Reviews & Analysis

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  • 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
  • A transmission electron microscope capable of identifying individual atoms or defects in a crystal lattice has much to offer materials scientists. It has now been used to study the early stages of nanocluster nucleation and growth in semiconductors.

    • Tomas Diaz de la Rubia
    • George Gilmer
    News & Views
  • The discovery that the electronic conductivity of LiFePO4 can be increased by eight orders of magnitude may have a profound impact on the next generation of lithium-ion batteries.

    • Michael Thackeray
    News & Views
  • Kagomé lattices are the most geometrically frustrated magnetic systems. But their magnetic properties remain poorly characterized because they are difficult to synthesize. A new versatile synthetic route to Kagomé lattices yields a spin-frustrated material from paramagnetic building blocks.

    • Jerry L. Atwood
    News & Views
  • Looking through a window on a rainy day may generate feelings other than melancholy. Curiosity, for example: isn't it remarkable that water droplets stick to the pane rather than sliding down?

    • David Quéré
    News & Views