2023 Impact factor 0.8
Historical Perspectives on Contemporary Physics


EPJ Web of Conferences Highlight - ECNS 2023: European Conference on Neutron Scattering 2023

Neutron scientists at the ECNS2023 in Garching.

The 8th edition of the ECNS conference took place from 20th to 23rd of March 2023, at the TUM Department of Mechanical Engineering and at the new Science Congress Center Munich, both located in the immediate vicinity of the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Zentrum (MLZ) at Garching, Germany.

The conference brought together the community of neutron scientists from Europe, but also from America, Asia and Australia. Many new and exciting topics and developments stimulated lively scientific discussions in a vibrant and constructive atmosphere.


EPJ Plus Highlight - Beyond the Periodic Table: Superheavy Elements and Ultradense Asteroids

Graph showing the densities of all elements from Z=1 to 100, with the heavy metals labelled with red triangles. The red triangle at the top right is osmium (Z=76), the element with the highest experimentally measured mass density.

Predictions of the behaviour of super-heavy elements that have not yet been observed on Earth may help explain the properties of dense asteroids further motivating potential asteroid miners.

Some asteroids have measured densities higher than those of any elements known to exist on Earth. This suggests that they are at least partly composed of unknown types of ‘ultradense’ matter that cannot be studied by conventional physics. Jan Rafelski and his team at the Department of Physics, The University of Arizona, Tucson, USA, suggest that this could consist of superheavy elements with atomic number (Z) higher than the limit of the current Periodic Table. They modelled the properties of such elements using the Thomas-Fermi model of atomic structure, concentrating particularly on a proposed ‘island of nuclear stability’ at and around Z=164 and extending their method further to include more exotic types of ultra-dense material. This work has now been published in EPJ Plus.


EPJ D Highlight - Creating optical logic gates from graphene nanoribbons

Logic gate operation in a graphene nanoribbon

A new graphene-based optical logic gate uses collective oscillations of electrons to process light waves in a far smaller space than existing designs. The device also benefits from low information loss and high stability.

Research into artificial intelligence (AI) network computing has made significant progress in recent years, but has so far been held back by the limitations of logic gates in conventional computer chips. Through new research published in EPJ D, a team led by Aijun Zhu at Guilin University of Electronic Technology, China, introduce a graphene-based optical logic gate, which addresses many of these challenges.


EPJ E Highlight – Toward a Fast-Switching Liquid Crystal

Chiral molecules organize into a liquid crystal Credit: Kumar et al. 2023.

Combining a bulky chain with a stable polymer can enhance liquid crystal performance

From laptop screens to navigation systems, liquid crystals are ubiquitous in modern life. These materials flow like liquids, but their molecules align with one another in a way that resembles the orientational order of a crystal. Electrically switching between different molecular orientations – or phases – in a liquid crystal changes how the material transmits light, hence their use/utility in visual displays.

In a study published in EPJ E, Ashok Kumar, of Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Kakinada, India, and his colleagues now report on a new design that adds a bulky chemical side chain to a polymer liquid crystal. The approach combines components that, separately, avoid optical degradation and enhance thermal stability; and could lead to improved switching speeds.


EPJ Plus Focus Point Issue: Progress in Medical Physics in Times of CoViD-19 and Related Inflammatory Diseases

Guest editors: E. Cisbani, S. Majewski, A. Gori, F. Garibaldi

COVID-19 is a systemic disease attacking the total body; one of the signatures of the disease is inflammation, an extremely complex phenomenon, in different parts of the body, that can benefit of a multidisciplinary imaging approach. Understanding inflammation is an important step for curing from COVID-19; its role must be understood, in particular for the strategies and technologies to be used against COVID-19, its consequences and potential future pandemics. Among the molecular imaging technologies that can play a central role is the Nuclear Medicine imaging. New advanced technologies that are under development could translate into increased sensitivity of early detection, avoiding the long-term side effects of inflammation. In this context, the Focus Point presents the most promising developments for more effective imaging in Nuclear Medicine. The intrinsic multidisciplinary and the related difficulty to address complex, specific, questions to the different scientific communities have been taken into account in the selection of the contributions, their scientifically sounding relevance and at the same time their capability to be understandable outside their reference discipline.


EPJ Plus Highlight - Introducing the European strategy for accelerator-based photon science (ESAPS 2022)

Timeline of future upgrades

Through new plans detailed in ESAPS 2022, the LEAPS consortium aims to strengthen Europe as a global leader in accelerator-based photon science.

The League of European Accelerator-based Photon Sources (LEAPS) is made up of 19 large-scale synchrotron (SR) and Free-electron Laser (FEL) facilities, situated across 10 European countries. This contribution to the EPJ Plus Focus Point “Accelerator-based Photon Science Strategy, Prospects and Roadmap in Europe: a Forward View to 2030” introduces the European Strategy for Accelerator-based Photon Science (ESAPS 2022): a pan-European plan formulated by LEAPS aimed at addressing the future challenges and needs in science and innovation, which strengthens Europe as a global leader in many areas of research and technology. Through the plans set out in ESAPS 2022, LEAPS could soon provide valuable new resources for more than 35,000 researchers using its facilities today, spanning fields as wide-ranging as materials science, drug design, biochemistry, quantum technology, geology, and planetary science.


EPJ A Highlight - An overview of the management structure of the AGATA collaboration

The AGATA management structure

The AGATA project could eventually lead to a deeper understanding of the strong nuclear force. This paper details the project’s highly sophisticated management structure, which will be essential to achieving this goal.

The Advanced Gamma Tracking Array (AGATA) is a European gamma-ray spectrometer that is already achieving unparalleled levels of sensitivity in nuclear gamma-ray spectroscopy. Ensuring success in the project’s construction and operation has involved developing a highly sophisticated structure of management and organisation. This contribution to the EPJ A topical collection “AGATA: Advancements in Science and Technology” describes the roles and responsibilities of each of AGATA’s management committees, and details the project’s scientific organisation. As AGATA promises to make major breakthroughs in our understanding of the strong nuclear force and nuclear structure in the coming decades, the paper offers a new degree of transparency for the many research groups which stand to benefit from its future discoveries.


EPJ B Highlight - Testing particle scattering and reflection in graphene

Band structures for the left and right ferromagnetic regions. Credit: W. Yan., et al., EPJ B (2023)

Testing the quantum effects of Andreev reflection in the wonder material could have positive implications for quantum technology

Humanity stands on the verge of two major revolutions: the boom in 2-dimensional supermaterials like graphene with incredible properties and the introduction of quantum computers with processing power that vastly outstrips standard computers.

Understanding materials like graphene, made of single sheets of atoms, means better investigations of the properties they display at an atomic level. This includes how electrons behave around superconductors — materials that, when cooled to temperatures near absolute zero, can conduct electricity without energy loss.

When a superconductor is sandwiched between metal materials, a type of scattering called crossed Andreev reflection may appear, and in an s-wave superconductor junction, the Andreev reflection usually induces correlated opposite spin in electrons. This can be used to induce entanglement, a quantum phenomenon that is critical for quantum computers.

In a new paper in EPJ B, author Rui Shen, from the National Laboratory of Solid State Microstructures and School of Physics at Nanjing University, China, and his co-authors theoretically assess nonlocal transport and crossed Andreev reflection in a ferromagnetic s-wave superconductor junction composed of the gapped graphene lattices.


EPJ E Highlight – How hydrophobicity shapes protein assemblies

Hydrophobic dipoles align in parallel. Credit: Angel Mozo-Villarías et al. 2023

Using an electrical analogy, researchers show how a distribution of hydrophobic charges draws proteins into parallel alignment in a macromolecule assembly

Through a nuanced balance of electrical and hydrophobic forces, biological molecules self-assemble into the large functional structures that maintain life’s vital functions. Understanding how proteins self-assemble requires knowledge of both forces. But while predicting the electrical interactions of individual proteins is simple, deriving their hydrophobic ones is less straightforward. In a study published in EPJ E, Angel Mozo-Villarias, of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain, and his colleagues develop a formulation for how proteins align into membrane-like structures based on hydrophobic interactions. The model could help to predict the configuration of macromolecular assemblies at any scale, providing a useful tool for novel materials and drug discovery research.


EPJ D Highlight - Machine learning hunts for the right mix of hydrogen isotopes for future nuclear fusion power plants

The Sun, where nuclear fusion of hydrogen proceeds in a dense plasma. New research uses machine learning to look for the right mix of hydrogen isotopes for technology that replicates this process on Earth. Credit: ESA/NASA/SOHO

New research is an initial step in the use of deep learning to help determine the right mix of hydrogen isotopes to use in fusion power plants of the future

The process that powers the stars, nuclear fusion, is proposed as a future power source for humanity and could provide clean and renewable energy free of the radioactive waste associated with current nuclear fission plants.

Just like the fusion process that sends energy spilling out from the Sun, future nuclear fusion facilities will slam together isotopes of the universe’s lightest element, hydrogen, in an ultra-hot gas or “plasma” contained by a powerful magnetic field to create helium with the difference in mass harvested as energy.

One thing that scientists must know before the true advent of fusion power here on Earth is what mix of hydrogen isotopes  to use— primarily “standard” hydrogen, with one proton in its atomic nucleus, deuterium with one proton and one neutron in its nucleus, and tritium with a nucleus of one proton and two neutrons. This is currently done with spectroscopy for prototype fusion devices called tokamaks, but this analysis can be time-consuming.

In a new paper in EPJ D, author Mohammed Koubiti, Associate Professor at the Aix-Marseille Universite, France, assesses the use of machine learning in connection with plasma spectroscopy to determine the ratios of hydrogen isotopes for nuclear fusion plasma performance.


A. Blum and M. Leone
ISSN (Print Edition): 2102-6459
ISSN (Electronic Edition): 2102-6467

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