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“Designer carbon” boosts battery performance

June 1, 2015 7:51 am | by Mark Shwartz, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Stanford Univ. scientists have created a new carbon material that significantly boosts the performance of energy-storage technologies. Their results are featured in ACS Central Science. The new "designer carbon" is both versatile and controllable and represents a dramatic improvement over conventional activated carbon.

Making power plants more efficient

June 1, 2015 7:27 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Most of the world’s electricity-producing power plants, whether powered by coal, natural gas or nuclear fission, make electricity by generating steam that turns a turbine. That steam then is condensed back to water, and the cycle begins again. But the condensers that collect the steam are quite inefficient, and improving them could make a big difference in overall power plant efficiency.

Who needs water to assemble DNA?

May 28, 2015 7:42 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Scientists around the world are using the programmability of DNA to assemble complex nanometer-scale structures. Until now, however, production of these artificial structures has been limited to water-based environments, because DNA naturally functions inside the watery environment of living cells. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have now shown that they can assemble DNA nanostructures in a solvent containing no water.

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Spinning a new version of silk

May 28, 2015 7:22 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

After years of research decoding the complex structure and production of spider silk, researchers have now succeeded in producing samples of this exceptionally strong and resilient material in the laboratory. The new development could lead to a variety of biomedical materials made from synthesized silk with properties specifically tuned for their intended uses.

Engineering phase changes in nanoparticle arrays

May 26, 2015 7:56 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have just taken a big step toward the goal of engineering dynamic nanomaterials whose structure and associated properties can be switched on demand. In a paper appearing in Nature Materials, they describe a way to selectively rearrange the nanoparticles in 3-D arrays to produce different configurations, or phases, from the same nanocomponents.

Slip sliding away

May 26, 2015 7:47 am | by Jared Sagoff, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory have found a way to use tiny diamonds and graphene to give friction the slip, creating a new material combination that demonstrates the rare phenomenon of “superlubricity.” The five-person Argonne team combined diamond nanoparticles, small patches of graphene and a diamond-like carbon material to create superlubricity, a highly-desirable property in which friction drops to near zero.

Turn that defect upside down

May 21, 2015 11:01 am | by Allison Mills, Michigan Technological Univ. | News | Comments

Most people see defects as flaws. A few Michigan Technological Univ. researchers, however, see them as opportunities. Twin boundaries may present an opportunity to improve lithium-ion batteries. The twin boundary defects act as energy highways and could help get better performance out of the batteries. This finding turns a previously held notion of material defects on its head.

Gauging materials’ physical properties from video

May 21, 2015 10:42 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Last summer, MIT researchers published a paper describing an algorithm that can recover intelligible speech from the analysis of the minute vibrations of objects in video captured through soundproof glass. In June, researchers from the same groups will describe how the technique can be adapted to infer material properties of physical objects, such as stiffness and weight, from video.

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New class of magnets could energize the world

May 21, 2015 10:30 am | by Temple Univ. | News | Comments

A new class of magnets that expand their volume when placed in a magnetic field and generate negligible amounts of wasteful heat during energy harvesting, has been discovered by researchers at Temple Univ. and the Univ. of Maryland. This transformative breakthrough has the potential to not only displace existing technologies but create altogether new applications due to the unusual combination of magnetic properties.

Shape-shifting plastic

May 21, 2015 8:18 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | Videos | Comments

Not all plastics are created equal. Malleable thermoplastics can be easily melted and reused in products such as food containers. Other plastics, called thermosets, are essentially stuck in their final form because of cross-linking chemical bonds that give them their strength for applications such as golf balls and car tires.

Defects can “Hulk-up” materials

May 21, 2015 8:09 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

In the story of the Marvel Universe superhero known as the Hulk, exposure to gamma radiation transforms scientist Bruce Banner into a far more powerful version of himself. In a study at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, exposure to alpha-particle radiation has been shown to transform certain thermoelectric materials into far more powerful versions of themselves.

Taking control of light emission

May 20, 2015 7:31 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Researchers have found a way to couple the properties of different 2-D materials to provide an exceptional degree of control over light waves. They say this has the potential to lead to new kinds of light detection, thermal management systems and high-resolution imaging devices.

Laser technique for self-assembly of nanostructures

May 19, 2015 8:38 am | by Swinburne Univ. of Technology | News | Comments

Researchers from Swinburne Univ. of Technology and the Univ. of Science and Technology of China have developed a low-cost technique that holds promise for a range of scientific and technological applications. They have combined laser printing and capillary force to build complex, self-assembling microstructures using a technique called laser printing capillary-assisted self-assembly (LPCS).

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3-D printed spider webs

May 15, 2015 9:00 am | by Kelsey Damrad, MIT | News | Comments

Scientists at MIT have developed a systematic approach to research its structure, blending computational modeling and mechanical analysis to 3D-print synthetic spider webs. These models offer insight into how spiders optimize their own webs.

CLAIRE brings electron microscopy to soft materials

May 14, 2015 12:37 pm | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Soft matter encompasses a broad swath of materials, including liquids, polymers, gels, foam and biomolecules. At the heart of soft materials, governing their overall properties and capabilities, are the interactions of nano-sized components. Observing the dynamics behind these interactions is critical to understanding key biological processes.

Nanomaterials inspired by bird feathers

May 13, 2015 12:24 pm | by Univ. of California, San Diego | News | Comments

Inspired by the way iridescent bird feathers play with light, scientists have created thin films of material in a wide range of pure colors with hues determined by physical structure rather than pigments. Structural color arises from the interaction of light with materials that have patterns on a minute scale, which bend and reflect light to amplify some wavelengths and dampen others.

Materials crystallize with surprising properties

May 13, 2015 8:20 am | by American Chemical Society | Videos | Comments

Think about your favorite toys as a child. Did they light up or make funny noises when you touched them? Maybe they changed shape or texture. In ACS Central Science, researchers report a new material that combines many of these characteristics. Beyond being fun, these materials, called organic “supercooled” liquids, may be useful for optical storage systems and biomedical sensors.

A metal composite that will float your boat

May 13, 2015 7:50 am | by Kathleen Hamilton, New York Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have demonstrated a new metal matrix composite that is so light that it can float on water. A boat made of such lightweight composites will not sink despite damage to its structure. The new material also promises to improve automotive fuel economy because it combines light weight with heat resistance.

Superhydrophobic glass coating offers clear benefits

May 11, 2015 5:00 pm | by Ron Walli, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

A moth’s eye and lotus leaf were the inspirations for an antireflective water-repelling, or superhydrophobic, glass coating that holds significant potential for solar panels, lenses, detectors, windows, weapons systems and many other products. The discovery is based on a mechanically robust nanostructured layer of porous glass film. The coating can be customized to be superhydrophobic, fog-resistant and antireflective.

Out with heavy metal

May 11, 2015 11:29 am | by Dawn Zimmerman, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | Videos | Comments

Researchers have demonstrated a new process for the expanded use of lightweight aluminum in cars and trucks at the speed, scale, quality and consistency required by the auto industry. The process reduces production time and costs while yielding strong and lightweight parts, for example delivering a car door that is 62% lighter and 25% cheaper than that produced with today's manufacturing methods.

Tiny silicone spheres appear from the mist

May 7, 2015 7:44 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Technology in common household humidifiers could enable the next wave of high-tech medical imaging and targeted medicine, thanks to a new method for making tiny silicone microspheres developed by chemists at the Univ. of Illinois. Microspheres, tiny spheres as small as a red blood cell, have shown promise as agents for targeted drug delivery to tissues, as contrast agents for medical imaging and in industrial applications.

Implantable electrode coating good as gold

May 4, 2015 11:51 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

A team of researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Univ. of California, Davis, have found that covering an implantable neural electrode with nanoporous gold could eliminate the risk of scar tissue forming over the electrode’s surface. The team demonstrated that the nanostructure of nanoporous gold achieves close physical coupling of neurons by maintaining a high neuron-to-astrocyte surface coverage ratio.

Defects in atomically thin semiconductor emit single photons

May 4, 2015 11:08 am | by Univ. of Rochester | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Rochester have shown that defects on an atomically thin semiconductor can produce light-emitting quantum dots. The quantum dots serve as a source of single photons and could be useful for the integration of quantum photonics with solid-state electronics: a combination known as integrated photonics.

For batteries, one material does it all

May 4, 2015 8:22 am | by Univ. of Maryland | News | Comments

Engineers at the Univ. of Maryland have created a battery that is made entirely out of one material, which can both move electricity and store it. Envision an Oreo cookie. Most batteries have at either end a layer of material for the electrodes like the chocolate cookies to help move ions though the creamy frosting (the electrolyte). The team made a single material that incorporates the properties of both the electrodes and electrolyte.

From brittle to plastic in one breath

May 4, 2015 7:49 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

What if peanut brittle, under certain conditions, behaved like taffy? Something like that happens to a 2-D dichalcogenide analyzed by scientists at Rice Univ. Rice researchers calculated that atomically thin layers of molybdenum disulfide can take on the qualities of plastic through exposure to a sulfur-infused gas at the right temperature and pressure.

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