Tuesday, 31 January 2017

CSIRO makes Plasteel from soybeans

Study co-author Dr Dong Han Seo with the new graphene film Credit: CSIRO

The CSIRO has developed a new form of graphene 200 times stronger than steel and more conductive than copper.

And it has made it from soybean oil.

This development may lead to large scale commercial development of a super strong building material (such as the idea of Plasteel from Dune, which was later borrowed by Star Wars). Graphene is made of a layer of tightly-packed carbon and as well as being super strong, it is extremely light.

This method using cheap, easily available ingredients and a simple lab-based method means the material is likely to become more freely available, opening its use up for many new applications.

Space travel seems a certain starter, as weight is a crucial consideration in getting space vehicles into orbit.

It is also likely to be used in electronics, energy storage devices, supercapacitors, solar cells and medicine.

The team of Australian scientists, led by study co-author Dr Zhao Jun Han of the CSIRO, have published the results of the research in the journal Nature Communications.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Earth's cousin found circling red dwarf

Artist’s impression of GJ 1132b as it circles a red dwarf star. Image credit: Dana Berry.
The Astrophysical Journal has published an article for review that suggests a planet with some Earth like qualities has been found a mere 39 light years away.

New observations of red dwarf Wolf~1061, known to host three super-Earths, have shown it has radius, temperature and luminosity, in the range that may support planets similar to Earth. One such planet under observation is GJ-1132-b.

“We have shown that an Earth-mass planet is capable of sustaining a thick atmosphere,” says John Southworth, lecturer in astrophysics at Keele University in England and lead author on the discovery paper, in a Scientific American article.

“This is one step towards investigating whether a planet could host life.”

The researchers believe GJ-1132-b could include methane and water, and say bigger telescopes will be able to capture higher resolution images of the light passing through the planet’s atmosphere, enabling it to detect more of its components.

Tricky hatch blamed for three Apollo 1 astronaut deaths

The astronauts practise exiting the capsule. Unfortunately, during the fire, the hatch was too tricky to open in time. Credit: NASA
A fatal design flaw in Apollo 1 led to the deaths 50 years ago of three pioneering astronauts: veteran Gus Grissom, the first American spacewalker Ed White, and rookie Roger Chaffee.

They never made it off the launch pad when fire started in the capsule during a pre-launch test.

The crew couldn't open the capsule's three-part hatch and emergency rescue teams were too late to save them from smoke inhalation.

The problem hatch is now on display for visitors to at Kennedy Space Centre as part of a memorial and to serve as a reminder of the risks of spaceflight.

Former Gemini and Apollo astronaut Tom Stafford spoke at the memorial ceremony, saying that if the accident had occurred in space, they would never have known exactly what happened.

The deaths of these "three great heroes ... helped save at least one other in flight, maybe two," he added.

Investigators discovered several problems with the Apollo capsule design that led to the fire, including an electrical wiring issue, a pure-oxygen environment and flammable materials throughout the crew cabin.

The subsequent investigation led to major design and engineering changes, making the later Apollo trips safer, eventually resulting in the moon landing in 1969.

NASA has uploaded a video and online memorial to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the event.

The new hatch devised after the accident, which could be opened from the inside with a couple of simple actions. Credit: NASA