The world’s smallest light-trapping silicon cavity


Download the Nature Podcast 06 December 2023

In this episode:

00:48 A gap for trapping light

Confining photons within materials opens up potential applications in quantum computing and telecommunications. But capturing light requires nanoscale cavities, which are difficult to make. This week, a team has created the smallest silicon gap yet for this purpose, just two nanometres wide, by exploiting the intermolecular forces that are usually an obstacle when creating such small structures. They show this gap can trap light effectively, but they also believe that their method could be used to create tiny cavities for use in a range of different fields.

Research Article: Babar et al.

News and Views: Self-assembling structures close the gap to trap light

07:28 Research Highlights

Researchers head into the wilderness to search for dark matter, and the discovery that bottlenose dolphins can sense weak magnetic fields.

Research Highlight: The hunt for dark-matter particles ventures into the wild

Research Highlight: Dolphins have a feel for electric fields

09:54 The environmental cost of tackling poverty

Extreme poverty, defined as living on less than US$2.15 a day, affects around 10% of the world’s population. In the past, economic growth has generally been seen as key to reducing poverty; however, such growth has also led to an increase in climate-warming emissions. To find out whether poverty can be tackled without costing the planet, a team of researchers modelled how different levels of economic growth would affect global emissions. They found that ending poverty has only a negligible impact on emissions, which could be lowered even further by decarbonizing energy production.

Research Article: Wollburg et al.

News and Views: Tackling extreme poverty around the world need not impede climate action

News: Catastrophic change looms as Earth nears climate ‘tipping points’, report says

News: Scientists skip COP28 to demand climate action at home

18:36 Briefing Chat

Scientists create a robotic octopus arm that you can control with a finger, and how disruptive science seems to elude far-flung teams.

Nature News: How does it feel to have an octopus arm? This robo-tentacle lets people find out

Nature News: ‘Disruptive’ science: in-person teams make more breakthroughs than remote groups

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