Physical Sciences

Sticking together: Another look at chemical bonds and bonding

The making and breaking of bonds lies at the heart of chemical reactions. The ability of atoms to form bonds with each other allows the formation of molecules. It is exactly this formation and breaking of bonds that chemists are trying to master in the lab, as innovative new ways to control chemical bonds make it possible to make novel […]

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Physical Sciences

Improving prospects for polymer surface coatings

Within the automotive light industry, aluminium is evaporated on plastic high gloss reflector surfaces. From a quality point of view and to meet industry standards, this surface must retain its luminance and reflectiveness for 15 years. However, the non-treated metal parts oxidise, meaning that it loses its luminance and reflectiveness. For this reason, it is protected with silicon oxide or […]

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Physical Sciences

Rise of the biological molecular machine

What is the difference between non-living matter and biological life? In biological systems, individual components have specific functions and tasks to perform, much like artificially made machines, but the key difference lies in the complexity. As new experimental techniques have made it possible to delve further into the microscopic world, more questions have arisen as to how single-molecule species work […]

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Physical Sciences

Using physics to explore virus self-assembly

Through decades of research, biologists have determined that under the right conditions, viruses can assemble themselves from their constituent proteins. So far, however, many of the precise characteristics of this process have eluded researchers. Dr Guillaume Tresset at Université Paris-Saclay aims to fill these gaps in our knowledge through experiments that measure how x-rays are scattered by self-assembling viruses. His […]

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Physical Sciences

Ultrafast electron microscopy Reinventing femtosecond atomic-scale imaging

Transmission electron microscopy may have brought about some of the most cutting-edge research into materials physics, but the technique doesn’t come without its limitations. In his research, Dr Jinfeng Yang at Osaka University in Japan aims to further improve the capabilities of the most powerful microscopes ever made, by accelerating the pulsed beams of electrons they produce to relativistic speeds. Through several […]

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Physical Sciences

The serendipitous discovery of a new green chemistry method

Dr Petri Turhanen was working on a synthesis of a modified version of the biological molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP), when he discovered that the cation exchange resin he was using was unintentionally producing another molecule. Closer investigation revealed that the molecule had been iodinated, meaning an iodine atom had been added. This specific reaction is challenging to perform using current […]

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Physical Sciences

Exploring the origins of life with autocatalytic sets

How did we get here? This question has plagued philosophers, scientists and individuals alike for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Evolved species, such as humans, are incredibly complex systems, even down to the microscopic cellular level, and understanding our own origins of life and how our DNA came to be what we know today is a challenging question. The […]

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Physical Sciences

A biochemical device to demystify a century-old thermodynamics puzzle from theoretical physics

Maxwell’s demon and Szilard’s engine – thought experiments from the 19th and early 20th centuries – have long captured the imagination of theoretical physicists. Many still disagree about the interpretation of these ideas, the implications for the second law of thermodynamics and the consequences for thermodynamics of computation. Along with collaborators, Dr Thomas Ouldridge at Imperial College London has designed […]

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Physical Sciences

Air pollution monitoring and its role in public health

Air pollution monitoring is an important factor in air quality management. Both established long-term monitoring stations and short-term seasonal atmospheric field measurements are required to understand how atmospheric chemistry changes in response to air pollution regulation. Professor Schwab and his team from the University at Albany maintain long-term rural monitoring stations as well as highly specific mobile air pollution measurements […]

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Physical Sciences

The not-so-constant presence of Dark Energy

The accelerated expansion of the universe has remained one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in physics for over a century. In his research, Dr Yoshihisa Kitazawa at the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization in Japan proposes an idea that could unify the mysterious driving force of this acceleration with the principles of quantum mechanics. If his line of reasoning is […]

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