Space.com: NASA has long planned to mine water on the Moon to supply human colonies and future space exploration. Now the discovery of small amounts of water across much of the lunar surface has shifted that vision into fast-forward, with the US space agency pursuing several promising technologies.
A hydrogen reduction plant and lunar rover prospectors have already passed field tests on Hawaii’s volcanic soil, and more radical microwave technology is being evaluated.
“You can make back costs fairly quickly [within a year] compared to the launch costs of just throwing tanks of water and oxygen at the moon,” said Gerald Sanders, manager of NASA’s InSitu Resource Utilization Project.
Still, Sanders cautioned that there are big unknowns—how much water the Moon holds, where it is, and how deep will they have to excavate to get to it.
Nature News: An independent report has all but ruled out radioactive contamination from the experiments of physicist Ernest Rutherford as the source of a cluster of deaths at the University of Manchester, UK.
Manchester University deaths not linked to Rutherford radiation The Guardian
BBC News: Engineers hope an early warning system being installed at the Large Hadron Collider could prevent incidents of the kind that shut down the machine last year.
Physics Today: A team of engineers and artists working at the University of Washington’s Solheim Rapid Manufacturing Laboratory has developed a way to create glass objects using a conventional three-dimensional printer and “open-sourced” the technique so anyone can use it.
The team’s method, which it named the Vitraglyphic process, is a follow-up to the Solheim Lab’s success last spring printing with ceramics. (See an example image on the right. Photo credit: University of Washington)
“It became clear that if we could get a material into powder form at about 20 microns we could print just about anything,” said UW professor Mark Ganter.
Three-dimensional printers are used as a cheap, fast way to build prototype parts. In a typical powder-based 3D printing system, a thin layer of powder is spread over a platform and software directs an inkjet printer to deposit droplets of binder solution only where needed. The binder reacts with the powder to bind the particles together and create a 3D object.
Glass powder doesn’t readily absorb liquid, however, so the approach developed for ceramic printing had to be radically altered.
By adjusting the ratio of powder to liquid the team found a way to build solid parts out of powdered glass that fused when heated to the right temperature.
Glass is a material that can be transparent or opaque, but is distinguished as an inorganic material (one which contains no carbon) that solidifies from a molten state without the molecules forming an ordered crystalline structure. As the glass molecules remain in a disordered state, the resulting object is technically a super-cooled liquid rather than a true solid.
“By publishing these recipes without proprietary claims, we hope to encourage further experimentation and innovation within artistic and design communities,” said UW associate professor Duane Storti.
Ronald Rael, an assistant professor of architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, has been working with the Solheim Lab to set up his own 3D printer. Rael is working on new kinds of ceramic bricks that can be used for evaporative cooling systems.
“3D printing in glass has huge potential for changing the thinking about applications of glass in architecture,” Rael said. “Before now, there was no good method of rapid prototyping in glass, so testing designs is an expensive, time-consuming process.” Rael adds that 3D printing allows one to insert different forms of glass to change the performance of the material at specific positions as required by the design.
Science: At the height of the Korean War, a scared 16-year-old boy made a promise as he lay wounded by shrapnel on a battlefield. “I said, ‘God, if you save my life, I will return this love to my enemy,’” recalls Kim Chin-Kyung, who was fighting for the south against the north.
Six decades later, the 74-year-old businessman turned university administrator is keeping his word. Last week, Kim was appointed president of Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) at a ceremony in Pyongyang to commemorate completion of the $35 million campus, which after 4 years of delays is expected to open in November to the crème de la crème of North Korea’s science graduate students.
NYTimes.com: With a federal plan to handle nuclear waste in deadlocked disarray, the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board—an advisory panel that has spent 20 years studying a proposed repository at Yucca Mountain—turned Wednesday to discussing ways of reusing the fuel instead.
But as the panel made evident during the meeting, such reuse was uncertain, along with the future of Yucca Mountain.
Earth Island Journal: A recent New York Times article pointedly asked whether NASA climate scientist James Hansen still matters. The subtext to the story was, has Hansen been too vocal and too unconventional in his criticism of Washington’s response to climate change to be taken seriously?
Nell Greenberg interviews Hansen over his recent political action on combating climate change, and how he ended up in climate science in the first place.
NPR: NASA is running out of the special kind of plutonium needed to power deep space probes, worrying planetary scientists who say the US urgently needs to restart production of plutonium-238.
But it’s unclear whether Congress will provide the $30 million that the administration requested earlier this year for the Department of Energy to get a new program going.
NYTimes.com: The modern car is still 60% of steel by weight.
But automotive steel has changed quite a bit since the Ford company’s first Model T rolled off the assembly line in 1908. Metallurgists and manufacturers have learned to manipulate steel’s microstructure through precise control of processing to create sheet steels of increasing strength. Prompted by crash-worthiness requirements and the need to make cars lighter to improve gas mileage, automakers are replacing conventional steels with advanced high-strength ones.
Where once a single grade of steel might have sufficed, the typical “body in white,” as automakers call a car’s basic skeleton, might now be a patchwork of a dozen or more steels of different types and strengths, tailored through computer modeling to handle the stress and strain of normal driving—and of severe crashes.
Nature News: Canada’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics was intended to become a world leader in the field. Nature‘s Eric Hand finds out if it has lived up to its ambitions.