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Microscopy with a quantum tip

The heart of a scanning probe microscope is a moveable, suspended tip, which, like the needle on a record player, reacts to small height variations on the surface, and turns these into signals that can be displayed on a computer. Researchers have now been able to create this tip, not out of solid material, as in the case of the record player, but out of an ultra-cold, dilute gas of atoms. To do this, they cooled an especially pure gas of rubidium atoms to a temperature less than a millionth of a degree above absolute zero temperature, and stored the atoms in a magnetic trap. This 'quantum tip' can be precisely positioned and enables the probing of nanostructured surfaces.

Jun 6th, 2011

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New battery design could give electric vehicles a jolt

A radically new approach to the design of batteries, developed by researchers at MIT, could provide a lightweight and inexpensive alternative to existing batteries for electric vehicles and the power grid. The technology could even make 'refueling' such batteries as quick and easy as pumping gas into a conventional car.

Jun 6th, 2011

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In very narrow spaces, liquids behave more like gels

Three molecules thick, or two, or one: how does an extremely thin layer of trapped liquid behave when we make it even thinner? Measurements made using the Atomic Force Microscope show that the forces of friction increase with each step.

Jun 3rd, 2011

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Researchers build the most complex biochemical circuit ever created from scratch

In many ways, life is like a computer. An organism's genome is the software that tells the cellular and molecular machinery - the hardware - what to do. But instead of electronic circuitry, life relies on biochemical circuitry - complex networks of reactions and pathways that enable organisms to function. Now, researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have built the most complex biochemical circuit ever created from scratch, made with DNA-based devices in a test tube that are analogous to the electronic transistors on a computer chip.

Jun 2nd, 2011

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