Institute of Physics
Institute of Physics Articles
Electron spin relaxation can enhance magnetic compass sensors
Reporting their results in the New Journal of Physics, scientists have taken a step forwards in unravelling the inner workings of the avian compass - a puzzle that has captivated researchers for decades. The team, led by a group at Oxford University, is exploring the popular hypothesis that birds orientate themselves thanks to light-induced, magnetically sensitive chemical reactions, which take place in proteins known as cryptochromes present in ...
Breath analysis aims to reduce unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions
The overuse of antibiotics gives harmful bacteria the opportunity to evolve into drug resistant strains that threaten health care. To help tackle the problem, scientists in China have begun a pilot study examining biomarkers exhaled by patients. The team’s goal is to develop an efficient (fast, accurate, painless and affordable) test that will assist doctors in prescribing antibiotics only when the treatment is absolutely necessary.
Prodding leukemia cells with nanoprobes could provide cancer clues
Giving blood cells a gentle squeeze can reveal a great deal about their health. To find out more, researchers in France have used a tiny force probe to compare the mechanical responses of healthy and cancerous hematopoietic cells (biological structures that help to renew blood in the body).
Theoretical tiger chases statistical sheep
Studying the way that solitary hunters such as tigers, bears or sea turtles chase down their prey turns out to be very useful in understanding the interaction between individual white blood cells and colonies of bacteria. Reporting their results in the Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and Theoretical, researchers in Europe have created a numerical model that explores this behaviour in more detail.
Using statistics to predict rogue waves
Scientists have developed a mathematical model to derive the probability of extreme waves. This model uses multi-point statistics, the joint statistics of multiple points in time or space, to predict how likely extreme waves are. The results, published in the New Journal of Physics, demonstrate that evolution of these probabilities obey a well-known function, greatly reducing the complexity of the results.
Satellite alerts can track small-scale deforestation
With data from satellites, there is generally a trade-off between resolution and the frequency of updates. This is the reason why most of the alerts already on Global Forest Watch, an interactive online forest monitoring and alert system designed to empower people everywhere with the information they need to better manage and conserve forest landscapes, are 500 or 250m resolution.
Creating a mechanical sponge for clearing oil spills
Scientists at the Istituto Italiano di Technologia (IIT), Italy, have found that an interconnected structure, through which water can easily flow, is key to creating a highly effective mechanical sponge for clearing oil spills. Their findings are published in the Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics.
A carbon fee is needed to tackle climate change
A new study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters reports that current rising temperatures already noticeably load the ‘climate dice’, with growing practical impacts. As a bottom line, lead author Dr James Hansen, argues that a carbon fee is needed to spur replacement of carbon fuels with clean energy.
Saliva test for rapid diagnosis of poisoning
Scientists at Loughborough University and the University of Cordoba have developed a new method for the rapid diagnosis of poisoning in apparently drunk patients. The saliva-based test offers the potential to screen for poisons commonly associated with the cheap or imitation manufacture of alcohol and γ-hydroxybutyric acid - the so-called ‘date rape’ drug GHB.The results are published in the Journal of Breath Research.
Autonomous glider copies kestrels to climb higher
Taking inspiration from the way kestrels hover above their prey, researchers at the RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia have developed an autonomous fixed-wing Micro Air Vehicle (MAV) that can gain height from convenient updrafts. The results are published in the journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics.
A fishy tale of a sheep in wolf’s clothing
Scientists have developed a technique to perform dietary analysis of fish by analysing microscopic tooth wear. The process, which involves taking moulds of the teeth similar to those a dentist might take, used focus variation microscopy to digitally capture details of the tooth surfaces, zooming in to an area just 1/7th of a mm in width, around the same as that of a human hair.
Neural stimulation offers treatment for ‘dry eye’
Scientists have developed a device that electronically stimulates tear production, which will offer hope to sufferers of 'dry eye' syndrome, one of the most common eye diseases in the world. The device, 16mm long, 3-4mm wide and 1-2mm thick, was implanted beneath the inferior lacrimal gland in rabbit eyes. It was activated wirelessly and shown to increase the generation of tears by nearly 57%.
Using cycling to explain why physics isn’t a drag
Scientists and teachers have combined to develop a simple spreadsheet-based method of teaching aerodynamic drag to 14 and 15 year olds. By measuring the speed of one of their classmates riding a bike, taking a photo to in order to measure the frontal area of the cyclist, the students were able to calculate the drag co-efficient. The results are published in the journal Physics Education.
3D printing uniform ‘blocks’ of embryonic stem cells
Scientists from Tsinghua University, Beijing, and Drexel University, Philadelphia, have developed a 3D printing method capable of producing highly uniform ‘blocks’ of embryonic stem cells. These cells, which are capable of generating any and all cell types in the body, could be used as the ‘lego bricks’ to build tissue constructs, larger structures of tissues and potentially even micro-organs.
Detecting pilot hypoxia in-flight & in real-time
United States researchers, led by the Air Force Research Laboratory, 711th Human Performance Wing, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, replicated a fairly standard ‘hypoxic’ event. Volunteers were exposed to 5 minutes of reduced oxygen levels to simulate higher altitudes, followed by 5 minutes at 100% oxygen ‘recovery’. This is a typical response protocol to in-flight hypoxia.
Scanner offers real-time 3D breast cancer screening
Scientists, working primarily at Florida International University, have developed a hand-held optical scanner with the potential to offer breast cancer imaging in real time. As reported today in the journal Biomedical Physics & Engineering Express, the device uses a near-infrared laser diode source to produce an image of the breast tissues.
Robots tread lightly to stay fast on soft ground
Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology, University of California at Berkeley and Northwestern University, have reported that soft steps and large feet can allow animals and robots to maintain high speeds on very loose soil and sand. The findings, reported in the journal Bioinspiration & Biomechanics, offer a new insight into how animals respond to different terrain and how robots can learn from them.
3D ‘micro-printed’ needles can deliver drugs
Researchers at the University of Akron, USA, and the University of Texas, USA, have developed a new technique to produce a 3D ‘micro-printed’ array of needles which are capable of drug delivery. The pain-free drug delivery device would allow drugs to diffuse within the body as the biomaterial device degrades, offering treatments for a wide range of diseases, including melanoma cancers.
Tissue-engineered 'liver' enables fast drug testing
Scientists have developed a new technique that produces a user friendly, low cost, tissue-engineered pseudo-organ, publishing the results in the journal Biofabrication. The chip-based model produces a faithful mimic of the in vivo liver inside a scalable fluid-handling device, demonstrating proof of principle for toxicology tests and opening up potential use in drug testing and personalised medicine.
Using magnetic permeability to store information
Scientists have made promising steps in developing a new magnetic memory technology, which is far less susceptible to corruption by magnetic fields or thermal exposure than conventional devices. The findings report the use of magnetic permeability, how easily a magnetic field will magnetise a material, and are published in the Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics.