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Processing tech converts packing peanuts to battery components

March 23, 2015 7:53 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have shown how to convert waste packing peanuts into high-performance carbon electrodes for rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that outperform conventional graphite electrodes, representing an environmentally friendly approach to reuse the waste.

Plasmonic ceramic materials key to advances in nanophotonics

March 19, 2015 3:52 pm | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Progress in developing nanophotonic devices capable of withstanding high temperatures and harsh conditions for applications including data storage, sensing, health care and energy will depend on the research community and industry adopting new "plasmonic ceramic" materials, according to a commentary in Science.

Researchers use shearing method to create nanofiber “gusher”

March 19, 2015 9:59 am | by Mick Kulikowski, North Carolina State Univ. News Services | News | Comments

Creating large amounts of polymer nanofibers dispersed in liquid is a challenge that has vexed researchers for years. But engineers and researchers at North Carolina State Univ. and one of its startup companies have now reported a method that can produce unprecedented amounts of polymer nanofibers, which have potential applications in filtration, batteries and cell scaffolding.

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Rare-earth innovation to improve nylon manufacturing

March 19, 2015 8:56 am | by Laura Millsaps, Ames Laboratory Public Affairs | News | Comments

The Critical Materials Institute has created a new chemical process that makes use of the widely available rare-earth metal cerium to improve the manufacture of nylon. The process uses a cerium-based material made into nanometer-sized particles with a palladium catalyst to produce cyclohexanone, a key ingredient in the production of nylon.

Model captures new dynamics of corrosion damage

March 19, 2015 8:13 am | by Scott Schrage, Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln Communications | News | Comments

Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln engineers have become the first to develop a model that literally looks beyond the surface of corrosion to better predict its spread. The model's unique capabilities could allow engineers to more precisely forecast catastrophic structural failures and design materials less susceptible to the widespread issue, the researchers reported.

Modeling how cells move together could inspire self-healing materials

March 19, 2015 8:02 am | by Louise Lerner, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

A paper published in Scientific Reports by a team led by physicist Igor Aronson of the Argonne National Laboratory modeled the motion of cells moving together. This may help scientists design new technologies inspired by nature, such as self-healing materials in batteries and other devices. Scientists have been borrowing ideas from the natural world for hundreds of years.

Buckyballs become bucky-bombs

March 18, 2015 4:15 pm | by Robert Perkins, Univ. of Southern California | News | Comments

In 1996, a trio of scientists won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for their discovery of Buckminsterfullerene: soccer-ball-shaped spheres of 60 joined carbon atoms that exhibit special physical properties. Now, 20 years later, scientists have figured out how to turn them into Buckybombs.

Researchers fine-tune quantum dots from coal

March 18, 2015 1:54 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Graphene quantum dots made from coal, introduced in 2013 by the Rice Univ. laboratory of chemist James Tour, can be engineered for specific semiconducting properties in either of two single-step processes. In a new study, Tour and colleagues demonstrated fine control over the graphene-oxide dots’ size-dependent band gap, the property that makes them semiconductors.

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Improved method for coating gold nanorods

March 18, 2015 11:55 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have fine-tuned a technique for coating gold nanorods with silica shells, allowing engineers to create large quantities of the nanorods and giving them more control over the thickness of the shell. Gold nanorods are being investigated for use in a wide variety of biomedical applications, and this advance paves the way for more stable gold nanorods and for chemically functionalizing the surface of the shells.

Cool process to make better graphene

March 18, 2015 8:05 am | by Ker Than, Caltech | News | Comments

A new technique invented at Caltech to produce graphene at room temperature could help pave the way for commercially feasible graphene-based solar cells and LEDs, large-panel displays and flexible electronics. With the new technique, researchers can grow large sheets of electronic-grade graphene in much less time and at much lower temperatures.

A call to change recycling standards as 3D printing expands

March 17, 2015 4:31 pm | by Allison Mills, Michigan Technological Univ. | News | Comments

The 3D printing revolution has changed the way we think about plastics. Everything from children’s toys to office supplies to high-value laboratory equipment can be printed. The potential savings of producing goods at the household- and lab-scale is remarkable, especially when producers use old prints and recycle them.

Textured rubber that grips slick, icy surfaces

March 17, 2015 4:08 pm | by Jason Socrates Bardi, American Institute of Physics | News | Comments

Winter storms dumped records amounts of snow on the East Coast this February, leaving treacherous, icy sidewalks and roads in their wake. Now researchers from Canada are developing new methods to mass-produce a material that may help pedestrians get a better grip on slippery surfaces. The material, which is made up of glass fibers embedded in a compliant rubber, could one day be used in the soles of slip-resistant winter boots.

Graphene membrane could lead to better fuel cells, water filters

March 17, 2015 12:32 pm | by Walt Miss, Penn State Univ. | Videos | Comments

An atomically thin membrane with microscopically small holes may prove to be the basis for future hydrogen fuel cells, water filtering and desalination membranes, according to a group of 15 theorists and experimentalists. The team tested the possibility of using graphene as a separation membrane in water and found that naturally occurring defects allowed hydrogen protons to cross the barrier at unprecedented speeds.

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Second natural quasicrystal found in ancient meteorite

March 16, 2015 3:17 pm | by Catherine Zandonella, Princeton Univ. | News | Comments

A team from Princeton Univ. and the Univ. of Florence in Italy has discovered a quasicrystal in a 4.5-billion-year-old meteorite from a remote region of northeastern Russia, bringing to two the number of natural quasicrystals ever discovered. Prior to the team finding the first natural quasicrystal in 2009, researchers thought that the structures were too fragile and energetically unstable to be formed by natural processes.

New insights into radiation damage evolution

March 16, 2015 3:02 pm | by Nancy Ambrosiano, Los Alamos National Laboratory | News | Comments

Two reports from Los Alamos National Laboratory in Scientific Reports are helping crack the code of how certain materials respond in the highly damaging radiation environments within a nuclear reactor. The goal of these efforts is to understand at an atomistic level just how materials develop defects during irradiation, and how those defects evolve to determine the ultimate fate of the material.

A better method for making perovskite solar cells

March 16, 2015 2:33 pm | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Research led by a Brown Univ. graduate student has revealed a new way to make light-absorbing perovskite films for use in solar cells. The new method involves a room-temperature solvent bath to create perovskite crystals, rather than the blast of heat used in current crystallization methods.

Symmetry matters in graphene growth

March 16, 2015 2:23 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

What lies beneath growing islands of graphene is important to its properties, according to a new study led by Rice Univ. Scientists at Rice analyzed patterns of graphene grown in a furnace via chemical vapor deposition. They discovered that the geometric relationship between graphene and the substrate, the underlying material on which carbon assembles atom by atom, determines how the island shapes emerge.

Maps predict strength of structures

March 16, 2015 7:36 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | Videos | Comments

Mother-of-pearl, the iridescent layer in the shells of some mollusks, inspired a Rice Univ. study that will help scientists and engineers judge the ultimate strength, stiffness and toughness of composite materials for anything from nanoscale electronics to buildings.

Researchers manipulate gold-coated nanoparticles with lasers

March 12, 2015 11:56 am | by Ludwig Maximillian Univ. of Munich | News | Comments

Tiny glass nanospheres coated on one side with a very fine gold film: Ludwig Maximillian Univ. of Munich scientists have shown that particles modified in this way can be moved about with high precision using laser beams, creating an optically controlled micro-elevator.

Engineers create chameleon-like artificial “skin”

March 12, 2015 11:39 am | by Jack Hanley, The Optical Society | News | Comments

Borrowing a trick from nature, engineers from the Univ. of California at Berkeley have created an incredibly thin, chameleon-like material that can be made to change color by simply applying a minute amount of force. This new material-of-many-colors offers intriguing possibilities for an entirely new class of display technologies, color-shifting camouflage and sensors.

Graphene: A new tool for fighting cavities and gum disease?

March 12, 2015 10:07 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Dental diseases, which are caused by the overgrowth of certain bacteria in the mouth, are among the most common health problems in the world. Now scientists have discovered that a material called graphene oxide is effective at eliminating these bacteria, some of which have developed antibiotic resistance. They report the findings in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

New material captures carbon at half the energy cost

March 12, 2015 7:43 am | by Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

Univ. of California, Berkeley chemists have made a major leap forward in carbon-capture technology with a material that can efficiently remove carbon from the ambient air of a submarine as readily as from the polluted emissions of a coal-fired power plant. The material then releases the carbon dioxide at lower temperatures than current carbon-capture materials.

Silk: A new green material for next-gen batteries?

March 11, 2015 10:10 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Lithium-ion batteries have enabled many of today’s electronics, from portable gadgets to electric cars. But much to the frustration of consumers, none of these batteries last long without a recharge. Now scientists report in ACS Nano the development of a new, “green” way to boost the performance of these batteries: with a material derived from silk.

Thin film clears path to solar fuels

March 11, 2015 9:39 am | by Ker Than, Caltech | News | Comments

Caltech scientists, inspired by a chemical process found in leaves, have developed an electrically conductive film that could help pave the way for devices capable of harnessing sunlight to split water into hydrogen fuel. When applied to semiconducting materials such as silicon, the nickel oxide film prevents rust buildup and facilitates an important chemical process in the solar-driven production of fuels such as methane or hydrogen.

Study helps understand why a material’s behavior changes as it gets smaller

March 11, 2015 9:30 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

To fully understand how nanomaterials behave, one must also understand the atomic-scale deformation mechanisms that determine their structure and, therefore, their strength and function. Researchers have engineered a new way to observe and study these mechanisms and, in doing so, have revealed an interesting phenomenon in a well-known material, tungsten.

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