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DARPA-Funded Research Leads to Quantum Computing Breakthrough

Harvard-led team develops novel logical qubits to enable scalable quantum computersA team of researchers working on DARPA's Optimization with Noisy Intermediate-Scale Quantum devices (ONISQ) program has created the first-ever quantum circuit with logical quantum bits (qubits), a key discovery that could accelerate fault-tolerant quantum computing and revolutionize concepts for designing quantum computer processors.

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Artificial Intelligence and NASA's First Robotic Lunar Rover

Image: During VIPER mission operations, the team plans to use AI interactively to help map out various routes for the operations team members to choose from. This AI system is called SHERPA - the System Health Enabled Real-time Planning Advisor. Credit: NASAWhen NASA's VIPER (short for Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover) lands on the surface of the Moon on a mission to better understand the environment where NASA plans to send astronauts as part of the increasingly complex Artemis missions, its journey will be guided by the ingenuity of its human team - and several key tools that use artificial intelligence. From helping the science team choose a landing site at the lunar mountain Mons Mouton, to planning out its path, the VIPER team has developed and used artificial intelligence algorithms to help assess risk and optimize decision making.

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NASA’s Webb Identifies Methane In an Exoplanet’s Atmosphere

Webb discovers methane,NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope observed the exoplanet WASP-80 b as it passed in front of and behind its host star, revealing spectra indicative of an atmosphere containing methane gas and water vapor. While water vapor has been detected in over a dozen planets to date, until recently methane – a molecule found in abundance in the atmospheres of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune within our solar system – has remained elusive in the atmospheres of transiting exoplanets when studied with space-based spectroscopy. Taylor Bell from the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute (BAERI), working at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, and Luis Welbanks from Arizona State University tell us more about the significance of discovering methane in exoplanet atmospheres and discuss how Webb observations facilitated the identification of this long-sought-after molecule. These findings were recently published in the scientific journal Nature.

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Unleashing Hydrogen—a Paradigm Shift in Energy Storage and a Sustainable Future

solid oxide nuclear applicationsAs the wheels of innovation propel society forward, some elements of our technological landscape remain entrenched in the past, seemingly impervious to the tides of change. The heating oil tank, a relic from a different era, stands as a testament to this phenomenon. In a time when the urgency of sustainable energy solutions has never been greater, the persistence of this inefficient and high carbon intensity component raises concerns and challenges us to rethink the status quo. 

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Why Are Quantum Technologies So Cool?

When a photon interacts with something in its environment, like an atom, it can lose its phase coherence. Credit: Ioana Craiciu, Jet Propulsion LabEfforts to build a useful quantum computer are underway, with startup companies competing alongside the big leaders in information technology. Other quantum technologies are already part of our everyday lives, from MRI scanners in hospitals to atomic clocks, which are used to keep precise track of time on GPS satellites and inform Coordinated Universal Time. The word “quantum” itself has become almost synonymous with cutting-edge technological advancement. 

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Pioneering High-Performance Valve Solutions

 Cryogenic top entry ball valve. Credit: AMPOAmpo Poyam Valves (AMPO), with a history spanning nearly six decades, has established itself as a significant player in the realm of highly engineered valves and fluid handling solutions tailored for demanding applications and services. Drawing from its extensive experience, the company has earned a reputation for handling international projects with precise technical specifications, providing dependable solutions with minimal maintenance costs. Core principles at AMPO encompass effective supply chain management, including an integrated foundry and robust field support through its service division. 

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Ovarian Tissue Cryopreservation Offers Hope in Canada

Image: Dr. Atefeh Najafi, Ph.D., gives a tour of the Benson Cryobiology Lab to a group of high school students. Credit: Royal University Hospital FoundationA monumental program centered on ovarian tissue cryopreservation is offering hope to women and girls across Canada. Dr. James Benson, a world-renowned cryobiology expert, leads this transformative initiative. This medical procedure safeguards healthy ovarian tissue before cancer treatments can harm it, ultimately enabling female patients to have biological children in the future. Dr. Benson's innovative approach involves extracting and preserving unaffected ovarian tissue, preventing its damage from the harsh effects of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Remarkably, Dr. Benson is one of the few pioneering research in reproductive cryobiology in Canada. He holds the position of associate professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Saskatchewan’s (USask) College of Arts and Science, playing a pivotal role in the concerted effort to establish an outstanding cryobiology research program at USask. 

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Cryogenics Impacts Life Sciences

AVCO 2500"It’s too hot, it’s too cold.” We have all heard those famous words from family, friends, coworkers or feedback from instrumentation. Whether it is to control temperature in a confined environment, rotating equipment, or bioprocessing, cryogens are utilized throughout industries. 

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Researchers Simplify Switching for Quantum Electronics

Exploiting a quantum effect electrically brings it closer to practical use. Credit: istockA quantum cousin of the Hall effect could open the door to energy-efficient electronics, better sensors, and more-powerful quantum computers. Researchers have now broken a key barrier to its practical application by controlling the phenomenon electrically, rather than magnetically, for the first time.

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Nanoparticles Show Quick and Easy Way to Target Cancer

Researchers have been exploring the use of injectable nanoparticles that can quickly home in on a microscopic tumor. It’s a novel technique that could pave the way for the early detection of small tumors that may not show up on traditional imaging technologies. In a study published in the October issue of the IEEE Internet of Things Journal, one team has found a way to guide cancer-detecting nanoparticles to a tumor faster, while using fewer resources.Researchers have been exploring the use of injectable nanoparticles that can quickly home in on a microscopic tumor. It’s a novel technique that could pave the way for the early detection of small tumors that may not show up on traditional imaging technologies. In a study published in the October issue of the IEEE Internet of Things Journal, one team has found a way to guide cancer-detecting nanoparticles to a tumor faster, while using fewer resources.

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SpaceWrap™ is Now AstraWrap™

Aerospace Fabrication & Materials, LLC (AFM) is pleased to announce a rebrand for its SpaceWrap™ product line, which will now be known as AstraWrap™. The Astra™ brand name promotes a series of space products dedicated to the protection of spacecraft in orbit around the Earth and beyond. This line of subassembly products strengthens AFM’s material brand recognition as the company embarks on projects that create specialized passive thermal control solutions using cutting-edge thin films and engineered fabrics.Aerospace Fabrication & Materials, LLC (AFM) is pleased to announce a rebrand for its SpaceWrap™ product line, which will now be known as AstraWrap™. The Astra™ brand name promotes a series of space products dedicated to the protection of spacecraft in orbit around the Earth and beyond. This line of subassembly products strengthens AFM’s material brand recognition as the company embarks on projects that create specialized passive thermal control solutions using cutting-edge thin films and engineered fabrics.

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New Thermometer Measures Cryogenic Temperatures at Submicron Scales

A tunable excitation laser (red beam) interrogates molecular thermometers (red disks) on a patterned silicon membrane while another laser (yellow beam) heats the membrane. The thermometers are aromatic hydrocarbon nanocrystals that emit single photons (red dots) at the transition frequency ωL (the zero-phonon line, ZPL) between the hydrocarbons’ ground and excited states, ∣S0〉 and ∣S1〉. As the temperature increases, the energy levels of the ground and excited states—and therefore the fluorescence intensity IS as a function of the excitation frequency ωL—broaden in a reproducible way. Credit: Adapted from V. Esteso et al., PRX Quantum 4, 040314 (2023)Taking the temperature of a sample can be tricky—especially in the regimes of the very small and the very cold. The smaller the sample, the greater the influence the thermometer itself may exert on the measurement. And in the ultracold regime, even tiny amounts of heat can significantly alter the temperature reading.

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Commonwealth: On the Path to Commercial Fusion

Scientists have been studying fusion for decades with the understanding that if we could replicate the process here on Earth, we could create a virtually limitless clean power resource for the world. Fusion is the same process that happens in the stars, when two light atomic nuclei combine to form a heavier nucleus. At extremely high temperatures and pressures, hydrogen nuclei fuse together to form helium, creating enormous amounts of energy in the process. The challenge on Earth is achieving an energy output that exceeds the energy input, often referred to as Q>1. Achieving self-sustaining fusion energy requires that three conditions are achieved, referred to as the “fusion triple product,” which is the product of (1) plasma density (the number of fuel ions in a given volume), (2) confinement time (how long the hot fuel ions are kept together), and (3) plasma temperature (which provides the energy required for the fuel ions to overcome their mutual electrostatic repulsion and come close enough to fuse). Scientists have been studying fusion for decades with the understanding that if we could replicate the process here on Earth, we could create a virtually limitless clean power resource for the world. Fusion is the same process that happens in the stars, when two light atomic nuclei combine to form a heavier nucleus. At extremely high temperatures and pressures, hydrogen nuclei fuse together to form helium, creating enormous amounts of energy in the process. The challenge on Earth is achieving an energy output that exceeds the energy input, often referred to as Q>1. Achieving self-sustaining fusion energy requires that three conditions are achieved, referred to as the “fusion triple product,” which is the product of (1) plasma density (the number of fuel ions in a given volume), (2) confinement time (how long the hot fuel ions are kept together), and (3) plasma temperature (which provides the energy required for the fuel ions to overcome their mutual electrostatic repulsion and come close enough to fuse). 

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ATLAS Measures Strength of the Strong Force with Record Precision

The ATLAS experiment at CERN (Image: CERN)Binding together quarks into protons, neutrons and atomic nuclei is a force so strong, it’s in the name. The strong force, which is carried by gluon particles, is the strongest of all fundamental forces of nature – the others being electromagnetism, the weak force and gravity. Yet, it’s the least precisely measured of these four forces. In a paper just submitted to Nature Physics, the ATLAS collaboration describes how it has used the Z boson, the electrically neutral carrier of the weak force, to determine the strength of the strong force with an unprecedented uncertainty of below 1%.

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US Wildlife Agency Explores Cryogenics as a Hedge Against Extinction

A pair of black-footed ferret kits survey the shortgrass prairie from their outdoor enclosures at the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center in ColoradoTom Koerner/ZumaThe world’s wildlife are facing a barrage of threats caused by climate change, from the loss of suitable habitat to dwindling food supplies. As a result, endangered species across the US are edging closer to extinction at alarming rates—and if they disappear, critical genetic information could vanish with them. In a new initiative announced on October 3, the US Fish & Wildlife Service is working with the nonprofit Revive & Restore and other partners to create a “genetic library” of the country’s endangered species—before it’s too late. 

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WEST TOKAMAK Inside and Out

Top Image: With a plasma volume of 15 cubic meters, WEST is a medium-size tokamak comparable to Korea's KSTAR (~17 m³), Germany's Asdex Upgrade (~13 m³) or China's EAST (~17 m³). Only the European JET (80 m³) and the Europe-Japan JT60-SA (140 m³, in commissioning) offer more plasma volume.Someone waking up inside of WEST, the French tokamak located barely one kilometer away from ITER, would think they had been transported into an alien spaceship—and more specifically, into the stranded star-faring vessel in the movie Alien (1979), with its strange ribcage-like walls and dull metal vertebrae. Last week, a (perfectly awake) Newsline reporter was privileged to spend a few hours inside the machine's plasma chamber, where some of the longest plasma shots in fusion history were produced.

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Firefly Aerospace Awarded Multi-Launch Agreement with L3Harris

Image: Firefly’s Alpha vehicle will provide three dedicated launches in support of L3Harris’ Space Business. Credit: FireflyFirefly Aerospace, Inc., an end-to-end space transportation company, today announced it signed a multi-launch agreement with L3Harris Technologies for three dedicated launches on Firefly’s Alpha vehicle in 2026. With the capability to launch more than 1,000 kg to low Earth orbit, Firefly’s Alpha vehicle provides affordable, responsive, and reliable launch services for small satellites and spacecraft. Firefly is ramping up Alpha production at its rocket manufacturing and test site in Briggs, Texas, to support multiple government and commercial launches, while also doubling the size of its facilities to support the ongoing development of its medium launch vehicle that will first launch in 2025. The agreement further positions Firefly as the leader in small-lift launch services as the company ramps up production of its Alpha vehicle to support the growing needs of both government and commercial customers.

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Aston University Research Pioneers Making Renewable Hydrogen and Propane Fuel Gases from Glycerol

Aston University research pioneers making renewable hydrogen and propane fuel gases from glycerolAston University research has shown the way forward for making renewable hydrogen and propane fuel gases from glycerol. An organic compound, glycerol is produced mainly from fats and oils and is often used in health and beauty products. With crude glycerol from biodiesel production plants cheap and abundant the researchers have explored its potential for making hydrogen gas and biopropane - pioneering work that could benefit the environment and reduce reliance on fuel imports.

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Powering the Quantum Revolution: Quantum Engines on the Horizon

Quantum mechanics is a branch of physics that explores the properties and interactions of iparticles at very small scale, such as atoms and molecules. This has led to the development of new technologies that are more powerful and efficient compared to their conventional counterparts, causing breakthroughs in areas such as computing, communication, and energy.Quantum mechanics is a branch of physics that explores the properties and interactions of iparticles at very small scale, such as atoms and molecules. This has led to the development of new technologies that are more powerful and efficient compared to their conventional counterparts, causing breakthroughs in areas such as computing, communication, and energy.

At the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST), researchers at the Quantum Systems Unit have collaborated with scientists from the University of Kaiserslautern-Landau and the University of Stuttgart to design and build an engine that is based on the special rules that particles obey at very small scales.

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Cryogenic Etch Re-Emerges

Cryogenic etch, sometimes called cryo etch, is one of two ways to enable deep silicon or high-aspect ratio (HAR) etches in devices, where the features are long, narrow and deep. The other and most popular method is the two-step Bosch process, where you etch out a part of the structure and then passivate it at ambient temperatures. Then you repeat the process until the etch is completed.

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