The European Physical Journal (EPJ) is a series of peer-reviewed journals covering the whole spectrum of physics and related interdisciplinary subjects. EPJ is committed to high scientific quality in publishing and is indexed in all main citation databases.
A new study investigates the effects of small but finite inertia on the propulsion of micro and nano-scale swimming machines that could have implications for biomedical applications
Scale plays a major role in locomotion. Swimming microorganisms, such as bacteria and spermatozoa, are subjected to relatively small inertial forces compared to the viscous forces exerted by the surrounding fluid. Such low-level inertia makes self-propulsion a major challenge. Now, scientists have found that the direction of propulsion made possible by such inertia is opposite to that induced by a viscoelastic fluid. These findings have been published in EPJ E by François Nadal from the Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), in Le Barp, France, and colleagues. This study could help optimise the design of self-propelled micro- and nanoscale artificial swimming machines to improve their mobility in medical applications.
The seminal 1914 experiment of James Franck and Gustav Hertz provided a graphic demonstration of the quantisation properties of atoms, and thereby laid the foundations of modern atomic physics. This EPJ D colloquium revisits the experiment on the occasion of its Centenary and compares the traditional and modern interpretations, as well as highlighting the link between microscopic processes, which are governed by the laws of quantum mechanics, and macroscopic phenomena, as observed in the laboratory.
In this EPJ D topical review, the authors present a systematic study of gas breakdown potentials. An analysis of the key elementary processes involved in low-current low-pressure discharges is given, with the aim of illustrating how such discharges are used to determine swarm parameters and how such data may be applied to the modeling of discharges.
Another step towards faster computers relies on three coherently coupled quantum dots used as quantum information units, which could ultimately enhance quantum computers’ speed
Quantum computers have yet to materialise. Yet, scientists are making progress in devising suitable means of making such computers faster. One such approach relies on quantum dots—a kind of artificial atom, easily controlled by applying an electric field. A new study demonstrates that changing the coupling of three coherently coupled quantum dots (TQDs) with electrical impulses can help better control them. This has implications, for example, should TQDs be used as quantum information units, which would produce faster quantum computers due to the fact that they would be operated through electrical impulses. These findings have been published in EPJ B by Sahib Babaee Tooski and colleagues affiliated with both the Institute of Molecular Physics at the Polish Academy of Sciences, in Poznan, Poland, the University of Ljubljana and the Jožef Stefan Institute in Slovenia.
More efficient computational methods are urgently needed to capture condensed matter systems in simulations. Electronic structure methods, such as density-functional theory (DFT), usually provide a good compromise between accuracy and efficiency, but they demand much computational power. For this reason, they are only applicable to small systems containing a few hundred atoms at most. Conversely, many interesting phenomena involve much larger systems comprising thousands of atoms or more. Considerable effort has been invested in the development of potentials that enable simulations to run on larger system and for longer times. Typically these potentials are based on physically-motivated functional forms. Therefore, while they perform very well for the specific applications for which they have been designed, they cannot easily be transferred from one system to another. Moreover, their numerical accuracy is restricted by the intrinsic limitations of the imposed functional forms. In this EPJ B Colloquium, Handley and Behler survey several novel types of potentials emerged in recent years, which are not based on physical considerations.
A new study accounts for species interactions, and adds a layer of complexity to previous minimalists models
Models for the evolution of life are now being developed to try and clarify the long-term dynamics of an evolving system of species. Specifically, a recent model proposed by Petri Kärenlampi from the University of Eastern Finland in Joensuu accounts for species interactions with various degrees of symmetry, connectivity, and species abundance. This is an improvement on previous, simpler models, which apply random fitness levels to species. The findings published in EPJ E demonstrate that the resulting replicator ecosystems do not appear to be a self-organised critical model, unlike the so-called Bak-Sneppen model; a reference in the field. The reasons for this discrepancy are not yet known.
New study provides proof of the validity of a filtering device for ultra-cold neutral atoms based on tunnelling
Techniques for controlling ultra-cold atoms travelling in ring traps currently represent an important research area in physics. A new study published in EPJ D gives a proof of principle, confirmed by numerical simulations, of the applicability to ultra-cold atoms of a very efficient and robust transport technique called spatial adiabatic passage (SAP). Yu Loiko from the University of Barcelona, Spain, and colleagues have, for the first time, applied SAP to inject, extract, and filter the velocity of neutral atoms from and into a ring trap. Such traps are key to improving our understanding of phenomena involving ultra-cold atoms, which are relevant to high-precision applications such as atom optics, quantum metrology, quantum computation, and quantum simulation.
A new study relevant for cancer radiation therapy shows that DNA building blocks are susceptible to fragmentation on contact with the full range of ions from alkaline element species
Scientists now have a better understanding of how short DNA strands decompose in microseconds. A European team found new fragmentation pathways that occur universally when DNA strands are exposed to metal ions from a family of alkaline and alkaline earth elements. These ions tend to replace protons in the DNA backbone and at the same time induce a reactive conformation leading more readily to fragmentation. These finding have been published by Andreas Piekarczyk, from the University of Iceland, and colleagues in a study in EPJ D. They could contribute to optimising cancerous tumour therapy through a greater understanding of how radiation and its by-products, reactive intermediate particles, interact with complex DNA structures.
The journal EPJE – Soft Matter and Biological Physics is pleased to honour Ludwik Leibler with the 2014 EPJE Pierre-Gilles De Gennes Lecture prize. Leibler is researcher at CNRS and Adjunct Professor at ESPCI ParisTech where he directs the Laboratory for Soft Matter and Chemistry. The Editors of the journal nominated him for his seminal contributions to polymer physics and the revolutionary polymeric materials, self-healing elastomers and vitrimers that he invented.
This is the 4th edition of this prestigious prize, named after the Nobel laureate who founded EPJE. The prize consist of 1000 Euros and a plenary lecture that will be introduced by Daan Frenkel, co-Editor-in-Chief of EPJE. The EPJE Pierre-Gilles de Gennes lecture will be delivered July 22nd in Lisbon, during the 9th Liquid Matter conference of the European Physical Society.
Physicists have published a new theoretical foundation explaining the mechanism of protein folding and unfolding in water
Investigating the structure and dynamics of so-called Meso-Bio-Nano (MBN) systems—micron-sized biological or nanotechnology entities—is a rapidly expanding field of science. Now, scientists Alexander Yakubovich and Andrey Solov'yov from MBN Research Centre in Frankfurt, Germany, have produced a new theoretical study of a protein macromolecules changing from a coil structural conformation to a globular one. Their statistic mechanics model, just published in EPJ D, describes the thermodynamic properties of real proteins in an aqueous environment, using a minimal number of free physical parameters.
All of the Ti-V alloys could display a relatively high superconducting transition temperature, as it is their unusual physical properties that influence this property, unlike previously thought
Physicists from India have shed new light on a long-unanswered question related to superconductivity in so-called transition metal binary alloys. The team revealed that the local magnetic fluctuations, or spin fluctuations, an intrinsic property of Titanium-Vanadium (Ti-V) alloys, influences superconductivity in a way that is more widespread than previously thought. They found that it is the competition between these local magnetic fluctuations and the interaction between electrons and collective excitations, referred to as phonons, which determine the superconductivity. Dr. Matin, from the Raja Ramanna Center for Advanced Technology, Indore, India, and colleagues published their findings in a study in EPJ B
Analysing the adequation of financial data structure with its expected fractal scaling could help early detection of extreme financial events because these represent a scaling irregularity
Due to their previously discovered fractal nature, financial data patterns are self-similar when scaling up. New research shows that the most extreme events in financial data dynamics—reflected in very large price moves—are incompatible with multi-fractal scaling. These findings have been published in EPJ B by physicist Elena Green from the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Ireland and colleagues. Understanding the multi-fractal structure of financially sound markets could, ultimately, help in identifying structural signs of impending extreme events.
Separating particles from the liquid they are in can now be done with a new concept, based on horizontal deflection during particle levitation for the separation of minerals and particles.
Magnetic separators exploit the difference in magnetic properties between minerals, for example when separating magnetite from quartz. But this exercise becomes considerably more complex when the particles are not magnetic. In the wake of previous particle levitation experiments under high-power magnetic fields, a new study reveals that particles are deflected away from the magnet’s round-shaped bore centre in a horizontal direction. Previous studies had observed the vertical levitation of the particles. These findings are presented by Shixiao Liu from the Faculty of Engineering, University of Nottingham, UK and colleagues, in a paper recently published in EPJ E, and could led to a new concept in particles and minerals separation technologies.
A new study investigates the role of cells’ alignment in shaping biological tissue, as cell division provides dynamic evolution during tissue growth.
A team of European scientists has now extended a previous biophysical model to investigate elongated growth within biological tissues to describing the evolution over time of the shape of a fruit fly’s wing. They found the aspect ratio of the typical biological shapes may exhibit a maximum at finite time and then decrease. For sufficiently large tissues, the shape is expected to approach that of a disk or sphere. These findings have been reported by Carles Blanch-Mercader from the University of Barcelona, Spain, and colleagues, in a paper published in EPJ E. They provide a more general classification than previously available of the different types of morphologies a tissue can be expected to attain, depending on its initial size and its physical properties.
A change of models demystifies anomalous particle behaviour at very low temperatures, confirming that the third law of thermodynamics cannot be violated
In theory, the laws of physics are absolute. However, when it comes to the laws of thermodynamics—the science that studies how heat and temperature relate to energy—there are times where they no longer seem to apply. In a paper recently published in EPJ B, Robert Adamietz from the University of Augsburg, Germany, and colleagues have demonstrated that a theoretical model of the environment’s influence on a particle does not violate the third law of thermodynamics, despite appearances to the contrary. These findings are relevant for systems at the micro or nanometer scale that are difficult to decouple from the heat or the quantum effects exerted by their environment.
A new model accounting for the loss of stability occurring at the very start of supernova explosions sheds some new light on this phenomenon, opening up potential broader applications
Exploding supernovae are a phenomenon that is still not fully understood. The trouble is that the state of nuclear matter in stars cannot be reproduced on Earth. In a recent paper published in EPJ E, Yves Pomeau from the University of Arizona, USA, and his French colleagues from the CNRS provide a new model of supernovae represented as dynamical systems subject to a loss of stability, just before they explode. Because similar stability losses also occur in dynamical systems in nature, this model could be used to predict natural catastrophes before they happen. Previous studies of the creeping of soft solids, earthquakes, and sleep-wake transitions have already confirmed the validity of this approach.
Radiative transitions are among the most important and insightful processes for the investigation of atomic, nuclear and hadronic systems. They reveal the electromagnetic substructure of the involved particles. The a2(1320) meson is known since the 1980s to decay radiatively with a branching of about 0.3% into a pion and a photon. Theoretically this can be linked, for example through the vector meson dominance model, to the main hadronic decay channels.
A new study predicts that heat flow in novel nanomaterials could contribute to creating environmentally friendly and cost-effective nanometric-scale energy devices
Physicists are now designing novel materials with physical properties tailored to meet specific energy consumption needs. Before these so-called materials-by-design can be applied, it is essential to understand their characteristics, such as heat flow. Now, a team of Italian physicists has developed a predictive theoretical model for heat flux in these materials, using atom-scale calculations. These findings, published in EPJ B by Claudio Melis and colleagues from the University of Cagliary, Italy, could have implications for optimising the thermal budget of nanoelectronic devices—which means they could help dissipate the total amount of thermal energy generated by electron currents—or in the production of energy through thermoelectric effects in novel nanomaterials.
Latest theoretical advances pertaining to the dynamics of highly sensitive magnetometers could find military applications in low-noise amplifiers and sensitive antennas
Theoretical physicists are currently exploring the dynamics of a very unusual kind of device called a SQUID. This Superconducting Quantum Interference Device is a highly sensitive magnetometer used to measure extremely subtle magnetic fields. It is made of two thin regions of insulating material that separate two superconductors – referred to as Josephson junctions – placed in parallel into a ring of superconducting material. In a study published in EPJ B, US scientists have focused on finding an analytical approximation to the theoretical equations that govern the dynamics of an array of SQUIDs. This work was performed by Susan Berggren from the US Navy research lab, SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific, in San Diego, CA, USA and Antonio Palacios San Diego State University. Its applications are mainly in the military sector, including SQUID array-based low-noise amplifiers and antennas.
This month EPJE welcomes Andreas Bausch, who takes over from Frank Jülicher, as Editor in Chief for biological physics in EPJ E – Soft Matter and Biological Physics. In his lab, Bausch applies new experimental tools of soft condensed matter physics to living cells and bio-mimetic model systems. This is his vision for biological physics within EPJE in the years to come:
A new theoretical study shows the conductivity conditions under which graphene nanoribbons can become switches in externally controlled electronic devices
One of graphene’s most sought after properties is its high conductivity. Argentinian and Brazilian physicists have now successfully calculated the conditions of the transport, or conductance mechanisms, in graphene nanoribbons. The results, recently published in a paper in EPJ B, yield a clearer theoretical understanding of conductivity in graphene samples of finite size, which have applications in externally controlled electronic devices.
A better understanding of the physical response of combination materials made of nanotubes with ferroelectric liquid crystals could soon open the door to applications as sensors or switches
Dispersions of carbon nanotubes with liquid crystals have attracted much interest because they pave the way for creating new materials with added functionalities. Now, a study published in EPJ E by Marina Yakemseva and colleagues at the Nanomaterials Research Institute in Ivanovo, Russia, focuses on the influence of temperature and nanotube concentration on the physical properties of such combined materials. These findings could have implications for optimising these combinations for non-display applications, such as sensors or externally stimulated switches, and novel materials that are responsive to electric, magnetic, mechanical or even optical fields.
Foams and foaming processes pose interesting questions for both fundamental research and practical applications. Although foams are a familiar thing, both in our everyday lives and in industry, many aspects of foam physics and chemistry still remain unclear.
This EPJ E paper comprehensively reviews the studies of foams under microgravity, including studies conducted in parabolic flights, in sounding rockets and in the International Space Station.
Inducing biological tissue damage with an atmospheric pressure plasma source could open the door to many applications in medicine
Plasma medicine is a new and rapidly developing area of medical technology. Specifically, understanding the interaction of so-called atmospheric pressure plasma jets with biological tissues could help use them in medical practice. Under the supervision of Sylwia Ptasinska from the University of Notre Dame, in Indiana, USA, Xu Han and colleagues conducted a quantitative and qualitative study of the different types of DNA damage induced by atmospheric pressure plasma exposure, in a paper published in EPJ D as part of a special issue on nanoscale insights into Ion Beam Cancer Therapy. This approach, they hope, could ultimately lead to devising alternative tools for cancer therapy as well as applications in hospital hygiene, dental care, skin diseases, antifungal care, chronic wounds and cosmetics treatments.
A new EPJ B Colloquium reviews the latest advances in silicon carbide (SiC) for optoelectronics. The wide bandgap of SiC makes it a great semiconductor material to make devices for in high power, high frequency and high temperature applications.
During the past decade, SiC has also become a promising materials for light-emitting diodes (LED), since it was found that co-doping it with nitrogen and boron produces a high donor-acceptor pair emission efficiency. Fluorescent SiC based white LED light source is an innovative concept for optoelectronic devices.
The growing need for alternative “green” energy sources has prompted renewed interest in thermoelectric materials. These materials can directly convert heat to electricity or, conversely, use electrical current to cool. The thermoelectric performance of a material can be estimated by the so-called figure of merit, zT = σα2T/λ (α is the Seebeck coefficient, σα2 is the power factor, σ and λ are the electrical and thermal conductivity, respectively), the value of which depends only on the material.
In a new EPJ B review, authors Gonçalves and Godart discuss the state of the art in this field, with special emphasis on the strategies to reduce the lattice part of the thermal conductivity and maximize the power factor in thermoelectric materials.
Physicists reveal that the real-time dynamics in a football game are subject to self-similarity characteristics in keeping with the laws of physics, regardless of players’ psychology and training
Football fascinates millions of fans, all of them unaware that the game is subject to the laws of physics. Despite their seemingly arbitrary decisions, each player obeys certain rules, as they constantly adjust their positions in relation to their teammates, opponents, the ball and the goal. A team of Japanese scientists has now analysed the time-dependent fluctuation of both the ball and all players’ positions throughout an entire match. They discovered that a simple rule governs the complex dynamics of the ball and the team’s front-line. These findings , published in EPJ B, could have implications for other ball games, providing a new perspective on sports science.
The effect of spatial ordering of molecules on surfaces is commonly utilised to deposit ultra-thin films, where the film thickness is only a few nanometres. In this EPJ D review paper, several methods are discussed that are distinguished from other thin film deposition processes by exactly these effects, leading to self-assembling and self-limiting layer growth and, eventually, to coatings with unique and fascinating properties, and applications in micro-electronics, optics, chemistry, and biology.
Italian physicist Carlo Di Castro shares his thoughts on the development of theoretical condensed matter physics in Rome from the 1960s until the beginning of this century.
Italian physicist Carlo Di Castro, professor emeritus at the University of Rome Sapienza, Italy, shares his recollections of how theoretical condensed matter physics developed in Rome, starting in the 1960s. Luisa Bonolis, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, Germany invited Di Castro to reflect upon his research career, which he did in an interview published in EPJ H.
In this unique document, Di Castro talks about his upbringing during the second World War. He also explains how this childhood experience later influenced his philosophy, which he aptly summarises as follows: “the fear of the unknown must be overcome through knowledge and reason.” Ultimately, this approach guided the career choices that led him to become a condensed matter physicist.