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Gizmorama - July 31, 2017

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Save the planet! Scientists have developed a new way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions using carbon-capturing membranes.

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

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*-- Scientists measure proton's mass with record precision --*

A team of scientists from Germany and Japan have recorded the most precise measurement of a proton's mass.

Researchers accomplished the feat by trapping a proton in a super sensitive single particle detector developed at RIKEN's Ulmer Fundamental Symmetries Laboratory in Japan.

The proton is an important building block in atomic nuclei. Thus, quantifying its mass is an essential component of particle physics. The proton's mass influences the movement of electrons, which orbit around the nucleus. The paths of an atom's electrons determine the wavelengths of light absorbed and reemitted by the atom, which defines an element's spectral signature.

Additionally, a more accurate measure of a proton's mass could help particle physicists better understand the relationship between the proton and the antiproton, and in turn, the relationship between matter and antimatter.

The so-called Penning traps used by researchers are capable of trapping single particles, including a proton, using a combination of electric and magnetic fields.

Once inside the Penning trap, the proton oscillates. Different particles oscillated and different frequencies, and these frequencies can be measured and used to calculate the particle's mass.

To achieve a record-precise reading, scientists used a carbon isotope with a mass of 12 atomic mass units as a control for comparison.

"First we stored each one proton and one carbon ion in separate compartments of our Penning trap apparatus, then transported each of the two ions into the central measurement compartment and measured its motion," researcher Sven Sturm said in a news release.

"It allowed us to measure the proton under identical conditions as the carbon ion despite its about 12-fold lower mass and 6-fold smaller charge," said RIKEN scientist Andreas Mooser.

Researchers measured the proton's mass at 1.007276466583 atomic mass units -- three times more precise than the currently accepted value.

Researchers described their feat in the journal Physical Review Letters.

"In the future, we will store a third ion in our trap tower," researcher Florian Köhler-Langes said. "By simultaneously measuring the motion of this reference ion, we will be able to eliminate the uncertainty originating from fluctuations of the magnetic field."

*-- New carbon-capturing membranes may reduce greenhouse gas emissions --*

Scientists in the Netherlands have developed a promising new membrane material to filter CO2 emissions.

Researchers believe the new ceramic, ion-conduction membrane will help curb greenhouse gas by trapping CO2 and converting it into fuel, though it may not be ready for commercial adoption for a few more years.

Current carbon-capture technologies are rather inefficient and expensive, limiting their commercial appeal. But scientists suggest more efficient energy use and an increase in sustainable energy sources won't be enough to sufficiently curb greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the negative impacts of global warming -- enter carbon-capture technologies.

An essential component of carbon capture is finding a sustainable and energy-efficient use for the captured carbon. Current methods for turning trapped CO2 into usable synthetic fuel are energy intensive.

Researchers at the University of Twente in Enschede, Netherlands, suggest ceramic membranes can both trap and convert CO2 into synthetic fuel and basic chemicals. Under high temperature and pressure, the membrane encourages chemical reactions among the CO2 trapped in the material.

The research into ceramic membranes is ongoing, but scientists at the University of Twente expect fast-paced progress. Their work is being aided by scientists at the Jülich Research Center, part of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers.

While scientists in the Netherlands are focused on trapping CO2 in the novel membrane material, researchers in Germany are working to ensure the right kinds of chemical reactions are occurring across the membrane.

"Both partners complement each other perfectly," Twente professor Wilhelm Meulenberg said in a news release. "Which is why both institutes will have many exchanges of PhDs and other researchers in the years to come."


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