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Editor's Highlights - Communications Physics

We wish to share with our readers what we liked most in 2020 so we have put together a collection of editorially selected articles for each of the months from last year. We have also selected a few reviews published during what ended up being an exceptional year! We will update this page regularly with our selection for 2021. 

This compilation is intended to represent the broad scope of the journal, highlighting new insights into several topics within physics and related disciplines.

You can also find here our favourite articles of 2019, together with  a few commentaries and reviews that have appeared in the journal that year.

As many of our authors have also contributed a “behind the paper” for one of the Nature Community websites, we have also put together a compilation of their pieces aimed at communicating their work in a more personalised way than a research article. We hope you will enjoy browsing this content too.

About Communications Physics

Communications Physics is an open access journal from Nature Research publishing high-quality research, reviews and commentary in all areas of physics. Research papers published by the journal represent significant advances bringing new insight to a specialized area of research. Read more about the journal here

About the editors

Communications Physics is edited by both in-house professional editors and academic Editorial Board Members. Our editors work closely together to ensure the quality of our published papers and consistency in author experience. 

About the cover art

Cover art credit for 2021: Markus Ternes https://www.nature.com/articles/s42005-021-00601-8

 

 

Editors Highlights - 2021

Interaction of active matter with geometrical and topological constraints is a topic of intense research in the recent few years due to its potential for design and control of active flow patterns. Here, the authors experimentally study the growth and expansion of cell aggregates interleaved by passive colloidal particles, showing that inert particles can reshape the collective pattern formation in cellular aggregates.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Physics

While 3D printing applications range from aerospace manufacturing to the design of drug delivery systems, current technologies reaching the micro and nanoscale resolution are limited by the complexity and cost of their components. Here, the authors show that nanoscale cost-effective 3D printing can be achieved by using a gaming console optical drive pickup for 3D photopolymerization.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Physics

Intermediate band solar cell is a type of photovoltaic cell which includes additional narrow band states which allow absorption of low energy below-bandgap photons that might otherwise be transmitted from the host material. Here, the authors report a type of ratchet intermediate band solar cell prepared by doping GaAs with erbium and investigate the underlying energy transfer mechanisms.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Physics

Characterizing the interactions between viral and human proteins is key to understand the function and structure of viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 and for informing drug design and repurposing strategies. Here, the authors use statistical physics techniques to perform a systematic multiscale comparison of the effects on the human interactome of SARS-CoV-2 with respect to other viruses, and find that COVID-19 exhibits properties typical of systemic diseases.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Physics

URu2Si2 is known to exhibit a lower temperature phase transition termed a ‘hidden order’ due to the difficulty its detection using conventional solid-state probes and the exact mechanism still remains unknown. Here, the authors use scanning tunnelling microscopy to reveal a 1D charge density wave for cleaved samples of URu2Si2 and demonstrate a potential connection with the hidden order state.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Physics

Atoms embedded in dense hot plasmas are affected by complex many-body interactions which challenges our capacity to model high energy density plasma. The authors propose a solution to the effects of many-body interactions on ions in dense plasmas, with a particular focus on the threebody interaction.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Physics

Editors Highlights - 2020

Graphene-based Josephson junctions can make highly sensitive quantum probes and are dependent on properties related to the current phase relationship. Here, the authors theoretically investigate the power spectrum of the critical current fluctuations in graphene Josephson junctions and demonstrate that they have a 1/f dependence on frequency.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Physics

Water expands upon freezing, so what happens when it is brought below 0 °C in an undeformable, constant-volume container? Here, the authors use classical thermodynamics and kinetics to derive the phenomenology of freezing in an isochoric chamber, developing a framework therefrom to study the origin of the limiting effects of confinement on ice formation.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Physics

Established to explain high-energy particle physics, supersymmetry has since been invoked to describe the interplay between symmetry and topology in numerous fields. Here, supersymmetric transformations are shown theoretically and experimentally to destroy and restore topology in a photonic crystal.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Physics

Swarming is a ubiquitous behaviour in living systems, emerging from local interactions. Here, the authors exploit genetic mutations to experimentally characterize how distinct swarming phases of Bacillus subtilis emerge as a function of the shape and density of these bacteria.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Physics

Bound states in the continuum have recently found application to sensing, lasing and optoelectronics, but have not been realised in 1D. Here, destructive interference of electron spin in a tilted magnetic field is shown to give rise to bound states in the continuum of a 1D layered photonic crystal.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Physics

How friction in liquids emerges from conservative forces between atoms is currently not well-understood, but it is a crucial parameter for dynamic processes in liquid matter. Here, the authors combine frequency-resolved simulation data with theory to show that the friction felt by a single molecule occurs abruptly below a certain frequency.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Physics

Floquet engineering describes the control of a quantum system using light-matter interactions and has received renewed interest due to recent developments in ultrafast spectroscopy techniques. Here, the authors use light scattering spectroscopy to investigate the Floquet state in MoS2 and apply dynamical symmetries to understand the polarisation selection rules

Article | Open Access | | Communications Physics

Control of nonlinear optical processes at the nanoscale is vital for the generation of on-chip short-wavelength sources, yet strong re-absorption of this radiation limits its efficiency in solids. Here, high harmonics are generated in an array of 1D silicon ridge waveguides, mitigating bulk re-absorption.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Physics

Large-scale containment measures that reduce the spread of COVID-19 have proven to have too large an impact on both the economy and our mental health to be sustainable in the long term. Here, the authors show that travel reductions between geographical regions and timely local control measures can reduce the region-to-region reproduction number below one, thus eliminating the epidemic and preventing recurrent waves without the need for long-term lockdown measures.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Physics

The chiral spin texture hosted by Kagome lattices is emerging as a prominent playground for investigating exotic phenomena related to topological quantum phases. Here the authors utilize a tight-binding approach to unveil the existence of spontaneous interactions capable of bridging the gap between magnonics and spin-orbitronics.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Physics

Reviews and Commentaries

Optical frequency combs were realized nearly two decades ago to support the development of the world’s most precise atomic clocks, but their versatility has since made them useful instruments well beyond their original goal, and spans across a wide variety of fundamental and applied physics in a wide range of wavelengths. Fortier and Baumann present a comprehensive review of developments in optical frequency comb technology and a view to the future with these technologies.

Review Article | Open Access | | Communications Physics

Interrogating emergent nonequilibrium phenomena in light-driven quantum materials requires probing microscopic spin, charge and orbital excitations at ultrafast timescales. In this Perspective, time-resolved resonant inelastic X-ray scattering is discussed as a nascent method to investigate photoinduced states of matter.

Perspective | Open Access | | Communications Physics

The neutron-rich, weakly bound fluorine isotope 29F has been extensively investigated theoretically, but its significance has been revived by recent experiments. The authors present the latest developments and make prediction on the electromagnetic transitions occurring in this isotope that may be observed in the near future.

Perspective | Open Access | | Communications Physics

What is the path towards a physical theory of complex networked systems? With an eye to the historical maths-physics duality, and an outlook towards the future, this commentary discusses promises and challenges accompanying the convergence of formal graph theory and data-inspired network science.

Comment | Open Access | | Communications Physics

Göttingen is home to the Third Infinity conference, a biennial event organized by Ph.D. candidates that aims, beyond discussing complex systems physics, at providing a platform to discuss themes central to doctoral life and education. As part of the organizing committee of Third Infinity 2020, in this comment we would like to raise attention on the main issues faced by today’s European interdisciplinary Ph.D. students as we learnt them from direct experience during the organization process, as well as from discussion with our peers during the event.

Comment | Open Access | | Communications Physics

Gravitational wave astronomy has opened the door to test general relativity and the effect of gravity in the Universe. The authors present the capabilities of an overlap between space gravitational wave detectors LISA and Taiji to constrain the Hubble constant to 0.5%, in 10 years, and what can be learned from the satellite pilot Taiji-1 launched in 2019.

Perspective | Open Access | | Communications Physics

Topological materials are extensively studied in condensed matter physics and several have been studied to the point where it is now time to ask if these unique materials have a role to play in next generation technologies. The author reviews the current status of well-characterized topological materials such as Bi2Se3 for electronic device applications, focusing on selected technological aspects and their promise for engineering applications.

Review Article | Open Access | | Communications Physics

2019 Anniversary Collection: monthly editorially selected articles and reviews to mark our second revolution around the sun.

Quantum communication and computing is now in a data-intensive domain where a classical network describing a quantum system seems no longer sufficient to yield a generalization of complex networks methods to the quantum domain. The authors review recent progress into this paradigm shift that drives the creation of a network theory based fundamentally on quantum effects.

Review Article | Open Access | | Communications Physics

Optical frequency combs were realized nearly two decades ago to support the development of the world’s most precise atomic clocks, but their versatility has since made them useful instruments well beyond their original goal, and spans across a wide variety of fundamental and applied physics in a wide range of wavelengths. Fortier and Baumann present a comprehensive review of developments in optical frequency comb technology and a view to the future with these technologies.

Review Article | Open Access | | Communications Physics

The concept of non-Hermitian parity-time reversal symmetry in optics has given rise to a vast amount of research aimed at exploring some of the exotic features displayed by photonics systems. The authors present a brief account of the state-of-the-art on non-Hermitian photonics and provide their perspective on the topic.

Comment | Open Access | | Communications Physics

The anapole, a non-radiating charge-current configuration, was recently observed in a variety of artificial materials and nanostructures. We provide a brief overview of this rapidly developing field and discuss implications for spectroscopy, energy materials, electromagnetics, as well as quantum and nonlinear optics.

Comment | Open Access | | Communications Physics

The successful isolation of a single layer of graphene has led to great interest in finding other 2D materials with similar electronic characteristics with additional spin-dependent phenomena. In this work, a 2D allotrope of Sn is grown on an Au(111) surface and shown through angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy to have a linear band dispersion at the zone center and anti-parallel spin polarization.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Physics

The valley Hall effect in transition metal dichalcogenides has been studied as a potential mean to develop new electronic and optoelectronic devices. The authors theoretically demonstrate that valley Hall effect can be derived from spin degrees of freedom, which is distinct from the conventional orbital related type.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Physics

Semiconductor microcavities coupled to a quantum well can produce three regimes of coherent light generation depending on the nature of the light–matter and electron–hole interactions. The authors design a Se/Te based microcavity containing a single quantum well which enables them to achieve all three lasing regimes in the one device.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Physics

The aim of quantum communications is to transmit quantum information at high rate over long distances, something that can only be achieved by quantum repeaters and quantum networks. Here the author presents the ultimate end-to-end capacities of a quantum network, also showing the advantages of multipath network routing versus single repeater chains.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Physics

Revealing how to effectively produce nuclei remains one of the main motivations of recent nuclear reaction and nuclear transmutation studies of radioactive waste. The authors show the enhancement of proton rich isotope production using incomplete fusion mechanism on weakly bound nuclei using the incomplete fusion mechanism by the inverse kinematics technique, in which a radioactive beam of Palladium bombards a proton/deuteron target.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Physics

Prospects for new applications in quantum simulations, spectroscopic precision measurements and very low temperature physics and chemistry have resulted in significant advances in the study of cold molecules, with their trapping for long times remaining a major challenge. The authors present an experiment in which polar molecular radicals produced by Stark deceleration are magnetically trapped for a time of order 20 s providing an improvement of up to two orders of magnitude over room temperature experiments.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Physics

Bolometers, a type of cryogenic detectors, are extensively used for astronomical applications but new technologies offer the possibility to lower the temperature they operate at in order to increase their sensitivity. The authors present the experimental realisation of a Cold-Electron Bolometer based on strong on-chip electron self-cooling in which the electrons of the sensing element are refrigerated by superconductor tunnel junctions opening the door to the use of more cost effective devices for space missions.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Physics

Active nematics refers to systems made of a collection of elongated units, each of which consumes ambient or stored energy in order to move. The authors experimentally and numerically study an active nematic system in confinement finding a defect-free regime of shear flow, and defect nucleation under certain boundary conditions, highlighting the importance of topological defects in controlling confined active flows.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Physics

Small-world networks describe mathematically many natural and man-made networks such as neurons, power grids or social networks, but a measure of how small a small-world network is, remains a subject of debate. The authors identify the limiting cases with the shortest and longest average path for a given number of nodes and edges, which can be used as benchmarks to evaluate the average shortest path length for both empirical and model networks.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Physics