Image of detonation engine firing

Japanese Rocket Engine Explodes: Continuously And On Purpose

Liquid-fuelled rocket engine design has largely followed a simple template since the development of the German V-2 rocket in the middle of World War 2. Propellant and oxidizer are mixed in a combustion chamber, creating a mixture of hot gases at high pressure that very much wish to leave out the back of the rocket, generating thrust.

However, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has recently completed a successful test of a different type of rocket, known as a rotating detonation engine. The engine relies on an entirely different method of combustion, with the aim to produce more thrust from less fuel. We’ll dive into how it works, and how the Japanese test bodes for the future of this technology.

Deflagration vs. Detonation

Humans love combusting fuels in order to do useful work. Thus far in our history, whether we look at steam engines, gasoline engines, or even rocket engines, all these technologies have had one thing in common: they all rely on fuel that burns in a deflagration. It’s the easily controlled manner of slow combustion that we’re all familiar with since we started sitting around campfires. Continue reading “Japanese Rocket Engine Explodes: Continuously And On Purpose”

Ultrasonic levitation rig.

Phased Array Levitation Is Science In Action

Levitation may seem like magic. However, for certain objects, and in certain conditions, it’s actually a solved technology. If you want to move small particles around or do experiments with ultrasonic haptic feedback, you might find SonicSurface to be a useful platform for experimentation.

The build comes to us from [UpnaLab], and is no small feat of engineering. It packs in 256 ultrasonic emitters in a 16×16 grid, with individual phase control across the entire panel. This allows for the generation of complex ultrasonic wave fields over the SonicSurface board. Two boards can be paired together in a vertically opposed configuration, too. This allows the levitation of tiny particles in 3D space.

As you might expect, an FPGA is pressed into service to handle the heavy lifting – in this case, an Altera CoreEP4CE6. Commands are sent to the SonicSurface by a USB-to-serial connection from an attached PC.

The board is largely limited to the levitation of small spherical pieces of foam, with the ultrasonic field levitating them in midair. However, the project video shows how these tiny pieces of foam can be attached to threads, tapes, and other objects in order to manipulate them with the ultrasonic array.

It may not be a simple project, but it serves as a great basis for your own levitation experiments. Of course, if you want to start smaller, that’s fine too. If you come up with any great levitation breakthroughs of your own, be sure to let us know.

Solving Ultra High Vacuum Leaks Has An Elementary Solution

When we think of a vacuum leak we generally think of a car that just doesn’t want to run quite right. Most normally aspirated internal combustion engines rely on the vacuum created by the pistons to draw in the air fuel mixture that’s produced by the carburetor or fuel injection system. Identifying the leak usually involves spraying something combustible around common trouble areas while the engine is running. Changes to the engine speed indicate when the combustible gas enters the intake manifold and the leak can be found.

What if your vacuum leak is in a highly specialized piece of scientific equipment where the pressures are about 12 times orders of magnitude lower than atmospheric pressure, and the leak is so small it’s only letting a few atoms into the vacuum chamber at a time? [AlphaPhoenix] takes dives deep into this very subject in his video “Air-tight vs. Vacuum-tight.” which you can watch below the break.

Not only does [AlphaPhoenix] discuss how a perfect pressure vessel is sealed, he also explains the specialized troubleshooting methods used which turn out not to be all that different from troubleshooting an automotive vacuum leak- only in this case, several magnitudes more complex and elemental in nature.

We also enjoyed the comments section, where [AlphaPhoenix] addresses some of the most common questions surrounding the video: Torque patterns, the scarcity of the gasses used, and leaving well enough alone.

Does talking about vacuums get you pumped? Perhaps you’d enjoy such vacuum hacks as putting the toothpaste back in the tube in your homemade vacuum chamber.

Thank you [Morgan] for sending this one in. Be sure to send in your own hacks, projects, and fantastic finds through the Tip Line!

Continue reading “Solving Ultra High Vacuum Leaks Has An Elementary Solution”

Affordable Transilluminator Helps Visualize DNA

If you want to examine the results of gel electrophoresis — and who doesn’t — you need a transilluminator. These devices can be quite pricey, though, so you might want to check out [Gabriel St-Pierre’s] plans to make an affordable blue-light version. You can see a video about the device below.

Using a UV filter, an Arduino Nano, an LED strip, 3D printing, and some mechanical items, it looks like this is a very easy project if you need such a device. There are a few miscellaneous parts like a hinge and some mirror material, but nothing looks too exotic.

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Something’s Up In Switzerland: Explaining The B Meson News From The Large Hadron Collider

Particle physics is a field of extremes. Scales always have 10really big number associated. Some results from the Large Hadron Collider Beauty (LHCb) experiment have recently been reported that are statistically significant, and they may have profound implications for the Standard Model, but it might also just be a numbers anomaly, and we won’t get to find out for a while. Let’s dive into the basics of quantum particles, in case your elementary school education is a little rusty.

It all starts when one particle loves another particle very much and they are attracted to each other, but then things move too fast, and all of a sudden they’re going in circles in opposite directions, and then they break up catastrophically…

Continue reading “Something’s Up In Switzerland: Explaining The B Meson News From The Large Hadron Collider”

The Laser Power Record Has Been Broken

Lasers do all sorts of interesting things and — as with so many things — more is better. Korean scientists announced recently they’ve created the most powerful laser beam. 1023 watts per square centimeter, to be exact. It turns out that 1022 Watts/cm2 may not be commonplace, but has been done many times already at several facilities, including the CoReLS petawatt (PW) laser used by the researchers.

Just as improving a radio transmitter often involves antenna work instead of actual power increases, this laser setup uses an improved focus mechanism to get more energy in a 1.1 micron spot. As you might expect, doing this requires some pretty sophisticated optics.

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Measuring An Atom

Do you need a well-equipped lab to measure the size of an atom (German, machine translation)? According to [stoppi], no. You need sunflower oil, some bear moss spores, and a bit of gasoline. You’ll also need some common things like a syringe, a baking sheet, and a jar. You can see the whole process in the video below. The measurement isn’t really for a specific atom, but it is an average for a lipid molecule, which is still impressive.

You essentially measure the diameter of an oil drop spread over water. Since the oil is mostly oleic acid, the height of the layer is known as 167 atoms. After that, it is some simple measurements and math to get the height and find the average atom height.

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