Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Nanotechnology makes supertelescopes much more sensitive

Nanotechnologist Chris Lodewijk has succeeded in significantly increasing the sensitivity of the new supertelescopes in Chile. He will receive his PhD on this topic at Delft University of Technology on Monday 2 February.

In Chile's Atacama desert, technicians and astronomers from around the world are currently working on the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA). This consists of 66 advanced telescopes which will be placed at an altitude of 5,000 metres and together will provide a more precise image of the universe.

They are chiefly aimed at shedding light on the question of how stars and planets are formed. ALMA is expected to be taken into service in 2012 and is viewed by astronomers as a major step forward for their field.

Aluminium nitride

Dutch astronomers have been closely involved in developing ALMA in a fruitful collaboration with nanotechnologists. The latest contribution from the nano-world comes from PhD candidate Chris Lodewijk and technician Tony Zijlstra at Delft University of Technology's Kavli Institute of Nanoscience. They have succeeded in drastically increasing the sensitivity of ALMA in a crucial frequency range by improving the functioning of the major component, the radiation-sensor.

This involves what are known as super-conducting tunnel junctions. These miniscule sensors comprise two superconductors which are separated by an insulating layer measuring 1 to 2 nanometres, usually of aluminium oxide, with an area of 500 by 500 nanometres.

However, it is impossible to avoid a very thin layer of 1 nanometre of aluminium oxide 'leaking' in certain spots. Lodewijk and Zijlstra therefore conducted research into replacing aluminium oxide with aluminium nitride (AlN), with spectacular results. An aluminium nitride layer proves to be much more homogeneous and its sensitivity, in the 602 to 720 GHz range, is also much improved.


Incidentally, Lodewijk's research topic of super-conducting tunnel junctions is also essential to the functioning of the Herschel Space Telescope, which is to be launched in April. The Herschel Space Telescope is the successor to the Hubble telescope. Delft University of Technology's Kavli Institute of Nanoscience has developed many of the crucial tunnel junctions for the Herschel Telescope's measuring equipment.

Frank Nuijens | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht 'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region
16.03.2018 | American Institute of Physics

nachricht Fraunhofer HHI have developed a novel single-polarization Kramers-Kronig receiver scheme
16.03.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Nachrichtentechnik, Heinrich-Hertz-Institut, HHI

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Development and Fast Analysis of 3D Printed HF Components

19.03.2018 | Trade Fair News

In monogamous species, a compatible partner is more important than an ornamented one

19.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Signaling Pathways to the Nucleus

19.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>