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Concept: Plasma


OBJECTIVE: To characterise the influence of diet on abdominal symptoms, anal gas evacuation, intestinal gas distribution and colonic microbiota in patients complaining of flatulence. DESIGN: Patients complaining of flatulence (n=30) and healthy subjects (n=20) were instructed to follow their usual diet for 3 days (basal phase) and to consume a high-flatulogenic diet for another 3 days (challenge phase). RESULTS: During basal phase, patients recorded more abdominal symptoms than healthy subjects in daily questionnaires (5.8±0.3 vs 0.4±0.2 mean discomfort/pain score, respectively; p=<0.0001) and more gas evacuations by an event marker (21.9±2.8 vs 7.4±1.0 daytime evacuations, respectively; p=0.0001), without differences in the volume of gas evacuated after a standard meal (262±22 and 265±25 mL, respectively). On flatulogenic diet, both groups recorded more abdominal symptoms (7.9±0.3 and 2.8±0.4 discomfort/pain, respectively), number of gas evacuations (44.4±5.3 and 21.7±2.9 daytime evacuations, respectively) and had more gas production (656±52 and 673±78 mL, respectively; p<0.05 vs basal diet for all). When challenged with flatulogenic diet, patients' microbiota developed instability in composition, exhibiting variations in the main phyla and reduction of microbial diversity, whereas healthy subjects' microbiota were stable. Taxa from Bacteroides fragilis or Bilophila wadsworthia correlated with number of gas evacuations or volume of gas evacuated, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: Patients complaining of flatulence have a poor tolerance of intestinal gas, which is associated with instability of the microbial ecosystem.

Concepts: Bacteria, Gut flora, Fundamental physics concepts, Intestine, Flatulence, Plasma, Emergency evacuation, Bacteroides fragilis


We numerically investigate terahertz (THz) pulse generation by linearly-polarized, two-color femtosecond laser pulses in highly-ionized argon. Major processes consist of tunneling photoionization and ponderomotive forces associated with transverse and longitudinal field excitations. By means of two-dimensional particle-in-cell (PIC) simulations, we reveal the importance of photocurrent mechanisms besides transverse and longitudinal plasma waves for laser intensities >10(15) W/cm(2). We demonstrate the following. (i) With two-color pulses, photoionization prevails in the generation of GV/m THz fields up to 10(17) W/cm(2) laser intensities and suddenly loses efficiency near the relativistic threshold, as the outermost electron shell of ionized Ar atoms has been fully depleted. (ii) PIC results can be explained by a one-dimensional Maxwell-fluid model and its semi-analytical solutions, offering the first unified description of the main THz sources created in plasmas. (iii) The THz power emitted outside the plasma channel mostly originates from the transverse currents.

Concepts: Electron, Laser, Electromagnetic spectrum, Plasma, Infrared, Microwave, Terahertz radiation, Free electron laser


The most recent “grand minimum” of solar activity, the Maunder minimum (MM, 1650-1710), is of great interest both for understanding the solar dynamo and providing insight into possible future heliospheric conditions. Here, we use nearly 30 years of output from a data-constrained magnetohydrodynamic model of the solar corona to calibrate heliospheric reconstructions based solely on sunspot observations. Using these empirical relations, we produce the first quantitative estimate of global solar wind variations over the last 400 years. Relative to the modern era, the MM shows a factor 2 reduction in near-Earth heliospheric magnetic field strength and solar wind speed, and up to a factor 4 increase in solar wind Mach number. Thus solar wind energy input into the Earth’s magnetosphere was reduced, resulting in a more Jupiter-like system, in agreement with the dearth of auroral reports from the time. The global heliosphere was both smaller and more symmetric under MM conditions, which has implications for the interpretation of cosmogenic radionuclide data and resulting total solar irradiance estimates during grand minima.

Concepts: Magnetic field, Magnetohydrodynamics, Earth's magnetic field, Earth, Sun, Plasma, Solar wind, Sunspot


Ignition is needed to make fusion energy a viable alternative energy source, but has yet to be achieved. A key step on the way to ignition is to have the energy generated through fusion reactions in an inertially confined fusion plasma exceed the amount of energy deposited into the deuterium-tritium fusion fuel and hotspot during the implosion process, resulting in a fuel gain greater than unity. Here we report the achievement of fusion fuel gains exceeding unity on the US National Ignition Facility using a ‘high-foot’ implosion method, which is a manipulation of the laser pulse shape in a way that reduces instability in the implosion. These experiments show an order-of-magnitude improvement in yield performance over past deuterium-tritium implosion experiments. We also see a significant contribution to the yield from α-particle self-heating and evidence for the ‘bootstrapping’ required to accelerate the deuterium-tritium fusion burn to eventually ‘run away’ and ignite.

Concepts: Laser, Nuclear fusion, Plasma, Nuclear power, Energy development, Alternative energy, Fusion power, Inertial confinement fusion


The Martian limb (that is, the observed ‘edge’ of the planet) represents a unique window into the complex atmospheric phenomena occurring there. Clouds of ice crystals (CO2 ice or H2O ice) have been observed numerous times by spacecraft and ground-based telescopes, showing that clouds are typically layered and always confined below an altitude of 100 kilometres; suspended dust has also been detected at altitudes up to 60 kilometres during major dust storms. Highly concentrated and localized patches of auroral emission controlled by magnetic field anomalies in the crust have been observed at an altitude of 130 kilometres. Here we report the occurrence in March and April 2012 of two bright, extremely high-altitude plumes at the Martian terminator (the day-night boundary) at 200 to 250 kilometres or more above the surface, and thus well into the ionosphere and the exosphere. They were spotted at a longitude of about 195° west, a latitude of about -45° (at Terra Cimmeria), extended about 500 to 1,000 kilometres in both the north-south and east-west directions, and lasted for about 10 days. The features exhibited day-to-day variability, and were seen at the morning terminator but not at the evening limb, which indicates rapid evolution in less than 10 hours and a cyclic behaviour. We used photometric measurements to explore two possible scenarios and investigate their nature. For particles reflecting solar radiation, clouds of CO2-ice or H2O-ice particles with an effective radius of 0.1 micrometres are favoured over dust. Alternatively, the plume could arise from auroral emission, of a brightness more than 1,000 times that of the Earth’s aurora, over a region with a strong magnetic anomaly where aurorae have previously been detected. Importantly, both explanations defy our current understanding of Mars' upper atmosphere.

Concepts: Light, Earth's magnetic field, Earth, Sun, Mars, Atmosphere, Plasma, Solar wind


Life on Earth relies on chiral molecules-that is, species not superimposable on their mirror images. This manifests itself in the selection of a single molecular handedness, or homochirality, across the biosphere. We present the astronomical detection of a chiral molecule, propylene oxide (CH3CHCH2O), in absorption toward the Galactic center. Propylene oxide is detected in the gas phase in a cold, extended molecular shell around the embedded, massive protostellar clusters in the Sagittarius B2 star-forming region. This material is representative of the earliest stage of solar system evolution in which a chiral molecule has been found.

Concepts: DNA, Oxygen, Earth, Sun, Solar System, Plasma, Universe, Milky Way


Fusion energy research has in the past 40 years focused primarily on the tokamak concept, but recent advances in plasma theory and computational power have led to renewed interest in stellarators. The largest and most sophisticated stellarator in the world, Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X), has just started operation, with the aim to show that the earlier weaknesses of this concept have been addressed successfully, and that the intrinsic advantages of the concept persist, also at plasma parameters approaching those of a future fusion power plant. Here we show the first physics results, obtained before plasma operation: that the carefully tailored topology of nested magnetic surfaces needed for good confinement is realized, and that the measured deviations are smaller than one part in 100,000. This is a significant step forward in stellarator research, since it shows that the complicated and delicate magnetic topology can be created and verified with the required accuracy.

Concepts: Magnetic field, Nuclear fusion, Plasma, Fusion power, Tokamak, Stellarator, Reversed field pinch, Stellarators


The performance of three different types of ion mobility spectrometer (IMS) devices: GDA2 with a radioactive ion source (Airsense, Germany), UV-IMS with a photo-ionization source (G.A.S. Germany) and VG-Test with a corona discharge source (3QBD, Israel) was studied. The gas-phase ion chemistry in the IMS devices affected the species formed and their measured reduced mobility values. The sensitivity and limit of detection for trimethylamine (TMA), putrescine and cadaverine were compared by continuous monitoring of a stream of air with a given concentration of the analyte and by measurement of headspace vapors of TMA in a sealed vial. Preprocessing of the mobility spectra and the effectiveness of multivariate curve resolution techniques (MCR-LASSO) improved the accuracy of the measurements by correcting baseline effects and adjusting for variations in drift time as well as enhancing the signal to noise ratio and deconvolution of the complex data matrix to their pure components. The limit of detection for measurement of the biogenic amines by the three IMS devices was between 0.1 and 1.2ppm (for TMA with the VG-Test and GDA, respectively) and between 0.2 and 0.7ppm for putrescine and cadaverine with all three devices. Considering the uncertainty in the LOD determination there is almost no statistically significant difference between the three devices although they differ in their operating temperature, ionization method, drift tube design and dopant chemistry. This finding may have general implications on the achievable performance of classic IMS devices.

Concepts: Mass spectrometry, Measurement, Metrology, Statistical significance, Analytical chemistry, Plasma, Biogenic amine, Ion mobility spectrometry


Essential to biological activity of adenosylcobalamin (AdoCbl) and methylcobalamin (MeCbl) is the Co-C bond cleavage step. Hence, we report an accurate determination of the homolytic gas-phase Co-C bond dissociation energies in the related adenosyl- and methyl- cobinamides (41.5±1.2 and 44.6±0.8 kcal/mol, respectively) utilizing an energy-resolved threshold collision-induced dissociation (T-CID) technique. This approach allows for benchmarking of electronic structure methods separate from (often ill-defined) solvent effects. Adequacy of various density functional theory methods has been tested with respect to the experimentally obtained values.

Concepts: Oxygen, Fundamental physics concepts, Temperature, Kinetic energy, Density functional theory, Quantum chemistry, Plasma, Bond dissociation energy


The use of magnetic materials in solid phase extraction has received considerable attention in recent years taking into account many advantages arising from the inherent characteristics of magnetic particles. Magnetic solid phase extraction (MSPE) methodology overcomes problems such as column packing and phase separation, which can be easily performed by applying an external magnetic field. The use of magnetic particles in automatic systems is growing over the last few years making the on-line operation of MSPE a promising technique in the frame of green chemistry. This article aims to provide all recent progress in the research of novel magnetic materials as sorbents for metal preconcentration and determination coupled with different detection systems as well as their implementation in sequential injection and microfluidic systems. In addition, a description of preparation, characterization as well as applications of various types of magnetic materials, either with organic or inorganic coating of the magnetic core, is presented. Concluding remarks and future trends are also commented.

Concepts: Magnetic field, Magnet, Condensed matter physics, Magnetism, Ferromagnetism, Magnetic moment, Plasma, Electromagnet