Few papers from the latest PNAS:
 Nanogranular origin of concrete creep
M Vandamme and F-J Ulm
Concrete, the solid that forms at room temperature from mixing Portland cement with water, sand, and aggregates, suffers from time-dependent deformation under load. This creep occurs at a rate that deteriorates the durability and truncates the lifespan of concrete structures. However, despite decades of research, the origin of concrete creep remains unknown. Here, we measure the in situ creep behavior of calcium–silicate–hydrates (C–S–H), the nano-meter sized particles that form the fundamental building block of Portland cement concrete. We show that C–S–H exhibits a logarithmic creep that depends only on the packing of 3 structurally distinct but compositionally similar C–S–H forms: low density, high density, ultra-high density. We demonstrate that the creep rate (≈1/t) is likely due to the rearrangement of nanoscale particles around limit packing densities following the free-volume dynamics theory of granular physics. These findings could lead to a new basis for nanoengineering concrete materials and structures with minimal creep rates monitored by packing density distributions of nanoscale particles, and predicted by nanoscale creep measurements in some minute time, which are as exact as macroscopic creep tests carried out over years.
 Melting and crystallization of colloidal hard-sphere suspensions under shear
Y L Wu et al
Shear-induced melting and crystallization were investigated by confocal microscopy in concentrated colloidal suspensions of hard-sphere-like particles. Both silica and polymethylmethacrylate suspensions were sheared with a constant rate in either a countertranslating parallel plate shear cell or a counterrotating cone-plate shear cell. These instruments make it possible to track particles undergoing shear for extended periods of time in a plane of zero velocity. Although on large scales, the flow profile deviated from linearity, the crystal flowed in an aligned sliding layer structure at low shear rates. Higher shear rates caused the crystal to shear melt, but, contrary to expectations, the transition was not sudden. Instead, although the overall order decreased with shear rate, this was due to an increase in the nucleation of localized domains that temporarily lost and regained their ordered structure. Even at shear rates that were considered to have melted the crystal as a whole, ordered regions kept showing up at times, giving rise to very large fluctuations in 2D bond-orientational order parameters. Low shear rates induced initially disordered suspensions to crystallize. This time, the order parameter increased gradually in time without large fluctuations, indicating that shear-induced crystallization of hard spheres does not proceed via a nucleation and growth mechanism. We conclude that the dynamics of melting and crystallization under shear differ dramatically from their counterparts in quiescent suspensions.
 Temporal lenses for attosecond and femtosecond electron pulses
S A Hilbert et al
Here, we describe the “temporal lens” concept that can be used for the focus and magnification of ultrashort electron packets in the time domain. The temporal lenses are created by appropriately synthesizing optical pulses that interact with electrons through the ponderomotive force. With such an arrangement, a temporal lens equation with a form identical to that of conventional light optics is derived. The analog of ray diagrams, but for electrons, are constructed to help the visualization of the process of compressing electron packets. It is shown that such temporal lenses not only compensate for electron pulse broadening due to velocity dispersion but also allow compression of the packets to durations much shorter than their initial widths. With these capabilities, ultrafast electron diffraction and microscopy can be extended to new domains,and, just as importantly, electron pulses can be delivered directly on an ultrafast techniques target specimen.