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Top 50: Physics

We are pleased to share with you the 50 most read Nature Communications physics articles* published in 2018. Featuring authors from around the world, these papers highlight valuable research from an international community.

Browse all Top 50 subject area collections here.

*Based on data from altmetric.com, covering January-December 2018

1-25

Organic semiconductors provide a platform for flexible lasers, but these are still produced on rigid, thick substrates. Here, Karl et al. develop a method to make freestanding membrane lasers that can be transferred onto any substrate and show that these could be used as anti-counterfeiting labels.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Some animals have multimodal locomotive capabilities to survive in different environments. Inspired by nature, Chen et al. build a centimeter-scaled robot that is capable of walking on water, underwater, on land, and transiting among all three, whose ‘feet’ break water by modifying surface tension.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Artificial intelligence is now superior to humans in many fully competitive games, such as Chess, Go, and Poker. Here the authors develop a machine-learning algorithm that can cooperate effectively with humans when cooperation is beneficial but nontrivial, something humans are remarkably good at.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Quantum mechanics is expected to provide a consistent description of reality, even when recursively describing systems contained in each other. Here, the authors develop a variant of Wigner’s friend Gedankenexperiment where each of the current interpretations of QM fails in giving a consistent description.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Who benefits from sharing data? The scientists of future do, as data sharing today enables new science tomorrow. Far from being mere rehashes of old datasets, evidence shows that studies based on analyses of previously published data can achieve just as much impact as original projects.

Editorial | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Manipulation of paramagnetic microparticles can be exploited for drug delivery. Here the authors manipulate a swarm of such particles and control its shape with a magnetic field so that it can elongate reversibly, split into smaller swarms and thus be guided through a maze with multiple parallel channels.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Neutron beams are useful studying fundamental physics problems, fusion process and material properties. Here the authors use intense laser irradiation of deuterated nanowire array targets to create high energy density plasmas capable of efficient generation of ultrafast neutron pulses.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The exact mechanism of momentum conversion from light to an object has varied descriptions in the literature and experimental verifications are difficult. Here the authors do an in-depth experimental and numerical study of the momentum dynamics of elastic waves in a dielectric mirror hit by a pulsed laser beam.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Donor impurities in silicon are promising candidates as qubits but in order to create a large-scale quantum computer inter-qubit coupling must be introduced by precise positioning of the donors. Here the authors demonstrate the fabrication, manipulation and readout of a two qubit phosphorous donor device.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Silicon-based contaminants are ubiquitous in natural graphite, and they are thus expected to be present in exfoliated graphene. Here, the authors show that such impurities play a non-negligible role in graphene-based devices, and use high-purity parent graphite to boost the performance of graphene sensors and supercapacitor microelectrodes.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Martensitic transition is commonly seen in steel and shape memory alloys but rarely in organic materials. Chung et al. discover martensitic transitions in organic electronics and utilize it in designing field-effect transistors, leading to shape memory effect that in return modifies charge transport properties.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The fabrication of van der Waals heterostructures of atomically thin materials often relies on the search, manual transferring, and alignment of suitable flakes. Here, the authors develop a robotic system capable of identifying exfoliated 2D crystals and assembling them in complex heterostructures.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The interplay between superconductivity and charge density wave (CDW) in 2H-NbSe2 is still not fully understood. Here, Cho et al. use controlled disorder to probe the interplay between these two phases in 2H-NbSe2 and find that superconductivity initially competes with CDW but eventually long-range CDW order assists superconductivity.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Hot carriers have excess energy that could be used to enhance solar cell efficiencies if their lifetimes are sufficiently long. Here, Fang et al. observe nanosecond hot carrier lifetime by photoluminescence in formamidinium tin triiodide perovskites which is 1000 times higher than lead based perovskites.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Conventional distributed Brillouin sensing allows real-time sampling at high spatial resolution, but is so far restricted to measuring quantities inside the fibre core. Here, Chow et al. demonstrate a distributed forward Brillouin sensor that is sensitive to quantities outside the fibre bulk.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

There is a continuous effort to improve the accuracy of atomic clocks. Here the authors measure the static differential scalar polarizability of Lutetium ion resonant transitions and its lower light shift from blackbody radiation makes it a promising candidate for ion-based atomic clocks.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

26-50

On-chip spectrometers typically have limited spectral channels and low signal to noise ratios. Here the authors introduce a digital architecture that uses switches to change the interferometer path lengths, enabling exponentially more spectral channels per circuit element and lower noise by leveraging a machine learning reconstruction algorithm.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Memristive technology is a promising avenue towards realizing efficient non-von Neumann neuromorphic hardware. Boybat et al. proposes a multi-memristive synaptic architecture with a counter-based global arbitration scheme to address challenges associated with the non-ideal memristive device behavior.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Memristors have become an emerging technology capable in emulating human brain information processing, but understanding and controlling the switching mechanism remains elusive. Here, Milano et al. combine memristive and neuromorphic functionalities in a single crystalline nanowire model system.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

X-ray detectors based on low-cost organic semiconductors have inherently low detector sensitivity due to poor X-ray to charge conversion and charge collection. Here, the authors demonstrate a flexible, high-sensitivity X-ray detector based on an organic bulk heterojunction-nanoparticle composite.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Plasma releases magnetic energy by magnetic reconnection but the clear evidence of this phenomenon in relativistic regime is still lacking. Here the authors present a scheme for laboratory observation of the relativistic magnetic reconnection driven by laser-produced energetic electrons in the plasma.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Acoustic bianisotropy does not exist in natural materials but can be designed with acoustic metamaterials. Here, Li et al. utilized acoustic bianisotropy and develop a practical metamaterial with improved transmission efficiency which outperforms the Generalized Snell’s Law.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Many complex oxides combine multiple functionalities that can be manipulated by external fields, providing opportunities for creating devices. Here, He et al. predict that Ag2BiO3 can be tuned between ferroelectric and different topological semimetallic states using electric fields at room temperature.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Mid-IR optics can require exotic materials or complicated processing, which can result in high cost and inferior quality. Here the authors report the demonstration of high-efficiency mid-IR transmissive lenses based on dielectric Huygens metasurface, showing diffraction limited focusing and imaging performance.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The electron affinity of liquid water is a fundamental property which has not yet been accurately measured. Here, the authors predict this property by coupling path-integral molecular dynamics with ab initio potentials and electronic structure calculations, revisiting several estimates used in the literature.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Here, the authors demonstrate an array of superconducting qubits embedded into a microwave transmission line. They show that the transmission through the metamaterial periodically depends on externally applied magnetic field and suppression of the transmission is achieved through field-induced transitions.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The existence of multiple topological phases in a single material, although theoretically possible, has not been verified. Here, the authors observe weak topological insulator surface states and a one-dimensional Dirac-node crossing surface state in a single metallic material Hf2Te2P.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Superconductivity is evidenced in crystals and amorphous solids, but remains to be discovered in quasicrystals. Here, Kamiya et al. report the emergence of bulk superconductivity in Al-Zn-Mg quasicrystal at a very low transition temperature about 0.05 K.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Photoionization of atoms and molecules is a complex process and requires sensitive probes to explore the ultrafast dynamics. Here the authors combine transient absorption and photo-ion spectroscopy methods to explore and control the attosecond pulse initiated excitation, ionization and Auger decay in Kr atoms.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The understanding of the reemergence of pressure induced superconductivity in alkali-metal intercalated FeSe is hampered by sample complexities. Here, Sun et al. report the electronic properties of (Li1–xFe x )OHFe1–ySe single crystal not only in the reemerged superconducting state but also in the normal state.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Neuromorphic hardware is based on principles of neuroscience, and has the potential to provide higher-level brain functions. Here, the authors develop a neuromorphic network device, constructed from single-walled carbon nanotubes and polyoxometalate, that mimics nerve impulse generation.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Authenticating a nuclear warhead without revealing its design is a challenge. Here the authors discuss a nuclear disarmament verification method based on neutron resonance analysis which is sensitive to the isotopic composition of the materials used in warheads.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Entanglement between photons and stationary quantum nodes is a fundamental resource for quantum communication, but typical transition wavelengths are far from the telecom band. Here, the authors deal with the problem using polarisation-independent, entanglement-preserving frequency conversion.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Cold atom clocks are among the most precise measuring devices and play key roles in everyday life and scientific explorations. Here the authors demonstrate the first in-orbit atomic clock using cold Rb atoms operating in microgravity and opening possibilities of space surveys and tests of fundamental physics.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications