It’s a hot summer day. You desperately want something cold to drink, but unfortunately, your bottle of root beer has been sitting in a hot car all day. You put it into a bucket full of ice to cool it down. But it’s taking forever! How, you wonder, could you speed the process up? The same question is important for understanding how electronic devices work, and how we can make them work better by controlling the temperature of the electrons that power them. Read on to find out what a bottle of root beer in a cooler full of ice and a nanowire in a vat of liquid helium have in common!
Have you ever wondered how scientists can accurately measure the size of very small objects like molecules, nanoparticles, and parts of cells? Scientists are continually finding new ways to do this, and one powerful tool they use is light scattering. When an incoming beam of light hits an object, the light "scatters," or breaks into separate streams that form different patterns depending on the size of the object. This incoming light might be visible light, like the light we see from the sun, or it might be higher-energy light like X-rays. The light from commercial laser pointers, it turns out, is perfectly suited to measure the size of a human hair!
Have you ever wondered why some materials are hard and others soft, some conduct heat or electricity easily while others don't, some are transparent to light while others are opaque . . . and on and on and on? The material universe is vast and diverse, and while a material's properties depend in part on the elements it is made from, its structure—how it is built from its constituent atoms—can also have wide-ranging effects on how it looks, feels, and behaves. Diffraction is a method that allows us to "see" the atomic structure of materials. Read on to find out how it works!