Wednesday 04 June 2008

Scientists Find Superconductor that is Virtually Immune to Magnetism

 Christo [PCD]    04 Jun : 07:43
 None    Misc

The new class of materials discovered may eliminate one of the traditional weaknesses of superconductors

The new class of materials discovered may eliminate one of the traditional weaknesses of superconductors

DailyTech has been extensively covering the breakthroughs in superconductors over the last couple years. The class of materials is very promising in that if someday it could replace conductors, it would mean that electricity could travel at virtually no losses to anywhere in the world. This would result in vast energy savings and allow for dramatically faster computers, free of the burden of resistance-produced waste heat.

Standing in the way of the advances are three critical weaknesses of superconductors. The first and most well known is their temperature dependence. Superconductors must be beneath a critical temperature to superconduct. Typically this critical temperature is extremely low, well beneath the means of even standard liquid nitrogen cooling. The critical temperature is somewhat pressure dependent, so extremely high pressure superconductors can superconduct at higher temperatures.

Recent non-high pressure superconductors have upped the standard Tc to around 138 K (-200 °F). Recently found a cupric-lead-tin-oxide superconductor, (Sn1.0Pb0.5In0.5)Ba4Tm5Cu7O20, with a Tc of 185.6 K.

The other two lesser known limitations of superconductors are high current and magnetism. At high current, superconductors can cease to function properly. Magnetic fields are particularly deadly to superconductors. Typically, even a small magnet field will revert a superconductor back to a normal conductor.

A new breakthrough from scientists has found a unique class of superconductors which seem to be amazingly almost completely immune to magnetism. This is a significant breakthrough as it could remove one of the largest obstacles to commercializing superconducting.

The new material was first discovered by Japanese researchers early this year that had been looking into iron-superconductors, an atypical choice for superconductor metals, and added a bit of arsenic to the mix. The new iron oxyarsenide -- which also featured oxygen, as the name implies -- superconductor. The new material, which also contained the rare earth metal lanthanum, could superconduct at 26 K (-413 °F).

The researchers were somewhat surprised to find a fully working superconductor with iron as iron typically creates a magnetic field when conducting. Somehow the superconductor was surviving a magnetic field, an unexpected first.

Now researchers David Larbalestier, Alex Gurevich and Jan Jaroszynski, and colleagues in David Mandrus' groupat Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and Frank Hunte, a postdoctoral associate at the Applied Superconductivity Center (ASC) of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University have investigated the phenomena in more depth and synthesized new iron superconductors.

The researchers reported their findings (PDF) in the prestigious journal Nature. Larbalestier, director of the ASC states, "What one would like is a greater selection of superconductors, operating at higher temperatures, being cheaper, possibly being more capable of being made into round wires. Iron and arsenic, both inherently cheap materials, are key constituents of this totally new class of superconductors. We're just fascinated. It's superconductivity in places you never thought of."

The researchers put the new superconductors to the test, placing them within Oak Ridge National Laboratory's 45-tesla Hybrid magnet, one of the most powerful research magnets in existence. Researchers expected the magnet to be sufficient to kill the superconductor, but to their surprise it tolerated it and was healthily superconducting even at the magnetic field's full power.

On a technical side the research yields an even greater mystery, perhaps indicating that we know less about superconduction than we think we do. Superconduction on an atomic level has long been though to occur through so-called "Cooper pairs", paired electrons with opposite spin, momentum, etc. Magnetism was thought to break these pairs. Either iron has some sort of unique way of keeping the pairs bonded, or the current model is incomplete or flawed.

A third possibility is that Cooper pairs are only one method of superconduction, and that the new material utilizes a new mechanism. Says Hunte, "So far based on both theoretical calculations and what we're seeing from the experiments, it seems likely that this is a completely different mechanism for superconductivity."

Possible applications of the new tech include ultra-efficient superconducting motors and power transmission lines. They could also be used in new superconducting magnets, which would open up a new world of research opportunities in diverse fields of science. Hunte states, "The field is completely open. No one knows where this is going to go. If it's found that these materials can support high current densities, then they could be tremendously useful."

An image of a cleaved fluorine-doped lanthanum oxide iron arsenide sample taken using a hybrid scanning laser plus color confocal microscope. The new material superconducts even when exposed to extremely strong magnetic fields. (Source: National High Magnetic Field Laboratory)

[Submitted by Christo [PCD]]

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Thursday 31 January 2008

U.S. Antitrust Court Slams Microsoft With Two More Years of Oversight

 Christo [PCD]    31 Jan : 22:40
 None    Misc

The Feds tell Microsoft they will be watching them

The Feds tell Microsoft they will be watching them

Despite the circus-like atmosphere punctuated with laugh-inducing testimony, United States v. Microsoft, which went to trial in 1998, remains one of the landmark federal court decisions of the 90's. It paved the way for other government bodies worldwide, such as the European Union, to successfully pursue antitrust cases against Microsoft and other electronics giants like Intel.

Microsoft and the government reached a settlement in which Microsoft agreed to grant third-party developers access to its application-programming-interface and additionally give a court appointed panel of three people full access to it's systems, records, and source code for five years in order to ensure compliance.

The oversight was supposed to expire November 12, 2007, but the court was not entirely satisfied with Microsoft's progress, so it decided to meet again to evaluate a possible extension to oversight if Microsoft was found not to be fully complying.

The decision reached by the federal court, presided by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, was that Microsoft, while making significant steps to comply, seriously fell short of compliance in releasing information on its protocols to its competitors.

The result is that Microsoft will have to endure two more years of monitoring from federal agents (expiring November 12, 2009) assuming the company behaves. Judge Kollar-Kotelly said she made the final decision based on "the extreme and unforeseen delay in the availability of complete, accurate, and useable technical documentation relating to the communications protocols that Microsoft is required to make available to licensees under Section III.E of the Final Judgments."

Seven states -- California, Connecticut, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota and Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia -- pushed hard to extend the oversight five more years, claiming Microsoft still operates like a monopoly.

The extension stems from the fact that section III.E of the final 2002 judgment required Microsoft to release quality technical documentation on its interfaces and protocols. This documentation was expected to be released by February 2003. But 2003 came and went with no signs of any significant effort to produce documentation.

Judge Kollar-Kotelly explains, "More than five years later, the technical documentation is still not available to licensees in a complete, useable, and certifiably accurate form, despite the fact that III.E was intended to be the ‘most forward-looking provision’ in the Court’s remedy."

Though acknowledging that this documentation would be time intensive to produce, she blasted Microsoft, saying it was fully culpable for "this inexcusable delay ... Practically speaking, Microsoft has never complied with § III.E" she concluded.

She did note signs of progress towards producing the required documentation, but said they were too little, too late, and thus was compelled to renew the oversight. She reminded observers not to view the extended oversight as sanctions, but rather, "a means to allow the respective provisions of the Final Judgments the opportunity to operate together towards maximizing Section III.E’s pro-competitive potential."

Microsoft's Brad Smith, its senior vice president and general counsel, tried to put a cheery face on the glum news for his company stating that Microsoft was "gratified that the court recognized our extensive efforts to work cooperatively with the large number of government agencies involved. We built Windows Vista in compliance with these rules, and we will continue to adhere to the decree’s requirements," he stated.

Antitrust litigation, including a $180 million settlement with Iowa, continues to plague Microsoft. Still, Microsoft shows little signs of slowing down, continuing to expand its presence in the video game industry with the Xbox 360, and the portable music industry with its Zune player line.

[Submitted by Christo [PCD]]


Thursday 17 January 2008

Sun Microsystems buys software maker MySQL

 Christo [PCD]    17 Jan : 22:40
 None    Misc

SAN FRANCISCO — Sun Microsystems (JAVA) has agreed to buy open-source software maker MySQL for $1 billion, beefing up the server maker's database offerings with a company whose technology is used by some of the world's biggest websites.

SAN FRANCISCO — Sun Microsystems (JAVA) has agreed to buy open-source software maker MySQL for $1 billion, beefing up the server maker's database offerings with a company whose technology is used by some of the world's biggest websites.

Sun, in separate announcements before the market opened, said its second quarter revenue would narrowly exceed Wall Street estimates. It also said profit would fall at the high end of analysts' expectations. The company revealed its preliminary results ahead of schedule.

Sun is paying $800 million in cash and assuming $200 million in options to acquire MySQL. The Swedish company makes open-source database software used by companies such as online search leader Google, popular Internet hangout Facebook. and Finnish phone maker Nokia.

Sun said the deal will help spread MySQL's software to large corporations, which have been the biggest customers of Sun's servers and software, and boost its distribution through Sun's relationships with other server makers such as IBM and Dell.

The acquisition, expected to close in the third or fourth quarter, takes pressure off Sun to spend some of the cash it's been accumulating. It also bolsters its software offerings with a well-known known name in Internet data retrieval.

Sun also said it expects net income of between $230 million to $265 million, or 28 cents to 32 cents a share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were expecting profit of between 22 cents and 38 cents.

Sun said it expects to notch about $3.6 billion in sales during the second quarter. Analysts were expecting, on average, $3.58 billion in sales.
[Submitted by AiKePaH[ZM]]

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