These so-called active materials contain small magnetic particles that self-organize into short chains of particles, or spinners, and form a lattice-like structure when a magnetic field is applied.
"Active materials need an external energy source to maintain their structure," said Argonne materials scientist Alexey Snezhko, an author of the study.
Unlike in previous experiments involving active materials, which looked at particles that demonstrated linear motion, these new spinners acquire a handedness—like right- or left-handedness—that causes them to rotate in a specific direction.
The Argonne researchers wanted to know how a non-spinner particle would be transported through the active lattice.
If the particles in the lattice come closer together, the non-spinner particle can become trapped in an individual cell of the lattice.
By looking at systems with purely rotational motion, Snezhko and his colleagues believe that they can design systems with specific transport characteristics.
In their latest analysis, first presented at a seminar in March, the LHCb physicists found that several measurements involving the decay of B mesons conflict slightly with the predictions of the standard model of particle physics—the reigning set of equations describing the subatomic world.
Still, the observed pattern hints that something is off with B meson decay products in the lepton family, the other category of matter particles aside from quarks.
Like quarks, leptons come in heavy, medium, and light generations (called tau particles, muons, and electrons, respectively); the standard model says they’re all identical except for their mass.
The standard model demands that both types of decays should play out in exactly the same way, but a 2014 analysis by the LHCb team uncovered a possible difference between the muon events and the electron events.
Cosmic rays pouring down from space constantly bombarded those molecules as they replicated, and developed over time.
When chemicals take on similar mirror shapes, they are known as chiral molecules.
This new study suggests the biased way nature handles chemicals for life may be the result of cosmic rays coming from space long ago.
Cosmic rays are high-energy radiation, created by energetic processes around the Cosmos, bombarding Earth from all directions at enormous speeds.
Researchers believe these polarized muons, able to penetrate nearly any barrier, combined with the similarly-polarized electrons, may have worked to together, influencing chiral reactions as life first began to form on Earth.
Over time, the constant bombardment by polarized muons and electrons would have preferentially affected each type of molecule, altering mutation rates between left- and right-handed protobiological molecules.