As each year draws to a close, Controlled Environments evaluates the news stories published on our website to look for trends so that we may better address the topics that our readers wish to see.
Two similar stories took the top spot of our list for 2014. Our most-read news story of the year was about a team of physicists at Australian National University that has developed the first long-distance optical tractor. This technique only requires a single laser beam, and it could be used for controlling atmospheric pollution or for the retrieval of tiny, delicate or dangerous particles for sampling.
The second most-popular story, released in mid-November, also came from Australian National University. Physicists were able to engineer a spiral laser beam, used to create a whirlpool of hybrid light-matter particles called polaritons; this could connect conventional electronics with new laser and fiber-based technologies.
Also popular was a story about a Boston-based research team that is using nanotechnology to develop an unbreakable and efficient condom, as part of an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The goal is to create a new type of nanoparticle polymer coating for condoms to reduce the risk of breakage, making them more durable and better able to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Aerospace and NASA-related news continues to be of interest to our readers, such as the story about a team of scientists who has combed through the aerogel and aluminum foil dust collectors of NASA’s Stardust spacecraft, delivered back to Earth in 2006. The team discovered seven dust motes that probably came from outside our solar system, perhaps created in a supernova explosion millions of years ago. Other news describes how NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope spotted an eruption of dust around a young star, which is thought to be the result of a smashup between large asteroids and could eventually lead to the formation of planets. A third aerospace-related news story details plans for the first 3D printer to go into space, which will enable astronauts to create necessary supplies on the spot rather than wait for shipments from Earth.
We also learned about a cheap, simple spray technique that deposits a graphene film able to heal manufacturing defects and produce a high-quality graphene layer on a range of substrates. Researchers hope to develop industrial-scale applications of graphene with this method.
In a follow-up to the deadly meningitis outbreak in 2012, we posted an article about the arrest of a pharmacist who oversaw the sterile cleanrooms at a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy, as he was about to board a plane to Hong Kong.
Harry Potter fans likely enjoyed a July news release about a new method of building materials using light that could one day enable technologies such as invisibility cloaks and cloaking devices.
Rounding out our top 10 news stories of the year was President Obama’s announcement that North Carolina State University will lead the new Next Generation Power Electronics Innovation Institute. This $140 million initiative will look to develop new energy solutions through the use and evolution of wide bandgap semiconductors.
We will keep an eye on these trends for 2015, and we’ll also be on the lookout for exciting new developments in the world of contamination control, semiconductors, and nanotechnology. See you next year!
MaryBeth DiDonna is the Managing Editor of Controlled Environments.
This Letter to the Editor appeared in the November/December 2014 issue of Controlled Environments.