Making a paper airplane in school used to mean trouble. Today it signals a promising discovery in materials science research that could help next-generation technology get off the ground. Researchers at Drexel Univ. and Dalian Univ. of Technology in China have chemically engineered a new, electrically conductive nanomaterial that is flexible enough to fold, but strong enough to support many times its own weight.
X-rays are widely used in medicine and in materials science. To take a picture of a broken bone, it’s enough to create a continuous flux of x-ray photons, but in order to study time-dependent phenomena on very short timescales, short x-ray pulses are required. One possibility to create short hard x-ray pulses is hitting a metal target with laser pulses.
Researchers at the Univ. of Maryland have invented a single tiny structure that includes all the components of a battery that they say could bring about the ultimate miniaturization of energy storage components. The structure is called a nanopore: a tiny hole in a ceramic sheet that holds electrolyte to carry the electrical charge between nanotube electrodes at either end.
Demand for mass spectrometry continues to rise. According to a recent Marketsandmarkets report, the global mass spectrometry market is expected to reach $5.9 billion by 2018. That’s a healthy compounded annual growth rate of 8.7%. Since its earliest demonstration more than 100 years ago, this analytical technique has become known as the “gold standard” of chemical analysis.
A team of engineers and scientists has identified a source of electronic noise that could affect the functioning of instruments operating at very low temperatures, such as devices used in radio telescopes and advanced physics experiments. The findingscould have implications for the future design of transistors and other electronic components.
In a step toward robots smaller than a grain of sand, Univ. of Michigan researchers have shown how chains of self-assembling particles could serve as electrically activated muscles in the tiny machines. So-called microbots would be handy in many areas. But several challenges lie between current technologies and science fiction possibilities. Two of the big ones are building the bots and making them mobile.
The push for more efficient air conditioners and heat pumps aims to trim the 30% share of residential electrical energy use devoted to cooling and heating. But the benefits of improved energy-efficiency ratings can go for naught if the equipment is not installed properly, as verified in a recent study from NIST.
Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. and Hong Kong Univ. of Science and Technology have found that temperature-controlled aggregation in a family of new semiconducting polymers is the key to creating highly efficient organic solar cells that can be mass produced more cheaply. Their findings also open the door to experimentation with different chemical mixtures that comprise the active layers of the cells.
Does synthetic biology hold the key to manned space exploration of the moon and Mars? Berkeley Lab researchers have used synthetic biology to produce an inexpensive and reliable microbial-based alternative to the world’s most effective anti-malaria drug, and to develop clean, green and sustainable alternatives to gasoline, diesel and jet fuels. In the future, synthetic biology could also be used to make manned space missions more practical.
Today, petabytes of digital information are generated daily by such sources as social media, Internet activity, surveillance sensors and advanced research instruments. The results are often referred to as “big data”—accumulations so huge that highly sophisticated computer techniques are required to identify useful information hidden within. Graph analysis is a prime tool for finding the needle in the data haystack.
What began as research into a method to strengthen metals has led to the discovery of a new technique that uses a pulsing laser to create synthetic nanodiamond films and patterns from graphite, with potential applications from biosensors to computer chips.
Reddish rock powder from the first hole drilled into a Martian mountain by NASA's Curiosity rover has yielded the mission's first confirmation of a mineral mapped from orbit. Curiosity collected the powder by drilling into a rock outcrop at the base of Mount Sharp in late September. The robotic arm delivered a pinch of the sample to the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument inside the rover.
Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have received a $1.2 million award from the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s SunShot Initiative to develop a technique that they believe will significantly improve the efficiencies of photovoltaic materials and help make solar electricity cost-competitive with other sources of energy.
In the Pacific Northwest, young salmon must dodge predatory birds, sea lions and more in their perilous trek toward the ocean. Hydroelectric dams don't make the trip any easier, with their manmade currents sweeping fish past swirling turbines and other obstacles. Despite these challenges, most juvenile salmon survive this journey every year.
A diet rich in fruit and vegetables is linked to a variety of improved health outcomes, but accurately measuring consumption by self-report, especially with children, is challenging and can be of questionable validity. But a device being developed in a collaboration that involves researchers from the Yale School of Public Health has the potential to change that.
Univ. of Utah engineers developed the first room-temperature fuel cell that uses enzymes to help jet fuel produce electricity without needing to ignite the fuel. These new fuel cells can be used to power portable electronics, off-grid power and sensors. A study of the new cells appears online in ACS Catalysis.
When Oak Ridge National Laboratory researcher Yan Xu talks about “islanding,” or isolating, from the grid, she’s discussing a fundamental benefit of microgrids—small systems powered by renewables and energy storage devices. The benefit is that microgrids can disconnect from larger utility grids and continue to provide power locally.
Laser surgery to correct eyesight is common practice, but did you know that technology developed for use in space is now commonly used to track the patient's eye and precisely direct the laser scalpel? If you look at a fixed point while tilting or shaking your head, your eyes automatically hold steady, allowing you to see clearly even while moving around. This neat trick of nature is a reflex and we are usually unaware that it even happens.
French security officials are investigating a spate of mysterious and illegal flights by drone aircraft over more than a dozen nuclear power stations in France, raising security concerns in a country that largely lives off atomic energy. In what environmental activists call a worrisome development, authorities have tallied at least 15 overflights of nuclear sites since early October, culminating Friday with five at separate sites.
Yale Univ. engineer Jan Schroers will lead a three-year, $1.2 million project intended to dramatically accelerate the pace of discovering and characterizing bulk metallic glasses (BMGs), a versatile type of pliable glass that’s stronger than steel. The grant will enable Schroers’ team to screen more than 3,000 potential BMG alloys in a week, a vast improvement over traditional methods.
A common perception, especially outside the university classroom, is that teaching and research are two separate domains, with little overlap. That’s not the reality, however, for many Univ. of Illinois faculty. For these faculty members, “there is an active and dynamic link” between the two.
Univ. of Utah engineers have developed a new type of carbon nanotube material for handheld sensors that will be quicker and better at sniffing out explosives, deadly gases and illegal drugs. Carbon nanotubes are known for their strength and high electrical conductivity and are used in products from baseball bats and other sports equipment to lithium-ion batteries and touchscreen computer displays.
Every year, nearly 4,000 children go to emergency rooms after swallowing button batteries, the flat, round batteries that power toys, hearing aids, calculators and many other devices. Ingesting these batteries has severe consequences, including burns that permanently damage the esophagus, tears in the digestive tract and, in some cases, even death.
With an eye toward making better running robots, researchers have made surprising new findings about some of nature’s most energy-efficient bipeds—running birds. Although birds are designed primarily for flight, scientists have learned that species that predominately live on land and scurry around on the ground are also some of the most sophisticated runners of any two-legged land animals.
Federal investigators say they have determined that a space tourism rocket broke apart in flight over California's Mojave Desert after a device to slow the experimental spaceship's descent deployed too soon. While no cause for Friday's crash of SpaceShipTwo has been determined, investigators found the "feathering" system was activated before the craft reached the appropriate speed.