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Scientific Instruments

The Scientific Instruments Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about spectroscopy and chromatography, microscopy and imaging, industrial applications, and metrology and calibration. Here, you'll find everything from application ideas, to news and industry trends, to hot topics and cutting edge innovations.

Webb Telescope's "Heart" Unscathed

Posted November 24, 2014 12:00 AM by IHS GlobalSpec eNewsletter

The sensitive instruments housed in the James Webb Telescope's Integrated Science Instrument Module, or ISIM, just survived 116 days in the frigid cold, ensuring that the equipment will continue to work when it arrives at its destination one million miles from Earth. The ISIM is considered the heart of the telescope, containing all of the imaging instrumentation: a camera and spectrograph, both operating in the infrared; a mid-infrared instrument; and a fine guidance sensor coupled with a near-infrared imager and slitless spectrograph. The extreme temperature test, conducted in a vacuum chamber at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, produced more stress on the ISIM due to shrinkage than will the vibration of a violent lift-off.

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8 comments; last comment on 11/26/2014
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First-of-its-Kind Sensor for Portable Medical and Scientific Instruments

Posted October 17, 2014 12:00 AM by IHS GlobalSpec eNewsletter

Semiconductors keep getting smaller and more powerful, giving us smartphones and tablets that are portable workhorses. Now, these same technologies allow engineers to make small, compact components that can take the place of bulky and expensive ones in scientific and medical equipment, essentially allowing for mobile laboratories. A case in point is the new bio-optical sensor from Anitoa Systems, capable of detecting 3x10-6 lux narrow-band light, making it a logical substitution for the photo multiplier tubes and charge-coupled devices that are currently used in laboratory-bound diagnostic instruments.

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Telescope Flexes Big Bang Muscle

Posted April 25, 2014 12:01 PM by IHS GlobalSpec eNewsletter

The cosmological community is abuzz about the recent findings from the Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization, or BICEP, telescope stationed at the South Pole. BICEP detected polarized light signals that provide proof for the inflation theory of the big bang: that the universe experienced a massive expansion early in its life. Detecting these particular light patterns imprinted on the cosmic background radiation is not a simple task, however. The BICEP2 instrument consists of 512 superconducting sensors as well as superconducting electronic circuitry and two interleaved antenna arrays. BICEP2 looked at one microwave frequency, but scientists hope future incarnations of the telescope will feature sensors that can detect more wavelengths, providing more clues about the past, and even the future, of the universe.

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10 comments; last comment on 05/03/2014
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Rosetta Awakens

Posted March 08, 2014 12:01 PM by IHS GlobalSpec eNewsletter

The spacecraft Rosetta successfully stirred from a long, 31-month, energy-saving slumber and sent a signal home to the European Space Agency in Darmstadt, Germany, making mission control very happy. The probe is destined for an unprecedented rendezvous with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in August, when it will begin gathering data about how a comet's surface is altered by its approach to the sun. Then, in November, the probe will deploy a small lander to the surface of the comet, sending back the first high resolution and panoramic images of a comet's surface. The probe also carries instruments to drill 23 cm beneath the surface and feed samples to the lander's on-board laboratory for analysis.

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2 comments; last comment on 03/10/2014
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Drones Sail Out to Sea

Posted January 31, 2014 12:00 PM by IHS GlobalSpec eNewsletter

While Amazon works out its idea for using drones as package delivery devices, the unmanned vehicles can still find work in many scientific applications. In the air, drones have monitored crops and forest fires and explored archaeological sites. Now, they are going down to the sea. A Rutgers University scientist headed an experiment called Gliderpalooza, outfitting 15 submersible drones with instruments to monitor everything from deep-water currents to water temperatures to fish migrations in the Atlantic ocean. The drones provide unprecedented environmental data, giving researchers a much clearer and more integrated picture of the ocean than can be provided by ocean-observing infrared satellites and stationary buoys.

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1 comments; last comment on 02/03/2014
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Time Team: Using The Future To Dig Up The Past

Posted August 05, 2013 12:00 AM by CR4 Guest Author

Archaeological technology and methods have come a long way from the old image of a bearded man, dressed in a hat and waistcoat, digging frantically with half a trowel to find a ceramic pot dating all the way back to the 1990's. Revolutionary advances in the world of science and technology have since forced mankind to put aside the trowel and instead, pick up the radar.

These modern day devices allow us to scan wider areas and plots, search deeper without needing to scratch the surface of the ground and even allow us to measure the water and sediment content surrounding archaeological finds. Improvements in the world of archaeology have meant that the profession is now more efficient and accurate whilst being less time consuming.

This blog will look at the modern devices which have transformed archaeological research beyond belief.

Ground Penetrating Radar

An archaeological dig usually takes a significant amount of time as experts must be careful not to disturb or damage areas where potential important finds may be. However, modern technology now allows for safe research to be done in a short space of time. The ground penetrating radar is a non-destructive, geophysical method of searching areas for hidden finds. It does this by using radar pulses, transmitted through high-frequency radio waves below the earth's surface to create an image of the subsurface; aiding experts to look for artefacts and items of significance.

The radar works by transmitting a signal into the ground which will produce a return signal when it has hit an object, disturbance or change in density below the surface. This can be used to detect and map out the subsurface, artefacts, patterns and features which can be plotted as a three dimensional image on a computer. The ground penetrating radar measures depth much like sonar as the travel time of the signal indicates how deep an area is. It is also a great benefit to archaeologists as it means that they can dramatically reduce digging time and can scan larger areas for artefacts, whilst protecting the landscape and objects of value or historical importance. However, the radar signal is limited by the electrical conductivity of the composite of the ground. The deeper you go, the more likely you are to find that the signal is dissipated into a heat source, which in turn reduces the strength of the signal.

Remote Sensing

Another way that experts can carefully examine large areas of the landscape for areas of significance is by using remote sensing. Satellite imagery can be used to locate and explore important areas of the land all across the globe. These images can create a visual guide to help archaeologists to plot and plan where to dig next. This greatly reduces the overall dig time and is a more efficient way of sourcing possible dig sites. What's more, experts can use aerial photography to document stages of a dig by using ultraviolet, infrared and thermography.

Metal Detectors

Interestingly metal detectors are now supplied on mass to the general public; encouraging amateur archaeologists to refine their passion. However, these effective tools are still widely used by experts to detect metal elements and artefacts below ground, such as sections of a ship wreck or spearheads and other metal weapons from a Civil War battlefield. Yet, these detectors do not offer a high level of accuracy and often detect metal objects which are not of historical importance, as the land is littered with such objects.

These devices and methods are all important pieces of equipment in the eyes of an archaeological expert. Although some lack complete accuracy, when combined, a range of methods such as this can dramatically reduce anomalies occurring during a dig; thus cutting costs and improving the success rate of research.

Editor's Note: Stuart Edge is a writer who has a keen interest in technology. He is amazed at how new technology such as ground penetrating radar and remote sensing can be used in archaeology to improve the efficiency and accuracy of the digging process.

Image Credit: Wikipedia

7 comments; last comment on 08/08/2013
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