Age and foaming: how to predict when a volcano will erupt

Image credit - Jimmy McIntyre, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The eruption of a volcano can have devastating consequences – killing people and destroying livelihoods, as well as releasing vast amounts of ash into the sky that disrupts air travel and alters the climate. Knowing what goes on underground, however, would facilitate better warnings for when an eruption will occur – and help save lives while … Read more

Hydrogen use doesn’t emit carbon but its production often does. That could soon change

Trucks on Orkney carry hydrogen produced by wind- and tide-powered electrolysis in special lightweight high pressure cylinders, designed to adhere to the low weight limit of the island roads.

Hydrogen can be used to power cars, supply electricity and heat homes, all with zero carbon emissions. The snag is that the vast majority of hydrogen itself is derived from fossil fuels – a fact that scientists are now hoping to change. They plan to clean up production to kickstart a dedicated economy – something that … Read more

Dark matter clusters could reveal nature of dark energy

Scientists are hoping to understand one of the most enduring mysteries in cosmology by simulating its effect on the clustering of galaxies. That mystery is dark energy – the phenomenon that scientists hypothesise is causing the universe to expand at an ever-faster rate. No-one knows anything about dark energy, except that it could be, somehow, blowing … Read more

Dark energy is the biggest mystery in cosmology, but it may not exist at all – leading physicist

Leftover light from Type Ia supernovae has been used to calculate the expansion rate of the universe and infer the existence of dark energy.

The most mysterious phenomenon in cosmology – dark energy – may not exist at all, according to Professor Subir Sarkar, head of the particle theory group at the University of Oxford in the UK. In the late 1990s, astronomers found evidence from supernovae that the universe has been expanding faster and faster as it gets … Read more

Plasma accelerators could overcome size limitations of Large Hadron Collider

A plasma cell can help sustain stronger acceleration fields than in conventional accelerators, at only a fraction of their size.

Plasma particle accelerators more powerful than existing machines could help probe some of the outstanding mysteries of our universe, as well as make leaps forward in cancer treatment and security scanning – all in a package that’s around a thousandth of the size of current accelerators. All that’s left is for scientists to build one. … Read more

Large surface area lends superpowers to ultra-porous materials

Metal-organic frameworks as seen under an electron microscope are made up of crystals that together shape multi-dimensional structures with vast surface areas. Image credit - CSIRO/ Dr Paolo Falcaro, Dr Dario Buso, licensed under CC BY 3.0 (color changed)

Some materials are special not for what they contain, but for what they don’t contain. Such is the case with metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) – ultra-porous structures that are being developed for a variety of future applications from fire-proofing to drug-delivery. MOFs are, in fact, the most porous materials known to humankind. One metal-organic framework, so-called NU-110, has … Read more