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‘Soft X‑ray’ method opens up ways for smart nano-medicine

Currently researchers have to rely on attaching fluorescent dyes or heavy metals to label parts of organic nanocarrier structures for investigation, often changing them in the process. A new technique using chemically-sensitive “soft” X-rays offers a simpler, non-disruptive way of gaining insight into this nano-world. In a study published by Nature Communications, a research team demonstrates the capability of the X-ray method on a smart drug delivery nanoparticle and a polysoap nanostructure intended to capture crude oil spilled in the ocean.

Brian Collins

“We have developed a new technique to look at nanocarrier internal structure, chemistry and environmental behavior without any labeling at all – a new capability that up to now has not been possible,” said Brian Collins, a Washington State University physicist and corresponding author on the study. “Currently, you need fluorescent tags to see inside nanocarriers, but this can modify their structure and behavior, especially if they’re made out of carbon-based materials. With this new technique, we’ve been able to look inside these nanocarriers, analyze their chemical identities and concentrations – and do this all in their fully natural state, including their water environment.”

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Ask Dr. Universe: How did people figure out how much a whole planet weighs? They could not have just put it on a scale! How did they do it?

About 300 years ago during another pandemic, there was a person named Sir Isaac Newton who spent a lot of time at home thinking about the universe.

Guy Worthey

That’s what I found out from my friend Guy Worthey, an astronomer at Washington State University. Gravity plays a big part in the answer to your question, and we’ll explore that in just a moment.

“I remember when I was a kid, the textbooks said that Pluto was twice the mass of Earth,” Worthey said.

It turns out some planets, such as Venus and Mercury, do not have an orbiting object like a moon. It wasn’t until humans were able to send satellites to these planets that we were finally able to gather precise information about gravity and learn about mass.

You know, gravity is an important force. It’s what makes things fall. It’s what keeps planets in orbit. It’s what keeps us on the ground. While we may not have a scale to weigh planets, we can use what we know about gravity and mass to make all sorts of calculations and investigate questions about our universe.

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Cerreta named president of nation’s professional society for minerals, metals, and materials scientists and engineers

Ellen Cerreta, the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s division leader for Materials Science and Technology, has been named president of The Minerals, Metals, & Materials Society (TMS), a professional society for scientists and engineers in those fields.

“TMS aspires to be the professional society where global materials, science, and engineering practitioners come together to scope the future of materials engineering and technology,” said Cerreta. “As such, I am honored to have been selected by the membership of this society to serve as president.”

Cerreta has previously served as the deputy division leader for Explosive Science and Shock Physics, and as the program manager for High Explosives Safety at Los Alamos.

She has more than 100 peer-reviewed publications in this area of research and is also an adjunct faculty member in The Institute of Shock Physics at Washington State University and was inducted into the 2016 ASM Fellows Class.

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Scientists Create Crystal Stronger Than Diamond

Currently, diamond is regarded to be one of the hardest and most scratch-resistant natural materials in the world. Most diamonds found in nature and often used in jewelry display a cubic crystal structure, a repeating pattern of 8 atoms forming a cube with carbon atoms at its vertices. Each carbon atom forms four bonds with its neighbors, explaining the overall stability and hardness of the crystal structure.

Now scientists at Washington State University’s Institute for Shock Physics created hexagonal diamonds large enough to measure their stiffness and also calculated their hardness. The results of their experiments are published in a recent issue of Physical Review Letters.

Yogendra Gupta.

“Diamond is a very unique material,” said Yogendra Gupta, director of the Institute for Shock Physics and corresponding author on the study. “It is not only the strongest—it has beautiful optical properties and a very high thermal conductivity. Now we have made the hexagonal form of diamond, produced under shock compression experiments, that is significantly stiffer and stronger than regular gem diamonds.”

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WSU graduate recognized as Time100 Next innovator

A breakthrough in superconductivity has landed a WSU grad in the latest Time Magazine list of top innovators.

Ranga Dias.

Ranga Dias, a 2013 PhD graduate in physics, was named one of 19 innovation leaders in the 2021 Time100 Next list, which highlights emerging leaders shaping the future. His work to develop a room temperature superconductor represents a significant advancement in the field, with wide-ranging applications from transportation to medical imaging, and even hover boards.

His interest in the field of high pressure physicals flourished as a PhD student at WSU under the guidance of professor Choong-Shik Yoo, a member of the chemistry department and the Institute for Shock Physics. He opted to join Yoo’s lab after the professor captivated him with the idea of creating a new periodic table within high-pressure environments.

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