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Emotionally inspired engineering: Emma Nelson tackles environmental issues with engineering

April 8, 2015 2:42 pm | by Julia Sklar, MIT | News | Comments

When MIT senior Emma Nelson was teaching engineering classes in China in 2013, a male student remarked of her as an instructor, “I thought we were supposed to meet engineers, not women.” As she stared out at the 100 college students before her, Nelson noticed there was just one female face looking back at her.

Optical method for producing high-res, 3-D images of nanoscale objects

April 8, 2015 8:07 am | by Bjorn Carey, Stanford Univ. | Videos | Comments

To design the next generation of optical devices, ranging from efficient solar panels to LEDs to optical transistors, engineers will need a 3-D image depicting how light interacts with these objects on the nanoscale. Unfortunately, the physics of light has thrown up a roadblock in traditional imaging techniques: The smaller the object, the lower the image's resolution in 3-D.

Inkjet-printed liquid metal could bring wearable tech, soft robotics

April 8, 2015 7:40 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

New research shows how inkjet-printing technology can be used to mass-produce electronic circuits made of liquid-metal alloys for "soft robots" and flexible electronics. Elastic technologies could make possible a new class of pliable robots and stretchable garments that people might wear to interact with computers or for therapeutic purposes.

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Future electronics based on carbon nanotubes

April 7, 2015 11:16 am | by Jason Socrates Bardi, American Institute of Physics | News | Comments

The exceptional properties of tiny molecular cylinders known as carbon nanotubes have tantalized researchers for years because of the possibility they could serve as a successors to silicon in laying the logic for smaller, faster and cheaper electronic devices.

Accelerating materials discovery with world’s largest database of elastic properties

April 7, 2015 7:53 am | by Julie Chao, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have published the world’s largest set of data on the complete elastic properties of inorganic compounds, increasing by an order of magnitude the number of compounds for which such data exists.

Frustrated magnets: New experiment reveals clues to their discontent

April 6, 2015 8:12 am | by Catherine Zandonella, Princeton Univ. | News | Comments

An experiment conducted by Princeton Univ. researchers has revealed an unlikely behavior in a class of materials called frustrated magnets, addressing a long-debated question about the nature of these discontented quantum materials. The work represents a surprising discovery that down the road may suggest new research directions for advanced electronics.

Water makes wires even more nano

April 6, 2015 7:35 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Water is the key component in a Rice Univ. process to reliably create patterns of metallic and semiconducting wires less than 10 nm wide. The technique by the Rice lab of chemist James Tour builds upon its discovery that the meniscus, the curvy surface of water at its edge, can be an effective mask to make nanowires.

Engineers invent 2-D liquid

April 2, 2015 11:55 am | by Evan Lerner, Univ. of Pennsylvania | News | Comments

Where water and oil meet, a 2-D world exists. This interface presents a potentially useful set of properties for chemists and engineers, but getting anything more complex than a soap molecule to stay there and behave predictably remains a challenge. Recently, a team from the Univ. of Pennsylvania has shown how to do just that.

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Tracking ultra-fast creation of a catalyst

April 1, 2015 2:26 pm | by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

An international team has, for the first time, precisely tracked the surprisingly rapid process by which light rearranges the outermost electrons of a metal compound and turns it into an active catalyst, a substance that promotes chemical reactions. The results could help in the effort to develop novel catalysts to efficiently produce fuel using sunlight.

Quick-charging hybrid supercapacitors

April 1, 2015 1:11 pm | by Shaun Mason, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | News | Comments

The dramatic rise of smartphones, tablets, laptops and other personal and portable electronics has brought battery technology to the forefront of electronics research. Even as devices have improved by leaps and bounds, the slow pace of battery development has held back technological progress. Now, researchers have successfully combined two nanomaterials to create a new energy storage medium.

Team discovers new liquid crystal configurations

April 1, 2015 8:08 am | by Evan Lerner, Univ. of Pennsylvania | News | Comments

Oil-based liquid crystals are ubiquitous; an understanding of their properties is behind the displays in most electronics. Water-based liquid crystals are less well understood, though their biocompatibility makes them a candidate for a variety of applications. New research has advanced the field's understanding of these materials, demonstrating never-before-seen configurations by confining a water-based liquid crystal in a cylinder.

Natural nanocrystals shown to strengthen concrete

April 1, 2015 7:40 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Cellulose nanocrystals derived from industrial byproducts have been shown to increase the strength of concrete, representing a potential renewable additive to improve the ubiquitous construction material. The cellulose nanocrystals could be refined from byproducts generated in the paper, bioenergy, agriculture and pulp industries.

Prototype nanoneedles generate new blood vessels in mice

March 30, 2015 11:20 am | by Imperial College London | News | Comments

Scientists have developed tiny nanoneedles that have successfully prompted parts of the body to generate new blood vessels, in a trial in mice. The researchers, from Imperial College London and Houston Methodist Research Institute, hope their nanoneedle technique could ultimately help damaged organs and nerves to repair themselves and help transplanted organs to thrive.

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Recipe for antibacterial plastic

March 30, 2015 8:21 am | by Cal Powell, Univ. of Georgia | News | Comments

Bioplastics made from protein sources such as albumin and whey have shown significant antibacterial properties, findings that could eventually lead to their use in plastics used in medical applications such as wound healing dressings, sutures, catheter tubes and drug delivery, according to a recent study by the Univ. of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Nanoscale “worms” provide new route to nano-necklace structures

March 30, 2015 8:11 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Researchers have developed a novel technique for crafting nanometer-scale necklaces based on tiny star-like structures threaded onto a polymeric backbone. The technique could provide a new way to produce hybrid organic-inorganic shish kebab structures from semiconducting, magnetic, ferroelectric and other materials that may afford useful nanoscale properties.

Solving molybdenum disulfide’s “thin” problem

March 30, 2015 7:55 am | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

The promising new material molybdenum disulfide has an inherent issue that’s steeped in irony. The material’s greatest asset, its monolayer thickness, is also its biggest challenge. Monolayer molybdenum disulfide’s ultra-thin structure is strong, lightweight and flexible, making it a good candidate for many applications, such as high-performance, flexible electronics.

Surface-modified nanoparticles endow coatings with combine properties

March 27, 2015 9:56 am | by Leibniz Institute for New Materials | News | Comments

Nanoparticles are specifically adapted to the particular application by Small Molecule Surface Modification. Thereby surfaces of work pieces or moldings are expected to exhibit several different functions at one and the same time. Fabricators and processors alike demand consistently high quality for their intermediate and final products. The properties of these goods usually also have to meet specific requirements.

Chemists make new silicon-based nanomaterials

March 27, 2015 8:01 am | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Chemists from Brown Univ. have found a way to make new 2-D, graphene-like semiconducting nanomaterials using an old standby of the semiconductor world: silicon. In a paper published in Nanoletters, the researchers describe methods for making nanoribbons and nanoplates from a compound called silicon telluride. The materials are pure, p-type semiconductors that could be used in a variety of electronic and optical devices.

Novel plastic could spur new green energy applications, artificial muscles

March 26, 2015 8:11 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

A plastic used in filters and tubing has an unusual trait: It can produce electricity when pulled or pressed. This ability has been used in small ways, but now researchers are coaxing fibers of the material to make even more electricity for a wider range of applications from green energy to "artificial muscles."

Copper atoms bring a potential new battery material to life

March 26, 2015 8:03 am | by Laura Mgrdichian, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Lithium-ion batteries are an important component of modern technology, powering phones, laptops, tablets and other portable devices when they are not plugged in. They even power electric vehicles. But to make batteries that last longer, provide more power, and are more energy efficient, scientists must find battery materials that perform better than those currently in use.

Desalination with nanoporous graphene membrane

March 26, 2015 7:53 am | by Dawn Levy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Less than 1% of Earth’s water is drinkable. Removing salt and other minerals from our biggest available source of water, seawater, may help satisfy a growing global population thirsty for fresh water for drinking, farming, transportation, heating, cooling and industry. But desalination is an energy-intensive process, which concerns those wanting to expand its application.

Carbon nanotube fibers make superior links to brain

March 25, 2015 10:33 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Carbon nanotube fibers invented at Rice Univ. may provide a way to communicate directly with the brain. The fibers have proven superior to metal electrodes for deep brain stimulation and to read signals from a neuronal network. Because they provide a two-way connection, they show promise for treating patients with neurological disorders while monitoring the real-time response of neural circuits in areas that control movement and mood.

New kind of “tandem” solar cell developed

March 25, 2015 7:41 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford Univ. have developed a new kind of solar cell that combines two different layers of sunlight-absorbing material in order to harvest a broader range of the sun’s energy. The development could lead to photovoltaic cells that are more efficient than those currently used in solar-power installations, the researchers say.

New technique could bring quality-control tool for nanocomposites

March 23, 2015 4:10 pm | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Layered nanocomposites containing tiny structures mixed into a polymer matrix are gaining commercial use, but their complex nature can hide defects that affect performance. Now researchers have developed a system capable of detecting such defects using a "Kelvin probe" scanning method with an atomic force microscope. The ability to look below the surface of nanocomposites represents a potential new quality-control tool for industry. 

New membranes deliver clean water more efficiently

March 23, 2015 8:31 am | by Univ. of Melbourne | News | Comments

Researchers from the Melbourne School of Engineering at the Univ. of Melbourne, in conjunction with CSIRO, have developed new membranes or microfilters that will result in clean water in a much more energy-efficient manner. Published in Advanced Materials, the new membranes will supply clean water for use in desalination and water purification applications.

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