APS Press Conferences Highlight New Nanoscale Technologies and Graphene Applications

The following press conferences will take place during the March Meeting of the American Physical Society (APS), to be held March 15-19, 2010 in the Portland Convention Center.

Journalists are invited to attend the meeting free of charge. Registration information can be found at the end of this release.

MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCES

Monday, March 15, 9:00 a.m.

TOPOLOGICAL INSULATORS

This briefing highlights one of the most exciting topics in condensed matter physics. In specially prepared semiconducting samples, tiny currents of magnetic spins and electric charges move with much reduced dissipation of energy -- and at room temperature. At first only a prediction, the movement of energy-preserving currents has now been demonstrated in the lab. Since heat dissipation in microcircuits is the leading obstacle to maintaining Moore's law (the ability of microchips doubles about every 18 months), these new materials -- a 3D extension of the 2D quantum spin Hall effect -- might play a big role in future electronics. Just as important, these new materials will help facilitate the establishment of spintronics, that analog to electronics where information can be processed in terms of spins, not just charges. These materials, insulating on the inside but conducting on the outside, operate without the need for low temperatures or high magnetic field.

At this briefing, scientists from the United States, China, and Germany will report on physical measurements of the materials (verifying reduced dissipation) and on turning the materials into the kinds of structures -- nanoribbons, nanocrystals, and thin films -- needed to make eventual devices. Last but not least is the expectation that these quantum-spin-Hall materials will support the creation of exotic particles (axions and monopoles), which mimic the exotic particles in the early universe.

Speakers: Shou-Cheng Zhang (Stanford University), Yi Cui (Stanford University), and Qi-Kun Xue (Tsinghua University), all from session B2; and Laurens Molenkamp (University of Wurzburg), a speaker from the tutorial session on Sunday. Many other fine talks will be presented on this topic at the meeting.

Monday, March 15th, 10:00 a.m.

THE PHYSICS OF GLOBAL CATASTROPHES AND COUNTERMEASURES

In the last book of the New Testament, four horsemen appear whose presence signals apocalypse and whose characters are widely interpreted as allegories for catastrophic human ills -- such as pestilence, war, famine, and death. In session B8, "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Redux," a panel of distinguished scientists will revisit these ancient themes from the modern perspective of network analysis. "The purpose of the session," says chair John W. Clark of Washington University in St. Louis, "will be to communicate what advances in our understanding of the topology and dynamics of complex networks have taught us that may help the world in coping with potential global catastrophes, including pandemics, terrorism/nuclear holocaust, economic collapse, and environmental doom."

SPEAKERS: Mark Newman (University of Michigan), Alessandro Vespignani (Indiana University), Kathleen Carley (Carnegie Mellon University), Jonathan Katz (Washington University in St. Louis), and H. Eugene Stanley (Boston University).

Monday, March 15th, 11:15 a.m.

SILICON PHOTONICS: INTEGRATING OPTICS AND ELECTRONICS

For the last half century, silicon-based microelectronics has been the engine that drove the modern information revolution. The $100 billion silicon industry that produces microprocessors, dense memory circuits, and other digital and analog electronics mainly serves a single goal -- to process more and more data faster and faster using smaller and smaller components. Along the way in this everlasting quest for speed, the industry has faced many obstacles, including several that were once considered insurmountable roadblocks, but all of them were successfully overcome by introducing new technologies. So what are the next critical problems in the evolution of modern microelectronics?

One of the biggest obstacles faced today is the physical limitation of metallic electrical interconnects in electronic systems, which are limited both by density and by energy dissipation. One of the proposed solutions is a merger of electronics and photonics into an integrated dual-functional platform -- the optoelectronic integrated circuit (OEIC) – fabricated using the existing silicon infrastructure. Session A5 looks at some of the trailblazing technological solutions that use silicon photonic interconnects, which are clearing the way for the steady march of speedy gadgets.

SPEAKERS: David A. B. Miller (Stanford University) will describe the physical requirements and opportunities for dense optical interconnects to chips. Lars Thylen (Swedish Royal Institute of Technology, currently visiting Hewlett-Packard Labs) will discuss the possibilities of pursuing the "Moore's law" like development for photonic devices we have seen over the past few decades. Ashok V. Krishnamoorthy (Oracle) will present a design of a microsystem that uses silicon photonic interconnects to enable a highly compact supercomputer-scale system.


TUESDAY PRESS CONFERENCES

Tuesday, March 16th, 11:00 a.m.

THE PHYSICS OF HOVERING FLIGHT, COUGHS, AND FAIR WEATHER CLOUDS

Some of nature's most fascinating phenomena -- from clouds forming to insects hovering to droplets of saliva filled with influenza viruses floating in the office environment-- represent different types of turbulent fluid flows. The field of fluid dynamics deals with these and many other types of flows and helps to inform fields as diverse as aerospace and industrial hygiene. Session L42 examines a number of these practical examples and details what the latest breakthroughs measuring and modeling them is telling us about their nature.

SPEAKERS: Bin Liu (New York University) will discuss the keys to free and stable hovering of asymetric bodies -- work that is shedding light on the flight of hovering insects. John McLaughlin (Clarkson University) will present the first direct numerical simulation of the air velocity field and particle trajectories in a room -- looking at how particles spread in an office environment. Yong Wang (University of California, Los Angeles) will describe the physics that leads to the "cauliflower" shape of fair weather clouds.

Tuesday, March 16th, 12:00 noon

THE MECHANICS OF CELLS AND MOLECULAR MOTORS: A NEW CONTROVERSY

The "intracellular" soup of material inside living cells is one of the most complex fluids known to science -- an almost impossibly complicated mixture of proteins, salts, and fatty acids, and numerous other molecules that coexist, interact, and play fundamental roles determining the fate of the cell. The interactions between these cellular materials with the environment surrounding the cells may hold some of the keys to understanding fundamental biological phenomenon that can aid in drug discovery, disease prevention, and the treatment of terminally ill patients. Fluid dynamicists and biomechanicians study the nature of this active soft material and the role it plays in processes ranging from the metastatic migration of cancer cells to the development of atherosclerosis.

A new controversy has arisen recently over how protein assemblies known as "molecular motors" in this fluid give rise to certain mechanical properties of cells -- such as shape and motility. Recent theories in the field suggest that molecular motors play a crucial role in determining these properties. New experimental data in live cells suggests they do not. In Session L6, scientists from both camps will debate the evidence and discuss the possible design of future drugs that modulate the mechanical properties of the cytoskeleton by regulating the activation of these motors.

SPEAKERS: Alex Levine (University of California, Los Angeles), Mohammad Mofrad (University of California, Berkeley), Muhammad H. Zaman (Boston University), Dennis Wirtz (Johns Hopkins University), and Juan C. del Alamo (University of California, San Diego).

Tuesday, March 16th, 1:00 p.m.

THIN FILM ORGANIC ELECTRONICS

The emerging field of organic electronics promises a future of electronic components composed of relatively inexpensive polymers (essentially, plastics) rather than the traditional silicon. This offers the potential for making low cost LED lighting, digital displays and solar cells as well as enabling futuristic electronic devices such as see-through cell phones or flexible computer monitors. How soon consumers will realize these novel applications depends in part on how well physicists, chemists, and material scientists can learn to control and fine tune the properties of organic electronics. This press conference will focus on the development of new experimental and theoretical procedures for enhancing the performance of thin film organic materials and polymers -- in the pursuit of futuristic device applications.

SPEAKERS: From Session L29, Yang Yang (University of California, Los Angeles), Rigoberto Advincula (University of Houston), and Claudia Ambrosch-Draxl (University of Leoben in Austria). From Session L17, Yueh-Lin Loo (Princeton University).


WEDNESDAY PRESS CONFERENCES

Wednesday, March 17th, 9:00 a.m.

PHYSICS FOR DISEASE DETECTION

Sessions Q10 and T10 feature several talks on new "biochips" -- a type of technology that has emerged in the last decade for the rapid and sensitive detection of diseases. These devices offer the possibility of smaller and less expensive disposable kits that can detect disease even in people with no symptoms by looking for disease markers in, for example, a drop of blood, saliva, or urine.

Detecting diseases is a powerful tool in modern medicine because many diseases, including cancer (the #2 killer in the United States), are often treated more successfully when detected in their earliest stages. Worldwide, there is a profound need to find better ways of detecting diseases in order to help curtail the spread of infections like tuberculosis, AIDS, and diarrheal diseases. This is not always a simple task because the majority of the people suffering from these diseases reside in developing countries, where resources are scarce and per capita health care spending may be no more than a few dollars a year. Public health strategies in the developing world often also need to take into account challenges such as lack of electricity, refrigeration, doctors, and health care facilities of any type. Sessions Q10 and T10 will focus on breakthroughs that may very well hold solutions to these problems.

SPEAKERS: Peter Kiesel of the Palo Alto Research Center will discuss a new hand-held prototype device for low-cost testing of disease progression in HIV/AIDS. John X.J. Zhang, of the University of Texas at Austin will focus on a device that his team has developed to detect rare cancer cells circulating in the bloodstream. Bernhard Weigl of PATH in Seattle will discuss his team's kits for performing nucleic acid tests in low-resource settings. Purdue professor Muhammad Ashraful Alam will discus the general field of biosensors and how the underlying physics relates to the sensitivity and speed of disease detection.

Wednesday, March 17, 10:00 a.m.

ULTRACOLD QUANTUM CHEMISTRY

Because some of the energy that fuels chemical reactions comes from the motion of the reactants, you might expect that chemistry slows down as temperature is reduced. At absolute zero, you might suppose that chemistry stops all together. But this is not the case -- as is shown for the first time by experiments at NIST in Boulder, Colorado. Reactions among KRb molecules not only take place but also can be controlled by adjusting the spin states of the molecules beforehand. The researchers believe that this work represents one of the first manifestations of "quantum chemistry."

Speakers: Jun Ye and Deborah Jin, both of NIST/JILA/University of Colorado and Paul S. Julienne of the Joint Quantum Institute, NIST and the University of Maryland

Wednesday, March 17, 12:30 p.m.

NANOSCALE ENERGY

New technologies designed at the nanoscale may help to meet the world's huge and growing energy demand. This press conference will feature rechargeable lithium batteries filled with new solid materials designed to extend the number of years these batteries can keep their charge; carbon ultracapacitors with very high energy and power densities; and AC/DC power converters for the Army smaller than the width of a human hair.

Speakers: Nitash Balsara of the University of California, Berkeley, Saikat Talapatra of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale and Shashi Karna of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory.

Wednesday, March 17, 2:30 p.m.

DIGITIZED BASEBALL

The PITCH f/x tracking system relies on several fixed cameras to record the complete 3D trajectory of pitched baseballs in Major League Baseball games. The HIT f/x system uses the same cameras to track the initial part of batted ball trajectories. For data-hungry baseball analysts, the data from these new systems are revolutionizing the way the game is studied. Next up: FIELD f/x, in which the movement of every player on the field is tracked along with the full-batted ball trajectory. These data will lead to new insights about the nation's pastime, including new metrics for fielding, the long sought holy grail of baseball analysis.

Speaker: Alan Nathan, physics professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been at the forefront of efforts to extract useful information from the new data, both from a physics perspective and from a baseball analysis perspective.

Wednesday, March 17, 3:30 p.m.

THE MECHANICS OF THE CELL

The field of cell biology has focused for decades on understanding the content of cells -- all the interacting molecules inside and outside of cells, for instance, and the normal and pathological roles they play. In recent years, scientists have also begun to appreciate the importance of what you might call the character of cells -- their shapes, and how these shapes play a critical role in regulating many important biological functions.

Cell shape emerges from a complex system of interactions between a cell's internal "cytoskeletal" framing, its membrane, and the connections it makes to other cells and materials in tissues. Now physicists, biologists, and engineers are beginning to probe the fundamental physical and mechanical forces that drive cell shape and control the character of cell types, ranging from bacteria to human stem cells. Session Q7 focuses on this emerging new field of "cellular mechanics."

SPEAKERS: Dennis Discher (University of Pennsylvania) will describe how the fate of human stem cells can be determined and controlled with different elastic materials. Alex Mogilner (University of California, Davis) will describe the latest theoretical and experimental data, which is untangling the mechanisms whereby cells control their own shapes to achieve movement. K.C. Huang (Stanford University) will discuss a new technique for measuring cell strength and describe how exploiting cell deformations may lead to new ways of targeting bacteria.


THURSDAY PRESS CONFERENCES

Thursday, March 18th, 10:45 a.m.

PHYSICS AND THE NERVOUS SYSTEM

Session V10 will focus on the nervous system and the dynamics of neurons, the cells in the body behind everything from mental processes to motor activity. The session features both basic studies on the activity, control, and dynamics of firing neurons as well as research aimed at mimicking, altering, or controlling neuronal activity.

SPEAKERS: In Session V10, Eshel Ben-Jacob (Tel Aviv University) will describe a new technology for interfacing with neurons -- a "brain chip" that he and his colleagues hope will help to control epileptic seizures, much as a pacemaker regulates the beating of a heart. J. Leo van Hemmen (TU Muenchen in Germany) will describe an underwater robot with a navigation system based on the "lateral line" nerve detectors that blind cave fish use to find their way through murky waters. Rhonda Dzakpasu (Georgetown University) will discuss the balance between excitation and inhibition in cultured neurons, which is essential for normal brain function and may lead to neurological disorders when disrupted. In Session P10, Andrew Leifer (Harvard University) will show the latest results to come from working with genetically altered worms whose movements can be remotely controlled with light.

Thursday, March 18, 12:30 p.m.

NEW GRAPHENE APPLICATIONS

Graphene, the thinnest known material in the universe and the strongest ever measured, is coming into its own as a material for tomorrow's electronics and other applications. This press conference will feature ultra-fast bilayer graphene transistors from researchers at IBM; gigahertz graphene interconnects integrated into commercial CMOS technology; and two-dimensional Teflon created from sheets of graphene.

Speakers: Phaedon Avouris of the IBM Research Center, Helen Xiangyu Chen of Stanford University and Andre Geim of the University of Manchester.

Source: http://www.aip.org/

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