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Why eumelanin is a good absorber of light

May 22, 2014 7:39 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Melanin—and specifically, the form called eumelanin—is the primary pigment that gives humans the coloring of their skin, hair and eyes. It protects the body from the hazards of ultraviolet and other radiation that can damage cells and lead to skin cancer, but the exact reason why the compound is so effective at blocking such a broad spectrum of sunlight has remained something of a mystery.

A new solution for storing hydrogen fuel for alternative energy

May 21, 2014 2:13 pm | News | Comments

An international team of researchers have figured out a new way of storing and releasing hydrogen by making a unique crystal phase of a material containing lithium, boron and the key ingredient, hydrogen. To check how they could get the hydrogen back out of the material, the scientists heated it and found that it released hydrogen easily, quickly and only traces of unwanted by-products.

Researchers combine weak chemical forces to strengthen new maging technology

May 21, 2014 2:08 pm | News | Comments

When doctors perform an MRI, they administer a contrast agent: a chemical that, when injected into the bloodstream or ingested by the patient just before the MRI, improves the clarity of structures or organs in the resulting image. Researchers in Illinois have turned contrast agent technology “inside out” to develop a scalable new way of building multipurpose agents using nanoparticles.

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Liquid crystal acts as machine lubricant

May 21, 2014 9:27 am | News | Comments

Although lubricants for machinery are widely used, almost no fundamental innovations for this type of product has been made in the last 20 years, according researchers in Germany who have been working on a new class of lubricating substance. Their new liquid crystalline lubricant enable nearly frictionless sliding because although it is a liquid, the molecules display directional properties like crystals do.

Metal-organic framework shows new talent

May 21, 2014 8:15 am | News | Comments

This gift from science just keeps on giving. Measurements taken at NIST show why a material already known to be good at separating components of natural gas also can do something trickier: help convert one chemical to another, a process called catalysis. The discovery is a rare example of a laboratory-made material easily performing a task that biology usually requires a complex series of steps to accomplish.

Chemists challenge conventional understanding of photocatalysis

May 21, 2014 8:13 am | by Iqbal Pittalwala, UC Riverside | News | Comments

Photocatalysis is a promising route to convert solar energy into chemical fuels, or to split water into molecular hydrogen. But viable photocatalysts, or promoters, for these applications are scarce. A team of chemists in California has come up with a model to explain this promoting effect that could shift the focus in the search for substitutes of the metals, and help identify better promoters for photocatalysis in the near future.

Busting rust with light: New technique delivers perfect paint job

May 20, 2014 3:08 pm | News | Comments

Now researchers have developed a new way to measure the thickness of paint layers and the size of particles embedded inside. A technique called terahertz reflectometry is used to characterize coats of paint without damaging them. No other current methods can do this successfully, and the technique could be useful for a variety of applications from cars to cancer detection.

Improved computer simulations enable better calculation of interfacial tension

May 20, 2014 3:03 pm | News | Comments

Simulations in statistical physics are typically restricted to systems under 100,000 particles, many times smaller than the actual material quantities used in typical experiments. Finite-size corrections can adjust the results to the macroscopic scale. A team of researchers in Germany has now succeeded in better understanding how this technique works when it is used to assess interfacial tension, thus enabling more accurate predictions.

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Engineers build world's smallest, fastest nanomotor

May 20, 2014 2:55 pm | News | Comments

A team in Texas has built the smallest, fastest and longest-running tiny synthetic motor to date. The reliable, 18,000-rpm device can convert electrical energy into mechanical motion on a scale 500 times smaller than a grain of salt. Made from three parts, the nanomotor can rapidly mix and pump biochemicals and move through liquids.

Professors' super waterproof surfaces cause water to bounce like a ball

May 20, 2014 2:51 pm | News | Comments

Brigham Young Univ. engineering professors Julie Crockett and Dan Maynes have created a sloped channel that is super-hydrophobic, and causes water to bounce like a ball as it rolls down the ramp. Their recent study finds surfaces with a pattern of microscopic ridges or posts, combined with a hydrophobic coating, produces an even higher level of water resistance, depending on how the water hits the surface.

Scientists discover how to turn light into matter after 80-year quest

May 20, 2014 9:45 am | by Gail Wilson, Imperial College London | News | Comments

In 1934, physicists Breit and Wheeler suggested that it should be possible to turn light into matter by smashing together only two particles of light (photons), to create an electron and a positron. New research in the U.K. shows for the first time how Breit and Wheeler’s theory could be proven in practice using what’s called a “photon-photon collider”.

Scientists use nanoparticles to control growth of materials

May 20, 2014 7:59 am | by Matthew Chin, UCLA | News | Comments

A team led by researchers from the Univ. of California, Los Angeles has developed a new process to control molecular growth within the "building block" components of inorganic materials. The method, which uses nanoparticles to organize the components during a critical phase of the manufacturing process, could lead to innovative new materials, such as self-lubricating bearings for engines.

New supercapacitor design stands up to abuse

May 20, 2014 7:52 am | by David Salisbury, Vanderbilt Univ. | News | Comments

Modern supercapacitors store ten times less energy than a lithium-ion battery but can last a thousand times longer. The main drawback of supercapacitors, however, is the inability to cope with stresses such as pressure and vibration. Researchers have developed a new supercapacitor that operates flawlessly in storing and releasing electrical charge while subject to stresses or pressures up to 44 psi and vibrational accelerations over 80 g.

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Improved supercapacitors provides twice the energy and power

May 19, 2014 9:44 am | by Sean Nealon, UC Riverside | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of California, Riverside have developed a new nanometer scale ruthenium oxide anchored nanocarbon graphene foam architecture that improves the performance of supercapacitors. They found that the new structure could operate safely in aqueous electrolyte and deliver two times more energy and power compared to supercapacitors commercially available today.

Team visualizes complex electronic state

May 19, 2014 7:35 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A material called sodium manganese dioxide has shown promise for use in electrodes in rechargeable batteries. Now a team of researchers has produced the first detailed visualization—down to the level of individual atoms—of exactly how the material behaves during charging and discharging, in the process elucidating an exotic molecular state that may help in understanding superconductivity.

IBM research discovers new class of industrial polymers

May 16, 2014 2:03 pm | News | Comments

Scientists at IBM Research have used a new “computational chemistry” hybrid approach to accelerate the materials discovery process that couples laboratory experimentation with the use of high-performance computing. The new polymers are the first to demonstrate resistance to cracking, strength higher than bone, the ability to reform to their original shape (self-heal), and the ability to be completely recycled back to the starting material.

Lighting the way to graphene-based devices

May 16, 2014 1:45 pm | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Graphene continues to reign as the next potential superstar material for the electronics industry, a slimmer, stronger and much faster electron conductor than silicon. With no natural energy bandgap, however, graphene’s superfast conductance can’t be switched off, a serious drawback for transistors and other electronic devices.

Nanowire-bridging transistors open way to next-generation electronics

May 15, 2014 11:54 am | News | Comments

A new approach to integrated circuits, combining atoms of semiconductor materials into nanowires and structures on top of silicon surfaces, shows promise for a new generation of fast, robust electronic and photonic devices. Engineers in California have recently demonstrated 3-D nanowire transistors using this approach that open exciting opportunities for integrating other semiconductors, such as gallium nitride, on silicon substrates.

NASA Langley workshop: Engineered materials for adhesion or abhesion

May 15, 2014 10:43 am | Videos | Comments

Scientists at NASA Langley Research Center have developed a new material technology that alters a surface’s topography and chemistry to promote or mitigate adhesion. LaRC is holding a workshop and meeting on May 22 that explains how these newly available materials work to enhance or remove adhesion. Manufacturers and developers are welcome to attend.

NASA Langley Workshop: NASA Engineered Materials for Adhesion or Abhesion

May 15, 2014 10:32 am | Events

Are you an adhesives or coatings manufacturer? Do you need to adhesively join parts? Or, do you need durable non-stick coatings? Then, make plans to attend this meeting! Learn about new advanced materials and processing methods to either enhance adhesion or to create non-stick surfaces.

X-rays, computer simulations reveal crystal growth

May 15, 2014 9:08 am | by Anne Ju, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

A research team that figured out how to coat an organic material as a thin film wanted a closer look at why their spreadable organic semiconductor grew like it did. So Cornell Univ. scientists used their high-energy synchrotron x-ray source to show how these organic molecules formed crystal lattices at the nanoscale. These high-speed movies could help advance the technology move from the laboratory to mass production.

Researchers discover rare form of iron oxide in ancient pottery

May 15, 2014 7:52 am | by Kate Greene, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

New analysis of ancient Jian wares reveals the distinctive pottery contains an unexpected and highly unusual form of iron oxide. This rare compound, called epsilon-phase iron oxide, was only recently discovered and characterized by scientists and so far has been extremely difficult to create with modern techniques.

Technique enables air-stable water droplet networks

May 14, 2014 7:48 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

A simple new technique to form interlocking beads of water in ambient conditions could prove valuable for applications in biological sensing, membrane research and harvesting water from fog. Researchers have developed a method to create air-stable water droplet networks known as droplet interface bilayers. These interconnected water droplets have many roles in biological research because their interfaces simulate cell membranes.

Multilayer nanofiber face mask helps to combat pollution

May 13, 2014 12:43 pm | News | Comments

In response to persistent haze and concerns about its health effects, scientists in Hong Kong have developed a simple face mask which can block out suspended particles. The nanofiber technology can filter ultra-fine pollutants that have yet been picked up by air quality monitors. These particles can measure 1 micrometer or less.

NASA recreates space dust

May 9, 2014 12:14 pm | News | Comments

A team of scientists at NASA's Ames Research Center has successfully reproduced the processes that occur in the atmosphere of a red giant star and lead to the formation of planet-forming interstellar dust. Using a specialized facility, the scientists are now able to recreate and study in the laboratory dust grains similar to the grains that form in the outer layers of dying stars.

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