SciTech Briefs

Glow-in-the-dark solid form of carbon discovered

Last Wednesday, materials scientists Jagdish Narayan and Anagh Bhaumik from North Carolina State University in Raleigh reported on a new solid form of carbon in the Journal of Applied Physics. This new carbon, called Q-Carbon, glows in the dark, is magnetic, and is tougher than diamond, another solid form of carbon.

“Q-carbon’s unusual properties make it ideal for all sorts of applications, from electronic displays to abrasive coatings on tools to biomedical sensors that are compatible with the body” Narayan said. One of Q-carbon’s most exciting features is its magnetism, since no other form of carbon is magnetic.

Narayan and Bhaumik created Q-carbon with a laser heating technique, using a high-powered laser beam to hit a carbon pellet and spread the carbon thinly onto a flat sheet of sapphire. The carbon was then melted and cooled rapidly to transform it into a new material. In Q-carbon, the carbon tetrahedral structures are all jumbled up instead of forming neat lattices, as is the case in diamonds. Because of their similar structure, the researchers can convert Q-carbon to diamond at standard temperature and pressure by providing the seeds for crystal growth.

Source: Science News

Magnetic fields at Milky Way’s black hole found

Researchers have recently detected magnetic fields just outside the event horizon of Sagittarius A-star (Sgr A*), the black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. “These magnetic fields have been predicted to exist, but no one has seen them before. Our data puts decades of theoretical work on solid observational ground,” said principal investigator Shep Doeleman from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and MIT’s Haystack Observatory.

The magnetic fields were discovered using the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), a global network of radio telescopes that link together to function as one world-wide telescope. With the EHT, the researchers observed that light is linearly polarized near the event horizon and, since polarized light is emitted by electrons spinning around magnetic fields, the light directly traces the magnetic field structure of Sgr A*.

“With this result, the EHT team is one step closer to solving a central paradox in astronomy: why are black holes so bright?” Doeleman said. The results have been reported in the journal Science.

Source: Science Daily

International panel approves human gene editing

During an international summit on Dec. 3, the U.S. National Academies of Sciences and Medicine, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the United Kingdom’s Royal Society convened to discuss the ethical, legal, and regulatory consequences of gene-editing. The scientists concluded that human gene-editing research could begin so long as no pregnancies result.

Gene editing tools such as CRISPR/Cas9 have become very cheap and easy to use, and may be useful in correcting genetic diseases. On December 1, Sangamo BioSciences, a biopharmaceutical company, announced that clinical trials to replace a broken gene in adult hemophiliacs using gene editing could begin next year, which would fall under current regulations for gene therapy.

The catch is that no pregnancies can result from gene editing research, and the committee said it would be “irresponsible” to proceed with human studies in germline cells. “As long as those cells are not implanted into a woman to create a baby, it is not germline editing,” said committee chairman David Baltimore, a 1975 Nobel Laureate.

Source: Science News

Archaeologists explore intact Etruscan tomb

While working in a field of Città della Pieve, a small town about 30 miles southwest of Perugia, a farmer discovered a rare and undisturbed Etruscan burial site that was dated to approximately 300 B.C.E.

The Etruscan people were a civilization that dominated Italy from 900 to 400 B.C.E. and was eventually absorbed into the roman empire.
The Etruscans were known for their art, agriculture, fine metalworking, and commerce. Some of their influences include introducing wine-making to the French, teaching the Romans how to build roads, and introducing writing into Europe. However, the Etruscan culture had always been a mystery due to a lack of records documenting their society.

After archaeologists came and opened the tomb, which was dated from the fourth century, the team found two sarcophagi, as well as other artifacts, within a 16 square-foot chamber. One of the sarcophagi contained the tomb of a male, thought to be named Lars. The researchers anticipate that the discovery will allow them to learn more about the world’s most mysterious ancient cultures.

Source: Discovery News

Scientists study reactions in solar energy storage

Researchers at the University of Oregon have developed a new method to study the reactions that occur as water-splitting cells produce fuel from absorbing sunlight. Particularly, the group had found a way to study the exchange of electrons at the interface of two cells. One of the cells was a semiconductor that generated electrons after capturing sunlight, while the other cell was a catalyst that produces fuel out of those electrons.

In their experiment, the researchers coated an electrically charged titanium dioxide electrode with different films of catalyst. They then monitored the accumulation of charge and change in voltage on the catalyst.

From their results, the scientists found that more energy was derived from the interfaces of catalysts that were permeable to ions, which are charged atoms or molecules. While the system from the experiment was not the most efficient, the group’s study may contribute to the design of more effective semiconductor-catalyst devices. The research has been published in ChemSusChem, a journal that covers research in sustainable chemistry.

Source: ScienceDaily

Samsung to pay Apple to settle patent dispute

Last Thursday, papers sent to a California court indicated Samsung’s agreement to pay Apple $514 million, which will settle a patent dispute between the two companies. A statement declared that the payment would take place within 10 days after an invoice was received.

This agreement is part of a larger $1 billion lawsuit filed in 2012 which claimed that Samsung’s copyright infringements on Apple’s patented technology. For example, one of the patents that Apple brought to court included the “pinch to zoom” feature on smartphones, a case that was later invalidated by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Shortly afterward, Samsung also attempted to bring the case to the US appeals court, but the company was then denied the opportunity. Despite the settlement, the dispute between the two companies will continue to drag on, as the USTPO continues to review the validity of some of Apple’s patents, and as Samsung intends to file new appeals.

Source: BBC News