Science in Cologne

Rocket science in Julich

Hi everybody,

I have not really written much in this blog, but the goal was to focus science efforts in Cologne and to socialise and building a Cologne network. And on last Sunday this effort began with a bang. I was invited to the science center in Julich, a city about 40 kilometres away from cologne. Julich is building up their social appearance, but they are a little bit late. That was good for me, because they had not that many applications for their tweetup.

I thank Henning Krause from the Helmholtz society and Marcel Bülow from the science center Julich that they invited me. I really had a great day with eight other tweeps. It began with the so called Juqueen, which is the fastest supercomputer in Europe and at the moment the 6th fastest in the world. They had the chief of the supercomputer project talking to us. And we were allowed to go into the space where the rackets are. The other spectators of the open day had to look through a window, but we stood next to that great machine.

The chief explained us several things. He talked about the fire emergency system. First of all they are measuring the charge in the eletrical system and if there are a few ions more than average they know that some piece is beginning to burn. But they don’t fight it with water because it would ruin the supercomputer. In the case of fire they put argon ino the air, so the oxygen is strongly decreasing and the fire stops to burn. If you are in the supercomputer area you get unconscious and the fire emergency forces have 15 minute to rescue you.

They are using Suse Linux as the operating system for most of the computers being put together to the super computer. They got some switches and some minor systems where they only use micro-controllers instead of a operating system to get a faster lane. But mainly they use Linux although the computers are all IBM High-End machines. The chief said that they kill many unneccessary processes of Suse to get higher flops. The smell in the server area is remindable. It smells like my old chess computer, some kind of technical but it smells like big work is going on.

Then we went to see a electron-transmission-microscope. When I learned about technique in the late 80′s the best microscope was a scanning tunneling microscope. Electron microscope were said to be near visualizing atoms, Scanning tunneling microscopes could show atoms but it was a indirect measurement. They used the tunneling effect to make atom visible. Nowadays we have electron-transmission-microscope that are said to visualize atoms directly.

They use the scattering of electrons and can show lines of several atoms. If you move the object to be inspected in the right way, you only see the upper atom and therefore a single atom. It’s pretty much effort to do this. They have engineers working to prepare the probes. They already use nano tools to build up the silicium plate that is examined under the microscope later on. The professor said they are using electrons instead of photons because the de-Broglie wavelength of electrons is smaller than the wave length of photons. So they get wavelength in the nanometer area by accelerating electrons near the speed of light.

I would have suggested that they think about using electron-myons. Although they are not very stable, they are the heavier sisters of electrons. They though have the same electrical abilities. So when you get them accelerated as the electrons you have a even smaller wave length. Let’s see whether my prediction will come true some day ;-)

They also put us to the cellar where the microscope is grounded. They have good concrete as the base to stabilize the microscope. Julich is somewhat away from the big cities so they have very less electro-magnetic waves. But a problem is that for fourty years and more they harvested coal in the area of Julich. So you got somewhat little earth-quakes which would destroy the measurement. but the German engineers are not stupid so they settled the microscope on heavy tires. These tires make the whole system swing at a half Hertz, so very slow. So everytime there is a little earth-quake, the system is balancing it out with a half Hertz. And this frequency they can work out from the measurement.

Then we had lunch with wraps and finger food. The afternoon wasn’t that interesting for me as the morning, but the morning really was on top :-) So concentration gets lost after lunch so I was really happy about the appointments. We visited a new nano center they opened on that day in Julich. They are building nano chips out of silicium wafers. Everything has really to be tidy and clean. So it wouldn’t be a job for me as a smoker. Nowadays you don’t use acid processes to work with silicium but you use photo-sensitive methods. But because humans can’t work in the dark they have a special frequency where the silicium wafers are resistent against light. It’s some smooth yellow light. The main costs of this system really comes from the air condition system, which they showed us afterwards.

The finishing scientific point was electro-mobility. They had a Tesla standing in Julich. Tesla is the first upper-class roadster that can cath up with normal cars driven by gasoline. He would drive with 350 km/h if he wasn’t put down to 210 km/h. You can drive 350 km with normal speed, so it’s near to normal cars. In the electro mobility center they had much programm for kids. So they showed how to get charge out of coal and some acid to run a little light. They also had some toy car driven by hydrogen.

They explained about the future of saving charge. We are getting away from lithium to elements like iron that are in the same chemical group in the period system and that are much cheaper and better. The other focus of research is hydrogene. Putting electricity into chemical energy that can easily be transported. I had some small talk with some phD about it. Earlier in the year I was at Berlin for some chemical congress. A japanese reasearcher talked about improvements in nano materials so that you can transport hydrogene without loss and even more with very much pressure. The higher the pressure can be, the higher the mass of hydrogene is with a given space

So I said if the German Aerospace Center will build solar panels in the desert, the question of transporting is not how to build the overland lines, but how to safely transport hydrogene.

At the end of the event we plant a tree. That was very welcome to calm down after this exciting day. I really had pleasure and it was amazing rocket science.

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