Joule exploration in Fusion Mines

Big Picture features technology through the lens of photographers.

Per month, IEEE Spectrum Selects the most amazing tech photos recently taken by photographers around the world. We choose pictures that reflect important progress, a trend, or those pictures that are amazing to look at. We feature all of the photos on our website, and one also appears in our monthly print edition.

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

A shot of nuclear fusion

“Fusion is 30 years away – and always will be,” says one ancient visionary of the many dashed hopes about the promise of fusion energy. After decades of researchers predicting that a merger was just around the corner, a team at the UK Atomic Energy Authority (which hosts the joint European episode) [JET] Plasma Physics Experiment) did something to suggest that scientists are turning at exactly any angle. In February 2022, the JET experimenters caused the greatest sustained energy pulse ever created by humans. It had twice the energy of the previous record-breaking blast 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 this has not dampened enthusiasm about an alternative energy source that could make fossil fuels and their impact on the environment a relic of a bygone era. In the foreground of the image is a trainee learning how to use the systems involved in accomplishing this feat.

Leon Neal/Getty Images

Turn drones into cupcakes

What has two wings, can reach out to someone stranded in a disaster area, and double as a source of precious calories when no other food is available? Designed and built by a team of researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), this drone has wings made entirely of laser-cut rice cakes held together with gelatin-based “glue.” The EPFL Group says it plans to continue to improve edible aircraft to improve its aeronautics and enhance its nutritional profile.


Metasurface weaves entangled photons

The creation of quantum mechanical entanglement (in which paired atoms impact each other over vast 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 this case two by two, in the way animals are said to have climbed into the ark. The quantitative researchers’ ambition has been to extend these connections from pairs to ends. And they seem to have figured out how to reliably entangle so many photons in an intricate network, using half-millimeter-thick superstructures covered with forests of microscopic pillars. Experts say this will not only greatly simplify the setup needed for quantum technology, but will also help support more complex quantum applications.

Craig Fritz

A huge camera is coming to Chile

In a world obsessed with miniaturization, it’s almost shocking when, every now and then, a big deal is made out of something that’s, 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 set up in May 2023, its 1.57m wide lens will make it the world’s largest stills capture device. The giant point-and-shoot instrument will take images of an area of ​​sky seven times the width of the Moon.

Jacqueline Ramseyer Uriel / SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Electronic hands have not fully grasped the needs of users

As we go about our daily activities, most of us rarely stop to think about the engineering marvels of our arms and hands. But for those who’ve lost the use of a limb—or, like Brett Young, the woman pictured was born without one—there’s hardly a day when the challenges of navigating a two-handed world aren’t at the forefront of their thoughts. In the October 2022 IEEE Spectrum cover story, Young discusses these challenges, as well as how rescue-aimed bionic hand technology is not living up to the expectations of designers and users.

Gabriela Hasbon. Make-up: Maria Nguyen at MAC Cosmetics; Hair: Joan Lucky to Proof of Life

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