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Original Message Scientists Create Stretchable Silicon Integrated Circuits

Scientists have developed a new form of stretchable silicon integrated circuit that can wrap around complex shapes such as spheres, body parts and aircraft wings, and can operate during stretching, compressing, folding and other types of extreme mechanical deformations, without a reduction in electrical performance.

"The notion that silicon cannot be used in such applications because it is intrinsically brittle and rigid has been tossed out the window," said John Rogers, a Founder Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois.

"Through carefully optimized mechanical layouts and structural configurations, we can use silicon in integrated circuits that are fully foldable and stretchable," said Rogers, who is a corresponding author of a paper accepted for publication in the journal Science, and posted on its Science Express Web site.

The new designs and fabrication strategies could produce wearable systems for personal health monitoring and therapeutics, or systems that wrap around mechanical parts such as aircraft wings and fuselages to monitor structural properties.

In December 2005, Rogers and his U. of I. research group reported the development of a one-dimensional, stretchable form of single-crystal silicon with micron-sized, wave-like geometries. That configuration allows reversible stretching in one direction without significantly altering the electrical properties, but only at the level of individual material elements and devices.

Now, Rogers and collaborators at the U. of I., Northwestern University, and the Institute of High Performance Computing in Singapore report an extension of this basic wavy concept to two dimensions, and at a much more sophisticated level to yield fully functional integrated circuit systems.

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[link to www.nextenergynews.com]


MIT tests unique approach to fusion power

An MIT and Columbia University team has successfully tested a novel reactor that could chart a new path toward nuclear fusion, which could become a safe, reliable and nearly limitless source of energy.

Begun in 1998, the Levitated Dipole Experiment, or LDX, uses a unique configuration where its main magnet is suspended, or levitated, by another magnet above. The system began testing in 2004 in a "supported mode" of operation, where the magnet was held in place by a support structure, which causes significant losses to the plasma--a hot, electrically charged gas where the fusion takes place.

LDX achieved fully levitated operation for the first time last November. A second test run was performed on March 21-22 of this year, in which it had an improved measurement capability and included experiments that clarified and illuminated the earlier results. These experiments demonstrate a substantial improvement in plasma confinement--significant progress toward the goal of producing a fusion reaction-- and a journal article on the results is planned.

Fusion--the process that provides the sun's energy--occurs when two types of atoms fuse, creating a different element (typically helium) and releasing energy. The reactions can only occur at extremely high temperatures and pressures. Because the material is too hot to be contained by any material, fusion reactors work by holding the electrically charged gas, called plasma, in place with strong magnetic fields that keep it from ever touching the walls of the device.

The LDX reactor reproduces the conditions necessary for fusion by imitating the kind of magnetic field that surrounds Earth and Jupiter. A joint project by MIT and Columbia University, it consists of a supercooled, superconducting magnet about the size and shape of a large truck tire. When the reactor is in operation, this half-ton magnet is levitated inside a huge vacuum chamber, using another powerful magnet above the chamber to hold it aloft.

The advantage of the levitating system is that it requires no internal supporting structure, which would interfere with the magnetic field lines surrounding the donut-shaped magnet, explains Jay Kesner of MIT's Plasma Science and Fusion Center, joint director of LDX with Michael Mauel of Columbia. That allows the plasma inside the reactor to flow along those magnetic field lines without bumping into any obstacles that would disrupt it (and the fusion process).

To produce a sustained fusion reaction the right kinds of materials must be confined under enormous, pressure, temperature and density. The "fuel" is typically a mix of deuterium and tritium (known as a D-T cycle), which are two isotopes of hydrogen, the simplest atom. A normal hydrogen atom contains just one proton and one electron, but deuterium adds one neutron, and tritium has two neutrons. So far, numerous experimental reactors using different methods have managed to produce some fusion reactions, but none has yet achieved the elusive goal of "breakeven," in which a reactor produces as much energy as it consumes. To be a practical power source, of course, will require it to put out more than it consumes.

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[link to www.physorg.com]

3-D Imaging -- First Insights Into Magnetic Fields

3-D images are not only useful in medicine; the observation of internal structures is also invaluable in many other fields of scientific investigation. Recently, researchers from the Hahn-Meitner-Institute (HMI) in Berlin in cooperation with University of Applied Sciences have succeeded, for the first time, in a direct, three-dimensional visualisation of magnetic fields inside solid, non-transparent materials. This is announced by Nikolay Kardjilov and colleagues in the current issue of the journal Nature Physics.

The researchers in the imaging group used neutrons, subatomic particles that have zero net charge, but do have a magnetic moment, making them ideal for investigating magnetic phenomena in magnetic materials. When in an external magnetic field, the neutrons behave like compass needles, all aligning to point on the direction of the field.

Neutrons also have an internal angular momentum, often referred to by physicists as spin, a property that causes the needle to rotate around the magnetic field, similar to the way in which the Earth rotates on its axis. When all of the magnetic moments point in the same direction then the neutrons are said to be spin-polarised. If a magnetic sample is irradiated with such neutrons, the magnetic moments of the neutrons will begin to rotate around the magnetic fields they encounter in the sample and the direction of their spin changes.

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[link to physorg.com]
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