They made the electrons behave. Of course, it will be written up in much loftier terms but that’s what it comes down to. (For purists who think that you can’t end a sentence in a preposition, you are wrong. One of these days I will dig up the appropriate references.) A team at the University of British Columbia (‘UBC] yes, there is Canadian nanotechnology) have found a way to manipulate electrons on ultra thin material, in this case, potassium atoms were laid over a a piece of superconductive copper oxide. (superconductive = no resistance to conducting electricity)
As to why this is good news, here’s what the lead researcher, Dr. Andrea Damascelli has to say, “The development of future electronics, such as quantum computer chips, hinges on extremely thin layers of material.” Sounds reasonable, so what’s the problem? He goes on, “Extremely thin layers and surfaces of superconducting material take on very different properties from the rest of the material. Electrons have been observed to rearrange, making it impossible for scientists to study.” Until recently. Damascelli adds, “The new technique opens the door to systematic studies not just of high-temperature superconductors, but many other materials where surfaces and interfaces control the physical properties.” He mentions fuel cells and lossless power lines as two potential applications. The journal, Nature Physics, is publishing Damascelli and team’s paper this week. (I imagine that you won’t be able to access the article unless you have a subscription or permission to use someone else’s subscription.) For more details you will find the press release here or at Phys.org here.
There is self-assembling gold according to Dr. Pulickel M. Ajayan at Rice University. His study will be published next month in Nano Letters. With the right conditions (exposure to magnets, chemicals, and light) Ajayan’s team coaxed nanorods into self-assembling as a giant structure (like a grain of rice). Go here for more details about the paper and an image of a giant gold droplet.