February 4/11, 2008


Keeping tabs on physical files

An augmented reality office system lets computer users search for and select physical file folders. Tabs on the file folders have LEDs that light up when a folder is selected on the computer, and buttons that select the folder's digital index entry. The prototype works with the Microsoft Office OneNote information organization software. (Integration of Virtual and Real Document Organization, Tangible and Embedded Interaction 2008, Bonn, Germany, February 18-20, 2008)

Nanotubes are blackest

An array of loosely packed, vertically aligned carbon nanotubes is the blackest material on record. The material is three times less reflective than the previous darkest artificial material. Such ultra-black materials could boost the efficiency of solar cells and light-detecting equipment. (Experimental Observation of an Extremely Dark Material Made By a Low-Density Nanotube Array, Nano Letters, January 9, 2008)

Nanotube transistor radio

A way of forming electronic circuits by connecting individual carbon nanotubes brings practical use of nanotube electronics a step closer. Researchers built a prototype transistor radio using the technique. The radio's key components -- antennas, radiofrequency amplifiers, radiofrequency mixers and audio amplifiers -- were made from nanotube circuits. (Radio Frequency Analog Electronics Based on Carbon Nanotube Transistors, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online January 28, 2008)

Plankton chips

A genetic profile of a species of diatom reveals the hard-shelled plankton's mechanisms for producing the silica nanostructures that make up its shell. The information could be used to develop ways of synthesizing silicon computer chips chemically rather than etching them with light. It could also prove useful in studying the diatoms' critical role in the carbon cycle, which is a key factor in global warming. (Whole-Genome Expression Profiling of the Marine Diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana Identifies Genes Involved in Silicon Bioprocesses, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online January 22, 2008)

Dynamic DNA pyramids

DNA tetrahedra with parts that expand and contract could serve as building blocks for reconfigurable three-dimensional nanostructures. Tetrahedra are three-dimensional objects with four triangular faces. The tiny, changeable DNA pyramids could be used to deliver drugs and carry out other nanoscale medical procedures. (Reconfigurable, Braced, Three-dimensional DNA Nanostructures, Nature Nanotechnology, published online February 3, 2008)

3D DNA crystals

Two approaches to using DNA molecules to arrange nanoparticles into three-dimensional crystals are step toward fine control of forming metamaterials with specific magnetic and optical properties. Such metamaterials could be used in communications and data storage devices and scientific equipment. (DNA-Guided Crystallization of Colloidal Nanoparticles, DNA-Programmable Nanoparticle Crystallization, Nature, January 31, 2008)


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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