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Building Tunable Matter

Scientists have a new periodic table to work with, and it's made of nanoparticles

2 min read

A hot endeavor in basic research is the creation of so-called metamaterials, which are generally thought of as engineered constructs with well-defined properties that are not readily found in nature and that are different from those of the materials they are made from. Researchers from IBM, Columbia University, and the University of New Orleans have caused nanometer-sized magnetic and semiconducting particles to automatically self-assemble into a novel metamaterial. And what is more, the new substance is one of the first of a new class whose properties should be tunable to whatever is needed for an application, simply by adjusting the size and type of nanoparticles used as building blocks.

The researchers combined two types of nanoscale particles, each particle containing thousands of atoms and having tunable properties that are different from those of both individual molecules and bulk materials of the same substance. In essence, the technique gives scientists a whole new periodic table to work from. ”We can choose a property that we are interested in and work backwards,” says Chris Murray, the manager of nanoscale materials and devices at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center (Yorktown Heights, N.Y.).

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The Transistor at 75

The past, present, and future of the modern world’s most important invention

2 min read
A photo of a birthday cake with 75 written on it.
Lisa Sheehan

Seventy-five years is a long time. It’s so long that most of us don’t remember a time before the transistor, and long enough for many engineers to have devoted entire careers to its use and development. In honor of this most important of technological achievements, this issue’s package of articles explores the transistor’s historical journey and potential future.

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