Mention a breakthrough involving "gumbo" technology in this city, and people think of a new twist on The Local Dish, the stew that's the quintessence of southern Louisiana cooking. But scientific presentations at a meeting of the world's largest scientific society this week are focusing on what may be an advance in developing GUMBOS-based materials with far-reaching medical, electronic and other uses.
The same material that formed the first primitive transistors more than 60 years ago can be modified in a new way to advance future electronics, according to a new study. Chemists at The Ohio State University have developed the technology for making a one-atom-thick sheet of germanium, and found that it conducts electrons more than ten times faster than silicon and five times faster than conventional germanium.
Imagine a solar panel more efficient than today’s best solar panels, but using 10,000 times less material. This is what researchers in France expect given recent findings on these tiny filaments called nanowires. Solar technology integrating nanowires could capture large quantities of light and produce energy with incredible efficiency at a much lower cost.
The accidental discovery by Chemical Engineering Professor Tim Bender and postdoctoral fellow Benoit Lessard of an unexpected side product of polymer synthesis could have implications for the manufacture of commercial polymers used in sealants, adhesives, toys, and even medical implants, the researchers say.
Rice University physicists on the hunt for the origins of high-temperature superconductivity have published new findings this week about a material that becomes “schizophrenic”—simultaneously exhibiting the characteristics of both a metallic conductor and an insulator. In a theoretical analysis in Physical Review Letters, Rice physicists offer an explanation for a strange series of observations described earlier this year by researchers at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in Menlo Park, Calif.
A new report finds that the global manufacturing sector has made great strides in energy efficiency: The manufacturing of materials such as steel, cement, paper, and aluminum has become increasingly streamlined, requiring far less energy than when these processes were first invented. However, despite more energy-efficient manufacturing, the researchers found that such processes may be approaching their thermodynamic limits: There are increasingly limited options available to make them significantly more efficient.
Japan-based Teijin Limited has developed technology to significantly enhance the heat and impact resistance of PLANEXT, the company’s high-performance bioplastic. The technology modifies the molecular design of PLANEXT to achieve greatly improved heat resistance with a glass-transition temperature of 120 C, as well as superior resistance to impact.
Researchers led by scientists at Case Western Reserve University have turned to an unlikely model to make medical devices safer and more comfortable—a squid's beak. Many medical implants require hard materials that have to connect to or pass through soft body tissue. This mechanical mismatch leads to problems such as skin breakdown at abdominal feeding tubes in stroke patients and where wires pass through the chest to power assistive heart pumps. Enter the squid.
The use of femtosecond light pulses—the fastest man-made event—with photon energies ranging from X-rays (as used for instance at the HZB femto-slicing facility) to terahertz spectral range has proved to be an indispensable tool in ultrafast spin and magnetization dynamics studies. Researchers have recently demonstrated a simple but powerful way of manipulating the spins at these unprecedented speeds.
A paper published this week offers a comprehensive answer to the long-debated question of how geckos are able to stick to trees and leaves during rainforest downpours. Researchers tackling this problem have discovered that wet, hydrophobic surfaces like those of leaves and tree trunks secure a gecko's grip similar to the way dry surfaces do. This link between “wettability” and adhesion could developers of synthetic adhesives.
Scientists may soon be able to turn to one of the most powerful forces in biology—evolution—to help in their quest to develop new synthetic polymers. As described in a recent paper, a team of Harvard University researchers has developed a new method to create synthetic polymers using the coding of genetic material. The method may eventually be used to evolve synthetic polymers with new or improved properties such as the ability to serve as catalysts in chemical reactions or enhanced therapeutic potential.
There is high interest in methods to produce 2D crystals by exfoliating materials with layered structures, but certain ions or solvents can infiltrate materials with layered structures, forcing exfoliation spontaneously and complicating efforts to build practical materials. While working to develop these procedures, researchers in Japan have reported an unusual phenomenon that layered materials undergo drastic swelling without breaking into separate 2D crystal layers.
Imagine if you could drink a glass of water just by inserting a solid wire into it and sucking on it as though it were a soda straw. It turns out that if you were tiny enough, that method would work just fine—and wouldn’t even require the suction to start. New research has demonstrated, for the first time, that when inserted into a pool of liquid, nanowires naturally draw the liquid upward in a thin film that coats the surface of the wire.
A specially-adapted “tactile helmet”, developed by researchers at the University of Sheffield, could provide fire-fighters operating in challenging conditions with vital clues about their surroundings. The helmet is fitted with a number of ultrasound sensors that are used to detect the distances between the helmet and nearby walls or other obstacles. These signals are transmitted to vibration pads that are attached to the inside of the helmet, touching the wearer's forehead.
Lignocellulosic biomass is the most abundant organic material on Earth and could supply the sugars needed to produce advanced biofuels that can supplement or replace fossil fuels. One of the challenges is finding ways to more cost-effectively extract those sugars. Through the tools of synthetic biology, Joint BioEnergy Institute scientists have engineered healthy plants whose lignocellulosic biomass can more easily be broken down into simple sugars for biofuels.
Graphene has become famous for its extraordinary strength. But less-than-perfect sheets of the material show unexpected weakness, according to researchers at Rice University and Tsinghua University. The kryptonite to this Superman of materials is in the form of a seven-atom ring that inevitably occurs at the junctions of grain boundaries in graphene, where the regular array of hexagonal units is interrupted. At these points, under tension, polycrystalline graphene has about half the strength of pristine samples of the material.
A team of researchers from the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, the University of Maryland, and NIST have measured large variations in the magnetic properties along the edge of a thin-film 500-nm-diameter disk. This work represents a significant development in the measurement of magnetic thin-film edge properties, which are especially important for nanodevices, such as magnetic memory cells, where the edge to area ratio is large.
Certain semiconductors, when imparted with energy, in turn emit light; they directly produce photons, instead of producing heat. This phenomenon is commonplace and used in light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. Research from the University of Pennsylvania has enabled "bulk" silicon to emit broad-spectrum, visible light for the first time, opening the possibility of using the element in devices that have both electronic and photonic components.
Engineers at the University of California, San Diego are developing nanofoams that could be used to make better body armor; prevent traumatic brain injury and blast-related lung injuries in soldiers; and protect buildings from impacts and blasts. It’s the first time researchers are investigating the use of nanofoams for structural protection.
Up until now, the invisibility cloaks put forward by scientists have been fairly bulky contraptions—an obvious flaw for those interested in Harry Potter-style applications. However, researchers from the U.S. have now developed a cloak that is just micrometers thick and can hide 3D objects from microwaves in their natural environment, in all directions and from all of the observers’ positions.
Solar cells are just like leaves, capturing the sunlight and turning it into energy. It’s fitting that they can now be made partially from trees. Georgia Institute of Technology and Purdue University researchers have developed efficient solar cells using natural substrates derived from plants such as trees. Just as importantly, by fabricating them on cellulose nanocrystal substrates, the solar cells can be quickly recycled in water at the end of their lifecycle.
According to recent research at Rice University, vanadium oxide and graphene may be a key new set of materials for improving lithium-ion storage. Ribbons created at Rice from these two materials are thousands of times thinner than a sheet of paper, yet have potential that far outweighs current materials for their ability to charge and discharge very quickly. Initial capacity remains at 90% or more after more than 1,000 cycles.
The typical solar cell efficiency limit―called the "Shockley-Queisser Limit"―has for many years has been a landmark for solar cell efficiency. Scientists from at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen and other colleagues have shown that a single nanowire can increase this limit by concentrating sunlight up to 15 times normal intensity.
Semiconducting polymers are an unruly bunch, but University of Michigan engineers have developed a new method for getting them in line that could pave the way for cheaper, greener, "paint-on" plastic electronics.
Using exotic particles called quantum dots as the basis for a photovoltaic cell is not a new idea, but attempts to make such devices have not yet achieved sufficiently high efficiency in converting sunlight to power. A new wrinkle added by a team of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology—embedding the quantum dots within a forest of nanowires—promises to provide a significant boost.