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The Lead

Renewable bioplastics made from squid proteins

December 18, 2014 2:33 pm | News | Comments

At Penn State, a group led by Melik Demirel, professor of engineering science and mechanics, is designing a biodegradable plastic from structural proteins that could help clean up the world's oceans and solve an interesting set of other problems along the way.

“Swiss cheese” membrane with variable holes

October 31, 2014 10:01 am | News | Comments

A new membrane, developed scientists in the Netherlands, can be made more or less porous “on...

Cooking up carbon: Sawdust and iron in the melting pot

October 24, 2014 10:16 am | News | Comments

Researchers in the U.K. have found a new way to make nanostructured carbon using the waste...

Study: Graphene fragments speed up rate of chemical reactions

October 22, 2014 8:11 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Australia have discovered that nano-sized fragments of graphene have the ability...

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Scientists synthesize a two-element atomic chain inside a carbon nanotube

October 16, 2014 10:05 am | News | Comments

Researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology have synthesized an atomic chain in which two elements, cesium and iodine, are aligned alternately inside a carbon nanotube. Analyzed using electron microscopy and spectroscopy, the invention could shed light on the adsorption mechanisms of radioactive elements.

Droplets made to order

October 7, 2014 9:33 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have developed a new way of creating surfaces on which droplets of any desired shape can spontaneously form. They say this approach could lead to new biomedical assay devices and light-emitting diode display screens, among other applications. The new work represents the first time that scientists can control the shape of the contact area of the droplets.

New method creates scrolling nanosheets on demand

October 6, 2014 2:37 pm | by Poncie Rutsch, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology | News | Comments

Nanoparticles could revolutionize the medical industry, but they must first target a specific region in the body, be trackable, and perform their function at the right moment. Researchers in Japan have made progress in this direction with a new type of nanomaterial: the nanosheet. Specifically, they have designed a strong, stable and optically traceable smart 2-D material that responds to pH, or the acidity or basicity of its environment.

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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.

Online resource provides free tools, simulations for composite materials

October 3, 2014 11:59 am | News | Comments

Individuals in industrial associations, educational institutions and government organizations who are interested in composites, or materials made from constituent materials with different physical or chemical properties, now have free, 24/7 access to simulation tools through an online community with offices in the Purdue Research Park.

Researchers develop simple, one-step method to synthesize nanoparticles

September 24, 2014 12:01 pm | News | Comments

Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory have introduced a new one-step process using, for the first time in these types of syntheses, potassium superoxide to rapidly form oxide nanoparticles from simple salt solutions in water. An important advantage of this method is the capability of creating bulk quantities of these materials, more than 10 g in a single step.

New solar cells serve free lunch

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

A common complaints about solar power is that solar panels are still too expensive. Efforts at making them more efficient or longer-lasting have been limited. A new method developed in Okinawa could solve the expense problem: A hybrid form of deposition is being used to create perovskite solar cells from a mixture of inexpensive organic and inorganic raw materials, eliminating the need for expensive crystallized silicon.

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.

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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.

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.

New "dry" process creates artificial membranes on silicon

September 9, 2014 2:42 pm | News | Comments

Artificial membranes mimicking those found in living organisms have many potential applications ranging from detecting bacterial contaminants in food to toxic pollution in the environment to dangerous diseases in people. Now a group of scientists in Chile has developed a way to create these delicate, ultra-thin constructs through a "dry" process, by evaporating two commercial, off-the-shelf chemicals onto silicon surfaces.

Doped graphene nanoribbons with potential

September 9, 2014 7:40 am | News | Comments

Typically a highly conductive material, graphene becomes a semiconductor when prepared as an ultra-narrow ribbon. Recent research has now developed a new method to selectively dope graphene molecules with nitrogen atoms. By seamlessly stringing together doped and undoped graphene pieces, ”heterojunctions” are formed in the nanoribbons, allowing electric current to flow in only one direction when voltage is applied.

Researchers test multi-element, high-entropy alloy with surprising results

September 5, 2014 7:50 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A new concept in metallic alloy design called “high-entropy alloys” has yielded a multiple-element material that tests out as one of the toughest on record. But, unlike most materials, the toughness as well as the strength and ductility of this alloy, which contains five major elements, actually improves at cryogenic temperatures.

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Materials scientists, mathematicians benefit from newly crafted polymers

August 26, 2014 8:55 am | News | Comments

Polymers come with a range of properties dictated by their chemical composition and geometrical arrangement. Yasuyuki Tezuka and his team at Tokyo Institute of Technology have now applied an approach to synthesize a new type of multicyclic polymer geometry. While mathematicians are interested because these structures have not been realized before, the geometry studies also provide insights for chemists.

Custom-made nanotubes

August 13, 2014 12:39 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Europe have succeeded for the first time in growing single-walled carbon nanotubes with only a single, prespecified structure. The nanotubes thereby have identical electronic properties. The decisive trick was producing the carbon nanotube from custom-made organic precursor molecules.

Six nines: Ultra-enriched silicon paves the road to quantum computing

August 12, 2014 12:27 pm | News | Comments

Using a relatively straightforward technique, a team of NIST researchers has created what may be the most highly enriched silicon currently being produced. The material is more than 99.9999% pure silicon-28, with less than 1 part per million (ppm) of the problematic isotope silicon-29. Many quantum computing schemes require isotopically pure silicon, for example to act as a substrate for qubits.

Competing forces coax nanocubes into helical structures

August 11, 2014 8:45 am | News | Comments

Scientists in Israel have recently used nanocubes to create surprisingly yarn-like strands: They showed that given the right conditions, cube-shaped nanoparticles are able to align into winding helical structures. Their results reveal how nanomaterials can self-assemble into unexpectedly beautiful and complex structures.

Used-cigarette butts offer energy storage solution

August 5, 2014 11:08 am | News | Comments

A group of scientists from South Korea have converted used-cigarette butts into a high-performing material that could be integrated into computers, handheld devices, electrical vehicles and wind turbines to store energy. In published research, the team has demonstrated that the cellulose acetate fibres that cigarette filters are mostly composed of could be transformed into a carbon-based material using pyrolysis.

Technique simplifies the creation of high-tech crystals

July 22, 2014 2:29 pm | News | Comments

Highly purified crystals that split light with precision are valued in specialized optics. But photonic crystals are difficult to make with current techniques, namely electron beam etching. Researchers at Princeton and Columbia universities have proposed a new method derived from colloidal suspensions that could allow scientists to customize and grow optimal crystals with relative ease.

Simple, low cost laser technique improves nanomaterials

July 22, 2014 1:28 pm | News | Comments

By “drawing” micropatterns on nanomaterials using a focused laser beam, scientists in Singapore have modifed properties of nanomaterials for effective photonic and optoelectronic applications. Their method increased electrical conductivity and photoconductivity of the modified molybdenum disulfide material by more than 10 times and about five times respectively.

Chemists eye improved thin films with metal substitution

July 21, 2014 1:46 pm | News | Comments

The yield so far is small, but chemists at the Univ. of Oregon have developed a low-energy, solution-based mineral substitution process to make a precursor to transparent thin films. The inorganic process is a new approach to transmetalation, in which individual atoms of one metal complex are individually substituted in water. The innovation could find use in electronics and alternative energy devices.

Swiss cross made from just 20 single atoms

July 15, 2014 9:14 am | News | Comments

Together with teams from Finland and Japan, physicists from the Univ. of Basel in Switzerland were able to place 20 single bromine atoms on a fully insulated surface at room temperature to form the smallest “Swiss cross” ever created. The effort is a breakthrough because the fabrication of artificial structures on an insulator at room temperature is difficult. It is largest number of atomic manipulations ever achieved at room temperature.

Using sand to improve battery performance

July 8, 2014 7:43 pm | by Sean Nealon, Univ. of California, Riverside | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of California, Riverside have used a quartz-rich material to fabricate a lithium-ion battery that outperforms the current industry standard by three times. This key material? Sand. Through a heating process with salt and magnesium, the scientists created a porous nano-silicon sponge that greatly increases active surface area.  

Silicon sponge improves lithium-ion battery performance

July 8, 2014 10:20 am | News | Comments

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed a porous material to replace the graphite traditionally used in a battery's electrodes. Made from silicon, which has more than 10 times the energy storage capacity of graphite, the sponge-like material can help lithium-ion batteries store more energy and run longer on a single charge.

New NIST metamaterial gives light a one-way ticket

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

The light-warping structures known as metamaterials have a new trick in their ever-expanding repertoire. Researchers at NIST have built a silver, glass and chromium nanostructure that can all but stop visible light cold in one direction while giving it a pass in the other. The device could someday play a role in optical information processing and in novel biosensing devices.

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