Physical Sciences

Electron storage and transfer in biochar materials

Biochar is receiving considerable attention because of its potential use in carbon capture, crop production, water quality control and environmental restoration. For a long time, its activity has been attributed to its adsorption properties. Recent work, however, indicates that biochar plays a much more active role in promoting abiotic and microbial transformations in water and soils, acting as a powerful […]

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Physical Sciences

Organic ice materials for electron beam lithography

Many electronic devices manufactured today are created using either photolithography or electron beam lithography—lengthy procedures that require multiple stages of chemical processing within an expensive clean room environment. But thanks to a team of researchers led by Marco Beleggia at the Technical University of Denmark that is set to change. By exploiting electron matter interactions, the researchers can trigger the […]

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Physical Sciences

Shining a light on photochemical dynamics

When a molecule absorbs light, this can trigger a whole host of reactions. This includes the formation of new bonds or even rearranging the order of the atoms within the same molecule to create new chemical species. These light-induced changes, known as photochemical dynamics, can be challenging to study as they can occur on timescales of femtoseconds, so fast that […]

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Physical Sciences

Search for dark matter with cool crystals

Dark matter is one of the most elusive constituents in the universe; escaping our detection for decades since astronomers first theorised its existence. In his research, Dr Jing Liu at the University of South Dakota proposes an unconventional usage of light-emitting crystals to detect dark matter produced in particle accelerators on the Earth. His team is prototyping a detector consisting […]

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Physical Sciences

Understanding the effects of humidity on ionic liquid-based electrochemical gas sensors

Electrochemical gas sensors are critically important tools used in a wide variety of everyday tasks, but with current designs, their performance can be significantly diminished in hot, dry conditions. Debbie Silvester at Curtin University, Australia suggests that this problem could be overcome through the use of specialised salts, which remain liquid at room temperature. While these substances are known to […]

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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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