News Feature | January 10, 2022

Bright Ideas — Fledgling Signal Repeaters A Step Toward Quantum Internet, Air Force Uses Smallest Telescope To Image Kalliope

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By Abby Proch, Editor


After innumerable launch delays and setbacks, the James Webb Space Telescope finally took to the skies, where on Jan. 8 in unfurled its 21-foot, gold-coated primary mirror. NASA remarked that Webb’s mirror is the largest and most complex to ever exist in space and will serve to “see back” nearly 13.5 billion years to document the universe’s origin. Science operations have not yet begun, but soon the telescope will set off for its final location — the second Lagrange point, some 1 million miles from Earth — where it will begin capturing images as early as this summer.

In other space exploration news, an Air Force Research Laboratory 1.5-meter telescope — the smallest yet to do so — has recorded an image of asteroid Kalliope and its moon, Linus, more than 150 million miles from Earth. The feat is remarkable not because of a novel discovery but because it happened with a telescope much smaller than the traditional 8- to 10-meter telescopes typically poised on a Hawaii mountaintop, according to a news release from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. On top of that, the 1.5-meter telescope did not require a guide star as a point of references for imaging, like most others. Adaptive optics allowed the AFRL team to capture the images, which proved to tricky with the changes in atmosphere.

The U.S. Marine Corps Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) has become the first of its kind to successfully laser shock peen a F-35B fighter jet. Defense World reports that peening strengthens the aircraft’s structural integrity without adding weight or bulk, which would interfere with its performance. The $6 million FCRE facility opened in August 2019 and began the peening process in June 2020. The first F-35B to undergo the treatment has just returned to the fleet. The verification allows the FRCE to replicate its efforts and roll out for other F-35Bs in the fleet, which as a short takeoff-vertical landing aircraft would have only been serviceable under a very busy Ogden Air Logistics Complex.

In biotech, surgeons experiencing trouble selecting and sampling potentially cancerous tissue can now rely on an optical biopsy system that helps with in-the-moment decision making. According to EurekAlert!, the tool uses diffuse reflectance spectroscopy and lifetime fluorescence measurements to determine cell metabolism, something that’s different between cancerous and healthy tissue. The 1mm diameter probe affixes to needles currently used in liver biopsies and has separate optical channels for each of the two methods. The tool allows real-time results to inform surgeons’ decisions on where to take a sample.

In optics news, scientists at the University of Minnesota successfully used a combination of extrusion printing and spray 3D printing to create a flexible organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display. TechXplore reports that the 1.5”, 64-pixel display could be the first step in taking a clean room-only exercise into something more accessible and mainstream. Researchers say their next step is to pursue an OLED display with higher resolution and increased brightness.

In a step toward creating signal repeaters for a quantum internet, a team of Dutch and Brazilian scientists have successfully teleported a qubit with one photon to “the mechanical motion of an optomechanical device comprising billions of atoms.” A report by EurekAlert! details how the achievement will enable long-distance communication that could one day build a quantum internet. While quantum teleportation has already been achieved, this was the first known case in which an optomechanical device received the signal.

Working around the complexities of light-matter interaction, researchers with the University of Tsukuba have successfully simulated the interaction on a thin film of amorphous silicon dioxide using the world’s faster supercomputer, Fugaku. According to EurekAlert!, researchers overcame the challenges of the propagation of light waves, the dynamics of electrons and ions in matter, and the variable range of length and time to simulate light-matter interactions and lay groundwork for studying other phenomena in nanoscale optics and photonics.

Finally, EOTECH, maker of holographic weapon sights, has acquired the photonics division of Intevac, Inc. Intevac had specialized in digital sensor and night vision systems, including solutions for the AH-64 Apache helicopter and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, according to EOTECH has also announced plans to grow its manufacturing facilities and add to its headquarters, both in Michigan. Two years ago, EOTECH was acquired by American Holoptics from L3 Harris Technologies.