top shows expected shaking at the user site. The number “14” on the left indicates warning time, and the expected intensity at the user site is shown in roman numerals, VII. Other information indicates the epicenter and date/time of the earthquake.

    But on February 2, 2016, the White House held the Earthquake Resilience Summit, signaling a new focus on earthquake safety and EEW systems. There, stakeholders—including Caltech’s Heaton and Egill Hauksson, research professor in geophysics; and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) seismologist Lucy Jones, a visiting associate in geophysics at Caltech and seismic risk advisor to the mayor of Los Angeles—discussed the need for earthquake early warning and explored steps that can be taken to make such systems a reality.

    At the summit, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation announced $3.6 million in grants to advance a West Coast EEW system called ShakeAlert, which received an initial $6 million in funding from foundation in 2011. The new grants will go to researchers working on the system at Caltech, the USGS, UC Berkeley, and the University of Washington.

    “We have been successfully operating a demonstration system for several years, and we know that it works for the events that have happened in the test period,” says Heaton. “However, there is still significant development that is required to ensure that the system will work reliably in very large earthquakes similar to the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake. This new funding allows us to accelerate the rate at which we develop this critical system.”

    In addition, the Obama Administration outlined new federal commitments to support greater earthquake safety including an executive order to ensure that new construction of federal buildings is up to code and that federal assets are available for recovery efforts after a large earthquake.

    The commitments follow a December announcement from Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) that Congress has included $8.2 million in the fiscal year 2016 funding bill specifically designated for a West Coast earthquake early warning system.

    “By increasing the funding for the West Coast earthquake early-warning system, Congress is sending a message to the Western states that it supports this life-saving system. But the federal government cannot do it alone and will need local stakeholders, both public and private, to get behind the effort with their own resources,” said Schiff, in a press release. “The early warning system will give us critical time for trains to be slowed and surgeries to be stopped before shaking hits—saving lives and protecting infrastructure. This early warning system is an investment we need to make now, not after the ‘big one’ hits.”

    ShakeAlert utilizes a network of seismometers—instruments that measure ground motion—widely scattered across the Western states. In California, that network of sensors is called the California Integrated Seismic Network (CISN) and is made up of computerized seismometers that send ground-motion data back to research centers like the Seismological Laboratory at Caltech.

    Here’s how the current ShakeAlert works: a user display opens in a pop-up window on a recipient’s computer as soon as a significant earthquake occurs in California. The screen lists the quake’s estimated location and magnitude based on the sensor data received to that point, along with an estimate of how much time will pass before the shaking reaches the user’s location. The program also gives an approximation of how intense that shaking will be. Since ShakeAlert uses information from a seismic event in progress, people living near the epicenter do not get much—if any—warning, but those farther away could have seconds or even tens of seconds’ notice.

    The goal is an improved version of ShakeAlert that will eventually give schools, utilities, industries, and the general public a heads-up in the event of a major temblor.

    Read more about how ShakeAlert works and about Caltech’s development of EEW systems in a feature that ran in the Summer 2013 issue of E&S magazine called Can We Predict Earthquakes?

    See the full article here .

    [If you live in an earthquake prone area, you can help with identification and notification by joing the Quake-Catcher Network, a project based at Caltech and running on software from BOINC, Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing. Please visit Quake-Catcher Network and see what it is all about.]

    BOINC WallPaper


    QCN Quake Catcher Network map
    Quake-Catcher Network map

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    The California Institute of Technology (commonly referred to as Caltech) is a private research university located in Pasadena, California, United States. Caltech has six academic divisions with strong emphases on science and engineering. Its 124-acre (50 ha) primary campus is located approximately 11 mi (18 km) northeast of downtown Los Angeles. “The mission of the California Institute of Technology is to expand human knowledge and benefit society through research integrated with education. We investigate the most challenging, fundamental problems in science and technology in a singularly collegial, interdisciplinary atmosphere, while educating outstanding students to become creative members of society.”
    Caltech buildings

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