Physical Sciences

Flame merging: Investigating the spread of wildland fires

Wildland fires spread when flames merge together: individual leaves ignite, the flames merge, and the fire spreads. Similarly, when adjacent bushes catch fire, the flames merge together forming a larger, more intense fire capable of spreading faster. Professor Thomas H. Fletcher of Brigham Young University has carried out laboratory experiments and computational simulations of flames merging together in order to […]

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Physical Sciences

Harnessing photosynthetic organisms for a bio-fuelled future

Algae and cyanobacteria have evolved to produce a variety of complex chemicals from the simple inputs of light and carbon dioxide. We can engineer these organisms to produce carbon neutral biofuels and other valuable byproducts, but large scale growth and production is still a major challenge. Dr Nanette Boyle, Assistant Professor in Chemical and Biological Engineering at the Colorado School of […]

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Physical Sciences

pKa prediction from ab initio calculations

Most drugs, along with many other metabolically active compounds, behave in water solution as weak acids or bases. Their function and therapeutic activity are linked to their ability to exchange hydrogen ions with other molecules in physiological conditions. Professor Paul Popelier and Dr Beth Caine at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology have developed a powerful and accurate method to predict the acid/base […]

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Physical Sciences

Probing surface morphology with virtual plasmonic dimers

Nanoparticles exhibit electronic and optical properties that may significantly differ from those of bulk materials or small molecules. By exploiting the optical generation of plasmon dimers of nanoparticles in the vicinity of semiconducting surfaces, Dr Ingo Barke from the University of Rostock, Germany and his collaborators are proposing a new class of ultrasensitive sensors to probe the morphology of surfaces […]

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Physical Sciences

New photosensitisers for photodynamic therapy

Light plays an important role in the fight against cancer. Phototherapies, that work by shining light at the cancerous tumours, are effective treatments for some malignant cancers. However, for photodynamic therapy to destroy only cancerous cells, photosensitisers have to be used before surgery, so the light is mostly absorbed by the tumour, not the healthy tissue. Professor Hideya Yuasa at the Tokyo Institute of Technology has […]

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Physical Sciences

Zeolite membranes for chemical separation

Petroleum is not just a fuel, it is a complex mixture of chemical species. This is why it is such a rich source of many essential chemicals for pharmaceutical and plastics manufacturing. However, the distillation process for separating these different chemical species are incredibly energy intensive. Dr Motomu Sakai at the Waseda University Nano Life Innovation Research Organization is developing […]

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Physical Sciences

The ELIDOSE Project: Dosimetry for laser accelerated charged particle beams

High-energy beams of protons have the potential to greatly improve the ways in which doses of radiation are delivered to the body. To further develop this technique, more knowledge about the relative biological effectiveness of these beams is needed. Dr Radu Vasilache of Canberra Packard Ltd in Bucharest is a lead researcher at the ELIDOSE Project: a collaboration of Romanian researchers who are […]

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Physical Sciences

Canonical quantisation: A solution to quantum gravity?

General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics are some of the most significant results in modern physics. Both theories appear to work seamlessly by themselves and have stood up to decades of scrutiny, but they also appear to be completely incompatible with each other. So far, no-one has managed to develop a theory which merges them together. Now, Dr Stuart Marongwe at the Botswana […]

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Physical Sciences

Graphene nanocomposites for new thermoplastic materials

Graphene has been the subject of intensive investigation, in view of its potential applications in a variety of technological fields, ranging from next-generation solar cells and hydrogen storage materials to super-capacitors and high-end composite materials. The peculiar two-dimensional structure of graphene can also be used to enhance and tailor the physical properties of existing materials through its incorporation in suitable matrices. Colloids […]

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Physical Sciences

Digital holography: Unlocking the mysteries of aerosols

Aerosols are diverse and complex particles in our atmosphere. Varying hugely in both size and shape, scientists have faced significant technical challenges in measuring how these particles scatter and absorb the sun’s light, making it difficult to accurately assess their influence on the Earth’s atmosphere. Dr Matthew J. Berg at Kansas State University and his colleagues are now combatting the issue through the cutting-edge […]

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