For the first time, LEGO has been cooled to the lowest temperature possible in an experiment which reveals a new use for the popular toy. A team of ultra low temperature physicists at Lancaster University decided to place a LEGO figure and four LEGO blocks inside their record-breaking dilution refrigerator. The blocks' special properties mean it could be useful in the development of quantum computing.
The 20th year of particle collisions is underway at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), a US Department of Energy Office of Science user facility for nuclear physics research at Brookhaven National Laboratory. The particle smashups will continue over a range of collision energies through the first half of 2020, with members of RHIC’s STAR collaboration collecting data from millions of collisions that take place at the center of their house-sized particle detector.
A team led by Kang-Kuen Ni, associate professor of chemistry, chemical biology and physics at Harvard, achieved the coldest chemical reaction in the known universe in late November. Forcing two ultracold molecules to meet and react, they broke and formed the coldest bonds in the history of molecular couplings. The team hopes to craft new theories, using actual data, to more precisely predict what happens during other chemical reactions—even those that take place in the mysterious quantum realm.
When people die, many things can be done with their bodies––embalming, cremation, donation to science and so on—but some people will choose to have their dead bodies, or parts thereof, frozen with the expectation that technology will advance enough to bring them back to life. Reactions, a video series from the American Chemical Society, breaks down the chemistry of cryogenic freezing and whether it’s realistic to think we could ever reanimate a frozen corpse, presenting the reasons the process is not tenable. http://2csa.us/iy. Read more about the differences between cryogenics and cryonics at https://cryogenicsociety.org/cryonics/.
Engineers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville AL deliberately pushed the world's largest rocket fuel tank beyond its design limits to really understand its breaking point. The test version of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket's liquid hydrogen tank withstood more than 260% of expected flight loads over five hours on December 5, before engineers detected a buckling point, which then ruptured.
Celebrity explorer Bertrand Piccard drove Hyundai’s Nexo SUV 484 miles across France in November, setting a new world record for the longest distance traveled in a hydrogen-powered vehicle on a single tank. Within the category of zero-emissions options, the hydrogen fuel cell is constantly being eclipsed by electric power. But Hyundai thinks it’s worth some attention.
Physicists at Jefferson Laboratory are working on two accelerator designs they hope could change water treatment. It’s been 30 years since a pilot project in Miami-Dade County found that blasting wastewater with electrons could clean it up—from microorganisms to harsh chemicals. Fay Hannon is designing a low-energy, portable accelerator for environmental cleanup, while Gianluigi “Gigi” Ciovati is working on how to use a commercial cryocooler to stabilize a more powerful accelerator he’s designing.
Early in December, researchers from Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) at the University of Warwick UK, in collaboration with Jaguar Land Rover engineers, froze batteries with liquid nitrogen. Research suggests this would allow lithium car batteries—costly and dangerous to move—to be transported safely in a much cheaper and environmentally friendly way.
In a study published in the American Physical Society journal Physical Review X (PRX) in early December, Rice University physicist Ming Yi and colleagues offer up a band structure map for iron selenide, a material that has long puzzled physicists because of its structural simplicity and behavioral complexity. The “roadmap,” which details the electronic states of the material, is a visual summary of data gathered from measurements of a single crystal of iron selenide as it was cooled to the point of superconductivity.
ITER, the world’s largest fusion tokamak, is currently under construction in southern France. Now, operational facilities are under construction including the First Plasma plant and tokamak building. The consortium, comprising representatives from 35 nations, has introduced an interactive worksite tour to keep the public informed on site progress and encourage engagement. http://2csa.us/iz
European Space Agency (ESA) members approved a record $15.97 billion budget in late November in Seville, Spain, to secure Europe's position in space exploration as the United States and China press ahead. Funding will allow ESA a full series of programs and additional scientific work including increased Earth observation to monitor climate change.
In a paper published in Science this month, a research team from the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University reported on an experiment that probed the normal state of superconductors more accurately than ever before, discovering an abrupt shift in the behavior of electrons in which they suddenly give up their individuality and behave like an electron soup. The results of this abrupt transition in cuprates flip a popular theory on its head.