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University of Utah

— Physics

World's smallest beamsplitter paves way toward computing at the speed of light

Silicon photonics is an emerging technology that incorporates electronic circuits using photons of laser light rather than electrons to transmit, receive, and manipulate information. As such, a silicon photonic CPU could potentially process information at the speed of light – millions of times faster than computers available today. In a step towards this goal, engineers working at the University of Utah have developed an ultra-compact photonic beam-splitter so small that millions of these devices could fit on a single silicon chip.

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— Environment

New study finds parallels between past and present climate change

There's an element of déjà vu in the most recent political news on climate change: UN-led talks, like the recent Lima summit, that end with disgruntled environmentalists and plans for yet another summit. At this point, our best hope is to mitigate the effects of global warming (which is occurring faster than previously thought) and, if possible, keep temperature rises to a maximum of 2° C (3.6° F). While the future of the planet looks uncertain with unpredictable climate patterns, U.S researchers looking to the past to gain a better understanding of modern climate change have found the rate of modern, human-caused global warming resembles that which occurred almost 56 million years ago much more closely than previously thought. Read More
— Science

Carbon nanotubes could find use in improved bomb detection device

Along with flame-retardant clothing, flexible supercapitors and a stronger alternative to carbon fiber, carbon nanotubes may soon have yet another application. Led by Prof. Ling Zang, a team of researchers at the University of Utah has integrated the tiny tubes of carbon atoms into a prototype explosives sensor. It can also detect illegal drugs and toxic chemicals such as nerve gas, reportedly doing so better than currently-used technologies. Read More
— Space

Dwarf galaxy suggests black holes may be more common than previously thought

Astronomers from the University of Utah, using the Gemini North telescope on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea and images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, have discovered a dwarf galaxy that is the smallest ever recorded with a supermassive black hole at its center. The galaxy, M60-UCD1, has been found to contain a black hole with a mass equivalent to 21 million times that of our own sun and whose presence may suggest that such enormous black holes could be more common than previously thought. Read More
— Electronics

Making solar cells with a kitchen microwave

For most people, experiments involving a home microwave typically don't go much further than inflating a marshmallow like a balloon or reheating leftovers in plasticware – both with messy results. For metallurgists though, microwaves are sometimes employed to efficiently process metals, which is how researchers at the University of Utah found themselves using a secondhand kitchen appliance in their lab. Their resourcefulness paid off recently, when the team discovered a method for creating solar cell material with just a few basic ingredients and an old microwave. Read More
— Science

High-speed camera system catches close-ups of snowflakes in mid-air

Falling snow can play havoc with radar systems, so the more that we know about the manner in which snow falls, the better that those systems can be equipped to compensate for it. That’s why for the past three years, researchers from the University of Utah have been developing a device known as the Multi-Angle Snowflake Camera – or MASC. Using three cameras and two motion sensors, it captures 3D photos of snowflakes in free-fall. Read More
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