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Light pulses control graphene’s electrical behavior

August 4, 2014 8:10 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Graphene has become a focus of research on a variety of potential uses. Now researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found a way to control how the material conducts electricity by using extremely short light pulses, which could enable its use as a broadband light detector.

Method provides nanoscale details of electrochemical reactions in EV battery materials

August 4, 2014 7:33 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Using a new method to track the electrochemical reactions in a common electric vehicle battery material under operating conditions, scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have revealed new insight into why fast charging inhibits this material's performance. The study also provides the first direct experimental evidence to support a particular model of the electrochemical reaction. 

Hummingbirds vs. helicopters: Stanford engineers compare flight dynamics

July 30, 2014 2:31 pm | by Bjorn Carey, Stanford News Service | Videos | Comments

More than 42 million years of natural selection have turned hummingbirds into some of the world's most energetically efficient flyers, particularly when it comes to hovering in place. Humans, however, are gaining ground quickly. A new study led by David Lentink, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford, reveals that the spinning blades of micro-helicopters are about as efficient at hovering as the average hummingbird.

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Scientists separate a particle from its properties

July 30, 2014 9:59 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Austria have performed the first separation of a particle from one of its properties. The study showed that in an interferometer a neutron’s magnetic moment could be measured independently of the neutron itself, thereby marking the first experimental observation of a new quantum paradox known as the “Cheshire cat”.

Optimum inertial design for self-propulsion

July 29, 2014 11:01 am | News | Comments

A new study has investigated the effects of small but finite inertia on the propulsion of micro- and nano-scale swimming machines. Scientists have found that the direction of propulsion made possible by such inertia is opposite to that induced by a viscoelastic fluid. The findings could help to optimize the design of swimming machines to improve their mobility in medical applications.

Physicists unlock nature of high-temperature superconductivity

July 28, 2014 4:14 pm | by Jeanne Galatzer-Levy, Univ. of Illinois, Chicago | News | Comments

Physicists have identified the “quantum glue” that underlies a promising type of superconductivity—a crucial step towards the creation of energy superhighways that conduct electricity without current loss. The research, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is a collaboration between the Univ. of Illinois at Chicago,  Cornell Univ. and Brookhaven National Laboratory.

A transistor-like amplifier for single photons

July 28, 2014 11:19 am | by Olivia Meyer-Streng, Max Planck Institute | News | Comments

With the help of ultracold quantum gas, physicists have achieved a 20-fold amplification of single-photon signals, a step that could aid all-optical data processing efforts. The breakthrough was made with the invention of a new type of optical transistor build from a cloud of rubidium atoms, held just above absolute zero, that is transparent to certain wavelengths of light.

Measuring the smallest magnets

July 28, 2014 11:05 am | News | Comments

A wildly bouncing tennis ball that travels a millions times the distance of its own size would be difficult to measure. But attaching the same ball to a measuring device would eliminate the “noise”. Researchers in Israel recently used a similar trick to measure the interaction between the smallest possible magnets (two electrons) after neutralizing magnetic noise that was a million times stronger than the signal they needed to detect.

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The source of the sky’s x-ray glow

July 28, 2014 8:02 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

In findings that help astrophysicists understand our corner of the galaxy, an international research team has shown that the soft x-ray glow blanketing the sky comes from both inside and outside the solar system. The source of this "diffuse x-ray background" has been debated for the past 50 years.

Building invisible materials with light

July 28, 2014 7:51 am | News | Comments

A new method of building materials using light, developed by researchers at the Univ. of Cambridge, could one day enable technologies that are often considered the realm of science fiction. Although cloaked starships won’t be a reality for quite some time, the technique which researchers have developed for constructing materials with building blocks a few nanometers across can be used to control the way that light flies through them.

Magnets may act as wireless cooling agents

July 28, 2014 7:40 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The magnets cluttering the face of your refrigerator may one day be used as cooling agents, according to a new theory. The theory describes the motion of magnons. In addition to magnetic moments, magnons also conduct heat; from their equations, the researchers found that when exposed to a magnetic field gradient, magnons may be driven to move from one end of a magnet to another, carrying heat with them and producing a cooling effect.

Super-strong superconducting magnet achieves world record current

July 25, 2014 4:38 pm | News | Comments

Using a new type of large-scale magnet conductor, scientists in Japan have recently achieved an electrical current of 100,000 A, a world record. The conductor, which was built using yttrium-based high-temperature superconducting tapes for high mechanical strength, is a prototype for using in a future fusion reactor.

Study reveals new characteristics of complex oxide surfaces

July 25, 2014 8:25 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

A novel combination of microscopy and data processing has given researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) an unprecedented look at the surface of a material known for its unusual physical and electrochemical properties. The research team led by ORNL’s Zheng Gai examined how oxygen affects the surface of a perovskite manganite, a complex material that exhibits dramatic magnetic and electronic behavior.

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New approach helps form non-equilibrium structures

July 25, 2014 6:49 am | News | Comments

Scientists at Northwestern Univ. have developed a new technique for creating non-equilibrium systems, which experience constant changes in energy and phases, such as temperature fluctuations, freezing and melting, or movement. The method, which involves injecting energy through oscillations to force particles to self-assemble under non-equilibrium conditions, should help us understand the fundamentals of this mysterious topic.

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 beetle’s efficient water collection system inspired engineers to try and reproduce these surfaces in the laboratory. Small-scale advances in fluid physics, materials engineering and nanoscience since that time have brought them close to succeeding. And their work could have impact on a wide range of industries at the macroscale.

“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 design for an atomic clock that is based on a chip-scale frequency comb, or a microcomb. The microcomb clock, featured in Optica, is the first demonstration of all-optical control of the microcomb, and its accurate conversion of optical frequencies to lower microwave frequencies.

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 group of scientists: the ability to convert sunlight into a clean, efficient alternative fuel. Purdue Univ. physicists are part of an international group using spinach to study the proteins involved in photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert the sun’s energy into carbohydrates used to power cellular processes.

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.

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.

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