Reviews & Analysis

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  • Surfaces are special states of matter. New experiments show that the non-ideal behaviour of nanoclusters on the surface of a catalyst strongly affects their tendency to form larger clusters, and therefore the catalyst's performance.

    • Michael Bowker
    News & Views
  • Future computers will require nanoscale transistors with high-dielectric-constant gate oxides. Carbon nanotube transistors integrated with ZrO2 gate oxides emerge as very promising candidates.

    • Richard Martel
    News & Views
  • Eating sugar gives us a boost when we feel tired because our cells use it as fuel to produce energy. Likewise, sugar can now be used to produce power in artificial biological fuel cells that function in a physiological environment.

    • Kevin Kendall
    News & Views
  • Photosynthetic organisms use light to create chemical gradients across bilayer membranes that drive energetically unfavourable reactions. Synthetic systems that accomplish the same feat may find uses in a variety of biological and non-biological applications.

    • David H. Thompson
    News & Views
  • Quantum dots are candidates for quantum computing applications, but the coherence time of their quantum states must be improved. Recent optical measurements on single quantum dots indicate that the local environment plays a large role.

    • Laura M. Herz
    • Richard T. Phillips
    News & Views
  • Molecular engineering strategies can be used to develop new features in nonlinear optical systems. Self-assembly based on chiral molecules is one important approach that opens up interesting routes in materials development.

    • Ulrich Gubler
    • Christian Bosshard
    News & Views
  • Genetically engineered bacteria could become polymer factories of the future. Bacteria can now turn non-natural chemicals into polythioesters — a new class of thermoplastic polymers hitherto inaccessible through chemical synthesis.

    • Yoshiharu Doi
    News & Views
  • Design of polymer light-emitting devices usually requires a careful balance between conflicting properties: good charge transport and high-efficiency light emission. Devices fabricated from insulated polymer chains have both.

    • Timothy Swager
    News & Views
  • Colloids, liquid crystals, granular and biological materials occurring within the realm of 'soft matter' all have slow internal dynamics. Finding the pathways that lead these systems far from their equilibrium state has triggered a multidisciplinary research effort.

    • Eugene M. Terentjev
    News & Views
  • Solid-state devices that mimic biological motors can be built using magnetic flux quanta, or vortices. A new proposal describes how to transfer energy between two interacting vortex systems in a superconductor without having to physically 'sculpt' the host material.

    • Gianfranco D'Anna
    News & Views
  • New first-principles calculations reveal the range of atomic arrangements underlying the average crystallographic structure of a perovskite oxide, PZT. This work opens the door to understanding the exceptional physical behaviour of PZT and related systems.

    • Karin M. Rabe
    News & Views
  • The electronic properties of carbon nanotubes are predicted to be very sensitive to their structure. Combining high-resolution electron microscopy with electrical transport provides both confirmation of this and new insights into the transport mechanisms.

    • Walt A. de Heer
    News & Views
  • The ability to tune the properties of disordered materials is reaching new levels. Experiments with colloidal systems, combined with theoretical predictions, may lead to the design of novel soft materials and to a deeper understanding of the glass and gel states of matter.

    • Francesco Sciortino
    News & Views
  • Why use a lens to build a light microscope when you can see better without one? State-of-the-art optical microscopy techniques that avoid the usual limitations associated with lenses are making waves in unexpected areas of materials science.

    • Daniel A. Higgins
    News & Views
  • The structure of glass is not as untidy as one would think. It has some degree of order intermediate between a liquid and a crystal. A new method allows control of this intermediate range order and improves our understanding of glass structures.

    • Philip S. Salmon
    News & Views
  • A century-old puzzle on the apparent contradiction that some materials disorder as they are cooled gains universality following new observations of closed-loop phase behaviour in a block-copolymer system.

    • Anne-Valerie Ruzette
    News & Views