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New way to make batteries safer

November 3, 2014 4:51 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

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.

Outsmarting thermodynamics in self-assembly of nanostructures

November 3, 2014 1:56 pm | by Rachel Berkowitz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

If you can uniformly break the symmetry of nanorod pairs in a colloidal solution, you’re a step ahead of the game toward achieving new and exciting metamaterial properties. But traditional thermodynamic-driven colloidal assembly of these metamaterials, which are materials defined by their non-naturally-occurring properties, often result in structures with high degree of symmetries in the bulk material.

Chemists gain edge in next-gen energy

November 3, 2014 1:37 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists who want to gain an edge in energy production and storage report they have found it in molybdenum disulfide. The Rice laboratory of chemist James Tour has turned molybdenum disulfide’s 2-D form into a nanoporous film that can catalyze the production of hydrogen or be used for energy storage.

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Computational model predicts superconductivity

November 1, 2014 11:34 am | by Katie Elyce Jones, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers studying iron-based superconductors are combining novel electronic structure algorithms with the high-performance computing power of the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Titan supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to predict spin dynamics, or the ways electrons orient and correlate their spins in a material.

A quantum leap in nanoparticle efficiency

October 31, 2014 12:55 pm | News | Comments

In an international study Univ. of Melbourne and NIST found that pairs of closely spaced nanoparticles made of gold can act as “optical antennas”. These antennae concentrate the light shining on them into tiny regions located in the gap between the nanoparticles. Researchers found the precise geometry of nanoparticle pairs that maximizes light concentration, resolving a hotly debated area of quantum physics.

Pilot study reveals new findings about microplastics in wastewater

October 31, 2014 10:19 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Germany have employed micro-FTIR and ATR-FTIR spectroscopy to determine precisely the type and source of microplastics found in the wastewater of a regional water association in Lower Saxony. With these infrared imaging methods, it is now possible to specifically classify plastics, such as those used in toothpaste, cosmetics, fleece jackets and packaging.

“Swiss cheese” membrane with variable holes

October 31, 2014 10:01 am | News | Comments

A new membrane, developed scientists in the Netherlands, can be made more or less porous “on demand”. In this way, smart switching between “open” and “closed” is possible, which opens the way to innovative applications in biosensors, chemical analysis and catalysis.

Microrockets fueled by water neutralize chemical, biological warfare agents

October 30, 2014 8:46 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

With fears growing over chemical and biological weapons falling into the wrong hands, scientists are developing microrockets to fight back against these dangerous agents, should the need arise. In ACS Nano, they describe new spherical micromotors that rapidly neutralize chemical and biological agents and use water as fuel.

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Tiny nanopores make big impact

October 30, 2014 8:05 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboraotry | News | Comments

A team led by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists has created a new kind of ion channel consisting of short carbon nanotubes, which can be inserted into synthetic bilayers and live cell membranes to form tiny pores that transport water, protons, small ions and DNA. These carbon nanotube “porins” have significant implications for future health care and bioengineering applications.

Imaging electrons moving at 80,000 m/sec in a semiconductor

October 29, 2014 12:45 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Japan have directly observed and recorded electron flow at 80,000 m/sec in a semiconductor. They did so by combining a new laser pulse light source and a photoemission electron microscope to develop an ultra high-speed microscope that enabled visualization of electrons on a 20 nm and 200 femtosec scale.

Nanoparticle safety: The quest for the gold standard

October 29, 2014 9:53 am | News | Comments

Researching the safety of nanoparticles is all the rage. Thousands of scientists worldwide are conducting research on the topic, examining the question of whether titanium dioxide nanoparticles or carbon nanotubes can get into the body’s lungs or blood. However, the amount of new knowledge has only increased marginally. How do nanoparticles get into the body? Researchers in Switzerland are attempting to establish standards.

Cheap and efficient method improves SERS

October 28, 2014 12:07 pm | News | Comments

Researchers with CiQUS in Spain have developed a new method to overcome limitations of surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS), an ultra-sensitive analytical technique able to detect chemicals in very low concentration. The research results show how to cut production costs of substrates and also tackle the lack of reproducibility usually associated to this technique.

Self-assembled membranes hint at biomedical applications

October 28, 2014 11:36 am | by David Lindley, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Techniques for self-assembling of molecules have grown increasingly sophisticated, but biological structures remain a challenge. Recently, scientists have used self-assembly under controlled conditions to create a membrane consisting of layers with distinctly different structures. At the Advanced Photon Source, the team has studied the structures and how they form, paving the way for hierarchical structures with biomedical applications.

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Watching the hidden life of materials

October 28, 2014 9:25 am | News | Comments

Researchers at McGill Univ. have succeeded in simultaneously observing the reorganizations of atomic positions and electron distribution during the transformation of the “smart material” vanadium dioxide from a semiconductor into a metal. The observations are made in a time frame a trillion times faster than the blink of an eye.

Emergent behavior lets bubbles “sense” environment

October 27, 2014 12:46 pm | Videos | Comments

Tiny, soapy bubbles can reorganize their membranes to let material flow in and out in response to the surrounding environment, according to new research. This behavior could be exploited in creating microbubbles that deliver drugs or other payloads inside the body, and could help us understand how the very first living cells on Earth might have survived billions of years ago.

New evidence for exotic, predicted superconducting state

October 27, 2014 12:35 pm | News | Comments

A research team led by a Brown Univ. physicist has produced new evidence for an exotic superconducting state, first predicted a half-century ago, that can arise when a superconductor is exposed to a strong magnetic field. This new understanding of what happens when electron spin populations become unequal could have implications beyond superconductivity.

Fraunhofer develops economical process for micro energy harvesting

October 27, 2014 9:52 am | News | Comments

The trend toward energy self-sufficient probes and ever smaller mobile electronics systems continues, and are used to monitor the status of the engines on airplanes, or for medical implants. They gather the energy they need for this from their immediate environment, such as vibrations. Fraunhofer Institute researchers have developed a process for the economical production of piezoelectric materials that supply this type of energy.

Physicists find toxic halogens in Li-ion batteries

October 24, 2014 12:08 pm | by Brian McNeill, Virginia Commonwealth Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth Univ. have discovered that most of the electrolytes used in lithium-ion batteries are superhalogens, and that the vast majority of these electrolytes contain toxic halogens. At the same time, the researchers also found that the electrolytes in lithium-ion batteries could be replaced with halogen-free electrolytes that are both nontoxic and environmentally friendly.

Cooking up carbon: Sawdust and iron in the melting pot

October 24, 2014 10:16 am | News | Comments

Researchers in the U.K. have found a new way to make nanostructured carbon using the waste product sawdust. By cooking sawdust with a thin coating of iron at 700 C, they have discovered that they can create carbon with a structure made up of many tiny tubes. These tubes are one thousand times smaller than an average human hair.

3-D metamaterials with a natural bent

October 24, 2014 8:44 am | News | Comments

Scientists have been able to manufacture 3-D isotropic metamaterials, but up to now only on a very small scale. Now, in a significant breakthrough, scientists from RIKEN, in collaboration with colleagues in Taiwan, have succeeded in creating a large metamaterial up to 4-mm-square in size that is essentially isotropic, using a type of metamaterial element called a split-ring resonator.

Study reveals molecular structure of water at gold electrodes

October 24, 2014 8:19 am | by Rachel Berkowitz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

When a solid material is immersed in a liquid, the liquid immediately next to its surface differs from that of the bulk liquid at the molecular level. This interfacial layer is critical to our understanding of a diverse set of phenomena. When the solid surface is charged, it can drive further changes in the interfacial liquid. However, elucidating the molecular structure at the solid-liquid interface under these conditions is difficult.

Cooling to near absolute zero with magnetic molecules

October 23, 2014 12:56 pm | News | Comments

An international team of scientists have become the first to successfully reach temperatures below -272.15 C, which is just above absolute zero, using magnetic molecules. The effort, which avoids the use of helium, depends on a form of gadolinium that appropriately has a structure resembling a snowflake.

NIST offers electronics industry two ways to snoop on self-organizing molecules

October 23, 2014 12:33 pm | News | Comments

A few short years ago, the idea of a practical manufacturing process based on getting molecules to organize themselves in useful nanoscale shapes seemed far-fetched. Recent work at NIST, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and IBM Almaden Research Center suggest this capability isn’t far off, however, by demonstrating self-assembly of thin films on a polymer template that creates precise rows just 10 nm wide.

Microscopic “walkers” find their way across cell surfaces

October 23, 2014 8:14 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Nature has developed a wide variety of methods for guiding particular cells, enzymes and molecules to specific structures inside the body: White blood cells can find their way to the site of an infection, while scar-forming cells migrate to the site of a wound. But finding ways of guiding artificial materials within the body has proven more difficult.

Special microscope captures defects in nanotubes

October 22, 2014 8:16 am | News | Comments

Univ. of Oregon chemists have devised a way to see the internal structures of electronic waves trapped in carbon nanotubes by external electrostatic charges. Their atomic scale observations provide a detailed view of traps that disrupt energy flow, possibly pointing toward improved charge-carrying devices.

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