UC San Diego SearchMenu

News from the Physical Sciences

Patrick Sanan, who studied mathematics at UC San Diego, combined geometry, physics, and the tiger model from the movie "Life of Pi" to work on a computer graphics problem.

Controlling currents in superconductors

A beam of helium ions can control the transport of electrical currents through high-temperature ceramic superconductors by creating an atomic scale Josephson junction, physicists have found.

The discovery paves the way for the development of sophisticated electronic devices to measure tiny magnetic fields in the heart or brain or improve satellite communications, and may also help to unravel the physics underlying superconductivity. Learn more.

Synthetic membranes grow like living cells

Chemists have designed and synthesized an artificial cell membrane capable of sustaining continual growth, just like a living cell.

The membranes, though completely synthetic, mimic several features of more complex living organisms, such as the ability to adapt their composition in response to environmental cues and will be an important new tool for synthetic biology and origin-of-life studies. Learn more.

Probe of battery particles paves path to high voltage rechargeables

Spinel particles that make up the cathodes of batteries capable of high voltage recharging shift the position of defects under strain, rather than cracking, a collaboration between physicists and engineers has found. Learn more.

Watching nanostructures form

Scientist have developed a way to watch nanoscale chemical complexes assemble in real time using a recently developed technique called liquid cell transmission electron microscopy.

The new method will allow them to better understand the stepwise formation of nanostructures by creating video recordings of the process. Learn more.

Molecular motion

Video games transport players into richly imagined alternate worlds rendered by graphics processing units, GPUs, within game controllers. Chemists have begun using arrays of these same GPUs to explore another world, this one real: the motion of molecules as they interact with each other and their environment. Jamie Schiffer, a graduate student in chemistry and biochemistry, used this approach to follow the motion of two proteins that influence how much energy is available at the surface of heart muscle cells. 

Nanoparticles play with light to create color

Inspired by the way iridescent bird feathers play with light, scientists have created thin films of material in a wide range of pure colors with hues determined by physical structure rather than pigments.

Chemists synthesized and assembled nanostructures of synthetic melanin that mimic melanosomes found in the feathers of some birds. The material bends and reflects light to amplify some wavelengths and dampen others, creating color without pigment. Learn more.

Active matter

Jérémie Palacci and colleagues have created microbe-sized beads that utilize energy in their environment to self-propel upstream by purely physical means.

Their creation is a step toward the realization of biomimetic microsystems with the ability to actively respond to environmental changes. 

Learn more

Polyols from algae to ply ocean waves

Undergraduate students in the Biofuels Awareness and Action Network worked out the chemistry to create polyols from oils produced by algae.

Mixed with a catalyst and silicates in the right proportions, the polyols expand to form polyurethane foam. Polyols from algae were recently used to make the first algae-based foam cores for surfboards.

 Learn more.

For older stories please visit our news archive.

News Contacts

Susan Brown
(858) 246-0161

Kim McDonald
(858) 534-7572

News Archive

Discoveries and major awards from the past five years. For older stories contact one of us or search the campus news site.