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Science

Edison and USC Launch Third Annual Challenge

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ROSEMEAD

 

Middle school and high school students are encouraged to create original science projects related to energy and the environment for the third annual Edison Challenge, a competition co-sponsored by Edison International and USC. School teams can register for the event until Oct. 31.

"The competition has provided a wonderful opportunity for students in the region to create innovative projects and expand their knowledge of energy and the environment," said Barbara J. Parsky, senior vice president, Corporate Communications, Edison International. "Participants in the Edison Challenge are our future environmental stewards who are gaining practical experience and learning the valuable benefits of math and science, which may inspire their career choices."

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Remington Parker, one of the last year’s Edison Challenge winners, creates an environmentally-themed t-shirt during her team’s week-long stay at the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island.

Edison pledged $1 million over four years, its largest environmental education grant, to fund the program. It is one of the company's premier community-based initiatives designed to expand educational opportunities and upholds Edison's long-standing commitment to preserving and protecting the environment.

Edison International partnered with the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies, a unit of the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, to create the Edison Challenge in 2006.

Students from more than 50 middle schools and high schools across Edison International subsidiary Southern California Edison's (SCE's) 50,000 square-mile service territory registered in the 2007-2008 competition. Gabrielino High School in San Gabriel took first place honors in that competition, and SOAR High School in Lancaster placed second. In the middle school category, Sycamore Canyon Middle School in Newbury Park was the first place winner, and Murray Middle School in Ridgecrest came in second place.

Members of the first place teams enjoyed a week-long trip to the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island. Second place finishers took a four-day trip to SCE's Big Creek Hydroelectric Facility in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This year's winners will receive similar trips.

Sycamore Canyon students said creating and completing their winning project was rewarding in many ways.

"They gained immeasurable knowledge, and their experience in Catalina working with marine biologists was one that they will remember for a lifetime," said Pam Bluestein, teacher and team adviser.

Members of Gabrielino High's team also said their experience with the Edison Challenge was life changing.

"For our team, the opportunity to study and perform research at the Wrigley Marine Institute transformed the students' perspective on what science is when applied in the real world," said Michael Winters, teacher and team adviser. Both schools plan to compete again this year.

Edison Challenge entrants must submit projects that focus on one or more of the following topics:

  • Energy transfer through wind, ocean currents or water cycle.
  • Energy conservation and energy efficiency for residential, commercial or industrial users, water conservation, land conservation, recycling or waste management.
  • Environmental protection and sustainability (habitat or endangered species protection, watershed management and climate change).
  • Renewable energy sources (small hydroelectric, solar, wind, biomass and geothermal).
  • Air and water quality (compliance and stewardship, environmental justice and traffic congestion management).
  • Alternative transportation (electric, biodiesel and alternative fuels).

Registration for the Edison Challenge runs through Oct. 31. Final projects are due by February 2009, and winners will be announced in March 2009. For more information about the Edison Challenge or to register, go to www.sce.com/edisonchallenge.

UCR Research on Nanolasers Promise an Explosion of Memory Capacity

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RIVERSIDE

 

Every advance in memory storage devices presents a new marvel of just how much memory can be squeezed into very small spaces. Considering the potential of nanolasers being developed in Sakhrat Khizroev's lab at the University of California, Riverside, things are about to get a lot smaller.

As reported in the latest issue of Technology Review, Khizroev is leading a team exploring lasers so tiny that they point to a future where a 10-terabit hard drive is only one-inch square.

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Researchers focused laser light on 30-nanometer spots using various apertures. The c-shaped aperture produced the most powerful result as seen in this scanning near-field optical microscope image by researcher Rabee Ikkawi.

That is 50 times the data density of today's magnetic storage technology, a technology that has nearly reached its limit for continued miniaturization. In response, researchers have been looking for a new leap forward by combining light and magnetism to focus bits of data on much smaller areas on the disk. The $60 billion a year hard disk drive industry is investigating several new technologies, one of which requires precise nanolasers to help "write" data.

Khizroev, an associate professor of engineering at UCR, and colleagues at the University of Houston led by Professor Dmitri Litvinov, have for the first time achieved a nanolaser which can concentrate light as small as 30 nanometers. For many substances, that is the molecular level. Just as importantly, their nanolaser can focus 250 nanowatts of power, enough to assure effective storage of the information.

The next goal of the researchers is to refine the nanolaser to produce light beams as small as five or 10 nanometers. To achieve this they plan to improve the manufacture of their nanolasers by refining the precision of the focused gallium ion beams used for their fabrication. Khizroev's lab adapted this technology, commonly used for diagnostics in semiconductor manufacture, to cut the components of their lasers.

He credited the feasibility of this advanced nanomanufacturing on Professor Robert Haddon's unique nanofabrication facilities at UCR's Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering.

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Sakhrat Khizroev, team leader
Khizroev said there are a number of challenges for getting the tiny disk drives to the market, including lubricating tiny parts and integrating the nanolaser with a recording head. Still, he insisted, the 10-terabit hard drive will be a near-term innovation, appearing in as little as two years.

The implications of the ability to focus light at these scales are even more fantastic in the longer term. The use of photochromic proteins with nanolasers should help lead to nanocomputers and the ability to store still more data in smaller places, Khizroev said. Those proteins paired with nanolasers should also impact energy harvesting and a wide range of medical applications, he added.

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