Department of Energy (DOE) researchers and their collaborators continued to make significant progress throughout 2015 in the emerging field of spintronics, also known as magnetic electronics. Spintronics could change conventional electronics by using the spin of electrons to store information in solid state devices rather than, or in addition to, the transport of the electrical charge of electrons. This new technology addresses many of the challenges of conventional electronics because it allows for transfer of information from one place to another using much less energy, essentially generating no heat, and requiring little space. The field of spintronics is rapidly advancing and opportunities at the frontiers of spintronics are immense.
A remarkable engine now called the Stirling engine was developed and patented in 1816 by a 25-year-old Scottish clergyman named Robert Stirling. Stirling was devoted to the clergy but inherited a love of engineering from his father and his grandfather, who was the inventor of the threshing machine. Some historians believe that Robert invented his new engine to replace the dangerous steam engines of that time. Even though the Stirling engine was utilized in small, domestic projects, it was never developed for common use and was eventually overtaken by cheaper and more efficient versions of the steam engine and small, internal combustion engines.
For the Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) to fulfill our mission to “advance science and sustain technological creativity by making R&D findings available and useful to Department of Energy researchers and the public,” it’s important to have an information technology (IT) infrastructure up to the task of performing 40 million human transactions per year, which requires 24/7/365 availability. At OSTI, we take pride in delivering high-availability systems, which translates to consistently reliable web-based services available at full capacity to our end users. We work to minimize any downtime in the availability of our vast electronic scientific collections, but in case you have ever experienced that rare occasion when a product wasn’t available, we would like to explain what happens “behind the curtain” during scheduled maintenance windows.
Microbes – bacteria, fungi, protozoa, algae, and viruses – are the engines of life. Microbiomes or microbe communities account for 60% of living matter and are the most diverse life form on earth. The problem is that very little is understood about microbes and how they relate to our planet. For a long time, microbes have had a bad reputation. Bad microbes, better known as “germs,” have caused infectious diseases such as the bubonic plague, malaria, polio, HIV, and Ebola. Advances in gene-sequencing technology have expanded our knowledge of microbiomes. Once thought to be only harmful, scientists now know that we cannot live without microbes.
The Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) acquires, manages, preserves, and disseminates DOE scientific and technical information (STI) such as technical reports, journals articles, videos, scientific research data, and in other forms and formats.
However, this STI does not stand alone. It is always a part of a larger picture. It could be the result of research by a Nobel Laureate or a remarkable advance in science; it could have significant economic impact or have improved people’s lives; and it could be involved in many other things, such as enabling space exploration.
“What?” you ask, “Enable space exploration?”
Yes, RTGs (Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators) that were developed by DOE have supported space exploration since the early 1960s with the Surveyor program and continue through today. Today RTGs are powering the New Horizons space probe, which recently flew past Pluto; the Voyager, which recently entered interstellar space; the Mars rover Curiosity; and the Cassini that is orbiting Saturn. RTGs have also powered the Apollo missions, the lunar lander, the Viking missions to Mars, and the Pioneer, Ulysses, and Galileo missions. And the RTG has made the movies: it keeps Matt Damon warm in “The Martian.”