Cal Poly Receives Goodrich Foundation EPIC Award

Goodrich Foundation has awarded the Engineering Possibilities in College (EPIC) program at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, Calif. $15,000 to help expand its one-week on-campus day camp to additional youngsters interested in engineering careers. Entering its sixth year this spring, EPIC has allowed hundreds of high school students to get a first-hand look at what it would be like to study engineering on the Cal Poly campus.

“The EPIC program was previously limited to high school students, and is expanding its reach this year include middle school students who may not have previously considered engineering as a field of study or a future career,” said Debra Larson, dean of Cal Poly Engineering. “EPIC will use the Goodrich Foundation grant to create a comprehensive career camp experience designed specifically for middle school students. The young campers will be immersed in hands-on labs and activities intended to spark a lifelong passion in science and engineering. The students’ highly participatory, firsthand experiences will be combined with tours of Cal Poly Engineering and local engineering industries.”

Marc Duvall, president of Goodrich Aerostructures in Chula Vista, Calif., said that the goals of the EPIC program in helping stimulate interest is pursuing engineering careers aligns perfectly with the company’s vision.

“One of our key community focus areas at Goodrich is to encourage the study of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines by young people,” he said. “Studies show that students often find their career interests during the formative middle school years. EPIC is strongly aligned with the Goodrich Foundation’s commitment to start early to connect students with science and engineering.”

Goodrich Foundation is the charitable arm of Goodrich Corporation (NYSE: GR). The Foundation provides support to selected charitable institutions in Goodrich’s United States headquarters and plant communities.

Goodrich Corporation, a Fortune 500 company, is a global supplier of systems and services to aerospace, defense and homeland security markets.  With one of the most strategically diversified portfolios of products in the industry, Goodrich serves a global customer base with significant worldwide manufacturing and service facilities.  For more information visit http://www.goodrich.com.

Goodrich Corporation operates through its divisions and as a parent company for its subsidiaries, one or more of which may be referred to as “Goodrich Corporation” in this press release.

Source: Goodrich Corporation

First-Ever Image of Charge Distribution in a Single Molecule

IBM scientists were able to measure for the first time how charge is distributed within a single molecule. This breakthrough will enable fundamental scientific insights into single-molecule switching and bond formation between atoms and molecules. The ability to image the charge distribution within functional molecular structures holds great promise for future applications such as solar photoconversion, energy storage, or molecular scale computing devices (this has inherent potential within multiple astronomy related areas including potentially astrobiology).

As reported recently in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, scientists Fabian Mohn, Leo Gross, Nikolaj Moll and Gerhard Meyer of IBM Research succeeded in imaging the charge distribution within a single molecule by using a special kind of atomic force microscopy called Kelvin probe force microscopy at low temperatures and in ultrahigh vacuum.

“This work demonstrates an important new capability of being able to directly measure how charge arranges itself within an individual molecule,” states Michael Crommie, Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley. “Understanding this kind of charge distribution is critical for understanding how molecules work in different environments. I expect this technique to have an especially important future impact on the many areas where physics, chemistry, and biology intersect.”

The new technique provides complementary information about the molecule, showing different properties of interest. This is reminiscent of medical imaging techniques such as X-ray, MRI, or ultrasonography, which yield complementary information about a person’s anatomy and health condition.

The discovery could be used to study charge separation and charge transport in so-called charge-transfer complexes. These consist of two or more molecules and hold tremendous promise for applications such as computing, energy storage or photovoltaics.  In particular, the technique could contribute to the design of molecular-sized transistors that enable more energy efficient computing devices ranging from sensors to mobile phones to supercomputers.

“This technique provides another channel of information that will further our understanding of nanoscale physics. It will now be possible to investigate at the single-molecule level how charge is redistributed when individual chemical bonds are formed between atoms and molecules on surfaces,” explains Fabian Mohn of the Physics of Nanoscale Systems group at IBM Research – Zurich. “This is essential as we seek to build atomic and molecular scale devices.”

Gerhard Meyer, a senior IBM scientist who leads the scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) and atomic force microscopy (AFM) research activities at IBM Research – Zurich adds, “The present work marks an important step in our long term effort on controlling and exploring molecular systems at the atomic scale with scanning probe microscopy.”

For his outstanding work in the field, Meyer recently received a European Research Council Advanced Grant. These prestigious grants support “the very best researchers working at the frontiers of knowledge” in Europe.*

Taking a closer look

To measure the charge distribution, IBM scientists used an offspring of AFM called Kelvin probe force microscopy (KPFM).

When a scanning probe tip is placed above a conductive sample, an electric field is generated due to the different electrical potentials of the tip and the sample. With KPFM this potential difference can be measured by applying a voltage such that the electric field is compensated. Therefore, KPFM does not measure the electric charge in the molecule directly, but rather the electric field generated by this charge. The field is stronger above areas of the molecule that are charged, leading to a greater KPFM signal. Furthermore, oppositely charged areas yield a different contrast because the direction of the electric field is reversed. This leads to the light and dark areas in the micrograph (or red and blue areas in colored ones).

Naphthalocyanine, a cross-shaped symmetric organic molecule which was also used in IBM’s single-molecule logic switch**, was found to be an ideal candidate for this study. It features two hydrogen atoms opposing each other in the center of a molecule measuring only two nanometers in size. The hydrogen atoms can be switched controllably between two different configurations by applying a voltage pulse. This so-called tautomerization affects the charge distribution in the molecule, which redistributes itself between opposing legs of the molecules as the hydrogen atoms switch their locations.

Using KPFM, the scientists managed to image the different charge distributions for the two states. To achieve submolecular resolution, a high degree of thermal and mechanical stability and atomic precision of the instrument was required over the course of the experiment, which lasted several days.

Moreover, adding just a single carbon monoxide molecule to the apex of the tip enhanced the resolution greatly. In 2009, the team has already shown that this modification of the tip allowed them to resolve the chemical structures of molecules with AFM. The present experimental findings were corroborated by first-principle density functional theory calculations done by Fabian Mohn together with Nikolaj Moll of the Computational Sciences group at IBM Research – Zurich.

Image Credit: IBM Research

Reference:

Mohn, F., Gross, L., Moll, N., & Meyer, G. (2012). Imaging the charge distribution within a single molecule Nature Nanotechnology DOI: 10.1038/NNANO.2012.20

* cited from the ERC press release, January 24, 2012:http://erc.europa.eu/sites/default/files/press_release/files/press_release_adg2011_results.pdf

** P. Liljeroth, J. Repp, and G. Meyer, “Current-Induced Hydrogen Tautomerization and Conductance Switching of Naphthalocyanine Molecules” , Science 317, p.1203–1206 (2007), DOI: 10.1126/science.1144366

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NASA Pinning Down Where ‘Here’ is Better Than Ever

Before our Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation devices can tell us where we are, the satellites that make up the GPS need to know exactly where they are. For that, they rely on a network of sites that serve as “you are here” signs planted throughout the world. The catch is, the sites don’t sit still because they’re on a planet that isn’t at rest, yet modern measurements require more and more accuracy in pinpointing where “here” is.

To meet this need, NASA is helping to lead an international effort to upgrade the four systems that supply this crucial location information. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., in partnership with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., where the next generation of laser ranging and radio interferometry systems is being developed and built, is bringing all four systems together in a state-of-the-art ground station. This demonstration station and merger of technique processing, known as the Space Geodesy Project, will serve as an example of what is required to measure Earth’s properties to keep up with the ever-changing, yet subtle, movements in land as it rises and sinks along with shifts in the balances of the atmosphere and ocean. All of these movements tweak Earth’s shape, its orientation in space and its center of mass — the point deep inside the planet that everything rotates around. The changes show up in Earth’s gravity field and literally slow down or speed up the planet’s rotation.

“NASA and its sister agencies around the world are making major investments in new stations or upgrading existing stations to provide a network that will benefit the global community for years to come,” says John LaBrecque, Earth Surface and Interior Program Officer at NASA Headquarters.

GPS won’t be the only beneficiary of the improvements. All observations of Earth from space — whether it’s to measure how far earthquakes shift the land, map the world’s ice sheets, watch the global mean sea level creep up or monitor the devastating reach of droughts and floods — depend on the International Terrestrial Reference Frame, which is determined by data from this network of designated sites.

 

For more information, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/technology/features/here-pin-down.html.

Image Credit: Artist’s concept of a quasar (bright area with rays) embedded in the center of a galaxy. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle (SSC)

Source: JPL

NASA’s Spitzer Finds Solid Buckyballs in Space

Astronomers using data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope have, for the first time, discovered buckyballs in a solid form in space. Prior to this discovery, the microscopic carbon spheres had been found only in gas form.

Formally named buckminsterfullerene, buckyballs are named after their resemblance to the late architectBuckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes. They are made up of 60 carbon molecules arranged into a hollow sphere, like a soccer ball. Their unusual structure makes them ideal candidates for electrical and chemical applications on Earth, including superconducting materials, medicines, water purification and armor.

In the latest discovery, scientists using Spitzer detected tiny specks of matter, or particles, consisting of stacked buckyballs. They found them around a pair of stars called “XX Ophiuchi,” 6,500 light-years from Earth.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Western Ontario

“These buckyballs are stacked together to form a solid, like oranges in a crate,” said Nye Evans of Keele University in England, lead author of a paper appearing in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. “The particles we detected are miniscule, far smaller than the width of a hair, but each one would contain stacks of millions of buckyballs.”

Buckyballs were detected definitively in space for the first time by Spitzer in 2010. Spitzer later identified the molecules in a host of different cosmic environments. It even found them in staggering quantities, the equivalent in mass to 15 Earth moons, in a nearby galaxy called the Small Magellanic Cloud.

In all of those cases, the molecules were in the form of gas. The recent discovery of buckyballs particles means that large quantities of these molecules must be present in some stellar environments in order to link up and form solid particles. The research team was able to identify the solid form of buckyballs in the Spitzer data because they emit light in a unique way that differs from the gaseous form.

“This exciting result suggests that buckyballs are even more widespread in space than the earlier Spitzer results showed,” said Mike Werner, project scientist for Spitzer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory inPasadena, Calif. “They may be an important form of carbon, an essential building block for life, throughout the cosmos.”

Buckyballs have been found on Earth in various forms. They form as a gas from burning candles and exist as solids in certain types of rock, such as the mineral shungite found in Russia, and fulgurite, a glassy rock from Colorado that forms when lightning strikes the ground. In a test tube, the solids take on the form of dark, brown “goo.”

“The window Spitzer provides into the infrared universe has revealed beautiful structure on a cosmic scale,” said Bill Danchi, Spitzer program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “In yet another surprise discovery from the mission, we’re lucky enough to see elegant structure at one of the smallest scales, teaching us about the internal architecture of existence.”

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

For information about previous Spitzer discoveries of buckyballs, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/spitzer/news/spitzer20100722.html

and

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/spitzer/news/spitzer20101027.html

For more information about Spitzer, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/spitzer

Source: NASA

Keck Interferometer Winding Down

The Keck Interferometer, linking twin telescopes located atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii and part of NASA’s search for extrasolar planets, now faces its final months of operation due to NASA budget cuts. It is scheduled to shut down in July, though the two telescopes it linked will continue to observe independently of one another. While the Keck telescopes are among the largest in the world for infrared and near-optical observation, financial and political obstacles prevented them from ever reaching their full potential.

Built in the 1990s, the Keck’s twin telescopes were to have been joined by four smaller “outrigger” telescopes that would have dramatically increased the Interferometer’s ability to observe small areas of sky. The telescopes’ combined power would have made visible planets the size of Uranus orbiting nearby stars.

NASA actually built the outriggers several years ago, but they never reached Mauna Kea. NASA withdrew their funding after setbacks in other programs meant to search for exoplanets. This, added to objections from native Hawaiians who have long opposed the presence of an observatory atop what they consider a sacred mountain, along with a court-ordered halt to expansion of the observatory to assess its environmental impact, sounded the death knell for the project. Last year, NASA ultimately withdrew funding for the Interferometer itself.

Keck in Motion from Andrew Cooper on Vimeo.

Image: The Keck Interferometer, with the telescopes’ doors open to equalize temperature inside and outside of the domes. Credit: NASA/JPL