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Carbon nanotubes are a unique family of molecules that look like tiny carbon tunnels with honeycomb walls. They are typically around 1 nanometre in diameter and several nanometres long. In principle, carbon nanotubes are much more efficient at conducting electricity than metals, especially since they are so lightweight and have high-temperature stability compared to metals. So far, however, their full potential has been limited by the techniques used to manufacture them.
The ability to 3D print metal parts presents exciting opportunities to simplify the designs of many advanced technologies, and improve their performance. However, on microscopic scales, printed metals can have defects that cause their mechanical properties to vary unpredictably, lowering the quality of final products. To assess these variations, researchers use a technique named profilometry-based indentation plastometry, or PIP. This technique involves pressing a hard tip into a material on a flat surface, and then scanning a probe across the crater to measure the shape left behind.
The ability to manipulate single atoms and molecules would transform how we store and process digital information. This can be achieved using a cutting-edge technique named scanning tunnelling microscopy. Scanning tunnelling microscopes (STMs) are powerful imaging devices, which operate by holding a sharp metal tip less than one nanometre above a conducting sample. Through the effects of quantum tunnelling, electrons can pass through the tiny vacuum gap between the tip and the sample surface.
Harmful chemicals are commonplace in many different industries. Volatile organic compounds – or ‘VOCs’ – represent one such type of chemicals, which are particularly prevalent in industries that require spraying of paints and coatings. Unfortunately, VOCs can readily evaporate into the air, potentially harming people’s health through inhalation. Some VOCs are also environmental pollutants and can even contribute to climate change.
How Interconnected Bubbles Affect the Bread-Making Process – How Interconnected Bubbles Affect the Bread-Making Process
Bread is a vital source of nutrition for billions of people, and its demand is now rising even in regions where wheat doesn’t grow naturally. Wheat is the only grain that can produce high-quality bakery products. For farmers, in addition to facing the challenges of growing high-yield, high-protein wheat, they also need flour to be strong for baking, making good-quality, large loaves. Loaf size and crumb quality are strongly tied to the growth of gas bubbles inside the rising dough. So far, it has been difficult to predict the dynamics of bubbles in doughs from the properties of unprocessed flours.
When massive stars have exhausted all their fuel, they can end their lives in colossal explosions named supernovae, flinging material far into interstellar space. As this ejected material cools, it can coalesce to form interstellar dust grains. These dust grains may eventually clump together under gravity to form new stars, planets, moons, and asteroids.
Ice can cause serious damage to vehicles and infrastructure, including aircraft, pavements, power lines, and wind turbines. It is important to remove ice before it causes damage, but doing this manually is often expensive and energy-intensive, and sometimes even dangerous. Researchers have begun to develop so-called ‘super-hydrophobic’ coatings, which can repel incoming water droplets before they freeze. This not only prevents ice from building up; it also weakens the adhesion of ice that does freeze to the surface, allowing it be removed more easily.
In the early 1900s, Einstein revolutionized our understanding of space and time, revealing them as interconnected aspects of the universe’s fabric – known as ‘spacetime’. Spacetime isn’t a rigid background. Like a ball on a trampoline, heavy objects like the Sun warp spacetime around them, drawing the planets into orbits. When heavy objects move extremely fast – such as when two black holes orbit each other and merge or in highly energetic events like those occurring in the early universe – the warping becomes extreme, generating waves that spread through spacetime. These ‘gravitational waves’, first discovered in 2015, offer scientists new tools to explore the universe.
Polymers, made from incredibly long chains of smaller molecules, make up many materials used in the modern world. From simple plastics to medical devices and solar cells, polymers represent a diverse and exciting area of science. The majority of polymers are made from carbon-based molecules. Perhaps even more fascinating are hybrid polymers, which are composed of both carbon-based and metal-based components. Hybrid polymers have unique properties, such as conductivity, making them especially desirable for new technologies. Dr Kei Toyota at the Panasonic Corporation in Osaka, Japan, has been investigating new ways to develop hybrid polymers.
Dr Egle Tomasi-Gustafsson | Dr Simone Pacetti – Probing the Proton: Understanding the Structure of Sub-Atomic Particles
The world around us is made up of atoms, which we can break down into smaller sub-atomic particles. Protons are positively charged sub-atomic particles – made up of three fundamental particles called ‘quarks’. Quarks are one of the building blocks of matter, and different combinations of them make up different sub-atomic particles. The proton has two ‘up’ quarks and one ‘down’ quark, which have different masses and charges. However, when we add up the masses of these three individual quarks, we get a lighter mass than the mass of a proton. So, what else is contributing to the proton’s mass?
Diagnosing viral infections, such as COVID-19, can be challenging. The most accurate way to identify a virus is by detecting its genetic information, but viruses are merely a tiny packet of genes encased in a protein shell. When a virus has infected a host, such as a human body, identifying viral genes amongst the host’s genes is like finding a needle in a haystack. However, scientists have a trick – to make copies of the needle, until needles outnumber the hay straws. This is called nuclear acid amplification, which forms the basis for the gold-standard PCR test for COVID-19. Dr Xiushan Yin and his colleagues at the Shenyang University of Chemical Technology have been further refining this amazing technology to help tackle COVID-19.
Secoiridoids are a family of healthy compounds found in olive oil. The type, ratio, and amount of the four major secoiridoids in olive oil depends on several factors. These include the olive variety, the region in which it was produced, and the process used to extract the oil. Understanding how to optimise the secoiridoid content in olive oil is a key focus for many food scientists. Towards this aim, Dr Ilario Losito from the University of Bari Aldo Moro and his colleagues extensively analysed 60 different types of olive oils produced in Italy. They used specialist chemistry techniques to determine the secoiridoid content of these olive oils.
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