Molecules/Matter & Energy

One-way light, flexible electricity and plant networks in this week's news

Plant’s road map revealed
When plant pathogens attack, they go for highly connected “hub” proteins, a new analysis reveals. The research draws from an enormous new map of protein interactions in Arabidopsis, the lab rat of the plant world. Scientists from the Arabidopsis Interactome Mapping Consortium identified more than 6,000 interactions among 2,700 Arabidopsis proteins and mapped them as a network, revealing both protein communities and the streets connecting them. Thus far the effort, presented in two papers in the July 29 Science, maps about one third of the little plant’s proteins,  suggesting more will be uncovered about  plant defense and offense.  —Rachel Ehrenberg

One-way street for light
A new silicon device that allows light to move in only one direction could guide information through photonic devices — just as diodes direct current in electronics. To make this one-way street, physicists in California and China embedded bits of metal into a strip of silicon. Like spikes at the exit of a parking garage, the metal prevents light from going backward by breaking the mathematical symmetry that normally allows light to move in both directions. Unlike previous approaches based on magnetic fields or nonlinear materials, this device should easily integrate into existing chips, the researchers report in the Aug. 5 Science. —Devin Powell

Flexible electricity
Flexing just got even sexier. While materials that generate electric fields when bent or flexed have been created before, none has the muscle of a new thin film made by Korean scientists. It generates fields millions of times stronger, fields that could be useful for nanoscale technologies. The secret to this strength: The flexing is built in. The film’s layers are stacked such that atoms in layers higher up are spaced closer together. This puts a strain on the material and creates permanent electric fields that can be tweaked by adjusting the spacing, the researchers report in the July 29 Physical Review Letters.Devin Powell

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