Energy transport in biomimetic nanotubes (left) and a three-dimensional spectrum (right). Bjoern Kriete (l.) / Stefan Mueller (r.)

It is crucial for photovoltaics and other technical applications, how efficiently energy spreads in a small volume. With new methods, the path of energy in the nanometer range can now be followed precisely. Plants and bacteria lead the way: They can capture the energy of sunlight with light-harvesting antennas and transfer it to a reaction centre. Transporting energy efficiently and in a targeted fashion in a minimum of space – this is also of interest to mankind. If scientists were to master it perfectly, they could significantly improve photovoltaics and optoelectronics.

Images of the new microscope: The computer screen and the microscope images (right) show a bone cancer cell with mitochondria (blue) and endoplasmic reticulum (pink). Bielefeld University/ W. Hübner

In order to observe cells at work, researchers have to bypass a physical law. One of the fastest techniques to overcome the resolution limit of classical light microscopy is high-resolution structured illumination microscopy. It makes visible details that are about a hundred nanometres in size. However, translating the data back into images has taken a long time so far. A research team from the University of Bielefeld, the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology and the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena has now developed a technique to observe processes in the cell. The results were published in "Nature Communications" on September 20, 2019.

By applying a magnetic field, the bending beam vibrates. A permanently electrically charged electret (blue) pulls the bending beam. This way his vibrance gets stronger. Copyright: Marleen Schweichel


Electrical signals measurements such as the ECG (electrocardiogram) can show how the human brain or heart works. Next to electrical signals magnetic signals also reveal something about the activity of these organs. They could be measured with little effort and without skin contact. But the especially weak signals require highly sensitive sensors. Scientists from the Collaboraive research Center 1261 "Magnetoelectric Sensors" at Kiel University have now developed a new concept for cantilever sensors, with the future aim of measuring these low frequencies of heart and brain activity. The extremely small, energy-efficient sensors are particularly well-suited for medical applications or mobile microelectronics. This is made possible by the use of electrets. Such material is permanently electrically charged, and is also used in microphones for hearing aids or mobile phones. The research team presented its sensor concept in a special edition of the renowned journal Nano Energy.


Model of the Mitoribosomal small subunit assembly in Trypanosoma brucei. © NCCR RNA & Disease

The complexity of molecular structures in the cell is amazing. Having achieved great success in elucidating these structures in recent years, biologists are now taking on the next challenge: to find out more about how they are constructed. A joint research project between two groups from the University of Bern and ETH Zurich now provides insight into a very unusual construction process in the unicellular parasite Trypanosoma brucei.