2024 Scixel Demoreel

It’s been quite a while since our last reel, so here it is. I have to say that I’ve been busy (thanks to you all), so I guess these delays are good news after all. This summary of the last couple of years makes symbolizes 12 years of Scixel, which is also kind of special.

Optical Memory in a Microfabricated Vapor Cell

I’m proud and happy to say that I’ve been working for quite a long time now for Prof. Philippe Treutlein, at Basel University. Happy because they are a particularly nice group of people and proud because they are quite ahead of their game.

This time they’ve made it to the cover of Physical Review Letters with a new advance in the fabrication of quantum network implementations. They’ve developed a ground-state quantum memory protocol using laser pulses at the single-photon level in a microfabricated vapor cell. This memory has shown to be capable of on-demand read-in and read-out.

Together with the first author, Roberto Mottola, we’ve made a picture showing the functioning vapor cell.

Taming Spin Waves

Big changes are about to happen in information technology. Spin waves, the collective spin excitations of magnetic materials, can be used to transmit information. That, provided we learn how to control and manipulate them.

M. Borst et al. at Toeno van der Sar lab, had just published a new breakthrough on this area. They’ve proved that spin waves in a magnetic thin film can be controlled with the use of a superconducting electrode.

As M. Borst explains, “spin waves can be a promising building block for an energy-efficient replacement for electronics”.

We, together with Dr. Borst, prepared this picture for Science to illustrate this new discovery.

Tailoring Metal–Organic Frameworks

Felipe Gándara et al. at Materials Science Institute of Madrid has developed a new method to prepare metal–organic frameworks with specific combinations of metal elements. The funny thing (to me) is that this method reminds me of how ribosomes build proteins.

Using molecular complexes with the desired metal-atom combinations as building blocks, they’re able to synthesize these frameworks with precise atomic composition. This method will allow to increase the different ways we have now to create extremely tailored novel materials that might be used for heterogeneous catalysis or quantum computing.

Their work has been featured in the cover of JACS.

Memristors Showing and Resistive Switching

Our good friend Prof. Mario Lanza is doing great at his new position in KAUST. And his last article has been featured in the cover of Advanced Electronic Materials. I this work they discuss the operating temperature of memristors which happen to be very low, making them suitable for electronic devices with low consumption.

The synaptic connection

It is easy to understand how important the formation of correct synaptic connections is during neural circuitry formation. The Teneurin family of proteins promotes these connections between cells playing an essential role in neuron-neuron adhesion.

At the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience (TUDelft) together with the Utrecht University have resolved the dimeric ectodomain of human Teneurin4 structure with 2.7 Ă… resolution. In the world of proteins, structure is directly related to function. And this amazing research, which has been featured in the cover of EMBO Journal, supports the role for teneurins as a scaffold for macromolecular complex assembly and the establishment of cis- and trans-synaptic interactions to construct functional neuronal circuits.

We made this picture to illustrate the behaviour of Teneurin, closely advised by Dr. Dimphna Meijer.

La Saga de la Tercera Hija

What if we told the history of the Earth as a creation myth? This is La Saga de la Tercera Hija, which sadly does not have an English version yet. A very personal project that I’ve enjoyed making during the last couple of years. Hope you enjoy it too. Download it here!

 

A strange couple of years…

It’s been a strange couple of years with worldwide issues that have affected us all. But here at Scixel, we can be nothing but grateful. First of all, the pandemic didn’t affect us in a serious way, neither us nor our families. Second, our clients continued with their usual hard work from home. And that deserves a huge ovation for the scientists all over the world. Their effort did not only kept us on business, but in better shape than ever. And finally, we kept working with Filmociencia and started working with Patricia Bondia, and that alone is something to be grateful for.

Here I leave you with a short summary of our work during the last two years. And as always, thank you all for making Scixel possible.

 

The Keymaster and the Gatekeeper

The study of single proteins has always been tricky. First of all you need to locate them. Until today, most of the solutions involved the labeling of the molecules an then their attachment to something else: links, surfaces, etc. And the problem gets trickier if you want to study their dynamics.

A new promising technique that solves most of these problems has been recently proposed. Scientists at the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience together with the Technische Universität MĂĽnchen, have managed to create what they’ve called the NEOtrap: a functional nanopore electro-osmotic trap. As they describe it, “the NEOtrap is formed by docking a DNA-origami sphere onto a passivated solid-state nanopore, which seals off a nanocavity of a user-defined size and creates an electro-osmotic flow that traps nearby particles irrespective of their charge“.

This new technique, featured on the cover of Nature Nanotechnology, is another interdisciplinary finding at the intersection of biology and physics and it opens the door to the study of label-free single proteins dynamics.

We made this picture, under the close supervision of Sonja Schmid (first author) and Cees Dekker (last author) who is an old friend that always brings us cool, new exciting stuff to work with.

Hyperlenses

This has been a good year for nano optics. And the research group 2DNanoptica (Oviedo, Spain) is largely responsible for this. Leading international collaborations, they’ve published two major advances in high impact factor journals during 2021.

In the first one, published in Nature Communications, they’ve presented a study on the refraction of light in highly anisotropic materials at the nanoscale. They’ve shown how light shows an exotic behaviour under this circumstances: how it can propagate in non-intuitive directions or how the refracted waves can be highly confined. Using these principles, they’ve built nanometric lens able to focus light in spaces way smaller that its wavelength.

In the second one, published in Science Advances, they show a similar result, but this time using two gold nano antennas, shaped in a special way that allows to focus light with a high level of confinement.

These results have obvious applications in optical computation or communications. But also they can work as biological or atmospheric sensors. However that does not really matter, does it? Because this work (both theoretical and experimental) is just beautiful. And that should be enough.

 

We did this two pictures in collaboration with Patricia Bondía to illustrate this work under close supervision of Pablo Alonso-González and Javier Martín Sánchez.