April 21/28, 2004   

   Material grabs more sun
Silicon solar cells capture only some of the spectrum of sunlight, limiting their efficiency. A mix of several metals and oxygen could lead to solar cells that capture much more sunlight. The key is misaligning the material's crystal structure by infusing it with oxygen atoms.
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Spoke polarization tightens focus
Conventional wisdom holds that you can't focus light much beyond half its wavelength, which has computer chipmakers scrambling to work out how to use extreme ultraviolet and x-rays to make smaller circuits. But scientists are coming up with tricks for getting around this not-so-fundamental limit. One method uses beams that look like doughnuts sporting spokes to focus 40 percent more tightly.

Molecule makes electric motor
Researchers have built molecules that can spin on command, but finding a way to harness this molecular motion to carry out work is more difficult. A molecule that has a limited range of motion opens up new possibilities. Fixing one side of the molecule to a surface and the other to an object could make for molecular valves and switches.

Optical quantum memory designed
Quantum computers that use photons rather than atoms or electrons are appealing because the equipment needed to handle them can be relatively simple. One challenge is making quantum memory devices that will briefly store photons. A scheme for trapping photons in fiber-optic loops and replacing the photons that the loops absorb could be the answer.

News briefs
Printer writes micro 3D objects... Tiny rotors spin into place... Nanotube forms drive shaft... Photons teleported six kilometers... Magnets align nanotubes in resin... Sturdy quantum crypto proposed.

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