Tag: Astronomy

Conversations in the Clean Room

At the shared laboratories of the Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, casual conversations between scientists can lead to breakthroughs

A chemist and a physicist walk into a clean room. No, this is not the one about how many people it takes to change a light bulb. Nor is it the one about two Israelis and three opinions. This is a true story about how two doctoral students from different fields got talking and realized that they may be able to use chemistry to solve a nagging problem in physics. “These students were the best kind – curious and open to new ideas and different ways of approaching a problem,” says Prof. Gil Markovich of the Raymond and Beverly Sackler School of Chemistry. Prof. Yoram Dagan, Raymond and Beverly Sackler School of Physics and Astronomy, nods in agreement.

Markovich and Dagan were the students’ respective PhD advisors and quickly saw the benefit of collaborating. In their research, they sought a solution to prevent damage to the surface of semiconductors – small components that control electrical current in devices such as computers and mobile phones, which damage the functioning of the devices.

For this kind of research, a particularly sterile laboratory is required. The special conditions in the “clean room” include a constant temperature of 20 degrees, 50 percent humidity, and a very powerful filter that prevents the entry of dust particles into the laboratory space and is responsible for creating a sterile work environment. These conditions are essential for the production of certain materials, especially electronic chips, which can be disrupted by something as tiny as a grain of dust.

From cell phones to thermal cameras  

The scientists are using a chemical rather than physical process to create an electrical insulating thin film the thickness of a single atom. According to Dagan, “Unlike in physics, where non-organic materials are used, we used organic compounds to get the components that create the atom-thick layer.” In the process carried out by the scientists, they heated organic compounds to the point of dissolution. Once they touch the surface, they receive additional energy and break down until the process stops on its own. “This creates only a single layer of the insulating material, because there is not enough energy to form another layer,” Dagan explains. “In a cheap and rapid chemical process, we were able to offer an alternative to complicated and costly processes, and even to achieve a better result.”

Their invention could improve microelectronics in all the devices we carry in our pockets and have in our homes by making them faster, more efficient and more compact. “This is a long-term project – an idea that may be implementable twenty years down the line. Yet exploring this basic physics problem using nano-chemistry led us to an application that can be realized today,” says Dagan.

Markovich and Dagan have teamed up with industry experts for guidance in applying their technology to improve resolution in infrared cameras used for defense and security installations. The Israel Innovation Authority (formerly the Office of the Chief Scientist) has invested in the project with a grant reserved solely for projects that have a good chance to be commercialized in Israel. “It all begins, though, with basic science. Basic science is the foundation of knowledge. When we discover new possibilities and new materials, applications can grow,” stresses Dagan.

Collaboration opens new possibilities

Markovich and Dagan share a passion for unlocking the secrets of the universe: “We are both interested in origins,” says Dagan. “Gil researches the interaction of minerals with amino acids and DNA – the original building blocks of life.  I am interested in the fundamental properties of matter and materials. I would not think up chemical approaches to physical problems by myself. Our collaboration is opening up new possibilities.” says Dagan.

“This has been a fun ride,” adds Markovich. “First, Yoram is a nice person. And I never worked on these kinds of problems before. We have ideas for cooperation on chemical ways to create new materials for quantum computing. The future is wide open.” 

Featured iage:Prof. Gil Markovich and Prof. Yoram Dagan (Photo: Yoram Reshef)

Over 400 People Attend Launch of “Astronomy on Tap”

The School of Physics and Astronomy inaugurated a new public outreach activity – short astronomy-related presentations at a bar.

The first event was held at the Kanta Bar in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, April 2, 2019. PhD student Meir Zeilig-Hess spoke about his research on supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies, and Master’s student Natalie Lubelchick talked about her research in deciphering the explosions of stars. New faculty member, Dr. Iair Arcavi, and PhD student Dalya Baron hosted the event and reviewed the month’s “astronomy in the news”. Astronomical prizes were given to attendees who sent questions to the speakers during the event.

Astronomy on Tap is expected to take place roughly once a month in the same format. The events are free and open to the public. Updates will be provided through the Astronomy on Tap mailing list and Facebook page (in Hebrew). Links to photos and videos of each event will be posted to the website. For further information, please contact the organizer of the event, Dr. Iair Arcavi.

Photo: From left: Dr. Iair Arcavi, Dalya Baron, Natalie Lubelchick, Meir Zeilig-Hess. Photo: Ofir Hochberg

Discovery of a binary star orbited by three planets

Discovery by a team of researchers, including Prof. Tsevi Mazeh from the School of Physics and Astronomy

Astronomers have discovered a third planet in the Kepler-47 system, turning the system’s to be one of the most interesting known binary stars.

Using data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope, a team of researchers, including Prof. Tsevi Mazeh from TAU, detected a new Neptune-to-Saturn-size planet orbiting between two previously known planets. The system is now known to include two suns in a very close orbit, circled by three planets. This is the only known double star with more than one circumbinary planet known.

Further information >

Image credit: NASA

A new, revolutionary way to simplify complex scientific calculations

Your zip software could calculate entropy as well as a supercomputer, TAU researchers say

Researchers at Prof. Roy Beck’s lab have figured out a simple and accessible solution to a problem that even supercomputers struggle with: measuring entropy, the level of molecular disorder or randomness in a complext system. In complex physical systems, the interaction of internal elements is unavoidable, rendering entropy calculation a computationally demanding, and often impractical, task. The tendency of a properly folded protein to unravel, for example, can be predicted using entropy calculations. Now, a new Tel Aviv University study proposes a radically simple and efficient way of calculating entropy — and it probably exists on your own computer. “We discovered a way to calculate entropy using a standard compression algorithm like the zip software we all have on our computers,” explains Prof. Roy Beck of TAU’s School of Physics and Astronomy. “Supercomputers are used today to simulate the folding or misfolding of proteins in diseased states. Our study demonstrated that by using a standard compression algorithm, we can provide new insights into the physical properties of these proteins by calculating their entropy values using a compression algorithm.

A veriety of new solutions

“Having the ability to calculate entropy meets an urgent need to harness the incredible power of computer simulations to address urgent, timely problems in science and medicine,” Prof. Beck adds. The research was led by him and conducted by TAU PhD students Ram Avinery and Micha Kornreich. According to Prof. Beck, the research has endless applications. From biomedical simulations to basic research conducted in physics, chemistry or material science, the new algorithm would be simple to use on any computer. “A high school student used our concept to calculate the entropy of a complex physical system — the XY model,” says Prof. Beck. “Although this is considered a challenging problem with regard to entropy, the student accomplished it with very little guidance. This demonstrates how easily this method can be used by almost anybody to solve very interesting problems.”

A by-the-way discovery

The idea for the computational method first came about when Prof. Beck’s students, Avinery and Kornreich, discussed entropy from the point of view of information theory. They wondered how well this idea might work in practice rather than in theory. “They simulated a few standard physical systems with entropy values they can compare to,” says Prof. Beck. “Soon they found that the simulation data file size after compression rises and falls just as the expected entropy should. Shortly after that, they realized they could convert the compressed file size into a usable value — the physical entropy. Surprisingly, the simple conversion they used was valid for all the systems studied.” The researchers are currently expanding the application of their methodology to a wide and varied selection of systems. “Since we started working and talking about our work, we have been approached by many researchers from very different fields, asking us to help them calculate entropy from their data,” concludes Prof. Beck. “For now, we are concentrating on simulation of protein folding, a timely and urgent topic that can benefit tremendously from our discovery.”

Victoria

Tok Corporate Centre, Level 1,
459 Toorak Road, Toorak VIC 3142
Phone: +61 3 9296 2065
Email: office@aftau.asn.au

New South Wales

P.O. Box 4044, Maroubra South,
NSW 2035
Phone: +61 418 465 556
Email: davidsolomon@aftau.org.au

Western Australia

P O Box 36, Claremont,
WA  6010
Phone: :+61 411 223 550
Email: clivedonner@thelinqgroup.com