Flexible Telescope Lenses Could Enhance Scientists’ Ability to Survey the Stars

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Long before civilizations developed, humanity has been fascinated by the stars, and the technological advancements developed over time have given us tools to learn more about the universe beyond our atmosphere. Arguably the most recognizable piece of equipment humans created is the telescope, but as we continue to evolve in our search for knowledge so must the tools we use. Recent advancements have prompted researchers in Taiwan to develop lightweight, flexible lenses that would allow telescopes to view distant exoplanets that orbit outside of our solar system. These new lenses aim to enhance the clarity of captured images by utilizing holographic film, allowing for fine control of the lens focus. The film combined with a flexible body would also allow scientists to convert the captured light into a spectrum for wavelength analysis. 

These “holographic optical elements” as they are being called researchers, are not an entirely new concept and instead build on the design of Fresnel lenses, optical components with a series of flat lenses that mimic the focus of curved lenses. By utilizing a flexible material, these new elements further exaggerate the wavelength separation properties their rigid predecessors exhibited, while also allowing for precision control of focus and clarity. With any luck these new optics will provide astronomers a clearer view of the cosmos and allow us to learn more about the universe beyond our doorstep. 

For more information on this development, click here

Click here, if you are interested in past blogs covering various innovations.

Research into Boron Nanosheets leads to an Electrifying Discovery

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Amorphous boron is a nonmetallic element that is often used in rockets as a fuel source and for certain pyrotechnic flares that produce a green tinted flame. It is rarely found in pure form with compounds such as boric acid, sodium borate aka. borax, and boric oxide. Common uses for boron over the years have been things like tile glazes, several brands of eyedrops and antiseptics, and washing powders and detergents. Boron also has the highest melting point of any metalloid, at a toasty 3771°F (2077°C). Interestingly, Turkey and the United States contain the largest deposits of borax and the compound is considered a nutrition element for plants. 

Recently scientists were able to synthesize 2D boron monosulfide (BS) nanosheets which led to interesting discoveries about the electrical properties of these single-atom layers of material. The researchers fabricated boron sulfide in a 1:1 ratio with a crystalline structure and stripped off layers that maintained the arrangement. The resulting nanosheets had a large bandgap energy, the material’s ability to conduct current, much greater than that of the base material. They also observed that as more layers were stacked together, the overall bandgap of the material decreased, until it ultimately reached that of the bulk material after approximately five sheets. Scientists believe that these properties could lend well to creating highly conductive, and tunable electrical components. 

Other 2D boron compounds do not exhibit the same responses, making 2D BS unique, and applications for such materials had previously only been speculative. The differing bandgap structures also respond to different electromagnetic wavelengths. The bulk material required lower energy levels (in the visible light range), the nanosheets only activated under wavelengths in the ultraviolet range. This secondary phenomenon implies that the nanosheets can possibly be used in photocatalytic devices, and the number of sheets would allow for fine control of the electrical properties. 

Click here, to read the full article. 

If you are interested in other innovations Lenox Laser has written about, click here

Research into New Forms of Energy Storage Have Proven Successful

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Recently a new thermal energy source has been under research in hopes of creating a new battery able to operate under extreme temperature conditions. Scientists have been experimenting with metal hydrides, a high-energy material, to form the basis of the battery. Metal hydrides are a material class that contain metal that are able to be bonded with hydrogen. They are classified by their chemical bond i.e., ionic, metallic or covalent. The energy is then combined with pressurized water, and the energy storage cycle was able to be reversed at certain conditions. The battery itself uses a heat transfer liquid system and disperses the energy accordingly.  

This new system demonstrates storage reversibility at a range of temperatures, proving that the thermal battery theoretically can last in varying environmental conditions. The prototype contains 900 g of materials, and the flow rate can be adjusted according to the temperature. Once the study is complete it is hoped that this new thermal battery can be a lasting future energy source for yet to be determined applications. Lenox Laser had the honor and privilege of being involved in this study.

To learn more, click here.

To see past Lenox Laser blog posts, click here.

New Advancements in Brain Mapping Efforts

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Understanding the inner workings of the human brain eluded scientists for many years, how and why it functions the way that it does. The movements and reactions in our day-to-day life may seem minuscule, but it is the key to unlocking answers in a new study being conducted in part by UC Berkeley. The recent study was conducted over five years, and its findings were accumulated into 17 different studies covering the mapping of brain cells and their pathways. To achieve this, scientists studied neurological signals from the central cortex of the brain to help them understand things like muscle movement, reaction time and vital motor function. Getting proper mapping was of the utmost importance so the cells were grouped by things like gene type, size, particle structure and gene marker. This study was done with hopes that therapies could be developed to assist with things like disabilities, brain disorders, and other illnesses. This presented a challenge because they had to find ways to merge the data in the clusters as it was found quickly as data was discovered. 

While a full atlas of the human brain will not be completed in the near future, it is hoped that eventually diagnosing a person’s ailment or disease in the brain will be a matter of reference to this massive guide and be able to select the appropriate treatment. To help further understanding, groups of mice were used with certain gene therapies to understand cell growth, neurological movement and more. What this breakthrough could mean for the future of science and medicine, no one knows at this point, but it is hoped that better understanding of the human body and its inner workings is achieved. The evolution of medicine through the use of medical technology has broadened our knowledge exponentially in recent years, here’s hoping that similar breakthroughs continue to be discovered.  

To read more about these efforts by UC Berkley, click here, here, and here.

Click here, to read through past Lenox Laser blog posts.

Powerful Lasers Pioneering Recent Advancements in Particle Physics Research

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The laser has been the driving force of our expertise at Lenox Laser for 40 years, however the question remains, what are most powerful lasers in the world right now? We are surrounded by lasers in modern life, from laser printers, to barcode scanners, to medical equipment, and optical hard drives. This past March, CERN in Geneva, known for their particle physics laboratory and particle accelerator, conducted an experiment to cool down antimatter for the first time ever using a laser. They achieved this by making antihydrogen atoms with antiprotons and driving the energy state of the atoms to the lowest possible state.  

The ZEUS laser at the University of Michigan, which is currently studying plasmas, is reportedly the most powerful laser in the United States. Once it is moved into a vacuum chamber, it can then begin precision focus on selected targets delivering extremely fast and short pulses of light. Scientists will measure the volume of gas and using the high energy beam, turn that volume into ionized plasma. The CoReLS(Center for Relativistic Laser Science) laser in South Korea is capable of exceptionally fine cuts thanks to a 28 cm beam using extremely fine parabolic mirrors and glass optics to achieve its precision. Currently, the most powerful laser in the world exists in Osaka, Japan with an outstanding output of 2000 trillion Watts. It is called the Laser for Fast Ignition Experiments (LFEX).  

All these places around the world are being used to re-create environmental space areas to learn more about the universe. The laser facilities that house these mammoth sized projects are not just for storage but for theoretical research as well. For our part in the laser business, Lenox Laser has a wide variety of laser systems for many different applications and is always interested in the forefront of laser technology and pioneering. From laser drilling, to optics, to precision custom-made orders using laser accuracy, we can drill almost anything. Feel free to visit our services page to learn more about our products and capabilities. We look forward to assisting you and want to thank our long-time customers for supporting us over the 40 years of innovation. 
 
To read more about the recent CERN research, click here

For more about the world’s most powerful lasers, click here

Click here, for more about the ZEUS laser. 

Researchers Discover Unexpected Interaction Between Electrons in New Metal

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Scientific discoveries continually improve and shape the foundations of our daily lives.  This has again proven true with the discovery of a new metal that allows electrons to flow like liquid filtered through a pipe. Atoms typically move in metal by loose electrons also known as free electrons that group together to form negative charges near the positive charges. In a new study, done by experimental physicists at Boston College, the goal was to find out how electrons can move like liquid inside of a new superconductor called Ditetrelide (NbGe2). It was found that interactions with phonons, small “particles” of heat or vibrational energy, can cause drastic shifts. The new metal is a combination of Germanium and Niobium. It was also noted that with this liquid metal combination, the laws of hydrodynamics could still be obeyed. By interacting with these phonons, the electron-phonon liquid can be created. 

Three different methods were used to study the metal to give it a more scientific breakdown. Electrical resistance testing was able to display high mass electrons. Raman scattering showed different levels of vibration in the Ditetrelide (NbGe2) due to the differential flow in the electrons. The final method was x-ray diffraction showing in detail the structure of the metal. With further experimentation, the electron mass was found to be three times larger than initially predicted. 

Sometime soon, it is hoped that Ditetrelide (NbGe2) can be used in new medical devices, and even portable patches. Lenox Laser congratulates all involved from Boston College on their findings in this new research study. We hope that this new metal can provide wonderful and innovative technologies in the future.  

Click here, to read more about the study.  

To read past blog entries from Lenox Laser, click here.

Recent Advancements in Semiconductor Manufacturing

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Semiconductors have been a part of the manufacturing world for many decades now. They continue to evolve by the day with varying capabilities. The idea of cultivating electric components for semiconductors has caught the imagination of a team at the University of South Wales. With assistance from Cambridge University, they hope to make components smaller and faster and avoid oxidation or other damaging effects. These can be built by manufacturing an ultra-small and wafer-thin metal gate within the semiconducting crystal. The electric flow needs to be in close quarters with the switch to turn the transistor on and off at any time, this also needs to be done while maintaining a steady frequency response.  

A frequent problem the new process will try to solve is the issue of oxidation. Making the devices smaller and with more singular circuitry, surface oxidation unfortunately is an unavoidable factor. While oxidation is an issue with this process currently, there are also many advantages like making them smaller to avoid scattering, when electron pathways fail to communicate. It will also increase conductivity by two and a half times. 

With this innovative design, the team hopes to eliminate excess electrical charge stored in the semiconductor. Even with reduced scattering the team still faces the challenges of scattering preventing high-frequency components from being used inside transistors. Surface charges could cause fluctuations resulting in a short or miscommunication of pathway signals. If the project proves successful, whatever form these new semiconductors may take, they can hopefully be used for a variety of products and applications. We at Lenox Laser wish the team remarkable success.  

For more information on this project, click here.  

A Look into the Development of Brain Computer Interfaces

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The human brain is a tool, full of mystery, and evolving every day. Imagine for a moment that there was a way to completely unlock and understand the mind in ways that science never imagined possible. This is the goal a team of neuroscientists at Brown University, University of California at San Diego, and Qualcomm is hoping to achieve. The hope is that research into brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) with advanced sensors will one day assist in eliminating or slowing the progress of brain and spinal cord injuries. BCIs are implanted computers with thousands of neural pathway sensors that detect and interpret brain signals and may eventually be given the capacity to produce stimuli where the brain is lacking. The systems being developed at Brown University, which are currently being tested on mice, have proven to surpass currently available technology. The sensors would be packed into a small wearable skin patch about the size of a fingerprint and readings would be sent to a computer or portable device. The goal of the study is to achieve as many signals as possible from living brain tissue. 

The obstacles of testing come from precisely probing of the brain. If successful, this new BCI could not only help with spinal cord injuries but neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, motor skill impairments, and even dementia as well as assist in the treatment of brain injuries. Finding a comfortable yet secure prosthetic is the other hurdle teams are facing, with devices needing to produce accurate readings while avoiding a massive hinderance to mobility. 

 The scientists involved in the project have an extremely positive outlook for what this study could mean for the future of neuroscience and medicine in general. We at Lenox Laser wish them all the success possible. 

For more information on the development of BCIs, click here, or here

The Archimedes Palimpsest and Lenox Laser

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Lenox Laser, as mentioned in the previous post, is involved and relevant to current events such as the recent Nobel Prize in Physics and the James Webb Telescope.

Archimedes Palimpsest
Photo from the Walter’s Flickr site, part of the Lost and Found exhibit about the Archimedes Palimpsest

Another example is the Archimedes Palimpsest at Baltimore’s Walters Art Museum. It is on a special exhibit right now until January 2012, and, believes it or not, Lenox Laser was involved with this as well! Lenox Laser was involved in the key science that allowed them to see past the monk’s writings and read Archimedes’ instead. SLAC was the organization that was heading up the research to better read the obscured text, and they contacted Lenox Laser for the special tungsten part.

From our earlier blog post about the Archimedes Palimpsest from 2006- it explains Lenox Laser’s key role.

The Archimedes Palimpsest writings lingered unseen for centuries, seemingly purged from the documents forever, until Professor Heiburg began to review small scrawls beneath the visible text. At SLAC, a revolutionary modern analysis of the writing medium has been made – revealing they do contain historically important information left behind by Archimedes, Hidden from the naked eye.When confronted with an engineering challenge involving their Synchrotron X-Ray source, SLAC issued a request to Lenox Laser to produce microscopic laser-drilled holes in thin Tungsten film. These small apertures would prove critical to the team’s success in uncovering the Palimpsest’s “hidden treasure”.

Here is the website about the ancient text: www.archimedespalimpsest.org
and the Walters Art Museum: thewalters.org

Lenox Laser Scholarship- “Evaluation of UV LEDs for detection of atmospheric NO2 by photolysis- chemiluminescence”

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Lockheed WP-3D Orion. From NOAA website
Lockheed WP-3D Orion. From NOAA website

 

Evaluation of ultraviolet light-emitting diodes for detection of atmospheric NO2 by photolysis- chemiluminescence
by Ilana B Pollack, Brian M Lerner, and Thomas B Ryerson

This article was accepted to Journal of Atmospheric Chemistry in February of this year, and it details an atmospheric study done in May and June of 2010. Lenox Laser made a total of 3 parts for their studies of different LED detections systems of NO2. For some key background information if one is not familiar, I highly recommend reading this article first:
Flourescence detection of atmospheric nitrogen dioxide using a blue light-emitting diode as an excitation source by Yutaka Matsumi et al. It is much more readable and understandable.

Basically, detection of NO2 in the atmosphere relates to the ozone levels in the atmosphere. Thus, scientists of the field are interested in better, more accurate, and cheaper ways to measure NO2. One of the most recent trends to do so is to use commercially available UV-LEDs in their systems. The systems already often use a UV light source of some kind because in the chemistry of NO2 and related molecules, they will emit light in the process. Atmospheric scientists use this property, called chemiluminescence, to measure the NO2 molecules. Chemiluminescence detection is called P-CL.

In this article, the authors tested 3 UV-LEDs against each other in the P-CL system as shown in the diagram below:

Fig 1 from the paper- schematic of instrumental configuration
Fig 1 from the paper- schematic of instrumental configuration

I recommend reading the article itself to fully understand the diagram and the process. However, this is where Lenox Laser and our calibrated orifices come in. The red section where it says 700um orifice is where our first orifice was used. This is the bypass inlet, and was used to set the sample flow rate and cell pressure for the entire system. They found that the Nichia LEDs were the best overall.

So for the second part of the test, they took the Nichia LEDs on board the NOAA WP-3D aircraft with the P-CL for “on the job” training in the CalNex study. They replaced the more expensive and complicated mass flow controllers were replaced with our critical orifices and mass flow meters. In the diagram above the two places are indicated by arrows in the blue and black section. Replacing the parts in the system did improve the quality, and, as stated in the conclusion, they “eliminate mechanical components with complex flow paths that degrade time response. Replacing mass flow controllers with critical orifices and mass flow meters further simplifies the sample flow path in these laboratory test.”

The NOAA WP-3D aircraft is the plane that flies into hurricanes to monitor and gather information. It took part in CalNex – a study by several universities and institutions of air quality and climate change on the west coast. Our parts were used on board and tested with the UV-LED systems during the study. They even went with the plane as it was briefly diverted from the study to the Gulf of Mexico during the oil spill.

So in conclusion, this research paper incorporates optics, chemistry, and biology with flow technologies, atmospheric studies, and research planes all together, with Lenox Laser parts in the middle of it all!

As always, check out our main website www.lenoxlaser.com to see more of what we do, as well as the rest of this blog. If you have any questions or input, email me at archives@lenoxlaser.com

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