A Week in Review: 7/20/14 – 7/26/14

July 24, 2014

Metal particles in solids aren’t as fixed as they seem, new memristor study shows In work that unmasks some of the magic behind memristors and “resistive random access memory,” or RRAM—cutting-edge computer components that combine logic and memory functions—researchers have shown that the metal particles in memristors don’t stay put as previously thought.

July 22, 2014

Creating Optical Cables Out of Thin Air
Imagine being able to instantaneously run an optical cable or fiber to any point on earth, or even into space.  That’s what Howard Milchberg, professor of physics and electrical and computer engineering at the University of Maryland, wants to do. In a paper published in the July 2014 issue of the journal Optica, Milchberg and his lab report using an “air waveguide” to enhance light signals collected from distant sources.  These air waveguides could have many applications, including long-range laser communications, detecting pollution in the atmosphere, making high-resolution topographic maps and laser weapons.

Birthday bash to celebrate laser inventor Charles Townes’ 99th
Only now nearing retirement – he plans to shutter his physics department office this summer, but will continue to make daily visits to his office at UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory – Townes’ career highlights include a 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering the laser, ground-breaking astronomical research, wide-ranging admiration for his efforts to reconcile science and religion, 31 honorary degrees and 38 awards.

July 21, 2014

Carbyne Morphs when Stretched
Stretching the material known as carbyne — a hard-to-make, one-dimensional chain of carbon atoms — by just 3 percent can begin to change its properties in ways that engineers might find useful for mechanically activated nanoscale electronics and optics. The finding by Rice theoretical physicist Boris Yakobson and his colleagues appears in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters.

Royal recognition for UQ researcher
Studies involving some of the world’s smallest creatures have resulted in one of the world’s biggest honours for University of Queensland researcher Professor Mandyam Srinivasan.

July 20, 2014

Tiny laser sensor heightens bomb detection sensitivity
A team of researchers led by Xiang Zhang, UC Berkeley professor of mechanical engineering, has found a way to dramatically increase the sensitivity of a light-based plasmon sensor to detect incredibly minute concentrations of explosives. The researchers noted that the sensor could potentially be used to sniff out a hard-to-detect explosive popular among terrorists.