Posts by: Michael Banks

Sculpture inspired by neutrino lab unveiled

SNO sculpture

Putting it all together. (Courtesy: Garrett Elliott)

By Michael Banks

A sculpture inspired by the geometry of the neutrino detector at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) has been unveiled at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada.

SNO, which operated from 1999 to 2006, was located 2.1 km underground in Sudbury, Ontario, and designed to detect neutrinos from the Sun through their interactions with a large tank of heavy water.

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The STAR of the show

Tokamak design from Applied Fusion Systems

Grand designs. (courtesy: Applied Fusion Systems)

By Michael Banks

You may remember in 2014 when we reported that entrepreneur Richard Dinan – a former star of the UK reality-TV programme Made in Chelsea – was venturing into fusion energy.

He founded the firm Applied Fusion Systems with the aim of building a prototype fusion reactor. The 30 year old, who doesn’t have a university degree, claims to have taught himself tokamak design and employs a small team of scientists who are working on a design.

Well, the firm has now released its first blueprint for a spherical fusion tokamak and is seeking £200m in investment to build not one, but two of the machines.

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Building bridges with the west

Fuchun Zhang, director of the Kavli Institute of Theoretical Sciences

Physicist Fuchun Zhang, director of the Kavli Institute of Theoretical Sciences.

By Michael Banks in Beijing, China

It’s my final day in Beijing and keeping up with the daily weather reports, it is still raining. But that is better than the snow that was forecast only a couple of days ago.

My time in Beijing has been short, but packed full of interesting discussions with researchers.

Yesterday I headed to the Beijing Institute for Nanoenergy and Nanosystems. Today, I visited the theoretical condensed-matter physicist Fuchun Zhang, who is director of the Kavli Institute of Theoretical Sciences (KITS).

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A blue energy dream

Zhong Lin Wang

Zhong Lin Wang, director of the Beijing Institute of Nanoeergy and Nanosystems.

By Michael Banks in Beijing, China

I was told that it wouldn’t rain much in Beijing, a city known for its dry air – and pollution.

But since I arrived here last night courtesy of the bullet train, all I have seen is drizzle. The wet weather also made it a challenge during rush hour, but I finally made it to the Beijing Institute for Nanoenergy and Nanosystems (BINN).

I met with BINN’s director, Zhong Lin Wang, who has been in the US for more than 39 years, most of which has been spent at the Georgia Institute of Technology. While he is still affiliated to Georgia Tech, he came back to China in 2012 to establish BINN.

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Shanghai round-up

NYU Shanghai

NYU Shanghai is the first Sino–US joint-venture university

By Michael Banks in Shanghai, China

It’s been a busy three days in Shanghai and now I’m on my way to Beijing to continue reporting for the China special report, which will be published in June.

As I mentioned in previous blog posts, Shanghai has thrown up some interesting stories. I heard about plans for a new 12 m telescope and also received a progress update on the construction of a new X-ray free electron laser in the city.

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China outlines free-electron laser plans

Zhenjiang Zhao, director of the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics

Zhentang Zhao, director of the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics.

By Michael Banks in Shanghai, China

There was a noticeable step change in the weather today in Shanghai as the Sun finally emerged and the temperature rose somewhat.

This time I braved the rush-hour metro system to head to the Zhangjiang Technology Park in the south of the city.

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Chinese astronomers pin their hopes on LOT

Lei Hao from the Shanghai Astonomical Observatory

Lei Hao from the Shanghai Astonomical Observatory.

By Michael Banks in Shanghai, China

It was a cold, rainy day here in Shanghai, so coming from the UK, I felt right at home.

Jumping into a Shanghai taxi to avoid the downpour, I headed to the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory, belonging to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, to meet astronomer Lei Hao.

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China bound

Evening image of Shanghai

Courtesy: Shutterstock/ArtisticPhoto

By Michael Banks

I am heading to China tomorrow for a five-day trip in what promises to be a fascinating update on some of the physics that is being carried out in the country.

The purpose of my journey is to gather material for an upcoming special report on China, which will be published later this year.

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Boosting innovation in a Brexit Britain

Kevin Baughan, chief development officer at Innovate UK address delegates

Kevin Baughan, chief development officer at Innovate UK, addressing delegates at a Westminster Higher Education Forum yesterday on UK science funding and policy.

By Michael Banks

I headed to London yesterday for an event on the future of UK science and innovation funding and policy that was organized by the Westminster Higher Education Forum.

Held at the Royal Society of Medicine, the meeting was attended by representatives from government, business and academia. It was impeccably timed given that the “Brexit bill” is currently going through parliament and the UK government recently published an industrial strategy together with the announcement of an additional £4.7bn for R&D.

While it is safe to say that the UK is a scientific powerhouse, the same cannot be said of its ability to translate research into products and services, something that the new industrial strategy aims to tackle.

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A fusion fly-over

 

By Michael Banks

To the critics, a working fusion power plant is always 30 years away.

But in the past decade, progress has been made at the construction site of the ITER fusion reactor in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, France.

Ten years ago – on 29 January 2007 – preparation work began on ITER’s home in the large stretch of national forest. Within two years, more than three million cubic metres of rocks and soil had been removed to level the site ready for the behemoth.

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