2016 Impact factor 1.288
Atomic, Molecular, Optical and Plasma Physics


EPJ A Highlight - Breaking up: a convoluted drama at nuclear scale, too

Schematic distribution of the breakup.

Pursuing a detective's approach to carbon atom breakup yields clues relevant to fusion reactions and astrophysics phenomena

Regardless of the scenario, breaking up is dramatic. Take for example the case of carbon (12C) splitting into three nuclei of helium. Until now, due to the poor quality of data and limited detection capabilities, physicists did not know whether the helium fragments were the object of a direct breakup in multiple fragments up front or were formed in a sequence of successive fragmentations. The question has been puzzling physicists for some time. Now, scientists from Denmark's Aarhus University have used a state-of-the-art detector capable of measuring, for the first time, the precise disintegration of the 12C into three helium nuclei. Their findings, released in a study published in EPJ A, reveal a sequence of fragmentations, relevant to developing a specific kind of fusion reactions and in astrophysics.


EPJ H Highlight - The 1950s: the decade in which gravity physics became experimental

Experimental tests from a hundred years ago that compare the gravitational accelerations of different kinds of material.

History shows experiments to be just as key as theory in gravity physics

In the 1950s and earlier, the gravity theory of Einstein's general relativity was largely a theoretical science. In a new paper published in EPJ H, Jim Peebles, a physicist and theoretical cosmologist who is currently the Albert Einstein Professor Emeritus of Science at Princeton University, New Jersey, USA, shares a historical account of how the experimental study of gravity evolved.


EPJ E Colloquium: Self-consistent field theory of multicomponent wormlike-copolymer melts

A linear, a 3-arm star, and a sidechain copolymer segment.

The self-consistent field theory (FCFT) is a convenient theoretical tool to describe the ordered structures of copolymer melts. It supports the current understanding of many polymeric systems. In a new EPJ E Colloquium Ying Jiang and colleagues showcase the versatility and power of the wormlike-chain formalism for calculating the microphase-separated crystallographic structures of multi-component wormlike polymers.


EPJ D Highlight - Inside an ion-molecule collision

An author’s conception of the collision of incoming positively charged ion beam into a furan molecule.

Physicists elucidate reactions underlying positive ion beams hitting molecular targets relevant in proton therapy

Ion-molecule reactions are ubiquitous. They are important in the emergence of primordial life as solar wind falls onto chemicals turning them into the prebiotic building blocks of life. Ion-molecule reactions are also the basic process underlying the proton-biomolecule collisions relevant in proton therapies in cancer. To better understand these mechanisms, a new study provides novel data on low-energy proton collisions with furan and its derivative molecules, which are models for the deoxyribose sugar unit found in biological processes. These findings have been published in EPJ D by Tomasz Wasowicz from Gdansk University of Technology, Poland, and colleagues, as part of the topical issue “Low-Energy Interactions related to Atmospheric and Extreme Conditions.”


EPJ B Highlight - New method helps stabilise materials with elusive magnetism

Visualisation of itinerant ferromagnetic domains.

Stabilising materials with transient magnetic characteristics makes it easier to study them

Magnetic materials displaying what is referred to as itinerant ferromagnetism are in an elusive physical state that is not yet fully understood. They behave like a magnets under very specific conditions, such as at ultracold temperatures near absolute zero. Physicists normally have no other choice than to study this very unique state of matter in a controlled fashion, using ultracold atomic gases. Now, a team based at ETH Zurich, Switzerland has introduced two new theoretical approaches to stabilise the ferromagnetic state in quantum gases to help study the characteristics of itinerant ferromagnetic materials. These results were recently published in EPJ B by Ilia Zintchenko and colleagues.


EPJ E Review - Watching crystals grow

Ice nucleus forming in supercooled liquid water
© Philipp Geiger

Crystallization, a typical self-organization process during which a disordered state spontaneously transforms into an ordered one, a crystal, usually proceeds by nucleation and growth. In the initial stages of the transformation, a localized nucleus of the new phase forms due to a random fluctuation. Most of these small nuclei disappear after a short time, but in some rare cases a crystalline embryo may reach a critical size, after which further growth becomes thermodynamically favorable and the entire system is converted into the new phase.

In this EPJ E review paper, Jungblut and Dellago discuss several theoretical concepts and computational methods to better understand crystallization. More specifically, they address the rare event problem arising in the simulation of nucleation processes, and explain how to calculate nucleation rates accurately. Particular emphasis is placed on discussing statistical tools to analyze crystallization trajectories and identify the transition mechanism.


EPJ Plus Highlight - Improving safety of neutron sources

Sampling of Lead-Bismuth-eutectic material/cover gas-interface sample consisting of solid material forming a powdery crust onto the steel wall.

Testing liquid metals as target material bombarded by high-energy particles

There is a growing interest in the scientific community in a type of high-power neutron source that is created via a process referred to as spallation. This process involves accelerating high-energy protons towards a liquid metal target made of material with a heavy nucleus. The issue here is that scientists do not always understand the mechanism of residue nuclei production, which can only be identified using spectrometry methods to detect their radioactive emissions. In a new study examining the radionuclide content of Lead-Bismuth-eutectic (LBE) targets, scientists at the Paul Scherrer Institute Villigen (PSI) found that some of the radionuclides do not necessarily remain dissolved in the irradiated targets. Instead, they can be depleted in the bulk LBE material and accumulate on the target's internal surfaces. These findings have recently been published in EPJ Plus by Bernadette Hammer-Rotzler affiliated with the PSI and the University of Bern, Switzerland, and colleagues from Switzerland, France and Sweden. The results improve our understanding of nuclear data related to the radionuclides stemming from high-power targets in spallation neutron sources. They contribute to improving the risk assessment of future high-power spallation neutron beam facilities --including, among others, the risk of erroneous evaluation of radiation dose rates.


EPJ C Highlight - Better defining the signals left by as-yet-undefined dark matter at the LHC

Schematic of an Effective Field Theory interaction between dark matter and the standard model.

New theoretical models that better describe the interaction between dark matter and ordinary particles advance the quest for dark matter

In the quest for dark matter, physicists rely on particle colliders such as the LHC in CERN, located near Geneva, Switzerland. The trouble is: physicists still don't exactly know what dark matter is. Indeed, they can only see its effect in the form of gravity. Until now, theoretical physicists have used models based on a simple, abstract description of the interaction between dark matter and ordinary particles, such as the Effective Field Theories (EFTs). However, until we observe dark matter, it is impossible to know whether or not these models neglect some key signals. Now, the high energy physics community has come together to develop a set of simplified models, which retain the elegance of EFT-style models yet provide a better description of the signals of dark matter, at the LHC. These developments are described in a review published in EPJ C by Andrea De Simone and Thomas Jacques from the International School for Advanced Studies SISSA, in Trieste, Italy.


EPJ E Highlight - Asymmetrical magnetic microbeads transform into micro-robots

Transformation of particle clusters while exposed to an oscillating external magnetic field.

Thanks to the ordering effects of two-faced magnetic beads, they can be turned into useful tools controlled by a changing external magnetic field

Janus was a Roman god with two distinct faces. Thousands of years later, he inspired material scientists working on asymmetrical microscopic spheres - with both a magnetic and a non-magnetic half - called Janus particles. Instead of behaving like normal magnetic beads, with opposite poles attracting, Janus particle assemblies look as if poles of the same type attract each other. A new study reveals that the dynamics of such assemblies can be predicted by modelling the interaction of only two particles and simply taking into account their magnetic asymmetry. These findings were recently published in EPJ E by Gabi Steinbach from the Chemnitz University of Technology, Germany, and colleagues at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf. It is part of a topical issue entitled "Nonequilibrium Collective Dynamics in Condensed and Biological Matter." The observed effects were exploited in a lab-on-a-chip application in which microscopic systems perform tasks in response to a changing external magnetic field.


EPJ C Highlight - Surprising neutrino decoherence inside supernovae

Illustration of the shift of two wave packets with large spread. Loss of coherence occurs even if the packets overlap due to the spatial energy redistribution within the whole wave packets.

Theory to explain collective effects of neutrinos inside supernovae strengthened

Neutrinos are elementary particles known for displaying weak interactions. As a result, neutrinos passing each other in the same place hardly notice one another. Yet, neutrinos inside a supernova collectively behave differently because of their extremely high density. A new study reveals that neutrinos produced in the core of a supernova are highly localised compared to neutrinos from all other known sources. This result stems from a fresh estimate for an entity characterising these neutrinos, known as wave packets, which provide information on both their position and their momentum. These findings have just been published in EPJ C by Jörn Kersten from the University of Bergen, Norway, and his colleague Alexei Yu. Smirnov from the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, Germany. The study suggests that the wave packet size is irrelevant in simpler cases. This means that the standard theory for explaining neutrino behaviour, which does not rely on wavepackets, now enjoys a more sound theoretical foundation.


V. Buzek, H. Kersten and A.V. Solov'yov
"I take this opportunity to thank the EPJD editorial office for the rapid and efficient processing of our paper.

Mauro Temporal

ISSN (Print Edition): 1434-6060
ISSN (Electronic Edition): 1434-6079

© EDP Sciences, Società Italiana di Fisica and Springer-Verlag

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