Digging for Joules in Fusion Mines

Digging for Joules in Fusion Mines

The Big Picture presents technology through the lens of photographers.

Each month, IEEE Spectrum selects the most stunning technological images recently captured by photographers around the world. We choose images that reflect an important breakthrough, or a trend, or that are simply fascinating to watch. We feature all images on our site, and one also appears on our monthly print edition.

Enjoy the latest images, and if you have any suggestions, leave a comment below.

Nuclear Fusion Blow

An old saw regarding the multitude of dashed hopes for the promise of fusion energy says “Fusion is 30 years away – and it always will be.” After decades of researchers predicting that the merger was imminent, a team from the UK Atomic Energy Authority (which hosts the Joint European Torus [JET] plasma physics experiment) did something that suggests scientists are focusing on exactly which corner it is. In February 2022, JET experimenters induced the largest sustained energy pulse ever created by man. It had twice as much energy as the previous record-breaking explosion, set off a quarter of a century earlier. A doubling every 25 years is far behind the rate of microchip improvements described by Moore’s Law. But that hasn’t dampened enthusiasm for an alternative energy source that could make fossil fuels and their effects on the environment relics of a bygone era. In the foreground of the image, a trainee learns to use the systems involved in accomplishing the exploit.

Leon Neal/Getty Images

Turn drones into scones

What has two wings, can reach someone stranded in a disaster area, and doubles as a source of valuable calories when no other food is available? This drone, designed and built by a team of researchers from the Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), has wings entirely made of laser-cut rice cakes held together by a gelatin-based “glue”. EPFL Group says it plans to continue refining the edible plane to improve its aeronautics and boost its nutritional profile.


The metasurface weaves entangled photons

The creation of the quantum mechanical state of entanglement (in which paired atoms influence each other over great distances) has so far been reminiscent of the story of Noah’s Ark. The tried-and-true method of entangling photons (by shining light through a nonlinear crystal) puts them in that two-by-two state, as animals are said to have boarded the ark. The ambition of quantum researchers has been to extend these connections from pairs to parts. And it looks like they’ve figured out how to reliably entangle multiple photons into a complex web, using half-millimetre-thick metasurfaces covered in forests of microscopic pillars. According to experts, this will not only greatly simplify the setup needed for quantum technology, but also help support more complex quantum applications.

Craig Fritz

A colossal camera arrives in Chile

In a world obsessed with miniaturization, it’s almost shocking when every once in a while a big deal is made out of something, er, big. This is certainly the case with the new camera being built for the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile. When the camera is delivered and installed in May 2023, its 1.57 meter wide lens will make it the world’s largest device for taking snapshots. The gargantuan point-and-shoot instrument will capture images of a strip of sky seven times wider than the moon.

Jacqueline Ramseyer Orrell/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Bionic hands have not fully grasped the needs of users

When we go about our daily business, most of us rarely stop to think about the engineering marvels of our arms and hands. But for those who have lost the use of a limb – or, like Britt Young, the woman pictured here, were born without a limb – there is hardly ever a day when the challenges of navigating a two-handed world are not at the forefront of their concerns. thoughts. In Young’s October 2022 IEEE Spectrum cover story, she discusses these challenges, as well as how the bionic hand technology destined to come to the rescue is failing designers and users alike.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for Mac Cosmetics; Hairstyle: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

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