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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 November 29, 2019

01. Novel memory device can be written on and read out optically or electrically
02. Laser combo opens up futuristic terahertz technology
03. Molecular eraser enables better data storage and computers for AI
04. Toward more efficient computing, with magnetic waves
05. Sniffing Out Errors
06. Black silicon can help detect explosives
07. A Graphene Waveguide For Electrons
08. NASA rockets study why tech goes haywire near poles
09. Gene Editors Could Find New Use as Rapid Detectors of Pathogenic Threats
10. New technology developed to improve forecasting of Earthquakes, Tsunamis

And others…

How Brexit Will Affect Europe’s Research Infrastructure
Metal-organic framework captures and converts toxic air pollutant into industrial chemical
Nine climate tipping points now ‘active,’ warn scientists
Researchers uncover key reaction that influences growth of potentially harmful particles in atmosphere
Scientists develop electrochemical platform for cell-free synthetic biology

Top 10 Science and Technology Inventions for the Week of November 22, 2019

01. Foam offers way to manipulate light
02. Making tiny antennas for wearable electronics
03. Nanooptical traps: A promising building block for quantum technologies
04. New water-based optical device revolutionizes the field of optics research
05. Synthetic biologists developing a new class of high-performance materials
06. The first high-speed straight motion of magnetic skyrmions at room temperature demonstrated
07. Researchers create better light-trapping devices
08. Carnegie Mellon system locates shooters using smartphone video
09. Advancing nuclear detection and inspection
10. Kick-starting Moore’s Law? New ‘synthetic’ method for making microchips could help

And others…

Clean carbon nanotubes with superb properties
Development of magneto-optic effect measurement device using dual-comb spectroscopy
This humidity digester breathes in atmospheric water and exhales energy
A review of single molecule-based electronic devices
A technique to measure mechanical motion beyond the quantum limit

Top 10 Science and Technology Inventions for the Week of November 15, 2019

01. Researchers capture moving object with ghost imaging
02. Researchers develop thin heat shield for superfast aircraft
03. Smart metamaterials that sense and reprogram themselves
04. New spin directions in pyrite an encouraging sign for future spintronics
05. Stretchable, degradable semiconductors
06. Invention of teeny-tiny organic films could enable new electronics
07. Sound-redirecting prototype could fool eavesdroppers
08. Fingerprint test can distinguish between those who have taken or handled heroin
09. WPI researchers discover vulnerabilities affecting billions of computer chips
10. Nuclear warheads? This robot can find them

And others…

Meet the Volocity
Mesmerizing Video Shows Waves of Spinal Fluid Washing Over The Brain During Sleep
Nobel Prizes – The NSF Connection
Using mountains for long-term energy storage
Welcome to robot university (only robots need apply)

Top 10 Science and Technology Inventions for the Week of November 8, 2019

01. Nanotechnology breakthrough enables conversion of infrared light to energy
02. Structured light promises path to faster, more secure communications
03. AI learns to design
04. Light-based ‘tractor beam’ assembles materials at the nanoscale
05. Microbes harvest electrons: Novel process discovered
06. An artificial sunflower that bends toward the sun
07. The Bioacoustic Signatures of Our Bodies Can Reveal Our Identities
08. Flexible yet sturdy robot is designed to “grow” like a plant
09. The scientists who are creating a bio-internet of things
10. Suspended layers make a special superconductor

And others…

Commemorating 30 years of optical vortices: A comprehensive review
Engineers develop new way to know liars’ intent
Have the great theories become obsolete?
More Than 11,000 Scientists Just Officially Declared a Global Climate Emergency
Russian Air Force Begins Testing MALE Strike Drones

RECENT POSTS

Top 10 Science and Technology Inventions for the Week of November 29, 2019

01. Novel memory device can be written on and read out optically or electrically
02. Laser combo opens up futuristic terahertz technology
03. Molecular eraser enables better data storage and computers for AI
04. Toward more efficient computing, with magnetic waves
05. Sniffing Out Errors
06. Black silicon can help detect explosives
07. A Graphene Waveguide For Electrons
08. NASA rockets study why tech goes haywire near poles
09. Gene Editors Could Find New Use as Rapid Detectors of Pathogenic Threats
10. New technology developed to improve forecasting of Earthquakes, Tsunamis

And others…

How Brexit Will Affect Europe’s Research Infrastructure
Metal-organic framework captures and converts toxic air pollutant into industrial chemical
Nine climate tipping points now ‘active,’ warn scientists
Researchers uncover key reaction that influences growth of potentially harmful particles in atmosphere
Scientists develop electrochemical platform for cell-free synthetic biology

A Graphene Waveguide For Electrons

American physical Society  November 22, 2019
An electron carrying information in its quantum state and acting according to its wave nature can travel though a waveguide, but if multiple modes are available, then the electron can switch between them and lose information. An international team of researchers (USA – MIT, Japan, France) designed a device that includes a graphene flake sandwiched between two insulating sheets. On top of this structure sits a single carbon nanotube. A voltage applied across the CNT induces an electrostatic potential shaped like a rain gutter that extends down into the flake. The potential traps the graphene’s electrons directly beneath the CNT and restricts them to move only along the length of the channel. The electrons thus behave as if they are in a physical waveguide. This waveguide design could provide a platform for controlled transmission of quantum information using electrons, supports compact optics-like experiments with electrons, ultrafast switches and reconfigurable circuits…read more. TECHNICAL ARTICLE

Applying a voltage across a carbon nanotube induces a channel-shaped electrostatic trapping potential for electrons—a waveguide—in an underlying graphene sheet. Credit: A. Cheng, J. Cheng, J. Mok, and J. Stel/Harvard Univ.

Black silicon can help detect explosives

EurekAlert  November 27, 2019
Detection of nitroaromatic compounds (NAC) vapors is challenging owing to their low vapor pressure and relatively weak sensitivity of the existing detection techniques. An international team of researchers (Russia, Australia) proposes a novel concept to design fluorescence (FL) detection platforms based on chemical functionalization of nanotextured dielectric surfaces exhibiting resonant light absorption, trapping, and localization effects. They demonstrated the sensor with selective FL-quenching response from monolayers of carbazole moieties covalently bonded to a spiky silicon surface, “black” silicon. It provided unprecedented ppt (10–12) range limits of detection for several NAC vapors. The easy-to-implement scalable fabrication procedure combined with simple and versatile functionalization techniques is applicable to all-dielectric surfaces for environmental monitoring, medical diagnostics, and forensic analysis…read more. TECHNICAL ARTICLE 

Inset schematically shows the structure of the carbazole molecule. Colored areas highlight several identified vibration bands of the carbazole. Credit: FEFU press office

Gene Editors Could Find New Use as Rapid Detectors of Pathogenic Threats

DARPA News  November 15, 2019
The overarching goal of Detect It with Gene Editing Technologies (DIGET) is to provide comprehensive, specific, and trusted information about health threats to medical decision-makers within minutes, even in far-flung regions of the globe, to prevent the spread of disease, enable timely deployment of countermeasures, and improve the standard of care after diagnosis. The DIGET vision incorporates two devices: a handheld, disposable point-of-need device that screens samples for at least 10 pathogens or host biomarkers at once, combined with a massively multiplexed detection platform capable of screening clinical and environmental samples for more than 1,000 targets simultaneously. Both pieces of the system could be quickly reconfigured to adapt to changing needs. Although DIGET is focused on biological threats, similar technologies could be applied to chemical and radiological threats by detecting biomarkers of exposure…read more. Proposers’ Day Information

How Brexit Will Affect Europe’s Research Infrastructure

EurekAlert  November 22, 2019
Britain’s likely exit from the EU will probably damage scientific research both in the UK and the EU for decades to come, according to researchers in the UK and the Royal Society. The impact manifests most clearly in two ways, reluctance to engage UK partners for EU research projects and EU nationals are less likely to want to apply for short-term jobs in the UK. An international workforce that can migrate across international borders is the life blood of science and research that could seriously damage UK science and technology. The situation becomes further muddied by the fact that the UK government has never said whether they intend to fund such research to the level that the EU was sending to UK, or instead it will just scale funding to the level that the UK was sending to the EU…read more.

Illustration: Shutterstock

Laser combo opens up futuristic terahertz technology

Physics World  November 25, 2019
The terahertz region of the electromagnetic spectrum has been the least utilized owing to inadequacies of available sources. A team of researchers in the US (Harvard University, MIT, Duke University) has created a compact, widely frequency-tunable, extremely bright source of terahertz radiation: a gas-phase molecular laser based on rotational population inversions optically pumped by a quantum cascade laser. By identifying the essential parameters that determine the suitability of a molecule for a terahertz laser, almost any rotational transition of almost any molecular gas can be made to lase. Nitrous oxide is used to illustrate the broad tunability over 37 lines spanning 0.251 to 0.955 terahertz, each with kilohertz linewidths. The compact source could enable the development of futuristic communications, security, biomedical and astronomical imaging systems…read more. TECNICAL ARTICLE 

Artistic view of the QCL pumped terahertz laser showing the QCL beam (red) and the terahertz beam (blue) along with rotating molecules inside the cavity. Courtesy: Arman Amirzhan, Harvard SEAS

Metal-organic framework captures and converts toxic air pollutant into industrial chemical

Nanowerk  November 23, 2019
An international team of researchers (UK, USA – Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) has developed an MOF, denoted as MFM-520, that can capture atmospheric nitrogen dioxide at ambient pressures and temperatures—even at low concentrations and during flow—in the presence of moisture, sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide. Despite the highly reactive nature of the pollutant, MFM-520 proved capable of being fully regenerated multiple times by degassing or by treatment with water from the air—a process that also converts nitrogen dioxide into nitric acid. The highest rate of NO2 uptake by this material occurs at around 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Centigrade), which is about the temperature of automobile exhausts…read more. TECHNICAL ARTICLE

Illustration of a nitrogen dioxide molecule (depicted in blue and purple) captured in a nano-size pore of an MFM-520 metal-organic framework material as observed using neutron vibrational spectroscopy at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Credit: ORNL

Molecular eraser enables better data storage and computers for AI

EurekAlert  November 27, 2019
The bottom up approaches for atomic and molecular electronics, quantum computation, and data storage, all rely on a well-developed understanding of materials at the atomic scale. Researchers in Canada have developed a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) charge characterization technique which reduces the influence of the typically perturbative STM tip field for this purpose. Using the technique, they observed single molecule binding events to atomically defined reactive sites. They developed a simplified error correction tool for automated hydrogen lithography and incorporated the molecular repassivation technique as the primary rewriting mechanism in ultra-dense atomic data storage designs. The new tool better enables an ultra-efficient kind of hybrid computer for the training of neural networks for artificial intelligence…read more. Video illustration of the process. Open Access TECHNICAL ARTICLE

Abstract. Credit: ACS Nano 2019, XXXX, XXX, XXX-XXX Publication Date: November 27, 2019 

NASA rockets study why tech goes haywire near poles

Phys.org  November 26, 2019
Most of Earth is shielded from the solar wind but right near the poles the magnetic field becomes a funnel, known as cusp, where the solar wind can get all the way down to the atmosphere disrupting satellites and radio and GPS signals. Beginning Nov. 25, 2019, three new NASA-supported missions will launch into the northern polar cusp, aiming to improve the technology affected by it. The three missions are all part of the Grand Challenge Initiative. Cusp is a series of nine sounding rocket missions exploring the polar cusp capturing the strange phenomena inside the cusp. Two of the three upcoming missions will study a patch of atmosphere inside the cusp notably denser than its surroundings, about 1.5 times heavier. The mission aims to better understand its effects on satellites and spacecraft that follow a polar orbit and GPS and communications signals they transmit…read more.

Animated illustration showing the solar wind streaming around Earth’s magnetosphere. Near the North and South Poles, Earth’s magnetic field forms funnels that allow the solar wind access to the upper atmosphere. Credit: NASA/CILab/Josh Masters

Nine climate tipping points now ‘active,’ warn scientists

Science Daily  November 27, 2019
According to an international team of researchers (UK, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Australia) the evidence from tipping points alone suggests that we are in a state of planetary emergency: both the risk and urgency of the situation are acute. They summarize evidence on the threat of exceeding tipping points, such as the loss of the Amazon rainforest or the West Antarctic ice sheet, identify knowledge gaps and suggest how these should be plugged. They explore the effects of such large-scale changes, how quickly they might unfold and whether we still have any control over them. According to researchers if the current national pledges to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions are implemented they are likely to result in at least 3 °C of global warming. Several cryosphere tipping points are dangerously close. Climate change and other human activities risk triggering biosphere tipping points across a range of ecosystems and scales, the clearest emergency would be if we were approaching a global cascade of tipping points that led to a new, less habitable, ‘hothouse’ climate state…read more. Open Access TECHNICAL ARTICLE

Raising the Alarm. Credit: Nature, 27, November 2019