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The Lead

Researchers close in on pure lithium anode

July 31, 2014 4:15 pm | by Andrew Myers, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

In a recent paper, a team at Stanford Univ. which includes materials science expert Yi Cui and 2011 R&D Magazine Scientist of the Year Steven Chu report that they have taken a big step toward accomplishing what battery designers have been trying to do for decades: design a pure lithium anode.

Chemists demonstrate “bricks-and-mortar” assembly of new molecular structures

July 31, 2014 10:16 am | News | Comments

Scientists in Indiana have recently described the...

Nature inspires a greener way to make colorful plastics

July 30, 2014 2:00 pm | News | Comments

Long before humans figured out how to create colors, nature had already perfected the process....

Tough foam from tiny sheets

July 29, 2014 12:59 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Tough, ultra-light foam of atom-thick sheets can be made to any size and shape through a...

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A new way to make microstructured surfaces

July 29, 2014 12:49 pm | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A team of researchers has created a new way of manufacturing microstructured surfaces that have novel 3-D textures. These surfaces, made by self-assembly of carbon nanotubes, could exhibit a variety of useful properties—including controllable mechanical stiffness and strength, or the ability to repel water in a certain direction.

Cagey material acts as alcohol factory

July 28, 2014 2:37 pm | by Kate Greene, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Some chemical conversions are harder than others. Refining natural gas into an easy-to-transport, easy-to-store liquid alcohol has so far been a logistic and economic challenge. But now, a new material, designed and patented by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is making this process a little easier.

Scientists create model “bead-spring” chains with tunable properties

July 28, 2014 2:25 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. researchers are using magnetic beads and DNA “springs” to create chains of varying flexibility that can be used as microscale models for polymer macromolecules. The experiment is visual proof that “bead-spring” polymers, introduced as theory in the 1950s, can be made as stiff or as flexible as required and should be of interest to materials scientists who study the basic physics of polymers.

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Graphene surfaces on photonic racetracks

July 28, 2014 11:12 am | News | Comments

Scientists in the U.K. recently published work that describes how graphene can be wrapped around a silicon wire, or waveguide, and modify the transmission of light through it.  These waveguide loops, called “racetrack resonators” because of their shape, could help form a device architecture that would make graphene biochemical sensors a reality.

Measuring the smallest magnets

July 28, 2014 11:05 am | News | Comments

A wildly bouncing tennis ball that travels a millions times the distance of its own size would be difficult to measure. But attaching the same ball to a measuring device would eliminate the “noise”. Researchers in Israel recently used a similar trick to measure the interaction between the smallest possible magnets (two electrons) after neutralizing magnetic noise that was a million times stronger than the signal they needed to detect.

Building invisible materials with light

July 28, 2014 7:51 am | News | Comments

A new method of building materials using light, developed by researchers at the Univ. of Cambridge, could one day enable technologies that are often considered the realm of science fiction. Although cloaked starships won’t be a reality for quite some time, the technique which researchers have developed for constructing materials with building blocks a few nanometers across can be used to control the way that light flies through them.

Magnets may act as wireless cooling agents

July 28, 2014 7:40 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The magnets cluttering the face of your refrigerator may one day be used as cooling agents, according to a new theory. The theory describes the motion of magnons. In addition to magnetic moments, magnons also conduct heat; from their equations, the researchers found that when exposed to a magnetic field gradient, magnons may be driven to move from one end of a magnet to another, carrying heat with them and producing a cooling effect.

Super-strong superconducting magnet achieves world record current

July 25, 2014 4:38 pm | News | Comments

Using a new type of large-scale magnet conductor, scientists in Japan have recently achieved an electrical current of 100,000 A, a world record. The conductor, which was built using yttrium-based high-temperature superconducting tapes for high mechanical strength, is a prototype for using in a future fusion reactor.

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Antioxidant biomaterial promotes healing

July 25, 2014 6:55 am | News | Comments

When a foreign material like a medical device or surgical implant is put inside the human body, the body usually reacts negatively. For the first time ever, researchers at Northwestern Univ. have created a biodegradable biomaterial that is inherently antioxidant. The material can be used to create elastomers, liquids that turn into gels, or solids for building devices that are more compatible with cells and tissues.

The birth of topological spintronics

July 24, 2014 10:31 am | News | Comments

Research led by Penn State Univ. and Cornell Univ. physicists is studying "spintorque" in devices that combine a standard magnetic material with a new material known as a topological insulator. The new insulator, which is made of bismuth selenide and operates at room temperature, overcomes one of the key challenges to developing a spintronics technology based on spin-orbit coupling.

Discovery is key to metal wear in sliding parts

July 24, 2014 9:24 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have discovered a previously unknown mechanism for wear in metals: a swirling, fluid-like microscopic behavior in a solid piece of metal sliding over another. The findings could be used to improve the durability of metal parts in numerous applications.

Quenching the world's water and energy crises, one tiny droplet at a time

July 24, 2014 8:40 am | by Sarah Bates, National Science Foundation | Videos | Comments

More than a decade ago, news of a Namibian desert beetle’s efficient water collection system inspired engineers to try and reproduce these surfaces in the laboratory. Small-scale advances in fluid physics, materials engineering and nanoscience since that time have brought them close to succeeding. And their work could have impact on a wide range of industries at the macroscale.

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.

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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.

Optomechanical crystal helps study photon-phonon interactions

July 22, 2014 8:48 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Spain have announced their successful effort to build a silicon 1-D optomechanical crystal so that it allows both phonons and photons to localize in a stable way. This marks an opportunity to study the interaction between electromagnetic radiation and mechanical vibrations of matter with a new level of precision.

The stability of gold clusters: Every ligand counts

July 22, 2014 8:37 am | News | Comments

By colliding ultra-small gold particles with a surface and analyzing the resulting fragments, a trio of scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory discovered how and why the particles break. This information is important for controlling the synthesis of these tiny building blocks that are of interest to catalysis, energy conversion and storage, and chemical sensing.

Ultrasonically propelled nanorods spin dizzyingly fast

July 22, 2014 8:32 am | News | Comments

Vibrate a solution of rod-shaped metal nanoparticles in water with ultrasound and they'll spin around their long axes like tiny drill bits. Why? No one yet knows exactly. But researchers at the NIST have clocked their speed, and it's fast. At up to 150,000 revolutions per minute, these nanomotors rotate 10 times faster than any nanoscale object submerged in liquid ever reported.

Understanding graphene’s electrical properties on an atomic level

July 22, 2014 7:38 am | by Evan Lerner, Univ. of Pennsylvania | Videos | Comments

Graphene, a material that consists of a lattice of carbon atoms, one atom thick, is widely touted as being the most electrically conductive material ever studied. However, not all graphene is the same. With so few atoms comprising the entirety of the material, the arrangement of each one has an impact on its overall function.

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.

Carbyne morphs when stretched

July 21, 2014 10:45 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Applying just the right amount of tension to a chain of carbon atoms can turn it from a metallic conductor to an insulator, according to Rice Univ. scientists. Stretching the material known as carbyne by just 3% can begin to change its properties in ways that engineers might find useful for mechanically activated nanoscale electronics and optics.

Mats made from shrimp chitin attract uranium like a magnet

July 18, 2014 11:16 am | News | Comments

A Univ. of Alabama start-up company, 525 Solutions, has received about $1.5 million from the federal government to refine an invention to extract uranium from the ocean for use as fuel. It is an adsorbent, biodegradable material made from the compound chitin, which is found in crustaceans and insects. The researchers have developed transparent sheets, or mats, comprised of tiny chitin fibers, which pull uranium from the water.

First ab initio method for characterizing hot carriers

July 18, 2014 8:19 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

One of the major road blocks to the design and development of new, more efficient solar cells may have been cleared. Researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have developed the first ab initio method for characterizing the properties of “hot carriers” in semiconductors. Hot carriers are electrical charge carriers with significantly higher energy than charge carriers at thermal equilibrium.

Future electronics may depend on lasers, not quartz

July 18, 2014 8:09 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

Nearly all electronics require devices called oscillators that create precise frequencies. For nearly 100 years, these oscillators have relied upon quartz crystals to provide a frequency reference, much like a tuning fork is used as a reference to tune a piano. However, future high-end navigation systems, radar systems and even possibly tomorrow's consumer electronics will require references beyond the performance of quartz.

Study: Squid skin protein could improve biomedical technologies

July 16, 2014 2:24 pm | News | Comments

The common pencil squid may hold the key to a new generation of medical technologies that could communicate more directly with the human body. Materials science researchers in California have discovered that reflectin, a protein in the tentacled creature’s skin, can conduct positive electrical charges, or protons, making it a promising material for building biologically inspired devices.  

Researchers develop simple procedure to obtain nanosized graphene

July 16, 2014 9:34 am | Videos | Comments

A team including scientists from Spain and from IBM Research in Switzerland have published work which describes an extremely simple method to obtain high quality nanographenes from easily available organic compounds. This method is based on the reactivity of a group of molecules named arynes, which can act as "molecular glue" to paste graphene fragments together.

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