Despite their ubiquity in consumer electronics, rare-earth metals are, as their name suggests, hard to come by. Mining and purifying them is an expensive, labor-intensive and ecologically devastating process. Researchers at the Univ. of Pennsylvania have now pioneered a process that could enable the efficient recycling of two of these metals, neodymium and dysprosium.
Picking things up and putting them down is a mainstay of any kind of manufacturing, but fingers...
Crystalline materials have atoms that are neatly lined up in a repeating pattern. When they...
The compound eyes found in insects and some sea creatures are marvels of evolution. There,...
Decorating the outside of cells like tiny antenna, a diverse community of sugar molecules acts like a telecommunications system, sending and receiving information, recognizing and responding to foreign molecules and neighboring cells. This sugar part of biomembranes is as crucial to health as DNA, but not much is known about it.
Technological limitations have made studying friction on the atomic scale difficult, but researchers at the Univ. of Pennsylvania and the Univ. of California, Merced, have now made advances in that quest on two fronts. By speeding up a real atomic force microscope and slowing down a simulation of one, the team has conducted the first atomic-scale experiments on friction at overlapping speeds.
Where water and oil meet, a 2-D world exists. This interface presents a potentially useful set of properties for chemists and engineers, but getting anything more complex than a soap molecule to stay there and behave predictably remains a challenge. Recently, a team from the Univ. of Pennsylvania has shown how to do just that.
Oil-based liquid crystals are ubiquitous; an understanding of their properties is behind the displays in most electronics. Water-based liquid crystals are less well understood, though their biocompatibility makes them a candidate for a variety of applications. New research has advanced the field's understanding of these materials, demonstrating never-before-seen configurations by confining a water-based liquid crystal in a cylinder.
Researchers at the Univ. of Pennsylvania describe the first set of genes important in learning in a zebrafish model in Neuron. Using in-depth analysis of one of the genes, the team has revealed an important signaling pathway. According to the researchers, the proteins in this pathway could provide new insights into the development of novel pharmacological targets.
The pistons in your car engine rub up against their cylinder walls thousands of times a minute; without lubrication in the form of motor oil, they and other parts of the engine would quickly wear away, causing engine failure. Motor oil contains chemical additives that extend how long engines can run without failure, but, despite decades of ubiquity, how such additives actually work to prevent this damage have remained a mystery.
Graphene is often touted as a replacement for silicon in electronic devices due to its extremely high conductivity and unbeatable thinness. But graphene isn’t the only 2-D material that could play such a role. Univ. of Pennsylvania researchers have made an advance in manufacturing one such material, molybdenum disulphide.
Metamaterials, precisely designed composite materials that have properties not found in natural ones, could be used to make light-bending invisibility cloaks, flat lenses and other otherwise impossible devices. Figuring out the necessary composition and internal structure to create these unusual effects is a challenge but new research from the Univ. of Pennsylvania presents a way of simplifying things.
The race to make computer components smaller and faster and use less power is pushing the limits of the properties of electrons in a material. Photonic systems could eventually replace electronic ones, but the fundamentals of computation, mixing two inputs into a single output, currently require too much space and power when done with light.
Beneath the waves, many creatures sport iridescent structures that rival what scientists can make in the laboratory. A research team has now shown how giant clams use these structures to thrive, operating as exceedingly efficient, living greenhouses that grow symbiotic algae as a source of food. This understanding could have implications for alternative energy research, paving the way for new solar panels or improved ways to grow biofuel.
On the macroscale, adding fluorine atoms to carbon-based materials makes for water-repellant, non-stick surfaces, such as Teflon. However, on the nanoscale, adding fluorine to graphene vastly increased the friction experienced when sliding against the material. Through a combination of physical experiments and atomistic simulations, a Univ. of Pennsylvania research team has discovered the mechanism behind this surprising finding.
Graphene, a material that consists of a lattice of carbon atoms, one atom thick, is widely touted as being the most electrically conductive material ever studied. However, not all graphene is the same. With so few atoms comprising the entirety of the material, the arrangement of each one has an impact on its overall function.
One of the defining features of cells is their membranes. Each cell’s repository of DNA and protein-making machinery must be kept stable and secure from invaders and toxins. Scientists have attempted to replicate these properties, but, despite decades of research, even the most basic membrane structures, known as vesicles, still face many problems when made in the laboratory.
By attaching short sequences of single-stranded DNA to nanoscale building blocks, researchers can design structures that can effectively build themselves. The building blocks that are meant to connect have complementary DNA sequences on their surfaces, ensuring only the correct pieces bind together as they jostle into one another while suspended in a test tube.
Combatting the tissue degrading enzymes that cause lasting damage following a heart attack is tricky. Each patient responds to a heart attack differently and damage can vary from one part of the heart muscle to another, but existing treatments can’t be fine-tuned to deal with this variation. Univ. of Pennsylvania researchers have developed a way to address this problem via a material that can be applied directly to the damaged heart tissue.
When deciding what materials to use in building something, determining how those materials respond to stress and strain is often the first task. A material’s macroscopic, or bulk, properties in this area is generally the product of what is happening on a microscopic scale. When stress causes a material’s constituent molecules to rearrange in a way such that they can't go back to their original positions, it is known as plastic deformation.
For centuries, geologists have recognized that the rocks that line riverbeds tend to be smaller and rounder further downstream. But these experts have not agreed on the reason these patterns exist. Does abrasion reduce the size of rocks significantly, or is it that smaller rocks are simply more easily transported downstream? A new study has arrived at a resolution to this puzzle.
Optogenetics allows scientists to control neurons’ electrical activity with light by engineering them to express light-sensitive proteins, called opsins. Most opsins respond to light in the blue-green range. Now, a team has discovered an opsin that is sensitive to red light, which allows researchers to independently control the activity of two populations of neurons at once, enabling much more complex studies of brain function.
A new MRI method to map creatine at higher resolutions in the heart may help clinicians and scientists find abnormalities and disorders earlier than traditional diagnostic methods, researchers at the Univ. of Pennsylvania suggest in a recent study. The preclinical findings show an advantage over less sensitive tests and point to a safer and more cost-effective approach than those with radioactive or contrasting agents.
The field of metamaterials has produced structures with unprecedented abilities, including flat lenses, invisibility cloaks and even optical metatronic devices that can manipulate light in the way electronic circuitry manipulates the flow of electrons. Now, the birthplace of the digital computer, ENIAC, is using this technology in the rebirth of analog computing.
In earlier studies, a team from the Univ. of Pennsylvania produced nanoscale grids and rings of “defects,” or useful disruptions in the repeating patterns found in liquid crystals. Their latest study adds a more complex pattern out of an even simpler template: A 3-D array in the shape of a flower. This advances the use of liquid crystals as a medium for assembling structures.
Cancer involves a breakdown of normal cell behavior. Cell reproduction and movement go haywire, causing tumors to grow and spread through the body. A new finding by Univ. of Pennsylvania scientists has identified key steps that trigger this disintegration of cellular regulation. Their discovery—that a protein called Exo70 has a split personality—points to new possibilities for diagnosing cancer metastasis.
A unique solar panel design made with a new ceramic material points the way to potentially providing sustainable power cheaper, more efficiently, and requiring less manufacturing time. It also reaches a four-decade-old goal of discovering a bulk photovoltaic material that can harness energy from visible and infrared light, not just ultraviolet light.
The blood stem cells that live in bone marrow are at the top of a complex family tree. Such stem cells split and divide down various pathways that ultimately produce red cells, white cells and platelets. These “daughter” cells must be produced at a rate of about one million per second to constantly replenish the body’s blood supply. Researchers have long wondered what allows these stem cells to persist for decades, until now.
Researchers from the Univ. of Pennsylvania and Drexel Univ. have experimentally demonstrated a new method for solar cell construction which may ultimately make them less expensive, easier to manufacture and more efficient at harvesting energy from the sun. The breakthrough, which is the result of five years of focused research, relies on specifically designed perovskite crystals that deliver a “bulk” photovoltaic effect.
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