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Concept: Electric current


Quasi-particle excitations in graphene exhibit a unique behavior concerning two key phenomena of mesoscopic physics: electron localization and the quantum Hall effect. A direct transition between these two states has been found in disordered two-dimensional electron gases at low magnetic field. It has been suggested that it is a quantum phase transition, but the nature of the transition is still debated. Despite the large number of works studying either the localization or the quantum Hall regime in graphene, such a transition has not been investigated for Dirac fermions. Here we discuss measurements on low-mobility graphene where the localized state at low magnetic fields and a quantum Hall state at higher fields are observed. We find that the system undergoes a direct transition from the insulating to the Hall conductor regime. Remarkably, the transverse magneto-conductance shows a temperature independent crossing point, pointing to the existence of a genuine quantum phase transition.

Concepts: Electron, Magnetic field, Fundamental physics concepts, Spin, Condensed matter physics, Electric current, Hall effect, Quantum Hall effect


Slime mould Physarum polycephalum is a single cell visible by the unaided eye. Let the slime mould span two electrodes with a single protoplasmic tube: if the tube is heated to approximately ≈40 °C, the electrical resistance of the protoplasmic tube increases from ≈3 MΩ to ≈10,000 MΩ. The organism’s resistance is not proportional nor correlated to the temperature of its environment. Slime mould can therefore not be considered as a thermistor but rather as a thermic switch. We employ the P. polycephalum thermic switch to prototype hybrid electrical analog summator, NAND gates, and cascade the gates into Flip-Flop latch. Computing operations performed on this bio-hybrid computing circuitry feature high repeatability, reproducibility and comparably low propagation delays.

Concepts: Electric current, Heat, Slime mold, Electronic engineering, Resistor, Physarum polycephalum, Slime molds, Series and parallel circuits


Excitation of magnetization dynamics by pure spin currents has been recently recognized as an enabling mechanism for spintronics and magnonics, which allows implementation of spin-torque devices based on low-damping insulating magnetic materials. Here we report the first spatially-resolved study of the dynamic modes excited by pure spin current in nanometer-thick microscopic insulating Yttrium Iron Garnet disks. We show that these modes exhibit nonlinear self-broadening preventing the formation of the self-localized magnetic bullet, which plays a crucial role in the stabilization of the single-mode magnetization oscillations in all-metallic systems. This peculiarity associated with the efficient nonlinear mode coupling in low-damping materials can be among the main factors governing the interaction of pure spin currents with the dynamic magnetization in high-quality magnetic insulators.

Concepts: Electron, Electromagnetism, Magnetic field, Spin, Electric current, Magnetism, Magnetic moment, Insulator


Electric eels have been the subject of investigation and curiosity for centuries [1]. They use high voltage to track [2] and control [3] prey, as well as to exhaust prey by causing involuntary fatigue through remote activation of prey muscles [4]. But their most astonishing behavior is the leaping attack, during which eels emerge from the water to directly electrify a threat [5, 6]. This unique defense has reportedly been used against both horses [7] and humans [8]. Yet the dynamics of the circuit that develops when a living animal is contacted and the electrical power transmitted to the target have not been directly investigated. In this study, the electromotive force and circuit resistances that develop during an eel’s leaping behavior were determined. Next, the current that passed through a human subject during the attack was measured. The results allowed each variable in the equivalent circuit to be estimated. Findings can be extrapolated to a range of different eel sizes that might be encountered in the wild. Despite the comparatively small size of the eel used in this study, electrical currents in the target peaked at 40-50 mA, greatly exceeding thresholds for nociceptor activation reported for both humans [9] and horses [10, 11]. No subjective sensation of involuntary tetanus was reported, and aversive sensations were restricted to the affected limb. Results suggest that the main purpose of the leaping attack is to strongly deter potential eel predators by briefly causing intense pain. Apparently a strong offense is the eel’s best defense.

Concepts: Psychology, Electromagnetism, Magnetic field, Electricity, Electric current, Eel, Volt, Electric eel


Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is an emerging non-invasive neuromodulation technique that applies mA currents at the scalp to modulate cortical excitability. Here, we present a novel magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique, which detects magnetic fields induced by tDCS currents. This technique is based on Ampere’s law and exploits the linear relationship between direct current and induced magnetic fields. Following validation on a phantom with a known path of electric current and induced magnetic field, the proposed MRI technique was applied to a human limb (to demonstrate in-vivo feasibility using simple biological tissue) and human heads (to demonstrate feasibility in standard tDCS applications). The results show that the proposed technique detects tDCS induced magnetic fields as small as a nanotesla at millimeter spatial resolution. Through measurements of magnetic fields linearly proportional to the applied tDCS current, our approach opens a new avenue for direct in-vivo visualization of tDCS target engagement.

Concepts: Brain, Electromagnetism, Magnetic field, Electricity, Spin, Electric current, Magnetic resonance imaging, Magnetism


We derive two principal components (PCs) of temporal magnetic field variations over the solar cycles 21-24 from full disk magnetograms covering about 39% of data variance, with σ = 0.67. These PCs are attributed to two main magnetic waves travelling from the opposite hemispheres with close frequencies and increasing phase shift. Using symbolic regeression analysis we also derive mathematical formulae for these waves and calculate their summary curve which we show is linked to solar activity index. Extrapolation of the PCs backward for 800 years reveals the two 350-year grand cycles superimposed on 22 year-cycles with the features showing a remarkable resemblance to sunspot activity reported in the past including the Maunder and Dalton minimum. The summary curve calculated for the next millennium predicts further three grand cycles with the closest grand minimum occurring in the forthcoming cycles 26-27 with the two magnetic field waves separating into the opposite hemispheres leading to strongly reduced solar activity. These grand cycle variations are probed by α - Ω dynamo model with meridional circulation. Dynamo waves are found generated with close frequencies whose interaction leads to beating effects responsible for the grand cycles (350-400 years) superimposed on a standard 22 year cycle. This approach opens a new era in investigation and confident prediction of solar activity on a millenium timescale.

Concepts: Magnetic field, Mathematics, Sun, Electric current, Principal component analysis, Phase, Sunspot, Solar cycle


In a lithium-ion battery, electrons are released from the anode and go through an external electronic circuit to power devices, while ions simultaneously transfer through internal ionic media to meet with electrons at the cathode. Inspired by the fundamental electrochemistry of the lithium-ion battery, we envision a cell that can generate a current of ions instead of electrons, so that ions can be used for potential applications in biosystems. Based on this concept, we report an ‘electron battery’ configuration in which ions travel through an external circuit to interact with the intended biosystem whereas electrons are transported internally. As a proof-of-concept, we demonstrate the application of the electron battery by stimulating a monolayer of cultured cells, which fluoresces a calcium ion wave at a controlled ionic current. Electron batteries with the capability to generate a tunable ionic current could pave the way towards precise ion-system control in a broad range of biological applications.

Concepts: Electron, Cathode, Electric current, Electrochemistry, Ion, Battery, Electrolysis, Anode


Transverse thermoelectric devices produce electric fields perpendicular to an incident heat flux. Classically, this process is driven by the Nernst effect in bulk solids, wherein a magnetic field generates a Lorentz force on thermally excited electrons. The spin Seebeck effect also produces magnetization-dependent transverse electric fields. It is traditionally observed in thin metallic films deposited on electrically insulating ferromagnets, but the films' high resistance limits thermoelectric conversion efficiency. Combining Nernst and spin Seebeck effect in bulk materials would enable devices with simultaneously large transverse thermopower and low electrical resistance. Here we demonstrate experimentally that this is possible in composites of conducting ferromagnets (Ni or MnBi) containing metallic nanoparticles with strong spin-orbit interactions (Pt or Au). These materials display positive shifts in transverse thermopower attributable to inverse spin Hall electric fields in the nanoparticles. This more than doubles the power output of the Ni-Pt materials, establishing proof of principle that the spin Seebeck effect persists in bulk nanocomposites.

Concepts: Electron, Electromagnetism, Magnetic field, Electricity, Electric current, Thermodynamics, Thermoelectric effect, Faraday's law of induction


The way conduction electrons respond to ultrafast external perturbations in low dimensional materials is at the core of the design of future devices for (opto)electronics, photodetection and spintronics. Highly charged ions provide a tool for probing the electronic response of solids to extremely strong electric fields localized down to nanometre-sized areas. With ion transmission times in the order of femtoseconds, we can directly probe the local electronic dynamics of an ultrathin foil on this timescale. Here we report on the ability of freestanding single layer graphene to provide tens of electrons for charge neutralization of a slow highly charged ion within a few femtoseconds. With values higher than 10(12) A cm(-2), the resulting local current density in graphene exceeds previously measured breakdown currents by three orders of magnitude. Surprisingly, the passing ion does not tear nanometre-sized holes into the single layer graphene. We use time-dependent density functional theory to gain insight into the multielectron dynamics.

Concepts: Electron, Electromagnetism, Electric charge, Magnetic field, Fundamental physics concepts, Maxwell's equations, Electric current, Ion


Vision loss after optic neuropathy is considered irreversible. Here, repetitive transorbital alternating current stimulation (rtACS) was applied in partially blind patients with the goal of activating their residual vision.

Concepts: Clinical trial, Electricity, Electromagnetic radiation, Electric current, Glaucoma, Ophthalmology, Alternating current, Optic nerve