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Showing results in Experiments with levitated nanoparticles reveal role of friction at the nanoscale

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Nanoparticles levitated in a bistable optical potential well, formed by using two infrared laser beams, have been used to directly corroborate a 77-year-old theory describing the rate of transition between the two potential wells due to ‘thermally-activated escape’ in high and low damping (friction) regimes.
Strong damping leads to increased collision rate between the particle and gas molecules, reducing net translational diffusion and hence lowering ‘escape rate’, while weak damping leads to decoupling between the particle and its environment, reducing the probability of the particle gaining enough energy to overcome the barrier.

Research

Stuffed birds from Midwestern US states held in museums are being used to probe historical black carbon concentrations by researchers at the University of Chicago.
Over 1300 specimens dating back to 1880 were investigated by examining the reflectance of the plumage under controlled lighting. The highest concentrations, on the sootiest feathers, were found in 1900-1920, related to coal use in the US manufacturing belt. Results from this study show higher early 20th-Century concentrations than ice core studies or predictive models, and the authors claim that black carbon deposition during transport may have reduced the retrieved Greenland ice core concentrations in comparison to the more localised method employed in this study.

News

Society student member, Alberto Sanchez Marroquin, from the University of Leeds was recently part of a team of British scientists who embarked on a mission aboard the FAAM aircraft to monitor Iceland’s active volcanoes from the air. The project hopes to help the aviation industry plan for future eruptions.

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Higher levels of particulate pollution may modulate the number and type of bacteria colonising human airways, according to a recent volunteer study from the University of Milan. Nasal swabs taken from 40 people were assessed for the diversity and species of bacteria present via genetic sequencing, and the results were compared with the level of PM recorded at nearby monitoring stations over the 3 previous days. For volunteers exposed to higher PM levels, bacterial diversity was lower, which could affect functions provided to the ‘host’ by certain species.

Research

The storage and handling of coal piles could be contributing to the burden of particulate matter from coal, even before it is burned, according to research from Carnegie Mellon University.

Research

Carbon nanoparticles from road traffic or as engineered nanoparticles may increase the risk of bacterial or viral infection, a study at Edinburgh Napier University has found. Exposure to carbon black nanoparticles, in this case with primary particle size 14 nm, can alter the structure and function of antimicrobial peptides, key components of the immune system and which are upregulated at infection or inflammation sites. This can then potentially lead to reduced capacity to withstand infection by reducing the effectiveness of the body’s immune system.

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