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‘Nature’s antifreeze’ provides formula for more durable concrete

Secrets to cementing the sustainability of our future infrastructure may come from nature, such as proteins that keep plants and animals from freezing in extremely cold conditions. CU Boulder researchers have discovered that a synthetic molecule based on natural antifreeze proteins minimizes freeze-thaw damage and increases the strength and durability of concrete, improving the longevity of new infrastructure and decreasing carbon emissions over its lifetime.

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Performing optical logic operations by a diffractive neural network

Optical logical operations have sparked major interest in the past decade since they can enable many applications, particularly those involving high-throughput and on-the-fly data processing such as secured wireless communication and autonomous driving. However, the reported optical logic gates rely heavily on the precise control of input light/pump light, including the phase, polarization, and amplitude. Due to the complexity and difficulty in these precise controls, the two output states may suffer from an inherent instability and a low contrast ratio of intensity. Moreover, the miniaturization of optical logic gates becomes difficult if the extra bulky apparatus for these controls is considered. As such, it is desirable, albeit challenging, to get rid of these complicated controls and to achieve full logic functionality in a compact photonic system.

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Topological insulators feature lossless conduction at the edges

Atomically thin layers of the semimetal tungsten ditelluride conduct electricity losslessly along narrow, one-dimensional channels at the crystal edges. The material is therefore a second-order topological insulator. By obtaining experimental proof of this behavior, physicists from the University of Basel have expanded the pool of candidate materials for topological superconductivity. The findings have been published in the journal Nano Letters.

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Location, location, location: The cell membrane facilitates RAS protein interactions

Many cancer medications fail to effectively target the most commonly mutated cancer genes in humans, called RAS. Now, Salk Professor Geoffrey Wahl and a team of scientists have uncovered details into how normal RAS interacts with mutated RAS and other proteins in living cells for the first time. The findings, published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on May 18, 2020, could aid in the development of better RAS-targeted cancer therapeutics.

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Technological changes and new low-carbon lifestyles, key to mitigating climate change

In order to mitigate climate change impacts and achieve a more sustainable society, it is necessary to transform the current energy system based on fossil fuels into a model based on renewable energies, and to change society’s lifestyles, accepting less mobility, low-carbon diets and smaller-sized dwellings. These are the main conclusions reached by the more than 400 scientists who met virtually last week at the International Conference on Low-Carbon Lifestyles, organized by the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB).

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Physicists offer a new ‘spin’ on memory

Imagine biting into a peanut butter sandwich and discovering a slice of cheese tucked between the bread and the butter. In a way, this is what happened to a team of physicists at the University of Arizona, except the “cheese” was a layer of iron oxide, less than one atomic layer thick, and the “sandwich” was a magnetic tunnel junction—a tiny, layered structure of exotic materials that someday may replace current silicon-based computer transistors and revolutionize computing. Iron oxide—a material related to what is commonly known as rust—exhibits exotic properties when its thickness approaches that of single atoms.

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How did the old masters make their ultramarine?

Researchers at the Rijksmuseum, the University of Amsterdam, VU Amsterdam and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) have developed a method that reveals how the costly pigment ultramarine was prepared from the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli. Thanks to X-ray examinations of paint samples, they can now look back more than four hundred years to determine whether the blue stones were brought to a red heat during the pigment extraction process. The results, recently published in the leading journal Science Advances, also help to cast light on the disastrous “ultramarine disease.”

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