EPJ Plus Highlight - Back to basics with thermoelectric power

Determination of the Seebeck coefficient for a circuit composed of two dissimilar materials.

New study highlights the role of electron diffusivity when turning waste heat into electricity

Many phenomena in physics, though well-known, are not necessarily widely understood. That’s the case with thermoelectricity, which harnesses waste heat by coupling heat flux and electric current. However, understanding such phenomena is important in order to leave the door open for discovering novel manifestations of them. Thus, even today physicists working in the area of thermoelectricity continue to ask fundamental questions about the underlying physical process. For example, in a recent study, a team based in France questioned the nature of the force that puts electrons to work when a temperature difference is applied across a thermoelectric material. Now, Henni Ouerdane, affiliated to the Russian Quantum Center near Moscow, and colleagues have published in EPJ Plus a study showing that the force that puts electrons to work to harness the waste heat is linked to the ability of electrons to diffuse through the material. Potential applications in the field of electrical power production from waste heat include thermoelectric devices designed to boost power over a range spanning ten orders of magnitude: typically from microwatts to several kilowatts.


EPJ Plus Highlight - Scrutinising the tip of molecular probes

The solid lines indicate the temperature range used to estimate the amount of molecules loaded onto the probe.

Nature of interaction of probe molecules on the surface of oxide particles elucidated

Studies of molecules confined to nano- or micropores are of considerable interest to physicists. That’s because they can manipulate or stabilise molecules in unstable states or obtain new materials with special properties. In a new study published in EPJ Plus, Stefan Frunza from the National Institute of Materials Physics in Romania and colleagues have discovered the properties of the surface layer in probe molecules on the surface of oxide particles. These properties depend on the interaction at the interface. In this particular study, probes are formed by adsorption of rod-like cyanophenyl derivates on the surface of oxide particles. The authors found that their surface layers behave like glass-forming liquids.


EPJ Plus - Paolo Biscari becomes Deputy Editor-in-Chief

Professor Paolo Biscari

EPJ Plus has the great pleasure to announce the appointment of Professor Paolo Biscari as deputy Editor-in-Chief of the journal.

Paolo Biscari is Full Professor in Condensed Matter Physics at the Department of Physics of the Politecnico di Milano. At Politecnico di Milano he is Dean of the PhD School, which coordinates the researches of approximately 900 PhD candidates. He is Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the European Physical Journal Plus, and member of the Editorial Board of the Springer Book Series "Unitext". His research is focused in the soft matter area, and more specifically in liquid crystals, elastomers, and critical phenomena. He has been Invited Professor at the Universities of Southampton and Minnesota, has published more than 60 research papers in international peer-reviewed journals, three books, and has contributed to approximately 50 international congresses as Invited Speaker. He has directed as PI several research grants and contracts, awarded from both public Institutions and private companies. In 2004, he earned the Bruno Finzi Prize, awarded by the Istituto Lombardo, Accademia di Scienze e Lettere, for his research in Applied Mechanics.

EPJ Plus Highlight - Physical parameters matter in terms of cancer cells’ metastatic ability

Plots of single-cell trajectories stimulated by different levels of epidermal growth factor.

Scientists develop potential visual test for diagnosing invasive states of breast cancer cells

The micro-environment surrounding cancer cells is just as important as genes in regulating tumour progression. Scientists have therefore examined the biophysical and biochemical cues occurring in the vicinity of cancer cells. This represents a departure from the traditional measurement of secreted molecules, called biomarkers. The latest research in this field, recently published in EPJ Plus, found that the presence of a substance called Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF) promotes the motility of elongated mesenchymal tumour cells, which migrate depending on their adhesive properties by climbing along collagen fibres, in contrast to rounded tumour cells, which migrate in an adhesion-independent manner. These findings stem from the work of Dongil Geum and BJ Kim in the Wu biofluifics lab at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA.


EPJ Plus Focus Point - 3He replacement in neutron detection: Current status and perspectives

One of the most important issues that the neutron community is currently facing is related to the lack of 3He for detection purposes. This problem has triggered an interesting and stimulating research and development activity worldwide, with the aim of finding effective and cheap solutions for 3He replacement. With the advent of new materials, advanced electronics and more powerful real time computing tools it has now become possible to investigate novel designs of neutron detectors to be used in various fields of research and technology, and to address the needs of more sophisticated applications.

The aim of this issue is to present an up-to-date, although not exhaustive, review on the R&D activities on 3He-free neutron detectors, with the aim of generating further discussions and activities on the subject, stimulate synergies between groups with different expertise, and show examples of existing neutron sources where new detectors and techniques can be tested and validated. This EPJ Plus Focus Point addresses all aspects related to the design of an innovative 3He-free neutron detector, from the development of new detection concepts and active material, to fast front-end electronics and acquisition systems, to the availability of neutron beams of suitable energy for detector characterization.


EPJ Plus Highlight - Does that “green” plasticiser make my PVC flexible enough for you?

A snapshot of the simulated PVC/DOP system at a 30 wt% PVC concentration after minimization. Red, green, yellow and blue spheres represent O, Cl, C, and H atoms, respectively.

A study of an eco-friendly solvent helping to make PVC plastic more flexible reveals the molecular-level interaction of hydrogen bonds between the two ingredients

What gives plastic objects their flexibility and reduces their brittleness is the concentration of plasticiser. For example, a chemical solvent of the phthalate family called DOP is often used. The trouble is there are concerns that phthalates present health risks. So there is a demand for more alternatives. Now, scientists from China have examined the effect of using DEHHP, a new eco-friendly plasticiser, used in combination with PVC. For a plasticiser to work, there has to be adequate hydrogen bonding with the plastic. By combining experiments and simulations, the team revealed why the polymer-solvent hydrogen bonding interaction's strength decreases with dilution at a molecular level—which is a phenomenon also observed in the DOP-PVC combination. These findings have been published in EPJ Plus by Yang Liu from Nanjing University and colleagues.


EPJ Plus Highlight - Accurate dating requires calibration down to the last ion

Illustration of the experimental setup used for calibrating irradiation.

A new solution accurately counting the exact amounts of ions from laboratory radiation exposure helps to simulate the natural radiation of quartz samples used for thermoluminescence dating

Thermoluminescence is used extensively in archaeology and the earth sciences to date artefacts and rocks. When exposed to radiation quartz, a material found in nature, emits light proportional to the energy it absorbs. Replicating the very low dose of background radiation from natural sources present in quartz is a key precondition for precise and accurate dating results. Italian scientists have now developed a method to control the accuracy of the dose calibrations delivered to the samples during laboratory irradiation with heavy particles, replicating natural radiation exposure. These findings have just been published by Lara Palla from the National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN), Italy, and colleagues in a paper in EPJ Plus. Using oxygen and lithium ions from the Tandem accelerator at INFN LABEC in Florence, they found that their measurements were accurate to within 1%, despite large fluctuations in the irradiation beam.


EPJ Plus Highlight - An efficient Lattice-Boltzmann approach for studying compressible flow in nonlinear thermoacoustic engines

Contours of the Mach number near the stack at phase π under the limit cycle.

Thermoacoustics is the physics of the interaction of thermal and acoustic fields. The nonlinear acoustic effect and low Mach number compressible flow in thermoacoustic engines make the theoretical analysis of such systems extremely complicated. A new study investigates the nonlinear self-excited thermoacoustic onset in a Rijke tube via the lattice Boltzmann method (LBM), which simulates the fluid flow by tracking the evolution of particles and obtains flow stream and heat transfer patterns from the kinetic level. The adopted LBM model, which was developed by the authors, convincingly simulates the Navier-Stokes-Fourier equations, treating accurately the nonlinear process of wave excitation of coupled fields and providing reliable estimates for pressure, density, velocity and temperature in such a finite geometry.


EPJ Plus Highlight - Ultrafast laser for crafting ever thinner solar cells

Interaction between ultrashort pulse laser and a target.

Solar-cell efficiency depends on how thin it can be manufactured. Now, a new model exploits femtosecond laser sources to get higher efficiency at lower cost

The race for ever more efficient and cheaper solar cells tests the limits of manufacturing. To achieve this, photovoltaic solar cells need to become thinner and are made of more complex inner structures. Now, Italian scientists have investigated and expanded a model elucidating the dominant physical processes when ultra-fast lasers are used in manufacturing solar cells to these specifications. An article by Alberto Gurizzan and Paolo Villoresi from the University of Padova in Italy detailing this model has now been published in EPJ Plus.


EPJ Plus Highlight - Electric/magnetic dipole in an electromagnetic field: force, torque and energy

How does an electric (or magnetic) dipole behave in an electromagnetic field, when its velocity becomes comparable with the speed of light?

This problem has been solved for the first time in a paper recently published in EPJ Plus, where novel relativistic effects were found. In particular, it has been shown that the concept of “hidden” momentum of magnetic dipoles in an electric field, being disputable up to date, is strongly required to derive relativistically adequate solutions. Moreover, a novel concept of “latent” momentum of electric dipole should be also involved into the description of dipoles.