Normally computers speed up calculations. But with his new pen-and-paper formula Kevin Heng of the University of Bern gets his results thousands of times faster than using conventional computer codes. The astrophysicist calculates the abundances of molecules (known as atmospheric chemistry) in exoplanetary atmospheres. Ultimately, deciphering the abundances of molecules allows us to interpret if features in a spectrum are due to physics, geology or biology.

With their sophisticated instruments, astronomers today not only detect new exoplanets outside our solar system but are able to characterize the atmospheres of some of these distant worlds. To know what to anticipate and when to be surprised theorists calculate the expected abundances of molecules. Kevin Heng, director of the Center of Space and Habitability (CSH) at the University of Bern, is an expert in these calculations. “The sun – and other stars – have a very definite proportion of chemical elements like hydrogen, carbon, oxygen or nitrogen”, he explains: “And there is a lot of evidence that planets form from the essence of stars.” But whereas in stars the elements exist as atoms, in the lower temperatures of exoplanetary atmospheres they form different molecules according to temperature and pressure.

At low temperatures, for instance, the dominant carrier of carbon is methane (CH4), at high temperatures it is carbon monoxide (CO). The network of possible chemical reactions is well known but very large. Therefore, conventional calculations are complex and very time-consuming. “I found a way to do this much faster by solving 99% of the problem on paper, before one even touches a computer,” says Kevin Heng. “Normally, one solves what we call a system of coupled, non-linear equations.  I managed to reduce the problem to solving a single polynomial equation.  Effectively, I ‘uncoupled’ the system of equations on paper, instead of using a computer.” Solving this polynomial equation then takes a fraction of the original computer time.

10 milli-seconds instead of a few minutes

“It took me a few months to figure out what is possible”, says the astrophysicist. He needed two papers to lay down the foundation for the main result in the third paper that is now accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal. “This breakthrough essentially reduces the main part of the program to one line of computer code. Now we can calculate chemistry in 0.01 seconds (10 milli-seconds) instead of a few minutes.” A figure showing curves of the relative abundances of various molecules like methane, carbon monoxide, water or ammonium versus temperature demonstrates how accurate the new formula is. “You can almost not tell the difference between my calculations and those with the complicated computer code,” summarizes the scientist. No wonder the paper caused a stir in the experts’ community even before its official publication.

The new analytical method has several implications.  The tremendous speed-up allows for a more thorough exploration of the possibilities when interpreting the spectra of exoplanetary atmospheres.  To Heng, what is more exciting is the opportunity for scientific democracy:  “It is now easy for any astronomer, around the world, to calculate atmospheric chemistry in exoplanets.  One no longer needs to implement a sophisticated computer code.  I get a kick out of knowing that this knowledge is instantly transferrable to any other scientist in the world.”

Observing the atmospheres of exoplanets, scientists hope to find out how the objects formed and what kind of processes are still taking place. Atmospheric chemistry teaches them how and when to be surprised. Differences between the calculated and the observed abundances of molecules could unveil geological or even biological processes. “Maybe in 20 or 30 years looking at an exoplanetary atmosphere with water, oxygen, ozone and other molecules we can ask whether we see life,” says Kevin Heng: “But first we will have to answer the question whether the data can be explained by physics or geology.”

Leverages Its All-Flash Storage Architecture to Deliver Predicable and Consistent Business Results

Kaminario, a leading all-flash storage company, today announced its K-Assured program -- an innovative and comprehensive program that offers unprecedented predictability and consistency in a customer's storage buying decision process. The K-Assured program helps eliminate the common purchasing concerns around cost, performance, availability and scalability associated with running a business in an on-demand world -- now and in the future.

Kaminario, the first storage provider to offer capacity assurance, was inspired by its customer's overwhelmingly positive feedback, and is launching five new assurances as part of the K-Assured program. This offer is available to existing and new customers at no additional cost.

"Our customers' needs are dynamic and change rapidly to meet market demands," said Dani Golan, founder and CEO, Kaminario. "To meet these changing requirements, we have developed an agile, all-flash architecture for the on-demand world and the K-Assured™ program is designed to eliminate a customer's worries when buying their storage solution."

Kaminario CEO on revolutionizing the storage buying experience

"The K-Assured program is fantastic," said Steve Duplessie, founder and senior analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group. "Guaranteed capacity, performance and availability takes the guesswork out of buying flash -- regardless of the application you run today or tomorrow. Combine that with Kaminario keeping maintenance costs consistent and not forcing a forklift upgrade in return. This program is a home run for buyers."

For Today's On-Demand World

The K-Assured program is split into two parts. The first part offers assurances when a customer purchases Kaminario K2 -- the all-flash storage system.

Assured Capacity builds on the industry's first guaranteed effective capacity program which ensured customers' effective capacity and eliminated uncertainty around data reduction. If a customer does not get the guaranteed capacity, Kaminario will provide additional storage hardware at no cost.

Assured Performance leverages Kaminario K2's unique scale-up-and-out architecture to ensure predictable and consistent performance for real-world application workloads. If performance does not meet defined thresholds, Kaminario will provide additional compute hardware at no cost.

Assured Availability ensures that Kaminario K2's highly available architecture delivers 99.999% uptime. If the system fails to meet this level of availability, Kaminario will provide additional support at no additional cost.

For Tomorrow's Unpredictable World

The second component of the K-Assured program offers a strategy to future-proof a storage purchase and provide assurances to meet the demands of a growing business. 

Assured Scale leverages Kaminario K2's agile, software-defined architecture to ensure a scalability model that eliminates forklift upgrades and allows customers to leverage new hardware advances in compute, networking and storage media. The K2 includes an all-inclusive software pricing model and assurances that customers will receive Kaminario's software and firmware upgrades at no extra cost for the life of the system.

Assured Maintenance minimizes uncertainty about extended maintenance pricing. The program ensures Kaminario's maintenance pricing, which is a fixed percentage of acquisition price for the life of the system. It eliminates unexpected and expensive maintenance renewal costs.

Assured Solid-state Drive (SSD) Life leverages Kaminario's advanced endurance management technology to extend SSD wear coverage for the life of the system, regardless of manufacturer's warranty.

For additional details on the K-Assured program, please visit here. Kaminario also stands behind its award-winning storage solution with a no-risk trial program with an option to buy or return the storage at the end of the trial period.

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Image credit: NASA/FUSE/Lynette Cook

Using sophisticated supercomputer simulations, an international research team have discovered new insights into the chemical composition of the dust grains that formed in the solar system 4.5 billion years ago. 

Researchers from Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne and the University of Lyon, France, calculated a two-dimensional map of the dust chemistry in the solar nebula, the thin dusty disk that surrounded the young sun and out of which the planet formed. 

It is expected that refractories (high temperature materials) should be located close to the young sun, while volatile materials (such as ices and sulphur compounds) should form far from the sun where temperatures are cooler. 

However, the new maps produced by the research team revealed a complex chemical distribution of the dust, where refractory materials were also present at large distances from the sun on the surface of the disk. Volatile materials were also found in the inner disk close to the young sun. 

“The new two-dimensional calculations have given us a clearer idea of the pristine chemistry in our solar system soon after its formation,” says lead researcher Francesco Pignatale. 

“While solar nebular is thin, it is two-dimensional. This makes it possible to find relatively high temperature regions at larger distances from the sun on the surface of the disk that are heated by the sun’s rays. 

“We also find colder regions in the inner disk closer to the sun.  Here the high concentration of dust prevents the stellar radiation from efficiently heating the local environment.” 

This research was conducted as part of Dr Pignatale’s PhD at Swinburne. 

The research team also included Swinburne Dean of Science, Professor Sarah Maddison, Dr Kurt Liffman and Professor Geoff Brooks. 

This research was published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

In research at Purdue, a simulation technique may help to reduce the cost of carbon nanostructures for research and commercial technologies, including advanced sensors and batteries. These graphs show how including a “dielectric pillar” might affect the manufacturing process. (Purdue University image/Gayathri Shivkumar and Siva Tholeti)

A Purdue University research team has developed a simulation technique as part of a project to help reduce the cost of carbon nanostructures for research and potential commercial technologies, including advanced sensors and batteries.

Carbon nanostructures such as nanotubes, “nanopetals” and ultrathin sheets of graphite called graphene may find a wide variety of applications in engineering and biosciences. Due to the rapid increase in their use over the past decade, researchers are working to develop a mass-production system to reduce their cost. The nanostructures are manufactured with a method called plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition (CVD).

In new findings, researchers have developed a model to simulate what happens inside the CVD reactor chamber to optimize conditions for fast and environmentally friendly conversion of raw materials, such as methane and hydrogen, into carbon nanopetals and other structures. 

“There is a very complex mix of phenomena, plasma absorption of microwave power, heat transfer between plasma and gas and, ultimately, the chemistry of the reacting gas mixture that creates the nanostructures,” said Alina Alexeenko, an associate professor in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics who is leading the modeling work. “The modeling could enable us to do less trial and error in searching for conditions that are just right to create nanostructures.”

Findings are detailed in a paper published online in the Journal of Applied Physics. It was the featured article of the journal’s March 21 print edition.

The nanopetals show promise as a sensor for detecting glucose in the saliva or tears and for "supercapacitors" that could make possible fast-charging, high-performance batteries. However, for the material to be commercialized researchers must find a way to mass-produce it at low cost.

The researchers used a technique called optical emission spectroscopy to measure the temperature of hydrogen in the plasma and compare it to the modeling result. Findings showed the model matches experimental data.

"Dr. Alexeenko and her students were able to capture the essence of physical processes that we, as experimentalists, initially believed would be too difficult to model,” said Timothy Fisher, the James G. Dwyer Professor in Mechanical Engineering. “But now that we can simulate the process, we will be able to look first on the computer for the set of conditions that improves the process in order to guide the next experiments in the lab."

The research is part of a Purdue project funded by the National Science Foundation. It focuses on creating a nanomanufacturing method that is capable of mass production at low cost. The underlying technology was developed by a research group led by Fisher. It consists of vertical nanostructures resembling tiny rose petals made of graphene that might be mass produced using roll-to-roll manufacturing, a mainstay of many industrial operations, including paper and sheet-metal production.

The new findings showed the production of the nanostructures is enhanced and sped up through the formation of “vertical dielectric pillars” in the CVD reactor.

“The implication is that we understand better what the effect is of these pillars and will reproduce this effect by other means in the large-scale roll-to-roll system that Dr. Fisher already has built,” Alexeenko said. “The simulations quantify the effect of the pillar and other parameters, such as power and pressure, on plasma enhancement.”

The Journal of Applied Physics paper was authored by graduate students Gayathri Shivkumar, Siva Sashank Tholeti and Majed Alrefae; Fisher; and Alexeenko.

Much of the research is based at the Birck Nanotechnology Center in Purdue’s Discovery Park and is part of a cold plasma team under the Purdue College of Engineering preeminent team initiative.

“The next and ongoing step in this research is applying the modeling to roll-to-roll for large-scale manufacturing of nanopetals,” Alexeenko said. “Also, optimizing the reactor conditions for energy efficiency and environmental effects to minimize production of toxic chemicals.”

The use of maths research in the UK to solve problems for business and industry is highlighted in a new book co-edited by academics at the University of Strathclyde.

UK Success Stories in Industrial Mathematics features case studies of nearly 40 mathematicians playing a role in the performance of businesses, including increased output, productivity and profit.

The book covers a range of sectors, including climate modelling, engineering, health and finance. It has been co-edited by Dr Katherine Tant and Dr Anthony Mulholland, of Strathclyde's Department of Mathematics and Statistics, along with Dr Philip Aston of the University of Surrey.

Dr Tant said: "The research in this book is designed to be accessible to the general public but also includes mathematical results for a more specialist audience. It's also grouped into sectors, depending on where the mathematicians' collaborations were.

"The book shows the impressive economic and social impact that mathematics can have, sometimes in unexpected places. It also demonstrates the value of maths study and research, which has applications in many sectors."

Examples of the research projects include an analytical framework for dealing with nuclear-related disaster and an algorithm for determining the level of classification of confidential documents.

It also features a project led by Strathclyde Mathematics Professor Des Higham with Leeds-based digital marketing agency Bloom, which supported the development of its social media analytics product Whisper which identifies 'true influence'.

Whisper examines social media networks and how they are connected to each other. It determines who is pivotal in connecting communities in these networks and was used to provide the insight for the 2015 Sky Sports advertisement featuring former footballer Thierry Henry.

UK Success Stories in Industrial Mathematics is published by Springer Science Books. It is to be officially launched at an event at the House of Commons tonight (Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016), organised by the Council for Mathematical Sciences and hosted by Stephen Metcalfe MP, a member of the Commons Science and Technology Committee.

The book was compiled from selected research projects submitted to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, the comprehensive rating of UK universities' research. This assessed 74% of Strathclyde's Mathematical Sciences research output as world-leading or internationally excellent.

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