Table of contents

cover image


A matter of choice p603


The United Kingdom's tough budget for science may force researchers to pick winners and losers. But can it work?


Research Highlights

Our choice from the recent literature p605



News and Views

Aluminium: Simple metal no more pp607 - 608

Malcolm I. McMahon & Graeme J. Ackland


Aluminium is regarded as a simple system in which to test for phenomena occurring at high pressure. Ab initio calculations now show that this metal undergoes a surprising transition to an incommensurate structure when it is subjected to extremely high pressures.

See also: Letter by Pickard & Needs

Magnetoelectrics: The Universe in a solid design pp608 - 609

Dmitry Budker


A new material designed from first principles and subsequently synthesized and characterized in the laboratory may shed light on why there is much more matter than antimatter in the Universe.

See also: Article by Rushchanskii et al.

Metal–organic frameworks: Enlightened pores pp609 - 610

Matthew J. Rosseinsky


The functionalization of crystalline porous materials is frequently limited to groups inert to the microscopic structure. Photoconversion of dormant precursors into highly reactive species shines light on the problem.

See also: Article by Sato et al.

Graphene: Ribbons piece-by-piece pp611 - 612

Michael S. Fuhrer


Directed assembly of molecular precursors allows the fabrication of graphene nanoribbons with atomic precision.

Biomaterials: Plastic antibodies pp612 - 614

Karsten Haupt


Imprinting molecular memory on the surface of polymer nanoparticles creates artificial antibodies that can recognize and neutralize a toxic peptide in vivo.

Nanofriction: Surfing on graphite waves pp615 - 616

André Schirmeisen


Friction is rarely studied at high sliding speeds between surfaces. However, simulations now suggest that gold clusters on atomically flat graphite can enter a new regime of ballistic friction, featuring a peculiar anticorrelation between translation and rotation.

See also: Letter by Guerra et al.

π-Electron systems: Building molecules for a function pp616 - 617

Vitaly Podzorov


The versatility and potential of conjugated organic materials continues to amaze, with their unique — and sometimes unexpected — properties being continuously discovered and harnessed by scientists in an attempt to use them in functional devices.



Atomistic free-volume zones and inelastic deformation of metallic glasses pp619 - 623

J. C. Ye, J. Lu, C. T. Liu, Q. Wang & Y. Yang


The amorphous nature of metallic glasses makes them interesting for structural applications. However, the interplay between the nature of atomic structures and mechanical properties remains poorly understood. Dynamic micropillar tests now show the important contribution of the inelastic deformation of atomistic free-volume zones to the deformation behaviour of metallic glasses.

Aluminium at terapascal pressures pp624 - 627

Chris J. Pickard & R. J. Needs


What happens to a crystal placed under a huge pressure? In the case of aluminium, it is now shown that the standard, low-pressure close-packed structure transforms into an open one, with incommensurate host–guest arrangement. The findings could have important implications for a wider range of elements.

Subject Categories: Metals and alloys | Computation, modelling and theory

See also: News and Views by McMahon & Ackland

High magnetic-field scales and critical currents in SmFeAs(O, F) crystals pp628 - 633

Philip J. W. Moll, Roman Puzniak, Fedor Balakirev, Krzysztof Rogacki, Janusz Karpinski, Nikolai D. Zhigadlo & Bertram Batlogg


Regardless of what the origin of superconductivity is in the recently discovered iron-based superconductor, it would be useful to know how good these materials are for applications. Sophisticated experiments now show that SmFeAs0.75F0.25 exhibits a high and nearly isotropic critical current, a potentially important result for their use in applications.

Subject Categories: Electronic materials | Superconductors

Ballistic nanofriction pp634 - 637

Roberto Guerra, Ugo Tartaglino, Andrea Vanossi & Erio Tosatti


Friction between two surfaces is usually studied at low relative sliding speeds. A molecular dynamics study now explores friction at high speeds, showing the emergence of a ballistic friction regime, qualitatively different from standard drift friction. The findings might have important implications for applications in nanoelectromechanical systems.

Subject Categories: Surface and thin films | Computation, modelling and theory

See also: News and Views by Schirmeisen

Spin injection/detection using an organic-based magnetic semiconductor pp638 - 642

Jung-Woo Yoo, Chia-Yi Chen, H. W. Jang, C. W. Bark, V. N. Prigodin, C. B. Eom & A. J. Epstein


An important component of spintronics devices is the magnetic electrode, which is usually made from an inorganic alloy. However, an organic-based spin polarizer is now demonstrated, opening new possibilities for developing organic/inorganic hybrid spintronics devices.

Subject Categories: Electronic materials | Molecular electronics | Magnetic materials

Multimaterial piezoelectric fibres pp643 - 648

S. Egusa, Z. Wang, N. Chocat, Z. M. Ruff, A. M. Stolyarov, D. Shemuly, F. Sorin, P. T. Rakich, J. D. Joannopoulos & Y. Fink


Fibres are typically used as passive devices, whether in fibre-optical cables used in telecommunciations or as yarns for clothing. The demonstration of polymer-based piezoelectric fibres that can be drawn to tens of metres in length, and whose acoustic response can be actively controlled, suggests possible applications in, for example, medical imaging or acoustic sensing.

Subject Categories: Electronic materials | Optical, photonic and optoelectronic materials



A multiferroic material to search for the permanent electric dipole moment of the electron pp649 - 654

K. Z. Rushchanskii, S. Kamba, V. Goian, P. Vaněk, M. Savinov, J. Prokleška, D. Nuzhnyy, K. Knížek, F. Laufek, S. Eckel, S. K. Lamoreaux, A. O. Sushkov, M. Ležaić & N. A. Spaldin


In the standard model of particle physics the permanent electric dipole moment of particles is zero, although competing theories suggest it must exist to explain the asymmetry of matter and antimatter in the Universe. The design and synthesis of a new multiferroic material may now enable us to search for the electric dipole moment of electrons with unprecedented precision.

Subject Categories: Electronic materials | Magnetic materials

See also: News and Views by Budker

Multistability of a coherent spin ensemble in a semiconductor microcavity pp655 - 660

T. K. Paraïso, M. Wouters, Y. Léger, F. Morier-Genoud & B. Deveaud-Plédran


The manipulation of spin states is a key requirement in spintronics. In semiconductor microcavities, a multistate switching of the spin state of polaritons, which form as a result of the coupling of photons and excitons in the microcavity, may lead to new spintronics devices.

Subject Categories: Electronic materials | Optical, photonic and optoelectronic materials | Magnetic materials

Photoactivation of a nanoporous crystal for on-demand guest trapping and conversion pp661 - 666

Hiroshi Sato, Ryotaro Matsuda, Kunihisa Sugimoto, Masaki Takata & Susumu Kitagawa


Nanoscale porous materials show unique properties that can be important for catalytic, separation and gas-storage applications. A strategy to yield crystalline porous compounds decorated with reactive nitrenes that can chemically trap and convert guest molecules by light stimulation is now reported.

Subject Categories: Nanoscale materials | Porous materials

See also: News and Views by Rosseinsky

DNA translocation through an array of kinked nanopores pp667 - 675

Zhu Chen, Yingbing Jiang, Darren R. Dunphy, David P. Adams, Carter Hodges, Nanguo Liu, Nan Zhang, George Xomeritakis, Xiaozhong Jin, N. R. Aluru, Steven J. Gaik, Hugh W. Hillhouse & C. Jeffrey Brinker


Synthetic solid-state nanopores are of interest at present for their use as single-molecule sensors for characterization and detection of biomolecules. By using self-assembly evaporation and atomic-layer deposition, kinked silica nanopores are shown to exhibit reduction in DNA-translocation velocity and selectivity.

Subject Categories: Biological materials | Nanoscale materials | Porous materials

Quantum-dot/dopamine bioconjugates function as redox coupled assemblies for in vitro and intracellular pH sensing pp676 - 684

Igor L. Medintz, Michael H. Stewart, Scott A. Trammell, Kimihiro Susumu, James B. Delehanty, Bing C. Mei, Joseph S. Melinger, Juan B. Blanco-Canosa, Philip E. Dawson & Hedi Mattoussi


The detailed mechanism of the pH-dependent quenching of semiconductor quantum-dot/dopamine conjugates, confirming quinone as the electron acceptor in the process, is now reported. This electrochemical knowledge of the bioconjugate system is used for the in vitro detection of drug-induced intracellular pH changes.

Subject Categories: Biomedical materials | Electronic materials | Semiconductors | Nanoscale materials



Nanogel antigenic protein-delivery system for adjuvant-free intranasal vaccines p685

Tomonori Nochi, Yoshikazu Yuki, Haruko Takahashi, Shin-ichi Sawada, Mio Mejima, Tomoko Kohda, Norihiro Harada, Il Gyu Kong, Ayuko Sato, Nobuhiro Kataoka, Daisuke Tokuhara, Shiho Kurokawa, Yuko Takahashi, Hideo Tsukada, Shunji Kozaki, Kazunari Akiyoshi & Hiroshi Kiyono