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New properties found in promising oxide ceramics for reactor fuels

September 23, 2014 2:14 pm | News | Comments

Nanocomposite oxide ceramics have potential uses as ferroelectrics, fast ion conductors, and nuclear fuels and for storing nuclear waste, generating a great deal of scientific interest on the structure, properties, and applications of these blended materials. Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers have made the first observations of the relationship between the chemistry and dislocation structures of the nanoscale interfaces.

New formulation leads to improved liquid battery

September 23, 2014 2:07 pm | by David L. Chandler, MIT | News | Comments

Donald Sadoway and his colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have already started a company to produce electrical-grid-scale liquid batteries, whose layers of molten material automatically separate due to their differing densities. But a newly developed formula substitutes different metals for the molten layers. The new formula allows the battery to work at a much lower temperature.

Plant-based building materials may boost energy savings

September 23, 2014 2:04 pm | by Leslie Minton, Univ. of North Texas | News | Comments

Over a three-year period, Univ. of North Texas researchers developed and tested structured insulated panel building materials made from kenaf, a plant in the hibiscus family that is similar to bamboo. Kenaf fibers are an attractive prospect because they offer the same strength to weight ratio as glass fibers. The researchers found that the kenaf materials, including composite panels, provide up to 20% energy savings.

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Graphene flaws key to creating hypersensitive “electronic nose”

September 23, 2014 9:45 am | by Jeanne Galatzer-Levy, Univ. of Illinois Chicago | News | Comments

Researchers have discovered a way to create a highly sensitive chemical sensor based on the crystalline flaws in graphene sheets. The imperfections have unique electronic properties that the researchers were able to exploit to increase sensitivity to absorbed gas molecules by 300 times.

Smallest possible “diamonds” help form ultra-thin nanothreads

September 22, 2014 2:52 pm | Videos | Comments

For the first time, scientists led by John V. Badding, a professor of chemistry at Penn State Univ., have discovered how to produce ultra-thin "diamond nanothreads" that promise extraordinary properties, including strength and stiffness greater than that of today's strongest nanotubes and polymers. The core of the nanothreads is a long, thin strand of carbon atoms arranged just like the fundamental unit of a diamond's structure.

Engineered proteins stick like glue, even in water

September 22, 2014 1:46 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT | News | Comments

Shellfish such as mussels and barnacles secrete very sticky proteins that help them cling to rocks or ship hulls, even underwater. Inspired by these natural adhesives, a team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers has designed new materials that could be used to repair ships or help heal wounds and surgical incisions.

Uncovering the forbidden side of molecules

September 22, 2014 1:45 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Switzerland have succeeded in observing the “forbidden” infrared spectrum of a charged molecule for the first time. These extremely weak spectra offer perspectives for extremely precise measurements of molecular properties and may also contribute to the development of molecular clocks and quantum technology.

Quick-change materials break the silicon speed limit for computers

September 19, 2014 4:28 pm | by Stephen Elliott , Univ. of Cambridge | News | Comments

Faster, smaller, greener computers, capable of processing information up to 1,000 times faster than currently available models, could be made possible by replacing silicon with materials that can switch back and forth between different electrical states. Recent research in the U.K. show that these phase-change materials have promise in new processors made with chalcogenide glass.

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A nanosized hydrogen generator

September 19, 2014 1:54 pm | by Justin Breaux, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory have created a small scale “hydrogen generator” that uses light and a 2-D graphene platform to boost production of the hard-to-make element. The research also unveiled a previously unknown property of graphene. The 2-D chain of carbon atoms not only gives and receives electrons, but can also transfer them into another substance.

First-ever chemical bond established between carbon and a superheavy element

September 19, 2014 11:16 am | News | Comments

Chemical experiments with superheavy elements, which have atomic numbers beyond 104, are extremely challenging because they must be synthesized in a particle accelerator and they decay rapidly. An international team has, for the first time, established a chemical bond between a superheavy element, in this case element 106, seaborgium, and a carbon atom. The experiment opens the door to new investigations of relativity effects.

Startup scales up graphene production, develops biosensors and supercapacitors

September 19, 2014 10:59 am | Videos | Comments

Glenn Johnson, CEO of BlueVine Graphene Industries Inc., said many of the methodologies being utilized to produce graphene today are not easily scalable and require numerous post-processing steps to use it in functional applications. He said his company has developed a way to scale graphene production using a roll-to-roll chemical vapor deposition process.

Smartgels are thicker than water

September 19, 2014 10:08 am | by Poncie Rutsch, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology | News | Comments

Transforming substances from liquids into gels plays an important role across many industries, but the transformation process, called gelation, is expensive and energy demanding. Instead of adding chemical thickeners and heating or cooling the fluids, as is traditional, researchers in Okinawa are experimenting with microfluidic platforms, adding nanoparticles and biomolecules with used pH, chemical and temperature sensing properties.

Breaking “electrode barrier” creates a better low-cost organic solar cell

September 19, 2014 9:02 am | News | Comments

For decades, the power conversion efficiency of organic solar cells was hampered by the drawbacks of commonly used metal electrodes, including their instability and susceptibility to oxidation. Now for the first time, researchers at the Univ. of Massachusetts Amherst have developed a more efficient, easily processable and lightweight solar cell that can use virtually any metal for the electrode, effectively breaking the “electrode barrier.”

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Advanced molecular “sieves” could be used for carbon capture

September 18, 2014 12:33 pm | News | Comments

Researchers from the Univ. of Cambridge have developed advanced molecular synthetic membranes, or “sieves”, which could be used to filter carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. The sieves were made by heating microporous polymers using low levels of oxygen which, produces a tougher and far more selective membrane that is still relatively flexible.

Physicists heat freestanding graphene to control curvature of ripples

September 18, 2014 8:52 am | News | Comments

While freestanding graphene offers promise as a replacement for silicon and other materials in microprocessors and next-generation energy devices, much remains unknown about its mechanical and thermal properties. An international team of physicists, led by a research group at the Univ. of Arkansas, has recently discovered that heating can be used to control the curvature of ripples in freestanding graphene.

Team aims to improve plant-based battery with neutrons, simulation

September 18, 2014 8:02 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

When Orlando Rios first started analyzing samples of carbon fibers made from a woody plant polymer known as lignin, he noticed something unusual. The material’s microstructure—a mixture of perfectly spherical nanoscale crystallites distributed within a fibrous matrix—looked almost too good to be true.

Shrink-wrapping spacesuits

September 18, 2014 7:32 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

For future astronauts, the process of suiting up may go something like this: Instead of climbing into a conventional, bulky, gas-pressurized suit, an astronaut may don a lightweight, stretchy garment, lined with tiny, muscle-like coils. She would then plug in to a spacecraft’s power supply, triggering the coils to contract and essentially shrink-wrap the garment around her body.

Oxides discovered by chemists could advance memory devices

September 17, 2014 1:35 pm | News | Comments

Combining materials that exhibit magnetic and ferroelectric properties could be a boon for electronics designs, revolutionizing logic circuits and jumpstarting spintronics. This task has proven difficult until a recently developed inorganic synthesis technique, created by chemists at The City College of New York, produced a new complex oxide that demonstrate both properties.

Sampling Methods for Microanalysis

September 17, 2014 11:48 am | by Mary L. Stellmack, McCrone Associates Inc. | McCrone Associates, Inc. | Articles | Comments

In order to identify contaminants in industrial products, it’s sometimes necessary to send samples of the contaminated material to a laboratory for analysis. The choice of sampling method and the selection of a shipping container are critical to ensure that a representative sample is obtained, and no additional foreign material (FM) is added to the sample during transport to the laboratory.

Scientists refine formula for nanotube types

September 17, 2014 9:52 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | Videos | Comments

Many a great idea springs from talks over a cup of coffee. But it’s rare and wonderful when a revelation comes from the cup itself. Rice Univ. theoretical physicist Boris Yakobson, acting upon sudden inspiration at a meeting last year, obtained a couple of spare coffee cups from a server and a pair of scissors and proceeded to lay out—science fair-style—an idea that could have far-reaching implications for the nanotechnology industry.

Toward optical chips

September 17, 2014 9:42 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Chips that use light, rather than electricity, to move data would consume much less power. Of the three chief components of optical circuits—light emitters, modulators and detectors—emitters are the toughest to build. One promising light source for optical chips is molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), which has excellent optical properties when deposited as a single, atom-thick layer.

For electronics beyond silicon, a new contender emerges

September 17, 2014 8:13 am | by Caroline Perry, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

Silicon has few serious competitors as the material of choice in the electronics industry. Yet transistors can’t simply keep shrinking to meet the needs of powerful, compact devices; physical limitations like energy consumption and heat dissipation are too significant. Now, using a quantum material called a correlated oxide, researchers have achieved a reversible change in electrical resistance of eight orders of magnitude.

Nanoribbon film keeps glass ice-free

September 17, 2014 7:58 am | by Jade Boyd, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists who created a deicing film for radar domes have now refined the technology to work as a transparent coating for glass. The new work by Rice chemist James Tour and his colleagues could keep glass surfaces from windshields to skyscrapers free of ice and fog while retaining their transparency to radio frequencies (RF).

How to hide like an octopus

September 17, 2014 7:33 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Cephalopods are among nature’s most skillful camouflage artists, able to change both the color and texture of their skin within seconds to blend into their surroundings. Engineers have long struggled to duplicate this in synthetic materials. Now a team of researchers has come closer than ever to achieving that goal, creating a flexible material that can change its color or fluorescence and its texture at the same time.

Team is first to capture motion of single molecule in real time

September 16, 2014 6:23 pm | News | Comments

Chemists at the Univ. of California, Irvine, have scored a scientific first: capturing moving images of a single molecule as it vibrates, or “breathes,” and shifts from one quantum state to another. The groundbreaking achievement, led by Ara Apkarian, professor of chemistry, and Eric Potma, associate professor of chemistry, opens a window into the strange realm of quantum mechanics.

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