Searching for joules in the fusion mines

The Big Picture presents technology through the lens of photographers.

Each month, IEEE spectrum selects the most amazing technological images recently captured by photographers from around the world. We choose images that reflect an important advance, or a trend, or that simply captivate the eye. We feature all the images on our site, and one also appears in our monthly print edition.

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

Nuclear Fusion Shot

An old saying regarding the multitude of dashed hopes about the promise of fusion energy goes: “Fusion is 30 years away, and always will be.” After decades of researchers predicting that meltdown was just around the corner, a team from the UK Atomic Energy Authority (which hosts the Joint European Torus [JET] plasma physics experiment) did something that suggests scientists are aiming for exactly which corner that is. In February 2022, JET experimenters induced the largest sustained energy pulse ever created by humans. It had twice the energy of the previous record-breaking explosion, unleashed a quarter of a century earlier. A doubling every 25 years is far behind the pace 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 effect on the environment relics of a bygone era. In the foreground of the image is an apprentice learning to use the systems involved to accomplish the feat.

Leon Neal/Getty Images

Turn drones into buns

What has two wings, can reach a person trapped in a disaster zone, and functions as a source of valuable calories when no other food is available? This drone, designed and built by a team of researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), has wings made entirely of laser-cut rice cakes held together with “glue” made of gelatin. The EPFL group says it plans to further refine the edible plane to improve its aeronautics and improve its nutritional profile.


The metasurface weaves entangled photons

The creation of the quantum mechanical state of entanglement (in which paired atoms influence each other from great distances) has so far been reminiscent of the Noah’s ark story. The tried-and-true method of entangling photons (by shining light through a non-linear crystal) puts them in this state two by two, the way the animals are said to have boarded the ark. The ambition of quantum researchers has been to expand these connections from pairs to parts. And it appears they have figured out how to reliably entangle multiple photons into a complicated lattice, using half-millimeter-thick metasurfaces covered with forests of microscopic pillars. This, experts say, will not only greatly simplify the configuration required for quantum technology, but will also help support more complex quantum applications.

craig fritz

Colossal Camera arrives in Chile

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

Jacqueline Ramseyer Orrell/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Bionic hands have not fully captured the needs of users

When going about our daily activities, most of us rarely stop to think about the engineering marvels that are 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 one, there is hardly ever a day when the challenges of navigating a two-handed world are not on the table. forefront of your thoughts. In Young’s October 2022 IEEE Spectrum cover story, she discusses these challenges, as well as how the bionic-hand technology she claims to come to the rescue is failing to meet the expectations of designers and users.

Gabriela HasbĂșn. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for Mac Cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

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