June 11/18, 2007


Heat sounds power

Thermoacoustic electricity generators -- devices that turn heat to sound waves, then turn sound waves to electricity -- are closer to practical application thanks to five related developments that optimize and miniaturize the generators. Practical thermoacoustic electricity generators will generate power from any source of heat, including power plant and computer chip waste heat, and sunlight. (Miniature Acoustic Prime Mover Operating at 10 KHz, Pressurization of High-frequency Acoustic Heat Engines for Power Applications, Acoustic Conversion of Heat to Sound at Mid-Audio Frequencies, Synchronization of Small Thermoacoustic Oscillators, Performance of Annular High-frequency Acoustic Engines, 153rd Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, June 48, 2007)

Cutting the cord

A experimental wireless power scheme uses magnetic fields to transmit 60 watts of electricity between two metal coils two meters apart with 40 percent efficiency. The system could lead to wireless methods of powering and charging portable electronic devices like cell phones and laptop computers. (Wireless Power Transfer via Strongly Coupled Magnetic Resonances, Science, published online June 7, 2007)

Spin logic

A proposed computer circuit uses the spin, or orientation, of electrons to process the 1s and 0s of computer logic more efficiently than today's chips. Computer chips made from spin circuits would be faster and use less power than today's chips and would also be reprogrammable. (Spin-based Logic in Semiconductors for Reconfigurable Large-scale Circuits, Nature, May 31, 2007)

Plastic, heal thyself

A skin-like plastic that contains microscopic channels can repeatedly heal itself. The channels contain a liquid that reacts with a catalyst on the plastic's surface to harden into more of the plastic. The material could be used to make all manner of objects that automatically and repeatedly repair nicks and scratches. (Self-Healing Materials with Microvascular Networks, Nature Materials, published online June 10, 2007)

Piggyback drug delivery

Bacteria that carry nanoparticles that pack genetic material can penetrate mammalian cells to deliver the genetic material to the cells' nuclei. The method of delivering drugs is simpler and more versatile than using bacteria alone and more effective than using nanoparticles alone. (Bacteria-Mediated Delivery of Nanoparticles and Cargo into Cells, Nature Nanotechnology, published online June 10, 2007)

Double duty particles

A core-shell nanoparticle that scatters infrared light at low intensities and absorbs it at high intensities shows promise in illuminating and eliminating cancer cells. The nanoparticles can be directed to tumor cells where the scattering makes the cells highly visible in medical images. The absorption ability allows physicians to heat the cells to death. (Near-Infrared Resonant Nanoshells for Combined Optical Imaging and Photothermal Cancer Therapy, Nano Letters, published online June 6, 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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June 18, 2007
Plants go with the climate flow
Home is where the temperature is right as far as plants are concerned, even when great expanses of Arctic Ocean are in the way...

May 4, 2007
Fast melt

April 24, 2007
Subliminal carrots

March 1, 2007
Time does tell


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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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