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Researchers develop compact antenna for communication in difficult locations

Department of Energy at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has developed a pocket-sized antenna of a new kind which is capable of enabling mobile communication in circumstances where normal radios are unable to function such as underground locations, underwater bodies or long distances through the air.

This device emits radiation of very low frequency (VLF) which has a wavelength ranging from tens to thousands of miles. These radiations travel very large distances far greater than the horizon and it can also penetrate through the environments which would have normally blocked the radio waves of shorter wavelengths. The most powerful VLF technology which is currently in use needs huge emitters while this mini-sized antenna is just about four inches tall. Because of its small size and compactness, it can be used for several tasks that have the requirements of very high mobility. Two very appropriate examples are in rescue and defense operations.

Mark Kemp from SLAC who is also the principal investigator of this project reported that the antenna is many times more efficient and is also capable of transmitting data faster than other devices of comparable size. The performance of this device helps in broadening the reach of present technological possibilities and it also increases the feasibility of the VLF applications which can send text messages in difficult situations.

These results were published by the team in Nature Communications.

In modern communications, information is transmitted through the air by radio waves for various purposes such as radio broadcasts, navigation systems and several other applications. But there are many limitations to the radio waves with shorter wavelengths. The transmitted signal gets very weak over large distances, they are unable to propagate through water and are also blocked in the presence of several layers of rock.

On the other hand, the longer wavelength signals can travel huge distances ranging through hundreds of feet. It can also propagate through water bodies and several miles beyond the horizon. But there are some challenges to this technology. One of them being the size of the antenna. For maximum efficient propagation, the antenna’s size must be comparable to the wavelength which it emits. To satisfy this condition, antennas have to stretch for large distances which is not feasible. On the other hand, if the VLF transmitters are small in size, it means that they weigh hundreds of pounds and are thus much less efficient.

The design of the new antenna has taken place with all these factors under consideration. The main working is based on piezoelectric effect, which is a process that converts mechanical stress to electric charge. A rod-shaped crystal of material such as lithium niobate is used as the antenna and when voltage is applied to it, it vibrated, and the mechanical stress triggered electric current wherein the electromagnetic energy is transmitted as the radiation.

Depiction of black hole in space by artist

Astronomers to release pictures of a black hole for the first time

Black holes have always been a trending and mysterious topic of discussion since we were never able to collect their data and images. Being the source of high gravity, not letting even the light to escape, this breaking news will get you on your feet!

European Southern Observatory is about to make the most trailblazing announcement in a press conference on April 10, 2019, at 15:00 CEST (13:00 UTC, 9:00 EST) as the first ever picture of a black hole’s event horizon would be made public.

An international team of astronomers who had been monitoring the event horizon telescope, trying to obtain a direct photograph of our galaxy’s massive black hole, Sagittarius A*. We have never been able to see a black hole since they are an immense source of gravity and absorb all electromagnetic radiation, thereby, being completely undetectable to our telescope.

However, a project called the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) consisting of a series of telescopes (15 and 20 telescopic dishes) collectively of the size of the Earth has been active in the heart of our milky way trying to get a picture of the supermassive black hole for us! What makes this news ground-breaking is that we are going to see the ‘Supermassive Blackhole’ which gives birth to many other black holes in the galaxy.

Wondering how is this possible? Well, all the telescopes are pointed in the direction of the black hole and they measure the radio waves, storing them on banks of hard disk drives. Each telescope is observed individually within the region spanning the South Pole, Europe, South America, Africa, North America and Australia and the collected radio wave data is stored in the supercomputer which was later processed, analysed and sorted by the researchers.

Sera Markoff, a professor at the University of Amsterdam who co-leads the EHT’s Multiwavelength Working Group told MailOnline that:
‘If the project succeeds in making an image of a black hole, it would be a really big deal for the fields of physics and astrophysics. Scientists have been working towards this goal for over 20 years.’ However, she also told that they are not yet confirmed if the observations could produce the direct picture of a black hole’s silhouette making the announcement ground-breaking for all of us!
You can watch this historic live stream on YouTube.

So, get ready to witness the most historical event in space research until now, which will change the way we think and see black holes!