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The birth of topological spintronics

July 24, 2014 10:31 am | News | Comments

Research led by Penn State Univ. and Cornell Univ. physicists is studying "spintorque" in devices that combine a standard magnetic material with a new material known as a topological insulator. The new insulator, which is made of bismuth selenide and operates at room temperature, overcomes one of the key challenges to developing a spintronics technology based on spin-orbit coupling.

Quenching the world's water and energy crises, one tiny droplet at a time

July 24, 2014 8:40 am | by Sarah Bates, National Science Foundation | Videos | Comments

More than a decade ago, news of a Namibian desert...

“Comb-on-a-chip” powers new atomic clock design

July 24, 2014 7:52 am | News | Comments

Researchers from NIST and California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have demonstrated a new...

Spinach could lead to alternative energy more powerful than Popeye

July 23, 2014 4:07 pm | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Spinach gave Popeye super strength, but it also holds the promise of a different power for a...

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Dancing electrons at the heart of a laser breakthrough

July 23, 2014 8:19 am | by Joseph Blumberg, Dartmouth | News | Comments

A team of Dartmouth scientists and their colleagues have devised a breakthrough laser that uses a single artificial atom to generate and emit particles of light—and may play a crucial role in the development of quantum computers, which are predicted to eventually outperform even today’s most powerful supercomputers.

Boosting the force of empty space

July 22, 2014 1:33 pm | News | Comments

Empty space is a bubbling soup of various virtual particles popping in and out of existence. Theorists from Austria and Vienna have recently proposed a way to amplify the force of these counter-intuitive phenomena called “vacuum fluctuations” by several orders of magnitude using a transmission line, channelling virtual photons. The strategy could have profound implications for understanding Casimir and Van der Waals forces.

Optomechanical crystal helps study photon-phonon interactions

July 22, 2014 8:48 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Spain have announced their successful effort to build a silicon 1-D optomechanical crystal so that it allows both phonons and photons to localize in a stable way. This marks an opportunity to study the interaction between electromagnetic radiation and mechanical vibrations of matter with a new level of precision.

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Understanding graphene’s electrical properties on an atomic level

July 22, 2014 7:38 am | by Evan Lerner, Univ. of Pennsylvania | Videos | Comments

Graphene, a material that consists of a lattice of carbon atoms, one atom thick, is widely touted as being the most electrically conductive material ever studied. However, not all graphene is the same. With so few atoms comprising the entirety of the material, the arrangement of each one has an impact on its overall function.

Carbyne morphs when stretched

July 21, 2014 10:45 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Applying just the right amount of tension to a chain of carbon atoms can turn it from a metallic conductor to an insulator, according to Rice Univ. scientists. Stretching the material known as carbyne by just 3% can begin to change its properties in ways that engineers might find useful for mechanically activated nanoscale electronics and optics.

DNA used as a lightswitch

July 21, 2014 9:12 am | News | Comments

Using two thin, tiny gold nanorods 10,000 times thinner than a human hair, researchers from the U.S. and Germany have succeeded in creating an adjustable filter for so-called circularly polarized light. This switch for nano-optics is made from two tiny gold rods that reversibly change their optical properties when specific DNA molecules are added.

Peering into giant planets from in and out of this world

July 18, 2014 8:40 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboraotry | News | Comments

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists for the first time have experimentally re-created the conditions that exist deep inside giant planets, such as Jupiter, Uranus and many of the planets recently discovered outside our solar system. Researchers can now re-create and accurately measure material properties that control how these planets evolve over time, information essential for understanding how these massive objects form.

Ultra-fast x-ray laser sheds light on fundamental ultra-fast dynamics

July 18, 2014 8:31 am | by KSU News and Communications Service | News | Comments

Ultra-fast x-ray laser research led by Kansas State Univ. has provided scientists with a snapshot of a fundamental molecular phenomenon. The finding sheds new light on microscopic electron motion in molecules. The researchers measured at which distances between the two atoms the electron transfer can occur.

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First ab initio method for characterizing hot carriers

July 18, 2014 8:19 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

One of the major road blocks to the design and development of new, more efficient solar cells may have been cleared. Researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have developed the first ab initio method for characterizing the properties of “hot carriers” in semiconductors. Hot carriers are electrical charge carriers with significantly higher energy than charge carriers at thermal equilibrium.

Cell membrane proteins give up their secrets

July 17, 2014 8:03 am | Videos | Comments

Biological physicists at Rice Univ. have succeeded in analyzing transmembrane protein folding in the same way they study the proteins’ free-floating, globular cousins. They have applied energy landscape theory to proteins that are hard to view because they are inside cell membranes. The method should increase the technique’s value to researchers who study proteins implicated in diseases and possibly in the creation of drugs to treat them.

Project yields sharpest map of Mars' surface properties

July 17, 2014 7:20 am | by Robert Burnham, ASU | News | Comments

A heat-sensing camera designed at Arizona State University has provided data to create the most detailed global map yet made of Martian surface properties. THEMIS, the nine-band visual and infrared camera on NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter, was used to create this map, which is now available online. And citizen scientists are invited to help make it even better.

NASA’s Van Allen probes show how to accelerate electrons

July 16, 2014 7:50 am | News | Comments

One of the great, unanswered questions for space weather scientists is just what creates two gigantic donuts of radiation surrounding Earth, called the Van Allen radiation belts. Theories abound, but probes sent by NASA have recently provided the first really strong confirmation of what's happening. For the first time, scientists can explain how the electrons are accelerated up to nearly the speed of light.

Powerful new sensor amplifies optical signature of single molecules by 100 billion times

July 15, 2014 5:19 pm | News | Comments

Scientists in Texas have created a unique sensor that amplifies the optical signature of molecules by about 100 billion times. The new imaging method uses a form of Raman spectroscopy in combination with an intricate but mass reproducible optical amplifier. Newly published tests found the device could accurately identify the composition and structure of individual molecules containing fewer than 20 atoms.

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Directly visualizing hydrogen bonds

July 15, 2014 3:53 pm | News | Comments

Using a newly developed, ultrafast femtosecond infrared light source, chemists at the University of Chicago have been able to directly visualize the coordinated vibrations between hydrogen-bonded molecules. This marks the first time this sort of chemical interaction, which is found in nature everywhere at the molecular level, has been directly visualized.

Joining the dots for quantum computing

July 15, 2014 9:31 am | News | Comments

Researchers at RIKEN in Japan, in collaboration with researchers from Purdue Univ., have recently demonstrated the scalability of quantum dot architectures by trapping and controlling four electrons in a single device. Circuits based on quantum dots are one of the most promising practical routes to harnessing the potential of quantum computing.

Physicists detect process even rarer than the long-sought Higgs particle

July 15, 2014 8:20 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists running the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider report the first evidence of a process that can be used to test the mechanism by which the recently discovered Higgs particle imparts mass to other fundamental particles. More rare than the production of the Higgs itself, this process also provides a new stringent test of the Standard Model of particle physics.

Labs characterize carbon for batteries

July 15, 2014 8:04 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Lithium-ion batteries could benefit from a theoretical model created at Rice Univ. and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that predicts how carbon components will perform as electrodes. The model is based on intrinsic electronic characteristics of materials used as battery anodes. These include the material’s quantum capacitance and the material’s absolute Fermi level.

Getting a charge out of water droplets

July 15, 2014 7:53 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Last year, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers discovered that when water droplets spontaneously jump away from superhydrophobic surfaces during condensation, they can gain electric charge in the process. Now, the same team has demonstrated that this process can generate small amounts of electricity that might be used to power electronic devices.

Researchers demonstrate novel, tunable nanoantennas

July 14, 2014 1:39 pm | News | Comments

A research team in Illinois has built a new type of tunable nanoscale antenna that could facilitate optomechanical systems that actuate mechanical motion through plasmonic field enhancements. The team’s fabrication process shows for the first time an innovative way of fabricating plasmonic nanoantenna structures under a scanning electron microscope, which avoids complications from conventional lithography techniques.

World’s first photonic router demonstrated

July 14, 2014 11:16 am | News | Comments

Scientists in Israel have recently constructed, for the first time, a photonic router that enables routing of single photons by single photons. At the core of the device is an atom that can switch between two states. The state is set just by sending a single particle of light, or photon, from the right or the left via an optical fiber. The innovation could help overcome difficulties in building quantum computers.

Deep within spinach leaves, vibrations enhance efficiency of photosynthesis

July 14, 2014 7:46 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Biophysics researchers have used short pulses of light to peer into the mechanics of photosynthesis and illuminate the role that molecule vibrations play in the energy conversion process that powers life on our planet. The findings could potentially help engineers make more efficient solar cells and energy storage systems.

Speeding up data storage by a thousand times with “spin current”

July 10, 2014 9:31 am | News | Comments

Spin current, in which an ultra-short laser pulse generates electrons all with the same spin, is a promising new technology which potentially allows data to be stored 1,000 times as fast as traditional hard drive. Researchers in The Netherlands have recently shown that generated spin current is actually able to cause a change in magnetization, hinting at practical application in the future.

Technology illuminates colder objects in deep space

July 10, 2014 7:42 am | News | Comments

Too cool and faint, many objects in the universe are impossible to detect with visible light. Now a Northwestern Univ. team has refined a new technology that could make these colder objects more visible, paving the way for enhanced exploration of deep space. The new technology uses a type II superlattice material called indium arsenide/indium arsenide antimonide (InAs/InAsSb).

Even geckos can lose their grip

July 9, 2014 2:17 pm | News | Comments

Geckos and spiders seem to be able to sit still forever upside down. But sooner or later the grip is lost, no matter how little force is acting on it. Engineers, using scanning electron microscopy, have recently demonstrated why this is so by showing how heat, and the subsequent movement of molecules at the nanoscale, eventually force loss of adhesion.

Highway for ultracold atoms in light crystals

July 9, 2014 2:10 pm | News | Comments

When a superconductor is exposed to a magnetic field, a surface current creates a magnetic field that cancels the field inside the superconductor. This phenomenon, known as the Meissner-Ochsenfeld effect, was first observed in 1933. In a research first, scientists have succeeded in measuring an analogue of the Meissner effect in an optical crystal with ultracold atoms. This validates theoretical predictions dating back more than 20 years.

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