Rechargeable battery manufacturers may get a jolt from research performed at NIST and several other institutions, where a team of scientists has discovered a safe, inexpensive, sodium-conducting material that significantly outperforms all others in its class. The team's discovery is a sodium-based, complex metal hydride, a material with potential as a cheaper alternative to the lithium-based conductors used in many rechargeable batteries.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.