2017 Impact factor 0.519
Historical Perspectives on Contemporary Physics

EPJ B Highlight - Intelligent metamaterials behave like electrostatic chameleons

Chameleon-like behaviour.

Metashells can adapt their wave-bending behaviour based on the characteristics of the material they contain

A chameleon can flexibly change its colour to match its surroundings. And a similar phenomenon can now be seen in a new class of smart materials called metamaterials. The trouble is that these metamaterials lack the ability to respond to nearby objects due to their physical characteristics. To remedy this shortcoming, Chinese physicists have developed so-called 'metashells': hollow shells made of metamaterials and capable of carrying materials in their core. The advantage is that their physical characteristics, such as permittivity - the extent to which a material can store charge within an electrical field - change with the electromagnetic properties of the material they contain. In a recent theoretical study published in EPJ B, Liujun Xu and Jiping Huang from Fudan University in Shanghai, China, describe how they have developed an entire class of these chameleon-like metashells.

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EPJ B Highlight - New university ranking system includes the cultural perspective

Network of friends of top 20 PageRank universities from the French Wikipedia edition.

A new study proposes a new way of ranking universities, using a more balanced cultural view and based on 24 international editions of Wikipedia

Scientists in France have developed a new way of generating a ranking of the world’s universities that places more emphasis on the cultural perspective. In a recent study published in EPJ B, Célestin Coquidé and José Lages, affiliated with the multidisciplinary research institute UTINAM in Besançon, and Dima Shepelyansky from the CNRS in Toulouse, France, perform an analysis of Wikipedia editions in 24 languages, collected in May 2017 - previous studies pursuing a similar approach focused on data from 2013. Employing well-known ranking algorithms, they establish a Wikipedia Ranking of World Universities based on the relative cultural views of each of the 24 language-specific Wikipedia editions. Thus, they provide a more balanced view that reflects the standpoints of different cultures.

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EPJ B Highlight - Holey graphene as Holy Grail alternative to silicon chips

Total magnetic moments of triangular holes in graphene.

Novel spintronics applications could stem from introducing holes into graphene to form triangular antidot lattices, granting the material new magnetic properties

Graphene, in its regular form, does not offer an alternative to silicon chips for applications in nanoelectronics. It is known for its energy band structure, which leaves no energy gap and no magnetic effects. Graphene antidot lattices, however, are a new type of graphene device that contain a periodic array of holes - missing several atoms in the otherwise regular single layer of carbon atoms. This causes an energy band gap to open up around the baseline energy level of the material, effectively turning graphene into a semiconductor. In a new study published in EPJ B, Iranian physicists investigate the effect of antidot size on the electronic structure and magnetic properties of triangular antidots in graphene. Zahra Talebi Esfahani from Payame Noor University in Tehran, Iran, and colleagues have confirmed the existence of a band gap opening in such antidot graphene lattices, which depends on the electron’s spin degree of freedom, and which could be exploited for applications like spin transistors. The authors perform simulations using holes that are shaped like right and equilateral triangles, to explore the effects of both the armchair-shaped and zigzag-shaped edges of graphene holes on the material’s characteristics.

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EPJ B Highlight - Preventing concrete bridges from falling apart

Cement bridges can be degraded by environmental factors. Photo by Simone Hutsch on Unsplash

Concrete degradation from sulfuric acid can be avoided by finding ways of preventing its gas precursor from adsorbing into concrete

Extremes of temperature, rain, exposure to corrosive substances - all of these environmental factors contribute to the degradation of concrete. Specifically, a gas present in our environment, called hydrogen sulphide, turns into sulphuric acid, a corrosive substance, when combined with rainwater. In a new study published in EPJ B, Matthew Lasich from Mangosuthu University of Technology, Durban, South Africa, examines the adverse consequences of the adsorption of natural gas constituents found in our environment - and mixtures of several such gases -into one of the materials that make up concrete: cement hydrate. Lasich found that the preservation of concrete infrastructure from the corrosive effects would require a pre-treatment targeting the adsorption sites in cement hydrate, where the majority of hydrogen sulphide molecules become attached. However, this approach could prove difficult because of their wide distribution.

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EPJ B Colloquium - The strong disorder renormalization group (SDRG) method for random systems

Structure of connected clusters at the critical point of the 2D RTIM

The strong disorder renormalization group (SDRG) approach has been developed to study the low-energy excitations and spatial and temporal correlations of random systems. Since 2005 it has been extended in many new directions and beyond its initial scope. In this EPJ B Colloquium Ferenc Iglói and Cécile Monthus give an overview of the many recent developments.

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EPJ B Highlight - Factors affecting turbulence scaling

Stability regions calculated by a model for a given compressibility.

Study focuses on hydrodynamic effects of external disturbances on fluids at critical points, including inconsistent turbulence in all directions, or anisotropy, and varying degrees of compressibility

Fluids exhibiting scaling behaviour can be found in diverse physical phenomena occurring both in the laboratory and in real-world conditions. For instance, they occur at the critical point when a liquid becomes a vapour, at the phase transition of superfluids, and at the phase separation of binary liquids whose components exhibit two different types of behaviour.

Until now, models have not fully taken the effect of external turbulences into account. In a recent study published in EPJ B, Michal Hnatič from Šafárik University in Košice, Slovakia and colleagues investigate the influence of ambient turbulent speed fluctuations in physical systems when they reach a critical point. These fluctuations are found to be the result of a lack of spatial regularity in these systems, or anisotropy, and of the compressibility of fluids. What is unique about this study is that the turbulence introduced in the model is novel and helps to elucidate the extent to which the speed of these fluctuations affects their scaling behaviour.

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EPJ B Colloquium - A retrospective on Hardy Gross’ work

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In this EPJ B Colloquium, Carlos Fiolhais offers a brief retrospective on the important scientific contributions of Hardy Gross during 25 productive years of his career, from 1976, when he published the first paper his doctoral years, until 2000, when he moved from Würzburg to Berlin. Fiolhais traces all of Gross’ publications and points out the most impressive scientific achievements, punctuating the physics with episodes from the life of Hardy Gross and other physicists in his circle, which adds extra colour to this piece.

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EPJ B Highlight - Freeloaders beware: incentives to foster cooperation are just around the corner

Rewards can convince people to cooperate in society. Photo by Hanny Naibaho on Unsplash

Numerical simulations show that it is possible to coerce people to collaborate for the common good

In our society, there are always a certain percentage of people who adopt a freeloader attitude. They let other members of society do all the work and do not do their part. By not contributing their share of effort, to the detriment of the rest of society, freeloaders pose a serious social threat, and can even lead to social collapse. In a new study published in EPJ B, Chunpeng Du from Yunnan University of Finance and Economics, Kunming, China, and colleagues show that it is possible to incentivise members of society to cooperate by providing them fixed bonuses and, thus, prevent freeloader behaviour from becoming prevalent.

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EPJ B Highlight - Precise electron spin control yields faster memory storage

Top panel shows a 2D view of spin dynamics for bulk nickel..

New ultra-fast laser method aims to improve control over the electron’s degree of freedom, called spins, could enhance memory storage devices

Data storage devices are not improving as fast as scientists would like. Faster and more compact memory storage devices will become a reality when physicists gain precise control of the spins of electrons. They typically rely on ultra-short lasers to control spins. However, improvement of storage devices via spin control requires first to develop ways of controlling the forces acting on these electronic spins. In a recent study published in EPJ B, John Kay Dewhurst and colleagues, have developed a new theory to predict the complex dynamics of spin procession once a material is subjected to ultra-short laser pulses. The advantage of this approach, which takes into account the effect of internal spin rotation forces, is that it is predictive.

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EPJ B Highlight - Clearer vision of the biochemical reaction that allows us to see

Probability of the nuclei crossing the energy barrier over time.

Physicists develop improved algorithms for simulating how complex molecules respond to excitation by photons, and explaining what happens when photons hit our eyes

What makes it possible for our eyes to see? It stems from a reaction that occurs when photons come into contact with a protein in our eyes, called rhodopsin, which adsorbs the photons making up light. In a paper published in EPJ B, Federica Agostini, University Paris-Sud, Orsay, France, and colleagues propose a refined approximation of the equation that describes the effect of this photo-excitation on the building blocks of molecules. Their findings also have implications for other molecules, such as azobenzene, a chemical used in dyes. The incoming photon triggers certain reactions, which can result, over time, in dramatic changes in the properties of the molecule itself. This study was included in a special anniversary issue of EPJB in honour of Hardy Gross.

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Managing Editors
W. Beiglböck and F. Guerra
ISSN (Print Edition): 2102-6459
ISSN (Electronic Edition): 2102-6467

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