Posts belonging to Category NASA

Nanoweapons Against North Korea

Unless you’re working in the field, you probably never heard about U.S. nanoweapons. This is intentional. The United States, as well as Russia and China, are spending billions of dollars per year developing nanoweapons, but all development is secret. Even after’s June 6, 2016 headline, “US nano weapon killed Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, scientists say,” the U.S. offered no response.

Earlier this year, May 5, 2017, North Korea claimed the CIA plotted to kill Kim Jong Un using a radioactive nano poison, similar to the nanoweapon Venezuelan scientists claim the U.S. used to assassinate former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. All major media covered North Korea’s claim. These accusations are substantial, but are they true? Let’s address this question.

Unfortunately, until earlier this year, nanoweapons gleaned little media attention. However, in March 2017 that changed with the publication of the book, Nanoweapons: A Growing Threat to Humanity (2017 Potomac Books), which inspired two articles. On March 9, 2017, American Security Today published “Nanoweapons: A Growing Threat to Humanity – Louis A. Del Monte,” and on March 17, 2017, CNBC published “Mini-nukes and mosquito-like robot weapons being primed for future warfare.” Suddenly, the genie was out of the bottle. The CNBC article became the most popular on their website for two days following its publication and garnered 6.5K shares. Still compared to other classes of military weapons, nanoweapons remain obscure. Factually, most people never even heard the term. If you find this surprising, recall most people never heard of stealth aircraft until their highly publicized use during the first Iraq war in 1990. Today, almost everyone that reads the news knows about stealth aircraft. This may become the case with nanoweapons, but for now, it remains obscure to the public.

Given their relative obscurity, we’ll start by defining nanoweapons. A nanoweapon is any military weapon that exploits the power of nanotechnology. This, of course, begs another question: What is nanotechnology? According to the United States National Nanotechnology Initiative’s website,, “Nanotechnology is science, engineering, and technology conducted at the nanoscale, which is about 1 to 100 nanometers.” To put this in simple terms, the diameter of a typical human hair equals 100,000 nanometers. This means nanotechnology is invisible to the naked eye or even under an optical microscope.


Quantum Satellite Secures Communications

A Chinese quantum satellite has dispatched transmissions over a distance of 1,200 km (746 miles), a dozen times further than the previous record, a breakthrough in a technology that could be used to deliver secure messages, state media said on Friday.

China launched the world’s first quantum satellite last August, to help establish “hack proof” communications between space and the ground, state media said at the time.

The feat opens up “bright prospects” for quantum communications, said Pan Jianwei, the lead scientist of the Chinese team, Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS), according to the official Xinhua news agency.

The scientists exploited the phenomenon of quantum entanglement, in which a particle can affect a far-off twin instantly, somehow overcoming the long distance separating them, a situation termed “spooky action at a distance” by the Nobel-prize winning physicist Albert Einstein, Xinhua added.

The team had successfully distributed entangled photon pairs over 1,200 km, it said, outstripping the distance of up to 100 km (62 miles) at which entanglement had previously been achieved.

The technology so far is “the only way to establish secure keys between two distant locations on earth without relying on trustful relay,” Pan told Xinhua, referring to encrypted messages.

The new development “illustrates the possibility of a future global quantum communication network” the journal Science, which published the results of the Chinese team, said on its website.


Stephen Hawking Warns: Only 100 Years Left For Humankind Before Extinction

It’s no secret that physicist Stephen Hawking thinks humans are running out of time on planet Earth.

In a new BBC documentary, Hawking will test his theory that humankind must colonize another planet or perish in the next 100 years. The documentary Stephen Hawking: Expedition New Earth, will air this summer as part of BBC’s Tomorrow’s World season and will showcase that Hawking‘s aspiration “isn’t as fantastical as it sounds,” according to BBC.

For years, Hawking has warned that humankind faces a slew of threats ranging from climate change to destruction from nuclear war and genetically engineered viruses.

While things look bleak, there is some hope, according to Hawking. Humans must set their sights on another planet or perish on Earth.

We must also continue to go into space for the future of humanity,” Hawking said during a 2016 speech at Britain’s Oxford University Union. In the past, Hawking has suggested that humankind might not survive another 1000 years without escaping beyond our fragile planet.” The BBC documentary hints at an adjusted timeframe for colonization, which many may see in their lifetime.

Adhesive Holds From Extreme Cold To Extreme Heat

Researchers from Case Western Reserve University, Dayton Air Force Research Laboratory and China have developed a new dry adhesive that bonds in extreme temperatures—a quality that could make the product ideal for space exploration and beyond.

The gecko-inspired adhesive loses no traction in temperatures as cold as liquid nitrogen or as hot as molten silver, and actually gets stickier as heat increases, the researchers report.

The research, which builds on earlier development of a single-sided dry adhesive tape based on vertically aligned carbon nanotubes, is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Liming Dai, professor of macromolecular science and engineering at Case Western Reserve and an author of the study teamed with Ming Xu, a senior research associate at Case School of Engineering and visiting scholar from Huazhong University of Science and Technology.


Ming Xu, senior research associate at Case Western Reserve, hangs from two wooden blocks held to a painted wall with six small pieces of the double-sided adhesive.

Vertically aligned carbon nanotubes with tops bundled into nodes replicate the microscopic hairs on the foot of the wall-walking reptile and remain stable from -320 degrees Fahrenheit to 1,832 degrees, the scientists say.

When you have aligned nanotubes with bundled tops penetrating into the cavities of the surface, you generate sufficient van der Waal’s forces to hold,” Xu said. “The dry adhesive doesn’t lose adhesion as it cools because the surface doesn’t change. But when you heat the surface, the surface becomes rougher, physically locking the nanotubes in place, leading to stronger adhesion as temperatures increase.”

Because the adhesive remains useful over such a wide range of temperatures, the inventors say it is ideally suited for use in space, where the shade can be frigid and exposure to the sun blazing hot.

In addition to range, the bonding agent offers properties that could add to its utility. The adhesive conducts heat and electricity, and these properties also increase with temperature. “When applied as a double-sided sticky tape, the adhesive can be used to link electrical components together and also for electrical and thermal management,”said Ajit Roy, of the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory.

This adhesive can thus be used as connecting materials to enhance the performance of electronics at high temperatures,” Dai comments. “At room temperature, the double-sided carbon nanotube tape held as strongly as commercial tape on various rough surfaces, including paper, wood, plastic films and painted walls, showing potential use as conducting adhesives in home appliances and wall-climbing robots.”


The First Satellite Using Quantum Cryptography Is Chinese

Congratulations are in order for China: by launching the world’s first quantum communications satellite, the country has achieved an interesting — if somewhat difficult to explain — milestone in space and cryptography.

quantum dots

Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS), nicknamed Micius after the philosopher, lifted off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 1:40 AM local time (late yesterday in the U.S.) and is currently maneuvering itself into a sun-synchronous orbit at 500 km.

So what’s in the package that’s so exciting?

QUESS is an experiment in the deployment of quantum cryptography — specifically, a prototype that will test whether it’s possible to perform this delicate science from space. Inside QUESS is a crystal that can be stimulated into producing two photons that are “entangled” at a subatomic, quantum level. Entangled photons have certain aspects — polarization, for example — that are the same for both regardless of distance; if one changes, the other changes. The trouble is that photons are rather finicky things, and tend to be bounced, absorbed, and otherwise interfered with when traveling through fibers, air, and so on. QUESS will test whether sending them through space is easier, and whether one of a pair of entangled photons can be successfully sent to the surface while the other remains aboard the satellite.

If this is possible, the entangled photons can be manipulated in order to send information; the satellite could, for example, send binary code by inverting its photon’s polarization, one way for 1, the other way for 0. The ground station would see its photon switching back and forth and record the resulting data. This process would be excruciatingly slow, but fast enough for, say, key creation and exchange — after which data can be exchanged securely by more ordinary means. The critical thing about this is that there is no transmission involved, or at least not one we understand and can intercept.


Impenetrable Body-Armor To Protect Soldiers

A team of engineers from the University of California San Diego (UC San Diego) has developed and tested a type of steel with a record-breaking ability to withstand an impact without deforming permanently. The new steel alloy could be used in a wide range of applications, from drill bits, to body armor for soldiers, to meteor-resistant casings for satellites. The material is an amorphous steel alloy, a promising subclass of steel alloys made of arrangements of atoms that deviate from steel’s classical crystal-like structure, where iron atoms occupy specific locations.

Researchers are increasingly looking to amorphous steel as a source of new materials that are affordable to manufacture, incredibly hard, but at the same time, not brittle. The researchers believe their work on the steel alloy, named SAM2X5-630, is the first to investigate how amorphous steels respond to shock. SAM2X5-630 has the highest recorded elastic limit for any steel alloy, according to the researchers—essentially the highest threshold at which the material can withstand an impact without deforming permanently. The alloy can withstand pressure and stress of up to 12.5 giga-Pascals or about 125,000 atmospheres without undergoing permanent deformations.

record breaking steelTransmission electron microscopy image showing different levels of crystallinity embedded in the amorphous matrix of the alloy. Watch a video of the alloy being tested, click the image.
Because these materials are designed to withstand extreme conditions, you can process them under extreme conditions successfully,” said Olivia Graeve, a professor of mechanical engineering at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego, who led the design and fabrication effort. Veronica Eliasson, an assistant professor at USC, led the testing efforts.

The researchers, from the University of California, San Diego, the University of Southern California and the California Institute of Technology, describe the material’s fabrication and testing in a recent issue of Nature Scientific Reports.


How To Build Stronger Airplanes, Space Shuttles

Thousands bound together are still thinner than a single strand of human hair, but with research from Binghamton University, boron nitride nanotubes may help build better fighter planes and space shuttles.

A team of scientists led by Changhong Ke, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Binghamton University‘s Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science, and researcher Xiaoming Chen were the first to determine the interface strength between boron nitride nanotubes (BNNTs) and epoxy and other polymers.



We think that this could be the first step in a process that changes the way we design and make materials that affect the future of travel on this planet and exploration of other worlds beyond our own,” said Ke. “Those materials may be way off still, but someone needed to take the first step, and we have.”


Metaphorically, think of the epoxy or other polymer materials with the BNNT nanotubes inside like a piece of reinforced concrete. That concrete gets much of its strength from the makeup of the steel rebar and cement; the dispersion of rebar within the cement; the alignment of rebar within the cement; and “stickiness” of the connection between the rebar and the surrounding cement. The scientists essentially measured the “stickiness” of a single nanotube ‘rebar’ — helped by molecular and electrostatic interactions — by removing it from polymer “cement.”


Super-Strong, Light New Metal For Airplanes, Cars

team led by researchers from the Univeristy of California Los Angleles (UCLA) Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science has created a super-strong yet light structural metal with extremely high specific strength and modulus, or stiffness-to-weight ratio. The new metal is composed of magnesium infused with a dense and even dispersal of ceramic silicon carbide nanoparticles. It could be used to make lighter airplanes, spacecraft, and cars, helping to improve fuel efficiency, as well as in mobile electronics and biomedical devices.

To create the super-strong but lightweight metal, the team found a new way to disperse and stabilize nanoparticles in molten metals. They also developed a scalable manufacturing method that could pave the way for more high-performance lightweight metals.

strong metalAt left, a deformed sample of pure metal; at right, the strong new metal made of magnesium with silicon carbide nanoparticles. Each central micropillar is about 4 micrometers across.

It’s been proposed that nanoparticles could really enhance the strength of metals without damaging their plasticity, especially light metals like magnesium, but no groups have been able to disperse ceramic nanoparticles in molten metals until now,” said Xiaochun Li, the principal investigator on the research and Raytheon Chair in Manufacturing Engineering at UCLA. “With an infusion of physics and materials processing, our method paves a new way to enhance the performance of many different kinds of metals by evenly infusing dense nanoparticles to enhance the performance of metals to meet energy and sustainability challenges in today’s society.

The research has been  published  in Nature.


Nanotechnology: The Brillant Future Of CubeSats

To understand why CubeSats could be the next big thing in the study of comets and asteroids, consider the story of Philae, the European Space Agency (ESA) probe that recently made history with the first-ever landing on the surface of a comet. The idea was to get close enough to the comet to analyze its composition in situ—what scientists call “ground truthing.” You can only learn so much about small bodies by studying them from Earth, so scientists built and launched the first spacecraft to sample a comet directly. Trouble is, Philae cost around $240 million, and we almost lost it. Harpoons designed to help the lander grab on to the comet in the low gravity failed to deploy. Another smidgeon of velocity in its bounce, and that $240 million would have been drifting uselessly in the comet’s wake. Philae was lucky; after another bounce it finally came to rest on the surface. But comet landings remain an inherently risky business. That’s where CubeSats—which can cost in the tens of thousands rather than the hundreds of millions of dollars—start to look appealing.
Because CubeSat is low-cost, one can afford to tolerate more risks,” says USC’s Joseph Wang, who has been working on CubeSat engineering for the past several years. In theory, low cost means that scientists can afford to explore more small bodies, more often. The challenge is designing small, light instruments with enough capability to do serious science.


Brain Waves Command Drones Flight

Researchers demonstrate technology that allows unmanned aircraft to be controlled from the ground using only signals from the pilot’s brain.
An impressive example of mind control – a drone in the air, flown using the power of human thought. Portuguese tech company Tekever uses a special EEG cap to turn pilot’s brainwaves into commands for the drone. CEO Pedro Sinogas explains. “The brain approach that Tekever is using is based on collecting the signals from the brain, then a set of algorithms process all the brain signals and transform them into actual controls to multiple devices,” says Sinoga.
brain wavesWhile the pilot controls the drone’s flight path Tekever‘s researchers determine the mission before take-off. Tekever‘s Chief Operations Officer Ricardo Mendes is keen to apply the technology to commercial aviation – although this could take a while. “What we want to do is to get the technology more mature, prove it on the ground, work with the authorities to bring it to the aerospace and to the aviation world and that will take something like 10 years probably.” he says. And the Brainflight technology could have uses beyond flying. “If you have this technology available to you, you can enter your home and connect and disconnect devices with your mind or if you are a disabled person, for example you would be able to control your wheelchair by only using your mind, that’s our goal,” Mendes adds.Tekever engineers say their project will eventually allow pilots to free up their brains and bodies while flying a plane. In the future, pilotless planes could be more than just a flight of fancy.

Solar Power From Space

Collecting solar energy to convert to electricity is not a new concept. However, there are significant advantages to space solar power compared to ground solar power. Solar energy in space is seven times greater per unit area than on the ground. The collection of solar space energy is not disrupted by nightfall and inclement weather, thus avoiding the need for expensive energy storage.

Now  researchers from the University of Waterloo in Canada report a novel design for electromagnetic energy harvesting based on the “full absorption concept.” This involves the use of metamaterials that can be tailored to produce media that neither reflects nor transmits any power—enabling full absorption of incident waves at a specific range of frequencies and polarizations.


The growing demand for electrical energy around the globe is the main factor driving our research,” said Thamer Almoneef, a Ph.D. student. “More than 80 percent of our energy today comes from burning fossil fuels, which is both harmful to our environment and unsustainable as well. In our group, we’re trying to help solve the energy crisis by improving the efficiency of electromagnetic energy-harvesting systems.”

Since the inception of collecting and harvesting electromagnetic energy, classical dipole patch antennas have been used. “Now, our technology introduces ‘metasurfaces’ that are much better energy collectors than classical antennas,” explained Omar M. Ramahi, professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Metasurfaces are formed by etching the surface of a material with an elegant pattern of periodic shapes. The particular dimensions of these patterns and their proximity to each other can be tuned to provide “near-unity” energy absorption. This energy is then channeled to a load through a conducting path that connects the metasurface to a ground plane. The key significance of the researchers’ work is that it demonstrates for the first time that it’s possible to collect essentially all of the electromagnetic energy that falls onto a surface. Conventional antennas can channel electromagnetic energy to a load—but at much lower energy absorption efficiency levels,” said Ramahi. “We can also channel the absorbed energy into a load, rather than having the energy dissipate in the material as was done in previous works.

As you can imagine, this work has a broad range of applications. Among the most important is space solar power, an emerging critical technology that can significantly help to address energy shortages. It converts solar rays into microwaves—using conventional photovoltaic solar panels—and then beams the microwave’s energy to microwave collector farms at designated locations on Earth. Japan is way out in front of rest of the world in this realm, with plans to begin harvesting solar power from space by 2030.


Shower Of The Future Reduces Water Use Drastically

This shower is so futuristic, it could be from Mars. Its creators say the OrbSys recycled water shower could reduce water use by 90 percent, and save energy. But although its design was inspired by NASA‘s mission to the red planet, Orbital System‘s shower is for use on earth. CEO Mehrdad Mahdjoubi was inspired after a stint at the United States space agency. The shower works on a closed loop system – water falls from the showerhead to the drain where it’s purified to drinking water standard by a patented capsule. It’s then pumped back out of the showerhead.
shower2What began as a collaboration project between Lund University and NASA‘s Johnson Space Centre, Houston, made me question the possibility of recycling water on earth, like has been done in space. The shower of the future is a water-recycling shower, thus enabling water savings up to 90 percent, energy savings up to 80 percent, at the same time increasing comfort and hygiene.”

After the water is collected in the drain, analysed and the shower pump shoots it through our purification system, which consists of a micro-capsule that takes away the larger particles, then it goes to the nano-capsule, which takes away all of the smaller contaminants, making sure that the water that reaches the user from the recycling loop always is crystal clear and nice to shower in,” says Mehrdad Mahdjoubi.
The space-age technology means long showers won’t be a thing of the past, despite greater pressure on water resources.
What we are actually doing is we are changing the way that we humans relate to domestic water consumption. With the shower of the future…you can live a greener lifestyle without compromising on comfort,” he added. The shower has been tested at the Ribersborgs open-air baths in the south of Sweden. The company says it saved 100,000 litres of water over four months there. And after testing it all over Sweden. the OrbSys shower is ready for launch word-wide. Its developers say the purification technology could be used in taps and drinking fountains in developing countries, where water-related illness is rife.