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Plasma

Automotive

Ford using plasma to refurbish dead engines

When an engine fails or becomes very worn, it is usually pulled from the vehicle and scrapped. Ford wants to change that by utilizing a high-tech plasma process to remanufacture broken engines. The process reduces carbon emissions by about half when compared to making a new engine to replace the old one, and results in a like-new engine block.Read More

Health & Wellbeing

High-tech comb uses plasma to kill lice

As some parents will already know, head lice infestations can be very difficult to treat. Typically a toxic shampoo or lotion has to first be applied to the sufferer's scalp, after which the lice are removed by pulling a specialized comb through their hair. Louse eggs aren't harmed by such shampoos, however, so the treatment needs to be repeated once they've hatched. This means more nasty chemicals, and more discomfort for the child (or adult). That's why researchers at Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Surface Engineering and Thin Films have developed an alternative, in the form of a comb that zaps the pests with cold plasma.Read More

Space

UK consortium proposes mission to provide five-day warning of solar storms

Solar storms – or Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) – are caused by the sudden release of built-up magnetic stress in the Sun's atmosphere. On Earth, we see the results of small versions of these when plasma streaming from the sun strikes our upper atmosphere and creates the Northern and Southern Lights (the Aurora Borealis and the Aurora Australis). Sometimes, however, these ruptures can be inordinately large and have the potential to wreak havoc on orbiting satellites, radio networks, and national power grids. In an effort to be prepared well in advance of such events, a UK consortium has proposed a satellite system that can provide as much as five days warning of potentially damaging CMEs.Read More

Physics

University student maps plasma tubes in the sky

Using the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) radio telescope in the Western Australia desert, a Sydney University student, Cleo Loi, has discovered enormous plasma pipes in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Thought to be responsible for possible radio interference with satellite navigation systems, the presence of these objects has been predicted for over 60 years, but never before seen. By imaginatively using the radio telescope to observe in 3D, Loi was able to image large areas of the sky using the fast photography capabilities of the MWA to produce a movie that shows the motions of the plasma in real-time.Read More

Science

Berkeley lab builds world record tabletop-size particle accelerator

Taking careful aim with a quadrillion watt laser, researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab claim to have managed to speed up subatomic particles to the highest energies ever recorded for a compact accelerator. By blasting plasma in their tabletop-size laser-plasma accelerator, the scientists assert that they have produced acceleration energy of around of 4.25 giga-electron volts. Acceleration of this magnitude over the short distances involved correlates to an energy rise 1,000 times greater than that of a traditional – and very much larger – particle accelerator.Read More

Space

Rosetta spacecraft picks up target comet's mysterious "song"

On the eve of the planned first landing on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced that the unmanned Rosetta orbiter carrying the Philae lander has recorded a "song" emanating from the comet. The electromagnetic melody was detected by the probe’s Rosetta Plasma Consortium, which is a suite of five instruments used to study 67P.Read More

Science

What "Star Wars" laser bolts would actually look like

It's no secret that Star Wars is full of scenes that defy the laws of physics. From space battles inspired by WW I and II dogfights to beams of light clashing in lightsaber duels. The laser bolts fired from Han Solo's trusty blaster and Luke's X-wing also play by their own rules, traveling much slower than the speed of light and being perfectly visible in the vacuum of space. Researchers in Poland have now created a film to show what a laser bolt would actually look like.Read More

Space

Kickstarter project developing micro plasma thrusters to send CubeSats on interplanetary missions

CubeSats are one of the wonders of our day. They allow projects with small budgets and smaller equipment to access low Earth orbit (LEO) at achievable costs. Seeing greater potential for these miniaturized modular satellites, Professor Benjamin Longmire of the University of Michigan is heading a team to install a miniature plasma thruster system into a 3U CubeSat, enabling the vehicle to leave LEO and cruise much of the Solar System. Funding for the project is being sought through Kickstarter. Read More

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