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The Lead

Physicists find toxic halogens in Li-ion batteries

October 24, 2014 12:08 pm | by Brian McNeill, Virginia Commonwealth Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth Univ. have discovered that most of the electrolytes used in lithium-ion batteries are superhalogens, and that the vast majority of these electrolytes contain toxic halogens. At the same time, the researchers also found that the electrolytes in lithium-ion batteries could be replaced with halogen-free electrolytes that are both nontoxic and environmentally friendly.

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...

3-D metamaterials with a natural bent

October 24, 2014 8:44 am | News | Comments

Scientists have been able to manufacture 3-D isotropic metamaterials, but up to now only on a...

Study reveals molecular structure of water at gold electrodes

October 24, 2014 8:19 am | by Rachel Berkowitz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

When a solid material is immersed in a liquid, the liquid immediately next to its surface...

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Cooling to near absolute zero with magnetic molecules

October 23, 2014 12:56 pm | News | Comments

An international team of scientists have become the first to successfully reach temperatures below -272.15 C, which is just above absolute zero, using magnetic molecules. The effort, which avoids the use of helium, depends on a form of gadolinium that appropriately has a structure resembling a snowflake.

NIST offers electronics industry two ways to snoop on self-organizing molecules

October 23, 2014 12:33 pm | News | Comments

A few short years ago, the idea of a practical manufacturing process based on getting molecules to organize themselves in useful nanoscale shapes seemed far-fetched. Recent work at NIST, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and IBM Almaden Research Center suggest this capability isn’t far off, however, by demonstrating self-assembly of thin films on a polymer template that creates precise rows just 10 nm wide.

Could I squeeze by you?

October 22, 2014 8:15 am | by Breehan Gerleman Lucchesi, Communications Specialist, Ames Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists at Ames Laboratory have developed deeper understanding of the ideal design for mesoporous nanoparticles used in catalytic reactions, such as hydrocarbon conversion to biofuels. The research will help determine the optimal diameter of channels within the nanoparticles to maximize catalytic output.

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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 to speed up the rate of chemical reactions. The finding is significant, say researchers, because it suggested that graphene might have potential applications in catalyzing chemical reactions of industrial importance.

Garnet ceramics ideal for high-energy lithium batteries

October 22, 2014 8:06 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have discovered exceptional properties in a garnet material that could enable development of higher-energy battery designs. The team used electron microscopy to take an atomic-level look at a cubic garnet material called LLZO. The researchers found the material to be highly stable in a range of aqueous environments, making the compound a promising component in new battery configurations.

Puzzling new behavior found in high-temperature superconductors

October 21, 2014 9:11 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

Research by an international team of scientists has uncovered a new, unpredicted behavior in a copper oxide material that becomes superconducting at relatively high temperatures. This new phenomenon presents a challenge to scientists seeking to understand its origin and connection with high-temperature superconductivity. Their ultimate goal is to design a superconducting material that works at room temperature.

Study: Odors, chemicals above health standards caused by “green building” plumbing

October 20, 2014 11:27 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Several types of plastic pipes in eco-friendly green buildings in the U.S. have been found to leach chemicals into drinking water that can cause odors and sometimes exist at levels that may exceed health standards. Purdue Univ. engineering professor Andrew Whelton will detail these findings during the 2014 U.S. Green Building Council’s Greenbuild International Conference & Exposition on Oct. 24 in New Orleans.

Atomic trigger shatters mystery of how glass deforms

October 20, 2014 11:04 am | News | Comments

Research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory has cracked one mystery of glass to shed light on the mechanism that triggers its deformation before shattering. The study improves understanding of glassy deformation and may accelerate broader application of metallic glass, a moldable, wear-resistant, magnetically exploitable material that is thrice as strong as the mightiest steel and ten times as springy.

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Goldilocks principle wrong for particle assembly

October 20, 2014 9:32 am | by New York Univ. | News | Comments

Microscopic particles that bind under low temperatures will melt as temperatures rise to moderate levels, but re-connect under hotter conditions, a team of New York Univ. scientists has found. Their discovery points to new ways to create "smart materials," cutting-edge materials that adapt to their environment by taking new forms, and to sharpen the detail of 3-D printing.

Energy storage of the future

October 20, 2014 7:55 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboraotry | News | Comments

Personal electronics such as cell phones and laptops could get a boost from some of the lightest materials in the world. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have turned to graphene aerogel for enhanced electrical energy storage that eventually could be used to smooth out power fluctuations in the energy grid.

Scientist invent new method for fabricating graphene nanoribbons

October 17, 2014 9:23 am | by Shaun Mason, UCLA | News | Comments

Graphene’s exotic properties can be tailored by cutting large sheets down to ribbons of specific lengths and edge configurations. But this “top-down” fabrication approach is not yet practical, because current lithographic techniques always produce defects. Now, scientists from the U.S. and Japan have discovered a new “bottom-up” self-assembly method for producing defect-free graphene nanoribbons with periodic zigzag-edge regions.

A simple and versatile way to build three-dimensional materials of the future

October 16, 2014 10:14 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Japan have developed a new yet simple technique called "diffusion driven layer-by-layer assembly" to construct graphene into porous 3-D structures for applications in devices such as batteries and supercapacitors. The new method borrowed a principle from polymer chemistry, known as interfacial complexation, to allow graphene oxide to form a stable composite layer with an oppositely charged polymer.

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.

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Project to detect possible damages in aircraft parts early in process

October 16, 2014 9:21 am | News | Comments

Univ. of Texas at Arlington engineering professors have received an Air Force grant to examine the material surface at the micro- and nano-scale level that will provide clues for predicting fatigue in aircraft parts. The new approach will rely on a scanning whitelight interferometric surface profiler integrated with a compact mechanical tester and an electron backscatter diffraction module to deliver in-situ 3-D surface profiling.

A brighter design emerges for low-cost, “greener” LED light bulbs

October 15, 2014 2:52 pm | News | Comments

The phase-out of traditional incandescent bulbs in the U.S. and elsewhere, as well as a growing interest in energy efficiency, has given LED lighting a sales boost. That trend could be short-lived as key materials known as rare earth elements become more expensive. Scientists at Rutgers Univ., however, have now designed new materials for making household LED bulbs without using these ingredients.

Researchers develop world’s thinnest electric generator

October 15, 2014 2:47 pm | News | Comments

Scientists report that they have made the first experimental observation of piezoelectricity and the piezotronic effect in an atomically thin material, molybdenum disulfide. This finding has resulted in a unique electric generator and could point the way to mechanosensation devices that are optically transparent, extremely light, and very bendable and stretchable.

Cheap catalyst gets expensive accessory

October 15, 2014 12:06 pm | News | Comments

Iron catalysts remove oxygen inexpensively, but are susceptible to rust or oxidation in biofuel production. Precious metals that resist corrosion are even less efficient at removing oxygen. But adding just a touch of palladium to the iron produces a catalyst that quickly removes oxygen atoms, easily releases the desired products, and doesn't rust, according to scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Washington State Univ.

Electric vehicle technology packs more punch in smaller package

October 15, 2014 8:46 am | by Ron Walli, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Communications | News | Comments

Using 3-D printing and novel semiconductors, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have created a power inverter that could make electric vehicles lighter, more powerful and more efficient. At the core of this development is wide bandgap material made of silicon carbide with qualities superior to standard semiconductor materials.

Innovations being commercialized to improve radiation detection, adhesives and sealants

October 15, 2014 8:17 am | Videos | Comments

Officials at a Chicago-based startup, Sagamore-Adams Laboratories LLC, say innovations discovered in Purdue University's School of Nuclear Engineering are being commercialized to address challenges in improving radiation detection and making sealants and adhesives safer. They have developed technology that could lead to radiation sensors that cost less and provide better information than traditional sensors.

Unique catalysts for hydrogen fuel cells synthesized in ordinary kitchen microwave oven

October 14, 2014 12:09 pm | by Ingrid Söderbergh, Umea Univ. | News | Comments

Swedish and Chinese researchers have recently shown how a unique nano-alloy composed of palladium nano-islands embedded in tungsten nanoparticles creates a new type of catalysts for highly efficient oxygen reduction, the most important reaction in hydrogen fuel cells. Their results are published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

Slippery when dry: Graphene proves a long-lasting lubricant

October 14, 2014 9:08 am | by Jared Sagoff, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

When trying to design a mechanical system to last as long as possible, scientists and engineers have to find ways of overcoming friction. While researchers have found many materials that help to reduce friction, conventional lubricants often have chemical limitations. A recent analysis at Argonne National Laboratory has identified the properties of a newer, wear-resistant substance that works in a broader range of environments.

First observations of atoms moving inside bulk material

October 14, 2014 8:23 am | by Christopher R. Samoray, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | Videos | Comments

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have obtained the first direct observations of atomic diffusion inside a bulk material. The research, which could be used to give unprecedented insight into the lifespan and properties of new materials, is published in Physical Review Letters.

Tailored flexible illusion coatings hide objects from detection

October 13, 2014 10:53 am | News | Comments

Developing the cloak of invisibility would be wonderful, but sometimes simply making an object appear to be something else will do the trick, according to Penn State Univ. engineers. To do this, they employ what they call "illusion coatings," which are made of a thin flexible substrate with copper patterns designed to create the desired result. The metamaterial coatings can function normally while appearing as something else.

Solid nanoparticles can deform like a liquid

October 13, 2014 8:24 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A surprising phenomenon has been found in metal nanoparticles: They appear, from the outside, to be liquid droplets, wobbling and readily changing shape, while their interiors retain a perfectly stable crystal configuration. The research team behind the finding says the work could have important implications for the design of components in nanotechnology, such as metal contacts for molecular electronic circuits.

Plasmonic paper detects trace amounts of chemicals and molecules

October 10, 2014 12:25 pm | News | Comments

Using a common laboratory filter paper decorated with gold nanoparticles, researchers at Washington Univ. in St. Louis have created a unique platform, known as “plasmonic paper,” for detecting and characterizing even trace amounts of chemicals and biologically important molecules, including explosives, chemical warfare agents, environmental pollutants and disease markers.

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