Sunday, May 21, 2006

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Quantum gases in 3D (May 17)
Condensed matter physicists have come a step closer to their dream laboratory, with the news that two independent teams have managed to trap bosons and fermions together in a 3D optical lattice. The breakthrough provides a model system in which to study real-life solid-state materials, and may even lead to a better understanding of certain biological systems and traffic flow.

LEDs move into the ultraviolet (May 17)
Physicists in Japan have made a diode that emits light at the shortest wavelength ever. The device, made by Yoshitaka Taniyasu and colleagues at NTT Basic Research Laboratories in Atsugi, is made from aluminium nitride and emits deep in the ultraviolet part of the spectrum at 210 nanometres (Nature 441 325). The work represents an important step towards the development of very low-wavelength light emitters that could find use in a wide variety of applications, including medicine, photolithography and to destroy bacteria in contaminated water.

Magnetic fields go to the maximum (May 18)
What is the maximum possible magnetic field allowed in our universe? According to two theoretical physicists in Russia and Israel, it is 1042 Gauss -- a value that is a billion times smaller than the previous estimate for the upper limit. As well as being of fundamental interest,
the new finding -- if correct -- may rule out theories on "superconductive cosmic strings" and also some accepted mechanisms of producing other hypothetical objects such as magnetic monopoles (Phys. Rev. Lett. 96 180401).

Change of focus for liquid crystals (May 19)
Physicists in the US have created a new type of tuneable liquid-crystal lens, whose focus can be changed by varying the voltage applied to it. The new device is better than traditional liquid-crystal lenses because it only has small astigmatism and does not scatter light. It could be
used for zoom lenses and other microphotonic devices (Appl. Phys. Lett. 88 191116).


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