This week among the most important physics news we can find the solution of the strange riddle of the strangely behaving magnetic material, the new table-sized particle accelerator built by scientists at the University of Texas, Austin and the confirmed “quantum behavior” of plants. As always, if you would like to receive these news and other physics related stuff straight to your email, register for our email newsletter.
1. A Particle Accelerator That Can Fit on a Tabletop (June 20)
A new table-sized particle accelerator has been built by scientists at the University of Texas, Austin. The tiny accelerator is capable of producing speeds and energies that were previously only possible by large and expensive particle accelerators.
“We have accelerated about half a billion electrons to 2 gigaelectronvolts over a distance of about 1 inch,” said Mike Downer, professor of physics in the College of Natural Sciences. “Until now that degree of energy and focus has required a conventional accelerator that stretches more than the length of two football fields. It’s a downsizing of a factor of approximately 10,000.” More about the discovery here.
Plants have been shown to employ quantum mechanics
2. A Solution to a Riddle of Magnetic Material (June 21)
Most materials tend to lose magnetism at higher temperatures, however, the compound of lanthanum, cobalt and oxygen (LaCoO3) is a non-magnetic semiconductor at low temperatures, yet, as the temperature is raised, it becomes magnetic. “The material has attracted a lot of attention since about 1957, when people started picking it up and really studying it,” said Bruce Harmon, senior scientist at Ames Laboratory. “Since then, there have been over 2000 pertinent papers published.”
Now the material scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory have found an accurate way to explain the magnetic properties of a compound. We found that the total electronic energy of the lattice depends sensitively on that distortion,” explained Harmon. “If the distortion becomes smaller (the crystal moves closer to becoming cubic), the magnetic state of the crystal switches from non-magnetic to a state with 1.3 Bohr magnetons per Co atom.” More about the discovery here.
3. Plants Go Quantum (June 21)
For a long time scientists have played with an idea that certain quantum effects can be employed by plants and now, this idea was backed up. According to a new report published at Science, an effect called a “coherence” helps determine the most efficient path for the photons that are converted to energy by plants. The importance of the work lies in the fact that, for a long time, the quantum effects have been studied in cold temperatures and low pressures — observing quantum effects in plants seemed unlikely. The results, however, suggest that plants do indeed employ certain effects, which paves the way for the emerging field of quantum biology. More on the discovery here.