Examining Electrochromic Materials

Electrochromic materials are those which have a reversible change of colour when electricity is applied to them. This is because the charge stimulates a redox reaction that either reduces or oxidises the chemical resulting in the colour change. There has been considerable work developing these materials primarily for use in display screens where their unique quality could be put to the best use. But to properly integrated with the host of other electronic circuits the electrical properties of these materials have to be understood.

To this end a research paper has been published talking about the dielectric properties electrochromic substances have. As with all dielectrics they are insulators but will be polarised by an electric field; the exact semiconducting structure was formed from layers of tungsten oxide (WO3), lithium niobate (LiNbO3) and Nickel Oxide (NiO). By then applying a voltage to these layers the propagation constant, a measure of change of amplitude of an electromagnetic wave, as well as the insulating and semiconducting properties of the material could be observed. The most interesting discovery is that the change in voltage not only affected the optical properties of the layers but also dielectric characteristics, especially at high frequency electromagnetic waves. In the future it might be possible for other materials of a similar kind to be developed based on this research.


Drastic Drop In Cosmic Dust Volume

It is estimated that between 40% 50% of all light that is emitted from stars and galaxies in our direction actually reaches us. The other half is absorbed, and diffracted by occasionally planets but more often than not simply the number of tiny grains of dust and hydrogen floating about in space. After all the density of space is about one hydrogen atom per cubic centimeter, which adds up to a lot of atoms over a long distance. However the energy of the light has to go somewhere and so the dust will remit it in the infrared spectrum.

To observe these sources astronomers  used the Herschel telescope to construct the most detailed map of deep space energy sources ever created.This survey was called the  Astrophysical Terahertz Large Area Survey (ATLAS) and was able to find over 500,000 far away sources of infra red radiation. The study was so detailed it can be used to look at how galaxies evolve over time. Apparently there are noticeable differences between galaxies just a billion years ago compared to galaxies now. As the universe develops the complete volume of hydrogen is getting used up as more and more is fused into heavier metal elements and so the rate of this fusion is slowing down, with galaxies becoming less active in most cases. This project is so revolutionary it was described as the “equivalent of technicolour” compared to black and white celluloid.

This is the perfect opportunity to mention The Brilliant Cosmos a website dedicated to providing knowledge about quite advance theoretical and astrophysics concepts created by a Mr Najam (possibly phd). I have got permission to link the blog whenever I mention one of the topics as part of the news but I would recommend anyone who is interested in learning more of the advanced side of cosmology; going and reading some of the articles.

Humans Help To Supply New Species

The Royal society have recently released a paper describeing  how some animals have been forced to evolve into new species because of human action. This is called speciation and it can happen for a variety of reasons. Caribbean fighting conch, for instance, have grown smaller over the last 7000 years losing about 70% to 80% of their  interior meat. This is a direct edit on on the species caused by humans being the ones doing the natural selection. Because fishers only kept the conch they caught of big enough size, the smaller conchs were favoured by evolution and we are left with and so we are left with smaller ones today.

Another example would be that of the London Underground moskito. This moskito evolved because a new habitat, the dark urban subway, was made available to regular moskitos. 40 years ago there was no real sign of these urbanised insects but the rapid life cycle of insects in general makes their evolution happen much faster than ours; allowing them to pass through many generations in a year. We have also produced a few new plants. Some evidence suggests that a fifth of all the main species of crops produced today are recently evolved species (less than 10,000 years old). Cauliflower is an example as it is a cross bred mutation of cabbage, and on the topic of cross breeding, the displacement of animals from their habitats causes more of this and fragmentation of habitat allows the same species to evolve differently in two areas.

The researchers urge people not to think of this as a good thing. This evolution is unlikely to produce any truly new animal but just homogenise the Earth’s biodiversity. Who cares if we’ve got ten new species of gadfly if we had so sacrifice one species of rhino, elephant and lion for it. Conservation is essential and its importance should not be overlooked. This research should serve to show the power humans have received as rulers of the animal kingdom, but as they say “noblesse oblige.”

Capturing Electrons With A Klein Paradox

The Klein paradox, created by Oskar Klein in the late 1920s, talks about electrons when they come into contact with an energy barrier they would normally either reflect off or tunnel through. Now when the electron quantum tunnels through it loses energy rapidly, but by applying  the Dirac equations it can be shown that will be no loss of energy if the barrier has close enough to equal energy with that of an electron’s mass. And as the energy of the barrier get excessively big, approaching infinity, the electron is never reflected only transmitted. This was very important because it proved that no electron could be held within a nucleus (remember they hadn’t even discovered neutrons back then) as whatever potential the nucleus has the electron will simply transmit out.

This paradox has recently been used to study what are known as quasi-bound wavefunctions. Due to this effect electrons can enter a graphene plate that is acting as the potential energy barrier. Then the electrons are held in this semi formed mode while observed using quantum tunneling microscopes. Then the paradox kicks in and the electron escapes after a finite time. This research showed that with different geometric graphene barriers, electrons of different energy and momentum could be trapped. This develops our knowledge of both Dirac electron mechanics and how graphene can be manipulated to produce specific quantum effects.

Weekly Roundup 25

It appears that China is beginning preparations for the launch of a second space station that is aiming to go up this year (though it is likely it could run into the next). The launch of this one would make China the first country to have two orbiting space stations both in operation. Currently the United States, Russia, Europe, Canada and Japan have their space stations united as the international one while China’s Tiangong-1, literally Palace of Heaven 1, stands alone.

This is an interesting story as originally Tiangong-1 was intended to last two years and was launched in 2011. It was sent into a sleep mode after this with the plan to control its descent to Earth when it was to due to crash. But just this year it was announced that the systems have failed and they have no control over it, so it’s just going to crash. It will probably be fine, it is just a massive lump of metal falling and it is likely to burn up on the way down. But it does highlight that things can go wrong. And there are some things that we really don’t want falling. For instance there are about 30 nuclear satellites in orbit and maybe double that many again powered by radioactive decay. In most of these you’ll find just a lump of plutonium of various sizes. If this was to fall, it might not end so well. But I’m sure some government wouldn’t let that happen, would they?

So until tomorrow, if we’re all still here, goodnight.

Developing Methods For Differentiating Stem Cells

Cells , a lot like particles, can also have a polarity. This polarity isn’t to do with charge or magnetism but more location and orientation. You can imagine the neurons in your nervous system might not operate so well if they were put in backwards and this is true of many asymmetrical cells throughout the  body. Since these cells will be continually produced throughout your life the body has to have a way of orientating the cells correctly. This is the job of Hyaluronic acid, that will always strive to ensure all the cells in your body are polarised correctly.

But, as with everything, when you age this process becomes less efficient. Whenever a cell is mispolarised and the Hyaluronic acid fails to correct it there is a very large chance of a  malfunction, either by disease of cancer. This makes studying this acid very important. There is also another reason this chemical should be studied. It is essential for the differentiation of stem cells in developing fetuses and so is also necessary to reduce medical issues when using artificially developed stem cells. By developing new technology called the Radio Electric Asymmetric Conveyer (REAC), which allows chemical networks to operate at their maximum efficiency, the complex mechanisms in these systems can be observed and later applied in a medical setting.

Scientific Future Of Brexit

Unfortunately I will not be doing a news report for today for there is a more pressing issue to be talked about. Normally I would save it for the weekly roundup but it is such a momentous moment that I think it is suitable to talk of it now. I am British/English/any other general grouping and we as a nation (or about 52% of 70% of us) have decided to leave the European Union. I have faith the economy will manage, the ridiculous laws will still be made and things will continue just as they always have. But of course the thing that matters most to me is science. Europe funds many science projects both in Britain and internationally, and with the United Kingdom leaving the EU a lot of this has been put on shaky ground.

Not one person can guarantee that any particular grant or opportunity will still remain in two years nor could they before. But I do have a gospel for any worried or doubting Britain’s future role in the scientific community. We are one of the leading countries for scientific progress worldwide and I do not believe we will relinquish this title with ease. Although many international projects are based on a European community we see that other non European countries are equally invited. CERN despite being The European Organisation for Nuclear Research still has countries like Norway contributing and garnering a reward. The UK will still leave its mark and will not be left wanting. There is however talk among the UK’s scientists of some who wish to secure their futures, futures that may lie outside the Queen’s realm. But I believe this to be a poor decision.

Therefore I urge all British scientists, although they know it well themselves, to do a kind service to this country and remain despite apprehension, lest they abandon England as England has chose to abandon the EU.