Category Archives: General

Breathing new life into the Rashba effect

By Tushna Commissariat

Spintronics is often touted to be a field of research that one day soon will revolutionize computing as we know it, helping build the next generation of superfast and energy-efficient computers that we long for. Future spintronic devices will tap into the inherent spin magnetic moment of the electron, rather than just its charge, to store and process information. As an electron’s spin can be flipped much quicker than its charge can be moved, these devices should, in theory, operate faster and at lower temperatures than their current electronic-only counterparts.

Photograph of Rashba from 2008

Father of spin: Rashba at his 80th birthday celebration at Harvard University in 2008. (Courtesy: Matt Craig/Harvard News Office)

The entire basis of this field is built on research done by Soviet-American theoretical physicist Emmanuel Rashba in 1959. Indeed, he was the first to discover the splitting of the spin-up and spin-down states in energy and momentum with an applied electric field instead of a magnetic field. But Rashba’s original article detailing the effect, written together with Valentin Sheka, was published in a supplement of the Soviet-era, Russian-language journal, Fizika Tverdogo Tela, and is nearly impossible to get a hold of today.

New Journal of Physics (which is published by IOP Publishing, which also publishes Physics World) has now produced a focus collection of articles on the Rashba effect. As a part of this collection, guest editors Oliver Rader of the Helmholtz Centre Berlin, Gustav Bihlmayer of the Jülich Research Centre in Germany and Roland Winkler of the Northern Illinois University in the US worked with Rashba to create an English-language version of his original paper.

You can access the entire “Focus on the Rashba Effect” collection here, and the translated original paper here. In some ways, this highlights the importance of other key research articles that may have been published in journals that are no longer available and so may be in danger of being lost forever. Leave us a comment if you can think of any such papers.

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Physicists celebrate Singapore’s golden-jubilee year

Photo of the second phase of Singapore's giant Fusionopolis R&D centre taken in May 2015

Golden future – the second phase of Singapore’s giant Fusionopolis R&D centre.

By Robert P Crease in Singapore

I’ve landed in Singapore shortly before the 50th anniversary of the nation’s independence –  Sunday 9 August is the official date. The event that brought me was a conference entitled “60 Years of Yang–Mills Gauge Field Theories”, the opening day of which on Monday 25 May featured speeches by C N Yang, who shared the 1957 Nobel Prize for Physics, as well as David Gross – the 2004 Nobel-prize winner. I spoke on Wednesday morning.

But the conference isn’t the only physics-related event scheduled in Singapore’s jubilee year. Another is the opening of Fusionopolis II, the second phase of an innovative research and development (R&D) hub funded by the government’s Agency for Science and Technology Research (A*STAR). Phase one opened seven years ago – you can relive Physics World news editor Michael Banks’s experiences here; phase two is slated to open on 19 October. The initiative aims to supercharge Singapore’s research ecology by putting in close proximity materials-science research institutes, industrial research centres, and an international collection of eminent universities.

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The June 2015 issue of Physics World is now out

By Matin Durrani

For nearly three decades, physicists have been unable to answer a seemingly simple question: where does proton spin come from? Adding up the spins of the three quarks that make up the proton seems, in principle, straightforward, but physicists have been struggling with a strange problem: the sum of the spins of its three quarks is much less than the spin of the proton itself.

Cover of Physics World June 2015

Known as the “spin crisis”, the topic appears as the cover story of the June 2015 issue of Physics World, which is out now in print and digital formats. In the feature article, science writer Edwin Cartlidge examines the origins of the problem – and whether new experiments could mean we are about to solve it at last.

If you’re a member of the Institute of Physics (IOP), you can get immediate access to the feature with the digital edition of the magazine on your desktop via MyIOP.org or on any iOS or Android smartphone or tablet via the Physics World app, available from the App Store and Google Play. If you’re not yet in the IOP, you can join as an IOPimember for just £15, €20 or $25 a year to get full digital access to Physics World.

The issue also includes a great Lateral Thoughts article by Felix Flicker that’ll have you twisting and bending your arms as you try to follow what he’s on about.

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Preparing for DEMO

Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak

Laying the groundwork: engineers are rebuilding the Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak. (Courtesy: Michael Banks)

By Michael Banks

Yesterday I took the train from Bristol and headed to the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) in Oxfordshire.

Owned and operated by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, the CCFE is already home to the Joint European Torus (JET) tokamak, which in 2011 underwent a £60m upgrade programme that involved replacing the carbon tiles in the inner reactor wall with beryllium and tungsten. The purpose of this retrofit was to test the materials that are to be used in the ITER fusion experiment, which is currently being built in Cadarache, France.

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The museum exhibit that you inspired

Robert P Crease at the Mind Museum in Manilla, the Philippines

Inspired thinking – Robert P Crease in front of an exhibit at Manila’s Mind Museum that was inspired by Physics World readers.

By Robert P Crease in Singapore

It’s not often that you come across a museum exhibit based on a Physics World article. But I did on Saturday at the Mind Museum – an extraordinarily beautiful and original science museum in Taguig, on the outskirts of Manila in the Philippines.

Not only that, the exhibit is right at the entrance. You may recall that I once asked Physics World readers for their thoughts on the 10 most beautiful experiments and wrote up the results in an article in September 2002. The project turned into a book, The Prism and the Pendulum: The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments in Science, which came out the following year and which Physics World reviewed.

Maria Isabel Garcia, who was planning exhibits for the then-future Mind Museum, saw the article and book, and created an exhibit based on it, consisting of videos and explanations of each of the 10 experiments, along with a sculpture designed by the Philippine artist Daniel de la Cruz.

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Exploring the expanding world of high-temperature superconductors

Layer by layer:  iron (red) and arsenic (green) atoms in the conducting layer of a pnictide

Layered look: iron (brown) and arsenic (green) atoms in the conducting layer of a pnictide.

By Hamish Johnston

High-temperature (high-Tc) superconductivity has given hope and heartbreak in equal measure to physicists since the phenomenon was first discovered in 1986.

The hope is two-fold: that we will soon understand why superconductivity arises in this complex group of materials; and that this knowledge will lead us to a material that is a superconductor at room temperature. The former would be a triumph of the physics of highly correlated systems and the latter would spark a technological revolution.

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All hail the Standard Model, once again

 

By Hamish Johnston

I am a condensed-matter physicist by training and sometimes I struggle to get excited by the latest breakthrough in particle physics – usually because most don’t seem much like breakthroughs to me. The latest hot paper from physicists working on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN is a perfect example of what I am talking about.

Writing in Nature this week, physicists working on the CMS and LHCb experiments at CERN announced the discovery of a rare decay of the strange B-meson, as well as further information regarding an even rarer decay of the B0-meson. In both cases the decays produce two oppositely charged muons. An animation of how the strange B-meson decay is detected by the CMS appears in the video above.

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A guided tour inside D-Wave’s iconic black box

By Hamish Johnston

Has D-Wave Systems built the world’s first commercial quantum computer? The Canada-based company says it has but some physicists in the quantum-information community beg to differ. Putting aside heady questions like “Does it work?”, I think everyone agrees that the Tardis-sized black boxes that house D-Wave’s processors look great. But what exactly is inside?

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A telescope for the Year of Light

The Galileoscope

The Galileoscope – yours for only $25.

By Michael Banks

Avid readers of physicsworld.com may remember the Galileoscope – a low-cost educational telescope kit that was released for the International Year of Astronomy in 2009.

The telescope marked the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first telescope, which he presented to policy-makers from the Venetian Republic on 25 August 1609.

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Bright lights, big city: a lighting revolution comes to New York

Photograph of Giana Phelan of OLEDWorks

Bright spark: Giana Phelan of OLEDWorks shows-off some of the company’s wares.

By Robert P Crease in New York

“One well-lit place” is the best way to describe the exhibition hall at Javits Center in New York when it opened on Tuesday morning. I fully expected to be bedazzled at every turn because the venue is hosting LIGHTFAIR, the world’s largest lighting technology trade fair, and so the hall is packed with more than 600 booths designed to highlight, so to speak, the world’s lighting revolution.

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