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The Lead

Fast, cheap nanomanufacturing

October 6, 2014 9:19 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT | News | Comments

Arrays of tiny conical tips that eject ionized materials are being made at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The technology, which harnesses electrostatic forces, has a range of promising applications, such as spinning out nanofibers for use in “smart” textiles or propulsion systems for fist-sized “nanosatellites.” The latest prototype array that generates 10 times the ion current per emitter that previous arrays did.

New solar cells serve free lunch

September 24, 2014 9:07 am | by Poncie Rutsch, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology | News | Comments

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New material structures bend like microscopic hair

August 6, 2014 10:31 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

MIT engineers have fabricated a new elastic material coated with microscopic, hairlike structures that tilt in response to a magnetic field. Depending on the field’s orientation, the microhairs can tilt to form a path through which fluid can flow; the material can even direct water upward, against gravity. Researchers say structures may be used in windows to wick away moisture.

The perfect atom sandwich requires an extra layer

August 5, 2014 11:21 am | by Anne Ju, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

Like the perfect sandwich, a perfectly engineered thin film for electronics requires not only the right ingredients, but also just the right thickness of each ingredient in the desired order, down to individual layers of atoms. In recent experiments Cornell Univ. researchers found a major difference between assembling atomically precise oxide films and the conventional layer-by-layer “sandwich making” of molecular beam epitaxy.

Supersonic spray delivers high quality graphene layer

May 28, 2014 11:26 am | by Jeanne Galatzer-Levy, Univ. of Illinois, Chicago | News | Comments

Although the potential uses for graphene seem limitless, there has been no easy way to scale up from microscopic to large-scale applications without introducing defects. Researchers in Chicago and Korea have recently developed a supersonic spray system that produces very small droplets of graphene which disperse evenly, evaporate rapidly, and reduce aggregation tendencies. And, to the researchers’ surprise, it also eliminates defects.

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Advance brings “hyperbolic metamaterials” closer to reality

May 12, 2014 3:21 pm | News | Comments

Optical metamaterials harness clouds of electrons called surface plasmons to manipulate and control light. However, plasmonic devices often use gold or silver, which is incompatible with CMOS manufacturing processes. Purdue Univ. scientists have now developed an ultra-thin crystalline superlattice that instead uses metal-dielectrics. Applied using epitaxy, this “hyperbolic” film could greatly expand applications for metamaterials.

“Exotic” material is like a switch when super thin

April 18, 2014 3:05 pm | by Anne Ju, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

Ever-shrinking electronic devices could get down to atomic dimensions with the help of transition metal oxides. Researchers from Cornell Univ. and Brookhaven National Laboratory have shown how to switch a particular transition metal oxide, a lanthanum nickelate (LaNiO3), from a metal to an insulator by making the material less than a nanometer thick.

Making new materials an atomic layer at a time

April 17, 2014 9:36 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Pennsylvania and Texas have shown the ability to grow high quality, single-layer materials one on top of the other using chemical vapor deposition. This highly scalable technique, often used in the semiconductor industry, can produce materials with unique properties that could be applied to solar cells, ultracapacitors for energy storage, or advanced transistors for energy efficient electronics, among many other applications.

Researchers grow carbon nanofibers using ambient air, without toxic ammonia

March 24, 2014 9:39 am | News | Comments

Vertically aligned carbon nanofibers (VACNFs) are a commonly manufactured material, but conventional techniques for creating them have relied on the use of ammonia gas, which is toxic. Though it not costly, it is also not free, either. Researchers in North Carolina have demonstrated that VACNFs can be manufactured using ambient air, making the manufacturing process safer and less expensive.

Materials experts create spintronic thermoelectric power generators

March 21, 2014 2:18 pm | News | Comments

Imagine a computer so efficient that it can recycle its own waste heat to produce electricity. While such an idea may seem far-fetched today, significant progress has already been made to realize these devices. Researchers at the Univ. of Utah have fabricated spintronics-based thin film devices which do just that, converting even minute waste heat into useful electricity.

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Scientists produce first ever atom-by-atom simulation of ALD nanoscale film growth

February 5, 2014 1:18 pm | News | Comments

Researchers at Tyndall National Institute in Ireland have produced the first ever atom-by-atom simulation of nanoscale film growth by atomic layer deposition (ALD), a thin-film technology used in the production of silicon chips. The accomplishment required the acquisition of the complete set of hundreds of ALD reactions at the quantum mechanical level.

Diamond defect boosts quantum technology

February 4, 2014 2:02 pm | News | Comments

New research shows that a remarkable defect in synthetic diamond produced by chemical vapor deposition allows researchers to measure, witness, and potentially manipulate electrons in a manner that could lead to new “quantum technology” for information processing.

Ultra-thin tool heating improves injection molding

January 2, 2014 11:58 am | News | Comments

To manufacture plastic parts with high-end surfaces, the entire forming tool is heated to 110 C using a technique known as variothermic tempering. To retrieve the finished plastic part, the mold must be cooled by up to 30 C, consuming lots of energy. Researchers have now developed a new kind of tempering technique that is up to 90% more energy efficient than variothermic tempering approaches.

Graphene nanoribbons an ice-melting coat for radar

December 17, 2013 1:02 am | News | Comments

Ribbons of ultrathin graphene combined with polyurethane paint meant for cars is just right for deicing sensitive military radar domes, according to scientists at Rice Univ. The Rice lab of chemist James Tour, in collaboration with Lockheed Martin, developed the compound to protect marine and airborne radars with a robust coating that is also transparent to radio frequencies.

ORNL devises recipe to fine-tune diameter of silica rods

December 16, 2013 3:22 pm | News | Comments

The goal of fabricating fixed-size one-dimensional silica structures and being able to precisely control the diameter during growth has long eluded scientists. Now, Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers Panos Datskos and Jaswinder Sharma have demonstrated what they describe as the addressable local control of diameter of each segment of the silica rod.

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Researchers grow graphene on silver

November 18, 2013 1:56 pm | by Sarah Ostman, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Northwestern Univ. and Argonne National Laboratory scientists have recently overcome problems with growing graphene on chemically inert substrates, demonstrating the first growth of graphene on a single-crystal silver substrate. Their method could advance graphene-based optical devices and enable the interfacing of graphene with other two-dimensional materials.

With carbon nanotubes, a path to flexible, low-cost sensors

September 25, 2013 12:59 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Germany are showing the way toward low-cost, industrial-scale manufacturing of a new family of electronic devices. Gas sensors that could be integrated into food packaging to gauge freshness, new types of solar cells and flexible transistors, and sensors that could be built into electronic skin: All can be made with carbon nanotubes, sprayed like ink onto flexible plastic sheets or other substrates.

Spinning CDs to clean sewage water

September 24, 2013 8:46 am | News | Comments

By coating compact disks in photocatalytic compounds and spinning them to clean water, scientists in Taiwan have found a potential new use for old music CDs. The disks, equipped with tiny zinc oxide nanorods, are able to break down more than 95% of the contaminants in methyl orange dye, a benchmark organic compound for testing photocatalytic reactions.

Densest array of carbon nanotubes grown to date

September 20, 2013 1:10 pm | News | Comments

A team from Cambridge Univ. in England has devised a simple technique to increase the density of nanotube forests grown on conductive supports about five times over previous methods. The new technique could one day help improve the performance of microelectronics in devices ranging from batteries to spacecraft.

Semiconductor wafer saws made from carbon nanotubes and diamond

September 9, 2013 11:10 am | News | Comments

A new method developed in Germany makes it possible to manufacture ultra-thin saw wires by placing diamond on carbon nanotubes. The new invention is designed to cut through silicon wafers with minimum kerf, or “sawdust”, loss that is the unavoidable result of current tools used in semiconductor wafer fabrication.

Breakthrough technique could make electronics smaller, better

September 4, 2013 7:15 am | News | Comments

An international group of researchers from the U.S. and South Korea have discovered a groundbreaking technique in manufacturing nanostructures that has the potential to make electrical and optical devices smaller. The new patterning technology, called atomic layer lithography, based on a layering technique at the atomic level and relies on a surprising low-tech tool: Scotch Magic tape.

Grayscale technique opens third dimension for nanoscale lithography

August 29, 2013 3:32 pm | News | Comments

Engineers at NIST have developed a new technique for fabricating high aspect ratio 3-D nanostructures over large device areas using a combination of electron beam lithography, photolithography and resist spray coating. While it has long been possible to make complicated 3-D structures with many mask layers or expensive grayscale masks, the new technique enables researchers to etch features in two process steps without masks

Physicists develop new method of fabrication

August 22, 2013 1:24 pm | News | Comments

In the future, carbon nanomembranes are expected to be able to filter out very fine material or even gases. Right now, basic research is concentrating on methods for the production of these nanomembranes. Using a new process a research team in Germany has produced 12 different carbon nanomembranes from a variety of starting materials.

A durable, bacteria-killing surface for hospitals

August 20, 2013 12:13 pm | News | Comments

Scientists at Switzerland have developed a new method for making antimicrobial surfaces that can eliminate bacteria under a minute. The breakthrough relies on a new sputtering technique that uses a highly ionized plasma to, for the first time, deposit antibacterial titanium oxide and copper films on 3-D polyester surfaces. This promotes the production of free radicals, which are powerful natural bactericides.

The positive sides of doping

August 14, 2013 9:45 am | News | Comments

Flexible thin film solar cells that can be produced by roll-to-roll manufacturing are a highly promising route to cheap solar electricity. Researchers in Switzerland report that they have designed a low-cost cadmium telluride solar cell technology based on metal foil substrates. By doping the cells with cooper, they have elevated efficiency from 8 to 11.5%.

New electron beam writer enables next-gen biomedical, information tech

August 13, 2013 10:37 am | News | Comments

Electron beam (e-beam) lithography enables researchers to write very small patterns on large substrates with a high level of precision. In the Nano3 cleanroom facility at the Univ. of California, San Diego’s Qualcomm Institute, a new Vistec e-beam writer is helping to develop nanoscale transistors for integrated electronics, as well as neural probes for brain diagnostics.

New technology prevents degradation of silicon PV modules

July 23, 2013 8:23 am | News | Comments

Diffusion of sodium ions from the glass substrate is thought to be the primary cause of potential-induced degradation (PID) in crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells. A research institute and metals company in Japan have partnered to develop a thin film solution. The titanium oxide-based composite metal compound they have developed is inexpensive to produce and highly scalable.

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