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KLM Royal Dutch Airlines Boeing 777

Upcoming plane design accommodates passengers, cargo in its wings

Dutch airline company KLM announced that it is funding for the development of a V-shaped airplane in which passengers will be able to sit in the wings for increasing the fuel efficiency. The company added that the futuristic shape of the airplane will be highly aerodynamic and will be making the “Flying V” lighter. The designers of the airplane said that the carrier will need 20 percent lesser fuel than the most advanced aircraft present today, the Airbus A350.

According to researchers, the prototype version of the airplane will be ready by the upcoming fall. But the actual commencement of its services would not start till the year 2040. The idea for such a sustainable aircraft which is able to accommodate passengers along with cargo and fuel tanks in its wings was given by a student named Justus Benad from Technical University, Berlin. The concept was also developed further by Delft Technical University, Netherlands in cooperation with KLM.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines was founded in the year 1919 and it is the oldest airplane company in the planet which has been operating under the original name. As of 2015, it employed a total of 35,488 employees and had a fleet of 119.

Similar to the highly advanced Airbus A350, the Flying V can carry 314 passengers and a total of 160 square metres of cargo which translates to 1722.23 square feet. On top of all these developments, it will have the same wingspan so that it can be used with the same gates and runways without any extra changes made.

The company declared that the V-shaped airplane will be able to make long distance travels with increased sustainability. The project leader at TU Delft, Roelof Vos declared that the size of Flying-V is smaller compared to Airbus A350 along with lesser inflow surface area in the available volume. The result of these changes is lesser resistance which also translates to lesser fuel requirements for the same length of travel.

The airplane has deployed the state-of-art turbofan engines which are highly efficient, as per the company sources. Although the present model is run on kerosene it can be adapted in the future so that it can use electric turbofans.

Vos said that as a result of these incremental changes, Flying V can help the Dutch aviation sector in meeting the sustainability goals. The sector wants to reduce the aviation carbon dioxide emissions by a margin of 35 percent by 2030, with more passengers flying. The first model will be tested at low speeds to check its stability.

Quantum Refrigerator

Scientists create superconducting quantum refrigerator

Imagine if we can think of a refrigerator so cold that it could turn atoms into their quantum states giving those properties that defy classical physics rules. In a paper published in Physical Review Applied, Andrew Jordan, physics professor at University of Rochester, and graduate student Sreenath Manikandan, along with other scientists put forward an idea that would cool atoms to nearly absolute zero temperatures and would be based on the quantum property of superconductivity which can be used to enhance the performance of quantum sensors for ultrafast computing.

The ability of a metal to conduct electricity is called conductivity. A metal with high conductivity allows electric current to flow through and offers negligible resistance to the flow of electrons. A superconductor is a scenario where the material would conduct electricity without encountering resistance and current would circulate indefinitely without any resistance. When you cool down electrons to extreme temperatures, electrons flow like a fluid without resistance. This is possible due to Cooper Pair formation at low temperatures. When you reach such low temperature, the resistance abruptly drops to zero and there is a phase transition that occurs.

Researchers could then change material into a superconducting state which is similar to material in solid, liquid or gaseous state. The operating principles of these refrigerators are quite similar to that of traditional refrigerators as both use a phase transition to get the cooling power required.

A conventional refrigerator is usually hot on the backside and operates by removing inside heat by moving a fluid called refrigerant between hot and cold reservoirs by changing the state from liquid to gas. The refrigerant in liquid form passes through expansion valve due to which there is a drop in pressure and temperature due to gaseous form. It passes through the coils absorbing heat from the system. It is again compressed into liquid by the compressor and radiating absorbed heat and the cycle is repeated however in a superconducting refrigerator instead of using a refrigerant, the electrons in the metal changes from the paired superconducting state to an unpaired normal state.

In a superconducting quantum fridge, researchers placed a layered stack of metals in a cold dilution refrigerator. The bottom layer is a sheet of superconducting niobium, the middle layer is the superconductor tantalum and the top layer is copper.

Researchers applied a current of electricity to niobium which generates a magnetic field that penetrates the layer of tantalum causing unpairing of superconducting material and causing cool down. The cold tantalum layer absorbs heat from the warmer copper layer. The magnetic field is slowly turned off causing tantalum to pair up again which causes tantalum to become hotter than niobium. The cycle repeats again which maintains a low temperature in the topmost copper layer.


Runit Dome

Fears of radioactive contamination of Cactus Dome increase in Runit Island

Nuclear tests which were carried out during war times and in the late 1900s have left a huge geographical impact on the area which is used for testing these explosives. The US tested their ‘cactus’ bomb in May 1958 which was relatively small but has left a lasting impact on the area of the Marshall Islands which has a dome-shaped radioactive dump.

This dome is located in Runit Island which is one of 40 islands of the Enewetak Atoll of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean. The dome was described as a coffin by the United Nations chief Antonio Guterres. The bomb crater was dumped with radioactive waste and later filled with concrete and it told the residents of the remote islands that they can safely return home. However, this dome has started to develop cracks and there are fears that it will soon start leaking radioactive material through the porous coral rock of the islands. The concern has intensified as the issues of climate change are gaining importance. Rising sea levels will further threaten the dome structure.

Jack Ading who represents the Marshall Island Parliament has called this dome a “Monstrosity” as it is filled with radioactive contaminants which include Plutonium-239 which is the most toxic substance known to man. The coffin is leaking poison in its surrounding areas and people of Marshall Islands are always reassured about its strength which is making matters worse at ground level.

The dome is a fine example of how US has left behind a mess by carrying out 67 nuclear tests at the Marshall Islands between 1947 to 1958. A lot of native population were forcibly evacuated from their native heartlands and resettled and even today those who live on those islands are exposed to radioactive fallout and suffer health problems. The US military later withdrew and signed a full and final settlement to the government of Marshall Islands but there have long been complaints about inadequate compensation by the US Government and United Nations has described this act as a “Legacy of Distrust” towards the states.

The foreign minister of Marshall Islands John Silk has appreciated people for bringing this issue to global attention. Issues like these require support of international community to address health and social issues.  A 2013 inspection commissioned by the US suggests that the radioactive fallout was already so high that a failure of the dome would not necessarily increase the exposure to radiation. This issue has been a constant source of anxiety for the people of Enewetak in the Marshall Islands and that people fear that the dome eventually could become their coffin.


Magnificent CME Solar eruption of plasma

Researchers discover mystery of exotic material in Sun’s atmosphere

A group of researchers from Ireland and France have declared an important finding on the behaviour of matter in the highly extreme conditions of the atmosphere of Sun. They used radio telescopes and UV cameras on a spacecraft of NASA for knowing about the exotic “fourth state of matter” about which very less is known. This state of matter called plasma may be significant in the development of safe, green and environment-friendly nuclear generator. The results of the study have been published in the Nature Communications journal.

Although the matter we encounter in our daily lives can be differentiated to either solid, liquid or gas, the Universe is majorly made of plasma. It is an extremely unstable fluid which is also highly electrical in nature. Even the Sun is composed of plasma. However, the irony lies in the fact that although the plasma is the most common state of matter in the Universe, human beings have a vague idea of it. Reason being its scarcity on Earth, which makes it difficult to understand.

Laboratories on Earth try to simulate the conditions of space however the Sun is the natural laboratory in which the behaviour of plasma can be understood, which is not possible for the ones attempted on Earth.

Dr Eoin Carley, a Postdoc researcher at the Trinity College Dublin who led the joint collaboration said that the sun’s atmosphere has very extreme conditions with the temperatures of plasma soaring to excess of one million degrees Celsius and particles travelling very close to the speed of light. These particles shine very brightly at the radio wavelengths, hence the behaviour of the plasma can be monitored with the aid of large radio telescopes.

Scientists worked with the researchers at the Paris Observatory and the observations of the Sun were performed by a radio telescope situated in Nançay, central France. These observations were combined with the UV cameras mounted on the Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft. It was then seen that plasma on the Sun can eject pulses resembling those from the light house. Scientists were aware of this for many years but could observe it directly for the first time with the help of these highly advanced equipments.

The problem with nuclear fusion plasmas is that they are highly unstable. When the plasma starts producing energy, the reaction is switched off by natural processes. This indicates that it is difficult to produce energy while keeping the plasma stable. By learning about the instability of plasma on the Sun, scientists can learn how to control plasma.

solar panels array

Scientists develop new material for improving efficiency of solar panels

Clean energy acts as an intersection which acts as a suitable substitution for fossil fuels. It is noticed that solar power plants have to boost their planning in a better way to compete with the electrical output of the non-renewable energy sources. The design highly depends upon the renovation and growth of newly made products such that they ingest and interchange the heat at the higher temperatures.

 The solar panels which are found on the hybrid cars or the residential rooftops are found lesser compared to the ones found in the solar power plants. Since the solar panels found in the power plants are huge and countless in number so the heat they absorb is more so they absorb more thermal energy from the sun as much as they can and then they create a passage so that the heat can pass through and that heat is converted into fluid-filled converter is known as heat exchanger.

A liquid version of carbon dioxide which is known as supercritical CO2 acts as an agency in converting the energy and the hotter the fluid gets the more the electricity can be produced. Researchers from the University of Toledo have discovered a newer technology based on the supercritical CO2 as a channel which helps in converting into energy and here this fluid minimizes the manufacturing costs and also minimizes the electricity level and commits to working in a good manner with accuracy and it can benefit to the future power plants too. This report was published in Nature journal

An assistant professor in the mechanical engineering department at Texas A&M University Dorrin Jarrahbashi said that the metal material which is used to make the solar panel heat exchangers using supercritical CO2 energy cycles are only firm up to 550 degrees Celsius and he also added that if the heat rises then break down occurs which leads to the replacement of the components and becomes less effective.

To solve this problem the researchers developed a new complex material which had a combination of ceramic and tungsten which is refractory metal which can take the heat of over 750 degrees Celsius. The tendency to tolerate heat can lead to more effectiveness in generating electricity in united solar and supercritical CO2 power plants by 20%. Compared to the fossil fuels the output and the longevity of the mixture and the lower cost in production will help in cutting down the price of construction and maintenance of powerplants.

It is said that with the help of the unique chemical, mechanical and thermal properties there is numerous approach for the compound. It started from improving its nuclear power plants to building rocket nozzles the results of this revolution has made a vast impact in the future of research and industry.

Hydrogen Fuel Station Sign

Scientists create new material for enabling hydrogen power revolution

Researchers have discovered a material which can be useful for tapping the potential of hydrogen-driven vehicles. It is published in the journal Energy and Environmental Science. Since fossil fuels are being depleted at a high rate, scientists all over the world are searching for optimum replacements to the vehicles running on various fossil fuels. Alternatives such as battery-powered automobiles, solar vehicles are also explored.

I believe fuel cells could end the 100-year reign of the internal combustion engine.--William Clay Ford Click To Tweet

Apart from these options, another useful option is hydrogen power. But what has stopped its full utilization is the price and complexity of the hydrogen-powered fuel systems. A group of scientists led by David Antonelli, professor at Lancaster University has found a solution to this. They discovered a material which is obtained from manganese hydride. This new material is used for making molecular sieves in the tanks. These tanks have hydrogen stored inside them and they function with the help of fuel cells in the hydrogen system.

This material is named as KMH-1 (Kubas Manganese Hydride-1). It will help in making the design of the tanks much smaller, cost-effective than the current technologies in hydrogen fuel systems. The most promising fact is that it would outperform the vehicles which are battery powered in a significant way.

Antonelli who leads the Physical Chemistry Department at Lancaster University and has been involved in this field of research for 15 years commented that the price of manufacturing of this entity is less and the energy density is much greater than the regular batteries which are powered by lithium ions. It could mean that the systems using hydrogen fuel may cost approximately five times less than the lithium-ion system while providing increased lengths of the journey.

This has been possible due to a chemical process named Kubas binding. In this process, the hydrogen storage is done by increasing the distance between two atoms in a hydrogen molecule and it occurs at room temperature. Thus the necessity for splitting and binding the atomic bonds is eliminated and hence it reduces high energy requirements and the complex machinery.

This material also removes the necessity for cooling, as it absorbs any extra energy. This is a major advantage as the presence of cooling equipment in a vehicle makes it expensive and also reduces efficiency.

Hydrogen is absorbed by this material at pressures equal to 120 atmospheres which is much lesser than a scuba tank. It is then released into fuel cells when this pressure is released. Compared to current technologies, this material can store a lot more hydrogen in the same volume.

Apart from vehicles, scientists believe that this can be used in many other fields.

Mohave Generating Station

Scientists demonstrate generation of electricity from coldness of universe

Conventional resources of energy have been providing and powering our needs since electricity was made in the late 1800s. The conventional resources of energy are polluting as well as a temporary solution for providing electricity. They are going to get over in the next couple of years after which we humans have to look out and seek other alternative resources, in the recent decade we have seen a good rise in the dependency on renewable sources of energy as we found out ways to develop electricity from water, wind, thermal and pressure differences.

Solar panels are currently the sector in boom however there are disadvantages to it. The drawbacks are that it cannot produce electricity in the absence of sunlight. Many regions of the Earth have a frigid zone where the chilling outflow can be harvested using thermal differences using the same kind of physics we use for solar panels. Scientists have demonstrated a way to generate a measurable amount of electricity, directly from the coldness of the universe. The semiconductor device faces the infrared rays of the sun and uses temperature difference of the Earth and the space to produce electricity.

In optoelectronic physics, there is a vast symmetry between incoming and outgoing radiations. In comparison to the leveraging energy (incoming), the negative illumination effect allows electricity to be harvested as the heat is transferred. The technology today is unable to capture the negative temperature difference very efficiently. The temperature in space is absolute zero and thus devices can be used to generate electricity.

The group found that negative illumination diode has the ability to generate 64 nanowatts of electricity per square meter,  this is very less than the theoretical standard. However Dr.Mashashi Ono, the author on this paper published in Applied Physics Letters, said that through increasing the optoelectronic efficiency and the material used, the power generated per square meter can be increased hugely. But when calculations are made and when atmospheric factors are taken into consideration we see that it has the ability to generate a power of 4 watts per square feet theoretically, which is enough to run power machinery during night time.

A typical solar panel can, however, produce close to 100-200 watts per square feet. Shanhui Fan, an author of a similar paper said that same principle could be used to recover waste heat from machines. From now onwards, however, he and his group are focusing on increasing the efficiency of the panels which if succeeds will be a breakthrough for mankind in its thirst to develop non-conventional resources of energy. Fan also comments that the vastness of the universe is a thermodynamic resource.

colliding neutron stars

Neutron star collision identified as a major source for many elements on Earth

Space is a vast and boundary-less area full of mystery and unknown. The stars, planets and heavenly bodies exert gravitational forces on each other and which often leads to a collision between two or more planetary objects. The formation and existence of our solar system are always under question. There are many small collisions happening every minute across the universe but are unheard and unnoticed by us.

However, astrophysicists Szabolcs Marka at the University of Columbia and Imre Bartos from the University of Florida have identified a massive and violent collision of 2 neutron stars which happened 4.6 billion years ago and it may be a source of the most coveted matter which we find on Earth. The report has been published in the Nature journal.

This historic event is believed to be the source behind 0.3% of the Earth’s heaviest metals including gold, platinum etc. It also means that whatever we are today or the precious metals that we buy are somewhere or the other linked to the cosmic event which dates back 4.6 billion years. Meteors which have fallen to Earth have metals with radioactive nature. The level of radioactivity at the present instant can determine the age of the meteor; it can be calculated by knowing the decay of the radioactive element.

Scientists predict that the collision could have happened about 100 million years ago before the Earth was formed and that which led to the formation of a gas ball which later formed the milky way galaxy and our planets. Scientists predict that if any kind of similar event would have happened today the vast amount of radioactivity would completely outshine the entire night sky.

This event might just be a uniquely consequential event in our history and the study of the universe. It throws light upon the formation, processes involved, the origin and the composition of the solar system. This collision could be a part of a big cosmic puzzle which lays ahead of us and we need to employ traditional concepts of biology, geology, physics and chemistry to understand this piece of the puzzle and complete the puzzle.

Humans were always curious about where did they come from and where are they heading to. Our past, as well as our future, is a matter of curiosity and concern as we try to justify our place in the universe. More events and collisions like these need to be studied and mapped in order to gauge its effects on our humanity and our future. Space exploration and its understanding is a task which requires lots of hard work and years of patience and experience.