Gizmorama - July 25, 2018
Root vegetables have always been important to our health, but now they might be crucial to the future of construction.
Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.
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*-- Fastest manmade spinning object to aid quantum mechanics research --*
The creators of the world's fastest manmade rotor believe their invention will boost the study of quantum mechanism, the branch of physic devoted to the behavior of subatomic particles.
The new rotor can spin at a rate of 60 billion revolutions per minute. Most airplane turbines top out at 3,000 revolutions per minute.
Scientists described their impressive new device this week in the journal Physical Review Letters.
"This study has many applications, including material science," Tongcang Li, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Purdue University, said in a news release. "We can study the extreme conditions different materials can survive in."
The rotor is composed of a tiny silica dumbbell. Scientists used a laser to levitate the dumbbell inside a vacuum. The shape spin of the laser light determines whether the dumbbell vibrates or spins. The device works like two instruments in one.
When the laser light is circularly polarized and the dumbbell spins, the device functions as a rotor, and when the laser is pulsed and the dumbbell vibrates, the device works as a torsion balance, a small instrument capable of measure small forces and torques.
Scientists have previously used torsion balance devices to study gravity and measure the density of Earth. Researchers believe the new device will help them analyze vacuum friction and better understand quantum physics.
"People say that there is nothing in vacuum, but in physics, we know it's not really empty," Li said. "There are a lot of virtual particles which may stay for a short time and then disappear. We want to figure out what's really going on there, and that's why we want to make the most sensitive torsion balance."
Another team of scientists used a similar approach to spin a tiny particles at 60 billion revolutions per minute. They described their paper in the same journal. Though the Swiss scientists also believe the technology could aid a variety of scientific endeavors, they were originally just motivated by curiosity and pride.
"To be honest," Rene Reimann, researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, said in a news release. "It was just super cool to have the world's fastest rotating mechanical object directly in front of us."
* Root vegetables to help make new buildings stronger, greener *
In effort to make new construction greener and stronger, engineers and material scientists are turning to beets and carrots. Researchers have combined Portland cement with nanoplatelets extracted from root vegetable fibers to produce a stronger, more eco-friendly building material.
"The composites are not only superior to current cement products in terms of mechanical and microstructure properties but also use smaller amounts of cement," lead researcher Mohamed Saafi from Lancaster University said in a news release. "This significantly reduces both the energy consumption and CO2 emissions associated with cement manufacturing."
The cement industry accounts for approximately 8 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. The less cement that is used to make concrete, the greener the concrete.
Portland cement works as the binding agent when mixed with water and a rocky aggregate, typically gravel, sand or some combination of the two. By adding nanoplatelets, scientists were able to boost the amount of calcium silicate hydrate in the concrete mixture, the component responsible for concrete's strength.
The added strengthening component allowed scientists to build concrete using less cement.
Researchers believe the nanoplatelets could be sourced from food waste from the food processing industry.
As construction industries continues to grow across the globe -- a response to growing populations in Asia and Africa -- concrete production is expected to double over the next two decades. A report released earlier this spring suggested cement companies needed to double the emissions reduction efforts to meet the targets set by the Paris agreement.
If the latest technology can be scaled up and incorporated into concrete production, the construction industry could reduce the carbon footprint of each new building.
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