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The Warsaw Voice » Other » September 30, 2009
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In brief
September 30, 2009   
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Fuel from Carbon Dioxide
The Maria Skłodowska-Curie University in the eastern city of Lublin and the Lublin-Wrotków Heat and Power Plant will work together to develop technology to obtain methanol from waste carbon dioxide and convert it into fuel.

The university's Faculty of Chemistry and the heat and power plant will conduct joint research and join forces to develop a technology utilizing flue CO2 from the plant. The first research phase will focus on ways to process CO2 into methanol. Then, the research team will work on converting methanol into gasoil (MTG process).

"We will first carry out artificial photosynthesis of CO2 with water to produce methanol," said the Faculty of Chemistry's Prof. Dobiesław Nazimek, who has developed the method together with his research team. "Then, we will separate the methanol and convert it to higher hydrocarbons, which are basically gasoline and diesel fuel." Fuel obtained in this way will be cheaper, cleaner (sulfur and nitrogen free), more efficient and more environmentally friendly, Nazimek said.

The Lublin-Wrotków heat and power plant is the largest producer of heat and electricity in the Lublin area. It has the largest gas and steam power unit in Poland.

Pioneering Surgery
The world's first double implantation of middle ear implants in a patient with a serious hearing impairment has been successfully performed in Warsaw by Prof. Kazimierz Niemczyk, head of the Otolarygnology Faculty and Clinic of the Medical University of Warsaw. The surgery was performed on a 20-year-old man whose hearing had suffered serious damage from ototoxic drugs he was given as a child.

Middle ear implants are an alternative for those patients who for various reasons cannot or do not want to wear hearing aids. The implants improve hearing by amplifying the vibrations of the ear bones. The surgery in Warsaw employed American implants that were wholly placed inside the middle ear without the need for any external parts.

The surgery was simultaneously performed on both ears thanks to a system of objective hearing monitoring during the operation. The system enables surgeons to fit the implants with maximum precision and ensure their optimal operation.

The system has been developed by specialists from the Medical University of Warsaw at the Public Central Teaching Hospital on Banacha Street in Warsaw.

Eco-Friendly Capacitor
Researchers in the western city of Poznań are working on the prototype of a hi-tech capacitor that will be cheaper and more environmentally friendly than capacitors used at present. The device may become an inexpensive source of energy to propel cars, farming machines and other vehicles.

The new capacitor has excellent capacitance and short charging time compared with other energy storing devices, the researchers say. Such capacitors are used in prototype hybrid cars and automatic industrial systems.

Research on an environmentally friendly capacitor fit for mass production is being carried out by a consortium made up of the Institute of Construction, Mechanization and Agriculture Electrification and Nickel Technology Park Poznań. The research team, led by Prof. Elżbieta Fr±ckowiak, has developed a laboratory prototype.

In the future, the "supercapacitor" could be used to power cars, streetcars and train engines, the researchers say. It could also become a power source for various other devices.

Until now European manufacturers used acetonitrile to make such capacitors. The compound assures high voltage in the capacitor, but it is potentially dangerous because of hydrogen cyanide liberation.

When completed, the project will allow experts to move on from laboratory research to industrial production and start work on mobile applications of "supercapacitors" in passenger cars, commercial vehicles, farming machines and buses. New laboratory infrastructure would also enable research on stationary applications of such capacitors in solar battery systems and wind farms.

Poles Join Japanese Space Research Program
The Andrzej Sołtan Institute of Nuclear Studies in ¦wierk near Warsaw has joined an international research team working to build a Japanese Experiment Module-Extreme Universe Space Observatory (JEM-EUSO). The project aims to develop a telescope to observe phenomena triggered in the atmosphere of Earth by ultra-high-energy cosmic ray particles.

The Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) plans to put the telescope in orbit in 2013. The telescope will be attached to the Japanese Kibo module of the International Space Station (ISS) and will monitor the atmosphere over an area of up to half a million square kilometers for three to five years.

"We are bombarded by particles from outer space the energy of which is millions of times higher than that of particles obtained in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC)," says Jacek Szabelski, Ph.D., from the Department of Cosmic Ray Physics of the Institute of Nuclear Studies in Warsaw. "Watching their effects on the atmosphere, we get a chance to discover phenomena that will most likely lead us to a new brand of physics." According to Szabelski, the telescope will allow researchers to watch anywhere from 350 to 1,700 such extraordinary particles a year.

The scientists plan to film the flashes at a rate of several hundred thousand frames per second, which will allow them to see how cascades develop and determine the impact and direction of every high-energy particle.

The JEM-EUSO telescope is in the final preparation phase before construction begins. Researchers from the Department of Cosmic Ray Physics are working on a prototype power supply system for the telescope's high energy detector. The prototype will meet specific power, weight and shutoff-speed criteria.

Over a dozen Polish researchers are involved in the JEM-EUSO experiment. They hail from the Institute of Nuclear Problems in ¦wierk, the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, the University in Kielce, and the Podlasie Academy in Siedlce.

Computed Tomography Scans in Industry
The Faculty of Applied Computer Science of the ŁódĽ University of Technology is working on innovative methods to monitor and control industrial processes using computed tomography scans. The researchers have developed a method to facilitate the unloading of containers with loose materials used in the chemical, construction, pharmaceutical and food industries.

Many people associate the word "tomography" with the method of medical diagnostics. Few know about the wide range of applications the technology has in industry. Process tomography makes it possible to "look" inside ongoing production processes without interfering with the production itself. Thanks to tomography, it is possible to make images of what is inside an object even if its walls are opaque.

The project involves Prof. Dominik Sankowski; Robert Banasiak, D.Sc.; Jakub Betiuk, M.Sc.; Zbigniew Chaniecki, D.Sc.; Krzysztof Grudzień, D.Sc.; Maciej Niedostatkiewicz, D.Sc.; Andrzej Romanowski, D.Sc.; and Radosław Wajman, D.Sc.

Around 60 percent of raw materials used in industry are stored as pellets or powder at some production stage. Silos of different sizes and shapes are used to store this type of material and transport it to the production line for further processing.

The main problem associated with the storage of loose materials is that the volume of the material changes. Specialists need to know how the concentration of loose materials changes when a container is being emptied. This is vital to analyze the distribution of pressure of granulated material against silo walls. Knowing this, specialists can establish how safe it is to utilize a given silo and how sturdy its structure is.

The ŁódĽ team has come up with a method to monitor containers being emptied using electrical capacitance tomography (ECT). This non-invasive technique to visualize industrial processes makes it possible to determine the distribution of material in a silo while the silo is being emptied by measuring electrical capacitance on electrodes around the container. ECT collects the data at a fast rate, as a result of which the controlling module is able to respond to any undesirable occurrences in the shortest possible time.

NASA to Use Polish Software
As it analyzes the surface of Mars, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will soon start using software created by Jan Kotlarz from the Polish division of the Mars Society. The European Space Agency (ESA) has been using the software for more than six months.

Kotlarz, who works at the University of Warsaw, has written the Rover and Orbiter Delta Mars (RODM) application to help explore small areas of the Red Planet. Highly precise calculations performed by the software make it possible to analyze objects sized less than 1 meter.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), an American space probe that circles around the planet, is expected to send photographs to the computer network of the University of Bern in Switzerland. The photos will be the basis for RODM to conduct a succession of precise computations. The first area analyzed by the Polish application is the Inca City on the southern hemisphere of Mars.

Mathematical analyses will help determine the feasibility of hypotheses concerning the past of individual areas of Mars. For example, it will be possible to establish if a certain land formation could have been shaped by water. The software will eventually be incorporated into the computer network of the University in Bern, where it will primarily be used at the Institute of Planetary Science by ESA and NASA scientists.

The Mars Society Polska is a division of the Mars Society, an international organization that aims to encourage the exploration and settlement of Mars. Founded in mid-1998, the organization has attracted the support of notable science fiction writers and filmmakers, including Kim Stanley Robinson and James Cameron. The organization is dedicated to convincing the public and governments of the benefits of Mars exploration, as well as exploring the possibilities of private Mars missions.
Compiled by Tadeusz Belerski
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