In quantum computing, a qubit or quantum bit (sometimes qbit) is the basic unit of quantum information: N
Nanotechnology (or “nanotech”) is the use of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale for industrial purposes. The earliest, widespread description of nanotechnology referred to the particular technological goal of precisely manipulating atoms and molecules for fabrication of macroscale products, also now referred to as molecular nanotechnology. A more generalized description of nanotechnology was subsequently established by the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which defined nanotechnology as the manipulation of matter with at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers. This definition reflects the fact that quantum mechanical effects are important at this quantum-realm scale, and so the definition shifted from a particular technological goal to a research category inclusive of all types of research and technologies that deal with the special properties of matter which occur below the given size threshold. It is therefore common to see the plural form “nanotechnologies” as well as “nanoscale technologies” to refer to the broad range of research and applications whose common trait is size.
Nanotechnology as defined by size is naturally broad, including fields of science as diverse as surface science, organic chemistry, molecular biology, semiconductor physics, energy storage, engineering, microfabrication, and molecular engineering. The associated research and applications are equally diverse, ranging from extensions of conventional device physics to completely new approaches based upon molecular self-assembly, from developing new materials with dimensions on the nanoscale to direct control of matter on the atomic scale.
Scientists currently debate the future implications of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology may be able to create many new materials and devices with a vast range of applications, such as in nanomedicine, nanoelectronics, biomaterials energy production, and consumer products. On the other hand, nanotechnology raises many of the same issues as any new technology, including concerns about the toxicity and environmental impact of nanomaterials, and their potential effects on global economics, as well as speculation about various doomsday scenarios. These concerns have led to a debate among advocacy groups and governments on whether special regulation of nanotechnology is warranted.
National Synchrotron Light Source II
The National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) in Upton, New York is a national user research facility funded primarily by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science. NSLS-II is one of the world’s most advanced synchrotron light sources, designed to produce x-rays 10,000 times brighter than BNL’s original light source, the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS). NSLS-II supports basic and applied research in energy security, advanced materials synthesis and manufacturing, environment, and human health.
NSLS-II is a state-of-the-art, medium-energy electron storage ring (3 billion electron-volts). The facility enables the study of material properties and functions with nanoscale resolution and exquisite sensitivity by providing world-leading capabilities for x-ray imaging and high-resolution energy analysis. The facility is open to researchers from academia and industry.
NSLS-II fuels major advances in new energy technologies such as nanocatalyst-based fuel cells, economical use of solar energy, high-temperature superconductors in a high capacity and high reliability electric grid, and advanced electrical storage systems for transportation and harnessing intermittent renewable energy sources.
Natural science is a branch of science concerned with the description, prediction, and understanding of natural phenomena, based on empirical evidence from observation and experimentation. Mechanisms such as peer review and repeatability of findings are used to try to ensure the validity of scientific advances.
Natural science can be divided into two main branches: life science and physical science. Life science is alternatively known as biology, and physical science is subdivided into branches: physics, chemistry, Earth science, and astronomy. These branches of natural science may be further divided into more specialized branches (also known as fields). As empirical sciences, natural sciences use tools from the formal sciences, such as mathematics and logic, converting information about nature into measurements which can be explained as clear statements of the “laws of nature”.
Modern natural science succeeded more classical approaches to natural philosophy, usually traced to Taoists traditions in Asia and in the Occident to ancient Greece. Galileo, Descartes, Bacon, and Newton debated the benefits of using approaches which were more mathematical and more experimental in a methodical way. Still, philosophical perspectives, conjectures, and presuppositions, often overlooked, remain necessary in natural science. Systematic data collection, including discovery science, succeeded natural history, which emerged in the 16th century by describing and classifying plants, animals, minerals, and so on. Today, “natural history” suggests observational descriptions aimed at popular audiences.
Nature, in the broadest sense, is the natural, physical, material world or universe. “Nature” can refer to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general. The study of nature is a large, if not the only, part of science. Although humans are part of nature, human activity is often understood as a separate category from other natural phenomena.
The word nature is derived from the Latin word natura, or “essential qualities, innate disposition”, and in ancient times, literally meant “birth”. In ancient philosophy, natura is mostly used as the Latin translation of the Greek word physis (φύσις), which originally related to the intrinsic characteristics that plants, animals, and other features of the world develop of their own accord. The concept of nature as a whole, the physical universe, is one of several expansions of the original notion; it began with certain core applications of the word φύσις by pre-Socratic philosophers (though this word had a dynamic dimension then, especially for Heraclitus), and has steadily gained currency ever since. During the advent of modern scientific method in the last several centuries, nature became the passive reality, organized and moved by divine laws. With the Industrial revolution, nature increasingly became seen as the part of reality deprived from intentional intervention : it was hence considered as sacred by some traditions (Rousseau, American transcendentalism) or a mere decorum for divine providence or human history (Hegel, Marx). However, a vitalist vision of nature, closer to the presocratic one, got reborn at the same time, especially after Charles Darwin.
Within the various uses of the word today, “nature” often refers to geology and wildlife. Nature can refer to the general realm of living plants and animals, and in some cases to the processes associated with inanimate objects—the way that particular types of things exist and change of their own accord, such as the weather and geology of the Earth. It is often taken to mean the “natural environment” or wilderness—wild animals, rocks, forest, and in general those things that have not been substantially altered by human intervention, or which persist despite human intervention. For example, manufactured objects and human interaction generally are not considered part of nature, unless qualified as, for example, “human nature” or “the whole of nature”. This more traditional concept of natural things that can still be found today implies a distinction between the natural and the artificial, with the artificial being understood as that which has been brought into being by a human consciousness or a human mind. Depending on the particular context, the term “natural” might also be distinguished from the unnatural or the supernatural.
Neural oscillations, or brainwaves, are rhythmic or repetitive patterns of neural activity in the central nervous system. Neural tissue can generate oscillatory activity in many ways, driven either by mechanisms within individual neurons or by interactions between neurons. In individual neurons, oscillations can appear either as oscillations in membrane potential or as rhythmic patterns of action potentials, which then produce oscillatory activation of post-synaptic neurons. At the level of neural ensembles, synchronized activity of large numbers of neurons can give rise to macroscopic oscillations, which can be observed in an electroencephalogram. Oscillatory activity in groups of neurons generally arises from feedback connections between the neurons that result in the synchronization of their firing patterns. The interaction between neurons can give rise to oscillations at a different frequency than the firing frequency of individual neurons. A well-known example of macroscopic neural oscillations is alpha activity.
Neural oscillations were observed by researchers as early as 1924 (by Hans Berger). More than 50 years later, intrinsic oscillatory behavior was encountered in vertebrate neurons, but its functional role is still not fully understood. The possible roles of neural oscillations include feature binding, information transfer mechanisms and the generation of rhythmic motor output. Over the last decades more insight has been gained, especially with advances in brain imaging. A major area of research in neuroscience involves determining how oscillations are generated and what their roles are. Oscillatory activity in the brain is widely observed at different levels of organization and is thought to play a key role in processing neural information. Numerous experimental studies support a functional role of neural oscillations; a unified interpretation, however, is still lacking.
The neutron is a subatomic particle, symbol n or n0 , which has a neutral (not positive or negative) charge and a mass slightly greater than that of a proton. Protons and neutrons constitute the nuclei of atoms. Since protons and neutrons behave similarly within the nucleus, and each has a mass of approximately one atomic mass unit, they are both referred to as nucleons. Their properties and interactions are described by nuclear physics.
The chemical properties of an atom are mostly determined by the configuration of electrons that orbit the atom’s heavy nucleus. The electron configuration is determined by the charge of the nucleus, set by the number of protons, or atomic number. Neutrons do not affect the electron configuration, but the sum of atomic number and the number of neutrons, or neutron number, is the mass of the nucleus.
Atoms of a chemical element that differ only in neutron number are called isotopes. For example, carbon, with atomic number 6, has an abundant isotope carbon-12 with 6 neutrons and a rare isotope carbon-13 with 7 neutrons. Some elements occur in nature with only one stable isotope, such as fluorine. Other elements occur with many stable isotopes, such as tin with ten stable isotopes.
Nuclear chain reaction
Nuclear chain reaction occurs when one single nuclear reaction causes an average of one or more subsequent nuclear reactions, thus leading to the possibility of a self-propagating series of these reactions. The specific nuclear reaction may be the fission of heavy isotopes (e.g., uranium-235, 235U). The nuclear chain reaction releases several million times more energy per reaction than any chemical reaction.
Nuclear engineering is the branch of engineering concerned with the application of breaking down atomic nuclei (fission) or of combining atomic nuclei (fusion), or with the application of other sub-atomic processes based on the principles of nuclear physics. In the sub-field of nuclear fission, it particularly includes the design, interaction, and maintenance of systems and components like nuclear reactors, nuclear power plants, or nuclear weapons. The field also includes the study of medical and other applications of radiation, particularly Ionizing radiation, nuclear safety, heat/thermodynamics transport, nuclear fuel, or other related technology (e.g., radioactive waste disposal) and the problems of nuclear proliferation. This field also includes chemical engineering and electrical engineering as well.
The United States currently generates about 20% of its electricity from nuclear power plants. Nuclear engineers in this field generally work, directly or indirectly, in the nuclear power industry or for national laboratories. Current research in the industry is directed at producing economical and proliferation-resistant reactor designs with passive safety features. Some government (national) labs provide research in the same areas as private industry and in other areas such as nuclear fuels and nuclear fuel cycles, advanced reactor designs, and nuclear weapon design and maintenance. A principal pipeline/source of trained personnel (both military and civilian) for US reactor facilities is the US Navy Nuclear Power Program, including its Nuclear Power School in South Carolina. Employment in nuclear engineering is predicted to grow about nine percent in the year 2022 as needed to replace retiring nuclear engineers, provide maintenance and updating of safety systems in power plants, and to advance the applications of nuclear medicine.
Nuclear medicine and medical physics
Medical physics is an important field of nuclear medicine; its sub-fields include nuclear medicine, radiation therapy, health physics, and diagnostic imaging. Highly specialized and intricately operating equipment, including x-ray machines, MRI and PET scanners and many other devices provide most of modern medicine’s diagnostic capability—along with disclosing subtle treatment options.
Nuclear materials research focuses on two main subject areas, nuclear fuels and irradiation-induced modification of nuclear materials. Improvement of nuclear fuels is crucial for obtaining increased efficiency from nuclear reactors. Irradiation effects studies have many purposes, including studying structural changes to reactor components and studying nano-modification of metals using ion-beams or particle accelerators.
Radiation protection and measurement
Radiation measurement is fundamental to the science and practice of radiation protection, sometimes known as radiological protection, which is the protection of people and the environment from the harmful effects of uncontrolled radiation.
Nuclear engineers and radiological scientists are interested in developing more advanced ionizing radiation measurement and detection systems, and using these advances to improve imaging technologies; these areas include detector design, fabrication and analysis, measurements of fundamental atomic and nuclear parameters, and radiation imaging systems, among others.
Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy
Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, most commonly known as NMR spectroscopy or magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), is a spectroscopic technique to observe local magnetic fields around atomic nuclei. The sample is placed in a magnetic field and the NMR signal is produced by excitation of the nuclei sample with radio waves into nuclear magnetic resonance, which is detected with sensitive radio receivers. The intramolecular magnetic field around an atom in a molecule changes the resonance frequency, thus giving access to details of the electronic structure of a molecule and its individual functional groups. As the fields are unique or highly characteristic to individual compounds, in modern organic chemistry practice, NMR spectroscopy is the definitive method to identify monomolecular organic compounds.
The principle of NMR usually involves three sequential steps:
- The alignment (polarization) of the magnetic nuclear spins in an applied, constant magnetic field B0.
- The perturbation of this alignment of the nuclear spins by a weak oscillating magnetic field, usually referred to as a radio-frequency (RF) pulse.
- Detection and analysis of the electromagnetic waves emitted by the nuclei of the sample as a result of this perturbation.
Similarly, biochemists use NMR to identify proteins and other complex molecules. Besides identification, NMR spectroscopy provides detailed information about the structure, dynamics, reaction state, and chemical environment of molecules. The most common types of NMR are proton and carbon-13 NMR spectroscopy, but it is applicable to any kind of sample that contains nuclei possessing spin.
NMR spectra are unique, well-resolved, analytically tractable and often highly predictable for small molecules. Different functional groups are obviously distinguishable, and identical functional groups with differing neighboring substituents still give distinguishable signals. NMR has largely replaced traditional wet chemistry tests such as color reagents or typical chromatography for identification. A disadvantage is that a relatively large amount, 2–50 mg, of a purified substance is required, although it may be recovered through a workup. Preferably, the sample should be dissolved in a solvent, because NMR analysis of solids requires a dedicated magic angle spinning machine and may not give equally well-resolved spectra. The timescale of NMR is relatively long, and thus it is not suitable for observing fast phenomena, producing only an averaged spectrum. Although large amounts of impurities do show on an NMR spectrum, better methods exist for detecting impurities, as NMR is inherently not very sensitive – though at higher frequencies, sensitivity is higher.
Nuclear physics is the field of physics that studies atomic nuclei and their constituents and interactions. Other forms of nuclear matter are also studied. Nuclear physics should not be confused with atomic physics, which studies the atom as a whole, including its electrons.
Discoveries in nuclear physics have led to applications in many fields. This includes nuclear power, nuclear weapons, nuclear medicine and magnetic resonance imaging, industrial and agricultural isotopes, ion implantation in materials engineering, and radiocarbon dating in geology and archaeology. Such applications are studied in the field of nuclear engineering.
Particle physics evolved out of nuclear physics and the two fields are typically taught in close association. Nuclear astrophysics, the application of nuclear physics to astrophysics, is crucial in explaining the inner workings of stars and the origin of the chemical elements.