Feb 132011
 
Neutron

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Mysterious expanding ice crystals in the moons of Saturn and Neptune may be of interest to future developers of microelectronics.

Neutron scattering has discovered that methanol crystals that may be found in outer solar system ‘ice lavas’ have unusual expansion properties. The unexpected finding by a British planetary geologist using neutrons at the Institut Laue-Langevin and the ISIS neutron source will interest developers of ‘nano-switches’ — single atom thick valves used in ‘micro-electronics’ at the nano scale.

Neutron scattering has discovered that methanol crystals that may be found in outer solar system ‘ice lavas’ have unusual expansion properties. The unexpected finding by a British planetary geologist using neutrons at the Institut Laue-Langevin and the ISIS neutron source will interest developers of ‘nano-switches’ — single atom thick valves used in ‘micro-electronics’ at the nano scale.

Dr Dominic Fortes, UCL (University College London) made the discovery whilst investigating the internal structure of icy moons, such as Neptune’s Triton, to explain the icy eruptions seen by passing space-craft. By studying the behaviour of methanol monohydrate, a known constituent of outer solar system ice, under conditions like those within the moons’ interiors Fortes hoped to understand its role in volcanism.

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