Artificial edge in an optical lattice (blue), filled with an ultracold quantum gas that consists of ‘spin-up’ particles (red) and ‘spin-down’ particles (green). Along the edge – and only there - 'spin-up' particles can only flow to the left, and ‘spin-down’ particles can only flow to the right. Credit: Bernhard Irsigler

FRANKFURT. Insulators that are conducting at their edges hold promise for interesting technological applications. However, until now their characteristics have not been fully understood. Physicists at Goethe University have now modelled what are known as topological insulators with the help of ultracold quantum gases. In the current issue of Physical Review Letters, they demonstrate how the edge states could be experimentally detected.

An atom is trapped in the resonator between two mirrors (left). A reflected light pulse gets entangled with the atom and may fly freely as a superimposed cat state (right). Bastian Hacker, Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (MPQ)

Dead and alive at the same time? Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics have implemented Erwin Schrödinger’s paradoxical gedanken experiment employing an entangled atom-light state. In 1935 Erwin Schrödinger formulated a thought experiment designed to capture the paradoxical nature of quantum physics. The crucial element of this gedanken experiment is a cat that is simultaneously dead and alive. Since Schrödinger proposed his ‘cat paradox’, physicists have been thinking about ways to create such superposition states experimentally.

A 3D-printed ear: Empa researcher Michael Hausmann uses nanocellulose as the basis for novel implants. Empa

Cellulose obtained from wood has amazing material properties. Empa researchers are now equipping the biodegradable material with additional functionalities to produce implants for cartilage diseases using 3D printing. It all starts with an ear. Empa researcher Michael Hausmann removes the object shaped like a human ear from the 3D printer and explains: «In viscous state cellulose nanocrystals can easily be shaped together with nother biopolymers into complex 3-dimensional structures using a 3D printer, such as the Bioplotter.” Once cross-linked, the structures remain stable despite their soft mechanical properties.

The image represents an artistic coloration of a cluster of circulating tumor cells (CTCs), isolated from the blood of a patient with breast cancer, trapped on a microfluidic device. © M Oeggerli / Micronaut 2018, supported by Pathology-, C-CINA / Biozentrum-, and I Krol, and N Aceto, Faculty of Medicine-, University Hospital and University Basel.

The most deadly aspect of breast cancer is metastasis. It spreads cancer cells throughout the body. Researchers at the University and the University Hospital of Basel have now discovered a substance that suppresses the formation of metastases. In the journal Cell, the team of molecular biologists, computational biologists, and clinicians reports on their interdisciplinary approach. The development of metastasis is responsible for more than 90% of cancer-related deaths, and patients with a metastatic disease are considered incurable.

Physicist Martin Hauck fits a silicon carbide transistor into the measuring apparatus: researchers at FAU have discovered a method for finding defects at the interfaces of switches. FAU/Michael Krieger, Martin Hauck


Transistors are needed wherever current flows, and they are an indispensable component of virtually all electronic switches. In the field of power electronics, transistors are used to switch large currents. However, one side-effect is that the components heat up and energy is lost as a result. One way of combating this and potentially making considerable savings is to use energy-efficient transistors. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have developed a simple yet accurate method for finding defects in the latest generation of silicon carbide transistors. This will speed up the process of developing more energy-efficient transistors in future. They have now published their findings in the renowned journal Communications Physics.*

Thermomagnetic generator on a laboratory scale. Photo: IFW Dresden

Scientists at the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research Dresden (IFW) have developed a new magnetic generator to convert waste heat into electricity. A clever arrangement of the components has succeeded in improving the electrical yield by orders of magnitude. Thus thermomagnetic generators qualify for application-suitable technology for the energy harvesting of from waste heat. Many processes in everyday life and in industry generate waste heat that is not hot enough to be used effectively. As a rule, it is discharged into the environment unused, for example, in the case of large IT servers or at the exit of power plant cooling towers. To date, there are very few technologies available for the conversion of low temperature waste heat into electricity. 

Pilot process to apply an electrically conductive adhesive to shingled cells carried out on the industrial stringer in the Module-TEC of Fraunhofer ISE. (C) Fraunhofer ISE

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Freiburg has developed a special adhesive process to interconnect silicon solar cells for the industrial production of shingle modules. The market demand for shingle modules is rising rapidly due to their high efficiency and pleasing aesthetics. The cell stringer at Fraunhofer ISE is unique in Germany. It offers a wide range of possibilities for the prototype production of this highly efficient module.

Tandem solar cell made of silicon and III-V semiconductor materials, a more energetically efficient use of the solar spectrum is possible, compared to conventional solar cells available today. © Fraunhofer ISE/ A. Wekkeli

Silicon solar cells dominate the photovoltaic market today but the technology approaches the theoretical maximum efficiency that can be achieved with silicon as the only absorber material. Tandem solar cells, on the other hand, combine several absorber materials, enabling a better energetic use of the solar irradiance spectrum. Due to their higher efficiency potential, tandem solar cells have a promising future. After intensive research, scientists at Fraunhofer ISE in cooperation with partners have achieved a new efficiency record of 22.3 percent for a multi-junction solar cell made of silicon and III-V semiconductor materials.

Small intestine mucosa, shown here with 400x magnification under the microscope. Cells of the intestinal mucosa (intestinal epithelial cells) - marked in red - develop DNA damage, because the repair enzyme RNase H2b is absent. Photo: Konrad Aden/IKMB

A study by the Cluster of Excellence "Inflammation at Interfaces" finds a new mechanism by which DNA repair protects the genome and prevents the development of bowel cancer. Cancer is caused by the body's own cells, which change and start growing out of control. With bowel cancer, this affects the cells of the intestinal mucosa. The starting point are mutations, i.e. changes in the genetic information (DNA) of the intestinal stem cells. Their task is to regularly renew the cells of the intestinal mucosa. Intestinal stem cells must retain their ability to divide for their entire lifetime, and are thus particularly susceptible to mutations.


The Nanobay team thanks everyone for the pleasant cooperation in 2018.

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous new year!


Through contact with water, the seed of Neopallasia pectinata from the family of composite plants forms a slimy sheath. The white cellulose fibres anchor it to the seed surface. © Kreitschitz


The seeds of some plants such as basil, watercress or plantain form a mucous envelope as soon as they come into contact with water. This cover consists of cellulose in particular, which is an important structural component of the primary cell wall of green plants, and swelling pectins, plant polysaccharides. In order to be able to investigate its physical properties, a research team from the Zoological Institute at Kiel University (CAU) used a special drying method, which gently removes the water from the cellulosic mucous sheath. The team discovered that this method can produce extremely strong nanofibres from natural cellulose. In future, they could be especially interesting for applications in biomedicine. The team’s results recently appeared as the cover story in the journal Applied Materials & Interfaces.

The Gram-negative Klebsiella pneumoniae bacterium often becomes resistant to common antibiotics. NIAID/CC BY 2.0

Many common antibiotics are increasingly losing their effectiveness against multi-resistant pathogens, which are becoming ever more prevalent. Bacteria use natural means to acquire mechanisms that protect them from harmful substances. For instance against the agent albicidin: Harmful Gram-negative bacteria possess a protein that binds and inactivates albicidin. The underlying resistance mechanism has been investigated at atomic resolution by scientists from the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) and the associated Helmholtz Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland (HIPS).

On the left, an expanded human cell with microtubules (blue) and a pair of centrioles (yellow-red) in the middle. On the right the detailed structure of two expanded pairs of centrioles. Picture: Fabian Zwettler / University of Würzburg

Does expansion microscopy deliver true-to-life images of cellular structures? That was not sure yet. A new publication in "Nature Methods" shows for the first time that the method actually works reliably. 

Immersing deeper and deeper into cells with the microscope. Imaging the nucleus and other structures more and more accurately. Getting the most detailed views of cellular multi-protein complexes. All of these are goals pursued by the microscopy expert Markus Sauer at the Biocenter of Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU) in Bavaria, Germany. Together with researchers from Geneva and Lausanne in Switzerland, he has now shown that a hitherto doubted method of super-resolution microscopy is reliable.

Graphic animation of a possible data memory on the atomic scale: A data storage element - consisting of only 6 xenon atoms - is liquefied by a voltage pulse. Universität Basel, Departement of Physics

Researchers from the University of Basel have reported a new method that allows the physical state of just a few atoms or molecules within a network to be controlled. It is based on the spontaneous self-organization of molecules into extensive networks with pores about one nanometer in size. In the journal ‘small’, the physicists reported on their investigations, which could be of particular importance for the development of new storage devices.

Jena doctoral student Benjamin Kintzel looks at a laboratory vessel containing crystals of a novel molecule that may possibly be used in a quantum computer. Photo: Jan-Peter Kasper/FSU


Quantum computers could vastly increase the capabilities of IT systems, bringing major changes worldwide. However, there is still a long way to go before such a device can actually be constructed, because it has not yet been possible to transfer existing molecular concepts into technologies in a practical way. This has not kept researchers around the world away from developing and optimising new ideas for individual components. Chemists at Friedrich Schiller University in Jena (Germany) have now synthesised a molecule that can perform the function of a computing unit in a quantum computer. They report on their work in the current issue of the research journal ‘Chemical Communications’.

Conventional (left) and mirror-enhanced dSTORM (right) images of a single NPC rings. Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

Scientists at the University of Würzburg have been able to boost current super-resolution microscopy by a novel tweak. They coated the glass cover slip as part of the sample carrier with tailor-made biocompatible nanosheets that create a "mirror effect". This method shows that localizing single emitters in front of a metal-dielectric coating leads to higher precision, brightness and contrast in Single Molecule Localization Microscopy (SMLM). The study was published in the Nature journal "Light: Science and Applications".