Researchers were able to shape the electric field of an attosecond pulse. Illustration: Jürgen Oschwald and Carlo Callegari

Chemical reactions are determined at their most fundamental level by their respective electronic structure and dynamics. Steered by a stimulus such as light irradiation, electrons rearrange themselves in liquids or solids. This process takes only a few hundred attoseconds, whereby one attosecond is the billionth part of a billionth of a second. Electrons are sensitive to external fields, so researchers can easily control them by irradiating the electrons with light pulses. As soon as they thus temporally shape the electric field of an attosecond pulse, researchers can control the electronic dynamics in real time.

 

A team led by Prof. Dr. Giuseppe Sansone from the Institute of Physics at the University of Freiburg shows in the scientific journal Nature how they were able to completely shape the waveform of an attosecond pulse.

Aerospike engine. © Institute of Aerospace Engineering,TU Dresden/Fraunhofer IWS Dresden

Microlaunchers are an alternative to conventional launch vehicles. Able to carry payloads of up to 350 kilograms, these midsized transport systems are designed to launch small satellites into space. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology IWS in Dresden and TU Dresden’s aerospace experts developed an additively manufactured rocket engine with an aerospike nozzle for microlaunchers. The scaled metal prototype is expected to consume 30 percent less fuel than conventional engines. It will feature prominently at the Hannover Messe Preview on February 12 and in the showcase at booth C18 in hall 16 at the Hannover Messe from April 20 through 24, 2020.
The market for small satellites is sure to boom in the years ahead. The United Kingdom aims to build a spaceport in the north of Scotland, the first on European soil. The Federation of German Industries (BDI) has also endorsed the idea of a national space-port. It is to serve as the pad for small-to-midsized launchers that haul research instruments and small satellites into space. These microlaunchers are engineered to carry a payload of up to 350 kilograms. Aerospike engines are an efficient means of powering these microlaunchers. They offer the welcome prospects of far less mass and far lower fuel consumption. A research team from Fraunhofer IWS and TU Dresden's Institute of Aerospace Engineering developed, manufactured and tested an aerospike engine over the past two years.

A carbon fiber preform drilled using a USP laser beam with a star-shaped cut-out and a perfectly proportioned metal insert. © Fraunhofer ILT, Aachen, Germany.

Carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) components are usually assembled using fasteners. These are typically glued into the CFRP component once it has been cured and drilled. The consortium behind the CarboLase project came up with a new method, using an ultrashort pulsed laser to drill the holes for the fasteners in the textile preform with micrometer-scale accuracy. Integrating the fasteners in these high-precision cut-outs before the CFRP component is cured saves time by shortening the production process. In 2019, the project team’s efforts were rewarded with the prestigious CAMX Award in the “Combined Strength” category.

 

For the first time, super magnets are be made with the help of laser-based 3D printing technology. © IMAT – TU Graz

Magnetic materials play important roles in electrical products. These materials are usually manufactured by means of established production techniques and use of rare earth metals. Several research teams at TU Graz are working on alternative, more environmentally friendly production methods. From wind turbines and electric motors to sensors and magnetic switching systems: permanent magnets are used in many different electrical applications. The production of these magnets usually involves sintering or injection moulding. But due to the increasing miniaturisation of electronics and the more exacting requirements, this places on magnetic components in terms of geometry, these conventional manufacturing methods are frequently coming up short.

Frankfurt researchers followed the movements of this tiny molecule – just two-thousandths of the thickness of a piece of paper. The RNA aptamer changes its structure when it binds hypoxanthine. Goethe University

FRANKFURT. Even more detailed insights into the cell will be possible in future with the help of a new development in which Goethe University was involved: Together with scientists from Israel, the research group led by Professor Harald Schwalbe has succeeded in accelerating a hundred thousand-fold the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) method for investigating RNA. In the same way that a single piece of a puzzle fits into the whole, the molecule hypoxanthine binds to a ribonucleic acid (RNA) chain, which then changes its three-dimensional shape within a second and in so doing triggers new processes in the cell. Thanks to an improved method, researchers are now able to follow almost inconceivably tiny structural changes in cells as they progress – both in terms of time as well as space. The research group led by Professor Harald Schwalbe from the Center for Biomolecular Magnetic Resonance (BMRZ) at Goethe University has succeeded, together with researchers from Israel, in accelerating a hundred thousand-fold the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) method for investigating RNA.

The aim of the SimConDrill project is to build a cyclone filter that can efficiently remove tiny plastic particles from large quantities of water. © KLASS-Filter GmbH, Türkenfeld, Germany.

Microplastics enter our wastewater and the environment on a daily basis. Yet wastewater treatment plants struggle to filter out enough of these tiny plastic particles. Fortunately, help is on hand in the form of the SimConDrill research project, which the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has been funding since 2019. Combining the expertise of five partners from industry and research, the aim of the project is to jointly develop a filter featuring tiny, laser-drilled holes that can remove plastic particles as small as 10 micrometers from wastewater. This remarkable innovation has now been nominated for the prestigious Green Award.

Flexible electronic skin equipped with an array of giant magneto resistance sensors and complex electronics circuit designed and developed for sensing distribution of magnetic field. Photo: Masaya Kondo

Researchers from Dresden and Osaka present the first fully integrated flexible electronics made of magnetic sensors and organic circuits which opens the path towards the development of electronic skin. Human skin is a fascinating and multifunctional organ with unique properties originating from its flexible and compliant nature. It allows for interfacing with external physical environment through numerous receptors interconnected with the nervous system. Scientists have been trying to transfer these features to artificial skin for a long time, aiming at robotic applications.

Synthetic cells with compartments. Magenta shows the lipid membrane, cyan shows the fluorescently tagged membrane-free sub-compartments. Love et al. / MPI-CBG

Dresden researchers engineer a minimal synthetic cellular system to study basic cell function. Cells are the basic unit of life. They provide an environment for the fundamental molecules of life to interact, for reactions to take place and sustain life. However, the biological cell is very complicated, making it difficult to understand what takes place inside it. One way to tackle this biological problem is to design a synthetic minimal cell as a simpler system compared to biological cells. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG) in Dresden and the Max-Planck-Institute of Colloids and Interfaces (MPICI) in Potsdam accomplished such an engineering challenge by building a synthetic cell that can encapsulate fundamental biochemical reactions.

The measuring device can help automotive manufacturers reduce vehicle emissions by developing new combustion engines or by exhaust after-treatment. © Bainschab

Together with international partners, researchers at Graz University of Technology have developed a measurement method that measures particles below 10 nanometres for the first time and will contribute to the implementation of future, stricter emission standards. A few days ago, the European Commission presented its Green Deal, which aims to make the EU climate neutral by 2050 in order to protect the environment and improve people's health and quality of life. One of the planned measures is the introduction of stricter exhaust regulations. The limit values for pollutant emissions from vehicles have already been laid down by law.

The newly developed material conducts heat well along the layers, while at the same time providing thermal insulation vertically. © MPI-P, Lizenz CC-BY-SA

Styrofoam or copper - both materials have very different properties with regard to their ability to conduct heat. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz and the University of Bayreuth have now jointly developed and characterized a novel, extremely thin and transparent material that has different thermal conduction properties depending on the direction. While it can conduct heat extremely well in one direction, it shows good thermal insulation in the other direction. 
Thermal insulation and thermal conduction play a crucial role in our everyday lives - from computer processors, where it is important to dissipate heat as quickly as possible, to houses, where good insulation is essential for energy costs. Often extremely light, porous materials such as polystyrene are used for insulation, while heavy materials such as metals are used for heat dissipation. A newly developed material, which scientists at the MPI-P have jointly developed and characterized with the University of Bayreuth, can now combine both properties.

Complex supramolecular nano-structure on a silver surface. The chiral pattern is controlled by hydrogen-bonding between hydroxamic acids decorating both ends of the rod-like building block. Image: B. Zhang / TUM

Nanoscience can arrange minute molecular entities into nanometric patterns in an orderly manner using self-assembly protocols. Scientists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have functionalized a simple rod-like building block with hydroxamic acids at both ends. They form molecular networks that not only display the complexity and beauty of mono-component self-assembly on surfaces; they also exhibit exceptional properties.

Fluorescence microscopy of induced pluripotent stem cells of a healthy blood donor differentiated into early ectoderm. Source: Paul-Ehrlich-Institut

Jointly with researchers from Germany and France, researchers of the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have generated induced pluripotent stem cells from one health individual, one patient with Aicardi-Goutières syndrome, and one patient with Renpenning syndrome. Proteins play a role in both diseases, which are also important for the immunological recognition of the human immune deficiency virus (HIV). With iPSCs and derived cell types, new insights can be gained into the syndromes and the human immune system in the fight against HIV. The results are reported in Stem Cell Research in three different contributions published from December 2019 to January 2020.

Crystals of synthetic molecular ruby. photo/©: Steffen Treiling

Using base metals instead of expensive precious metals / Chromium in a designed environment exhibits an exceptionally long lifetime of its electronically excited state and potentially allows for sustainable photocatalytic applications. Sustainable chemical applications need to be able to employ renewable energy sources, renewable raw materials, and Earth-abundant elements. However, to date many techniques have only been possible with the use of expensive precious metals or rare earth metals, the extraction of which can have serious environmental impacts.

Excitation of helium nanodroplets by ultra-short laser pulses. Photo: AG Stienkemeier

A team headed by Professor Frank Stienkemeier at Freiburg’s Institute of Physics and Dr. Marcel Mudrich, professor at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, has observed the ultrafast reaction of nanodroplets of helium after excitation with extreme ultraviolet radiation (XUV) using a free-electron laser in real time. The researchers have published their findings in the latest issue of Nature Communications. Lasers generating high-intensity and ultra-short XUV and X-ray pulses give researchers new options for investigating the fundamental properties of matter in great detail. In many such experiments, material samples in the nanometer range are of particular interest. Some scientists use helium droplets no larger than a few nanometers as a means of transporting and studying embedded molecules and molecular nanostructures.

Let there be light – and it was directional: The world's first electrically powered Yagi-Uda antenna was built at the University of Würzburg's Department of Physics. Picture: Department of Physics

For the first time, physicists from the University of Würzburg have successfully converted electrical signals into photons and radiated them in specific directions using a low-footprint optical antenna that is only 800 nanometres in size. Directional antennas convert electrical signals to radio waves and emit them in a particular direction, allowing increased performance and reduced interference. This principle, which is useful in radio wave technology, could also be interesting for miniaturised light sources. After all, almost all Internet-based communication utilises optical light communication. Directional antennas for light could be used to exchange data between different processor cores with little loss and at the speed of light. To enable antennas to operate with the very short wavelengths of visible light, such directional antennas have to be shrunk to nanometre scale.

A ray of hope for even more efficient lithium-ion batteries: A solid electrolyte (here LiTi2(PO4)3, Li-green, Ti-blue, P-purple, O-red) with “migration paths” for lithium ions (yellow strips). © Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM

High-performance, long-lasting energy storage devices are crucially important for many future-oriented technologies: e.g. for electromobility, for mobile end devices such as tablets and smartphones as well as for the efficient use of energy from renewable sources. Dr. Daniel Mutter from the Fraunhofer IWM was able to clarify what the chemical composition of solid ceramic electrolytes should be in order to ensure good performance in lithium-ion batteries. The research was published in the Journal of Applied Physics. Such solid electrolytes are more environmentally friendly than traditional liquid electrolytes and could make lithium-ion batteries significantly safer and more efficient.