July 10/17, 2006


Flat ion trap

A trap for capturing and holding individual ions has a single layer of electrodes, making the trap design appropriate for mass production. The trap can hold as many as 12 ions in close proximity. Such scalable ion traps could be used in large-scale quantum computers. (Microfabricated Surface-Electrode Ion Trap for Scalable Quantum Information Processing, Physical Review Letters, June 30, 2006)

Sugar for plastic

A chemical process converts fructose into 5-hydroxymethylfurfural, a substance used to make plastics. The process is a step toward using renewable resources rather than oil as a raw material in manufacturing and industrial chemistry. (Phase Modifiers Promote Efficient Production of Hydroxymethylfurfural from Fructose, Science, June 30, 2006)

Holey semiconductor

Two research teams have developed highly porous forms of the semiconductor germanium (1, 2). Germanium is used in microelectronics like computer chips. The techniques for making porous germanium allow for fine control over the electrical and optical properties of the material. Porous germanium could be used to make light-emitting diodes, solar cells and sensors. (Mesostructured Germanium with Cubic Pore Symmetry, Hexagonal Nanoporous Germanium through Surfactant-Driven Self-assembly of Zintl Clusters, Nature, June 29, 2006)

Laser-triggered tumor killers

Microscopic capsules made with silver and gold nanoparticles break open inside tumor cells when illuminated with laser light. The capsules could be used for delivering drugs to tumor cells without affecting healthy cells. (Laser-Induced Release of Encapsulated Materials inside Living Cells, Angewandte Chemie International Edition, July 2006)

Artificial photosynthesis

An artificial membrane containing ion channels mimics the photosynthesis of plants by converting light energy into chemical energy. The artificial photosynthesis system could be used to power artificial muscles and nanoscale machines. (Photoproduction of Proton Gradients with pi-Stacked Fluorophore Scaffolds in Lipid Bilayers, Science, July 7, 2006)

Self-healing coating

A corrosion resistant coating contains nanoparticles that release an anticorrosion agent to fill small gaps when the coating is damaged. The coating could be used to protect metals longer than today's anticorrosion techniques. (Layer-by-Layer Assembled Nanocontainers for Self-Healing Corrosion Protection, Advanced Materials, July 2006)


View from the High Ground: ICL's John Pendry
Physics as machine tool, negative refractive index, metamaterials, shattered wine glasses, higher capacity DVDs, scientific backwaters, risk perception and practice, practice, practice.

How It Works: Quantum computing: qubits
Photons, electrons and atoms, oh my! These particles are the raw materials for qubits, the basic building blocks of quantum computers.

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July 7, 2006
Music space
In western music, certain arrangements of chords and melodies sound "right" and others don't. Musical theorists have long employed mathematics to try to understand harmony and melody, and particularly why only some sequences of notes lead from one specific chord to another in an aesthetically acceptable manner. An advanced mathematical analysis uses a theoretical space in which all chords are points...

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Less glacier ice, more hurricanes

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Synchronization kills

"Physics is to the rest of science what machine tools are to engineering. A corollary is that science places power in our hands which can be used for good or ill. Technology has been abused in this way throughout the ages from gunpowder to atomic bombs."
- John Pendry, Imperial College London

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