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  • richardmitnick 4:36 pm on December 14, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , ICL-Imperial College London, ,   

    From Imperial College London: “Young star caught forming around another star” 

    Imperial College London
    From Imperial College London

    14 December 2018
    Hayley Dunning

    1
    A small star has been observed forming out of the dust surrounding a larger star, in a similar way to how planets are born.

    Astronomers were observing the formation of a massive young star, called MM 1a, when they discovered an unexpected object nearby.

    MM 1a is surrounded by rotating disc of gas and dust. But orbiting just beyond this disc, they discovered a faint object they called MM 1b, which they discovered was a smaller star. MM 1b is believed to have formed out of the gas and dust surrounding the larger MM 1a.

    The team of astronomers, led by the University of Leeds and including an Imperial College London researcher, have published their discovery today in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.

    Co-author Dr Thomas Haworth, from the Department of Physics at Imperial, helped predict what might be observed around MM 1a, and then to interpret what they actually found. He said: “It’s great when the new data surprises you, which was definitely the case here.

    “Seeing the disc itself in so much detail is exciting, but detecting a second star forming within the disc, perhaps in a similar way to how planets form, was a huge unexpected bonus. There is a lot of work ahead of us to fully understand the consequences of this new discovery.”

    An entirely different formation process

    Stars form within large clouds of gas and dust in interstellar space. When these clouds collapse under gravity, they begin to rotate faster, forming a disc around them. It is in these discs that planets can form around low mass stars like our Sun.

    Lead author Dr John Ilee, from the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leeds, said: “In this case, the star and disc we have observed is so massive that, rather than witnessing a planet forming in the disc, we are seeing another star being born.”

    By measuring the amount of radiation emitted by the dust and subtle shifts in the frequency of light emitted by the gas, the researchers were able to calculate the mass of MM 1a and MM 1b.

    They found that MM 1a weighs 40 times the mass of our Sun. The smaller orbiting star MM 1b was calculated to weigh less than half the mass of our Sun.

    2
    Observation of the dust emission (green) and hot gas rotating in the disc around MM 1a (red is receding gas, blue is approaching gas). MM 1b is seen the lower left. Credit: J. D. Ilee / University of Leeds.

    Dr Ilee said: “Many older massive stars are found with nearby companions. But these ‘binary’ stars are often very equal in mass, and so likely formed together as siblings. Finding a young binary system with a mass ratio of 80:1 is very unusual, and suggests an entirely different formation process for both objects.”

    The team believe stars like MM 1b could form in the outer regions of cold, massive discs. These discs are unable to hold themselves up against the pull of their own gravity, collapsing into one or more fragments.

    The team believe their discovery is one of the first examples of a ‘fragmented’ disc to be detected around a massive young star.

    Only a million years to live

    Dr Duncan Forgan, a co-author from the Centre for Exoplanet Science at the University of St Andrews, added: “I’ve spent most of my career simulating this process to form giant planets around stars like our Sun. To actually see it forming something as large as a star is really exciting.”

    The researchers note that newly discovered young star MM 1b could also be surrounded by its own disc, which may have the potential to form planets of its own – but it will need to be quick.

    Dr Ilee added: “Stars as massive as MM 1a only live for around a million years before exploding as powerful supernovae, so while MM 1b may have the potential to form its own planetary system in the future, it won’t be around for long.”

    The astronomers made this surprising discovery by using a unique new instrument situated high in the Chilean desert – the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA).

    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array in Chile in the Atacama at Chajnantor plateau, at 5,000 metres

    Using the 66 individual dishes of ALMA together in a process called interferometry, the astronomers were able to simulate the power of a single telescope nearly 4km across, allowing them to image the material surrounding the young stars for the first time.

    Funders for this research include the Science and Technologies Facilities Council (UK) and the European Research Council.

    See the full article here .


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    Imperial College London

    Imperial College London is a science-based university with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities, Imperial is committed to developing the next generation of researchers, scientists and academics through collaboration across disciplines. Located in the heart of London, Imperial is a multidisciplinary space for education, research, translation and commercialisation, harnessing science and innovation to tackle global challenges.

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  • richardmitnick 3:34 pm on August 9, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ICL-Imperial College London, Mini antimatter accelerator could rival the likes of the Large Hadron Collider, , ,   

    From Imperial College London: “Mini antimatter accelerator could rival the likes of the Large Hadron Collider” 

    Imperial College London
    From Imperial College London

    09 August 2018
    Hayley Dunning

    1
    Simulation of groups of positrons being concentrated into a beam and accelerated. No image credit .

    Researchers have found a way to accelerate antimatter in a 1000x smaller space than current accelerators, boosting the science of exotic particles.

    The new method could be used to probe more mysteries of physics, like the properties of the Higgs boson and the nature of dark matter and dark energy, and provide more sensitive testing of aircraft and computer chips.

    The method has been modelled using the properties of existing lasers, with experiments planned soon. If proven, the technology could allow many more labs around the world to conduct antimatter acceleration experiments.

    Particle accelerators in facilities such as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in CERN and the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) at Stanford University in the United States, speed up elementary particles like protons and electrons.

    LHC

    CERN map


    CERN LHC Tunnel

    CERN LHC particles

    SLAC/LCLS

    These accelerated particles can be smashed together, as in the LHC, to produce particles that are more elementary, like the Higgs boson, which gives all other particles mass.

    They can also be used to generate x-ray laser light, such as in the LCLS, which is used to image extremely fast and small process, like photosynthesis.

    Shrinking accelerators to fit in a lab

    However, to get to these high speeds, the accelerators need to use equipment that is at least two kilometres long. Previously, researchers at Imperial College London had invented a system that could accelerate electrons using equipment only meters long.

    Now a researcher at Imperial has invented a method of accelerating the antimatter version of electrons – called positrons – in a system that would be just centimetres long.

    The accelerator would require a type of laser system that currently covers around 25 square metres, but that is already present in many physics labs.

    Dr Aakash Sahai, from the Department of Physics at Imperial reported his method today in the Physical Review Journal for Accelerators and Beams. He said: “With this new accelerator method, we could drastically reduce the size and the cost of antimatter acceleration. What is now only possible by using large physics facilities at tens of million-dollar costs could soon be possible in ordinary physics labs.”

    “The technologies used in facilities like the Large Hadron Collider or the Linac Coherent Light Source have not undergone significant advances since their invention in the 1950s [not true, HL-LHC and LCLS II are on the way] . They are expensive to run, and it may be that we will soon have all we can get out of them [not true].

    “A new generation of compact, energetic and cheap accelerators of elusive particles would allow us to probe new physics – and allow many more labs worldwide to join the effort.”

    Creating ‘Higgs factories’ and testing aircraft

    While the method is currently undergoing experimental validation, Dr Sahai is confident it will be possible to produce a working prototype within a couple of years, based on the Department’s previous experience creating electron beams using a similar method.

    The method uses lasers and plasma – a gas of charged particles – to produce, concentrate positrons and accelerate them to create a beam. This centimetre-scale accelerator could use existing lasers to accelerate positron beams with tens of millions of particles to the same energy as reached over two kilometres at the Stanford accelerator.

    Colliding electron and positron beams could have implications in fundamental physics. For example, they could create a higher rate of Higgs bosons than the LHC can, allowing physicists to better study its properties. They could also be used to look for new particles thought to exist in a theory called ‘supersymmetry’, which would fill in some gaps in the Standard Model of particle physics.

    The Standard Model of elementary particles (more schematic depiction), with the three generations of matter, gauge bosons in the fourth column, and the Higgs boson in the fifth.


    Standard Model of Particle Physics from Symmetry Magazine

    3
    No image caption or credit.

    The positron beams would also have practical applications. Currently, when checking for faults and fracture risks in materials such as aircraft bodies, engine blades and computer chips, x-rays or electron beams are used. Positrons interact in a different way with these materials than x-rays and electrons, providing another dimension to the quality control process.

    Dr Sahai added: “It is particularly gratifying to do this work at Imperial, where our lab’s namesake – Professor Patrick Blackett – won a Nobel Prize for his invention of methods to track exotic particles like antimatter. Professor Abdus Salam, another Imperial academic, also won a Nobel Prize for the validation of his theory of weak force made possible only using a pre-LHC positron-electron collider machine at CERN. It’s wonderful to attempt to carry on this legacy.”

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Imperial College London

    Imperial College London is a science-based university with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities, Imperial is committed to developing the next generation of researchers, scientists and academics through collaboration across disciplines. Located in the heart of London, Imperial is a multidisciplinary space for education, research, translation and commercialisation, harnessing science and innovation to tackle global challenges.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:42 am on May 13, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ICL-Imperial College London, , , , X-rays from tabletop lasers allows scientists to peer through the ‘water window’   

    From Imperial College London: “X-rays from tabletop lasers allows scientists to peer through the ‘water window’” 

    Imperial College London
    From Imperial College London

    11 May 2018
    Hayley Dunning

    1

    Studying the fleeting actions of electrons in organic materials will now be much easier, thanks to a new method for generating fast X-rays.

    The technique means advanced measurements of fast reactions will now be possible in physics labs around the world, without having to wait to use expensive and scarce equipment. It could be used, for example, to study and improve light-harvesting technologies like solar panels and water splitters.

    When ‘soft’ X-rays, beyond the range of ultraviolet light, strike an object, they are strongly absorbed by some kinds of atoms and not others. In particular, water is transparent to these X-rays, but carbon absorbs them, making them useful for imaging organic and biological materials.

    However, a challenge has been to generate very fast soft X-rays. Creating pulses of X-rays that only last one thousandth of a millionth of a millionth of a second would allow researchers to image the extremely quick motions of electrons, crucial for determining how charge travels and reactions occur.

    Smallest and fastest reaction steps

    Fast soft X-rays have been created with large facilities, such as multi-billion dollar costing free-electron lasers, but now a research team from Imperial College London have generated fast and powerful fast soft X-ray pulses using standard laboratory lasers.

    The method, which can produce bright soft X-ray pulses that last hundreds of attoseconds (quintillionths of a second), is published today in Science Advances.

    With the new technique, researchers will be able to watch the movement of electrons on their natural timescale, giving them a dynamic picture of the smallest and fastest reaction steps.

    Senior author Professor Jon Marangos, from the Department of Physics at Imperial, said: “The strength of this technique is that it can be used by many physics labs around the world with lasers they already have installed.

    “This discovery will allow us to make measurements at extreme timescales for the first time. We are at the frontiers of what we can measure, seeing faster-than-ever processes important for science and technology.”

    Generating X-rays

    Generating X-rays in a lab requires exciting atoms until they release photons – particles of light. Normally, atoms in a long, dispersed cloud are excited in sequence so that they emit photons in ‘phase’, meaning they add up and create a stronger X-ray pulse. This is known as phase matching.

    But when trying to generate soft X-rays this way, effects in the cloud of atoms strongly defocus the laser, disrupting phase matching.

    Instead, the team discovered that they needed a thin, dense cloud of atoms and short laser pulses. With this setup, while the photons could not stay in phase over a long distance, they were still in phase over a shorter distance and for a short time. This led to unexpectedly efficient production of the short soft X-ray pulses.

    The team further measured and simulated the exact effects that cause high harmonic generation in this situation, and from this were able to predict the optimum laser conditions for creating a range of X-rays.

    Lead researcher Dr Allan Johnson, from the Department of Physics at Imperial, said: “We’ve managed to look inside what was before the relatively black-box of soft X-ray generation, and use that information to build an X-ray laser on a table that can compete with football-field spanning facilities. Knowledge is quite literally power in this game.”

    Improving solar technologies

    The team at Imperial plan to use the technique to study organic polymer materials, in particular those that harvest the Sun’s rays to produce energy or to split water. These materials are under intense study as they can provide cheaper renewable energy.

    However, many currently used materials are unstable or inefficient, due to the action of electrons that are excited by light. Closer study of the fast interactions of these electrons could provide valuable insights into methods for improving solar cells and catalysts.

    • ‘High-Flux Soft X-ray Harmonic Generation from Ionization-Shaped Few-Cycle Laser Pulses’ by Allan S. Johnson, Dane R. Austin, David A. Wood, Christian Brahms, Andrew Gregory, Konstantin B. Holzner, Sebastian Jarosch, Esben W. Larsen, Susan Parker, Christian S. Strüber, Peng Ye, John W. G. Tisch, and Jon P. Marangos is published in Science Advances.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition

    Imperial College London

    Imperial College London is a science-based university with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities, Imperial is committed to developing the next generation of researchers, scientists and academics through collaboration across disciplines. Located in the heart of London, Imperial is a multidisciplinary space for education, research, translation and commercialisation, harnessing science and innovation to tackle global challenges.

     
  • richardmitnick 2:39 pm on December 7, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A space mission to test how objects fall in a vacuum has released its first results providing an improved foundation for Einstein's famous theory, , , , , , , ICL-Imperial College London, , , The theory is fundamentally incompatible with another well-tested theory: quantum mechanics which describes the physics of the extremely small, The theory of general relativity and the conclusions it draws about gravity have been shown to be true wherever tested, This first result is going to shake the world of physics and will certainly lead to a revision of alternative theories to general relativity   

    From ICL: “European satellite confirms general relativity with unprecedented precision” 

    Imperial College London
    Imperial College London

    07 December 2017
    Hayley Dunning

    A space mission to test how objects fall in a vacuum has released its first results, providing an improved foundation for Einstein’s famous theory.

    The first results of the ‘Microscope’ satellite mission were announced this week by a group of researchers led by the French space agency CNES and including Imperial scientists. The findings are published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

    CNES Microscope satellite

    Launched in April 2016, the mission set out to test the ‘equivalence principle’, the founding assumption of Einstein’s theory of general relativity. The theory poses that gravity is not a ‘pulling’ force, but is the result of large bodies, like the Earth, bending spacetime.

    As a result, when two objects are dropped in a vacuum under the same force of gravity, they fall at the same rate, no matter what their difference in weight or composition. This principle was demonstrated by Apollo 15 astronaut David Scott, who dropped a hammer and a feather on the Moon and showed them both reaching the ground at the same time.

    However, dropping household objects on the lunar surface does not allow very precise measurements – it could be that they reach the ground fractions of a second apart. This is important for scientists to know, because if the equivalence principle does not hold absolutely, then it could provide clues to a unifying theory of physics.

    Finding a single theory

    The theory of general relativity, and the conclusions it draws about gravity, have been shown to be true wherever tested. However, the theory is fundamentally incompatible with another well-tested theory: quantum mechanics, which describes the physics of the extremely small.

    The major goal for 21st Century physics is a single theory that ties them all together neatly. Certain candidate theories predict that the equivalence principle may be violated at very weak levels.

    The new results have measured the equivalence principle with ten times the precision of any previous experiment, and show that objects in a vacuum fall with the same acceleration.

    Professor Timothy Sumner, from the Department of Physics at Imperial was involved in the early discussions for the project thirty years ago, which led to the current mission. He more recently joined the Science Working Team. Commenting on the latest results, he said: “The equivalence principle has proven unshakeable yet again.

    “This result is the first new measurement for several years and demonstrates the possibility of taking such difficult ‘laboratory’ experiments into the quiet and interference-free space environment. There will more results from this impressive experiment.”

    1,900 orbits of the Earth

    To test the principle, the Microscope satellite contains a series of ‘test masses’: blocks of metals of different weights with very precisely measured properties. These masses are isolated from any other influence and are monitored as they freefall in space while orbiting the Earth.

    This means their acceleration due to the freefall can be measured and compared to test the equivalence principle. If two test masses of equal size but different composition are accelerated differently during the freefall, then the equivalence principle is violated.

    The science phase of the mission began in December 2016 and has already collected data from 1,900 orbits of the Earth. This means that altogether the objects have been freefalling in space for the equivalent of 85 million kilometres, or half the Earth-Sun distance.

    The mission’s principle investigator, Pierre Touboul from France’s national aerospace research centre, ONERA, said: “The satellite’s performance is far exceeding expectations. Data from more than 1,900 additional orbits are already available and more are to come.

    “This first result is going to shake the world of physics and will certainly lead to a revision of alternative theories to general relativity.”

    The Microscope experiment is continuing to collect data, and the team hope that the final analysis will have a precision within a tenth of a trillionth of a percent.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Imperial College London

    Imperial College London is a science-based university with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities, Imperial is committed to developing the next generation of researchers, scientists and academics through collaboration across disciplines. Located in the heart of London, Imperial is a multidisciplinary space for education, research, translation and commercialisation, harnessing science and innovation to tackle global challenges.

     
  • richardmitnick 6:07 am on October 25, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Herbivores help protect marine ecosystems from climate change, ICL-Imperial College London   

    From ICL: “Herbivores help protect marine ecosystems from climate change” 

    Imperial College London
    Imperial College London

    25 October 2017
    Hayley Dunning

    1
    A limpet on seaweed. Image: Rebecca Kordas

    Plant-eating critters are key to helping ecosystems survive global warming, offering some hope for a defence strategy against climate change.

    An international research team created miniature marine ecosystems and tested how they fared in warmer conditions. They found that in the hottest conditions, ecosystems that included limpets – voracious snail-like marine herbivores – fared the best.

    The study, published in Science Advances, monitored mini ecosystems on rocky shores made up of different collections of organisms. The ecosystems were grown on special hard plastic plates that could be individually warmed. This allowed the researchers to test how the different ecosystems responded to temperature rises while in their natural habitat.

    Ecosystems are in a delicate balance: removing organisms that do key jobs can cause the whole system to deteriorate. If this ecosystem is then put under stress, it is less able to cope and can collapse.

    In these experiments, it was the key job performed by the main herbivore (limpets) that helped the ecosystems stay resilient in the face of warming. Limpets are voracious consumers of algae, and their action prevents algae from building up and using all the available space – a valuable resource on rocky shores.

    Variety needed

    Lead author of the study Dr Rebecca Kordas, who completed this research for her PhD at the University of British Columbia and is now a research fellow at Imperial College London, said: “The herbivores created space for other plants and animals to move in and we saw much more diversity and variety in these ecosystems.

    “We want variety because we found it helps protect the ecosystem when you add a stressor like heat.”

    2
    The experimental plates underwater. Image: Rebecca Kordas

    The research team studied life in the intertidal zone, the area of the shore between the low tide and high tide, on the coast of British Columbia. This area is home to a community of starfish, anemones, mussels, barnacles and seaweed. As the tide moves in and out, the plants and animals must cope with huge variation in temperature every day, sometimes as much as 20 to 25 degrees Celsius.

    Despite dealing daily with these extremes, the ecosystems can be severely damaged by further warming. Dr Kordas said: “When heat waves come through British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest, we see mass mortality of numerous intertidal species.

    “These creatures are already living at their physical limits, so a two-degree change – a conservative prediction of the warming expected over the next 80 years or so – can make a big difference.”

    Making ecosystems more resilient

    The researchers found that in the summer, when temperatures were at their warmest, communities could fare well even if they were heated, but only if limpets were present. Dr Kordas added: “When limpets were part of the community, the effects of warming were less harsh.”

    3
    Plates along the shore in Ruckle Park, British Columbia. Image: Rebecca Kordas

    Senior study author Professor Christopher Harley from the University of British Columbia says that, in general – consumers like limpets, sea otters or starfish are very important to maintaining biodiversity, especially in aquatic ecosystems. Losing these species can destabilize ecosystems, but protecting them can make ecosystems more resilient.

    “We should be thinking of ways to reduce our negative effects on the natural environment and these results show that if we do basic conservation and management, it can make a big difference in terms of how ecosystems will weather climate change,” Professor Harley said.

    See the full article here .

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    Imperial College London

    Imperial College London is a science-based university with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities, Imperial is committed to developing the next generation of researchers, scientists and academics through collaboration across disciplines. Located in the heart of London, Imperial is a multidisciplinary space for education, research, translation and commercialisation, harnessing science and innovation to tackle global challenges.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:16 pm on October 7, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ICL-Imperial College London, ,   

    From ICL via Science Alert: “We Finally Know The Weird Way Electrons Behave During Fusion-Like Conditions” 

    Imperial College London
    Imperial College London

    Science Alert

    6 OCT 2017
    KARLA LANT

    1
    Imperial College London

    Fusion energy just got one step closer.

    Researchers have at last been able to model the behaviour of electrons under extreme densities and temperatures, similar to those found inside stars and planets.

    Although electrons are ubiquitous in our universe, carrying electrical current and determining the physical properties of materials, physicists have never before been able to describe the ways large numbers of electrons behave together- especially at high densities and temperatures.

    This new research [Physical Review Letters] could shed light on the how matter behaves in fusion experiments, in turn leading to a new source of clean fusion energy.

    Imperial College London Department of Physics Professor Matthew Foulkes told Phys.org:

    “Now, at last, we are in a position to carry out accurate and direct simulations of planetary interiors; solids under intense laser irradiation; laser-activated catalysts; and other warm dense systems.”

    He added, “This is the beginning of a new field of computational science.”

    Although it is easy enough to describe the large-scale behaviours of electrons- such as how electrical current, resistance, and voltage work- quantum forces control the behaviours of electrons at the microscopic level, causing them to act like a quantum mechanical gas.

    Until the success of this research, scientists were only able to create simulations that described the behaviour of this electron gas at very low temperatures.

    However, the centres of planets like Earth and stars are filled with warm, dense matter – matter that is also critical to fusion experiments.

    With the help of computer simulations, the new work solves the equations that describe the electron gas precisely. The team has thus completely described the thermodynamic properties of interacting electrons in warm dense matter for the first time.

    Kiel University Professor of Theoretical Physics Michael Bonitz told Phys.org:

    “These results are the first exact data in this area, and will take our understanding of matter at extreme temperatures to a new level. Amongst other things, the 40-year-old existing models can now be reviewed and improved for the first time.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Imperial College London

    Imperial College London is a science-based university with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities, Imperial is committed to developing the next generation of researchers, scientists and academics through collaboration across disciplines. Located in the heart of London, Imperial is a multidisciplinary space for education, research, translation and commercialisation, harnessing science and innovation to tackle global challenges.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:04 am on September 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Science knows no boundaries", , , Global showcase, ICL-Imperial College London,   

    From ICL: “Japanese collaborations reach new heights” 

    Imperial College London
    Imperial College London

    Tokyo Tech

    28 September 2017
    Andrew Scheuber
    Colin Smith

    Imperial and one of Japan’s top universities joined forces at a two-day workshop in London this week.

    The 2nd Tokyo Tech-Imperial Workshop, brought together some of the world’s leading researchers to explore new collaborations in bioscience and its links with technology, encompassing expertise in synthetic biology, data science and neurotechnology.

    Imperial’s Provost James Stirling opened the conference, welcoming back Tokyo Tech’s President Yoshinao Mishima and praising “plans for enhancing collaboration between our two great institutions.”

    “Although this is about promoting new collaborations, the two universities are old friends,” he said.

    Imperial and one of Japan’s top universities joined forces at a two-day workshop in London this week.

    The 2nd Tokyo Tech-Imperial Workshop, brought together some of the world’s leading researchers to explore new collaborations in bioscience and its links with technology, encompassing expertise in synthetic biology, data science and neurotechnology.
    James Stirling

    Provost James Stirling opening the
    workshop

    Imperial’s Provost James Stirling opened the conference, welcoming back Tokyo Tech’s President Yoshinao Mishima and praising “plans for enhancing collaboration between our two great institutions.”

    “Although this is about promoting new collaborations, the two universities are old friends,” he said.

    “There was a considerable amount of excitement within our academic community as the plans for this day materialised, with many of our brightest and best researchers eager to take part. With such complementary expertise at our institutions – in fields ranging from robotics to neurosciences to chemical biology – I am certain that with such a deep well of goodwill on either side that we can build on our existing partnership, and expand into new and exciting areas.”

    President Mishima said he was “pleased to see the growing collaborations between our institutions, especially in big data, synthetic biology and neurotechnology,” which have resulted in significant academic exchanges and research discoveries. These include Professor Sergei Kazarian’s support for Tokyo Tech colleagues in spectroscopic imaging, which was “an inspiration to our students and researchers alike.”

    “Science knows no boundaries”

    Professor Rod Smith, who has been collaborating with Tokyo Tech engineers since the 1970s, emphasised the very long-term nature of London and Imperial’s connections with Japan, dating back to the 19th century. These ties include the father of seismology John Milne (1850 – 1913) who, after graduating from the Royal School of Mines, made some of his most important discoveries at Tokyo’s Imperial College of Engineering.

    Professor Maggie Dallman, Associate Provost (Academic Partnerships), was the driving force behind the Tokyo Tech-Imperial workshop series, the first of which was held in Japan in 2016.

    Professor Dallman spoke about the two universities’ aim of “tackling grand challenges relevant to the UK, Japan and the world,” taking advantage of complementary expertise, matching projects to funding opportunities in the UK and Japan, and PhD student exchanges. She said the two institutions see “the role of universities as not just in science but in promoting social cohesion.”

    Japan’s Ambassador to the UK Koji Tsuruoka said that soon after arriving in London “Imperial College was a ‘must visit’ for me. Imperial demonstrates the quality of British science,” and “Tokyo Tech is a very appropriate counterpart to Imperial.”

    “Science knows no boundaries,” he added, so it is right that the two universities “will contribute to the future prospects of the whole world – not just the UK and Japan.”

    Global showcase

    London correspondents from the Nikkei, the world’s highest circulation financial newspaper, and the Tokyo Shimbun, one of Japan’s most respected quality newspapers, attended the workshop and toured the College.

    They visited labs, met Imperial academics and some of the College’s 75 Japanese students. They also interviewed Professors Stirling and Mishima about the two universities’ collaborations and aspirations. When asked about Imperial’s position in the world top ten of major university rankings, Professor Stirling said “The secret of our success is that we’re a global institution”.

    Hydrodynamics pioneers

    The guests toured the Hydrodynamics laboratory, based in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The lab consists of state-of-the-art wave tank facilities, covering a floor area of some 3,000 square metres.

    2
    Dr Marios Christou simulated conditions in the ocean, creating different wave formations and wind conditions for the visitors. The Imperial researcher also showed a device for creating tsunamis in a wave tank, which was of special interest to the journalists.

    n another demonstration, Dr Henry Burridge demonstrated how these tanks could be used to model airflow. In particular, they were using fluids to model how smoke travels through buildings, which could have applications for improving airflow in houses in developing countries where open fires are common. By using a coloured brine solution, which is heavier than the tank water it travels through, Dr Burridge was able to simulate how the solution travelled through rooms in a similar way to smoke.

    Robotic surgery innovators

    Professor Guang-Zhong Yang, who leads the Hamlyn Centre, spoke about the latest robotic technologies that he and his team are developing to reshape the future of healthcare for both developing and developed countries.

    Professor Yang and his team are working closely with academic institutions and industry in Japan to develop robotics that is smaller than the width of a human hair. In the near future, these devices will be inserted into the body to deliver treatments to targeted zones, which could improve outcomes and recovery times for patients.

    See the full article here .

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    tokyo-tech-campus

    Tokyo Tech is the top national university for science and technology in Japan with a history spanning more than 130 years. Of the approximately 10,000 students at the Ookayama, Suzukakedai, and Tamachi Campuses, half are in their bachelor’s degree program while the other half are in master’s and doctoral degree programs. International students number 1,200. There are 1,200 faculty and 600 administrative and technical staff members.

    In the 21st century, the role of science and technology universities has become increasingly important. Tokyo Tech continues to develop global leaders in the fields of science and technology, and contributes to the betterment of society through its research, focusing on solutions to global issues. The Institute’s long-term goal is to become the world’s leading science and technology university.

    Imperial College London

    Imperial College London is a science-based university with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities, Imperial is committed to developing the next generation of researchers, scientists and academics through collaboration across disciplines. Located in the heart of London, Imperial is a multidisciplinary space for education, research, translation and commercialisation, harnessing science and innovation to tackle global challenges.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:39 am on April 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Brexit 1.0: scientists find evidence of Britain's separation from Europe, , ICL-Imperial College London   

    From ICL: “Brexit 1.0: scientists find evidence of Britain’s separation from Europe” 

    Imperial College London
    Imperial College London

    04 April 2017
    Colin Smith

    Researchers have found evidence of how ancient Britain separated from Europe, which happened in two stages, they report in Nature Communications.

    1
    Artist’s impression of the ancient land bridge. Credit: Imperial College London/Chase Stone

    Nearly 450,000 years ago, when Earth was in the grip of an ice age, ice stretched right across the North Sea, from Britain to Scandinavia. The low sea levels meant that the entire English Channel was dry land, a frozen tundra landscape, crisscrossed by small rivers.

    Britain’s separation from mainland Europe is believed to be the result of spill over from a proglacial lake – a type of lake formed in front of an ice sheet – in the North Sea, but this has remained unproven. Now, researchers from Imperial College London and their colleagues from institutes in Europe show that the opening of the Dover Strait in the English Channel occurred in two episodes, where an initial lake spill over was followed by catastrophic flooding.

    Ten years ago, the researchers from Imperial College London revealed geophysical evidence of giant valleys on the seafloor in the central part of English Channel. They believed these valley networks were evidence of a megaflood gouging out the land, which they speculated may have been caused by a catastrophic breach in a chalk rock ridge joining Britain to France.

    The new study by the team, working with their colleagues in Europe, now shows for the first time the details of how this chalk ridge in the Dover Strait, between Dover and Calais, was breached. New geophysical data collected by colleagues from Belgium and France has been combined with seafloor data from the UK showing evidence of huge holes and a valley system located on the seafloor.

    The team show that the chalk ridge acted like a huge dam and behind it was a proglacial lake. This lake was first hypothesised by scientists more than 100 years ago and the authors of today’s study show how the lake overflowed in giant waterfalls, eroding the rock escarpment, weakening it and eventually causing it to fail and release huge volumes of water onto the valley floor below.

    The team believe that the huge holes that they analysed on the seafloor are plunge pools, created when water cascading over an escarpment hit the ground and eroded rock. The plunge pools in the Dover Strait are huge – up to several kilometres in diameter and around 100 metres deep and were drilled into solid rock. Around seven plunge pools run in a line from the ports of Calais to Dover. The researchers suggest these plunge pools are evidence of an overflow of water from the lake in the southern North Sea.

    The straight line of the plunge pools suggests they were cascading off one single rock ridge perhaps 32 kilometres long and 100 metres high– the land bridge between Europe and the UK.

    The researchers have also found evidence that a second event fully opened the Dover Strait. Later on, perhaps hundreds of thousands of years later, a new valley system, the Lobourg Channel, was carved by megaflood processes that crossed the Dover Strait. The researchers demonstrate that this valley system is connected to the giant valley network in the central English Channel. They suggest that a spill over of other, smaller lakes in front of the ice sheets in the North Sea may have been responsible for the later episode of flood erosion.

    Putting the puzzle together

    It has taken ten years, but by pulling all the pieces of the geological jigsaw puzzle together the team say they are more confident about what may have caused the megaflood in the English Channel thousands of years ago.

    Dr Jenny Collier, a co-author of the study from the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London, said: “Based on the evidence that we’ve seen, we believe the Dover Strait 450,000 years ago would have been a huge rock ridge made of chalk joining Britain to France, looking more like the frozen tundra in Siberia than the green environment we know today. It would have been a cold world dotted with waterfalls plunging over the iconic white chalk escarpment that we see today in the White Cliffs of Dover.

    “We still don’t know for sure why the proglacial lake spilt over. Perhaps part of the ice sheet broke off, collapsing into the lake, causing a surge that carved a path for the water to cascade off the chalk ridge. In terms of the catastrophic failure of the ridge, maybe an earth tremor, which is still characteristic of this region today, further weakened the ridge. This may have caused the chalk ridge to collapse, releasing the megaflood that we have found evidence for in our studies.”

    Engineers first found evidence of the plunge pools when they were carrying out geological surveys of the Dover Strait seafloor back in the 1960s. No one knew what caused them, but they were called the Fosse Dangeard. The loose gravel and sand infilling these plunge pools meant that the engineers had to move the route of the Channel Tunnel to avoid them. In 1985 a marine geologist named Professor Alec Smith, from Bedford College in London, first proposed that the holes were created by ancient waterfalls, but the lack of hard evidence meant that the assertions were largely forgotten. Now, the authors of today’s study say Smith’s original assertions were right.

    The scientists say if it wasn’t for a set of chance geological circumstances, Britain may have still remained connected to mainland Europe, jutting out into the sea similarly to Denmark.

    Professor Sanjeev Gupta, a co-author from the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial, added: “The breaching of this land bridge between Dover and Calais was undeniably one of the most important events in British history, helping to shape our island nation’s identity even today. When the ice age ended and sea levels rose, flooding the valley floor for good, Britain lost its physical connection to the mainland. Without this dramatic breaching Britain would still be a part of Europe. This is Brexit 1.0 – the Brexit nobody voted for.”

    The team still do not have an exact timeline of events. In the next step, the researchers would like to take core samples of the in-filled sediments in the plunge pools, which they will analyse to determine the timing of erosion and infill of the plunge pools, the environments represented by these sediments, and the source of the sediments. Developing a timeline of events would enable them to learn more about the distinctive evolution of Britain, compared to mainland Europe. However, this will be a real challenge for the team as getting sediment core samples in the Dover Strait means dealing with huge tidal changes and traversing the world’s busiest shipping lane.

    The study was carried out in conjunction with researchers from Royal Observatory Belgium; Ghent University, Belgium; CNRS, the University of Lille, and the University of Western Britanny in France; and Top-Hole Studies Ltd, UK.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition

    Imperial College London

    Imperial College London is a science-based university with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities, Imperial is committed to developing the next generation of researchers, scientists and academics through collaboration across disciplines. Located in the heart of London, Imperial is a multidisciplinary space for education, research, translation and commercialisation, harnessing science and innovation to tackle global challenges.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:30 am on March 29, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , ICL-Imperial College London,   

    From ICL: “Imperial instrument ready to study the Sun” 

    Imperial College London
    Imperial College London

    29 March 2017
    Hayley Dunning
    Thomas Angus [Photographer]

    1
    Artist’s impression of the Solar Orbiter. Credit: ESA/AOES

    Imperial’s contribution to the Solar Orbiter mission, which will go closer to the Sun than anything so far, is ready to fly after extensive testing.

    Solar Orbiter is a European Space Agency mission carrying ten instruments to measure many different properties of the Sun and interplanetary space.

    Aboard the spacecraft, launching in early 2019, will be a magnetometer instrument built by a team from the Department of Physics at Imperial.

    The magnetometer will measure the Sun’s magnetic field in interplanetary space, carried by the solar wind. The solar wind is a stream of charged particles coming off the Sun that fills the Solar System, which the Sun’s magnetic field plays an important role in creating.

    Principal Investigator Professor Tim Horbury from the Department of Physics at Imperial said: “We live inside a bubble blown by the Sun in interstellar space. The Earth also has its own magnetic field, which creates a cavity in the solar bubble.

    2
    Professor Tim Horbury describes Solar Orbiter’s journey

    “The interaction between the solar wind and Earth’s magnetic field gives us the aurora – the Northern and Southern Lights – but when the solar wind is strong it can also cause problems for our technology, from power grids to satellites.”

    The Sun’s magnetic field is thought to be generated in a similar way to the Earth’s as it rotates, but it is much more dynamic. Every 11 years the polarity reverses, and this pattern is tied to the pattern of sunspots that appear on the Sun’s surface. Sunspots are associated extreme events called solar flares and ejections of the solar material that cause serious problems if they reach Earth.

    By orbiting the Sun and approaching it at a distance of only 50 million kilometres – inside the orbit of Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun – the Imperial team’s magnetometer will be able to get unprecedented information about how the Sun generates its magnetic field and how this plays a role in the solar wind and more extreme events.

    Sensitive subject

    The instrument is made up of two sensors hosted within metal domes; a black box containing electronics, a computer processor and a power supply; and cables to provide power and communications to the sensors.

    3
    Helen O’Brien describes the working of the sensors

    The magnetometer has to be extremely sensitive to detect the magnetic field from the Sun that will reach the spacecraft. Lead engineer Helen O’Brien from the Department of Physics said: “Our instrument is so sensitive, it could measure the magnetic field of an MRI machine from the other side of London.

    “This means, however, that we have to work hard to isolate it from the other instruments on the spacecraft. Metal objects and electrical circuits create small magnetic fields, so we have really strict requirements on the rest of the project – right down to the screws and the paint.”

    The magnetometer also has to survive some extreme conditions, including the intense vibration from the take-off, which will use a NASA Atlas V rocket. An earlier model of the instrument, which was put through rigorous tests designed to exceed the expected conditions, crumbled under the strain.

    4

    O’Brien said: “We mounted the sensors on a ceramic material that barely expands or contracts with temperature changes, so that their relative position to each other is kept stable during the extreme temperature swings the spacecraft will experience. However, this material is quite brittle, and it fell apart in the vibration test.”

    Thickening the material helped to solve the problem, and as a result of rigorous testing many tweaks and improvements have been made to the design. But now, the device is finished, and it is waiting in a clean room at Imperial before it gets mounted onto the spacecraft.

    In the meantime, the team are building a ‘flight spare’ – an identical device just in case something happens to the original before launch. When the instrument is mounted on the spacecraft, the team will be giving extremely precise instructions – down to the material the screwdriver is made out of, and making sure no tiny shavings of metal are left behind, which could disturb the measurements.

    Once all the instruments are mounted, the whole spacecraft will go through another barrage of tests, before being shipped to Cape Canaveral for launch in February 2019. It will then spend two years getting to the Sun, and another eight collecting data. Eventually, its solar panels will degrade and stop producing power but it will drift around the Sun forever.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Imperial College London

    Imperial College London is a science-based university with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities, Imperial is committed to developing the next generation of researchers, scientists and academics through collaboration across disciplines. Located in the heart of London, Imperial is a multidisciplinary space for education, research, translation and commercialisation, harnessing science and innovation to tackle global challenges.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:10 am on December 22, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Dr Omar Cedillos-Barraza, Hafnium carbide, ICL-Imperial College London, New record set for world's most heat resistant material   

    From ICL: “New record set for world’s most heat resistant material” 

    Imperial College London
    Imperial College London

    22 December 2016
    Caroline Brogan

    1
    Discovery paves the way for new types of heat shields
    (image: NASA)

    Researchers have discovered that tantalum carbide and hafnium carbide materials can withstand scorching temperatures of nearly 4000 degrees Celsius.

    In particular, the team from Imperial College London discovered that the melting point of hafnium carbide is the highest ever recorded for a material. Being able to withstand temperatures of nearly 4000°C could pave the way for both materials to be used in ever more extreme environments, such as in heat resistant shielding for the next generation of hypersonic space vehicles.

    Tantalum carbide (TaC) and hafnium carbide (HfC) are refractory ceramics, meaning they are extraordinarily resistant to heat. Their ability to withstand extremely harsh environments means that refractory ceramics could be used in thermal protection systems on high-speed vehicles and as fuel cladding in the super-heated environments of nuclear reactors. However, there hasn’t been the technology available to test the melting point of TaC and HfC in the lab to determine how truly extreme an environment they could function in.

    The researchers of the study, which is published in the journal Scientific Reports, developed a new extreme heating technique using lasers to test the heat tolerance of TaC and HfC. They used the laser-heating techniques to find the point at which TaC and HfC melted, both separately and as mixed compositions of both.

    They found that the mixed compound (Ta0.8Hf0.20C) was consistent with previous research, melting at 3905°C, but the two compounds on their own exceeded previous recorded melting points. The compound TaC melted at 3768°C and HfC melted at 3958°C.

    Space race

    The researchers say the new findings could pave the way for the next generation of hypersonic vehicles, meaning spacecraft could become faster than ever.

    Dr Omar Cedillos-Barraza, who is currently an Associate Professor at the University of Texas – El Paso, carried out the study while doing his PhD at Imperial’s Department of Materials.

    Dr Cedillos-Barraza said: “The friction involved when travelling above Mach 5 – hypersonic speeds – creates very high temperatures. So far, TaC and HfC have not been potential candidates for hypersonic aircraft, but our new findings show that they can withstand even more heat than we previously thought – more than any other compound known to man. This means that they could be useful materials for new types of spacecraft that can fly through the atmosphere like a plane, before reaching hypersonic speeds to shoot out into space. These materials may enable spacecraft to withstand the extreme heat generated from leaving and re-entering the atmosphere.”

    Examples of potential uses for TaC and HfC could be in nose caps for spacecraft, and as the edges of external instruments that have to withstand the most friction during flight.

    Currently, vehicles going over Mach 5 speeds do not carry people, but Dr Cedillos-Barraza suggests it may be possible in the future.

    Dr Cedillos-Barraza added: “Our tests demonstrate that these materials show real promise in the engineering of space vehicles of the future. Being able to withstand such extreme temperatures means that missions involving hypersonic spacecraft may one day be manned missions. For example, a flight from London to Sydney may take about 50 minutes at Mach 5, which could open a new world of commercial opportunities for countries around the world.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Imperial College London

    Imperial College London is a science-based university with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities, Imperial is committed to developing the next generation of researchers, scientists and academics through collaboration across disciplines. Located in the heart of London, Imperial is a multidisciplinary space for education, research, translation and commercialisation, harnessing science and innovation to tackle global challenges.

     
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