Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Fun with eutectic metals - Galinstan

I have been doing lots of full-wave electromagnetic simulation as part of my PhD and most of these techniques are applied for antenna design (as opposed to backscatter estimation for very complex targets i.e. forests). So naturally I decided sideways into antenna theory and started exploring malleable liquid antennas. These antennas have the advantage of taking strain and being easy to electro-mechanically tune and fit to a lot of form factors solid metal antennas cannot cope with.

The dominant material in liquid antennas is Galinstan - the mongrel made from Gallium, Indium and Stannum (well Tin). It sounds like some country in Asia Minor, next to Afganistan and Pakistan, but in fact it occupies a spot somewhere near Hydrargyrum (Mercury) in electrical and thermal properties. It is also not as toxic as Mercury, which caused the Mad Hatter and Isaac Newton to become rather eccentric.

Galinstan is apparently also rather useful for its ability to generate electricity when compressed, rather like piezo crystals. This has led to applications in the infamous heel/toe strike device, with patent holders claiming upto 10w per foot. I am sure the shoe phone is not far away.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Holiday in Adelaide - Ghosts of Christmas past

Last year was rather topsy-turvy for me, so this year I decided to jet back to Adelaide and spend Christmas with long time friends. The pre-christmas birthday party turned out to be a real blast. All the people I hadn't seen for years managed to turn up.

The hostel on Carrington is pretty fun as well, they laid out a Christmas spread, but I had an invitation to Hanukkah. Some drifting around the University, The SA Art Gallery and Glenelg ensued. I am still drawing away little things, learning scheme and swimming in the ocean.
The hostel has a huge collection of DVD's and books. I am burning through the massive Peter. F. Hamilton Tome - Pandora's Star, dragging it down to the beach when I can. Maybe I will finish it before I leave.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Time to move on and finish something

I recently resigned from my position at CSIRO. It was a great year but things were not working out. Peter Oke my bosses boss puts it like this:

I'm glad that we had the chance to discuss things with you and to understand your reasons for leaving. I recognise that finishing your PhD while working full time is very challenging, and that being away from family and friends is also difficult. So I understand and accept your reasons for leaving.

I managed to learn a lot in this year. Particularly about NetCDF vagaries - it is a bucket, just stick some labels on and put bits in it. It so reminds me of formalin filled viscera buckets we used to have in CMC SFI (the CPM's students' wing) Hostel, labeled - lungs, hearts, guts etc. I learnt some thing about the data collection, assimilation and simulations which produce these nasty monolithic and often badly labelled NetCDF beasts. Some of the nicer output comes from SHOC, XBEACH and ROMS.

It is now time to head back to the electromagnetic world and do some microwave bending. I have a bit to code and write up on Chapter 3 of my thesis. Concerning mostly 2D FDTD modelling of tree stands with open canopy and resultant impact on the scattering centres at different polarisations. Since I have chosen to use MEEP, this will involve learning some more Scheme.