What's Hot In Physics> 2011

Year: 2011

The Top Ten lists in Physics feature papers published during the last two years (excluding review articles) that were most cited in current journal articles indexed by Clarivate Analytics during a recent two-month period. Papers are ranked according to the latest bimonthly citation count. The articles below are accompanied by expert discussion and analysis (including comments from the papers’ authors) written by one of four veteran scientist-journalists and longtime ScienceWatch.com contributors.


 

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2011

Ultra-Compact Lasers: Not For Your Eyes Only

by Simon Mitton

Xiang ZhangThree current Top Ten physics papers discuss advances in laser technology. Two reports describe diode lasers that function via doping with neodymium. A key application for orange-yellow laser light in a compact setting is ophthalmology, for the treatment of retinal disorders and other conditions. The third paper reports on the creation of the world’s smallest laser, in which light is “squeezed” beyond previous, conventional wavelength limitations.
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SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011

From the Wilkinson Probe, More Dark Revelations

by Simon Mitton

Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe has journied into deep space on a voyage to explore some of the deepest mysteries of the cosmos. Scientists can determine mutch about the content, shape, history, and the ultimate fate of the Universe by constructing a full-sky picture of the oldest light in the Universe. Credit: NASA / WMAP Science Team.Research on polymer solar cells continues to account for some of the most-cited papers in recent physics, as do ongoing investigations into the properties and potential applications of graphene. Also attracting citations is the new seven-year report of data from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, with the latest interpretation concerning observations of the cosmic microwave background and other phenomena by which scientists attempt explain the universe and its evolution.
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JULY/AUGUST 2011

Efficiency Experts Shine On With Polymer Solar Cells

by Simon Mitton

A monocrystalline solar cellReports on polymer solar cells continue to collect impressive citation totals, both here on the Physics list and in Chemistry. The current Physics Top Ten includes, at #1, the groundbreaking 2009 report from principal investigators Alan J. Heeger and Kwanghee Lee, along with subsequent work from Yang Yang. The latter paper reports on the fabrication of polymers that increase efficiency and move this class of solar cells ever closer to mass commercial application.
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MAY/JUNE 2011

Herschel Observatory Reports Take Up Space in Physics

by Simon Mitton

The Herschel Space Observatory. From the Wiki Commons.The Herschel Space Observatory, launched by the European Space Agency in May of 2009, has begun to yield data on the interstellar medium and galaxy evolution, including observations across the infrared and submillimeter range. A special 2010 issue of Astronomy & Astrophysics collects upwards of 150 of the initial reports on Herschel and its findings, casting particular attention on the mission overview and descriptions of the spacecraft’s instrumentation.
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MARCH/APRIL 2011

Increasing the Efficiency Of Polymer Solar Cells

by Simon Mitton

Solar pannelMaterials scientists continue to pursue greater efficiency in converting sunlight into electricity by means of polymer solar cells. Recent reports discuss cells that are based on bulk heterojunction structures, composites of an electron-donating polymer and a electron accepting fullerene. While the internal efficiency of these cells approaches 100%, the challenge remains to boost the output efficiency. The effort to bring polymer solar cells into the realm of consumer product is ongoing.
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JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2011

Topological Insulators: 3D Spin Fascinates Physicists

by Simon Mitton

PhysicsAt the juncture of materials science, nanotechnology, and theoretical physics, work on so-called topological insulators is attracting increasing attention. One team succeeded in creating such an insulator in a 3D configuration, through which electrons can flow at room temperature without loss of energy. This work promises to accelerate further research in condensed matter physics and nanotechnology, as well as for applications in such products as faster computer microchips.
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