July 23/30, 2007


Paired plastic solar

Twin plastic solar cells made using an inexpensive liquid chemical process convert a broad spectrum of sunlight to electricity with a combined efficiency of more than six percent, which is high for plastic solar cells. The method for making the plastic cells could lead to print- and paint-on solar cells for covering large or flexible surfaces. (Efficient Tandem Polymer Solar Cells Fabricated by All-Solution Processing, Science, July 13, 2007)

Flat focusers

A design for an etched plate that shapes lightwaves shining through it promises to focus light beyond the diffraction limit of ordinary lenses to points much smaller than the wavelength of the light. Such subwavelength plates could be used in high-capacity data storage, medical and scientific imaging, and nanolithography. (Radiationless Electromagnetic Interference: Evanescent-Field Lenses and Perfect Focusing, Science, published online July 12, 2007)

Musseled up geckos

Following recent developments of powerful adhesives that mimic gecko feet, a prototype adhesive combines the gecko's dry stickiness with a polymer coating that mimics the wet adhesive secreted by mussels. The hybrid adhesive improves the gecko-feet stickiness in water 15 fold, and can be removed and reapplied more than a thousand times. (A Reversible Wet/Dry Adhesive Inspired by Mussels and Geckos, Nature, July 19, 2007)

Fiber microscope

A minuscule confocal microscope made from a single optical fiber and a microelectromechanical scanner images details of individual cells. Confocal microscopes have pinpoint views and make images of objects by scanning across them. The microscope promises to improve medical diagnostics, and a prototype is slated for testing in detecting oral cancer. (Fiber-Optic Confocal Microscope Using a MEMS Scanner and Miniature Objective Lens, Optics Express, July 23, 2007)

Nano syringe

A nanoscale electrically-controlled syringe can inject infinitesimal amounts of liquids into living cells. This could be used for medical imaging and developing drugs. The device could also be used to dispense materials for nanofabrication and as a pump in biochips. (Electrochemical Attosyringe, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online July 9, 2007)

Particle zoo

Embedding tiny plastic beads in a film, melting the beads, stretching the film and solidifying the beads yields micro- and nanoparticles in a wide range of shapes including rods, disks, barrels, ribbons and diamonds. Shape is an important characteristic of micro-and nanoparticles used for delivering drugs and making smart materials. (Making Polymeric Micro- and Nanoparticles of Complex Shapes, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online July 9, 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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July 10, 2007
Bipedal locusts
Looks like we're taking more than our share of the vegetables: human activities eat up nearly a quarter of the planet's plant growth...

July 2, 2007
Genome transplant

June 26, 2007
Springing ahead

June 18, 2007
Plants go with the climate flow


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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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