From The Editor | August 24, 2022

Bright Ideas — HELIOS Headed to Navy, "Sun Glint" Reveals Offshore Methane Emissions

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By Abby Proch, former editor


Monitoring methane emissions and identifying leaks has become an increasingly relevant and crucial tool in the effort to address global warming. Efforts aimed at finding onshore emissions have made strides with manual and aerial methods and, until now, offshore identification has been problematic. Using remote sensing aboard an aircraft to detect sun glint from methane emissions at offshore rigs, scientists with the University of Arizona and Carbon Mapper are now more accurately identifying leaks. Typically, the feat has been just that, because 1.) boats can’t get close enough to platforms to effectively identify plumes 2.) aircraft with gas analyzers just aren’t precise enough and 3.) spectrometers aboard aircraft or even satellites have a hard time because “water is a dark surface in the methane absorption bands.” Not only has the sun-glint method identified emissions, it has also found them to be higher and more consistent, especially from storage tanks and vent booms, than from onshore operations.

High performance computing facilities across the U.S. and Europe have banded together to form the new  International Association of Supercomputing Centers. The IASC aims to addresses common challenges and foster collaboration among society members and their partners. Co-founders of the Society are the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Hartree Centre, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) and Leibniz Supercomputing Centre of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities (LRZ). Some founding members see the IASC as a catalyst for improving scalability, user access to HPC resources, and best practices. The IASC is planning a virtual listening tour to gather more insights from labs and users around the world.  

Last week, we shared plans for 50-kW laser-mounted Stryker vehicles to make their way to a Midwest air defense battery. And this week, we’re learning that Lockheed Martin intends to deliver one of its directed energy weapons destined for U.S Navy destroyer Preble. The High Energy Laser with Integrated Optical Dazzler and Surveillance, or HELIOS, is a 60-kW laser capable of being scaled to 120kW.  The new DE weapon will reportedly undergo at-sea tests onboard the Preble beginning in fiscal 2023.

Current carbon nanotubes (CNTs), despite their potential for marking super strong fibers and conductive wires, are susceptible to fire. But by structurally coloring the rolled-up sheets of carbon atoms with titanium dioxide, scientists have given these boring black tubes susceptible to burnout a colorful hue and protection from high-heat environments. The amorphous coating now allows CNTs to safely endure 2,000 cycles of laundering, at least 10 month of high-intensity UV irradiation, and up to 8 hours of exposure to flame. The CNTs are now well suited for use in wearable devices, smart textiles, and more.

In a move toward sustainability, researchers in Germany have developed an alternative white light source to the LED — cluster glass. Within cluster glass, groups of molecules act like a powder at room temperature and, when exposed to IR radiation, produce a bright white light. Using a Hawk supercomputer, the team discovered that the glass, at an atomic level, comprises particles in a “suspended, disordered state” that makes it perfect for “bending, fragmenting, or reflecting light.” The team is continuing to learn more about cluster glass and how it generates light.

Images from Germany’s first-ever hyperspectral imaging satellite, the Environmental Mapping Analysis Program (EnMAP), are in. EnMAP intends to “reveal the state of planet Earth” by producing true-color, near-IR and short-wave IR imagery. The Fraunhofer-built imager collects spectra from 242 channels while also recording a spatial resolution of 30m x 30m. Since the wavelengths covered by the imager are vast, the team had to employ a double-slit module and an extremely precise lightweight aluminum mirror to meet expectations. The EnMAP satellite orbits at around 650km to gather data that scientists hope will help decisionmakers counteract the effects of climate change.