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Max Planck Institute

Space

Gravitational-wave hunter LISA turns out to be a true high performer

The mark of a very fine scientific instrument isn't usually how well it can fall, but in the case of the LISA Pathfinder spacecraft, that one metric could help astrophysicists decode the very fabric of the universe. Fortunately after just two months of testing, the tech aboard LISA has done exceptionally well in free falling – performing much better than expected and boosting hopes that we can soon have a powerful tool to capture gravitational waves.Read More

Materials

Reversible adhesive can be turned on and off as required

Reversible, temporary adhesives may not sound all that exciting to some, but to a manufacturer that needs to rapidly move small, difficult-to-handle components or a robot-builder creating a machine that can climb any surface, such products are the thing of dreams. Now researchers at the Max Planck Institute have created a reversible adhesive from the metal gallium that displays reversible glue-like properties that could have applications in everything from industrial electronics pick-and-place processes, short-term silicon wafer bonding, to switchable adhesive feet for climbing robots.Read More

Robotics

New soft actuator endows robots with a bit of give and take

The first law of robotics, according to Isaac Asimov, states that a robot must not injure a human being, or through inaction, allow a human to come to harm. But until robots are smart enough to understand such a law, we have to rely on other techniques. With this in mind, a team of researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems has developed a new soft actuator that makes it safer for humans and robots to work alongside one another.Read More

Materials

Laser pulses keep superconductors working at higher temperatures

An international team of scientists led by the Max Planck Institute in Hamburg, Germany, has found a new mechanism allowing superconducting materials to maintain their properties at much higher temperatures than was previously possible. The advance brings the dream of mainstream maglev trains and highly energy-efficient electronics a little closer to reality.Read More

Energy

Germany's Wendelstein 7-X fusion reactor produces its first flash of hydrogen plasma

Experimentation with Germany's newest fusion reactor is beginning to heat up, to temperatures of around 80 million degrees Celsius, to be precise. Having fired up the Wendelstein 7-X to produce helium plasma late last year, researchers have built on their early success to generate its first hydrogen plasma, an event they say begins the true scientific operation of the world's largest fusion stellarator.Read More

Energy

First plasma from Wendelstein 7-X fusion reactor

Testing of the Wendelstein 7-x stellarator has started with a bang, albeit a very very small one, with researchers switching on the experimental fusion reactor to produce its first helium plasma at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) in Greifswald, Germany. After almost a decade of construction work and more than a million assembly hours, the first tests have gone according to plan with the researchers to shift focus to producing hydrogen plasma after the new year.Read More

Energy

Wendelstein 7-x stellarator puts new twist on nuclear fusion power

In a large complex located at Greifswald in the north-east corner of Germany, sits a new and unusual nuclear fusion reactor awaiting a few final tests before being powered-up for the very first time. Dubbed the Wendelstein 7-x fusion stellarator, it has been more than 15 years in the making and is claimed to be so magnetically efficient that it will be able to continuously contain super-hot plasma in its enormous magnetic field for more than 30 minutes at a time. If successful, this new reactor may help realize the long-held goal of continuous operation essential for the success of nuclear fusion power generation.Read More

Physics

New record set for high-temperature superconductivity

With their zero electrical resistance and remarkable magnetic and thermal conductive properties, superconductors have the potential to revolutionize numerous technologies. The trouble is, they work best at cryogenic temperatures in the neighborhood of absolute zero (-273° C, -459° F). As part of the quest to come up with a room temperature superconductor, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz have developed a new record-high-temperature superconductor – and it smells like rotten eggs.Read More

Materials

Compound discovery sets stage for speedier electronic devices

A discovery at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids could pave the way for further leaps forward in the speed of electronic systems. The finding that a material called niobium phosphide dramatically increases its resistance in a magnetic field could lead to faster, higher-capacity hard drives and other electronic components.Read More

Environment

Eyes inspire more efficient solar cell architecture

Solar cells don't at first glance have any relation to a tiny structure in the eye that makes our central vision sharp, but that tiny structure – called the fovea centralis – may be the key to a huge boost in solar cell efficiency. A team of scientists at Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light took the underlying mechanisms that guide the fovea and adapted them to silicon as a surface for collecting light in solar cells.Read More

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