University of Isfahan Nano Copper Electrode Minimizes Palladium Use in Fuel Cells and Sensors

Iranian nano-researchers at University of Isfahan have synthesized of an electrode requiring a minimum use of expensive metal, palladium to be used in fuel cells and sensors.
The researchers managed to prepare an electrode from gold with acceptable oxygen reduction electro-catalytic ability and coated its surface with least possible amount of palladium use.
“First, nanoporous gold electrode was synthesized through anodizing method. Then, the surface of the electrode was coated by palladium applying under-potential deposition and spontaneous metal replacement. To describe in more detail, a relatively positive thermodynamic potential was applied to the nanoporous gold electrode initially to be covered with a single layer of copper,” Effat Nekouyee Fard, a member of the research group said to the News Service of INIC.
“Afterwards, the electrode was placed in palladium solution to trigger the spontaneous metal replacement process which ultimately leads to the complete replacement of copper by palladium,” she added.
Such reduced use consumption of palladium has led to a considerable cut-down in the production cost of the mentioned electrode.
Nekouyee Fard described the fuel cell and sensor related industries as the main consumer of the prepared electrode, and expressed the hope that their group would be able to replace gold with less valuable counterparts as electrode bases in their future researches.
Details on this research have been fully published in the Journal of Electrochimica Acta, volume 54, pages 7254 to 7259, 2009.

Tutankhamun Not Murdered Say Scientists Using Genetic Techniques to Reveal Parentage and Illnesses of Ancient Boy King

A team of scientists working in Egypt has used state-of-the-art genetics techniques to reveal the parentage of the famous pharaoh Tutankhamun, the illnesses he suffered from and that he probably was not a victim of murder. The study’s findings are published in the Journal of the American Association (JAMA).

The world has had an enduring fascination with the ‘boy king’ Tutankhamun since his tomb was discovered by the British archaeologist, Howard Carter, in 1922. Questions about Tutankhamun’s short life, the identity of his parents and why he died so early have never been answered – until now.

The research study was led by Dr Zahi Hawass from the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt. The scientists spent 2 years working in a DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) laboratory in Cairo using the latest DNA research techniques to examine the genetic make-up of 16 mummies.

Their hard work finally paid off – they are now able to reveal that Tutankhamun’s father was the pharaoh Akhenaten, whose mummified body was discovered in a tomb at the Valley of the Kings on the west bank of the Nile. A mummy known as the ‘younger lady’ that was found in a nearby tomb with an older female appears to be boy-king’s mother.

This is the first time that scientists have been able to use extensive genetic, forensic and radiological tests on mummies. Professor Albert Zinc, a member of the research team, and an anthropologist at the Italy-based European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano (EURAC), said: ‘With this project we have opened up a completely new dimension in molecular and medical Egyptology.’

To trace Tutankhamun’s lineage, the scientists took bone tissue samples from 11 mummies related to the pharaoh as well as 5 unrelated ones. The painstaking task of extracting the bone samples, obtaining the DNA and compiling the genetic fingerprints took two years.

‘We repeated our analyses several times and replicated them independently in a second laboratory,’ said Dr Carsten Pusch from Tübingen University, Germany. ‘We did this in order to exclude any possible contamination, any mixing with modern DNA.’

The DNA from the mummies was surprisingly well preserved. The team speculates that the special embalming techniques that were reserved for the pharaohs and royalty were responsible for this.

The DNA enabled the scientists to trace Tutankhamun’s family back five generations and to reveal various illnesses that the king suffered from, including osteonecrosis in his left foot, a rare bone disease which would have made it difficult for him to walk. This discovery explains the number of walking sticks found in the king’s tomb.

Many theories have been posited for Tutankhamun’s early death including murder, but the research team revealed that it is likely that the king died of malaria. ‘Tutankhamun appears to have suffered from the most severe kind of malaria, malaria tropica,’ Dr Pusch pointed out. ‘This affliction, combined with the bone necrosis, may well have brought about his demise.’

Commenting on their work, Professor Zinc and Dr Pusch, both of whom are experts in the study of Egyptian mummies, said: ‘It was our good fortune to be able to carry out these unique experiments which have enabled us to solve the hundred-year-old mystery surrounding the lineage of the world famous pharaoh Tutankhamun. And we shall continue our research: Nefertiti will be our next project. We have moved our research on to a new and so far unexplored level!’

For more information, please visit:

Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA):

European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano (EURAC):

Tübingen University:

Telstra and NBN Co Enter Into $9 Billion Agreement To Build Broadband Network in Australia

Telstra and NBN Co report they had entered into a $9 billion Financial Heads of Agreement to provide broadband services in Australia.
This agreement paves the way for a faster, cheaper, more efficient rollout of the National Broadband Network, with faster take-up.
This is an important step in the delivery of the single largest nation building infrastructure project in Australian history, which will increase national productivity and help build a stronger economy.
The Agreement between NBN Co and Telstra, worth an expected value of $9 billion, provides for:
     * The reuse of suitable Telstra infrastructure, including pits, ducts and backhaul fibre, by NBN Co as it starts to rollout its new network – avoiding unnecessary infrastructure duplication; and
    * The progressive migration of customers from Telstra’s copper and pay-TV cable networks to the new wholesale-only fibre network to be built and operated by NBN Co.
The Agreement means that: 
    * Taxpayers benefit because it reduces the overall cost of building the network and will result in higher take-up rates and revenue for NBN Co.
    * A greater proportion of the NBN rollout will be underground, with less overhead cabling.
    * Australia’s largest telecommunications company, Telstra, will become a participant in the rollout of the NBN, and is likely to become NBN Co’s largest customer.
Combined with Australian Government public policy reforms, Telstra estimates that the agreement announced today will deliver Telstra a post-tax net present value of approximately $11 billion. The payments by NBN Co to Telstra would be made over a number of years as the rollout progresses.
Through the migration of Telstra customers to the NBN, Australia will benefit significantly from a national wholesale-only broadband network, delivering structural separation of Telstra.
This historic microeconomic reform will ensure Australia finally has a genuinely competitive telecommunications industry which works for all Australian households and businesses, and helps to drive long-term productivity growth in our economy.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will review the competition aspects of this agreement as envisaged in the Telecommunications Competition and Consumer Safeguards Bill, which the Government still hopes to pass to provide greater certainty to industry.
In support of the Agreement, the Australian Government will progress public policy reforms to support the transition to NBN to which Telstra attributes a value of approximately $2 billion. It will:
    * Establish a new entity, USO Co – with Commonwealth funding of $50 million in 2012-13 and 2013-14, increasing to $100 million per annum thereafter. The remaining funding that USO Co requires will be contributed by industry, as it is now with final arrangements subject to industry and stakeholder consultation;
    * Provide $100 million to Telstra to assist in the retraining and redeployment of Telstra staff that will be affected by this very significant reform to the structure of the telecommunications industry; and
    * Require NBN Co to be the wholesale supplier of last resort for fibre connections in greenfield developments from 1 January 2011.
These important contributions were provided for in the 2010-11 Budget.
USO Co will assume responsibility for most of Telstra’s Universal Service Obligations for the delivery of standard telephone services, payphones and emergency call handling from 1 July 2012. This will ensure that essential communications services are protected and assist the structural reform of the industry.
Telstra, NBN Co and the Commonwealth agencies will now move to negotiate detailed Definitive Agreements, which is expected to take some months.
When these negotiations are concluded the Definitive Agreements will be put to Telstra’s shareholders and the Government, for final approval.
While today’s announcement is a significant step in the rollout of the NBN, as confirmed by the NBN Implementation Study, this project would still be financially viable even without the participation of Telstra.
The NBN is critical to securing Australia’s international competitiveness. It is central to Australia’s economic future because it will deliver universal superfast broadband to all Australian households and businesses no matter where they live or do business.

Applied Materials Reports Solid First Quarter for 2010, Leader in Nanomanufacturing Nets $1.85 Billion in Sales

Applied Materials, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMAT), the global leader in Nanomanufacturing Technology™ solutions for the semiconductor, flat panel display and solar industries,  reported results for its first quarter of fiscal 2010 ended January 31, 2010. Applied generated net sales of $1.85 billion, operating profit of $116 million, and net income of $83 million or $0.06 per share. Non-GAAP net income was $179 million or $0.13 per share.
“During the quarter, we completed the acquisition of Semitool Inc., opening new growth opportunities in our core semiconductor equipment market, particularly in advanced packaging”

“Applied posted solid first quarter results led by robust sales in our semiconductor equipment business,” said Mike Splinter, chairman and CEO. “With global demand improving in our customers’ end markets, we are raising our full-year revenue target to reflect higher anticipated demand in our semiconductor, LCD display and crystalline silicon solar businesses.”
“During the quarter, we completed the acquisition of Semitool Inc., opening new growth opportunities in our core semiconductor equipment market, particularly in advanced packaging,” Splinter added. “Applied enters its second quarter with considerable momentum, and we are off to an excellent start for the year.”
Financial Results Summary
Q1 FY 2010
Q4 FY 2009
Q1 FY 2009
GAAP Results
Net sales
$1.85 billion
$1.53 billion
$1.33 billion
Net income (loss)
$83 million
$138 million
($133 million)
Earnings (loss) per share
Non-GAAP Results
Non-GAAP net income (loss)
$179 million
$155 million
($28 million)
Non-GAAP earnings (loss) per share
Fiscal year 2010 is a 53-week year with 14 weeks in the first quarter.
The non-GAAP results exclude the impact of the following, where applicable: restructuring and asset impairments, acquisition-related costs, investment impairments, gains on sales of facilities, and amounts associated with the resolution of income tax audits. Effective the first quarter of fiscal 2010, the non-GAAP results no longer exclude the impact of equity-based compensation. A reconciliation of the GAAP and non-GAAP results is provided in the financial statements included in this release.
Reportable Segment Results
The Silicon Systems Group (SSG) had new orders of $1.13 billion, net sales of $970 million and operating income of $306 million. The 48 percent sequential increase in net sales was led by shipments to foundry and DRAM customers. New order composition was: foundry 42 percent, DRAM 36 percent, flash 13 percent, and logic and other 9 percent.
Applied Global Services (AGS) had new orders of $474 million, net sales of $426 million and operating income of $63 million. Sequential growth in net sales of 9 percent was driven primarily by semiconductor customer increases in factory utilization levels and new wafer starts.
The Display group had new orders of $126 million, net sales of $132 million and operating income of $25 million. The sequential decline in net sales was expected following a strong prior quarter.
The Energy and Environmental Solutions (EES) group had new orders of $230 million, net sales of $321 million and an operating loss of $36 million. Net sales included revenue for two additional SunFab™ thin film solar production lines.
Financial Highlights
Applied generated operating cash flow of $367 million during the quarter. The company acquired Semitool Inc. in an all-cash transaction for $323 million, net of cash acquired, and paid cash dividends of $80 million. At the end of the period, the company held $3.2 billion in cash and investments.
Business Outlook
For the second quarter of fiscal 2010, Applied expects quarter over quarter net sales growth of between 15 percent and 25 percent. The company expects non-GAAP EPS to be in the range of $0.17 to $0.22, which excludes anticipated charges related primarily to acquisitions.
For fiscal 2010, Applied expects net sales to grow by more than 50 percent, an increase from the previous outlook of greater than 30 percent.
Use of Non-GAAP Financial Measures
Management uses non-GAAP results to evaluate the company’s operating and financial performance in light of business objectives and for planning purposes. These measures are not in accordance with GAAP and may differ from non-GAAP methods of accounting and reporting used by other companies. Applied Materials believes these measures enhance investors’ ability to review the company’s business from the same perspective as the company’s management and facilitate comparisons of this period’s results with prior periods. The presentation of this additional information should not be considered a substitute for results prepared in accordance with GAAP.
Webcast Information
Applied Materials will discuss these results during an earnings call that begins at 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time today. A live webcast will be available at

Jefferson Science Associates Develops RF-Induction Heated Side-Pumped Synthesis Chamber for High Volume Production of Carbon Nanotubes

Jefferson Science Associates, LLC (Newport News, VA) received U.S. Patent 7,663,077 for a RF-induction heated side-pumped synthesis chamber for the production of carbon nanotubes. Such an apparatus, while capable of producing large volumes of carbon nanotubes, concurrently provides a simplified apparatus that allows for greatly reduced heat up and cool down times and flexible flowpaths that can be readily modified for production efficiency optimization, according to inventors Michael W. Smith and Kevin Jordan.
They developed an RF-induction heated side-pumped synthesis chamber for the production of carbon nanotubes. Such an apparatus, while capable of producing large volumes of carbon nanotubes, concurrently provides a simplified apparatus that allows for greatly reduced heat up and cool down times and flexible flowpaths that can be readily modified for production efficiency optimization.
The RF-induction heated side-pumped carbon nanotube synthesis chamber is comprised of: a generally T-shaped furnace housing defining a horizontal chamber and a vertical chamber for the admission of a laser beam; an RF coil about at least a portion of the horizontal chamber; a graphite core bisecting the horizontal chamber to form parallel inner upper and lower horizontal chambers and having a gap therein, the gap being aligned with the vertical chamber; a spindle capable of rotational and translational movement within the upper inner horizontal chamber; a graphite/catalyst target mounted on the spindle and moving therewith in alignment with the gap; the inner lower horizontal chamber defining a flowpath for the passage of a nanotube spray; a porous plug heater in the flowpath up stream of said vertical chamber for heating incoming inert gas; and an orifice plate intermediate the porous plug heater and the vertical chamber controlling the flow of inert gas to the flowpath.
Jefferson Science Associates, LLC is a SURA/CSC company created specifically to manage and operate the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

Chironomid Aliens in Antarctica

An alien species introduced by humans to Antarctica in the 1960s has not only survived, but thrived in the cold, harsh conditions. Scientists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) have discovered millions of larvae from a tiny fly (a chironomid midge) living in the soil on Signy Island.

This non-native species of the fly was taken from South Georgia and inadvertently introduced to Signy Island (a much colder island within the Antarctic region) as part of a scientific experiment to see whether plant transplants would survive. The larvae of the fly survived in the soil on the island, whereas most plants that were introduced at the same time did not (those that did survive were removed). A very small worm (an enchytraeid) that was also introduced at the same time has survived in only very small numbers.

Signy Island 

Source: British Antarctic Survey

The fly is now well established and there are up to 410,000 fly larvae per square metre in the area around the introduction site. The adult fly has only remnant wings and cannot fly; but the species has spread up to 220m away from the introduction site. Since this discovery scientists have been monitoring the significant spread of the alien species in order to gain a better understanding of how such species affect the native ecosystem.

Over the last two centuries human activities have led to the accidental introduction and establishment on land of many alien species of vertebrate, invertebrate and plant, particularly to the sub-Antarctic islands. These introductions include organisms with functions that are poorly or not represented in the native ecosystems, and in some cases have led to drastic alterations in ecosystem structure and function.

Source: British Antarctic Survey
Presentation summary for the IPY Science Conference 2010 in Oslo by Dr. Kevin Hughes and Professor Pete Convey