The task of materials scientists is to create stronger, lighter, and better materials, materials with new and useful properties. One very helpful tool for understanding materials would be a microscope powerful enough to "see" individual atoms.
Now a new electron microscope at Berkeley Labs can produce images of individual atoms. The microscope, which is called TEAM 0.5, produces images with half-angstrom resolution. This is less than the diameter of a single hydrogen atom.
TEAM stands for Transmission Electron Aberration-corrected Microscope. Electron microscopes use a beam of electrons instead of visable light. The quality of what is seen through a microscope is dependent upon correcting lens aberration and upon the alignment and quality of all the components.
The information limit of a microscope results from mechanical and electromagnetic instabilities. Recent technological advances make it possible to improve mechanical stability by increasing the column’s mechanical stiffness, and to reduce electromagnetic instabilities by stabilizing the fields to an accuracy of about 100 parts per billion. These measures will extend the information limit beyond 0.05 nanometer. National Center for Electron Microscopy at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Although bright light makes for better viewing, the equivalent high energy electron beams often destroy what is being looked at. The TEAM 0.5 microscope can now provide good viewing of sensitive targets with electron beam intensities as low as 80kV. Low energy electron beams will allow visualizing organic samples.
The TEAM 0.5 microscope was used to look at a sheet of graphene. Individual atoms of carbon can be seen in the honeycomb shaped image. (click this link for the "Closest look ever at graphene")
The position of individual atoms in a structure can be determined by taking images at different angles, from which the computer reconstructs a 3-D tomograph of the sample, as in a CAT scan. To make this possible an innovative system capable of tilting and rotating the sample, and moving it up, down, or sideways under the electron beam, is also being developed at NCEM.
The current version of microscope, the TEAM 0.5, will be available to users next month. The next version, the TEAM I, will have even greater capablities.
Manipulating the sample by such methods as minute piezoelectric "crawlers" that change shape when electricity is applied, the new stage will be able to control and reproduce the sample's position and attitude with an accuracy of less than a billionth of a meter.
Click this link to see the timetable of TEAM development
Courtesy Mark RyanWhile Gene continues obsessing over the ways of the flesh (see below, and here), I shall take the high road and offer this post that involves both our corporeal and spiritual realms.
A recent study out of Australia's Queensland University of Technology shows that tiny particles of gold embedded in the paint of stained glass windows not only add to the beauty of church windows (which no doubt enhance the experience of being inside the church), but also have some health benefits.
It seems medieval glaziers, who could be considered the first nanotechnologists, used different sized gold particles to create a variety of colors. The windows produced over the centuries for churches across Europe are certainly uplifting to look at, but until now nobody realized the additional health benefits they carry for our physical beings.
What happens is when sunlight illuminates the stained glass, the gold nanoparticles resonate as they heat up. This resonance increases significantly the magnetic field across the element’s surface that in turn interacts with and destroys nasty pollutants like volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are present in the air.
"These VOCs create that 'new' smell as they are slowly released from walls and furniture, but they, along with methanol and carbon monoxide, are not good for your health, even in small amounts," said associate professor Zhu Huai Yong, a member of the team that did the study.
The chemical reaction purifies the air with only small amounts of carbon dioxide as a byproduct. Yong is excited about the prospect of using gold nanoparticles in future research.
"Once this technology can be applied to produce specialty chemicals at ambient temperature, it heralds significant changes in the economy and environmental impact of the chemical production," he said.
Courtesy Library of CongressProtect your grills, everybody, because the future is looking to get all up in them again!
Well, not all the world. Just the parts with computers and access to the Internet, and just those people who know and care that the Dead Sea Scrolls are available for public study. So not all the world at all.
The first of the scrolls were discovered accidentally in a cave in the West Bank by a goatherd in 1947. Over the next thirty years, more scrolls—about 1000 documents in total—were found in 11 caves in the area. The documents include texts from the Hebrew Bible, dating to before 100 AD. The scrolls are also reported to contain an astonishing number of recipes and very dirty jokes.
The thousands of fragments of the scrolls were photographed in their entirety (up to that point) only once, in the 1950s. Many of those photographs are now crumbling, and so, despite the arguments of some Luddites who are no doubt on the way out themselves, scholars are taking advantage of this amazing time we live in (the future), and are subjecting the whole of the scroll collection to some fancy pants scanning.
The images of the texts will be taken in very high resolution and with varying wavelengths of light, highlighting details not readily visible to the naked eye.
The physical scrolls will be beginning a tour of the United States next month at the Jewish Museum of New York.
That's right—on August 25th, 1978, Lego introduced the little yellow Lego guy. Lego had been manufacturing plastic interlocking bricks since 1949, allowing children across the world to practice engineering without realizing that they shouldn't be having fun, but it wasn't until 78 that they sold a little human like thing to enjoy our Lego creations.
Technically there were minifigures available in 1974, but the were faceless, armless pylon-men, and they couldn't enjoy anything. 1978 brought the lovable little man we know today.
And, yes, that does make me want to buy a bunch of Lego friends, and have a party for the 20th century, but I thought I'd leave you with a different, though no less triumphant, Lego celebration. Enjoy.
Courtesy carl.jonesJust messin’, y’all!
Only some of us will die on September 10th! And that’s only because we were going to die anyway. There will be sudden heart attacks, tragic car accidents, hilarious full-body prolapses, and possibly some mysterious cases of spontaneous combustion, and none of that will have anything to do with the Large Hadron Collider turning on on the tenth of September.
That’s right, everyone, you can stop holding your breath, and start crossing your fingers, because the LHC now has a date for its first proton collision.
Some people have raised concerns that turning on the LHC could lead to the destruction of the earth in one of several very sciencey ways. Other people have shouted down these jokers, however, because they are very, very, very probably wrong.
And if the world doesn’t end, well, we’ll probably learn all sorts of rad things about the nature of the universe. We might even get some visitors from the future. But I might put a larger bet on the destruction of the solar system (but, you know, fingers crossed).
So, Buzzketeers, on September 10, do your best to protect yourself from the everyday dangers of existence. Wrap your head in packing foam, fill your tummy with starch-based peanuts, and keep yourself wet and/or naked to prevent sparks catching in your clothing and hair, because you probably won’t want to miss what’s coming out of the LHC.
Courtesy Matthieu :: giik.net/blogAll y’all up on graphene?
I knew you were. You’re Buzzketeers, the best of the best, the biggest of the brains, the coolest of the cids.
There’s no need to explain graphene to this team (the Lil’ Professors), so it would be totally unnecessary for me to point out that graphene is a fancy material made of a single layer of carbon atoms attached to each other in a honeycomb pattern. It’s about as flat as can be, and when you roll it up you get those little things Science Buzz is so crazy about: carbon nanotubes.
Nanotubes are awesome, and if you click on the link above you can learn about all the awesome things they can do. But graphene…graphene itself may be pretty awesome too. The problem with testing just how awesome graphene is is that it has been exceptionally difficult to a) make a piece of graphene so small that it hasn’t got any of the imperfections that naturally come in large chunks of things, and b) make a device to actually hold the itty bitty graphene well enough to really test the stuff out.
But science has now done those things! Using a tiny sheet of perfect graphene (about 1/100s the width of a human hair) and a really tiny diamond…poker-thing (about 10 billionths of a meter wide), scientists have finally been able to find out exactly how strong graphene is.
So, how strong is it? It’s the strongest! That is to say, the strongest material measured so far. It’s about 200 times the strength of structural steel, or, says Columbia Professor James Hone, “It would take an elephant, balanced on a pencil, to break through a sheet of graphene the thickness of Saran Wrap.”
This statement, of course, wins professor Hone July’s “Awesome explanation, Scientist” award. That’s a good mental image, and it shows a non-scientist like me how strong graphene is.
So…awesome explanation, Scientist! More of that, please!
There is a video channel on You Tube that will feature a video about each element on the periodic table. I am featuring the video on sodium below.
When sodium is placed in water it floats because it is lighter than water. It also reacts with water. Sodium, because it is more reactive, takes the place of of one of the hydrogen atoms in water, (HOH). The hydrogen replaced is freed and the heat energy of the reaction often ignites the hydrogen. The burning hydrogen combines with oxygen in the air releasing energy which appears to be an explosion (or is it an implosion). All I know is that when my high school companions threw a chunk of it in the river the result was water blasted 13 feet into the air.
One should note that the sodium attached to the remaining OH from the water molecule makes sodium hydroxide (NaOH). Sodium Hydroxide is the active ingredient in Drano which eats through fat, grease, and skin. I learned the hard way that it burned skin and ruined clothing.
Click here to see more videos about elements from the periodic chart.
Courtesy J.Vinther/YaleResearchers at Yale University are reporting the discovery of pigmentation within the fossilize feather from a bird or dinosaur. Using a powerful electron microscope, paleobiologist Jakob Vinther and his team claim that particles seen in the 100-million-year-old fossil appear to be similar to those seen in the feathers of living birds. This could mean that color - a characteristic long-thought lost in the fossil record - could someday be determined from the remains of pigment.
Vinther’s colleagues included Yale paleontologist Derek E. G. Briggs and Yale ornithologist Richard O. Prum. The results of their study will appear in an upcoming issue of Biology Letters. The research shows that dark stripes in the Cretaceous-aged feather display many similarities to the make-up of black melanin particles found in modern bird feathers. Melanin compounds determine color in plants and animals, a trait useful for such things as camouflage, species identification, and courtship display. In humans, melanin colors our skin and also protects us from overexposure to sunlight.
For a long time, the dark granules seen in fossilized feathers were thought to be the carbon remains of bacteria that had worked at decomposing the organism prior to fossilization. But advances in electron microscope technology have given scientists a closer - and clearer – picture of the feather’s structure, and instead show them to be fossilized melanosomes containing melanin pigment.
"Feather melanin is responsible for rusty-red to jet-black colors and a regular ordering of melanin even produces glossy iridescence,” Vinther said. “Understanding these organic remains in fossil feathers also demonstrates that melanin can resist decay for millions of years."
Under the scope, the lighter bands of the fossilized feather showed only the rock matrix, while the darker bands displayed traces of residue closely resembling the organic compounds found in the feathers of modern birds.
“You wouldn’t expect bacteria to be aligned according to the orientation of the feathers,” said Vinther.
Another bird fossil showed similar organic traces in the feathers surrounding its skull. The 55-million-year-old fossil from Denmark also preserved an organic imprint of the eye that showed structures similar to the melanosomes found in eyes of modern birds.
Nanostructure studies could one day provide paleontologists with evidence of colors other than just black and gray tones, and not just in fossil feathers. Vinther figures other organic remains such as fur from prehistoric mammals or fossil skin impressions from dinosaurs could prove to be the remains of the melanin.
Courtesy NASASo, what? You wanted to live forever?
Oh, you did? Er…even at the expense of scientific enterprise? Whatever. Deal with it, crybaby, because me and my little Strangelet are going to wring this planet dry.
Do you remember the Large Hadron Collider? No? We posted about it this spring on Science Buzz. It’s a recently completed supercollider in France and Switzerland—the largest supercollider in the world, with a 17-mile circumference. Protons will be blasted through the device so fast that they’ll make the entire circuit 11,000 times per second (which is about the speed of light, I believe). When two streams of protons meet, some of them will collide, and smash apart. At that point two huge detectors will attempt to gather data on just what comes out of the destroyed protons. The hope is that when the machine is switched on in August, we’ll make some fantastic discoveries about the most basic (and yet mysterious) elements of matter.
Oh, and the world might be instantly destroyed. I didn’t mention that last time? Huh. I suppose it just slipped my mind because, you know, who wants to live forever, right?
Some people (read: crybabies) are very concerned that the colliding particles could form a micro-black hole, which could either evaporate instantly, or gobble up the earth. Whoops! There’s some thought that the collider might also produce a spicy little devil we call the “strangelet.”
Stranglets are, it should be said, hypothetical—they’ve never actually been observed. A strangelet is basically a tiny piece of “strange matter,” stuff made up of the same components of regular vanilla matter, but in a unique configuration (equal amounts of up, down, and strange quarks, for those of you in to…quarks, I guess). The fear is that, where a strangelet to come into contact with regular matter on Earth, it could convert that matter into another strangelet, which would convert other matter into strangelets, until the whole of Earth would be turned into a big ball of hot strange matter. Which would just be the pits.
A particular group of people was so worried about the repercussions of turning on the LHC that they actually filed an injunction against its operators. The lawsuit was dismissed, on account of the defenders of humanity just “needing to chill out.”
The plaintiffs claimed that the odds of the LHC creating a global catastrophe are about one in fifty-million—about the same as winning the lottery, but that happens from time to time. Not to me, though.
The scientists behind the LHC, however, argue that the odds are much lower than that even, if not zero. Collisions like those planned for the LHC occur naturally every second, as cosmic rays smack into the earth, and so far everything is all right. Furthermore, should something like a micro-black hole be formed, mega-eggheads like Stephen Hawking predict that it would instantly turn to nothing.
And that’s kind of the thing—some of the world’s biggest smarty-pants are working on this project, and they aren’t concerned. That has to mean something, right? Then again, according to The Incredible Hulk, many scientists aren’t all that concerned about their own certain, imminent death, so long as they get to do some crazy experiments. And I trust comic books implicitly, so who knows.
Catalysts, because of its shape, can speed up chemical reactions. Platinum is a useful catalyst in fuel cells but because it costs over $2000 an ounce, it needs to be used efficiently. One way to maximize the effectiveness of platinum is to maximize its surface area.
Cornell researchers have developed a method to self-assemble metals into complex configurations with structural details about 100 times smaller than a bacterial cell by guiding metal particles into the desired form using soft polymers. NSF News
To keep nano spheres of platinum from clumping or "globbing" they are coated with an organic material known as a ligand. The innovative use of the ligands allows for the metal nanoparticles to be dissolved in a solution containing long co-polymer chains, or blocks, of molecules linked together to form a predictable pattern. After the spheres have filled in the spaces created by the co-polymer chains, heat is applied until the polymer turns to a carbon scaffold. The scaffold holds the platinum spheres in place until cooled. The carbon is then dissolved away leaving an intricate hexagonal mesh of platinum (see image above).
These metalic surfaces will also be of interest to scientists working in an area called plasmonics. Plasmonics is the study of interactions among metal surfaces, light, and density waves of electrons, known as plasmons. Improved optics applications, like lasers, displays, and lenses and better transmission of information within microchips will be some benefits.