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Shatterproof polymer screens to help save smartphones

June 6, 2014 10:57 am | News | Comments

Polymer scientists in Ohio have demonstrated how a transparent layer of electrodes on a polymer surface could be extraordinarily tough and flexible, withstanding repeated scotch tape peeling and bending tests. According to its developers, the new material could replace conventional indium tin oxide coatings currently used for touchscreens.

Opening a wide window on the nano-world of surface catalysis

June 6, 2014 10:20 am | by Steven Powell, Univ. of South Carolina | News | Comments

Surface catalysts are notoriously difficult to study mechanistically, but scientists at two universities have recently shown how to get real-time reaction information from silver nanocatalysts that have long frustrated attempts to describe their kinetic behavior in detail. The key to the team's success was bridging a size gap that had represented a wide chasm to researchers in the past.

All-natural mixture yields promising fire retardant

June 6, 2014 9:29 am | News | Comments

A dash of clay, a dab of fiber from crab shells, and a dollop of DNA: This strange group of materials are actually the ingredients of promising green fire retardants invented by researchers at NIST. Applied to polyurethane foam, the bio-based coatings greatly reduced the flammability of the common furniture padding after it was exposed to an open flame.

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Preserving bread longer: A new edible film made with essential oils

June 5, 2014 11:18 am | News | Comments

Essential oils have boomed in popularity as people seek alternatives to replace their synthetic cleaning products, anti-mosquito sprays and medicines. Now scientists are tapping them as candidates to preserve food in a more consumer-friendly way. A study from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reports the development of new edible films containing oils from clove and oregano that preserve bread longer than commercial additives.

A battery revolution on the cheap?

June 5, 2014 11:14 am | by Michael Baum, NIST | News | Comments

Whip together an industrial waste product and a bit of plastic and you might have the recipe for the next revolution in battery technology. Scientists have combined common ingredients to make an inexpensive, high-capacity lithium-sulfur battery that can be cycled hundreds of times without losing function.

New solution prevents infection in implants

June 5, 2014 9:08 am | News | Comments

Hospital germs can be fatal, since they are resistant to antibiotics. As a result, alternative methods of defense against bacteria are in demand. Fortunately, a German-French research team has been able to develop bone implants that keep the germs at bay. The solutions depends on a breakthrough that allows scientists to imbue apatite crystals with calcium phosphate.

Silicon alternatives key to future computers, consumer electronics

June 5, 2014 7:54 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers are reporting key milestones in developing new semiconductors to potentially replace silicon in future computer chips and for applications in flexible electronics.  Findings are detailed in three technical papers, including one focusing on a collaboration of researchers from Purdue Univ., Intel Corp. and SEMATECH. The team has demonstrated the potential promise of a 2-D semiconductor called molybdenum disulfide.

Berkeley Lab scientists create first fully 2-D field effect transistors

June 4, 2014 3:03 pm | News | Comments

Faster electronic device architectures are in the offing with the unveiling of the world’s first fully 2-D field-effect transistor (FET) by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Unlike conventional FETs made from silicon, these 2-D FETs suffer no performance drop-off under high voltages and provide high electron mobility, even when scaled to a monolayer in thickness.

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Fullerene-Free Organic Solar

June 4, 2014 2:39 pm | by Paul Livingstone | Articles | Comments

Investigated heavily since the 1970s, solar cells have been the great unfulfilled promise for unlimited, almost free energy to power the world. The reasoning is solid: The Earth absorbs almost as much energy per hour than the entire human race uses in a single year.

Quantum criticality observed in new class of materials

June 4, 2014 2:39 pm | by Jade Boyd, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Quantum criticality, the strange electronic state that may be intimately related to high-temperature superconductivity, is notoriously difficult to study. But a new discovery of “quantum critical points” could allow physicists to develop a classification scheme for quantum criticality, the first step toward a broader explanation.

Breakthrough greatly strengthens graphene-reinforced composites

June 4, 2014 10:07 am | News | Comments

Haydale, a U.K.-based developer of a unique plasma functionalization process for nanomaterials, has announced the publication of research showing its functionalized graphene nanoplatelets significantly improve the nanoscale reinforcement of resin. The report states a greater than two times increase in tensile strength and modulus of an epoxy composite using this technology.

Rice produces carbon-capture breakthrough

June 4, 2014 7:47 am | Videos | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists have created an Earth-friendly way to separate carbon dioxide from natural gas at wellheads. A porous material invented by the Rice laboratory of chemist James Tour sequesters carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, at ambient temperature with pressure provided by the wellhead and lets it go once the pressure is released. The material shows promise to replace more costly and energy-intensive processes.

Rice Univ. produces carbon-capture breakthrough

June 4, 2014 7:14 am | News | Comments

A porous material invented by the Rice Univ. lab of chemist James Tour sequesters carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, at ambient temperature with pressure provided by the wellhead and lets it go once the pressure is released. The material shows promise to replace more costly and energy-intensive processes.

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Researchers predict the electrical response of metals to extreme pressures

June 3, 2014 8:32 am | by Mary Martialay, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute | News | Comments

Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences makes it possible to predict how subjecting metals to severe pressure can lower their electrical resistance, a finding that could have applications in computer chips and other materials that could benefit from specific electrical resistance.

Scientists find stronger 3-D material that behaves like graphene

June 3, 2014 8:17 am | by Glennda Chui, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists have discovered a material that has the same extraordinary electronic properties as 2-D graphene, but in a sturdy 3-D form that should be much easier to shape into electronic devices such as very fast transistors, sensors and transparent electrodes. The material, cadmium arsenide, is being explored independently by three groups.

Scientists use DNA origami trick to create 2-D structures

June 2, 2014 10:23 am | News | Comments

Scientists at New York Univ. and the Univ. of Melbourne have developed a method using DNA origami to turn 1-D nanomaterials into two dimensions. Their breakthrough, published in Nature Nanotechnology, offers the potential to enhance fiber optics and electronic devices by reducing their size and increasing their speed.

New metal-organic framework offers efficient thermal cooling and heating

June 2, 2014 9:09 am | News | Comments

Thermal systems use heat to produce cold, and vice versa. The human body demonstrates this function when it perspires, but what is lacking for devices that operate on this principle are materials capable of sufficiently discharging the water vapor quickly. Metal organic frameworks (MOFs) are well suited to this task. Researchers have built a new 3-D porous MOF from metals and organic linkers that substantially increases water absorption.

Joint implants without an expiration date

June 2, 2014 9:02 am | News | Comments

Artificial joints have a limited lifespan. After a few years, many hip and knee joints have to be replaced. More problematic are intervertebral disc implants, which cannot easily be replaced after they “expire” and are usually reinforced, which restrict a patient’s movement. Researchers in Switzlernad have now succeeded in coating mobile intervertebral disc implants so that they show no wear and will now last for a lifetime.

Neutrons, x-rays reveal structure of high-temperature liquid metal oxides

June 2, 2014 8:16 am | by Katie Bethea, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

By levitating a bead of ceramic oxide, heating it with a 400-W carbon dioxide laser, then shooting the molten material with x-rays and neutrons, scientists with Oak Ridge and Argonne national laboratories have revealed unprecedented detail of the structure of high-temperature liquid oxides.

Surprising nanotubes: Some slippery, some sticky

June 2, 2014 7:39 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Nanotubes have been the subject of intensive research, with potential uses ranging from solar cells to chemical sensors to reinforced composite materials. Most of the research has centered on carbon nanotubes, but other nanotubes’ properties appear to be similar. However, appearances can be deceiving, as researchers have found when examining one variant of nanotube made from boron nitride.

Observing the random diffusion of missing atoms in graphene

May 30, 2014 10:58 am | News | Comments

Imperfections in the regular atomic arrangements in crystals determine many of the properties of a material, and their diffusion is behind many microstructural changes in solids. However, imaging non-repeating atomic arrangements is difficult in conventional materials. Now, researchers in Austria have directly imaged the diffusion of a butterfly-shaped atomic defect in graphene.

The hunt for white aluminium

May 30, 2014 10:29 am | by Katrine Krogh-Jeppesen, DTU | News | Comments

Bang & Olufsen is working with scientists in Denmark to develop a method for creating white aluminium surfaces. This has been exceedingly difficult for manufacturers because the existing technology used to color aluminium cannot be used to produce the color white because the molecules used to create “white” are too big. Rather than use pigments, then, researchers have a way to make it become white during the process.

Smart coating could make oil spill cleanup faster, more efficient

May 30, 2014 9:30 am | News | Comments

In the wake of recent offshore oil spills, and with the growing popularity of “fracking”—in which water is used to release oil and gas from shale—there’s a need for easy, quick ways to separate oil and water. Now, scientists have developed coatings that can do just that. Their report on the materials, which also could stop surfaces from getting foggy and dirty, appears in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

New reference to enable better petrochemical catalysts

May 29, 2014 11:51 am | by Fabio Bergamin, ETH Zurich | News | Comments

When crude oil is refined to fuels and chemicals, catalysts such as zeolites. are at work making this process happen. Scientists have recently developed a reference parameter for the performance of this important class of catalysts, which can suffer from production hindrances if reaction side products clog pores or block active sites on the catalyst.

Scientists pinpoint the creeping nanocrystals behind lithium-ion battery degradation

May 29, 2014 8:20 am | by Justin Eure, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Batteries don’t age gracefully. The lithium ions that power portable electronics cause lingering structural damage with each cycle of charge and discharge, making devices from smartphones to tablets tick toward zero faster and faster over time. To stop or slow this steady degradation, scientists must track and tweak the imperfect chemistry of lithium-ion batteries with nanoscale precision.

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