Physical Sciences

  • Princeton scientists discover chiral crystals exhibiting exotic quantum effects

    Wednesday, Mar 20, 2019
    by Liz Fuller-Wright, Office of Communications

    Crystals possessing “handedness” exhibit unusual properties. New evidence suggests that they can host electrons moving like slowed down light and their collective behavior mimics magnetic monopoles.

    An international team of researchers has discovered that certain classes of crystals with an asymmetry like biological “handedness,” known as chiral crystals, may harbor electrons that behave in unexpected ways.

  • Speeding the development of fusion power to create unlimited energy on Earth

    Tuesday, Mar 19, 2019
    by jgreenwa

    Can tokamak fusion facilities, the most widely used devices for harvesting on Earth the fusion reactions that power the sun and stars, be developed more quickly to produce safe, clean, and virtually limitless energy for generating electricity? Physicist Jon Menard of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) has examined that question in a detailed look at the concept of a compact tokamak equipped with high temperature superconducting (HTS) magnets.

  • Tied in knots: New insights into plasma behavior focus on twists and turns

    Tuesday, Mar 12, 2019
    by rprosen

    Whether zipping through a star or a fusion device on Earth, the electrically charged particles that make up the fourth state of matter better known as plasma are bound to magnetic field lines like beads on a string. Unfortunately for plasma physicists who study this phenomenon, the magnetic field lines often lack simple shapes that equations can easily model. Often they twist and knot like pretzels. Sometimes, when the lines become particularly twisted, they snap apart and join back together, ejecting blobs of plasma and tremendous amounts of energy.

  • Uhlenbeck receives Abel Prize for geometric analysis

    Tuesday, Mar 19, 2019
    by Liz Fuller-Wright, Office of Communications

    The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters has awarded the Abel Prize for 2019 to Karen Uhlenbeck, a visiting senior research scholar in mathematics at Princeton, “for her pioneering achievements in geometric partial differential equations, gauge theory and integrable systems, and for the fundamental impact of her work on analysis, geometry and mathematical physics.”

  • Speed limit on DNA-making sets pace for life's first steps

    Monday, Mar 18, 2019
    by Scott Lyon, Office of Engineering Communications

    Fruit flies make for stingy mothers, imparting only a portion of the genetic building blocks their offspring need to survive. The rest must be produced by the fertilized egg in its first few steps of growth.

    Scientists puzzled for two decades over this seemingly unnecessary withholding. Now researchers at Princeton University have shown that the inhibiting mechanism, controlled by an enzyme known as RNR, is key to the embryo's survival. Too much material early on leads to disaster for the fledgling lifeform.

  • DOE extends University PPPL contract

    Friday, Mar 15, 2019
    by Princeton University

    The U.S. Department of Energy announced March 15 that Princeton University will continue to manage and operate the DOE’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, located on Princeton University’s Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, New Jersey. The extended contract, which runs through March 31, 2022, also highlights collaborations among the University, the lab and the DOE.

  • Astronomers discover 83 supermassive black holes in the early universe

    Wednesday, Mar 13, 2019
    by Liz Fuller-Wright, Office of Communications

    Astronomers from Japan, Taiwan and Princeton University have discovered 83 quasars powered by supermassive black holes in the distant universe, from a time when the universe was less than 10 percent of its present age.

  • Doctoral research helps develop tool to probe plastics’ behavior down to the molecular scale

    Friday, Mar 8, 2019
    by Adam Hadhazy, Office of Engineering Communications

    Consider the humble tire. Sitting outside on a frigid winter day, it's hard as a stone, yet when spinning under a drag racer, a tire becomes warmly pliable. For everyday materials, from glass to rubber to plastic, these fundamental changes in behavior are determined by the glass transition temperature.

  • Did volcanoes kill the dinosaurs? New evidence points to ‘maybe’

    Monday, Mar 4, 2019
    by Liz Fuller-Wright, Office of Communications

    Fact: About 66 million years ago, at the end of the Cretaceous period, 75 percent of plant and animal species went extinct, including the dinosaurs (except those that evolved into birds). Fact: About 66 million years ago, an enormous asteroid or comet hit the Earth near what is now Chicxulub, Mexico, throwing rock, dust and water vapor into the atmosphere.

  • Good news for future tech: Exotic ‘topological’ materials are surprisingly common

    Wednesday, Feb 27, 2019
    by Catherine Zandonella, Office of the Dean for Research

    In a major step forward for an area of research that earned the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics, an international team has found that substances with exotic electronic behaviors called topological materials are in fact quite common, and include everyday elements such as arsenic and gold. The team created an online catalog to make it easy to design new topological materials using elements from the periodic table.

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