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How to Save the Troubled Graphene Transistor

Unlike conventional semiconductors, graphene cannot be switched off, a problem that threatens to scupper its use in future generations of transistors. Now physicists think they’ve found a solution.

The writing is on the wall for the silicon chip. Transistors have been shrinking for the last half a century but they cannot get smaller forever. Most industry pundits think that the downscaling of silicon chip technology cannot extend much beyond 2026. The big question, of course, is what will replace it.

One possibility is graphene, which various teams around the world have used to make hugely fast transistors. Last year, one team clocked a graphene transistor at a cool 427 GHz. So you could be forgiven for thinking that graphene is the perfect silicon replacement.

Not so fast. There is a significant problem with graphene that makes it difficult to use in transistors– it has no band gap.

That means there is no energy range in graphene in which electron states cannot exist. Or in other words, it’s impossible to switch off graphene. And for a transistor, that spells serious trouble…

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Jet Propulsion Laboratory Missions to Study Climate Change & Weather on Earth

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is known for its exploration of space, but the La Cañada Flintridge facility is starting to focus its gaze back to Earth. Three new missions scheduled to launch in 2014 will examine soil moisture, wind, and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The data obtained from the orbiters sent on these missions can be used by farmers, meteorologists and others in understanding how the planet works, scientists said. “Last year was the year of Mars,” said JPL Director Charles Elachi on Tuesday. “This is the year of Earth science.” Elachi and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden donned white coveralls and head coverings Tuesday during a tour of a chamber in JPL’s spacecraft assembly facility, also known as the “clean room,” where instruments for the missions are currently being assembled and tested. The Carbon Observatory-2 satellite was absent from the test facility, but talk of the upcoming mission led to discussions about how the agency will address the changing global climate…

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SUNY’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) Transforms Kodak Cleanroom

SUNY’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) will revitalize a vacant Kodak cleanroom building in Rochester, N.Y., by transforming it into a first-of-its-kind CNSE Photovoltaic Manufacturing and Technology Development Facility for crystalline silicon photovoltaics. Renovation is underway to transform the 57,000 ft2 building, which was formerly occupied by Kodak’s MEMS inkjet facility before it closed last October. The initiative will enable more than 100 high-tech jobs and includes the fitting up of a 20,000-square ft2 cleanroom. A late fall opening is anticipated. The first initiative as part of the project will relocate a critical component of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SunShot initiative from California’s Silicon Valley to Upstate New York…

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Satellite Built by UAH Students ’99 Percent’ Ready for October Launch on NASA Rocket

The spacecraft conceived and built in Huntsville is virtually ready for launch and blast-off is less than three months away.

No, the Space Launch System is not suddenly on an accelerated program. Instead, it’s a group of students at the University of Alabama in Huntsville who have been working for more than three years on a tiny satellite that is scheduled to be sent into space in October.

Members of the Space Hardware Club at UAH were in San Luis Obispo, Calif., last week on the campus of California Polytechnic State University. The Cal Poly visit was to put the ChargerSat1 through readiness tests as a final hurdle toward the scheduled Oct. 30 launch.

The satellite got a “good thumbs-up,” according to team member Mark Becnel.

“We’re well past 99 percent (ready),” he said.

The project began in 2010 when the club applied for a spot on a future NASA launch…

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Near Infrared Camera For James Webb Space Telescope

Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT], under a contract from the University of Arizona, has completed assembly and testing of the Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and has shipped the instrument to the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. NIRCam is the prime near-infrared imaging instrument for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

The James Webb Space Telescope is NASA’s next-generation space observatory and successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. The most powerful space telescope ever built, JWST will observe the most distant objects in the universe, provide images of the very first galaxies ever formed, provide insight to how solar systems evolve and help explore planets around distant stars. The Webb telescope is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency…

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Space For All: Small, Cheap Satellites May One Day Do Your Bidding

Someday, swarms of satellites the size of a tissue box will be snapping pictures, taking environmental readings and broadcasting messages from orbit — but the entities controlling those satellites won’t be governments. Instead, they’ll be hard-core hobbyists and elementary-school students, entrepreneurs and hacktivists. In short, anyone who can afford a few hundred dollars to send something to the final frontier. The technology for this outer-space revolution already exists: It’s a type of satellite known as a CubeSat, which measures just 4 inches (10 centimeters) on a side. The CubeSat phenomenon started out as an educational experiment, but now it’s turning into a crowdsourcing, crowdfunding movement of Kickstarter proportions. And not even the sky is the limit…

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IRIS: New NASA Spacecraft to Study Mysterious Region of Sun’s Atmosphere

Did you know that the Sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona, is much hotter than its surface? Scientists have been quite curious about a mysterious interface region of the Sun’s atmosphere that amplifies energy from about 5,800 degrees Kelvin on the surface, or photosphere, to around 1,000,000 degrees Kelvin in the corona.

With Thursday’s launch of its Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph or IRIS spacecraft, NASA is planning to find out just how solar matter moves, gathers energy and heats up as it passes through the Sun’s chromosphere, it’s solar transition region, and into the corona that powers the solar wind…

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