As hands come in left and right versions that are mirror images of each other, so do the amino acids and sugars within us. But unlike hands, only the left-oriented amino acids and the right-oriented sugars ever make into life as we know it. Scientists know the other varieties exist because when they synthesize these amino acids and sugars in a laboratory, roughly equal numbers of left- and right-facing arrangements form.
Rice Univ. scientists have invented a novel cathode that may make cheap, flexible dye-sensitized solar cells practical. The Rice laboratory of materials scientist Jun Lou created the new cathode, one of the two electrodes in batteries, from nanotubes that are seamlessly bonded to graphene and replaces the expensive and brittle platinum-based materials often used in earlier versions.
Silicon is the second-most-abundant element in the Earth's crust. When purified, it takes on a diamond structure, which is essential to modern electronic devices—carbon is to biology as silicon is to technology. A team of Carnegie scientists has synthesized an entirely new form of silicon, one that promises even greater future applications.
Researchers from the Univ. of Cambridge have developed artificial muscles which can learn and recall specific movements, the first time that motion control and memory have been combined in a synthetic material. The muscles, made from smooth plastic, could eventually be used in a applications where mimicking the movement of natural muscle would be an advantage, such as robotics, aerospace, exoskeletons and biomedical applications.
From a mechanical perspective, granular materials are stuck between a rock and a fluid place, with behavior resembling neither a solid nor a liquid. Think of sand through an hourglass: As grains funnel through, they appear to flow like water, but once deposited, they form a relatively stable mound, much like a solid.
Since the 1850s scientists have known that crystalline materials are organized into fourteen different basic lattice structures. However, a team of researchers from Vanderbilt Univ. and Oak Ridge National Laboratory now reports that it has discovered an entirely new form of crystalline order that simultaneously exhibits both crystal and polycrystalline properties, which they describe as "interlaced crystals."
Researches have uncovered "smoking-gun" evidence to confirm the workings of an emerging class of materials that could make possible "spintronic" devices and practical quantum computers far more powerful than today's technologies. The materials are called topological insulators.
The editors of R&D Magazine have announced the opening of the 2015 R&D 100 Awards entry process. The R&D 100 Awards have a 50 plus year history of awarding the 100 most technologically significant products of the year. Past winners have included sophisticated testing equipment, innovative new materials, chemistry breakthroughs, biomedical products, consumer items, high-energy physics and more.
After graphene was first produced in the laboratory in 2004, thousands of laboratories began developing graphene products worldwide. Researchers were amazed by its lightweight and ultra-strong properties. Ten years later, scientists now search for other materials that have the same level of potential.
Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed a new way to transfer thin semiconductor films, which are only one atom thick, onto arbitrary substrates, paving the way for flexible computing or photonic devices. The technique is much faster than existing methods and can perfectly transfer the atomic scale thin films from one substrate to others, without causing any cracks.
A study at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory suggests for the first time how scientists might deliberately engineer superconductors that work at higher temperatures. In their report, a team of researchers explains why a thin layer of iron selenide superconducts at much higher temperatures when placed atop another material, which is called STO for its main ingredients strontium, titanium and oxygen.
An electronic “tongue” could one day sample food and drinks as a quality check before they hit store shelves. Or it could someday monitor water for pollutants or test blood for signs of disease. With an eye toward these applications, scientists are reporting the development of a new, inexpensive and highly sensitive version of such a device in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.
Making a paper airplane in school used to mean trouble. Today it signals a promising discovery in materials science research that could help next-generation technology get off the ground. Researchers at Drexel Univ. and Dalian Univ. of Technology in China have chemically engineered a new, electrically conductive nanomaterial that is flexible enough to fold, but strong enough to support many times its own weight.
For more than 50 years, scientists have debated what turns particular oxide insulators, in which electrons barely move, into metals, in which electrons flow freely. Some scientists sided with Nobel Prize–winning physicist Nevill Mott in thinking direct interactions between electrons were the key. Others believed, as did physicist Rudolf Peierls, that atomic vibrations and distortions trumped all.
A team of engineers and scientists has identified a source of electronic noise that could affect the functioning of instruments operating at very low temperatures, such as devices used in radio telescopes and advanced physics experiments. The findingscould have implications for the future design of transistors and other electronic components.
Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have made the first direct observations of a 1-D boundary separating two different, atom-thin materials, enabling studies of long-theorized phenomena at these interfaces. Theorists have predicted the existence of intriguing properties at 1-D boundaries between two crystalline components, but experimental verification has eluded researchers.
Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. and Hong Kong Univ. of Science and Technology have found that temperature-controlled aggregation in a family of new semiconducting polymers is the key to creating highly efficient organic solar cells that can be mass produced more cheaply. Their findings also open the door to experimentation with different chemical mixtures that comprise the active layers of the cells.
From water marks to colored threads, governments are constantly adding new features to paper money to stay one step ahead of counterfeiters. Now a longhorn beetle has inspired yet another way to foil cash fraud, as well as to produce colorful, changing billboards and art displays. In ACS Nano, researchers report a new kind of ink that mimics the beetle’s color-shifting ability in a way that would be long-lasting and difficult to copy.
Rechargeable battery manufacturers may get a jolt from research performed at NIST and several other institutions, where a team of scientists has discovered a safe, inexpensive, sodium-conducting material that significantly outperforms all others in its class. The team's discovery is a sodium-based, complex metal hydride, a material with potential as a cheaper alternative to the lithium-based conductors used in many rechargeable batteries.
Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have received a $1.2 million award from the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s SunShot Initiative to develop a technique that they believe will significantly improve the efficiencies of photovoltaic materials and help make solar electricity cost-competitive with other sources of energy.
Yale Univ. engineer Jan Schroers will lead a three-year, $1.2 million project intended to dramatically accelerate the pace of discovering and characterizing bulk metallic glasses (BMGs), a versatile type of pliable glass that’s stronger than steel. The grant will enable Schroers’ team to screen more than 3,000 potential BMG alloys in a week, a vast improvement over traditional methods.
Every year, nearly 4,000 children go to emergency rooms after swallowing button batteries, the flat, round batteries that power toys, hearing aids, calculators and many other devices. Ingesting these batteries has severe consequences, including burns that permanently damage the esophagus, tears in the digestive tract and, in some cases, even death.
If you can uniformly break the symmetry of nanorod pairs in a colloidal solution, you’re a step ahead of the game toward achieving new and exciting metamaterial properties. But traditional thermodynamic-driven colloidal assembly of these metamaterials, which are materials defined by their non-naturally-occurring properties, often result in structures with high degree of symmetries in the bulk material.
Rice Univ. scientists who want to gain an edge in energy production and storage report they have found it in molybdenum disulfide. The Rice laboratory of chemist James Tour has turned molybdenum disulfide’s 2-D form into a nanoporous film that can catalyze the production of hydrogen or be used for energy storage.
In an international study Univ. of Melbourne and NIST found that pairs of closely spaced nanoparticles made of gold can act as “optical antennas”. These antennae concentrate the light shining on them into tiny regions located in the gap between the nanoparticles. Researchers found the precise geometry of nanoparticle pairs that maximizes light concentration, resolving a hotly debated area of quantum physics.