News

EPJ D Highlight - Enabling longer space missions

A Hall thruster in operation. Image by the user Dstaak at Wikimedia Commons .

Hall thrusters, which are already used to propel spacecraft and satellites on long missions, could be used for even longer ones if models for minimising surface erosion were taken into account.

The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing has reignited interest in space travel. However, almost any mission beyond the moon, whether manned or unmanned, will require the spacecraft to remain fully operational for at least several years. The Hall thruster is a propulsion system that is often used by craft involved in long missions. A recent study by Andrey Shashkov and co-workers at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Russia has shown how the operating lives of these systems can be further extended; their work was recently published in EPJ D.

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EPJ D Highlight - Quantum momentum

Schemes for measuring time-of-flight in classical mechanics (top) and quantum mechanics (bottom). In quantum mechanics, the classical particle is represented by a wave packet. Values of X indicate position and t time.

A new quantum-mechanical model has been developed that allows the momentum of quantum particles to be measured using a variant of the classical time-of-flight.

Quantum mechanics is an extraordinarily successful way of understanding the physical world at extremely small scales. Through it, a handful of rules can be used to explain the majority of experimentally observable phenomena. Occasionally, however, we come across a problem in classical mechanics that poses particular difficulties for translation into the quantum world. A new study published in EPJ D has provided some insights into one of them: momentum. The authors, theoretical physicists Fabio Di Pumpo and Matthias Freyberger from Ulm University, Germany, present an elegant mathematical model of quantum momentum that is accessible through another classical concept: time-of-flight.

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EPJ B Highlight - Entropy explains RNA diffusion rates in cells

RNA molecules diffuse in characteristic ways. https://commons.wikimedia.org/ wiki/File:50S-subunit_of_the_ ribosome_3CC2.png

Mathematical analysis reveals that the exponential patterns in RNA diffusion rates linked to small-scale diffusive behaviours

Recent studies have revealed that within cells of both yeast and bacteria, the rates of diffusion of RNA proteins – complex molecules that convey important information throughout the cell – are distributed in characteristic exponential patterns. As it turns out, these patterns display the highest possible degree of disorder, or ‘entropy’, of all possible diffusion processes within the cell. In new research published in EPJ B, Yuichi Itto at Aichi Institute of Technology in Japan explores this behaviour further by zooming in to study local fluctuations in the diffusion rates of RNA proteins. By associating these small-scale diffusion rates with time-varying values for entropy, he finds that the rates of change of entropy in certain time intervals are larger in areas with higher RNA diffusion rates.

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EPJ Data Science Highlight - Women’s disadvantage: because of who they are, or what they do?

Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

Women often find themselves strongly disadvantaged in the field of software development, in particular when it comes to open source. In a study recently published in EPJ Data Science, Orsolya Vasarhelyi and Balazs argue that this disadvantage stems from gendered behavior rather than categorical discrimination: women are at a disadvantage because of what they do, rather than because of who they are.

Continue reading the guest post by Orsolya Vasarhelyi and Balazs Vedres on the SpringerOpen blog.

EPJ D Highlight - Chemotherapy drugs react differently to radiation while in water

Chemotherapy medication reacts to radiation. Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

A new study looked at the way certain molecules found in chemotherapy drugs react to radiation while in water, which is more similar to in the body, compared to previous research that studied them in gas

Cancer treatment often involves a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Chemotherapy uses medication to stop cancer cells reproducing, but the medication affects the entire body. Radiotherapy uses radiation to kill the cancer cells, and it is targeted to the tumour site. In a recent study, published in the journal EPJ D, researchers from the Leopold-Franzens-University Innsbruck, Austria, studied selected molecules of relevance in this context. They wanted to see how these molecules were individually affected by radiation similar to that used in radiotherapy.

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EPJ B Highlight - Spinning towards robust microwave generation on the nano scale

Snapshots of an ensemble of 100 spin-torque oscillators at different points in time, plotting values of inductance (L) against capacitance (C). Red dots show individual oscillators.

New study explains why it is not possible to couple nano-scale microwave generators known as spin-torque oscillators together in series to generate a macroscopic strength signal

Spin-torque oscillators (STOs) are nanoscale devices that generate microwaves using changes in magnetic field direction, but those produced by any individual device are too weak for practical applications. Physicists have attempted - and, to date, consistently failed - to produce reliable microwave fields by coupling large ensembles. Michael Zaks from Humboldt University of Berlin and Arkady Pikovsky from the University of Potsdam in Germany have now shown why connecting these devices in series cannot succeed, and, at the same time, suggested other paths to explore. Their work was recently published in EPJ B.

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EPJ E Highlight - Optimising structures within complex arrangements of bubbles

Optimising an arrangement of five bubbles.

Computer simulations reveal how groups of bubbles with two different areas can be optimised to minimise the lengths of the edges at which they touch, potentially allowing for stronger, cheaper structures which emulate bubbly foams.

While structures which emulate foam-like arrangements of bubbles are lightweight and cheap to build, they are also remarkably stable. The bubbles which cover the iconic Beijing Aquatics Centre, for example, each have the same volume, but are arranged in a way which minimises the total area of the structure – optimising the building’s construction. The mathematics underlying this behaviour is now well understood, but if the areas of the bubbles are not equal, the situation becomes more complicated. Ultimately, this makes it harder to make general statements about how the total surface area or, in 2D, edge length, or ‘perimeter’, can be minimised to optimise structural stability. In new research published in EPJ E, Francis Headley and Simon Cox at Aberystwyth University in the UK explore how different numbers of 2D bubbles of two different areas can be arranged within circular discs, in ways which minimise their perimeters.

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EPJ B Highlight - New insights into the early stages of creep deformation

Varying strain patterns during creep deformation.

Computer simulations show that the evolution of material structures during creep deformation can modify material properties.

The properties of many materials can change permanently when they are pushed beyond their limits. When a given material is subjected to a force, or ‘load’, which is stronger than a certain limit, it can become so deformed that it won’t return to its original shape, even after the load is removed. However, heavy loads aren’t strictly necessary to deform materials irreversibly; this can also occur if they are subjected to lighter loads over long periods of time, allowing a slow process called ‘creep’ to take place. Physicists have understood for some time that this behaviour involves sequences of small, sudden deformations, but until now, they have lacked a full understanding of how creep deformation affects material properties over time. In new research published in EPJ B, Michael Zaiser and David Castellanos at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany analysed the characteristic ways in which material structures evolve during the early stages of creep deformation.

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EPJ D Highlight - Laser solitons: theory, topology and potential applications

The collision of two laser solitons to form a rotating chain of three.

A group of Russian physicists reviews recent developments in the field of laser solitons, which they have made their own and which may have applications in digital information storage.

In almost all situations, even in a vacuum, light cannot travel endlessly without dissipating. Pulses of light known as solitons that propagate along fibres for long distances without changing their shape or losing focus have found applications in data transmission, but even these gradually dissipate unless the medium they travel through has ultra-low absorbance. Nikolay Rosanov of the National Research University of Information Technologies, Mechanics, and Optics (ITMO), St. Petersburg, Russia and his team have been working on a solution to this problem - laser solitons - since the 1980s; a colloquium paper summarising their recent work in this area has now been published in EPJ D.

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EPJ E Highlight - Improving heat recycling with the thermodiffusion effect

Recycling heat using falling films.

Numerical simulations of the thermodiffusion effect within falling film absorbers reveal that thin films composed of liquid mixtures with negative thermodiffusion coefficients enhance the efficiency of heat recycling

Absorption heat transformers can effectively reuse the waste heat generated in various industries. In these devices, specialised liquids form thin films as they flow downward due to gravity. These liquid films can absorb vapour, and the heat is then extracted by a coolant so that it can be used in future processes. So far, however, there has been little research into how the performance of these films is influenced by the thermodiffusion effect – a behaviour seen in mixtures, where different types of mixture respond differently to the same temperature gradient. In a study recently published in EPJ E, researchers from the Fluid Mechanics group at Mondragon University and Tecnalia in Spain, led by M. M. Bou-Ali at Mondragon University, pooled their expertise in transport phenomena and absorption technology. Together, they explored for the first time the influence of the thermodiffusion property on the absorption, temperature and concentration profiles of falling films.

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Editors-in-Chief
Pere Roca i Cabarrocas and Daniel Lincot
ISSN: 2105-0716 (Electronic Edition)

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