In the spirit of the Thankgiving Day feast, we offer a wide sampling of interesting and perhaps unexpected stories to fill your intellectual palate.

Mo-Sci breaks ground for new industrial glass company

The Rolla Regional Economic Commission’s Glass for Good Initiative, which focuses on the growing bioactive glass industry in Rolla, just gained a stronger foothold with the groundbreaking of Rolla’s newest company earlier this month. Construction of Mo-Sci Precision Materials, LLC, has begun and is the latest addition to the industrial ceramics industry found in the region. The new company, separate from Mo-Sci Corp., will add new production capabilities both in capacity and volume to those that Mo-Sci Corp. already has. The new facility will also provide services to ProPerma, a start-up company producing a glass based coating for rebar and a new carbon-fiber reinforcement product for concrete. The 22,000-square-foot building is located in Hy Point Industrial Park, adjacent to Mo-Sci Corp., which is anticipating its own expansion later next year. Mo-Sci Precision Materials, LLC, will hire an additional 10-15 people to staff the facility and anticipates completion in the second quarter of 2013.

Mount Doom is about to go boom (for real)

Peter Jackson relied on two volcanoes to serve as stand-ins for Mount Doom, Tolkein’s fiery mountain of fate, while filming The Lord of the Rings: New Zealand’s Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Ruapehu. Now, geologists are warning locals that the latter may be at risk of erupting. “The current situation can’t continue,” said Department of Conservation volcanic risk manager Harry Keys in an interview with Radio New Zealand. “Ruapehu is so active that the temperatures have been going up and down a lot.” As with most volcanic eruptions, one of the biggest threats posed by Ruapehu (the epic view from Whakapapa, one of the mountain’s two ski fields, is pictured above) could come in the form of a lahar – a rushing, avalanche-like wave of ash, mud, gravel and debris, triggered by volcanic activity.

Einstein’s brain was different from other people’s

A new study led by Florida State University evolutionary anthropologist Dean Falk has revealed that portions of the brain of Albert Einstein are unlike those of most people. The differences could relate to Einstein’s unique discoveries about the nature of space and time. Falk’s team used photographs of Einstein’s brain, taken shortly after his death, but not previously analyzed in detail. The photographs showed that Einstein’s brain had an unusually complex pattern of convolutions in the prefrontal cortex, which is important for abstract thinking. In other words, Einsteins’ brain actually looks different from yours or mine. Falk and her team published their work on November 16, 2012 in the journal Brain.

Advanced manufacturing venture highlights region’s economic prospects

Printed electronics and related advanced manufacturing technologies have the potential to be a $45 billion global industry, according to business analysts. Rochester Institute of Technology researchers will be able to play a key role in advancing this industry as a result of the development of a university-industry partnership with regional and national high-tech firms. This includes the acquisition of new state-of-the-art equipment that further enhances the university’s assets in advanced manufacturing. The university hosted a demonstration of this advanced manufacturing equipment for printed electronic devices and a discussion of the new university-industry partnership today in the Earl W. Brinkman Lab in RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering. Advanced manufacturing is being used to develop applications such as smart sensors, biomedical devices, touch screens and fuel cells in a wide variety of industries-medical, aeronautics, military and automotive, for example. The Brinkman Lab will be a resource to advanced manufacturing firms in the region and throughout New York state for developing some of these technologies.

Fabrication on patterned silicon carbide produces bandgap to advance graphene electronics

By fabricating graphene structures atop nanometer-scale “steps” etched into silicon carbide, Georgia Tech researchers have for the first time created a substantial electronic bandgap in the material suitable for room-temperature electronics. Use of nanoscale topography to control the properties of graphene could facilitate fabrication of transistors and other devices, potentially opening the door for developing all-carbon integrated circuits. Researchers have measured a bandgap of approximately 0.5 electron-volts in 1.4-nanometer bent sections of graphene nanoribbons. The development could provide new direction to the field of graphene electronics, which has struggled with the challenge of creating bandgap necessary for operation of electronic devices. Researchers don’t yet understand why graphene nanoribbons become semiconducting as they bend to enter tiny steps – about 20 nanometers deep – that are cut into the silicon carbide wafers. But the researchers believe that strain induced as the carbon lattice bends, along with the confinement of electrons, may be factors creating the bandgap. The nanoribbons are composed of two layers of graphene.

Laser studies of metallic artworks

Museum curators and archaeologists use analytical science to provide important information on artworks and objects. For example, scientific techniques provide information on artwork elemental composition, origin and authenticity, and corrosion products, while also finding use in the day-to-day conservation of many historical objects in museums and archaeological sites around the world. In this work two special cases are discussed. In the first part, physicochemical studies of an icon on a metal substrate were carried out using non-destructive, qualitative analysis of pigments and organic-based binding media, employing various microscopic and analytical techniques, such as optical fluorescence microscopy, XRF, and gas chromatography. In the second part , laser cleaning of late Roman coins has been performed using a Q-switched Nd:YAG laser (1064 nm, 6 ns) and a GaAlAs diode laser (780 nm, 90 ps). The corrosion products have been removed, increased concentrations of Ag were found, which is the main material of the silver plating found in late Roman coins. The research team is in Greece.

Entanglement makes quantum batteries almost perfect, say theorists

(Technology Review) Robert Alicki, at the University of Gdansk in Poland, and Mark Fannes, at the University of Leuven in Belgium, have turned their attention to quantum batteries and wonder how much work can be extracted from a quantum system where energy is stored temporarily. Such a system might be an atom or a molecule, for example. And the answer has an interesting twist. Physicists have long known that it is possible to extract work from some quantum states but not others. These others are known as passive states. So the quantity physicists are interested in is the difference between the energy of the quantum system and its passive states. All that energy is potentially extractable to do work elsewhere. Alicki and Fannes show that the extractable work is generally less than the thermodynamic limit. In other words, they show that this kind of system isn’t perfect. However, the twist is that Alicki and Fannes say things change if you have several identical quantum batteries that are entangled. Alicki and Fannes show that when quantum batteries are entangled they become much better. That’s essentially because all the energy from all the batteries can be extracted at once. “Using entanglement one can in general extract more work per battery,” they say. In fact, as the number of entangled batteries increases, the performance becomes arbitrarily close to the thermodynamic limit. In other words, a battery consisting of large numbers of entangled quantum batteries could be almost perfect.

Crystals for efficient refrigeration

The image shows a molecular dynamics simulation of lithium niobate under a time varying electric field, which changes the sign of the polarization. Red is niobium, green is oxygen, and lithium shows a range of colors for different time steps. The niobium and oxygen are shown only for one time step for clarity. The image shows a small part of the actual simulation. Credit: Carnegie Institution

The image shows a molecular dynamics simulation of lithium niobate under a time varying electric field, which changes the sign of the polarization. Red is niobium, green is oxygen, and lithium shows a range of colors for different time steps. The niobium and oxygen are shown only for one time step for clarity. The image shows a small part of the actual simulation. Credit: Carnegie Institution

Researchers at the Carnegie Institution have discovered a new efficient way to pump heat using crystals. The crystals can pump or extract heat, even on the nanoscale, so they could be used on computer chips to prevent overheating or even meltdown, which is currently a major limit to higher computer speeds. The research is published in the Physical Review Letters. Ronald Cohen, staff scientist at Carnegie’s Geophysical Laboratory and Maimon Rose, originally a high school intern now at the University of Chicago carried out the research. They performed simulations on ferroelectric lithium niobate crystals—materials that have electrical polarization in the absence of an electric field. The electrical polarization can be reversed by applying an external electrical field. The scientists found that the introduction of an electric field causes a giant temperature change in the material, dubbed the electrocaloric effect, far above a temperature to a so-called paraelectric state. “The electrocaloric effect pumps heat through changing temperature by way of an applied electric field,” explains Cohen. “The effect has been known since the 1930s, but has not been exploited because people were using materials with high transition temperatures. We found that the effect is larger if the ambient temperature is well above the transition temperature, so low transition temperature materials are preferred.”