Physics

Engineers find a way to control chemical catalysts with sculpted light

Like a person breaking up a cat fight, the role of catalysts in a chemical reaction is to hurry up the process—and come out of it intact. And, just as not every house in a neighborhood has someone willing to intervene in such a battle, not every part of a catalyst participates in the reaction. But what if one could convince the unengaged parts of a catalyst to get involved? Chemical reactions could occur faster or more efficiently.

Understanding how sound waves travel through disordered materials

A team of researchers lead by the University of Tsukuba have created a new theoretical model to understand the spread of vibrations through disordered materials, such as glass. They found that as the degree of disorder increased, sound waves traveled less and less like ballistic particles, and instead began diffusing incoherently. This work may lead to new heat- and shatter-resistant glass for smartphones and tablets.

Precise measurements of cluster formation in outer neutron 'skin' of a range of tin isotopes

A large international team of researchers has developed a way to measure cluster formations in the outer neutron 'skin' of a range of tin isotopes rich in neutrons. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes using knockout reactions to obtain evidence of the formation of α clusters at the surface of tin isotopes rich in neutrons. Or Hen, with MIT, has published a Perspectives piece in the same journal issue outlining the study and its relevance to neutron star research.

Artificial intelligence beats us in chess, but not in memory

In the last decades, artificial intelligence has shown to be very good at achieving exceptional goals in several fields. Chess is one of them: in 1996, for the first time, the computer Deep Blue beat a human player, chess champion Garry Kasparov. A new piece of research shows now that the brain strategy for storing memories may lead to imperfect memories, but in turn, allows it to store more memories, and with less hassle than AI.

Helium nuclei at the surface of heavy nuclei discovered

Scientists are able to selectively knockout nucleons and preformed nuclear clusters from atomic nuclei using high-energy proton beams. In an experiment the existence of preformed helium nuclei at the surface of several tin isotopes could be identified in a reaction. The results confirm a theory, which predicts the formation of helium clusters in low-density nuclear matter and at the surface of heavy nuclei.

A new way to look for gravitational waves

In a paper published today in Physical Review Letters, Valerie Domcke of CERN and Camilo Garcia-Cely of DESY report on a new technique to search for gravitational waves—the ripples in the fabric of spacetime that were first detected by the LIGO and Virgo collaborations in 2015 and earned Rainer Weiss, Barry Barish and Kip Thorne the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2017.

New state of matter in one-dimensional quantum gas

By adding some magnetic flair to an exotic quantum experiment, physicists produced an ultra-stable one-dimensional quantum gas with never-before-seen 'scar' states - a feature that could someday be useful for securing quantum information.

New way to control electrical charge in 2D materials: Put a flake on it

Gaining control of the flow of electrical current through atomically thin materials is important to potential future applications in photovoltaics or computing. Physicists have discovered one way to locally add electrical charge to a graphene device.

Physical virology shows the dynamics of virus reproduction

The reproductive cycle of viruses requires self-assembly, maturation of virus particles and, after infection, the release of genetic material into a host cell. New physics-based technologies allow scientists to study the dynamics of this cycle and may eventually lead to new treatments. In his role as physical virologist, Wouter Roos, a physicist at the University of Groningen, together with two longtime colleagues, has written a review article on these new technologies, which was published in Nature Reviews Physics on 12 January.

How aerosols are formed

ETH Zurich researchers conducted an experiment to investigate the initial steps in the formation of aerosols. Their findings are now aiding efforts to better understand and model that process—for example, the formation of clouds in the atmosphere.

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