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Recovering valuable substances from wastewater

March 24, 2014 9:54 am | News | Comments

Phosphorus can be found in fertilizers, drinks and detergents, and it accumulates in waterways, polluting them. For this reason, researchers in Germany have developed a new platform for recovering this valuable but harmful element from water. They have attached bonding sites for phosphorus to particles so that they fish the phosphate anions out of the water and carry them “piggyback”. The particles can be applied using a magnet.

Researcher: Study on element could change ballgame on radioactive waste

March 24, 2014 9:48 am | News | Comments

Groundbreaking work by a team of chemists on a fringe element of the periodic table could change how the world stores radioactive waste and recycles fuel. In carefully choreographed experiments, researchers in Florida have found that californium (Cf) had amazing abilities to bond and separate other materials. They also found it was extremely resistant to radiation damage.

Researchers grow carbon nanofibers using ambient air, without toxic ammonia

March 24, 2014 9:39 am | News | Comments

Vertically aligned carbon nanofibers (VACNFs) are a commonly manufactured material, but conventional techniques for creating them have relied on the use of ammonia gas, which is toxic. Though it not costly, it is also not free, either. Researchers in North Carolina have demonstrated that VACNFs can be manufactured using ambient air, making the manufacturing process safer and less expensive.

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New use for an old troublemaker

March 24, 2014 9:04 am | News | Comments

An unwanted byproduct from a bygone method of glass production, the crystal devitrite could find a new use as an optical diffuser in medical laser treatments, communications systems and household lighting. For years, the properties of this material were not studied because it was considered as just a troublemaker in the glass-making process and needed to be eliminated.

Materials experts create spintronic thermoelectric power generators

March 21, 2014 2:18 pm | News | Comments

Imagine a computer so efficient that it can recycle its own waste heat to produce electricity. While such an idea may seem far-fetched today, significant progress has already been made to realize these devices. Researchers at the Univ. of Utah have fabricated spintronics-based thin film devices which do just that, converting even minute waste heat into useful electricity.

Lightweight construction materials achieve high stability

March 21, 2014 2:07 pm | News | Comments

Inspired by the framework structure of bones and the shell structure of bees’ honeycombs, researchers in Germany have developed microstructured lightweight construction materials of extremely high stability. Although its density is below that of water, the material’s stability relative to its weight exceeds that of massive materials, such as high-performance steel or aluminum. It was created using 3-D laser writing.

New semiconductor holds promise for 2-D physics, electronics

March 21, 2014 7:54 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

From super-lubricants, to solar cells, to the fledgling technology of valleytronics, there is much to be excited about with the discovery of a unique new 2-D semiconductor, rhenium disulfide, by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Molecular Foundry. Rhenium disulfide, unlike molybdenum disulfide and other dichalcogenides, behaves electronically as if it were a 2-D monolayer even as a 3-D bulk material.

Scientists discover potential way to make graphene superconducting

March 20, 2014 8:02 am | News | Comments

Researchers in California have used a beam of intense ultraviolet light to look deep into the electronic structure of a material made of alternating layers of graphene and calcium. While it's been known for nearly a decade that this combined material is superconducting, the new study offers the first compelling evidence that the graphene layers are instrumental in this process. The finding could lead to super-efficient nanoelectronics.

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New technique makes LEDs brighter, more resilient

March 19, 2014 8:24 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed a new processing technique that makes light-emitting diodes (LEDs) brighter and more resilient by coating the semiconductor material gallium nitride (GaN) with a layer of phosphorus-derived acid.

Antimony nanocrystals improved for batteries

March 18, 2014 8:21 am | by Peter Rüegg, ETH Zurich | News | Comments

Researchers have succeeded for the first time to produce uniform antimony nanocrystals. Tested as components of laboratory batteries, these are able to store a large number of both lithium and sodium ions. These nanomaterials operate with high rate and may eventually be used as alternative anode materials in future high-energy-density batteries.

Bright future for protein nanoprobes

March 17, 2014 11:39 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

The term a “brighter future” might be a cliché, but in the case of ultra-small probes for lighting up individual proteins, it is now most appropriate. Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have discovered surprising new rules for creating ultra-bright light-emitting crystals that are less than 10 nm in diameter.

Researchers change coercivity of material by patterning surfaces

March 17, 2014 9:29 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have found a way to reduce the coercivity of nickel-ferrite (NFO) thin films by as much as 80% by patterning the surface of the material, opening the door to more energy efficient high-frequency electronics, such as sensors, microwave devices and antennas.

Brighter inks, without pigment

March 17, 2014 7:57 am | by Manny Morone '14, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at the Harvard Univ. School of Engineering and Applied Sciences are giving man-made materials structural color. Producing structural color is not easy, though; it often requires a material’s molecules to be in a very specific crystalline pattern, like the natural structure of an opal, which reflects a wide array of colors.

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Bionic plants

March 17, 2014 7:36 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Plants have many valuable functions: They provide food and fuel, release the oxygen that we breathe and add beauty to our surroundings. Now, a team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers wants to make plants even more useful by augmenting them with nanomaterials that could enhance their energy production and give them completely new functions, such as monitoring environmental pollutants.

Nanoscale optical switch breaks miniaturization barrier

March 14, 2014 10:15 am | by David Salisbury, Vanderbilt Univ. | News | Comments

An ultra-fast and ultra-small optical switch has been invented that could advance the day when photons replace electrons in the innards of consumer products ranging from cell phones to automobiles. The new optical device can turn on and off trillions of times per second and consists of tiny individual switches made of a metamaterial that uses vanadium dioxide.

Heat-based technique offers new way to count microscopic particles

March 13, 2014 9:09 am | News | Comments

Particle counters are used in a wide variety of industries. Researchers in North Carolina have developed a new thermal technique that counts and measures the size of particles, but is less expensive than light-based techniques. It can also be used on a wider array of materials than electricity-based techniques.

Graphene-copper sandwich may improve, shrink electronics

March 12, 2014 2:00 pm | by Sean Nealon, Univ. of Riverside, Calif. | News | Comments

Researchers have discovered that creating a graphene-copper-graphene “sandwich” strongly enhances the heat conducting properties of copper, a discovery that could further help in the downscaling of electronics.

Material rivaling graphene may one day be mined from rocks

March 12, 2014 1:52 pm | News | Comments

Will one-atom-thick layers of molybdenum disulfide, a compound that occurs naturally in rocks, prove to be better than graphene for electronic applications? Recent research into phenomena occurring in the crystal network of this material show signs that might prove to be the case. But physicists in Poland have shown that the nature of the phenomena occurring in layered materials are still ill-understood.

Assessing the chemical composition of a MOF with nanoscale resolution

March 12, 2014 8:38 am | News | Comments

Researchers have applied a novel microscopy technique to characterize metal-organic framework (MOF) materials, potentially opening a pathway for engineering the chemical properties of these materials at the nanoscale. MOFs are composed of metal ions connected by organic linker molecules to form 3-D-crystalline networks of nanopores with high surface areas, leading to applications in catalysis, chemical separation and sensing.

First thin films of spin ice reveal cold secrets

March 12, 2014 8:25 am | News | Comments

Thin films of spin ice have been shown to demonstrate surprising properties which could help in the development of applications of magnetricity, the magnetic equivalent of electricity. Researchers based at the London Centre for Nanotechnology, in collaboration with scientists from Oxford and Cambridge, found that, against expectations, the Third Law of Thermodynamics could be restored in thin films of the magnetic material spin ice.

Acoustic cloaking device hides objects from sound

March 12, 2014 7:35 am | by Ken Kingery, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

Using little more than a few perforated sheets of plastic and a staggering amount of number crunching, Duke Univ. engineers have demonstrated the world’s first 3-D acoustic cloak. The new device reroutes sound waves to create the impression that both the cloak and anything beneath it are not there.

Atomically thin solar cells

March 10, 2014 12:56 pm | News | Comments

Graphene is not the only ultrathin material that exhibits special electronic properties. Ultrathin layers made of tungsten and selenium have recently been created in Austria that show a high internal efficiency when used to gather sunlight. More than 95% of light passes straight through, but a tenth of what is stopped is converted to electricity.

2-D material shows promise for optoelectronics

March 10, 2014 7:42 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers has used a novel material that’s just a few atoms thick to create devices that can harness or emit light. This proof-of-concept could lead to ultra-thin, lightweight and flexible photovoltaic cells, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and other optoelectronic devices, they say.

Scientists create optical nanocavity to improve light absorption in semiconductors

March 7, 2014 1:14 pm | News | Comments

Experts from the Univ. of Buffalo (UB), helped by colleagues from two Chinese universities, have developed an optical "nanocavity" that could help increase the amount of light absorbed by ultrathin semiconductors. The advancement could lead to the creation of more powerful photovoltaic cells and improvements in video cameras and even hydrogen fuel, as the technology could aid the splitting of water using energy from light.

Scientists establish a new principle for future spin devices

March 7, 2014 1:04 pm | News | Comments

A new mechanism of controlling magnetic states by electric currents has been discovered by an international team of researchers who have exploited a quantum phenomenon to control magnetic states with electrical currents. The research hinges on a quantum geometrical phase, called the Berry phase, that exists in the momentum space of electronic band structures in specific materials.

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