For about 60 years, we've defined the amp--the power of an electrical current--by using mechanical processes, i.e., processes not defined in nature. And for the most part that works just fine. But now we're approaching a better way: scientists from the National Physical Laboratory and University of Cambridge have found a process to move 1 billion individual electrons per second, and measure them accurately.
We generally think of electrons as fundamental building blocks of atoms, elementary subatomic particles with no smaller components to speak of. But according to Swiss and German researchers reporting in Nature this week, we are wrong to think so. For the first time, the researchers have recorded an observation of an electron splitting into two different quasi-particles, each taking different characteristics of the original electron with it.
Atomic clocks are the most accurate timekeepers in the world, but a “nuclear clock” would be even better. An international team of researchers from the University of New South Wales, the University of Nevada, and Georgia Tech have propsed a new kind of atomic timekeeper that wouldn’t lose or gain 1/20th of a second in 14 billion years (that's roughly the age of the entire universe). It would be 100 times more accurate than the best atomic clocks we have right now, the researchers claim.
A new microscopy method that ditches lenses altogether could create the highest-resolution images ever seen. The system reconstructs an image from the electron waves scattered by a sample, and has no fundamental experimental limits imposed by constraints like blurry glass or wavelengths of visible light. It can even be used to image live cells without harming them.
Human-machine interfaces are constantly improving, but our inability to fully integrate electronics into our bodies stems in part from the very nature of that word — electronics. For the most part, machines relay information using electrons, but living systems use protons and ions. Now a new proton-based transistor built partly from crab shells could open the gates to a new method of communication between machines and biological systems.
An international team of researchers spanning Australia, North America, and Europe has created a model for a new kind of attosecond laser that should be able to film individual electrons as they participate in chemical reactions. Such high-res, high-speed data gathering has never been achieved before, and if successful the new laser system could have implications for everything from basic chemistry to complex pharmaceutical research and chemical engineering.
Electron-free magnetic microprocessors would use 1 million times less energy per flop than today’s computers, according to researchers at the University of California-Berkeley. They would be so efficient, they would consume the least amount of energy allowed by the second law of thermodynamics.
A wee particle accelerator in the English countryside could be a harbinger of a safer, cleaner future of energy. Specifically, nuclear energy, but not the type that has wrought havoc in Japan and controversy throughout Europe and the U.S. It would be based on thorium, a radioactive element that is much more abundant, and much more safe, than traditional sources of nuclear power.
The wee electron has gotten its most thorough physical examination yet, and scientists report that it is almost, almosta perfect sphere. Researchers at Imperial College London have determined the electron is just 0.000000000000000000000000001 centimeter off from being perfectly round. Put another way, if the electron was magnified to the size of the solar system, it would deviate from immaculate rotundity by a magnitude equivalent to a human hair.
University of Pittsburgh researchers have assembled a key piece of tech that will help enable a future generation of extremely powerful quantum computers as well as advanced electronic materials and better computer memories. Their single-electron transistor is the first of its kind made entirely from oxide-based materials, an important aspect that allows it to work as a solid-state memory.
While studying the weird behavior of high-temperature superconductors, scientists may have found a new phase of matter, separate from solid, liquid, gas and plasma. Electrons in a pre-superconducting state apparently form a strange, distinct order, lining up in a way that has never been seen before.
Thunderstorms produce beams of antimatter particles that rain into space, NASA scientists said this week, shedding more light on one of the weirdest Earth physics stories of recent memory.
Terrestrial gamma-ray flashes, which are brief, powerful bursts produced inside thunderstorms, apparently produce high-speed streams of electrons and positrons that are swept up in Earth’s magnetic field. Scientists are still not sure how TGFs work or how lightning enters the equation, however.
Physicists working with a Fermilab neutrino experiment may have found a new elementary particle whose behavior breaks the known laws of physics. If correct, their results poke holes in the accepted Standard Model of particles and forces, and raise some interesting questions for the Large Hadron Collider and Tevatron experiments. The new particle could even explain the existence of dark matter.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.