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The Lead

Surprising material could play role in saving energy

April 18, 2014 7:56 am | by Megan Fellman, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

One strategy for addressing the world’s energy crisis is to stop wasting so much energy when producing and using it, which can happen in coal-fired power plants or transportation. Nearly two-thirds of energy input is lost as waste heat. Now Northwestern Univ. scientists have discovered a surprising material that is the best in the world at converting waste heat to useful electricity.

Expanding particles to engineer defects

April 8, 2014 10:41 am | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Materials scientists have long known that introducing defects into 3-D materials can improve...

Silver linings

February 25, 2014 8:48 am | by Justin H.S. Breaux, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory in collaboration with scientists at Northwestern Univ...

Molecular traffic jam makes water move faster through nanochannels

February 6, 2014 12:40 pm | News | Comments

Cars inch forward slowly in traffic jams, but molecules, when jammed up, can move extremely fast...

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Detecting chemicals, measuring strain with a pencil and paper

January 23, 2014 7:40 am | News | Comments

Sometimes solving a problem doesn’t require a high-tech solution. Sometimes, you have to look no farther than your desktop. Three students from Northwestern Univ.’s McCormick School of Engineering have proven that pencils and regular office paper can be used to create functional devices that can measure strain and detect hazardous chemical vapors.

Using air transportation data to predict pandemics

December 13, 2013 8:53 am | News | Comments

Computational work conducted at Northwestern Univ. has led to a new mathematical theory for understanding the global spread of epidemics. The resulting insights could not only help identify an outbreak’s origin but could also significantly improve the ability to forecast the global pathways through which a disease might spread.

Making a gem of a tiny crystal

December 2, 2013 8:34 am | News | Comments

Nature builds flawless diamonds, sapphires and other gems. Now a Northwestern Univ. research team is the first to build near-perfect single crystals out of nanoparticles and DNA, using the same structure favored by nature. The research group developed the “recipe” for using nanomaterials as atoms, DNA as bonds and a little heat to form tiny crystals. This single-crystal recipe builds on superlattice techniques.

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Newly identified protein provides target for antibiotic-resistant hospital bacterium

November 27, 2013 8:49 am | News | Comments

Researchers have made inroads into tackling a bacterium that plagues hospitals and is highly resistant to most antibiotics. They determined the 3-D structure and likely function of a new protein in this common bacterium that attacks those with compromised immune systems.

Researchers grow graphene on silver

November 18, 2013 1:56 pm | by Sarah Ostman, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Northwestern Univ. and Argonne National Laboratory scientists have recently overcome problems with growing graphene on chemically inert substrates, demonstrating the first growth of graphene on a single-crystal silver substrate. Their method could advance graphene-based optical devices and enable the interfacing of graphene with other two-dimensional materials.

Researchers measure flow from a nanoscale fluid jet

October 28, 2013 2:52 pm | News | Comments

Fluid jets are all around us: from inkjet printing, to the “Old Faithful” geyser in Yellowstone National Park, to cosmological jets several thousand light years long. A team of researchers has recently verified the classical Landau-Squire theory in the tiniest submerged jet. The diameter of their jets were in the range of 20 to 150 nm, which is the length of just a few hundred water molecules lined up in a row.

Atomically thin device promises new class of electronics

October 22, 2013 8:05 am | News | Comments

As electronics approach the atomic scale, researchers are increasingly successful at developing atomically thin, virtually 2-D materials that could usher in the next generation of computing. Integrating these materials to create necessary circuits, however, has remained a challenge. Northwestern Univ. researchers have now taken a significant step toward fabricating complex nanoscale electronics.

Researchers develop compact, high-power terahertz source at room temperature

October 10, 2013 8:38 am | News | Comments

Terahertz radiation is gaining attention due to its many applications. Traditional methods of generating terahertz radiation, however, usually involve large and expensive instruments, some of which also require cryogenic cooling. A compact terahertz source operating at room temperature with high power has been a dream device in the terahertz community for decades. A team from Northwestern Univ. has now brought this dream closer to reality.

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A new paradigm for nanoscale-resolution MRI

September 30, 2013 8:01 am | News | Comments

A team from the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern Univ. has devised a novel nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique that delivers a roughly 10-nm spatial resolution. This represents a significant advance in MRI sensitivity as modern MRI techniques yield spatial resolutions on the millimeter length scale, with the highest-resolution experimental instruments giving spatial resolution of a few micrometers.

Sticking power of plant polyphenols used in new coatings

August 22, 2013 11:37 am | News | Comments

A simple kitchen sink experiment helped Northwestern Univ. researchers discover that green tea leaves not only can be used to steep a good cup of tea, but they make an excellent antibacterial coating, too. And so can red wine, dark chocolate and cacao beans, they found. It's the powerful and healthful polyphenols at work in a new way.

Plastic solar cells’ new design promises bright future

August 14, 2013 9:53 am | by Megan Fellman, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Polymer, or plastic, solar cells contain Earth-abundant and environmentally benign materials, can be made flexible and lightweight, and can be fabricated using roll-to-roll technologies. But the cells’ power-conversion efficiency has been limited. A Northwestern Univ. research reports the design and synthesis of new polymer semiconductors a plastic solar cells with fill factors of 80%. This number is close to that of silicon solar cells.

How fish swim

June 25, 2013 7:44 am | News | Comments

How do fish swim? It is a simple question, but there is no simple answer. Researchers at Northwestern Univ. have revealed some of the mechanical properties that allow fish to perform their complex movements. Their findings could provide insights in evolutionary biology and lead to an understanding of the neural control of movement and development of bio-inspired underwater vehicles.

Method proposed for achieving nonlinear optical effects

June 21, 2013 7:29 am | News | Comments

Picture two light beams intersecting one another in space. When the beams touch one another, does the light bend? Reflect? Combine into a single beam? The answer, of course, is the light beams do nothing; they simply continue on their path. But in certain crystalline materials and with a powerful enough laser, it is possible to make photons interact with one another and take on a special set of characteristics.

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Inkjet-printed graphene may open doors to foldable electronics

May 20, 2013 3:15 pm | News | Comments

Northwestern University researchers have recently developed a graphene-based ink that is highly conductive and tolerant to bending, and they have used it to inkjet-print graphene patterns that could be used for extremely detailed, conductive electrodes. The resulting patterns are 250 times more conductive than previous attempts to print graphene-based electronic patterns and could be a step toward low-cost, foldable electronics.

X-ray method shows how frog embryos could help thwart disease

May 20, 2013 9:25 am | News | Comments

An international team of scientists using a new X-ray method recorded the internal structure and cell movement inside a living frog embryo in greater detail than ever before. This result showcases a new method to advance biological research and the search for new treatments for genetic diseases.

Bacteria organize according to "rich-get-richer" principle

May 10, 2013 11:16 am | News | Comments

Bacteria on a surface wander around and often organize into highly resilient communities known as biofilms. It turns out that they organize in a rich-get-richer pattern similar to the distribution of wealth in the U.S. economy, according to a new study.

Imaging in 3D reveals never-before-seen defects in platinum nanoparticle

March 28, 2013 12:49 am | News | Comments

A team of scientists in the United States has combine three different imaging methods to produce 3D images and videos of a tiny platinum nanoparticle at atomic resolution that reveal new details of defects in nanomaterials that have not been seen before. Prior to this work, scientists only had flat, two-dimensional images with which to view the arrangement of atoms.

Improved synchronicity: Preventive care for the power grid

March 4, 2013 10:17 am | News | Comments

President Obama in this year's State of the Union address talked about the future of energy and mentioned "self-healing power grids"—a grid that is able to keep itself stable and self-recover even in severe weather. But as the national power-grid network becomes larger and more complex achieving reliability across the network is increasingly difficult. Scientists have now identified conditions and properties that power companies can consider using to keep power generators in the desired synchronized state and help make a self-healing power grid a reality.

Forging a new periodic table using nanostructures

February 18, 2013 8:43 am | News | Comments

Northwestern University's Chad A. Mirkin, a leading nanotechnology researcher, has developed a completely new set of building blocks that is based on nanoparticles and DNA. Using these tools, which Mirkin presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Boston on Feb. 17, scientists will be able to build—from the bottom up, just as nature does—new and useful structures from artificial atoms.

Evolution inspires more efficient solar cell design

January 25, 2013 11:02 am | News | Comments

Researchers at Northwestern University have now developed a new design for organic solar cells that could lead to more efficient, less expensive solar power. Instead of attempting to increase efficiency by altering the thickness of the solar cell's polymer layer—a tactic that has preciously garnered mixed results—the researchers sought to design the geometric pattern of the scattering layer to maximize the amount of time light remained trapped within the cell.

Exotic chemical compound could be useful in batteries

January 24, 2013 2:08 pm | News | Comments

Northwestern University graduate student Jonathan Barnes had a hunch for creating an exotic new chemical compound, and his idea that the force of love is stronger than hate proved correct. He and his colleagues are the first to permanently interlock two identical tetracationic rings that normally are repelled by each other. Many experts had said it couldn't be done.

Researchers create method for more sensitive electrochemical sensors

January 17, 2013 12:43 pm | News | Comments

Graphene and related materials hold promise for the future of electrochemical sensors, but many applications require greater sensitivity at lower detection ranges than scientists have been able to achieve. A Northwestern University research team and partners in India have recently developed a new method for amplifying signals in graphene oxide-based electrochemical sensors through a process called "magneto-electrochemical immunoassay."

Nanoscale “Goldilocks” phenomenon could improve biofuel production

January 15, 2013 4:37 pm | News | Comments

In a case of the Goldilocks story retold at the molecular level, scientists at Argonne National Laboratory and Northwestern University have discovered a new path to the development of more stable and efficient catalysts. The research team sought to create "nanobowls"—nanosized bowl shapes that allow inorganic catalysts to operate selectively on particular molecules.

Study uncovers impact of gender-biased resource allocation on "productivity gap"

December 17, 2012 11:14 am | News | Comments

A new Northwestern University study of professors in STEM fields at top research universities across the country shows that bias against women is ingrained in the workforce, despite a societal desire to believe workplace equality exists. The quantitative study of the complete publication records of more than 4,200 professors in seven STEM fields confirms that, for some disciplines, female faculty do publish fewer papers than male faculty but not for lack of talent or effort.

Researchers create new shapes of artificial microcompartments

December 12, 2012 3:22 pm | News | Comments

Researchers at Northwestern University have figured out how to mimic the different shapes of microcompartments found in nature. The findings could have implications in materials research, targeted drug delivery, and more.

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