Physics

Wearable therapy: The oncomagnetic device comprises three oncoscillators (that generate oscillating magnetic fields) securely attached to a helmet and connected to a controller box powered by a rechargeable battery. (Courtesy: Houston Methodist) A team of US-based researchers has used an innovative head-mounted device to shrink a brain tumour – potentially paving the way for a
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Cerebral blood flow measurements: Diffuse correlation spectroscopy (DCS) using superconducting nanowire single-photon detectors (SNSPDs) produced 16 times higher signal-to-noise ratio than DCS using traditional single-photon avalanche photodiodes (SPADs). (Courtesy: CC BY 4.0/Neurophotonics 10.1117/1.NPh.8.3.035006) The amount of blood flowing through the cerebral arteries and veins can strongly influence brain function, as it impacts both oxygen delivery
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Pulsar pioneer: Antony Hewish designed the Interplanetary Scintillation Array at Mullard, which was used by Jocelyn Bell Burnell to detect a pulsar for the first time. (Courtesy: Churchill College Cambridge) The British Nobel-prize-winning astronomer Antony Hewish has died at the age of 97. He was awarded one half of the 1974 Nobel Prize for Physics
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Colour structures: microscope image of individual RGB subpixels forming an image under bright reflective illumination. (Courtesy; Andreas Dahlin/Xiong 2021 Advanced Materials 2103217) Video-speed switching of structural colour has been achieved by researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden and the UK’s University of Cambridge. The technology could be further developed to create low power
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Cosmic calling: physicist Mariela Massó Reid with a copy of Listen to the Universe. (Courtesy: University of Glasgow) Have you ever wondered what a black hole “sounds” like? The Belgian mathematician, lecturer, and electronic musician Valery Vermeulen has created an album of electronic music that was composed using data associated with black holes. Collaborating with
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Magnetic prosthetic: A magnetic sensing array enables a new tissue tracking strategy that could offer advanced motion control in artificial limbs. (Courtesy: MIT Media Lab/Cameron Taylor/Vessel Studios) In recent years, health and fitness wearables have gained popularity as platforms to wirelessly track daily physical activities, by counting steps, for example, or recording heartbeats directly from
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Surfing excitons: Cambridge’s Alexander Sneyd with the transient-absorption microscopy setup. (Courtesy: Alexander Sneyd) Organic solar cells (OSCs) are fascinating devices where layers of organic molecules or polymers carry out light absorption and subsequent transport of energy – the tasks that make a solar cell work. Until now, the efficiency of OSCs has been thought to
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Taken from the September 2021 issue of Physics World, where it appeared under the headline “Crossing the valley”. Members of the Institute of Physics can enjoy the full issue via the Physics World app. In his third article on funding hi-tech firms, James McKenzie looks at recent initiatives to help them jump over the “valley
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Wavelia microwave breast imaging: coronal breast section (left); full 3D microwave breast image (right). (Courtesy: MVG Industries) Microwave breast imaging (MBI) represents a promising non-invasive technology for detection of breast tumours. It does not utilize ionizing radiation nor require breast compression, potentially offering a safer and more comfortable method for breast cancer screening. As of
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A comparison of the new technique (right) with standard matter-wave lensing (left), showing the tighter confinement of the condensate along the direction of free fall. (Courtesy: APS/Alan Stonebraker) A new way of controlling the expansion of matter in a freely falling Bose–Einstein condensate (BEC) has produced the coldest effective temperature ever measured: 38 pK (10–12
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Smart fabric: Yifan Wang bending the nylon chain mail, encased in a plastic envelope and vacuum-packed, which makes it 25 times stiffer than when under ambient conditions. (Courtesy: NTU Singapore) Physicists have designed a chain mail fabric that is easily foldable in normal conditions but becomes much stiffer when compressed. The lightweight and tuneable fabric
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Insulin delivery system: The device (left) contains four actuators (1, docking; 2, needle ejection; 3, variable volume reservoir; 4, infusion pump) and several operating blocks. The complete prototype (right) includes the external charging coil, the pill and the 78 x 63 x 35 mm implantable device. (Courtesy: Sci. Robotics 10.1126/scirobotics.abh3328 (2021)) The year 2021 marks
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Material optimization: Strain can be applied to overcome doping limitations in semiconductors. (Courtesy: B Huang) A new universal theory and three basic rules for how defects in semiconductors behave in response to strain could lead to improvements in the electronic properties of a wide range of semiconducting materials. The work, which began with the discovery
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Rapid motion: a selection of photographs of boiling droplets on oil that were taken during the study. (Courtesy: Kripa Varanasi) A mechanism that causes droplets of boiling water to propel themselves rapidly across hot oil films has been identified by Victor Leon and Kripa Varanasi at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The duo used high-speed
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(Courtesy: iStock/webphotographer) Female academics are more likely to have authorship disagreements when publishing their research than their male colleagues. That is according to a global survey of more than 5000 scientists, which also finds that women often feel that they receive less recognition for their work than they deserve. Almost half of the respondents to
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Working in tandem A perovskite-on-silicon tandem solar cell. (Courtesy: Oxford PV) Late in 2020, scientists in Germany and Lithuania announced a new milestone in so-called “tandem” solar cells – that is, cells made from two different types of photovoltaic material. Writing in Science, the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin/Kaunas University team reported that its perovskite/silicon tandem cell had
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Brain tumour classification: The neural network classifies tumour type based on its image characteristics in the MRI scan. The colour maps show which pixels led to a correct prediction, with warmer colours representing higher contributions. (Courtesy: Radiological Society of North America) When it comes to diagnosing brain cancer, biopsies are often the first port of
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One puff: computational evaluation showing a spatial distribution of single micron-sized drug particles in the human respiratory tract at 3 s after inhalation. (Courtesy: Akshoy R Paul) Researchers in India and Australia have simulated the delivery of drugs used to treat pulmonary illnesses. Using a replica of the respiratory system, combined with fluid dynamics simulations,
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While many activities here on Earth have slowed down or been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that has not stopped China – and other countries – from forging ahead in space. China has managed several firsts this year, notably landing its first rover on Mars, starting construction of a fully-fledged space station,
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Prize winner: Session chair Anna Kirby presents Brita Singers Sørensen with the Donal Hollywood Award. (Courtesy: ESTRO) The annual congress of the European Society for Radiation Oncology (ESTRO) sees physicists, clinicians, radiobiologists and radiation therapists come together to share their latest research developments, technical innovations and clinical studies. The best abstract submitted each year, selected
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Long distance: a study of the front crawl suggests that long-distance swimmers could benefit from using a different hand technique than short-distance swimmers. (Courtesy: iStock/mihailomilovanovic) The Paralympic Games in Tokyo will be wrapping up this weekend and to honour the hosts, this edition of the Red Folder is focussing on Japan. World-class swimmers must work
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Quantum blobs: this latest research borrowed from ideas about how diffusion occurs in fluids. (Courtesy: iStock/3quarks) Describing how matter behaves at the quantum-mechanical level is notoriously hard, because the equations get so difficult to solve once there is more than a handful of particles involved. But a new experiment shows that the fine details might
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In this episode of the Physics World Weekly podcast I chat with Erica Salazar of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who is developing high-temperature superconductor magnets for the next generation of fusion reactors. She explains why these materials could help make the dream of fusion power come true and why the magnets must be protected
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Taken from the September 2021 issue of Physics World. Members of the Institute of Physics can enjoy the full issue via the Physics World app. Niki Bell argues that mathematics A-level could be reformed so that it does more to support physics students Specialized A redesigned A-level maths could focus on the needs of physics
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Quasiparticles in motion: illustration of ghost polaritons in a calcite crystal being “launched” to record distances by a gold microdisk. (Courtesy: HUST) The existence of ghost hyperbolic surface polaritons has been demonstrated by an international collaboration including researchers in China and the US. Based at Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST), National University of
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High performer Purified tin selenide shown in pellet form. The material’s thermoelectric performance is extraordinarily high. (Courtesy: Northwestern University) Researchers in Korea and the US have created the most efficient thermoelectric material to date. The material, polycrystalline tin selenide, boasts a heat-to-electricity conversion efficiency of nearly 20%, and could be used in devices that capture
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Taken from the August 2021 issue of Physics World where it first appeared under the headline “The cosmos in 30 questions”. Members of the Institute of Physics can enjoy the full issue via the Physics World app. Laura Hiscott reviews What’s Eating the Universe and Other Cosmic Questions by Paul Davies (Courtesy: NASA/JPL-Caltech and Planck US
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Taken from the August 2021 issue of Physics World where it first appeared under the headline “Astronaut boot camp”. Members of the Institute of Physics can enjoy the full issue via the Physics World app. Laura Hiscott reviews The Spacefarer’s Handbook by Bergita and Urs Ganse (Courtesy: NASA) For much of the last year and a half, planning
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High detection sensitivity: A flexible metal–organic framework is incorporated into a prototype wearable X-ray detector. (Courtesy: adapted from Nano Letters 10.1021/acs.nanolett.1c02336, 2021) A wearable, flexible X-ray detector that is constructed without using harmful heavy metals has been developed by researchers from China and the US. The prototype, which is made from metal–organic frameworks layered with
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Light source Image of the solar atmosphere showing a coronal mass ejection. (Courtesy: NASA/SDO) A paradox that puzzled a generation of solar and atomic physicists – and occasionally pitted theories from one field against the other – has been resolved. The paradox concerns the polarization of light at a specific point in the solar spectrum,
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