Applied Physics

A £9.2m research centre at the University of Nottingham will break new ground in our understanding of plant growth and could lead to the development of drought-resistant crops for developing countries.

The Centre for Plant Integrative Biology (CPIB) will focus on cutting-edge research into plant biology — particularly the little-studied area of root growth, function and response to environmental cues.

Researchers have used nanotechnology to create transparent transistors and circuits, a step that promises a broad range of applications, from e-paper and flexible color screens for consumer electronics to "smart cards" and "heads-up" displays in auto windshields.

The transistors are made of single "nanowires," or tiny cylindrical structures that were assembled on glass or thin films of flexible plastic.

"The nanowires themselves are transparent, the contacts we put on them are transparent and the glass or plastic substrate is transparent," said David Janes, a researcher at Purdue University's Birck Nanotechnology Center and a professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

18-year old Nicholas Tan Xue-Wei will soon depart for the U.S. to present a research paper at The 2007 World Congress in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, and Applied Computing (WORLDCOMP'07), June 25 to 28, in Las Vegas.

Before returning home to Singapore, Nicholas will continue to represent Singapore's Bioinformatics Institute by presenting his research paper at the World Congress on Engineering 2007 (WCE 2007), July 2 to 4 in London.

Nicholas will speak about his research paper, titled “Towards A Serum-Free Medium: Growth Receptors And Signaling Pathways That Regulate Multipotency In Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells."

Sarah Everts from Chemical and Engineering News has just published an article about chemistry activities in Second Life. Drexel Island got a mention:

My avatar was then deposited at a place in Second Life called Orientation Island. As I walked my avatar into a geodesic information dome, I happened to notice the "Fly" button. Intrigued, I wasted no time pressing it—and I shot up into the air, hitting the ceiling of the information dome like a clumsy goth-bird.

Bacteria called Dehalococcoides Ethenogenes, discovered in Ithaca sewage sludge in 1997 by James Gossett, Cornell professor of civil and environmental engineering, are now in wide use to detoxify some carcinogenic chemicals but they could be used for a lot more.

These bacteria remove chlorine atoms from molecules and leave less-toxic compounds behind in toxic waste like perchloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE).

But D. ethenogenes strains work well at some sites and not so well at others, and nobody knows why.

The bacterium Dehalococcoides ethogenes can extract chlorine from chemicals to help clean up toxic wastes. Its genome (charted at right) consists of 1,640 genes.


Satellite tracking software freely available on the Internet and a smattering of textbook physics could be used by any organisation that can get hold of an intermediate range rocket to mount an unsophisticated attack on military or civilian satellites. Such an attack would require modest engineering capability and only a limited budget.

A terrorist organisation or rogue state could threaten essential satellite systems, say Adrian Gheorghe of Old Dominion University Norfolk, in Virginia, USA and Dan Vamanu of "Horia Hulubei" National Institute of Physics and Nuclear Engineering, in Bucharest, Romania. Military satellites, global positioning systems, weather satellites and even satellite TV systems could all become victims of such a simple attack.

Biomedical engineers at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering have adapted a three-dimensional ultrasound scanner that might guide minimally invasive brain surgeries and provide better detection of a brain tumor’s location.

The “brain scope,” which is inserted into a dime-sized hole in the skull, may be particularly useful for the bedside evaluation of critically ill patients when computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment is unavailable, the researchers said.

Brain surgeons now rely primarily on two-dimensional images produced by MRI or ultrasound, said Edward Light, a research and development engineer in the biomedical engineering department at Duke. "The problem is that without 3-D, you could miss something," he said.

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories in California have emerged as key players in a state-of-the-art program for the U.S. Army that focuses on the design and manufacturing of a lightweight, high-caliber, self-propelled cannon system.

The weapon system, known as the Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon (NLOS Cannon) is fully automated and can fire at a sustained rate of six rounds per minute. The vehicle, once completed, must be light and agile enough to fit three vehicles comfortably onto a C-17 cargo aircraft.

According to Sandia researcher Nipun Bhutani, who serves as project manager for the lab’s NLOS Cannon work, Sandia’s primary contribution to date has been a critical adjustment to a laser ignition system that serves as the heart of the NLOS Cannon vehicle.

Plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air and combine it with water molecules and sunshine to make carbohydrate or sugar. Variations on this process provide fuel for all of life on Earth.

University of Wisconsin-Madison chemical and biological engineering Professor James Dumesic and his research team describe a two-stage process for turning biomass-derived sugar into 2,5-dimethylfuran (DMF), a liquid transportation fuel with 40 percent greater energy density than ethanol.

The prospects of diminishing oil reserves and the threat of global warming caused by releasing otherwise trapped carbon into the atmosphere have researchers searching for a sustainable, carbon-neutral fuel to reduce global reliance on fossil fuels.

Materials that change temperature in magnetic fields could lead to new refrigeration technologies that reduce the use of greenhouse gases, thanks to new research at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory and Ames National Laboratory.

Scientists carrying out X-ray experimentation at the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne — the nation's most powerful source of X-rays for research — are learning new information about magnetocaloric materials that have potential for environmentally friendly magnetic refrigeration systems.