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NIST: The clumping density of many things seems to be a standard

June 11, 2014 7:37 am | News | Comments

Particles of soot floating through the air and comets hurtling through space have at least one thing in common: 0.36. That, reports a research group at NIST, is the measure of how dense they will get under normal conditions, and it’s a value that seems to be constant for similar aggregates across an impressively wide size range from nanometers to tens of meters. NIST hopes the results will aid climate researchers.

Technology using microwave heating may impact electronics manufacture

June 10, 2014 3:12 pm | News | Comments

Engineers at Oregon State University have successfully shown that a continuous flow reactor can produce high-quality nanoparticles by using microwave-assisted heating. This is essentially the same force that heats up leftover food with such efficiency, but instead of warming up yesterday’s pizza, this concept may change the production of cell phones and televisions or improve solar energy systems.

Charging portable electronics in 10 minutes

June 10, 2014 3:09 pm | by Sean Nealon, UC Riverside | News | Comments

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering have developed a 3-D, silicon-decorated, cone-shaped carbon-nanotube cluster architecture for lithium ion battery anodes that could enable charging of portable electronics in 10 minutes. It also increases cell capacity and reduces size and weight by 40%.

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Designing ion “highway systems” for batteries

June 10, 2014 2:19 pm | News | Comments

Since the early 1970s, lithium has been the most popular element for batteries because of it’s low weight and good electrochemical potential. But it is also highly flammable. Researchers have recently married two traditional theories in materials science that can explain how the charge dictates the structure of the material. And using this they may be able to move to other materials, such as block copolymers, for use in batteries.

Evolution of a bimetallic nanocatalyst

June 9, 2014 7:58 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Atomic-scale snapshots of a bimetallic nanoparticle catalyst in action have provided insights that could help improve the industrial process by which fuels and chemicals are synthesized from natural gas, coal or plant biomass. A multinational laboratory collaboration has taken the most detailed look ever at the evolution of platinum/cobalt bimetallic nanoparticles during reactions in oxygen and hydrogen gases.

Seeing how a lithium-ion battery works

June 9, 2014 7:44 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

New observations by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have revealed the inner workings of a type of electrode widely used in lithium-ion batteries. The new findings explain the unexpectedly high power and long cycle life of such batteries, the researchers say.

Scientists explore using trees to clean pollution

June 9, 2014 2:20 am | by Ramit Plushnick-masti - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Before Houston and its suburbs were built, a dense forest naturally purified the coastal air along a stretch of the Texas Gulf Coast that grew thick with pecan, ash, live oak and hackberry trees. It was the kind of pristine woodland that was mostly wiped out by settlers in their rush to clear land and build communities.

Shatterproof polymer screens to help save smartphones

June 6, 2014 10:57 am | News | Comments

Polymer scientists in Ohio have demonstrated how a transparent layer of electrodes on a polymer surface could be extraordinarily tough and flexible, withstanding repeated scotch tape peeling and bending tests. According to its developers, the new material could replace conventional indium tin oxide coatings currently used for touchscreens.

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Opening a wide window on the nano-world of surface catalysis

June 6, 2014 10:20 am | by Steven Powell, Univ. of South Carolina | News | Comments

Surface catalysts are notoriously difficult to study mechanistically, but scientists at two universities have recently shown how to get real-time reaction information from silver nanocatalysts that have long frustrated attempts to describe their kinetic behavior in detail. The key to the team's success was bridging a size gap that had represented a wide chasm to researchers in the past.

All-natural mixture yields promising fire retardant

June 6, 2014 9:29 am | News | Comments

A dash of clay, a dab of fiber from crab shells, and a dollop of DNA: This strange group of materials are actually the ingredients of promising green fire retardants invented by researchers at NIST. Applied to polyurethane foam, the bio-based coatings greatly reduced the flammability of the common furniture padding after it was exposed to an open flame.

Researchers find mechanism that forms cell-to-cell catch bonds

June 6, 2014 9:09 am | News | Comments

Certain bonds connecting biological cells get stronger when they’re tugged. Those bonds are known as catch bonds and they’re formed by common adhesion proteins called cadherins. Using computer simulations based on data from previous experiments, researchers in Iowa have answered the question about how these bonds get stronger under force.

Researchers discover how water molecules adapt to presence of extra proton

June 6, 2014 8:02 am | by Eric Gershon, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

H2O is the molecule everybody knows, and nobody can live without. But for all its familiarity and import for life, aspects of water’s behavior have been hard to pin down, including how it conducts positive charge. In Science, Yale Univ. chemists report tracing how a cluster of water molecules adapts to the presence of an extra proton, the positively charged subatomic particle.

Ionic liquid boosts efficiency of carbon dioxide reduction catalyst

June 6, 2014 7:50 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Wouldn’t it be nice to use solar- or wind-generated electricity to turn excess carbon dioxide into fuels and other useful chemicals? The process would store up the intermittent solar or wind energy in a form that could be used when and where it was needed, including in transportation applications, all while getting rid of some greenhouse gas.

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Engineers develop mobile DNA test for HIV

June 6, 2014 7:31 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. bioengineers are developing a simple, highly accurate test to detect signs of HIV and its progress in patients in resource-poor settings. The current gold standard to diagnose HIV in infants and to monitor viral load depends on laboratory equipment and technical expertise generally available only in clinics. The new research features a nucleic acid-based test that can be performed at the site of care.

Preserving bread longer: A new edible film made with essential oils

June 5, 2014 11:18 am | News | Comments

Essential oils have boomed in popularity as people seek alternatives to replace their synthetic cleaning products, anti-mosquito sprays and medicines. Now scientists are tapping them as candidates to preserve food in a more consumer-friendly way. A study from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reports the development of new edible films containing oils from clove and oregano that preserve bread longer than commercial additives.

Cleaning the air with roof tiles

June 4, 2014 3:08 pm | by Sean Nealon, UC Riverside | News | Comments

A team of students in California have created a roof tile coating that, when applied to an average-sized residential roof, breaks down the same amount of smog-causing nitrogen oxides per year as a car driven 11,000 miles. The inexpensive titanium dioxide-based coating removes up to 97% of smog-causing nitrogen oxides.

Quantum criticality observed in new class of materials

June 4, 2014 2:39 pm | by Jade Boyd, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Quantum criticality, the strange electronic state that may be intimately related to high-temperature superconductivity, is notoriously difficult to study. But a new discovery of “quantum critical points” could allow physicists to develop a classification scheme for quantum criticality, the first step toward a broader explanation.

Easier, Safer Pipetting Promotes Health and Productivity

June 4, 2014 1:21 pm | by Noah Saederup, PhD, Product Manager, Mettler Toledo Int. Inc., Oakland, Calif. | Articles | Comments

Investigations into long-term health consequences associated with pipetting were first made in the 1980s. Today, pipettes are typically designed with ergonomics in mind—but the right solution for one may not be the right solution for all. Considering body type and workstation design, in addition to pipette features, can result in greater ease, fewer errors and better throughput.

Breakthrough greatly strengthens graphene-reinforced composites

June 4, 2014 10:07 am | News | Comments

Haydale, a U.K.-based developer of a unique plasma functionalization process for nanomaterials, has announced the publication of research showing its functionalized graphene nanoplatelets significantly improve the nanoscale reinforcement of resin. The report states a greater than two times increase in tensile strength and modulus of an epoxy composite using this technology.

Preserving bread longer: A new edible film made with essential oils

June 4, 2014 9:59 am | News | Comments

Essential oils have boomed in popularity as more people seek out alternatives to replace their synthetic cleaning products, anti-mosquito sprays and medicines. Now scientists are tapping them as candidates to preserve food in a more consumer-friendly way. Recent research has led to new edible films containing oils from clove and oregano that preserve bread longer than commercial additives.

Controlling thermal conductivities can improve energy storage

June 4, 2014 7:30 am | by Rick Kubetz, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

Materials that control heat flow are available with both high and low conductivities, but materials with variable and reversible thermal conductivities are rare. For the first time, researchers at the Univ. of Illinois have experimentally shown that the thermal conductivity of lithium cobalt oxide, an important material for electrochemical energy storage, can be reversibly electrochemically modulated over a considerable range.

Rice Univ. produces carbon-capture breakthrough

June 4, 2014 7:14 am | News | Comments

A porous material invented by the Rice Univ. lab of chemist James Tour sequesters carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, at ambient temperature with pressure provided by the wellhead and lets it go once the pressure is released. The material shows promise to replace more costly and energy-intensive processes.

Discovery sheds light on how to control self-assembly process

June 3, 2014 8:35 am | News | Comments

Imagine a tower that builds itself into the desired structure only by choosing the appropriate bricks. Absurd, but in the nano world self-assembly is now a common practice for forming structures. Researchers in Austria have been investigating how they can control the ordering of self-assembling structures and discovered how to switch the assembly process on and off.

The hunt for white aluminium

May 30, 2014 10:29 am | by Katrine Krogh-Jeppesen, DTU | News | Comments

Bang & Olufsen is working with scientists in Denmark to develop a method for creating white aluminium surfaces. This has been exceedingly difficult for manufacturers because the existing technology used to color aluminium cannot be used to produce the color white because the molecules used to create “white” are too big. Rather than use pigments, then, researchers have a way to make it become white during the process.

Smart coating could make oil spill cleanup faster, more efficient

May 30, 2014 9:30 am | News | Comments

In the wake of recent offshore oil spills, and with the growing popularity of “fracking”—in which water is used to release oil and gas from shale—there’s a need for easy, quick ways to separate oil and water. Now, scientists have developed coatings that can do just that. Their report on the materials, which also could stop surfaces from getting foggy and dirty, appears in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

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