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Science & Technology News Bulletin

Every week, we editorially select the best S&T stories released from major news outlets. These stories are then ranked and posted (with appropriate credit and references to the originals) on our Blog by Friday afternoon. Hema Viswanath curates this content and has been doing so for ASDR&E's Office of Net Technical Assessments and Office of Technical Intelligence for over seven years before performing the same work for us. Currently, we are experimenting with distributing this content through a free, advertising-supported model. We intend to continue experimenting using paywalls, direct e-mail subscriptions and donations. Hosting this content is important to us and we would like to retain it on at least a revenue-neutral basis. We are also experimenting with enriching the content to make it more relevant to our Government clients.

Top 10 Science and Technology Inventions for the Week of October 18, 2019

01. Nanoscale manipulation of light leads to exciting new advancement
02. Solving the mystery of quantum light in thin layers
03. Weaving quantum processors out of laser light
04. Vibration in one direction only
05. Unique sticky particles formed by harnessing chaos
06. New electrolyte stops rapid performance decline of next-generation lithium battery
07. ‘Electroadhesive’ stamp picks up and puts down microscopic structures
08. Creating 2D heterostructures for future electronics
09. Controlling robots across oceans and space
10. Refrigerator works by twisting and untwisting fibres

And others…

How a new class of startups are working to solve the grid storage puzzle
A look at Japan’s evolving intelligence efforts
A mathematical model reveals long-distance cell communication mechanism
Scientists unwind mystery behind DNA replication
The World Could Soon Run Out of a Crucial Resource And Nobody Is Talking About It

Top 10 Science and Technology Inventions for the Week of October 11, 2019

01. Tunable optical chip paves way for new quantum devices
02. In a Quantum First, Physicists Put 2,000 Atoms in Two Places at Once
03. Physicists couple key components of quantum technologies
04. Physicists break distance record for electron spin-state transmission in spin qubits
05. Finding the ‘magic angle’ to create a new superconductor
06. Creating a single phonon in ambient conditions
07. Accidental discovery of strong and unbreakable molecular switch
08. Groundbreaking method detects defective computer chips
09. Predicting terror activity before it happens
10. Using machine learning to hunt down cybercriminals

And others…

By 2060 the Airplane Industry Will Be Mostly Gone
Extreme solar storms may be more frequent than previously thought
MIT launches digital content library for workforce learning on emerging technologies
New silk materials can wrinkle into detailed patterns, then unwrinkle to be ‘reprinted’
New ‘supercondensers’ store electric charge in textile materials

Top 10 Science and Technology Inventions for the Week of October 4, 2019

01. This flat structure morphs into shape of a human face when temperature changes
02. New liquid crystals allowing directed transmission of electricity synthesized
03. Researchers synthesize ‘impossible’ superconductor
04. Creating different kinds of light with manipulable quantum properties
05. This New Chip Could Bridge The Gap Between Classical And Quantum Computing
06. Jumping the gap may make electronics faster
07. Preventing manipulation in automated face recognition
08. New chip poised to enable hand-held microwave imaging
09. Solar cells with new interfaces
10. Clever materials make it easier to pull clean water from the air

And others…

AI Faces Speed Bumps and Potholes on Its Road From the Research Lab to Everyday Use
Air Force unveils 10-year cyber warfare plan
Can we peek at Schrodinger’s cat without disturbing it?
China Grew Two Cotton Leaves on the Moon
Transhumanism: Where Physical and Digital Worlds Meld

Top 10 Science and Technology Inventions for the Week of September 27, 2019

01. First fully rechargeable carbon dioxide battery with carbon neutrality
02. ‘Valley states’ in this super-thin material could potentially be used for quantum computing
03. Development of highly sensitive diode, converts microwaves to electricity
04. Introducing ‘mesh,’ memory-saving plug-in to boost phone and computer performance
05. New framework for nanoantenna light absorption
06. Converting absorbed photons into twice as many excitons
07. Nano bulb lights novel path
08. Engineers using soundwaves to search through big data with more stability and ease
09. Scientists finally find superconductivity in place they have been looking for decades
10. Team closes in on ‘holy grail’ of room temperature quantum computing chips

And others…

Air Force issues strategy for artificial intelligence
Autonomous quadruped designed to team with Soldiers
Explosion Confirmed at Russian Lab Storing Smallpox, Ebola
Shape-shifting robots built from smarticles could navigate Army operations
‘Treasure trove’ of earthquake clues could be unearthed by wavy new technique

RECENT POSTS

Top 10 Science and Technology Inventions for the Week of October 18, 2019

01. Nanoscale manipulation of light leads to exciting new advancement
02. Solving the mystery of quantum light in thin layers
03. Weaving quantum processors out of laser light
04. Vibration in one direction only
05. Unique sticky particles formed by harnessing chaos
06. New electrolyte stops rapid performance decline of next-generation lithium battery
07. ‘Electroadhesive’ stamp picks up and puts down microscopic structures
08. Creating 2D heterostructures for future electronics
09. Controlling robots across oceans and space
10. Refrigerator works by twisting and untwisting fibres

And others…

How a new class of startups are working to solve the grid storage puzzle
A look at Japan’s evolving intelligence efforts
A mathematical model reveals long-distance cell communication mechanism
Scientists unwind mystery behind DNA replication
The World Could Soon Run Out of a Crucial Resource And Nobody Is Talking About It

Controlling robots across oceans and space

Phys.org  October 8, 2019
The first experiment took place in 2012 when NASA astronaut Sunita Williams controlled a LEGO rover in Germany to test a newly-developed ‘space internet’ – proving it is possible to control a rover from orbit. Human-robotic partnerships are at the heart of ESA’s exploration strategy. The ESA’s Meteron project was formed to develop the technology and know-how needed to operate rovers in harsh conditions. It covers all aspects of operations, from communications and the user interface to surface operations and even connecting the robots to the astronauts by sense of touch. The experiment, dubbed Analog-1, will combine all the know-how from a decade of the Meteron project into a full-scale test, teams controlling different aspects from the Netherlands, Germany.  Videoread more. Tags:

Artist’s impression of the Gateway over the moon. The Gateway is the next structure to be launched by the partners of the International Space Station. Credit: ESA/NASA/ATG Medialab

Creating 2D heterostructures for future electronics

Science Daily  October 11, 2019
Integration of dissimilar 2D materials is essential for nanoelectronic applications. Compared to vertical stacking, covalent lateral stitching requires bottom-up synthesis, resulting in rare realizations of 2D lateral heterostructures. Because of its polymorphism and diverse bonding geometries, borophene is a promising candidate for 2D heterostructures, although suitable synthesis conditions have not yet been demonstrated. Researchers at Northwestern University report lateral and vertical integration of borophene with graphene. Topographic and spatially resolved spectroscopic measurements reveal nearly atomically sharp lateral interfaces despite imperfect crystallographic lattice and symmetry matching. Boron intercalation under graphene results in rotationally commensurate vertical heterostructures. The rich bonding configurations of boron suggest that borophene can be integrated into a diverse range of 2D heterostructures…read more. Open Access TECHNICAL ARTICLE

Graphene and borophene-graphene heterostructures on Ag(111). Credit: Science Advances 11 Oct 2019: Vol. 5, no. 10, eaax6444 

‘Electroadhesive’ stamp picks up and puts down microscopic structures

Nanowerk  October 11, 2019
Mechanical pick-and-place technologies cannot manipulate smaller objects whose surface forces dominate over gravity, and emerging microtransfer printing methods require multidirectional motion, heating, and/or chemical bonding to switch adhesion. A team of researchers in the US (MIT, University of Pennsylvania) has developed soft nanocomposite electroadhesives (SNEs), comprising sparse forests of dielectric-coated carbon nanotubes (CNTs), which have electrostatically switchable dry adhesion. SNEs exhibit 40-fold lower nominal dry adhesion than typical solids, yet their adhesion is increased >100-fold by applying 30 V to the CNTs. They characterized the scaling of adhesion with surface morphology, dielectric thickness, and applied voltage and demonstrate digital transfer printing of films of Ag nanowires, polymer and metal microparticles, and unpackaged light-emitting diodes…read more. Open Access TECHNICAL ARTICLE

Picking and placing micro objects using a ceramic-carbon SNE. Credit: Science Advances 11 Oct 2019: Vol. 5, no. 10, eaax4790 

How a new class of startups are working to solve the grid storage puzzle

MIT Technology Review  October 10, 2019
To be as cheap, reliable, and flexible as natural gas, such a battery system would have to cost less than $10 per kilowatt-hour. Today’s best grid batteries, large lithium-ion systems, cost hundreds of dollars per kilowatt-hour (precise estimates vary). A US based company is working to hit that target by what seems to be using a sulfur-based solution as the anolyte. Sulfur is extremely cheap and can store a lot of energy. They are exploring the possibility of bidirectional power plants. Long duration storage is another approach taken by some companies. Thermal methods are inherently inefficient, since it’s hard to prevent the heat or cold from leaking away. Producing or burning most liquid fuels creates the very climate emissions we’re looking to avoid. Under its “DAYS” program, ARPA-E has invested more than $30 million in 12 startups or research groups trying to crack the problem of grid storage. So, if someone can make them cheap and long-lasting as well, they could plug into any grid. That would enable wind and solar to provide far more of our electricity and, in turn, for clean electricity to meet much more of our total energy needs. But those remain very big ifs…read more.

Telsa’s grid battery plant in Kauaʻi, Hawaii. Credit: TESLA

A look at Japan’s evolving intelligence efforts

MIT News  October 8, 2019
According to the book, “Special Duty: A History of the Japanese Intelligence Community” Japan didn’t have a comprehensive intelligence capability, but they’re heading in that direction. Over the last 75 years as international spying and espionage has proliferated, Japan has mostly been on the sidelines of this global game. Defeat in World War II, and demilitarization afterward, meant that Japanese intelligence services were virtually nonexistent for decades. Japan’s interest in spycraft has returned. In addition to a notable military expansion Japan is also ramping up its formal intelligence apparatus. Examining the status of Japan’s intelligence efforts helps us understand Japan’s larger strategic outlook and goals…read more.

A mathematical model reveals long-distance cell communication mechanism

Science Daily  October 15, 2019
Cells often communicate using signaling molecules, which can travel only a short distance. Nevertheless, the cells can also communicate over large distances to spur collective action. An international team of researchers (USA – UT Houston, South Korea) used an engineered transcriptional circuit of combined positive and negative feedback loops in E. coli, which can periodically release two types of signaling molecules: activator and repressor. As the signaling molecules travel over a short distance, cells can only talk to their nearest neighbors. However, cell communities synchronize oscillatory gene expression in spatially extended systems if the transcriptional circuit contains a positive feedback loop for the activator. It turns out the positive feedback loop reduces the distance between moving points and finally makes them move all together…read more.
TECHNICAL ARTICLE

Nanoscale manipulation of light leads to exciting new advancement

Eurekalert  October 11, 2019
Researchers at the University of New Mexico studied arrays composed of silver nanoparticles placed in a repeating pattern. When the arrays are illuminated with light, each of the particles produces a strong response, which, in turn, results in enormous collective behaviors if all the particles can interact with one another. This happens at certain wavelengths of incident light, which are determined by the interparticle spacing of the array, and can result in electric fields that are thousands, or even tens of thousands, of times that of the light shined on the array. The strength of this field enhancement depends on the geometrical properties of the array, such as the spacing between the nanospheres and the size of the spheres themselves. They found that decreasing the density of nanoparticles in the array produces field enhancements that are not only larger but extend farther away from the array. The near-field enhancements could be a game changer for technologies like ultrasensitive biosensing. The system has applications ranging from vivid, high-resolution color printing to biosensing…read more. Open Access TECHNICAL ARTICLE

Artistic depiction of the system under study. As the size of the particles is reduced, the field enhancement increases. Credit: University of New Mexico Department of Physics

New electrolyte stops rapid performance decline of next-generation lithium battery

Science Daily  October 10, 2019
Lithium-ion battery electrolytes currently contain a solvent mixture, with a dissolved lithium salt and often more than three organic additives. Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory have developed a unique electrolyte with a small amount of a second salt containing any one of several doubly or triply charged metal cations (Mg2+, Ca2+, Zn2+, or Al3+) they call MESA (mixed-salt electrolytes for silicon anodes). MESA gives silicon anodes increased surface and bulk stabilities, improving long-term cycling and calendar life. During charging, the metal cation additions in electrolyte solution migrate into the silicon-based anode along with the lithium ions to form lithium-metal-silicon phases, which are more stable than lithium-silicon. This new cell chemistry greatly reduces the detrimental side reactions between the silicon anode and electrolyte. Of the four metal salts tested, the added electrolyte salts with either magnesium (Mg2+) or calcium (Ca2+) cations proved to work the best over hundreds of charge-discharge cycles with the energy densities surpassing by up to 50%. The new chemistry is simple, scalable and fully compatible with existing battery technology…read more. Open Access TECHNICAL ARTICLE

Abstract. Credit: ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces, 2019, 113329780-29790, July 18, 2019 

Refrigerator works by twisting and untwisting fibres

Physics World  October 14, 2019
An international team of researchers (China, USA – UT Dallas, Georgia Southern University, industry, Brazil) studied the cooling effects of twist and stretch changes in twisted, coiled and supercoiled fibres of natural rubber, nickel-titanium and polyethylene fishing line. In each material, they observed a surface cooling as high as 16.4 °C, 20.8 °C, and 5.1 °C respectively. Analysis revealed changes in molecular structures associated with the transition from low to high entropy phases. They built a device from a three-ply nickel-titanium wire cable, which cooled a stream of running water by as much as 7.7 °C as it unraveled. They propose that far higher levels of cooling could be reached through additional cycles of twisting and twist release within the cable. Creating commercially viable twist fridges has many challenges including the need find a material that is not degraded by being repeatedly twisted and untwisted…read more. TECHNICAL ARTICLE

Twisted fridge. Fridge-freezer: twistocaloric cooling could be coming to a kitchen near you. (Courtesy: iStock/Allevinatis)