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  • richardmitnick 11:24 am on July 31, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "A Tectonic Plate Under Oregon Is Being Slowly Ripped Apart", , , , Juan de Fuca tectonic plate, , UC Berkeley,   

    From UC Berkeley via Science Alert: “A Tectonic Plate Under Oregon Is Being Slowly Ripped Apart” 

    From UC Berkeley



    Science Alert

    31 JUL 2019

    Spare a thought for the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate, not long for this world (in tectonic plate terms) as it slowly slides under the continent of North America.

    Map of the Juan de Fuca Plate. No image credit. Wikipedia.

    Geologists are hoping it can help solve one of the biggest mysteries in their field – how tectonic plates die.

    The Juan de Fuca plate is the last remnant of the much bigger Farallon plate, which has been disappearing under North America for tens of millions of years. It’s the perfect opportunity to study how plates eventually get swallowed up, and how that might cause seismic and volcanic activity on the surface.

    In particular, researchers William Hawley and Richard Allen, from the University of California, Berkeley, are interested in a gap that’s appearing in the Juan de Fuca plate – which may in fact represent a tearing of the plate way down below the surface.

    “The tearing not only causes volcanism on North America but also causes deformation of the not‐yet‐subducted sections of the oceanic plate offshore,” write the researchers in their newly published paper [Geophysical Letters Research].

    “This tearing may eventually cause the plate to fragment, and what is left of the small pieces of the plate will attach to other plates nearby.”

    All the rock that gets buried as a plate is subsumed has to go somewhere, and the large-scale deformations and breaks that can occur aren’t easy for scientists to predict or map.

    Using data from 217 earthquakes and more than 30,000 seismic waves, Hawley and Allen have been able to put together a detailed 3D picture of this particular part of the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

    Cascadia subduction zone. USGS.

    Specifically, they identified which parts of the rock were from the Juan de Fuca plate.

    They found what looks like a tear more than 150 kilometres (93 miles) deep, and it matches a previously identified area of weakness on the Juan de Fuca plate at the surface, known as a propagator wake.

    The researchers suggest that as the Juan de Fuca plate turns and twists, parts of it are being pulled off and separated, creating the gap that experts have observed. Some of it might even live on as part of another plate.

    More evidence is needed to be sure of what is happening here, but the hypothesis matches seismic activity around southern Oregon and northern California, as well as unusual patterns of volcanism in the region.

    Those unusual patterns are the volcanoes known as the High Lava Plains in southern Oregon, where the newest eruptions are at the wrong end of the series from where geologists would expect them to be, based on the direction of drift of the North American tectonic plate.

    Fresh volcanic activity caused by the propagator wake and deeper weakness in the Juan de Fuca could perhaps explain this anomaly, the researchers suggest.

    As Juan de Fuca disappears, further research – as well as readings from the EarthScope project and the Cascadia Initiative, which were used in this study – should shed more light on how tectonic plates die, and how they’ve formed the world we live on.

    “In many ways, when we’re looking at these things, we’re looking back in time,” seismologist Lara Wagner from the Carnegie Institution for Science, who wasn’t involved in the study, told National Geographic.

    “If we don’t understand how those processes work[ed] in the past, where we can see the whole story and study it, then our chances of seeing what’s happening today and understanding how that might evolve in the future are zero.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    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 8:14 am on July 11, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , EscaPADE-Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers, , TRACERS-Tandem Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites, UC Berkeley   

    From UC Berkeley: “Four Berkeley satellites could be exploring Mars and Earth by 2022” 

    From UC Berkeley

    July 9, 2019
    Robert Sanders

    An artist’s depiction of the twin TRACERS satellites that will monitor solar wind particles impinging on Earth’s magnetosphere. (Image courtesy of University of Iowa)

    If all goes as planned, two teams of scientists and engineers at UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory will be sending experiments into orbit around Mars and Earth by the end of 2022, each mission consisting of identical twin satellites.

    UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory

    Last month, NASA announced that a mission comprised of two spacecraft, each carrying an identical suite of experiments, is one of three finalists that may be chosen for launch in three years. Led by Robert Lillis, associate director for planetary science and astrobiology at Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory, the Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers (EscaPADE) would orbit Mars and explore how the solar wind strips the atmosphere away from the planet. The twin satellites, each the size of a small mini-bar refrigerator, also would map the planet’s ionosphere, a layer of Mars’ upper atmosphere that could interfere with radio communication between future Mars colonies.

    A year from now, NASA will decide whether the mission will go forward, potentially committing up to $55 million dollars to make it happen. More than one of the three finalists may be selected to fly, Lillis said.

    In June, NASA gave a final go-ahead for the Tandem Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites, or TRACERS, mission, which will employ two identical satellites to observe the Earth’s Northern magnetic cusp — a region encircling Earth’s North pole where the planet’s magnetic field lines curve down toward Earth, particularly during violent geomagnetic storms triggered by outbursts from the sun.

    Led by Craig Kletzing of the University of Iowa in Iowa City, the TRACERS spacecraft will measure electrical fields with instruments built by UC Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory (SSL) specialists. The SSL team will be led by John Bonnell, an SSL assistant research physicist. Not including rideshare costs, TRACERS is funded for up to $115 million, of which approximately $13.5 million will come to UC Berkeley.

    The two missions — one a go, the other a strong candidate — leverage SSL’s experience in designing, building and operating fleets of satellites to study the magnetic and electric environments of Earth and the moon. The Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms mission, or THEMIS, was a fleet of five satellites launched in 2007 to determine the origin of substorms in Earth’s magnetic environment and the source of shimmer in the colorful auroras.

    Two of those THEMIS micro-satellites were dispatched to the moon in 2010 as a separate mission called ARTEMIS (Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence, and Electrodynamics of the Moon’s Interaction with the Sun) and are still orbiting the moon studying how its magnetic field is affected by the solar wind. Scientists and engineers from SSL have also built instruments for the two-satellite STEREO mission, which snaps stereo images of the sun. EscaPADE would be the first multi-satellite mission to another planet.

    “The selection of two space missions and one major instrument led by SSL researchers in this round shows the great intellectual strength Berkeley has built in space science research,” said Steven Beckwith, SSL director and UC Berkeley professor of astronomy. “It also shows NASA’s trust in SSL to conceive, build, test and fly space satellites, a trust that comes from years of investment in the Laboratory. SSL is now poised to support the next generation of young space scientists at Berkeley who will be leading the missions in the next decade.”


    EscaPADE was selected for a one-year, $8.3 million “concept design” by NASA’s Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx), a program that emphasizes small spacecraft — less than 400 pounds — that can conduct stand-alone planetary science missions. The twin spacecraft would share their ride into space with either another NASA mission or with a commercial launch opportunity. EscaPADE would likely fly aboard the same rocket that will launch Psyche, a 2022 mission to explore the mostly-metal asteroid with the same name.

    The twin EscaPADE satellites, if approved by NASA, will fly to Mars in 2022 and circle the planet in complementary orbits to sample the hot ionized plasma (cross section in yellow and green) and magnetic fields (blue lines) to understand how Mars’ atmosphere escapes into space. (UC Berkeley image courtesy of Robert Lillis)

    “This is exciting, because it is NASA’s attempt to see whether the new space age, what people call the democratization of space — with reduced vehicle cost and new space startups and much more reliable off-the-shelf parts that are a fraction of the price they used to be — will result in a much more cost-effective way to do planetary exploration,” Lillis said. “It is also kind of scary to be one of those guinea pigs.”

    Each satellite of the EscaPADE mission would carry instruments built at SSL to measure the flow of high-energy electrons and ionized oxygen and carbon dioxide molecules escaping from Mars, magnetic field detectors built at UCLA and a probe to measure slower or thermal ions built at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. With twin satellites, it is possible to measure conditions simultaneously at two places around the planet, allowing scientists to connect plasma conditions at one site to the escaping ion flux at another. Over the course of the mission, the two satellites would change position to map the upper atmosphere and magnetosphere of nearly the entire planet from an altitude of between 200 and 7,000 kilometers.

    These data are key to unraveling the climate history of Mars and to determining how and when it lost its atmosphere, which was once dense enough to allow for running water, including rivers, lakes and possibly oceans.

    Another goal is to globally sample the ionosphere of Mars, which can interfere with radio communications between people on the surface, between people on the planet and orbiting spacecraft and between Mars colonists and Earth.

    “Whether for radio communication or for an eventual GPS system on Mars, you need to understand the structure and variability of the ionosphere to understand how the ionosphere is going to disrupt those signals, affecting both positioning and communications for future Martian settlers,” Lillis said.


    TRACERS is one in a long line of NASA missions designed to understand what drives space weather: the winds, storms and electric currents occurring in the space around Earth akin to the weather systems we track in the lower atmosphere. Storms in the upper atmosphere and ionosphere can affect communications on Earth and the safety of astronauts and satellites.

    Winds of charged particles from the sun (off-screen to lower left) impinge on Earth’s magnetosphere and enter at points of reconnection somewhere on the magnetopause. Those high-energy particles – electrons and ions – are funneled along magnetic field lines to Earth’s magnetic cusp. In close-up at upper right, the twin TRACERS satellites will fly in single file in a polar orbit to sample particles in the cusp, to determine where and when reconnection happens. (Image courtesy of University of Iowa)

    Space weather is driven by a vast outpouring of solar particles from the sun called the solar wind. When these particles reach Earth, they interact with our planet’s magnetic field, creating sometimes destructive electromagnetic storms.

    Earth’s magnetic field, the so-called magnetosphere, protects life on the ground from this solar radiation, deflecting it safely around the planet. Yet, some of the energy in that solar wind punches through the magnetopause, the protective shield at its boundary. At these sites, the sun’s magnetic field reconnects and links to Earth’s magnetic field, allowing high-energy solar particles to flow in and spark currents around the globe. Earth’s magnetic field lines funnel these charged particles down to a single spot, the magnetic cusp near Earth’s North pole, eventually creating a halo of colorful auroras around the pole.

    The two TRACERS satellites will fly single file in a polar orbit at an altitude of about 600 kilometers, taking it through the cusp several times a day to sample the particles flowing down this drain, in search of those with an energy to indicate they have just come in through a reconnection hole.

    “Reconnection occurs somewhere out on the magnetopause itself, 66,000 or 67,000 kilometers above the surface, and we see the effects in the aurora at low altitudes,” Bonnell said. “TRACERS will fly above the aurora but pass through the magnetic field lines that are carrying all these energetic particles in to strike the upper atmosphere.”

    TRACERS, he said, will resolve a longstanding question about where reconnection happens at the magnetopause and how the solar wind affects the place and timing, helping NASA better forecast the influx of energetic particles into Earth’s magnetic field that have the potential to disrupt the power grid and satellite communications.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    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 12:15 pm on June 22, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A new crystal built of a spiraling stack of atomically thin germanium sulfide sheets., , Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Such “nanosheets” are usually referred to as “2D materials.", the team took advantage of a crystal defect called a screw dislocation a “mistake” in the orderly crystal structure that gives it a bit of a twisting force., These “inorganic” crystals are built of more far-flung eleThese “inorganic” crystals are built of more far-flung elemenmnts of the periodic table — in this case sulfur and germanium, This is Unlike “organic” DNA which is primarily built of familiar atoms like carbon oxygen and hydrogen, UC Berkeley   

    From UC Berkeley: “Crystal with a twist: scientists grow spiraling new material” 

    From UC Berkeley

    June 19, 2019
    Kara Manke

    UC Berkeley and Berkeley Lab researchers created a new crystal built of a spiraling stack of atomically thin germanium sulfide sheets. (UC Berkeley image by Yin Liu)

    With a simple twist of the fingers, one can create a beautiful spiral from a deck of cards. In the same way, scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have created new inorganic crystals made of stacks of atomically thin sheets that unexpectedly spiral like a nanoscale card deck.

    Their surprising structures, reported in a new study appearing online Wednesday, June 20, in the journal Nature, may yield unique optical, electronic and thermal properties, including superconductivity, the researchers say.

    These helical crystals are made of stacked layers of germanium sulfide, a semiconductor material that, like graphene, readily forms sheets that are only a few atoms or even a single atom thick. Such “nanosheets” are usually referred to as “2D materials.”

    “No one expected 2D materials to grow in such a way. It’s like a surprise gift,” said Jie Yao, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at UC Berkeley. “We believe that it may bring great opportunities for materials research.”

    While the shape of the crystals may resemble that of DNA, whose helical structure is critical to its job of carrying genetic information, their underlying structure is actually quite different. Unlike “organic” DNA, which is primarily built of familiar atoms like carbon, oxygen and hydrogen, these “inorganic” crystals are built of more far-flung elements of the periodic table — in this case, sulfur and germanium. And while organic molecules often take all sorts of zany shapes, due to unique properties of their primary component, carbon, inorganic molecules tend more toward the straight and narrow.

    To create the twisted structures, the team took advantage of a crystal defect called a screw dislocation, a “mistake” in the orderly crystal structure that gives it a bit of a twisting force. This “Eshelby Twist”, named after scientist John D. Eshelby, has been used to create nanowires that spiral like pine trees. But this study is the first time the Eshelby Twist has been used to make crystals built of stacked 2D layers of an atomically thin semiconductor.

    “Usually, people hate defects in a material — they want to have a perfect crystal,” said Yao, who also serves as a faculty scientist at Berkeley Lab. “But it turns out that, this time, we have to thank the defects. They allowed us to create a natural twist between the material layers.”

    In a major discovery [Nature] last year, scientists reported that graphene becomes superconductive when two atomically thin sheets of the material are stacked and twisted at what’s called a “magic angle.” While other researchers have succeeded at stacking two layers at a time, the new paper provides a recipe for synthesizing stacked structures that are hundreds of thousands or even millions of layers thick in a continuously twisting fashion.

    The helical crystals may yield surprising new properties, like superconductivity. (UC Berkeley image by Yin Liu)

    “We observed the formation of discrete steps in the twisted crystal, which transforms the smoothly twisted crystal to circular staircases, a new phenomenon associated with the Eshelby Twist mechanism,” said Yin Liu, co-first author of the paper and a graduate student in materials science and engineering at UC Berkeley. “It’s quite amazing how interplay of materials could result in many different, beautiful geometries.”

    By adjusting the material synthesis conditions and length, the researchers could change the angle between the layers, creating a twisted structure that is tight, like a spring, or loose, like an uncoiled Slinky. And while the research team demonstrated the technique by growing helical crystals of germanium sulfide, it could likely be used to grow layers of other materials that form similar atomically thin layers.

    “The twisted structure arises from a competition between stored energy and the energy cost of slipping two material layers relative to one another,” said Daryl Chrzan, chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and senior theorist on the paper. “There is no reason to expect that this competition is limited to germanium sulfide, and similar structures should be possible in other 2D material systems.”

    “The twisted behavior of these layered materials, typically with only two layers twisted at different angles, has already showed great potential and attracted a lot of attention from the physics and chemistry communities. Now, it becomes highly intriguing to find out, with all of these twisted layers combined in our new material, if will they show quite different material properties than regular stacking of these materials,” Yao said. “But at this moment, we have very limited understanding of what these properties could be, because this form of material is so new. New opportunities are waiting for us.”

    Other co-first authors of the paper include Su Jung Kim and Haoye Sun of UC Berkeley and Jie Wang of Argonne National Laboratory. Other authors include Fuyi Yang, Zixuan Fang, Ruopeng Zhang, Bo Z. Xu, Michael Wang, Shuren Lin, Kyle B. Tom, Yang Deng, Robert O. Ritchie, Andrew M. Minor and Mary C. Scott of UC Berkeley; Nobumichi Tamura, Xiaohui Song, Qin Yu, John Turner and Emory Chan of Berkeley Lab and Jianguo Wen and Dafei Jin of Argonne National Laboratory.

    Work at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry and the Advanced Light Source was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science and Office of Basic Energy Sciences under contract no. DE-AC02-05CH11231. The research was also supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences and Materials Sciences and Engineering Division under contract no. DE-AC02-244 05CH11231 within the Electronic Materials Program (KC1201).

    LBNL Molecular Foundry


    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    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 12:44 pm on June 19, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A new roadmap released today, , , China and the United Kingdom are heavy in this field, How does the U.S. stay ahead in those developments as a country?, , The benefits could be immense ranging from gene therapy for disease to improved crops and better medicines., The benefits of engineering biology are so vast that it’s an area we just cannot ignore, UC Berkeley   

    From UC Berkeley: “Scientists chart course toward a new world of synthetic biology” 

    From UC Berkeley

    June 19, 2019
    Robert Sanders

    Synthetic or engineering biology involves genetically engineering not only yeast and bacteria but also plants, animals and humans. The benefits could be immense, ranging from gene therapy for disease to improved crops and better medicines.

    Genetically engineered trees that provide fire-resistant lumber for homes. Modified organs that won’t be rejected. Synthetic microbes that monitor your gut to detect invading disease organisms and kill them before you get sick.

    These are just some of the exciting advances likely to emerge from the 20-year-old field of engineering biology, or synthetic biology, which is now mature enough to provide solutions to a range of societal problems, according to a new roadmap released today (June 19) by the Engineering Biology Research Consortium, a public-private partnership partially funded by the National Science Foundation and centered at the University of California, Berkeley.

    The roadmap is the work of more than 80 scientists and engineers from a range of disciplines, representing more than 30 universities and a dozen companies. While highly technical, the report provides a strong case that the federal government should invest in this area, not only to improve public health, food crops and the environment, but also to fuel the economy and maintain the country’s leadership in synthetic biology. The report comes out in advance of the year’s major technical conference for synthetic biology, 2019 Synthetic Biology: Engineering, Evolution & Design, which takes place June 23-27 in New York City.

    Engineering biology/synthetic biology encompasses a broad range of current endeavors, including genetically modifying crops, engineering microbes to produce drugs, fragrances and biofuels, editing the genes of pigs and dogs using CRISPR-Cas9, and human gene therapy. But these successes are just a prelude to more complex biological engineering coming in the future, and the report lays out the opportunities and challenges, including whether or not the United States makes it a research priority.

    “The question for government is, if all of these avenues are now open for biotechnology development, ‘How does the U.S. stay ahead in those developments as a country?’” said Douglas Friedman, one of the leaders of the roadmap project and executive director of the Engineering Biology Research Consortium. “This field has the ability to be truly impactful for society, and we need to identify engineering biology as a national priority, organize around that national priority and take action based on it.”

    China and the United Kingdom have made engineering biology/synthetic biology — which means taking what we know about the genetics of plants and animals and then tweaking specific genes to make these organisms do new things — a cornerstone of their national research enterprise.

    Following that lead, the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing in March to discuss the Engineering Biology Research and Development Act of 2019, a bill designed to “provide for a coordinated federal research program to ensure continued United States leadership in engineering biology.” This would make engineering biology a national initiative equivalent to the country’s recent commitments to quantum information systems and nanotechnology.

    The roadmap for synthetic or engineering biology identifies five research areas that the federal government needs to invest in to fuel the bioeconomy and keep the U.S. at the forefront of the field.

    “What this roadmap does and what all of our collaborators on this project have done is to imagine, over the next 20 years, where we should go with all of this work,” said Emily Aurand, who directed the roadmapping project for the EBRC. “The goal was to address how applications of the science can expand very broadly to solve societal challenges, to imagine the breadth and complexity of what we can do with biology and biological systems to make the world a better, cleaner, more exciting place.”

    This roadmap is a detailed technical guide that I believe will lead the field of synthetic biology far into the future. It is not meant to be a stagnant document, but one that will continually evolve over time in response to unexpected developments in the field and societal needs.” said Jay Keasling, a UC Berkeley professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and the chair of EBRC’s roadmapping working group.

    The roadmap would guide investment by all government agencies, including the Department of Energy, Department of Defense and National Institutes of Health as well as NSF.

    “The EBRC roadmap represents a landmark achievement by the entire synthetic biology and engineering biology community,” said Theresa Good, who is the deputy division director for molecular and cellular biosciences at the National Science Foundation and co-chair of a White House-level synthetic biology interagency working group. “The roadmap is the first U.S. science community technical document that lays out a path to achieving the promise of synthetic biology and guideposts for scientists, engineers and policy makers to follow.”

    Apples, meat and THC

    Some products of engineering biology are already on the market: non-browning apples; an antimalarial drug produced by bacteria; corn that produces its own insecticide. One Berkeley start-up is engineering animal cells to grow meat in a dish. An Emeryville start-up is growing textiles in the lab. A UC Berkeley spin off is creating medical-quality THC and CBD, two of the main ingredients in marijuana, while another is producing brewer’s yeast that provide the hoppy taste in beer, but without the hops.

    But much of this is still done on small scales; larger-scale projects lie ahead. UC Berkeley bioengineers are trying to modify microbes so that they can be grown as food or to produce medicines to help humans survive on the moon or Mars.

    Others are attempting to engineer the microbiome of cows and other ruminants so that they can better digest their feed, absorb more nutrients and produce less methane, which contributes to climate change. With rising temperatures and less predictable rain, scientists are also trying to modify crops to better withstand heat, drought and saltier soil.

    And how about modified microbes, seaweed or other ocean or freshwater plants — or even animals like mussels — that will naturally remove pollutants and toxins from our lakes and ocean, including oil and plastic?

    “If you look back in history, scientists and engineers have learned how to routinely modify the physical world though physics and mechanical engineering, learned how to routinely modify the chemical world through chemistry and chemical engineering,” Friedman said. “The next thing to do is figure out how to utilize the biological world through modifications that can help people in a way that would otherwise not be possible. We are at the precipice of being able to do that with biology.”

    While in the past some genetically engineered organisms have generated controversy, Friedman says the scientific community is committed to engaging with the public before their introduction.

    “It is important that the research community, especially those thinking about consumer-facing products and technologies, talk about the ethical, legal and societal implications early and often in a way different than we have seen with biotech developments in the past,” he said.

    In fact, the benefits of engineering biology are so vast that it’s an area we just cannot ignore.

    “The opportunity is immense,” Friedman said.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    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 3:06 pm on June 10, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: “Berkeley is a dark matter mecca”, , Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley researchers will at first focus on liquid helium and gallium arsenide crystals in searching for low-mass dark matter particle interactions, Dark matter could be much “lighter” or lower in mass and slighter in energy than previously thought., It could be composed of theoretical, , LUX experiment, LZ experiment, , , The search for dark matter is expanding. And going small., UC Berkeley, wavelike ultralight particles known as axions.   

    From Lawrence Berkeley National Lab: “What if Dark Matter is Lighter? Report Calls for Small Experiments to Broaden the Hunt” 

    Berkeley Logo

    From Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

    June 10, 2019
    Glenn Roberts Jr.
    (510) 520-0843

    Junsong Lin, an affiliate in Berkeley Lab’s Physics Division and UC Berkeley postdoctoral researcher, holds components of a low-mass dark matter detector that is now in development. (Credit: Marilyn Chung/Berkeley Lab)

    The search for dark matter is expanding. And going small.

    While dark matter abounds in the universe – it is by far the most common form of matter, making up about 85 percent of the universe’s total – it also hides in plain sight. We don’t yet know what it’s made of, though we can witness its gravitational pull on known matter.

    Theorized weakly interacting massive particles, or WIMPs, have been among the cast of likely suspects comprising dark matter, but they haven’t yet shown up where scientists had expected them.

    Casting many small nets

    So scientists are now redoubling their efforts by designing new and nimble experiments that can look for dark matter in previously unexplored ranges of particle mass and energy, and using previously untested methods. The new approach, rather than relying on a few large experiments’ “nets” to try to snare one type of dark matter, is akin to casting many smaller nets with much finer mesh.

    Dark matter could be much “lighter,” or lower in mass and slighter in energy, than previously thought. It could be composed of theoretical, wavelike ultralight particles known as axions. It could be populated by a wild kingdom filled with many species of as-yet-undiscovered particles. And it may not be composed of particles at all.

    Equipment for a planned low-mass dark matter experiment, including a tank that will hold supercooled liquid helium, is assembled in a basement lab at UC Berkeley. (Credit: Junsong Lin/Berkeley Lab, UC Berkeley)

    Momentum has been building for low-mass dark matter experiments, which could expand our current understanding of the makeup of matter as embodied in the Standard Model of particle physics, noted Kathryn Zurek, a senior scientist and theoretical physicist at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).

    Zurek, who is also affiliated with UC Berkeley, has been a pioneer in proposing low-mass dark matter theories and possible ways to detect it.

    “What experimental evidence do we have for physics beyond the Standard Model? Dark matter is one of the best ones,” she said. “There are these theoretical ideas that have been around for a decade or so,” Zurek added, and new developments in technology – such as new advances in https://newscenter.lbl.gov/2018/09/24/quantum-leap-expanding-dark-matter-search/ and detector materials – have also helped to drive the impetus for new experiments.

    “The field has matured and blossomed over the last decade. It’s become mainstream – this is no longer the fringe,” she said. Low-mass dark matter discussions have moved from small conferences and workshops to a component of the overall strategy in searching for dark matter.

    She noted that Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley, with their particular expertise in dark matter theories, experiments, and cutting-edge detector and target R&D, are poised to make a big impact in this emerging area of the hunt for dark matter.

    Report highlights need to search for “light” dark matter low-mass.


    Dark matter-related research by Zurek and other Berkeley Lab researchers is highlighted in a DOE report, “Basic Research Needs for Dark Matter Small Projects New Initiatives,” based on an October 2018 High Energy Physics Workshop on Dark Matter. Zurek and Dan McKinsey, a Berkeley Lab faculty senior scientist and UC Berkeley physics professor, served as co-leads on a workshop panel focused on dark matter direct-detection techniques, and this panel contributed to the report.

    The report proposes a focus on small-scale experiments – with project costs ranging from $2 million to $15 million – to search for dark matter particles that have a mass smaller than a proton. Protons are subatomic particles within every atomic nucleus that each weigh about 1,850 times more than an electron.

    This new, lower-mass search effort will have “the overarching goal of finally understanding the nature of the dark matter of the universe,” the report states.

    In a related effort, the U.S. Department of Energy this year solicited proposals for new dark matter experiments, with a May 30 deadline, and Berkeley Lab participated in the proposal process, McKinsey said.

    “Berkeley is a dark matter mecca” that is primed for participating in this expanded search, he said. McKinsey has been a participant in large direct-detection dark matter experiments including LUX and LUX-ZEPLIN and is also working on low-mass dark matter detection techniques.

    U Washington LUX Dark matter Experiment at SURF, Lead, SD, USA

    LBNL LZ project at SURF, Lead, SD, USA

    3 priorities in the expanded search

    The report highlights three major priority research directions in searching for low-mass dark matter that “are needed to achieve broad sensitivity and … to reach different key milestones”:

    Create and detect dark matter particles below the proton mass and associated forces, leveraging DOE accelerators that produce beams of energetic particles. Such experiments could potentially help us understand the origins of dark matter and explore its interactions with ordinary matter, the report states.
    Detect individual galactic dark matter particles – down to a mass measuring about 1 trillion times smaller than that of a proton – through interactions with advanced, ultrasensitive detectors. The report notes that there are already underground experimental areas and equipment that could be used in support of these new experiments.

    Detect galactic dark matter waves using advanced, ultrasensitive detectors with emphasis on the so-called QCD (quantum chromodynamics) axion. Advances in theory and technology now allow scientists to probe for the existence of this type of axion-based dark matter across the entire spectrum of its expected ultralight mass range, providing “a glimpse into the earliest moments in the origin of the universe and the laws of nature at ultrahigh energies and temperatures,” the report states.

    This axion, if it exists, could also help to explain properties associated with the universe’s strong force, which is responsible for holding most matter together – it binds particles together in an atom’s nucleus, for example.

    Searches for the traditional WIMP form of dark matter have increased in sensitivity about 1,000-fold in the past decade.

    Berkeley scientists are building prototype experiments

    A low-mass dark matter experiment is set up at UC Berkeley. (Credit: Junsong Lin/Berkeley Lab, UC Berkeley)

    Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley researchers will at first focus on liquid helium and gallium arsenide crystals in searching for low-mass dark matter particle interactions in prototype laboratory experiments now in development at UC Berkeley.

    “Materials development is also part of the story, and also thinking about different types of excitations” in detector materials, Zurek said.

    Besides liquid helium and gallium arsenide, the materials that could be used to detect dark matter particles are diverse, “and the structures in them are going to allow you to couple to different dark matter candidates,” she said. “I think target diversity is extremely important.”

    The goal of these experiments, which are expected to begin within the next few months, is to develop the technology and techniques so that they can be scaled up for deep-underground experiments at other sites that will provide additional shielding from the natural shower of particle “noise” raining down from the sun and other sources.

    McKinsey, who is working on the prototype experiments at UC Berkeley, said that the liquid helium experiment there will seek out any signs of dark matter particles causing nuclear recoil –a process through which a particle interaction gives the nucleus of an atom a slight jolt that researchers hope can be amplified and detected.

    See the full article here .


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

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

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

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  • richardmitnick 1:48 pm on May 25, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Where do new stars form in galaxies?", , , , , , UC Berkeley   

    From UC Berkeley: “Where do new stars form in galaxies?” 

    From UC Berkeley

    May 24, 2019
    Robert Sanders

    An optical image of the spiral galaxy NGC 300 with molecular clouds shown in blue. An analysis of star formation in these clouds show that the first stars that form quickly disperse the cloud, stifling further star formation. (Image courtesy of Diederik Kruijssen & Nature)

    Spiral galaxies like our own Milky Way are studded with cold clouds of hydrogen gas and dust, like chocolate chips in a loaded Toll House cookie.

    Astronomers have long focused on these so-called molecular clouds, suspecting that they are hotspots for star formation. But are they?

    After a thorough analysis of the molecular clouds in a nearby spiral galaxy, an international team of astronomers has found that, while star formation starts up rapidly in these clouds, the newly formed stars quickly disperse the cloud – in as little as a few million years – stopping further star formation. So while star formation in cold molecular clouds is fast, it’s highly inefficient.

    The findings by a collaboration led by Diederik Kruijssen from Heidelberg University will help astronomers understand where and when stars form in galaxies, which in turn determines how galaxies change over their lifetimes.

    “The link between star formation and the evolution of galaxies is one of the main outstanding issues in astronomy,” said UC Berkeley postdoctoral fellow Anna McLeod, co-author of a paper published this week in Nature describing the analysis. “How do stars form within the galactic context? What is their role in shaping the evolution of the galaxy they formed in? And on what timescales does this all happen?”

    The results come from use of a novel statistical approach that the team applied to data from the nearby spiral galaxy NGC 300, which is about 6 million light years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Sculptor.

    NGC 300. Credit: M. Schirmer (IAEF, Bonn), W. Gieren (Univ. de Concepción, Chile), et al., ESO

    The analysis showed that the intense radiation and stellar winds emitted by the young, massive stars forming in these clouds tamp down the formation of new generations of stars.

    “The intense radiation from young stars disperses their parent molecular cloud by heating them and blowing hot bubbles of interstellar gas,” said co-author Mélanie Chevance, also from Heidelberg University. “This way, only two to three percent of the mass in molecular clouds is actually converted into stars.”

    “Molecular clouds in NGC300 live for about 10 million years, and take only about 1.5 million years to be destroyed, well before the most massive stars have reached the end of their lives and explode as supernovae,” added astrophysicist Kruijssen.

    As a result, these molecular clouds are short-lived structures with rapid lifecycles, making galaxies “cosmic cauldrons” constantly changing their appearance.

    The new analysis makes use of archival observational data in one single optical wavelength. McLeod is the principal investigator of a project to analyze a new, large observational dataset of NGC 300 that will allow the team to apply this novel statistical method to other optical wavelengths so as to capture star formation at many different evolutionary stages.

    “We are now entering the era in which we can map many, many galaxies, near and far, at many different wavelengths simultaneously via so-called integral field spectroscopy,” McLeod said. “We can then apply this new statistical method to these truly huge datasets and systematically understand star formation across the vast galaxy zoo that is out there.”

    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.

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  • richardmitnick 9:24 am on April 13, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A new photonic switch built with more than 50000 microscopic “light switches”, , Each switch directs one of 240 tiny beams of light to either make a right turn when the switch is on or to pass straight through when the switch is off, , , Photolithography, Server networks could be connected by optical fibers with photonic switches acting as the traffic cops Wu said, This could one day revolutionize how information travels through data centers and high-performance supercomputers that are used for artificial intelligence and other data-intensive applications., UC Berkeley   

    From insideHPC: “Berkeley Engineers build World’s Fastest Optical Switch Arrays” 

    From insideHPC

    April 12, 2019

    Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley have built a new photonic switch that can control the direction of light passing through optical fibers faster and more efficiently than ever.

    The photonic switch is built with more than 50,000 microscopic “light switches” etched into a silicon wafer. (Younghee Lee graphic)

    This optical “traffic cop” could one day revolutionize how information travels through data centers and high-performance supercomputers that are used for artificial intelligence and other data-intensive applications.

    The photonic switch is built with more than 50,000 microscopic “light switches,” each of which directs one of 240 tiny beams of light to either make a right turn when the switch is on, or to pass straight through when the switch is off. The 240-by-240 array of switches is etched into a silicon wafer and covers an area only slightly larger than a postage stamp.

    “For the first time in a silicon switch, we are approaching the large switches that people can only build using bulk optics,” said Ming Wu, professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences at UC Berkeley and senior author of the paper, which appeared online April 11 in the journal Optica. “Our switches are not only large, but they are 10,000 times faster, so we can switch data networks in interesting ways that not many people have thought about.”

    Currently, the only photonic switches that can control hundreds of light beams at once are built with mirrors or lenses that must be physically turned to switch the direction of light. Each turn takes about one-tenth of a second to complete, which is eons compared to electronic data transfer rates. The new photonic switch is built using tiny integrated silicon structures that can switch on and off in a fraction of a microsecond, approaching the speed necessary for use in high-speed data networks.

    Traffic cops on the information highway

    Data centers — where our photos, videos and documents saved in the cloud are stored — are composed of hundreds of thousands of servers that are constantly sending information back and forth. Electrical switches act as traffic cops, making sure that information sent from one server reaches the target server and doesn’t get lost along the way.

    But as data transfer rates continue to grow, we are reaching the limits of what electrical switches can handle, Wu said.

    “Electrical switches generate so much heat, so even though we could cram more transistors onto a switch, the heat they generate is starting to pose certain limits,” he said. “Industry expects to continue the trend for maybe two more generations and, after that, something more fundamental has to change. Some people are thinking optics can help.”

    Server networks could instead be connected by optical fibers, with photonic switches acting as the traffic cops, Wu said. Photonic switches require very little power and don’t generate any heat, so they don’t face the same limitations as electrical switches. However, current photonic switches cannot accommodate as many connections and also are plagued by signal loss — essentially “dimming” the light as it passes through the switch — which makes it hard to read the encoded data once it reaches its destination.

    In the new photonic switch, beams of light travel through a crisscrossing array of nanometer-thin channels until they reach these individual light switches, each of which is built like a microscopic freeway overpass. When the switch is off, the light travels straight through the channel. Applying a voltage turns the switch on, lowering a ramp that directs the light into a higher channel, which turns it 90 degrees. Another ramp lowers the light back into a perpendicular channel.

    “It’s literally like a freeway ramp,” Wu said. “All of the light goes up, makes a 90-degree turn and then goes back down. And this is a very efficient process, more efficient than what everybody else is doing on silicon photonics. It is this mechanism that allows us to make lower-loss switches.”

    The team uses a technique called photolithography to etch the switching structures into silicon wafers. The researchers can currently make structures in a 240-by-240 array — 240 light inputs and 240 light outputs — with limited light loss, making it the largest silicon-based switch ever reported. They are working on perfecting their manufacturing technique to create even bigger switches.

    “Larger switches that use bulk optics are commercially available, but they are very slow, so they are usable in a network that you don’t change too frequently,” Wu said. “Now, computers work very fast, so if you want to keep up with the computer speed, you need much faster switch response. Our switch is the same size, but much faster, so it will enable new functions in data center networks.”

    Co-lead authors on the paper are Tae Joon Seok of the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology and Kyungmok Kwon, a postdoctoral researcher and Bakar Innovation Fellow at UC Berkeley. Other co-authors are Johannes Henriksson and Jianheng Luo of UC Berkeley.

    See the full article here .


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    Founded on December 28, 2006, insideHPC is a blog that distills news and events in the world of HPC and presents them in bite-sized nuggets of helpfulness as a resource for supercomputing professionals. As one reader said, we’re sifting through all the news so you don’t have to!

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  • richardmitnick 9:02 am on March 15, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Can entangled qubits be used to probe black holes?", JQI at UMD, , , , UC Berkeley   

    From UC Berkeley: “Can entangled qubits be used to probe black holes?” 

    From UC Berkeley

    March 6, 2019
    Robert Sanders

    Someday, entangled quantum bits, or qubits, may allow us to explore the mysterious interior of a black hole, as represented in this artistic rendering. (Graphic by E. Edwards/Joint Quantum Institute)

    Physicists have used a seven-qubit quantum computer to simulate the scrambling of information inside a black hole, heralding a future in which entangled quantum bits might be used to probe the mysterious interiors of these bizarre objects.

    Scrambling is what happens when matter disappears inside a black hole. The information attached to that matter — the identities of all its constituents, down to the energy and momentum of its most elementary particles — is chaotically mixed with all the other matter and information inside, seemingly making it impossible to retrieve.

    This leads to a so-called “black hole information paradox,” since quantum mechanics says that information is never lost, even when that information disappears inside a black hole.

    So, while some physicists claim that information falling through the event horizon of a black hole is lost forever, others argue that this information can be reconstructed, but only after waiting an inordinate amount of time — until the black hole has shrunk to nearly half its original size. Black holes shrink because they emit Hawking radiation, which is caused by quantum mechanical fluctuations at the very edge of the black hole and is named after the late physicist Stephen Hawking.

    Unfortunately, a black hole the mass of our sun would take about 10^67 years to evaporate — far, far longer than the age of the universe.

    Can you extract information from a black hole? As part of a thought experiment, Alice, a physicist, drops a qubit into a black hole and asks whether Bob can reconstruct the qubit using only the outgoing Hawking radiation. (Graphic by Emily Elisa Edwards, University of Maryland)

    However, there is a loophole — or rather, a wormhole — out of this black hole. It may be possible to retrieve this infalling information significantly faster by measuring subtle entanglements between the black hole and the Hawking radiation it emits.

    Two bits of information — like the quantum bits, or qubits, in a quantum computer — are entangled when they are so closely linked that the quantum state of one automatically determines the state of the other, no matter how far apart they are. Physicists sometimes refer to this as “spooky action at a distance,” and measurements of entangled qubits can lead to the “teleportation” of quantum information from one qubit to another.

    “One can recover the information dropped into the black hole by doing a massive quantum calculation on these outgoing Hawking photons,” said Norman Yao, a UC Berkeley assistant professor of physics and a faculty scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “This is expected to be really, really hard, but if quantum mechanics is to be believed, it should, in principle, be possible. That’s exactly what we are doing here, but for a tiny three-qubit `black hole’ inside a seven-qubit quantum computer.”

    By dropping an entangled qubit into a black hole and querying the emerging Hawking radiation, you could theoretically determine the state of a qubit inside the black hole, providing a window into the abyss.

    Yao, who is a member of Berkeley Lab’s Quantum Algorithms Team, and his colleagues at the University of Maryland and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, will report their results in a paper appearing in the March 7 issue of the journal Nature.


    Yao, who is interested in understanding the nature of quantum chaos, learned from friend and colleague Beni Yoshida, a theorist at the Perimeter Institute, that recovering quantum information falling into a black hole is possible if the information is scrambled rapidly inside the black hole. The more thoroughly it is mixed throughout the black hole, the more reliably the information can be retrieved via teleportation. Based on this insight, Yoshida and Yao proposed last year an experiment to provably demonstrate scrambling on a quantum computer.

    A seven-qubit quantum computer circuit built by University of Maryland physicists uses quantum teleportation to detect information scrambling. This is analogous to information propagation through a traversable wormhole, which would allow Bob to identify the qubit that Alice threw into the black hole. (Graphic by Emily Elisa Edwards, University of Maryland)

    “With our protocol, if you measure a teleportation fidelity that is high enough, then you can guarantee that scrambling happened within the quantum circuit,” Yao said. “So, then we called up my buddy, Chris Monroe.”

    Monroe, a physicist at the University of Maryland in College Park who heads one of the world’s leading trapped-ion quantum information groups, decided to give it a try. His group implemented the protocol proposed by Yoshida and Yao and effectively measured an out-of-time-ordered correlation function.

    Called OTOCs, these peculiar correlation functions are created by comparing two quantum states that differ in the timing of when certain kicks or perturbations are applied. The key is being able to evolve a quantum state both forward and backward in time to understand the effect of that second kick on the first kick.

    Monroe’s group created a scrambling quantum circuit on three qubits within a seven-qubit trapped-ion quantum computer and characterized the resulting decay of the OTOC. While the decay of the OTOC is typically taken as a strong indication that scrambling has occurred, to prove that they had to show that the OTOC didn’t simply decay because of decoherence — that is, that it wasn’t just poorly shielded from the noise of the outside world, which also causes quantum states to fall apart.

    Yao and Yoshida proved that the greater the accuracy with which they could retrieve the entangled or teleported information, the more stringently they could put a lower limit on the amount of scrambling that had occurred in the OTOC. This is because, if information is successfully teleported from one atom to another, it means that the state of the first atom is spread out across all of the atoms — something that only happens if the information is scrambled. If the information was lost, successful teleportation would not be possible. For an arbitrary process whose scrambling properties might not be known, this method could be used to test whether — or even how much — it scrambles.

    Monroe and his colleagues measured a teleportation fidelity of approximately 80 percent, meaning that perhaps half of the quantum state was scrambled and the other half decayed by decoherence. Nevertheless, this was enough to demonstrate that genuine scrambling had indeed occurred in this three-qubit quantum circuit.

    “One possible application for our protocol is related to the benchmarking of quantum computers, where one might be able to use this technique to diagnose more complicated forms of noise and decoherence in quantum processors,” Yao said. “The ability to diagnose how noise affects quantum simulations is key to building better fault-tolerant algorithms and getting accurate answers from current noisy quantum computers.”

    Yao is also working with a UC Berkeley group led by Irfan Siddiqi to demonstrate scrambling in a different quantum system, superconducting qutrits: quantum bits that have three, rather than two, states. Siddiqi is a UC Berkeley professor of physics and a faculty scientist at Berkeley Lab, where he is leading the effort to build an advanced quantum computing test bed.

    “At its core, this is a qubit or qutrit experiment, but the fact that we can relate it to cosmology is because we believe the dynamics of quantum information is the same,” he said. “The U.S. is launching a billion-dollar quantum initiative, and understanding the dynamics of quantum information connects many areas of research within this initiative: quantum circuits and computing, high energy physics, black hole dynamics, condensed matter physics and atomic, molecular and optical physics. The language of quantum information has become pervasive for our understanding of all these different systems.”

    “Regardless of whether real black holes are very good scramblers, studying quantum scrambling in the lab could provide useful insights for the future development of quantum computing or quantum simulation,” Monroe said.

    Aside from Yao, Yoshida and Monroe, other co-authors are graduate student Tommy Schuster of UC Berkeley and graduate student and first author Kevin Landsman, Caroline Figgatt and Norbert Linke of Maryland’s Joint Quantum Institute. The work was supported by the Department of Energy’s Office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research and Office of High Energy Physics and National Science Foundation.


    Ion experiment aces quantum scrambling test (JQI)
    Verified Quantum Information Scrambling (Nature) [above]
    Disentangling Scrambling and Decoherence via Quantum Teleportation (Physical Review X)
    Norman Yao’s website

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 11:24 am on March 1, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Exiled planet linked to stellar flyby 3 million years ago", , , , Binary stars, , , The planet dubbed HD 106906 b, The star HD 106906, UC Berkeley   

    From UC Berkeley: “Exiled planet linked to stellar flyby 3 million years ago” 

    From UC Berkeley

    February 28, 2019
    Robert Sanders

    Simulation of a binary star flyby of a young planetary system. UC Berkeley and Stanford astronomers suspect that such a flyby altered the orbit of a planet (in blue) around the star HD 106906 so that it remained bound to the system in an oblique orbit similar to that of a proposed Planet Nine attached to our own solar system. (Paul Kalas animation)

    Some of the peculiar aspects of our solar system — an enveloping cloud of comets, dwarf planets in weird orbits and, if it truly exists, a possible Planet Nine far from the sun — have been linked to the close approach of another star in our system’s infancy that flung things helter-skelter.

    But are stellar flybys really capable of knocking planets, comets and asteroids askew, reshaping entire planetary systems?

    UC Berkeley and Stanford University astronomers think they have now found a smoking gun.

    A planet orbiting a young binary star may have been perturbed by another pair of stars that skated too close to the system between 2 and 3 million years ago, soon after the planet formed from a swirling disk of dust and gas.

    If confirmed, this bolsters arguments that close stellar misses help sculpt planetary systems and may determine whether or not they harbor planets with stable orbits.

    “One of the mysteries arising from the study of exoplanets is that we see systems where the planets are misaligned, even though they are born in a flat, circular disk,” said Paul Kalas, a UC Berkeley adjunct professor of astronomy. “Maybe a cosmic tsunami hit these systems and rearranged everything about them, but we haven’t had proof. Our paper gives rare observational evidence for one of these flybys gently influencing one of the planetary systems in the galaxy.”

    Two binary stars, now far apart, skated by one another 2-3 million years ago, leaving a smoking gun: a disordered planetary system (left).

    Astronomers are already searching for a stellar flyby in our solar system’s past, but since that likely happened 4.6 billion years ago, most of the evidence has gone cold. The star system that the astronomers studied, identified only by the number HD 106906 and located about 300 light years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Crux, is very young, only about 15 million years old.

    Kalas and Robert De Rosa, a former UC Berkeley postdoc who is now a research scientist at Stanford’s Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology, describe their findings in a paper accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal.

    Rogue stars

    Kalas, who studies young, newly formed planetary systems to try to understand what happened in the early years of our own solar system, first focused on HD 106906 in 2015 after it was found to have a massive planet in a highly unusual orbit. The planet, dubbed HD 106906 b, has a mass of about 11 Jupiters, and it orbits HD 106906 — recently revealed to be a binary star — in an orbit tipped about 21 degrees from the plane of the disk that contains all the other material around the star. Its current location is at least 738 times farther from its star than Earth is from the sun, or about 18 times farther from its star than Pluto is from the sun.

    Some 2 to 3 million years ago, in a young, newly formed planetary system, a planet was in danger of being kicked out of the system because of gravitaional interactions with the central, binary star (left panel). A close pass by another binary star (not shown) within the same cluster gave the planet an extra kick that stabilized the orbit and rescued it from certain ejection (right panel). (Video by Paul Kalas)

    Kalas used both the Gemini Planet Imager on the Gemini Telescope in the Chilean Andes and the Hubble Space Telescope to look more closely at HD 106906 and discovered that the star has a lopsided comet belt, as well. The planet’s strange orbit and the fact that the dust disk itself is asymmetrical indicated that something had disrupted the young system.

    NOAO Gemini Planet Imager on Gemini South

    Gemini/South telescope, Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) campus near La Serena, Chile, at an altitude of 7200 feet

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    Kalas and his colleagues, including De Rosa, proposed that the planet had been kicked out of its solar system by interactions with another as-yet-unseen planet in the system or by a passing star. Kalas and De Rosa now believe that both happened: The planet was kicked into an eccentric orbit when it came dangerously close to the central binary star, a scenario proposed in 2017 by theorist Laetitia Rodet and her collaborators from the Grenoble Observatory in France. Repeated gravitational kicks from the binary would have quickly ejected the planet into interstellar space, but the passing stars rescued the planet by nudging its orbit to a safer distance from the binary.

    The Gaia space observatory gave them the data they needed to test their hypothesis. Gaia, launched in 2012 by the European Space Agency, collects precise measurements of distance, position and motion for 1.3 billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, a catalog 10,000 times larger than Gaia’s predecessor, Hipparcos.

    ESA/GAIA satellite

    Kalas and De Rosa gathered Gaia information on 461 stars in the same cluster as HD 106906 and calculated their positions backward in time—reversed the cosmic clock, so to speak—and discovered that another binary star system may have approached close enough 3 million years ago to alter the planetary system.

    “What we have done here is actually find the stars that could have given HD 106906 b the extra gravitational kick, a second kick so that it became long-lived, just like a hypothetical Planet Nine would be in our solar system,” Kalas said.

    They also found also that the binary star came in on a trajectory that was within about 5 degrees of the system’s disk, making it even more likely that the encounter had a strong and lasting impact on HD 106906.

    Such double kicks may be important to stabilizing planets, asteroids and comets around stars, Kalas said.

    “Studying the HD 106906 planetary system is like going back in time to watch the Oort cloud of comets forming around our young sun,” he said. “Our own giant planets gravitationally kicked countless comets outward to large distances. Many were ejected completely, becoming interstellar objects like ʻOumuamua, but others were influenced by passing stars. That second kick by a stellar flyby can detach a comet’s orbit from any further encounters with the planets, saving it from the prospect of ejection. This chain of events preserved the most primitive solar system material in a deep freeze far from the sun for billions of years.”

    Kalas hopes that future observations, such as an updated catalog of Gaia measurements, will clarify the significance of the flyby on HD 106906.

    “We started with 461 suspects and discovered two that were at the scene of the crime,” he said. “Their exact role will be revealed as we gather more evidence.”

    The work was supported by the National Science Foundation (AST-1518332), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NNX15AC89G) and Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS), a research coordination network sponsored by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (NNX15AD95G).

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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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.

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  • richardmitnick 1:07 pm on December 3, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , MESO devices, , Multiferroics, UC Berkeley   

    From UC Berkeley: “New quantum materials could take computing devices beyond the semiconductor era” 

    UC Berkeley

    From UC Berkeley

    December 3, 2018
    Robert Sanders

    MESO devices, based on magnetoelectric and spin-orbit materials, could someday replace the ubiquitous semiconductor transistor, today represented by CMOS. MESO uses up-and-down magnetic spins in a multiferroic material to store binary information and conduct logic operations. (Intel graphic)

    Researchers from Intel Corp. and UC Berkeley are looking beyond current transistor technology and preparing the way for a new type of memory and logic circuit that could someday be in every computer on the planet.

    In a paper appearing online Dec. 3 in advance of publication in the journal Nature, the researchers propose a way to turn relatively new types of materials, multiferroics and topological materials, into logic and memory devices that will be 10 to 100 times more energy-efficient than foreseeable improvements to current microprocessors, which are based on CMOS (complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor).

    The magneto-electric spin-orbit or MESO devices will also pack five times more logic operations into the same space than CMOS, continuing the trend toward more computations per unit area, a central tenet of Moore’s Law.

    The new devices will boost technologies that require intense computing power with low energy use, specifically highly automated, self-driving cars and drones, both of which require ever increasing numbers of computer operations per second.

    “As CMOS develops into its maturity, we will basically have very powerful technology options that see us through. In some ways, this could continue computing improvements for another whole generation of people,” said lead author Sasikanth Manipatruni, who leads hardware development for the MESO project at Intel’s Components Research group in Hillsboro, Oregon. MESO was invented by Intel scientists, and Manipatruni designed the first MESO device.

    Transistor technology, invented 70 years ago, is used today in everything from cellphones and appliances to cars and supercomputers. Transistors shuffle electrons around inside a semiconductor and store them as binary bits 0 and 1.

    Single crystals of the multiferroic material bismuth-iron-oxide. The bismuth atoms (blue) form a cubic lattice with oxygen atoms (yellow) at each face of the cube and an iron atom (gray) near the center. The somewhat off-center iron interacts with the oxygen to form an electric dipole (P), which is coupled to the magnetic spins of the atoms (M) so that flipping the dipole with an electric field (E) also flips the magnetic moment. The collective magnetic spins of the atoms in the material encode the binary bits 0 and 1, and allow for information storage and logic operations.

    In the new MESO devices, the binary bits are the up-and-down magnetic spin states in a multiferroic, a material first created in 2001 by Ramamoorthy Ramesh, a UC Berkeley professor of materials science and engineering and of physics and a senior author of the paper.

    “The discovery was that there are materials where you can apply a voltage and change the magnetic order of the multiferroic,” said Ramesh, who is also a faculty scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “But to me, ‘What would we do with these multiferroics?’ was always a big question. MESO bridges that gap and provides one pathway for computing to evolve”

    In the Nature paper, the researchers report that they have reduced the voltage needed for multiferroic magneto-electric switching from 3 volts to 500 millivolts, and predict that it should be possible to reduce this to 100 millivolts: one-fifth to one-tenth that required by CMOS transistors in use today. Lower voltage means lower energy use: the total energy to switch a bit from 1 to 0 would be one-tenth to one-thirtieth of the energy required by CMOS.

    “A number of critical techniques need to be developed to allow these new types of computing devices and architectures,” said Manipatruni, who combined the functions of magneto-electrics and spin-orbit materials to propose MESO. “We are trying to trigger a wave of innovation in industry and academia on what the next transistor-like option should look like.”

    Internet of things and AI

    The need for more energy-efficient computers is urgent. The Department of Energy projects that, with the computer chip industry expected to expand to several trillion dollars in the next few decades, energy use by computers could skyrocket from 3 percent of all U.S. energy consumption today to 20 percent, nearly as much as today’s transportation sector. Without more energy-efficient transistors, the incorporation of computers into everything – the so-called internet of things – would be hampered. And without new science and technology, Ramesh said, America’s lead in making computer chips could be upstaged by semiconductor manufacturers in other countries.

    “Because of machine learning, artificial intelligence and IOT, the future home, the future car, the future manufacturing capability is going to look very different,” said Ramesh, who until recently was the associate director for Energy Technologies at Berkeley Lab. “If we use existing technologies and make no more discoveries, the energy consumption is going to be large. We need new science-based breakthroughs.”

    Paper co-author Ian Young, a UC Berkeley Ph.D., started a group at Intel eight years ago, along with Manipatruni and Dmitri Nikonov, to investigate alternatives to transistors, and five years ago they began focusing on multiferroics and spin-orbit materials, so-called “topological” materials with unique quantum properties.

    “Our analysis brought us to this type of material, magneto-electrics, and all roads led to Ramesh,” said Manipatruni.

    Multiferroics and spin-orbit materials

    Multiferroics are materials whose atoms exhibit more than one “collective state.” In ferromagnets, for example, the magnetic moments of all the iron atoms in the material are aligned to generate a permanent magnet. In ferroelectric materials, on the other hand, the positive and negative charges of atoms are offset, creating electric dipoles that align throughout the material and create a permanent electric moment.

    MESO is based on a multiferroic material consisting of bismuth, iron and oxygen (BiFeO3) that is both magnetic and ferroelectric. Its key advantage, Ramesh said, is that these two states – magnetic and ferroelectric – are linked or coupled, so that changing one affects the other. By manipulating the electric field, you can change the magnetic state, which is critical to MESO.

    The key breakthrough came with the rapid development of topological materials with spin-orbit effect, which allow for the state of the multiferroic to be read out efficiently. In MESO devices, an electric field alters or flips the dipole electric field throughout the material, which alters or flips the electron spins that generate the magnetic field. This capability comes from spin-orbit coupling, a quantum effect in materials, which produces a current determined by electron spin direction.

    In another paper that appeared earlier this month in Science Advances, UC Berkeley and Intel experimentally demonstrated voltage-controlled magnetic switching using the magneto-electric material bismuth-iron-oxide (BiFeO3), a key requirement for MESO.

    “We are looking for revolutionary and not evolutionary approaches for computing in the beyond-CMOS era,” Young said. “MESO is built around low-voltage interconnects and low-voltage magneto-electrics, and brings innovation in quantum materials to computing.”

    Other co-authors of the Nature paper are Chia-Ching Lin, Tanay Gosavi and Huichu Liu of Intel and Bhagwati Prasad, Yen-Lin Huang and Everton Bonturim of UC Berkeley. The work was supported by Intel.


    Beyond CMOS computing with spin and polarization Nature Physics

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    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.

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