Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ship-in-a-bottle Kit On A Microchip

Ship-in-a-bottle Kit On A Microchip

ScienceDaily (Dec. 9, 2008) Sometimes physicists resort to tried and trusted model-making tricks. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Metals Research, the University of Stuttgart and the Colorado School of Mines have constructed micromachines using the same trick that model makers use to get ships into a bottle where the masts and rigging of the sailing ship are not erected until it is in the bottle.

In the same way, the scientists link the valves, pumps and stirrers of a microlaboratory to create a micro device on a chip. To do this, they introduce colloidal particles - tiny magnetizable plastic spheres - as components into the channels on the chip. A rotating magnetic field is used to link the components into larger aggregates and set them into motion as micromachines.

In the future, biologists and chemists want to avoid using bulky glass flasks, Bunsen burners and magnetic stirrers as far as possible in their experiments. Similarly to microelectronics, where electrons are steered through tiny conducting paths, they intend to perform chemical reactions in microfluidic systems, that is, chambers and channels just a few micrometers in diameter. These "labs on a chip" will then allow DNA sequences or blood samples to be analyzed much more quickly and more efficiently. As they only require tiny amounts of liquids, this approach costs much less than traditional methods, which require larger quantities of materials. These micro analytical systems would also be transportable, because their core parts take up very little space. Paramedics, for example, could analyze blood samples at the site of an accident.

Researchers working with Clemens Bechinger who is a Professor at the University of Stuttgart and a Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Metals Research, and David Marr, a professor at the Colorado School of Mines, have now found a new way to equip these miniaturized laboratories with moving parts and how to drive the tiny machines. They introduce colloidal particles, tiny plastic spheres with a diameter of just about five micrometers, into the channels and cavities on the chip.

As the particles contain iron oxide, they group together when they are magnetized by an external magnetic field. The scientists construct the magnetic field with four coils so that the microparticles are literally remote controlled and form diamond shapes or cog wheels. "The shape they assemble into depends crucially on the geometry of the channels," explains Tobias Sawetzki, who a doctoral student is working on the project. The microparticles then remain in this shape as long as the magnetic field is switched on.

The geometry also determines the function of the aggregates. By tipping backwards and forwards, a rhombus creates openings and acts like a valve. On the other hand, if it rotates in a chamber with two inflows, it mixes the incoming liquids. The micro stirrer is also driven by a magnetic field that rotates clockwise or anticlockwise parallel to the chip. In the same way, the researchers in Stuttgart roll a cog wheel through a channel with a serrated wall. The cog wheel, which completely shuts the channel off, agitates liquid back and forth and only in combination with two valves, acts like a pump.

"Compared to other approaches to equipping microlaboratories with moving parts, our ship-in-a-bottle technique has several advantages," says David Marr. Some scientists use pneumatic systems to pump liquids through microchannels, for example. However, this requires each component to be connected with a separate hose to the outside so that it can be supplied with compressed air. This is very complex and limits the integration density on microfluidic devices considerably, i.e. the total number of components on the chip.

With the new method, it is possible to accommodate up to 5,000 pumps on one square centimetre. Moreover, the new approach does not rely on elastic materials as are required for pneumatic pumps. "It is much easier to produce suitable chips for applications if they only consist of a single material, silicon, if at all possible," says Clemens Bechinger. As the electrical control components like the mini-coils can be fabricated based on silicon, it would be ideal to make the microchannels from the same material. This would allow for integration of all the components on one chip, as in microelectronics," says Bechinger.

Currently the researchers are still using large coils, so that all the components are driven by a single magnetic field and they all move in time with each other. However, this need not be a disadvantage as processes in many applications run in parallel; for example when the pharmaceutical industry searches for a new active ingredient amongst many thousands of substances. Furthermore, the researchers can choose the geometry of the channels so skilfully that different aggregates fulfil completely different functions in the same magnetic field. This means that the Stuttgart physicists’ method offers the option of driving a complex network of individual, standalone components with only one magnetic field.


National Weather Service recommends making preparations before the storm

Wausau Daily Herald

Now that winter is in full swing, the National Weather Service is reminding people to take precautions before a storm hits.

Items that should be kept at home and work:
• Flashlight and extra batteries.
• Battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio and commercial radio.
• Extra food and water. High energy food or food that requires no cooking is best.
• First-aid supplies.
• Emergency heating source, such as a fireplace or space heater -- make sure you have proper ventilation.

If possible, avoid driving during the storm. If you do:
• Check and winterize your vehicle before the winter season begins.
• Carry a winter storm survival kit that includes: blankets/sleeping bags, flashlight with extra batteries, first-aid kit, knife, high-calorie non-perishable food, extra clothing to keep dry, sand or cat litter, shovel, windshield scraper and brush, tool kit, and booster cables,
• Keep your gas tank near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.
• Try not to travel alone.
• Let others know your timetable and primary and alternate routes.

Where will NOAA go under the Obama Administration? OSU scientist could play a big role.

Andrew Freeman of the Washington Post blog “Capital Weather Gang” discussed potential changes at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in his Monday, December 8th post. Why is this relevant to readers of H2ONCoast? Well, I am a Sea Grant Extension Specialist. Oregon Sea Grant’s federal mothership is NOAA, providing funds and guidance to how we do our jobs in Oregon. NOAA is not only important to the 30 Sea Grant programs around the country, but it guides research and applications to the study of climate, ocean science, fisheries, and weather among many other areas important to people living on the coast. Anyone who follows H2ONC should see that these topics are important ones to my own work and the work of many others in Oregon Sea Grant and OSU in general. Anywhere you hear words like Sea Grant, oceanography, drought, coastal zone management, coastal hazards, storms, marine fisheries, earth observation, weather or climate in the same sentence as government or research, you can bet that NOAA has something significant to do with it.

NOAA, however, is not a very “sexy” agency. It has few high-profile perks for the directors at the helm–other than rides in a hurricane hunting aircraft or first views of a new weather satellite’s output. Yet as I’ve said before, it is is immensely important to many. Here’s what Andrew Freeman had to say about the agency: Similar to the EPA and Interior Department, NOAA sits at the intersection of science and policy when it comes to numerous environmental issues — particularly climate change and oceans management.

Freeman noted that the past eight years have not been kind to NOAA or its programs: Following a turbulent eight years under President Bush, which featured allegations of political interference with NOAA scientific research, as well as cost overruns on a major environmental satellite program, the next few years are slated to be a rebuilding phase for NOAA; similar to a sports franchise that has hit a rough patch and needs an infusion of new talent and a morale boost. The question is whether the agency will come out a winner next season, or if it will struggle under new management. Much of that depends on who is selected to run the agency.

In a telephone interview on Friday, former NOAA Administrator D. James Baker, who led the agency for eight years under President Clinton, said NOAA is growing in importance due to the increasingly serious nature of environmental problems such as climate change.

Baker continued, “NOAA is the agency that monitors the pulse of the Earth and that told us that we are in danger because of climate change,” Baker said. According to him, the ideal candidate for administrator must possess a combination of scientific and political acumen, which is relatively rare. For example, both he and Conrad Lautenbacher, the most recent NOAA administrator who recently left that position, had backgrounds in oceanography among other scientific fields, as well as Washington experience.”

Baker dropped some names in play for that top slot. I’ve noted one that is a prominent OSU scientist.

  • Leon Panetta, former Democratic congressman from California, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton and chair of the Pew Oceans Commission.
  • Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt
  • Ralph Cicerone, President of the National Academy of Sciences
  • Marsha McNutt, CEO, Monterey Aquarium Research Institute
  • Jane Lubchenco, marine biologist and zoologist at Oregon State University
  • Rosina Bierbaum, Dean of the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and co-director of a forthcoming World Bank report on climate change and development
  • Warren Washington, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research
  • Michael S. Bruno, dean of the Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. School of Engineering
  • Richard Anthes, the director of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
  • Eileen Shea, currently the director of a NOAA center in Hawaii.

So, we will keep our eyes open on this one selection. While there are lots of important appointments and changes going on in Washington that make big news headlines, the “small ones” may count as very significant for communities as far away from the D.C. Beltway as the North Coast of Oregon. Let’s hope that this new administration’s choice of a new NOAA administrator means a new page for NOAA and its myriad locally-significant programs.


New maritime safety measures

New measures have been drawn up which will improve safety measures for passengers travelling on Cyprus boats.

Minister of Communications and Works Nikos Nikolaides has welcomed the adoption of a new package of measures on maritime safety by the European Union Transport, Telecommunications and Energy (TTE) Council.

Speaking after the meeting, the minister said that the package strengthens the levels of vessel safety, as well as the protection of maritime environment and enhances the passengers’ rights regarding maritime transport.

“Being a country of important maritime infrastructure and know-how, [Cyprus] plays a leading role in shaping European maritime policy," he said.

"Cyprus, with its know-how and experience in the field of maritime transport, participated actively in drafting the third package of measures on maritime safety, since some of our positions, which aim at reinforcing the international maritime legislative framework and the international conventions, have been adopted."

A resolution on the European Data Center for the identification of vessels was also taken up.

Nikolaides called on the EU Commission, the European Maritime Safety Agency and EU member states to intensify their efforts for the conclusion of the European Data Center within the next six months.

Ship firm calls jail term for tanker crew a 'disgrace'

SEOUL (AFP) — Managers of a Hong Kong supertanker whose crew chiefs were jailed over South Korea's worst oil spill have blasted the decision as a "disgrace and insult" to the world shipping community.

A South Korean appeal court, reversing a lower court decision, on Wednesday jailed the Indian captain Jasprit Chawla and chief officer Syam Chetan after ruling they were negligent in minimising the spillage.

The accident happened in December 2007 when a barge carrying a construction crane broke free after a cable to one of two tugs snapped in rough seas.

The barge rammed the anchored 147,000-ton tanker Hebei Spirit, holing it in three places and spilling 10,900 tons of crude oil.

V.Ships, which says it is the world's largest ship manager, said in a statement Thursday the court's decision "will surely go down as one of the most disgraceful examples of a miscarriage of justice in a 'supposedly' advanced nation state.

"For Captain Chawla and Chief Officer Chetan to be sentenced to prison terms and led from the court in handcuffs is a disgrace and insult to the whole shipping industry," it added.

The case has sparked anger among shipping operators and the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), who insist the tanker crew were blameless.

The lower court in June had found them not guilty but prosecutors appealed the decision.

The International Association of Independent Tanker Owners has expressed "extreme dismay and disappointment" at Wednesday's ruling.

V.Ships said the ITF and its international membership are now "questioning whether it is safe for its members to travel on ships to Korea."

The lower court blamed barge operator Samsung Heavy Industries, part of the country's biggest business group, and the Korean tugboat skippers for the spill which fouled scores of marine farms and miles of beaches southwest of Seoul.

The appeal court in the central city of Daejeon agreed the Korean operators were mainly at fault and confirmed jail sentences on the tugboat skippers. But it said the tanker crew failed to take prompt action to abate the spillage.

Chawla was sentenced to 18 months in prison and fined 20 million won (14,000 dollars) while chief officer Syam Chetan was sentenced to eight months and fined 10 million won.

Their lawyers said they would appeal to the supreme court.

The ship's owner, Hong Kong-registered Hebei Ocean Shipping, was fined 30 million won.

V.Ships said the appeal court had relied on findings by the Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal (KMST ) which meant that "technically flawed, unreliable and unjust evidence" had been submitted to judges.

"In submitting their report, the KMST has demonstrated both its incompetence and an obvious desire to find fault with the officers of the Hebei Spirit," the management firm said.

"This blatant and totally unjustifiable case of criminalisation of a profession that we all rely upon for our international trade must not go unanswered by the international community and all those in the shipping industry.

By Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94).


he sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand;
The decks were like a slide, where a seamen scarce could stand;
The wind was a nor'wester, blowing squally off the sea;
And cliffs and spouting breakers were the only things a-lee.

They heard the surf a-roaring before the break of day;
But 'twas only with the peep of light we saw how ill we lay.
We tumbled every hand on deck instanter, with a shout,
And we gave her the maintops'l, and stood by to go about.

All day we tacked and tacked between the South Head and the North;
All day we hauled the frozen sheets, and got no further forth;
All day as cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread,
For very life and nature we tacked from head to head.

We gave the South a wider berth, for there the tide-race roared;
But every tack we made we brought the North Head close aboard:
So's we saw the cliffs and houses, and the breakers running high,
And the coastguard in his garden, with his glass against his eye.

The frost was on the village roofs as white as ocean foam;
The good red fires were burning bright in every 'long-shore home;
The windows sparkled clear, and the chimneys volleyed out;
And I vow we sniffed the victuals as the vessel went about.

The bells upon the church were rung with a mighty jovial cheer;
For it's just that I should tell you how (of all days in the year)
This day of our adversity was blessed Christmas morn,
And the house above the coastguard's was the house where I was born.

O well I saw the pleasant room, the pleasant faces there,
My mother's silver spectacles, my father's silver hair;
And well I saw the firelight, like a flight of homely elves,
Go dancing round the china-plates that stand upon the shelves.

And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me,
Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea;
And O the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way,
To be here and hauling frozen ropes on blessed Christmas Day.

They lit the high sea-light, and the dark began to fall.
"All hands to loose topgallant sails," I heard the captain call.
"By the Lord, she'll never stand it," our first mate Jackson, cried.
..."It's the one way or the other, Mr. Jackson," he replied.

She staggered to her bearings, but the sails were new and good,
And the ship smelt up to windward just as though she understood.
As the winter's day was ending, in the entry of the night,
We cleared the weary headland, and passed below the light.

And they heaved a mighty breath, every soul on board but me,
As they saw her nose again pointing handsome out to sea;
But all that I could think of, in the darkness and the cold,
Was just that I was leaving home and my folks were growing old.

2 More days til Christmas! http://library2.nalis.gov.tt/Portals/0/601/christmas%20tree.jpg

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