We are on the cover of Surface Science (Farahnaz Maleki made this very nice picture) and check out the tweet of @ElsevierPhysics:

Researchers from ORNL found that copper nano-particles supported on carbon nano-spikes can electrochemically catalyse the transformation of carbon dioxide (CO2) to ethanol. These are great news, because because CO2 is a greenhouse gas and ethanol is a fuel, which means we are transforming waste to fuel! Industrially, the process could be used for the storage of excess electricity from renewable energy sources. The CO2 is dissolved in water and the catalyst electrochemically transforms it directly to ethanol. The yield is 63%!

Glass can be formed naturally; for example in volcanoes or when lightning strikes a sandy beach and it has been produced by humans for thousands of years. Glasses can take on many different appearances, colors, and properties. Thus, it may be surprising that our understanding of the exact structure of glass is not complete, even after such a long time. Very often, you will hear glasses described as amorphous. This word is derived from Greek and means without shape. So we have a rough idea that glass is somehow shapeless. In the following we will see, how we can investigate the atomic arrangement in glass using modern techniques.

...continue reading "How we can see the structure of glass"

The presence of nanoparticles in industrial processes dates back well before the advent of nanotechnology [1] : carbon nanoparticles as rubber additives for tires [2] or titania nanoparticles for pigmentary applications [3] represent a paradigm of mass production of nanoscale objects. The success of manufacturing approaches based on the assembling of nanoparticles is largely determined by the established infrastructure and customer base with cost reduction as a general benchmark. Several techniques for the synthesis of metal oxides have been developed: sol-gel processing, [4] chemical vapor deposition, [5] hydrolysis process. [6] Among different processes for the production of nanoparticles, gas-phase routes are very popular both for large scale production and for fundamental studies. [7] Producing the nanoclusters in the gasphase makes it for instance possible to obtain clean particles without contaminants. With the so called low-energy cluster beam deposition, it is possible to produce gas-phase clusters in vast amounts! For a deposition area of 10×10 cm for a thin film of 30 nm thickness, the deposition time is around 10 minutes.

...continue reading "Large-scale production of gas-phase nanoparticles"

It's a common situation: You are at a party, going out with friends or just met someone on the bus stop and start chatting. Small talk. What are you doing here? Nice / horrible weather today, isn't it? So, what do you do? Well, there it is. I find myself hesitating to answer this question. I guess many have, at least those, that write in science blogs. I work in experimental quantum physics and there is only so many witty comebacks to stunned silence, bewilderment or statements that they never got physics. But that's okay, it's clearly not for everyone. But luckily I have a great comeback when people ask me what it's for.

Look around you and you will see the fruits of quantum physics all around you. From the semiconductors that make up basically everything around us that runs on electricity to computers and smartphones. None of it possible without quantum science. While it still is spooky and weird, it has silently worked its way into our everyday lives. And it still does, working tirelessly in the background to maybe, some day, save the day again. Not the hero we know, but the hero we need?

...continue reading "Quantum Science and the Next Step in Computation"

What are they?

Flexible whole cell biosensor is an appealing field. Whole-cells are a natural factory of biocatalysts. Usually, the method for acquiring isolated biocatalysts, like the enzymes, requires a process of separation and purification from the raw whole-cell strain or tissue, which is tedious, time and resource consuming. Furthermore, added advantage of whole cell biosensor over enzyme biosensor are that the enzyme sometimes requires cofactors and coenzymes, to carry out a complete reaction or to recognize a substrate, which implies a recycling process to attain the required cofactor, then the need for further separation and purification steps. Whole-cells contain a complete metabolic aggregate of enzymes, cofactors and coenzymes. Analog processes can be found in tissues. The requirements related to maintenance and cost for culturing microorganisms are below from those of tissue cultures.

...continue reading "Electrochemical Sensing With Cells: Whole Cell Electrochemical Biosensors"

We all have them in our phones: MEMS (Micro Electric Mechanical Systems). Inertial MEMS, for instance, are the tiny accelerometers and gyroscopes in our smart phones. They make playing games on the phone more fun and help us finding the next pizza restaurant. To do that, they measure our movements by recognizing rotation and acceleration. MEMS are really tiny, i.e. in the micro-meter (µm) size regime. You need special microscopes to see their set up in detail, e.g. a scanning electron microscope. However, people are trying to make them even smaller. Why? Well, there are many reasons and of course one of them is the cost. If the devices were smaller, the production cost would also decrease.

The MEMS accelerator and the gyroscope are two of the most important examples of the growing zoo of MEMS. Therefore, we will take them as examples in our discussion on what limits the shrinkage of MEMS? To give an overview, we will first consider some general aspects of dimension scaling. Then we will proceed to more specific aspects which limit the area shrinkage of an inertial MEMS.

...continue reading "What Limits the Shrinkage of Inertial MEMS?"

CO2 is a greenhouse gas and to reduce its concentration in the atmosphere, there are three possibilities: We can minimize its production, we can store it and we can use it to make other chemical compounds. Scientists are trying realize all three possibilities to reduce the CO2 concentration in the air. There are several challenges to face, such as to make the 400ppm CO2 content of the atmosphere into usable quantities of CO2 in proper density.

Of course, it would be nice to transform CO2 into "value-added" chemicals, which are for instance methanol, fuels or methane. There are several catalysts that can transform CO2 into these chemicals and research is done to optimize these catalysts for an efficient industrial use.

...continue reading "Transforming Carbon Dioxide into Methane!"