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The Lead

Scientists learn to control reactions with rare-earth catalyst

August 28, 2014 9:06 am | by Dawn Levy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have discovered they can control chemical reactions in a new way by creating different shapes of cerium oxide, a rare-earth-based catalyst. Their finding holds potential for refining fuels, decreasing vehicle emissions, producing commodity chemicals and advancing fuel cells and chemical sensors.

Nanodiamonds are forever

August 28, 2014 9:03 am | by Julie Cohen, UC Santa Barbara | News | Comments

An international group of scientists posit that a...

New analytical technology reveals nanomechanical surface traits

August 27, 2014 5:03 pm | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have discussed the merits of surface-...

Rubber meets the road with ORNL carbon, battery technologies

August 27, 2014 3:22 pm | by Ron Walli, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Communications | News | Comments

Recycled tires could see new life in lithium-ion batteries that provide power to plug-in...

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Measurement at Big Bang conditions confirms lithium problem

August 27, 2014 11:21 am | News | Comments

The field of astrophysics has a stubborn problem and it’s called lithium. The quantities of lithium predicted to have resulted from the Big Bang are not actually present in stars. But the calculations are correct, a fact which has now been confirmed for the first time in experiments conducted at the underground laboratory in the Gran Sasso mountain in Italy.

Copper shines as flexible conductor

August 26, 2014 4:20 pm | News | Comments

Sensors made with copper could be cheap, light, flexible and highly conductive. Making such concepts affordable enough for general use remains a challenge but a new way of working with copper nanowires and a PVA “nano glue” could be a game-changer. Engineers in Australia have found a way of making flexible copper conductors cost-effective enough for commercial applications.

Scientists craft atomically seamless, thinnest-possible semiconductor junctions

August 26, 2014 4:13 pm | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Univ. of Washington researchers have developed what they believe is the thinnest-possible semiconductor, a new class of nanoscale materials made in sheets only three atoms thick. They have demonstrated that two of these single-layer semiconductor materials can be connected in an atomically seamless fashion known as a heterojunction. This result could be the basis for next-generation flexible and transparent computing.

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Tiny graphene drum could form future quantum memory

August 26, 2014 4:03 pm | Videos | Comments

Scientists in The Netherlands have demonstrated that they can detect extremely small changes in position and forces on very small drums of graphene. Graphene drums have great potential to be used as sensors in devices such as mobile phones. Using their unique mechanical properties, these drums could also act as memory chips in a quantum computer.

Competition for graphene

August 26, 2014 1:56 pm | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A new argument has just been added to the growing case for graphene being bumped off its pedestal as the next big thing in the high-tech world by the 2-D semiconductors known as MX2 materials. An international collaboration of researchers led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has reported the first experimental observation of ultrafast charge transfer in photo-excited MX2 materials.

Laser pulse turns glass into a metal

August 26, 2014 10:06 am | News | Comments

For tiny fractions of a second, when illuminated by a laser pulse, quartz glass can take on metallic properties. The phenomenon, recently revealed by large-scale computer simulations, frees electrons, allowing quartz to become opaque and conduct electricity. The effect could be used to build logical switches which are much faster than today’s microelectronics.

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.

New technique for measuring nanostructures

August 25, 2014 1:17 pm | by Robert Emmerich, Julius-Maximilians-Universität | News | Comments

A team of scientists from Germany, Canada, and the United States has now developed a promising new measurement method that works without destroying anything yet offers nanoscale resolution. The method, an enhancement of resonant x-ray reflectometry identifies the chemical elements involved and is able to determine both the magnetic order and the electron distribution.

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Super Superelastic Alloys

August 25, 2014 10:44 am | Award Winners

Corrosion, denting, abrasive wear and fatigue often lead to life-limiting bearing and gear failure in harsh conditions. Existing materials, such as hard steels, are prone to corrosion and rust; ceramics are non-conductive, difficult to manufacture and brittle; and superalloys are soft and susceptible to wear and damage. Working with Abbott Ball Company, NASA’s Glenn Research Center has successfully developed a set of methods to create high-performance alternatives to conventional bearing materials.

Stronger with Aluminum

August 25, 2014 10:24 am | Award Winners

Thermal fatigue is one of the most important properties in materials used as automobile’s exhaust parts, particularly near the hotter manifold section. When the exhaust gas passes through these parts, they thermally expand or shrink. But they can’t do this freely because of surrounding parts, which leads them to deform or fracture. The solution has long been to add molydenum to the ferritic heat-resistant stainless steels typically used for automobile exhausts. JFE Steel Corp., however, has achieved resistance to thermal fatigue fracture without the use of high-cost molydenum in its JFE-TF1 steel.

Biomimetic photodetector “sees” in color

August 25, 2014 7:56 am | by Jade Boyd, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. researchers have created a CMOS-compatible, biomimetic color photodetector that directly responds to red, green and blue light in much the same way the human eye does. The new device uses an aluminum grating that can be added to silicon photodetectors with the silicon microchip industry’s mainstay technology, “complementary metal-oxide semiconductor,” or CMOS.

Better Protection for Offshore Oil

August 22, 2014 3:45 pm | Award Winners

Increasing demand for oil as an energy source and sustained prices of oil on the world market are driving offshore oil producers to seek new finds further offshore. One challenge with deep-water projects is that the emerging oil is much hotter than the surrounding sea, which is near freezing, and needs to be kept warm as it flows through subsea flow elements and pipes to prevent blockage. As a result, flow systems on the seafloor are typically insulated. The Oil Gas & Mining R&D Div. of The Dow Chemical Company has commercialized an innovative new insulation product that can be used in projects that see oil temperatures up to 160 C.

Shaping the future of nanocrystals

August 22, 2014 8:55 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | Videos | Comments

The first direct observations of how facets form and develop on platinum nanocubes point the way towards more sophisticated and effective nanocrystal design and reveal that a nearly 150 year-old scientific law describing crystal growth breaks down at the nanoscale.

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Clues uncovered to role of magnetism in iron-based superconductors

August 22, 2014 7:57 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

New measurements of atomic-scale magnetic behavior in iron-based superconductors by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Vanderbilt Univ. are challenging conventional wisdom about superconductivity and magnetism. The study provides experimental evidence that local magnetic fluctuations can influence the performance of iron-based superconductors, which transmit electric current without resistance at relatively high temperatures.

Researchers create engineered energy-absorbing material

August 20, 2014 9:36 am | by James A Bono, LLNL | News | Comments

Materials like solid gels and porous foams are used for padding and cushioning, but each has its own advantages and limitations. To overcome limitations, a team from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has found a way to design and fabricate, at the microscale, new cushioning materials with a broad range of programmable properties and behaviors that exceed the limitations of the material's composition through 3-D printing.

Solar energy that doesn’t block the view

August 20, 2014 8:05 am | by Tom Oswald, Media Communications, Michigan State Univ. | News | Comments

A team of researchers at Michigan State Univ. has developed a new type of solar concentrator that when placed over a window creates solar energy while allowing people to actually see through the window. It is called a transparent luminescent solar concentrator and can be used on buildings, cell phones and any other device that has a clear surface.

Supermaterials: Five reasons to embrace synthetic diamond

August 19, 2014 9:48 am | by Element Six | News | Comments

Synthetic diamond’s molecular structure makes it the world’s most versatile supermaterial. With greater hardness than all other materials, its strength is ideal for cutters used in oil and gas drilling, where it enables longer tool lifetime by minimizing wear, reduces downtime and drives down operating costs and carbon footprints.

Promising ferroelectric materials suffer from unexpected electric polarizations

August 18, 2014 9:46 am | by Justin Eure, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Electronic devices with unprecedented efficiency and data storage may someday run on ferroelectrics—remarkable materials that use built-in electric polarizations to read and write digital information, outperforming the magnets inside most popular data-driven technology. But ferroelectrics must first overcome a few key stumbling blocks, including a curious habit of "forgetting" stored data.

Moore quantum materials: Recipe for serendipity

August 18, 2014 7:44 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Thanks to a $1.5 million innovation award from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Rice Univ. physicist Emilia Morosan is embarking on a five-year quest to cook up a few unique compounds that have never been synthesized or explored. Morosan is no ordinary cook; her pantry includes metals, oxides and sulfides, and her recipes produce superconductors and exotic magnets.

Molecular engineers record an electron’s quantum behavior

August 15, 2014 12:09 pm | by Jane Marie Andrew, Univ. of Chicago | News | Comments

A Univ. of Chicago-led team of researchers has developed a technique to record the quantum mechanical behavior of an individual electron contained within a nanoscale defect in diamond. Their technique uses ultrafast pulses of laser light, both to control the defect’s entire quantum state and observe how that single electron state changes over time.

Test reveals purity of graphene

August 14, 2014 8:02 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Graphene may be tough, but those who handle it had better be tender. The environment surrounding the atom-thick carbon material can influence its electronic performance, according to researchers at Rice and Osaka universities who have come up with a simple way to spot contaminants.

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.

New material could be used for energy storage, conversion

August 13, 2014 11:50 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboraotry | News | Comments

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have made a material that is 10 times stronger and stiffer than traditional aerogels of the same density. This ultra-low-density, ultra-high surface area bulk material with an interconnected nanotubular makeup could be used in catalysis, energy storage and conversion, thermal insulation, shock energy absorption and high energy density physics.

New research to develop next-generation “race track memory” technology

August 13, 2014 9:02 am | News | Comments

Inspired by the discovery of “race track memory” by IBM researchers, scientists at the Univ. of California, Davis, with the support of the Semiconductor Research Corp., are investigating complex oxides that could be used to manipulate magnetic domain walls within the wires of semiconductor memory devices at nanoscale dimensions. This research may lead to devices that displace existing magnetic hard disk drive and solid state RAM solutions.

“Shape-shifting” material could help reconstruct faces

August 13, 2014 8:49 am | News | Comments

Injuries, birth defects (such as cleft palates) or surgery to remove a tumor can create gaps in bone that are too large to heal naturally. And when they occur in the head, face or jaw, these bone defects can dramatically alter a person’s appearance. Researchers have developed a “self-fitting” material that expands with warm salt water to precisely fill bone defects, and also acts as a scaffold for new bone growth.

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