February 19/26, 2007


Bubble logic

A microfluidic chip processes logic operations by controlling the flow of bubbles rather than electrical pulses. Bubbles are capable of shunting materials around a chip; bubble logic can be used to control biochips for developing drugs, diagnosing diseases and testing environmental contaminants. (Microfluidic Bubble Logic, Science, February 9, 2007)

Ankle bot

A robotic exoskeletal ankle controlled by the wearer's neuromuscular activity shows that people can adapt walking motion to accommodate external changes, including devices designed to aid or enhance human physiology. Test subjects who wore the device on one ankle were able to adapt to the lopsided power increase, and retained the adapted walking motion over time. (Learning to Walk with a Robotic Ankle Exoskeleton, Journal of Biomechanics, published online 5 February 2007)

Water-friendly nanotubes

A positive electrical voltage turns membranes made of multiwalled carbon nanotubes from hydrophobic to hydrophilic, allowing water to pass through. The technique could be used to filter water of impurities and to desalinate seawater. (Polarity-Dependent Electrochemically Controlled Transport of Water through Carbon Nanotube Membranes, Nano Letters, published online February 13, 2007)

Dimple displays

Arrays of nanoscale dimples on reflective silicon surfaces can produce any visible color in areas as small as one hundredth of a square millimeter. The arrays could be used to make inexpensive displays and sensors built into biochips. (Submicrometer Dimple Array Based Interference Color Field Displays and Sensors, Nano Letters, February 14, 2007)

Biochip printer

A wax method of printing biochips is a fast, inexpensive way to design and test microfluidic devices for drug discovery and medical diagnostics. Researchers sized and separated DNA segments using biochip prototypes made with the wax printer technique. (Rapid Prototyping of Microfluidic Devices with a Wax Printer, Lab on a Chip, published online January 10, 2007)

Biochip separates particles

A biochip splits droplets that contain two types of particles so that most of one type ends up in one daughter droplet and most of the other in the other droplet. The ability to concentrate and separate particles expands the range of biological and chemical procedures that can be carried out with digital microfluidic biochips, which use electric fields to manipulate droplets. (Concentration and Binary Separation of Micro Particles for Droplet-based Digital Microfluidics, Lab on a Chip, published online February 12, 2007)


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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Cross-species cooperation


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"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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