March 5/12, 2007


Carbon chips

A transistor made from a strip of carbon one atom thick and less than 50 atoms wide shows that graphene -- single-atom sheets of carbon -- could replace silicon computer chips when silicon chips can no longer be made smaller in a decade or two. Previous graphene transistors made from wider carbon sheets were inefficient. (The Rise of Graphene, Nature Materials, March 2007)

Tight microwaves

Bouncing a signal back to the transmitter makes it possible to focus microwaves to as small as one-thirtieth of a wavelength. The technique could be used to speed microwave-based telecommunications; in one experiment the information transmission rate increased three-fold. (Focusing Beyond the Diffraction Limit with Far-Field Time Reversal, Science, February 23, 2007)

Bone printer

Forming artificial bone layer by layer using an inkjet printer can be gentle enough to incorporate biological molecules that encourage the growth of blood vessels. The technique could make it possible to form bone grafts that readily meld into living bone. (Direct Printing of Bioceramic Implants with Spatially Localized Angiogenic Factors, Advanced Materials, Published online February 27, 2007)

Artificial ligaments

Braided polymer strands seeded with ligament cells successfully replaced ruptured anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL) in laboratory rabbits. The rabbits could put weight on their surgically-repaired knees within 24 hours and new blood vessels and collagen were found in the affected area at the end of the 12-week study. (Biomimetic Tissue-Engineered Anterior Cruciate Ligament Replacement, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, February 27, 2007)

Tiny devices get pumped

Tiny diodes floating in water can propel themselves in the presence of an alternating electric field. The technique could be used to power micromachines and to pump and mix fluids in biochips. (Remotely Powered Self-Propelling Particles and Micropumps Based on Miniature Diodes, Nature Materials, March 2007)

Phosphorescence goes red

A bright red phosphorescent resin rounds out the full-color spectrum of phosphorescent materials, which produce light for a limited time without a power source. Full-color phosphorescent materials could be used to make signs for guiding people in disasters. (Full-color Illumination That Needs No Electric Power, Optics Express, February 19, 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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"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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