Applied Physics

Chemical engineers at Purdue believe they have discovered a fundamental flaw in the conventional view of how liquids form bubbles that grow and turn into vapors and that their findings cast into doubt some aspects of a theory dating back to the 1920s, said David S. Corti, an associate professor of chemical engineering at Purdue University.

The research could lead to a more precise understanding of the "phase transition" that takes place when bubbles form, grow and then become a vapor, which could, in turn, have implications for industry and research, Corti said.

A Virginia Tech researcher is working on a device to create biofuels from bird litter - bedding, manure, feathers, spilled feed and everything else on the floor of chicken coops.

Foster Agblevor, associate professor of biological systems engineering, and a team are developing transportable pyrolysis units that will convert the waste into bio-oil by heating the litter until it vaporizes. The vapor is then condensed to produce the bio-oil, and a slow release fertilizer is recovered from the reactor. The gas can then be used to operate the pyrolysis unit, making it a self-sufficient system.

Three value-added products from one device. It can help produce some energy and get rid of pollution.

Kaiping Peng, a friend of mine who is a professor at Berkeley, recently said to me that professors have an unusual place in our society: They are expected to tell the truth. Hardly anyone else is, he said. But what happens when they do?

The most impressive professorial truth-telling in my lifetime has been The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism (2003) by Michael Bailey, a professor of psychology at Northwestern. It’s mainly about male homosexuals but it also discusses male-to-female transsexuals, not all of whom are homosexual.

By using pulses of light to dramatically accelerate quantum computers, University of Michigan researchers have made strides in technology that could foil national and personal security threats.

It's a leap, they say, that could lead to tougher protections of information and quicker deciphering of hackers' encryption codes.

A new paper on the results of this research, "Coherent Optical Spectroscopy of a Strongly Driven Quantum Dot," appears in the Aug. 17 issue of Science. Duncan Steel, the Robert J. Hiller Professor at Michigan Engineering's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Department of Physics, is one of the lead authors of the paper.

Scientists have discovered a new protein that may offer fresh insights into brain function in mad cow disease. “Our team has defined a second prion protein called ‘Shadoo’, that exists in addition to the well-known prion protein called ‘PrP’ ” said Professor David Westaway, director of the Centre for Prions and Protein Folding Diseases at the University of Alberta.

“For decades we believed PrP was a unique nerve protein that folded into an abnormal shape and caused prion disease: end of story. This view is no longer accurate,” Westaway adds.

The study was conducted jointly by the University of Toronto, University of Alberta, Case Western Reserve University (Ohio) and the McLaughlin Research Institute (Montana).

All bad jokes aside, their research represents a step forward in computers reaching the capability of a human mind.

"This work has a relationship to 'Sociable Computing,'" says Larry Mazlack. "Currently, computers are often difficult to communicate with, to use and to apply to solving problems that are informally stated.

“The ‘robot’ is just a software program that still needs a lot of work,” says researcher Julia Taylor. “The idea is to be able to recognize jokes that are based on phonological similarity of words.”

It will soon be easy to determine whether a person has an alcohol problem. With a tiny prick of the finger a new method can detect any abuse from the last two weeks. It can also reveal injurious and risky consumption, such as repeated weekend binges. The method is quicker, cheaper, and more accurate than present variants, which makes it interesting to primary care clinics, workplaces, and other venues where it is important to carry out health checks.

"People with incipient alcohol abuse often try to obscure their problems, both from themselves and from others. This makes it important to uncover problems in time.

Physiologists estimate that humans have 300 million alveoli in their lungs to get rid of just one kilogram of carbon dioxide per day. At rest, they barely exchange ten liters of breathing air each minute. Macrophages are constantly lurking for dust particles or rests of small haemorrhages which immediately have to be eliminated.

It is this reliability, developed by the respiratory system in the evolution process, that inspires Hans Fahlenkamp, professor for chemical engineering at Universität Dortmund. He thinks it is the answer to the biggest challenge in environmental technology; the carbon dioxide separation from power plant flue gas.

Life on Saturn's icy moon? Unlikely, say University of Illinois researchers, and a new model they have created shows it is possible for a frigid, stiff Enceladus without a shifting interior (such as plate tectonics on Earth) to develop fractures and ridges, and convey heat at the rate observed by the Cassini spacecraft since 2004, without liquid water.

The Cassini spacecraft revealed a south polar region of Enceladus with an elaborate arrangement of fractures and ridges, heat radiation and geyser-like plumes consisting of ice crystals and gases such as methane, nitrogen and carbon dioxide.

In this fourth installment of our on-going series of interviews with some of the leading thinkers and scientists on the subject of energy, we interview William H. Calvin, PhD.

Facing and solving the multiple issues concerning energy is the single most pressing problem that we face as a species. There is a lot of media coverage about energy, alternative energy and global warming, but what has been missing is the knowledge and point of view of scientists, at least in the main stream media. If you have missed the first three interviews, you can see the entire list in my profile.