Neon lights, astrophysics, lightning and, of course, televisions – plasma is all around us. But what exactly is it and how can we harness its power? This month, Horizon takes an in-depth look at the fourth state of matter, finding out how it could be used to fix environmental problems such as wastewater contamination and factory emissions. We speak to the scientists who are attempting to use plasma energy to create more powerful particle accelerators and probe the mysteries of the universe. We also find out how researchers are trying to recreate astrophysical plasma in their labs and investigate the potential of cold plasma to save lives.
Lab-based results showing that cold plasma can stop the growth of cancer cells have sparked hope that it could one day be used to treat the disease in humans – but scientists first need to understand why it has the effect it does.
Mysterious radiation emitted from distant corners of the galaxy could finally be explained with efforts to recreate a unique state of matter that blinked into existence in the first moments after the Big Bang.
Plasma particle accelerators more powerful than existing machines could help probe some of the outstanding mysteries of our universe, as well as make leaps forward in cancer treatment and security scanning - all in a package that’s around a thousandth of the size of current accelerators. All that's left is for scientists to build one.
Plasma technologies are everywhere — and could soon be rendering hospital wastewater harmless, scrubbing toxins out of gas in factory smokestacks and stopping dangerous ice formation on aeroplanes and electrical infrastructure, according to Professor Christian Oehr, head of the interfacial engineering and materials science department at Fraunhofer IGB in Stuttgart, Germany.
The so-called second quantum revolution is in full swing, with scientists not only able to understand what happens at a sub-atomic level but also control this quantum behaviour enough to develop new technologies. Six months after the launch of the EU’s €1 billion quantum flagship initiative to kickstart a European quantum technologies industry, we take a look at the potential of quantum to revolutionise our future. We speak to one researcher who is helping to build a quantum computer about the global race to do this and how Europe is faring. We take a look at the threat and promise of quantum technologies in the field of cryptography and find out how quantum simulators can be used to solve non-quantum problems. And finally, we speak to the scientists who are using quantum mechanics to improve the performance of brain scanners and better diagnose medical conditions.
How did European eating habits go so wrong? We have a plentiful supply of fresh food yet, according to Eurostat, one in every two people in Europe is either overweight or obese, leading to problems such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and lifestyle-related diabetes. In May, we delve into the complex science of healthy eating to understand how to tackle modern-day malnutrition. We speak to public health expert Knut-Inge Klepp about the complex factors determining food choice and how to improve the diet of teenagers. We find out how scientists are working to improve the zinc content of crops to prevent the ‘hidden hunger’ of micronutrient deficiency and look at the importance of widening the diversity of grains that we eat – both for our health and for the environment. We also explore what’s behind the nutritional self-sabotage of eating disorders.
From a chemical-free spray that turns sand into lush green land, to a caterer who serves planet-friendly dishes, and from technology that makes stronger concrete with less cement, to insect farms that produce fish food and fertilisers, there is no shortage of ideas to reduce emissions. But which ones work best?
When you hear the word ‘quantum’, you may imagine physicists working on a new ground breaking theory. Or perhaps you’ve read about quantum computers and how they might change the world. But one lesser-known field is also starting to reap the benefits of the quantum realm – medicine.
A new global scoring system helps identify solutions that will drastically cut emissions.
MRI imaging could be one of the first areas to benefit as early as 2020.
Test flights have shown promising results – Dr Chong Cheng Tung.