7.2 trillion degrees Fahrenheit, Hottest Temperature Ever Measured in Universe Created on Earth in PHENIX Experiments in Search of Big Bang Secrets

Two University of Colorado at Boulder physicists are part of a collaborative team working with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York that have created the hottest temperature matter ever measured in the universe — 7.2 trillion degrees Fahrenheit.
The team used Brookhaven’s giant atom smasher, the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, or RHIC, to ram charged gold particles into each other billions of times, creating a “quark-gluon plasma” with a temperature hotter than anything known in the universe, even supernova explosions.
The experiment is recreating the conditions of the universe a few microseconds after the Big Bang. CU-Boulder physics department Professors Jamie Nagle and Edward Kinney are collaborators on the Pioneering High Energy Nuclear Interaction eXperiment, or PHENIX, one of four large detectors that helps physicists analyze the particle collisions using RHIC. PHENIX, which weighs 4,000 tons and has a dozen detector subsystems, sports three large steel magnets that produce high magnetic fields to bend charged particles along curved paths.
RHIC is the only machine in the world capable of colliding so called “heavy ions” — atoms that have had their outer cloud of electrons stripped away. The research team used gold, one of the heaviest elements, for the experiment. The gold atoms were sent flying in opposite directions in RHIC, a 2.4-mile underground loop located in Upton, New York. The collisions melted protons and neutrons and liberated subatomic particles known as quarks and gluons.
“It is very exciting that scientists at the University of Colorado are world leaders in laboratory studies of both the coldest atomic matter and now the hottest nuclear matter in the universe,” said Nagle, deputy spokesperson for the 500-person PHENIX team.
In 1995 CU-Boulder Distinguished Professor Carl Wieman and Adjoint Professor Eric Cornell of the physics department led a team of physicists that created the world’s first Bose-Einstein condensate — a new form of matter. Both Wieman and Cornell are fellows of JILA, a joint institute of CU-Boulder and the National Institute of Standards and Technology where Cornell also is a fellow. The physicists, who shared the Nobel Prize in physics for their work in 2001, achieved the lowest temperature ever recorded at the time by cooling rubidium atoms to less that 170 billionths of a degree above absolute zero, causing individual atoms to form a “superatom” that behaved as a single entity.
The new experiments with RHIC produced a temperature 250,000 times hotter than the sun’s interior. The collisions created miniscule bubbles heated to temperatures 40 times hotter than the interior of supernova. By studying the “soup” of subatomic particles created by the RHIC, researchers hope to gain insight into what occurred in the first microseconds after the Big Bang some 13.7 billion years ago, said Kinney.
Later this year physicists that include a team from CU-Boulder hope to use the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland to ram ions together to create even hotter temperatures to replicate even earlier conditions following the Big Bang.
For more information on CU-Boulder’s physics department visit http://www.colorado.edu/physics/Web/.

Glass Gas Chromatography Chip Created by Dolomite and UK National Centre for Atmospheric Science,

Glass Gas Chromatography Chip

Dolomite, in collaboration with the UK’s National Centre for Atmospheric Science, has successfully tested the miniaturization of gas chromatography equipment for environmental testing. The glass Gas Chromatography Chip has a 300 µm thick layer and is fabricated with isotropic channels, which effectively replace the capillary and spindle structure which is characteristic of standard GC columns. This microfluidic miniaturisation enables the production of portable, robust and low power GC systems suitable for environmental applications such as atmospheric monitoring.
The chip design includes an injection zone, which allows activated carbon particles to be loaded and held, forming a sample absorption column. Closely packed within a 100 x 100 mm microfluidic chip, the 7.5 m and 1.4 m long channels have an internal diameter of 320 µm to ensure efficient heat transfer. With a circular cross section, a uniform coating can be evenly applied to the inside surface of the channel, effectively mimicking the stationary phase, to aid separation. The results have been published in Journal of Chromatography A.
Professor Alastair Lewis, of the National Centre for Atmospheric Science at the University of York, commented, “We are very pleased with the progress of our development and the excellent support we have received from Dolomite, which helped us to make significant progress. Our research has shown that microfluidics is an enabling technology for the next generation of environmental testing equipment. It provides in-situ environmental monitoring capabilities with the possibility of a more rapid response to adverse changes in air quality.”
For further information on the complete range of microfluidic products available from Dolomite, including chips, connectors/interconnects, pumps, valves and flow sensors, please visit www.dolomite-microfluidics.com.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Microbiologists Identify RNA Quality Control Mechanism, Implications for Disease Control in Plants and Animals

When a person is exposed to a cold virus, whether he or she actually becomes ill may come down to how well short snippets of RNA in the person’s defense response system interact with the RNA-based cold virus.
If the small RNA (ribonucleic acid) matches up well with the virus, it will bind to it and degrade it, and no cold will develop. If it doesn’t, the unfortunate person is probably going to get sick.
That’s one of small RNA’s two key functions. The other is to regulate gene expression to ensure proper development of healthy cells and ultimately entire organisms.
Humans and other organisms produce a lot of small RNAs, and as in any biological or industrial process, when large quantities of something are manufactured, mistakes are inevitably made. Industry establishes quality-control procedures to try to prevent errors from getting out of the factory.
Fortunately for living organisms, nature takes care of it for us, but no one was sure what that biological quality-control was for small RNAs until a recent discovery by a team of microbiologists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Delaware. Working with a species of single-celled green alga, they identified two enzymes (labeled MUT68 and RRP6) that operate in effect as quality controls, eliminating defective small RNAs.
“Cells have to have these to control the quality of the small RNAs. It seems that if they don’t have them, many of the small RNAs that are produced don’t function properly,” said Heriberto Cerutti, associate professor of biological sciences at UNL. He is corresponding author of the paper that announced the finding in the Jan. 25-29 online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“It was known that the small RNAs control gene expression as well as playing a role in defense against viruses. What was not known was that we needed a quality control mechanism to eliminate dysfunctional or improperly produced small RNAs. We identified some components of the machinery that operates as a quality control. If the small RNAs are not correct, it eliminates them.”
A researcher in UNL’s Center for Plant Science Innovation, Cerutti said the quality-control mechanism is especially relevant for crops and humans since most agriculturally relevant viruses that affect plants and some of the viruses that affect humans (the retroviruses such as HIV) are RNA-based.
Cerutti’s co-authors in the study were Linda Rymarquis and Pamela Green of the University of Delaware, and four present and former members of his lab at UNL — 2009 Ph.D. recipient Fadia Ibrahim (the lead author), technician Eun-Jeong Kim, master’s student James Becker and former undergraduate student Eniko Balassa.

Oak Ridge Super Sniffer Surpasses All State-of-the-Art Chemical Sensors, Significant Implications for Explosive, Biological Agent and Narcotics Detection

By taking advantage of a phenomenon that until now has been a virtual showstopper for electronics designers, a team led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory‘s Panos Datskos is developing a chemical and biological sensor with unprecedented sensitivity.
Ultimately, researchers believe this new “sniffer” will achieve a detection level that approaches the theoretical limit, surpassing other state-of-the-art chemical sensors. The implications could be significant for anyone whose job is to detect explosives, biological agents and narcotics.
“While the research community has been avoiding the nonlinearity associated with the nanoscale mechanical oscillators, we are embracing it,” said co-developer Nickolay Lavrik, a member of the Department of Energy lab’s Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences Division. “In the end, we hope to have a device capable of detecting incredibly small amounts of explosives compared to today’s chemical sensors.”
The device consists of a digital camera, a laser, imaging optics, a signal generator, digital signal processing and other components that collectively, much like a dog’s nose, can detect tiny amounts of substances in the air.
The underlying concept is based on micro-scale resonators that are similar to microcantilevers used in atomic force microscopy, which has recently been explored as mass and force sensing devices. Although the basic principle is simple – measuring changes in the resonance frequency due to mass changes – a number of obstacles have impeded widespread applications of such systems.
“These challenges are due to requirements of measuring and analyzing tiny oscillation amplitudes that are about the size of a hydrogen atom,” Lavrik said. Such traditional approaches require sophisticated low-noise electronic components such as lock-in amplifiers and phase-locked loops, which add cost and complexity.
Instead, this new type of sniffer works by deliberately hitting the microcantilevers with relatively large amounts of energy associated with a range of frequencies, forcing them into wide oscillation, or movement. Lavrik likened the response to a diving board’s movement after a swimmer dives.
“In the past, people wanted to avoid this high amplitude because of the high distortion associated with that type of response,” said Datskos, a member of the Measurement Science and Systems Engineering Division. “But now we can exploit that response by tuning the system to a very specific frequency that is associated with the specific chemical or compound we want to detect.”
When the target chemical reacts with the microcantilever, it shifts the frequency depending on the weight of the compound, thereby providing the detection.
“With this new approach, when the microcantilever stops oscillating we know with high certainty that the target chemical or compound is present,” Lavrik said.
The researchers envision this technology being incorporated in a handheld instrument that could be used by transportation security screeners, law enforcement officials and the military. Other potential applications are in biomedicine, environmental science, homeland security and analytical chemistry.
With adequate levels of funding, Datskos envisions a prototype being developed within six to 18 months.
UT-Battelle manages ORNL for DOE. Funding is provided by ORNL’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development program.

World First: Boeing Company and U.S. Missile Defense Agency Use Airborne Laser to Destroy Ballistic Missile in Flight

The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA], industry teammates and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency on Feb. 11 successfully demonstrated the speed, precision and breakthrough potential of directed-energy weapons when the Airborne Laser Testbed (ALTB) engaged and destroyed a boosting ballistic missile.

This experiment marks the first time a laser weapon has engaged and destroyed an in-flight ballistic missile, and the first time that any system has accomplished it in the missile’s boost phase of flight. ALTB has the highest-energy laser ever fired from an aircraft, and is the most powerful mobile laser device in the world.

“The Airborne Laser Testbed team has made history with this experiment,” said Greg Hyslop, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems. “Through its hard work and technical ingenuity, the government-industry team has produced a breakthrough with incredible potential. We look forward to conducting additional research and development to explore what this unique directed-energy system can do.”

During the experiment, the aircraft, a modified Boeing 747-400F, took off from Edwards Air Force Base and focused its high-energy laser at the missile target during its boost phase as the aircraft flew over the Western Sea Range off the coast of California.

“We’ve been saying for some time that the Airborne Laser Testbed would be a pathfinder for directed energy and would expand options for policymakers and warfighters,” said Michael Rinn, Boeing vice president and ALTB program director. “With this successful experiment, the Airborne Laser Testbed has blazed a path for a new generation of high-energy, ultra-precision weaponry. ALTB technology and future directed-energy platforms will transform how the United States defends itself and its friends and allies. Having the capability to precisely project force, in a measured way, at the speed of light, will save lives.”

MDA officially recognized directed energy’s warfare-changing potential last March, when it awarded its Technology Pioneer Award to three Boeing Airborne Laser Testbed engineers and three of their government and industry teammates for advancing key ALTB technologies.

Boeing is the prime contractor for the Airborne Laser Testbed, which is designed to provide unprecedented speed-of-light capability to intercept all classes of ballistic missiles in their boost phase of flight.

Northrop Grumman designed and built ALTB’s high-energy laser, and Lockheed Martin developed the beam control/fire control system. Boeing provided the aircraft, the battle management system and overall systems integration and testing.

A unit of The Boeing Company, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is one of the world’s largest defense, space and security businesses specializing in innovative and capabilities-driven customer solutions, and the world’s largest and most versatile manufacturer of military aircraft. Headquartered in St. Louis, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is a $34 billion business with 68,000 employees worldwide.