Mirror, Mirror, Electron Mirror…

If you look into an electron mirror, you don’t expect to see your reflection. As [Anthony Francis-Jones] points out, what you do see is hard to explain. The key to an electron mirror is that the electric and magnetic fields are 90 degrees apart, and the electrons are 90 degrees from both.

You need a few strange items to make it all work, including an electron gun with a scintillating screen in a low-pressure tube. Once he sets an electric field going, the blue line representing the electrons goes from straight to curved.

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Metal Crystal Stops Electrons

Researchers at Rice University have found an alloy of copper, vanadium, and sulfur that forms crystals that, due to quantum effects, can trap electrons. This can produce flat bands, which have been observed in 2D crystals previously. The team’s results are the first case of a 3D crystal with that property.

The flat band term refers to the electron energy bands. Normally, the electrons change energy levels based on momentum. But in a flat band, this doesn’t occur. This implies that the electrons are nearly stationary, which leads to unique optical, electronic, and magnetic properties. In addition, flat-band materials often exhibit unusual behavior, such as exotic quantum states, ferromagnetism, or even superconductivity.

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Detecting Neutrinos, The Slippery Ghost Particles That Don’t Want To Interact

Neutrinos are some of the most elusive particles that are well-known to science. These tiny subatomic particles have no electric charge and an extremely small mass, making them incredibly difficult to detect. They are produced in abundance by the sun, as well as by nuclear reactions on Earth and in supernovae. Despite their elusive nature, scientists are keen to detect neutrinos as they can provide valuable information about the processes that produce them.

Neutrinos interact with matter so rarely that it takes a very special kind of detector to catch them in the act. These detectors come in a few different flavors, each employing its unique method to spot these elusive particles. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how these detectors work and some of the most notable examples of neutrino detectors in the world today.

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Bending Light To Fit Technology

Solar power is an excellent way of generating electricity, whether that’s for an off-grid home or for the power grid. With no moving parts maintenance is relatively low, and the downsides of burning fuel are eliminated as well. But as much as it’s revolutionized power generation over the last few decades, there’s still some performance gains to be made when it comes to the solar cells themselves. A team at Stanford recently made strides in improving cell efficiency by bending the properties of sunlight itself.

In order to generate electricity directly from sunlight, a photon with a specific amount of energy needs to strike the semiconductor material. Any photons with higher energy will waste some of that energy as heat, and any with lower energy won’t generate electricity. Previous methods to solve this problem involve using something similar to a prism to separate the light out into colors (or energies) that correlate to specific types of cells calibrated specifically for those colors. This method does the opposite: it changes the light itself to an color that fits the semiconductor material. In short, a specialized material converts the energy from two lower-energy photons into a single higher-energy photon, which then strikes the solar panel to create energy.

By adding these color-changing materials as a layer to a photovoltaic solar panel, the panel can generate more energy with a given amount of light than a traditional panel. The major hurdle, as with any research, is whether or not this will be viable when produced at scale, and this shows promise in that regard as well. There are other applications for these materials beyond photovoltaics as well, and the researchers provide an excellent demonstration in 3D printing. By adding these color-change materials to resin, red lasers can be used instead of blue or ultraviolet lasers to cure resin in extremely specific locations, leading to stronger and more accurate prints.

Simulating A Real Perpetual Motion Device

Perpetual motion and notions of ‘free energy’ devices are some of those pseudo-science topics that seem to perpetually hang around, no matter how many times it is explained how this would literally violate the very fabric of the Universe. Even so, the very notion of a device which repeats the same action over and over with no obvious loss of energy is tempting enough that the laws of physics are employed to effect the impossible in a handy desktop format. This includes the intriguing model demonstrated by [Steve Mould] in a recent video, including a transparent version that reveals the secret.

This particular perpetual motion simulator is made by [William Le] and takes the form of metal balls that barrel down a set of metal rails which turn upward so that each metal ball will land back where it started in the top bowl. To the casual informed observer the basic principle ought to be obvious, with magnetism being a prime candidate to add some extra velocity to said metal ball. What’s less obvious is the whole mechanism that makes the system work, including the detection circuit and the tuning of the parameters that tell the device when its electromagnet should be on or off.

When [Steve] figured that he could just make a transparent version using the guts from the one he purchased, he quickly found out that even with [William]’s help, this wasn’t so easy. Ultimately [William] hand-crafted a transparent version that shows the whole system in its entire glory, even if this is somewhat like demonstrating a magic trick in an easy to follow manner.

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Measuring Planck’s Constant (Again)

There are many well-known physical constants, but it always interests us when someone can approximately measure them using equipment you probably have. We could pretend it is because we want to help kids do science projects, but who are we really kidding? It is just the cool factor. [Stoppi] shows us several neat ways to measure Planck’s constant (German language, Google Translate link) using things like LEDs, solar cells, and common test equipment. If you don’t want to translate the web page, you can also see the setup and the math behind it in the video below.

If complex math triggers you, this might not be the video for you. The particular test in the video does require a very low current measurement, but that’s not very hard to arrange these days. There are actually several methods covered in the post, and one of them uses one of those familiar “component testers” that has an Atmel CPU, a socket, and an LCD. These can measure the forward current of LEDs, and if you know the wavelength of the LED, you can determine the constant. There’s even a custom device that integrates several LEDs to do the job.

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Building A DIY Cloud Chamber

[RCLifeOn] happened to come into possession of some radioactive uranium ore. He thus decided to build a cloud chamber to visualize the products of radioactive decay in a pleasing visual manner.

The construction is fairly straightforward stuff. A 3D-printer build plate was used to heat isopropyl alcohol to a vapor, while a bank of thermoelectric coolers then cool the alcohol down to -30 C to create a dense fog. The build uses a glass chamber with a bank of powerful LEDs to illuminate the fog, making it easier to see the trails from radioactive particles passing through. [RCLifeOn] later used a variety of radioactive sources to deliver a bunch of particles into the chamber for more action, too. He also experimented with blocking particles with a variety of materials.

It’s one of the bigger cloud chambers we’ve seen, and seems to work great. You can build a simple version pretty easily, or you could travel to a local museum or science center if you’re too busy to tackle it at home. Video after the break.

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