Crystal With A Twist: Scientists Grow Spiraling New Material

With a simple twist of the fingers, one can create a beautiful spiral from a deck of cards. In the same way, scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have created new inorganic crystals made of stacks of atomically thin sheets that unexpectedly spiral like a nanoscale card deck.

Their surprising structures, reported in a new study appearing online Wednesday, June 20, in the journal Nature, may yield unique optical, electronic and thermal properties, including superconductivity, the researchers say.

These helical crystals are made of stacked layers of germanium sulfide, a semiconductor material that, like graphene, readily forms sheets that are only a few atoms or even a single atom thick. Such “nanosheets” are usually referred to as “2D materials.”

“No one expected 2D materials to grow in such a way. It’s like a surprise gift,” said Jie Yao, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at UC Berkeley. “We believe that it may bring great opportunities for materials research.”

While the shape of the crystals may resemble that of DNA, whose helical structure is critical to its job of carrying genetic information, their underlying structure is actually quite different. Unlike “organic” DNA, which is primarily built of familiar atoms like carbon, oxygen and hydrogen, these “inorganic” crystals are built of more far-flung elements of the periodic table — in this case, sulfur and germanium. And while organic molecules often take all sorts of zany shapes, due to unique properties of their primary component, carbon, inorganic molecules tend more toward the straight and narrow.

To create the twisted structures, the team took advantage of a crystal defect called a screw dislocation, a “mistake” in the orderly crystal structure that gives it a bit of a twisting force. This “Eshelby Twist”, named after scientist John D. Eshelby, has been used to create nanowires that spiral like pine trees. But this study is the first time the Eshelby Twist has been used to make crystals built of stacked 2D layers of an atomically thin semiconductor.

“Usually, people hate defects in a material — they want to have a perfect crystal,” said Yao, who also serves as a faculty scientist at Berkeley Lab. “But it turns out that, this time, we have to thank the defects. They allowed us to create a natural twist between the material layers.”

Crystal With a Twist: Scientists Grow Spiraling New Material

To be vaccinated or not – how does the Internet influence a pregnant woman’s decision?


Do you go online for your health-related questions? You are
not alone! More and more people are using the Internet to
gather medical information. Lately, there has been debate
about the safety of vaccines in online media. Vaccines protect
us from infectious diseases and save millions of lives every
year. Vaccination during pregnancy protects newborn babies
as well. But how does online media influence a pregnant
woman’s opinion about vaccination? Here, we examined the
online media about two maternal vaccinations: whooping
cough (pertussis), and the flu (influenza). The majority of
the articles supported both vaccines. Most pertussis articles
used real-life cases and focused on protecting the baby.
The influenza articles focused on protecting the mother, or
both the mother and the baby. Then, we surveyed pregnant
women and health care providers. Their opinions were
similar to those expressed in the articles. Our results may
explain why more women are receiving pertussis vaccine
compared to influenza.
Vaccines are one of the greatest health developments
of modern medicine. Thanks to widespread vaccination
coverage, today many infectious diseases are under control.
Vaccines have been so successful that people nowadays are
often unaware of the risks of these serious (and previously
devastating) diseases. As a result, today some people
debate if vaccines are safe and efficient. They are, but online
media allows negative and inaccurate information to reach
many people -and this influences their vaccination decisionmaking. The decrease in vaccine confidence is a major
concern for global health. This loss of trust in vaccines and
the refusal to vaccinate threatens our progress in tackling
many preventable diseases.
Pertussis (whooping cough) and influenza (flu) are highly
contagious respiratory infections. They can be very
dangerous – even deadly – for high-risk groups like newborn
babies. Luckily, vaccination during pregnancy is an efficient
and safe way to protect the mother and the baby from these
diseases. A vaccinated mother passes immunity to the fetus,
which then protects the baby when it is born. (Fig. 1) Despite
their availability and life-saving value, the vaccination rate
among pregnant women remains less than ideal. This can
lead to deadly cases of both diseases in newborn babies. Is
online media influencing mothers’ decisions about receiving
these vaccines? To find out, we studied online articles
about maternal pertussis and influenza vaccines, and their
influence on women’s decision-making.

Microsoft Surface: Nice hardware, but where’s the roadmap?

Tech chiefs have cautiously welcomed Microsoft’s latest tablet device but want more detail about Microsoft’s future plans.

Microsoft hopes the third iteration of its Surface Pro tablet will be the one that makes a breakthrough: it is touting the Surface Pro 3 as a full laptop replacement and also wants it to stem the tide of Android and iOS tablets that have been flooding into businesses.

Enterprises have been seen as keen for the arrival of a decent Windows tablet, largely because they are heavily invested in Microsoft on the desktop and elsewhere in their infrastructure, so the response of CIOs to the new hardware could be key to its success.

But when asked “Is the Surface Pro 3 the device that will provide the breakthrough in the enterprise that Windows tablets need?” TechRepublic’s panel of tech chiefs were evenly split on its prospects.

Some were enthusiastic: Tim Stiles, CIO at the Bremerton Housing Authority, said: “We have already begun transition away from Apple to Microsoft tablets – a very positive outcome.”

And Kelly Bodway, VP of IT atUniversal Lighting Technologies, said his organisation had deployed several of the Surface Pro 2s and found them to be “very capable” laptop replacements, but added: “Pricing and Microsoft’s commitment to the product line are the two concerns we have. The pricing of the [Surface Pro] 3 is comparable to a high-end business laptop if not slightly more expensive. And, it is a new product of which Microsoft has not shared a long term road map.”

Jerry Justice, IT director at SS&G Financial Services, said his organisation has also been using the Dell Venue and the Microsoft Surface as laptop replacements, and noted: “They have been well received by staff and are a good blend between laptop and tablet form factors. The path forward still requires context, it really depends on your app makeup and services delivery models. We have a blend of these services and these devices provide a good current path.”

Kevin Leypoldt, IS director at Structural Integrity Associates, said devices like the Surface seemed like the obvious way to bridge the gap between touchscreens and traditional desktop interfaces but admitted: “I wish I could say why these hybrid type machines have not yet caught on in market share.”

He said his organisation has several convertible laptops and older Surface devices and they work quite well in the office and in the field, and added: “With Windows 8.1 making some serious strides in allowing Windows to work better using more traditional input devices (keyboard and mouse), the missing link may be the hardware where the Surface 3 may help fill this gap,” he said.

Florentin Albu, CIO at the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, said whether Surface will make a breakthrough depends on the type of work being done. For example, workers who are information consumers – such as executives – have already made a move towards iPads and to a lesser extent Androids. In contrast workers who need to do heavy document editing, Excel processing, desktop-publishing and the like are unlikely to be convinced, he said, while for staff involved in data entry the cost of the hardware will be the main barrier.

He said: “I believe that unfortunately the Surface tablet needs to catch up with iOS and Android ones, and it is not the hardware but the application ecosystem that will win this war. The Surface banks on the significant number of applications that come with the Windows heritage (well at least the ones running on Windows 8). Most of these however have been designed in the pre-cloud era.

“Looking at the iOS or Android ecosystem, mostly everything is designed to use the cloud – for storage, processing, integration etc. Clearly this will change as Windows apps are catching up. Will the change come in time though?”

Albu added: “In a BYOD era, the question is which device is more appealing to the end user? I have not seen the Surface generating much co-worker envy, like the iPads or – to an extent – the Galaxys have done…we will definitely see an uptake of Surface in the enterprise, it might not, however, be to a point of domination.”

Andrew Paton, group manager IT services at Rondo, also saw pluses and minuses to the device: “It is certainly a better contender, but some of the old shortfalls remain. The device is perhaps what it should have been from the start, but like anything we see from [Microsoft] it seems to take a couple of attempts before they seems to take on board the feedback and get it looking right. I can’t believe it has taken as long as it has to get that kick stand right! Great that it is lighter. It had to be to survive.”

Paton said his organisation had evaluated the Surface as a replacement laptop and said “you couldn’t fault the performance of the device or the screen clarity”. He said the battery life was not as huge a concern as some suggested but said: “The real faults in my opinion were the weight, the lack of two USB ports (one is not really good enough in the corporate environment) the lack of a solid keyboard (type covers were not robust enough and lacked quality).”

He added: “The other concern for us was the need to carry around adapters for this and that. Adapters when given to sales reps inevitability get lost or left at client sites or forgotten when you need to do that important presentation.”

However, not all tech chiefs are experimenting with the devices – John Gracyalny, VP of IT at SafeAmerica Credit Union, said: “Until my key vendors support Windows 8, the Surface is not an option.”

This week’s CIO Jury is:

  • Andrew Paton, Group Manager IT Services, Rondo
  • Brian Stanek, VP of IT, Namico
  • Kelly Bodway, VP of IT, Universal Lighting Technologies
  • Richard Storey, head of IT, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust
  • Jerry Justice, IT director, SS&G Financial Services
  • Shawn Beighle, CIO, International Republican Institute
  • John Gracyalny, VP of IT, SafeAmerica Credit Union
  • Neil Harvey, IT director, Sindlesham Court
  • Tim Stiles, CIO, Bremerton Housing Authority
  • Juergen Renfer, CIO, Kommunale Unfallversicherung Bayern
  • Florentin Albu, CIO, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations
  • Kevin Leypoldt, IS director, Structural Integrity Associates

Want to be part of TechRepublic’s CIO Jury and have your say on the hot issues for IT decision-makers? If you are a CIO, CTO, IT director or equivalent at a large or small company, working in the private sector or in government, and you want to join TechRepublic’s CIO Jury pool, or you know an IT chief who should, then get in contact.

Either click the Contact link below or email me, steve dot ranger at techrepublic dot com, and send your name, title, company, location, and email address.