Physics Research News

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A collection of press releases about physics research conducted by Penn State scientists.
Experiment Near South Pole Reveals How Earth Blocks High-Energy Particles Produced by Nuclear Reactions
22 November 2017For the first time, a science experiment has measured Earth's ability to absorb neutrinos -- the smaller-than-an-atom particles that zoom throughout space and through us by the trillions every second at nearly the speed of light. The experiment was achieved with the IceCube detector, an array of 5,160 basketball-sized sensors frozen deep within a cubic kilometer of very clear ice near the South Pole. The IceCube collaboration includes Penn State physicists.
Sky-high observatory sheds light on origin of excess anti-matter: New study excludes nearby pulsars, points to dark matter as possible culprit
16 November 2017The High-Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) Observatory in Mexico, built and operated by an international team that includes Penn State scientists, has captured the first wide-angle view of very-high-energy light emanating from two rapidly spinning stars. The fresh perspective on these stellar neighbors casts serious doubt on one possible origin for a mysterious excess of particles near Earth.
Two-dimensional materials gets a new theory for control of properties
19 October 2017Desirable properties including increased electrical conductivity, improved mechanical properties, or magnetism for memory storage or information processing may be possible because of a theoretical method to control grain boundaries in two-dimensional materials, according to Penn State materials scientists.
Gravitational waves + new clues from space reveal new way to make a black hole
16 October 2017For the first time, two neutron stars are caught in the act of colliding
New gravitational wave hits Earth -- For the first time, 3 detectors zoom in on its location
27 September 2017For the first time, three detectors have tracked the gravitational waves emitted by a merger of two black holes -- a critical new capability that allows scientists to more closely locate a gravitational wave's birthplace in space.
Mystery solved: Super-energetic space particles crash to Earth from far, far away
21 September 2017Super-energetic space particles, which were thought to have been blasted toward Earth from somewhere outside our solar system, now have been discovered to be from very far away indeed -- from far outside our Milky Way galaxy.
New Gravitational-Wave Data Analysis Now Underway
25 August 2017Penn State LIGO physicists are members of the LIGO-Virgo collaboration to detect and characterize gravitational waves. The collaboration now is completing a very exciting Second Observing Run that is drawing to a close on August 25, 2017.
New gravity waves hit Earth after record-breaking trip through space
01 June 2017Gravitational waves produced by the birth of a massive black hole, a record-breaking billions of light-years from Earth, have been detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO). The waves were generated when two smaller black holes collided and then merged to form a larger black hole with a mass about fifty times larger than our sun's.
Low cost, scalable water-splitting fuels the future hydrogen economy
01 June 2017The "clean-energy economy" always seems a few steps away but never quite here. Fossil fuels still power transportation, heating and cooling, and manufacturing, but a team of scientists from Penn State and Florida State University have come one step closer to inexpensive, clean hydrogen fuel with a lower cost and industrially scalable catalyst that produces pure hydrogen through a low-energy water-splitting process.
Next-generation dark matter detector in a race to finish line: Mile-deep U.S.-based experiment is on a fast track to help solve science mystery
24 February 2017The race is on to build the most sensitive U.S.-based experiment designed to directly detect particles of dark matter. Department of Energy (DOE) officials formally approved a key construction milestone that will propel the project named LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ) toward its goal for completion by April 2020.
NSF funds supercomputer cluster at Penn State
21 February 2017The Penn State Cyber-Laboratory for Astronomy, Materials, and Physics (CyberLAMP) is acquiring a high-performance computer cluster that will facilitate interdisciplinary research and training in cyberscience and is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
Measuring entropy: A scanning-tunneling microscope provides a glimpse of the mysterious property
13 February 2017New research shows that a scanning-tunneling microscope (STM), used to study changes in the shape of a single molecule at the atomic scale, impacts the ability of that molecule to make these changes. The study, appearing this week in the journal Nature Communications, demonstrates that the position of the tip of the STM relative to the molecule changes the energy requirements of the molecule to make changes in shape, and in turn, changes the entropy of the system.
New, carbon-nanotube tool for ultra-sensitive virus detection and identification
07 October 2016A new tool that uses a forest-like array of vertically-aligned carbon nanotubes that can be finely tuned to selectively trap viruses by their size can increase the detection threshold for viruses and speed the process of identifying newly-emerging viruses. The research, by an interdisciplinary team of scientists at Penn State, is published in the October 7, 2016 edition of the journal Science Advances.
RNA, gravitational waves focus of two new grants
23 September 2016Four Penn State researchers have been awarded a total of $450,000 by the Charles E. Kaufman Foundation to carry out basic science research over the next two years.
Closing in on high-temperature superconductivity
16 September 2016The quest to know the mysterious recipe for high-temperature superconductivity, which could enable revolutionary advances in technologies that make or use electricity, just took a big leap forward thanks to new research by an international team of experimental and theoretical physicists. The research paper appears in the journal Science on September 16, 2016.
New, better way to build circuits for world's first useful quantum computers
27 June 2016The era of quantum computers is one step closer as a result of research published in the current issue of the journal Science. The research team has devised and demonstrated a new way to pack a lot more quantum computing power into a much smaller space and with much greater control than ever before. The research advance, using a 3-dimensional array of atoms in quantum states called quantum bits -- or qubits -- was made by David S. Weiss, professor of physics at Penn State University, and three students on his lab team.
New gravitational-wave finder scores again
15 June 2016Less than four months after the historic first-ever detection of gravitational waves, scientists on a team that includes Penn State University physicists and astronomers now have detected another gravitational wave washing over the Earth. "I would never have guessed that we would be so fortunate to have, not only one, but two definitive binary black-hole detections within the first few months of observations," said Chad Hanna, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy & astrophysics at Penn State and co-chair of the Compact Binary Coalescence Group of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), which detected both the first gravitational wave and this new one since beginning observations last fall.
Under Pressure: New technique could make large, flexible solar panels more feasible
13 May 2016A new, high-pressure technique may allow the production of huge sheets of thin-film silicon semiconductors at low temperatures in simple reactors at a fraction of the size and cost of current technology. A paper describing the research by scientists at Penn State University appears May 13, 2016 in the journal Advanced Materials.
New clues in the hunt for the sources of cosmic neutrinos
18 February 2016The sources of the high-energy cosmic neutrinos that are detected by the IceCube Neutrino Observatory buried in the Antarctic ice may be hidden from observations of high-energy gamma rays, new research reveals. These high-energy cosmic neutrinos, which are likely to come from beyond our Milky Way Galaxy, may originate in incredibly dense and powerful objects in space that prevent the escape of the high-energy gamma rays that accompany the production of neutrinos.
Gravitational waves detected 100 years after Einstein's Prediction: Opens New Window on the Universe with Observation of Gravitational Waves from Colliding Black Holes
11 February 2016For the first time, scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime, called gravitational waves, arriving at Earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe. This observation confirms a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, published in 1916, and opens an unprecedented new window onto the cosmos.

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