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Gizmorama - November 2, 2016

Good Morning,

The first story I have for you today concerns scientists developing light-emitting 2D materials. I have no idea what any of that is, but, nonetheless, it sounds interesting and scientific so count me in.

Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.

Until Next Time,

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*-- Scientists develop light-emitting 2D materials --*

WüRZBURG, Germany - Experiments suggest a new light-emitting 2D material developed by scientists in Germany is ideal for data encryption.

The 2D material is a type of monolayer known as a transition metal dichalcogenide, or TMDC. Researchers at Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg, JMU, created a TMDC that emits pairs of photons when supplied with energy.

The photons can carry data across un-hackable communication channels.

Monolayers are thin films of material, sometimes just an atom thick. Graphene is perhaps one of the most famous 2D materials. Crystal monolayers can consist of three or more layers. TMDCs are a type of crystal monolayer.

Researchers at JMU created a uniquely thin TMDC monolayer by continually peeling away layers of material from a crystal film using sticky tape. They peeled away material until the crstyal film was a single layer thick.

Scientists then cooled the TMDC to temperatures approaching absolute zero and excited the single crystal layer with a laser. The material emitted photons.

"We were now able to show that a specific type of excitement produces not one but exactly two photons," Christian Schneider, a physicist at JMU, explained in a news release. "The light particles are generated in pairs, so to speak."

The generated pairs are ideally suited to carry and safeguard encrypted data.

In a follow-up experiment, researchers placed the crystal film between two mirrors and again excited it with a laser. The emitted photons bounced back toward the TMDC planet, exciting the crystal's atoms and eliciting more photons.

"We call this process strong coupling," Schneider explains. "Light and matter hybridize, forming new quasi particles in the process: exciton polaritons."

It's the first time polaritons have been measured at room temperature in a monolayer.

The coupled photons are similar to laser light, only produced in a different way. The mirror-TMDC sandwich could serve as a new energy-efficient light source, as well as inspire new technologies and scientific inquiries.

*-- New programming language makes energy-harvesting computers more reliable --*

PITTSBURGH - Computers that harvest energy from radio waves, solar energy, heat and vibrations have tremendous technological potential.

But such energy sources provide intermittent power, making energy-harvesting computers unreliable. The problem is in the programming.

"Energy is not always available in the environment for a device to harvest," Brandon Lucia, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, explained in a news release. "Intermittent operation makes it difficult to build applications because existing software programming languages -- and programmers themselves -- assume that energy is a continuously available resource."

Lucia and his colleagues at CMU have a solution: a new computer programming language called Chain. The new language ensures programs can pick up where they left off when interrupted by a brief power outage.

"When power is not continuously available, power failures disrupt the software's execution, often leading to unrecoverable errors," Lucia explained. "Chain solves this problem by requiring computational tasks in the program to use a novel channel-based memory abstraction that ensures tasks complete without error."

Researchers are preparing to install Chain-based software on an energy-harvesting satellite. The computer satellite consists of two tiny postage stamp-sized chips powered by a miniature solar panel array.

Chain programming will ensure the computer can efficiently collect, store and transmit data back to Earth using limited power resources.

"If we can guarantee that even tiny, energy-harvesting satellites operate without interruption, we can make it easier to conduct other scientific research in space," said Lucia. "Further out, we may even see future applications like extraterrestrial natural resource discovery relying on this technology."

Lucia and his research partners are preparing to present their programming language with attendees of the SPLASH conference in Amsterdam this weeked, organized annually by the Association for Computing Machinery.


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