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Nanotechnology changes behavior of materials

January 23, 2015 9:52 am | by Julie Hail Flory, Washington Univ., St. Louis | News | Comments

One of the reasons solar cells are not used more widely is cost: The materials used to make them most efficient are expensive. Engineers are exploring ways to print solar cells from inks, but the devices don’t work as well. A team of engineers has developed a technique to increase the performance and electrical conductivity of thin films that make up these materials using nanotechnology.

“Predicted” zeolites may fuel efficient processes

January 23, 2015 8:45 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Scientists have identified synthetic materials that may purify ethanol more efficiently and greatly improve the separation of long-chain hydrocarbons in petroleum refining. The results show that predictive modeling of synthetic zeolites is highly effective and can help solve some of the most challenging problems facing industries that require efficient ways to separate or catalyze materials.

Bending acoustic and elastic waves with metamaterials

January 23, 2015 7:51 am | by Jeff Sossamon, Univ. of Missouri-Columbia | News | Comments

Sound waves passing through the air, objects that break a body of water and cause ripples or shockwaves from earthquakes all are considered “elastic” waves. These waves travel at the surface or through a material without causing any permanent changes to the substance’s makeup. Now, researchers have developed a material that has the ability to control these waves.

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Predicting the behavior of new concrete formulas

January 22, 2015 8:39 am | by Chad Boutin, NIST | News | Comments

Just because concrete is the most widely used building material in human history doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. A recent study conducted by researchers from NIST, the Univ. of Strasbourg and Sika Corp. using U.S. Dept. of Energy Office of Science supercomputers has led to a new way to predict concrete’s flow properties from simple measurements.

Self-assembled nanotextures create antireflective surface on silicon solar cells

January 21, 2015 8:05 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Reducing the amount of sunlight that bounces off the surface of solar cells helps maximize the conversion of the sun's rays to electricity, so manufacturers use coatings to cut down on reflections. Now scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory show that etching a nanoscale texture onto the silicon material itself creates an antireflective surface that works as well as state-of-the-art thin-film multilayer coatings.

Laser-patterning technique turns metals into supermaterials

January 20, 2015 11:14 am | by American Institute of Physics | News | Comments

By zapping ordinary metals with femtosecond laser pulses researchers from the Univ. of Rochester have created extraordinary new surfaces that efficiently absorb light, repel water and clean themselves. The multifunctional materials could find use in durable, low maintenance solar collectors and sensors.

Self-destructive effects of magnetically doped ferromagnetic topological insulators

January 20, 2015 8:19 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

The discovery of "topologically protected" electrical conductivity on the surface of some materials whose bulk interior acts as an insulator was among the most sensational advances in the last decade of condensed matter physics, with predictions of numerous unusual electronic states and new potential applications. But many of these predicted phenomena have yet to be observed, until now.

Solving an organic semiconductor mystery

January 16, 2015 12:07 pm | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Organic semiconductors are prized for light-emitting diodes, field effect transistors and photovoltaic cells. As they can be printed from solution, they provide a highly scalable, cost-effective alternative to silicon-based devices. Uneven performances, however, have been a persistent problem.

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The way liquids and glasses “relax”

January 15, 2015 2:04 pm | by Michael Baum, NIST | News | Comments

A new insight into the fundamental mechanics of the movement of molecules recently published by researchers at NIST offers a surprising view of what happens when you pour a liquid out of a cup. More important, it provides a theoretical foundation for a molecular-level process that must be controlled to ensure the stability of important protein-based drugs at room temperature.

2-D metamaterial surface manipulates light

January 15, 2015 9:02 am | by Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

A single layer of metallic nanostructures has been designed, fabricated and tested by a team of Penn State Univ. electrical engineers that can provide exceptional capabilities for manipulating light. This engineered surface, which consists of a periodic array of strongly coupled nanorod resonators, could improve systems that perform optical characterization in scientific devices, sensing or satellite communications.

New material, technique efficiently produce hydrogen, syngas fuel feedstock

January 15, 2015 8:00 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

A team of chemical engineering researchers has developed a technique that uses a new catalyst to convert methane and water into hydrogen and a fuel feedstock called syngas with the assistance of solar power. The catalytic material is more than three times more efficient at converting water into hydrogen gas than previous thermal water-splitting methods.

Rapid journey through a crystal lattice

January 15, 2015 7:39 am | by Andreas Battenberg, TUM | News | Comments

The time frames, in which electrons travel within atoms, are unfathomably short. For example, electrons excited by light change their quantum-mechanical location within mere attoseconds. But how fast do electrons whiz across distances corresponding to the diameter of individual atomic layers?

Zinc-oxide materials tapped for tiny energy harvesting devices

January 14, 2015 8:45 am | by American Institute of Physics | News | Comments

Today, we're surrounded by a variety of electronic devices that are moving increasingly closer to us. Many types of smart devices are readily available and convenient to use. The goal now is to make wearable electronics that are flexible, sustainable and powered by ambient renewable energy. This last goal inspired a group of researchers to explore zinc oxide as an effective material choice.

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Single-photon emission enhancement

January 14, 2015 8:01 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have demonstrated a new way to enhance the emission of single photons by using "hyperbolic metamaterials," a step toward creating devices in work aimed at developing quantum computers and communications technologies. Optical metamaterials harness clouds of electrons called surface plasmons to manipulate and control light.

Crush those clinkers while they’re hot

January 14, 2015 7:48 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Making cement is a centuries-old art that has yet to be perfected, according to researchers at Rice Univ. who believe it can be still more efficient. Former Rice graduate student Lu Chen and materials scientist Rouzbeh Shahsavari calculated that fine-tuning the process by which round lumps of calcium silicate called clinkers are turned into cement can save a lot of energy.

Researchers develop multiferroic materials, devices integrated with silicon chips

January 13, 2015 10:59 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

A research team led by North Carolina State Univ. has made two advances in multiferroic materials, including the ability to integrate them on a silicon chip, which will allow the development of new electronic memory devices. The researchers have already created prototypes of the devices and are in the process of testing them. Multiferroic materials have both ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties.

Solar cell polymers with multiplied electrical output

January 13, 2015 8:52 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

One challenge in improving the efficiency of solar cells is some of the absorbed light energy is lost as heat. So scientists have been looking to design materials that can convert more of that energy into useful electricity. Now a team from Brookhaven National Laboratory and Columbia Univ. has paired up polymers that recover some of that lost energy by producing two electrical charge carriers per unit of light instead of the usual one.

Catalyst process uses light for rapid polymerization

January 13, 2015 8:12 am | by Melissa Van De Werfhorst, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara | News | Comments

A team of chemistry and materials science experts from Univ. of California, Santa Barbara and The Dow Chemical Company has created a novel way to overcome one of the major hurdles preventing the widespread use of controlled radical polymerization.

Manipulating nanoribbons at the molecular level

January 12, 2015 12:44 pm | by Rachel Berkowitz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Narrow strips of graphene called nanoribbons exhibit extraordinary properties that make them important candidates for future nanoelectronic technologies. A barrier to exploiting them, however, is the difficulty of controlling their shape at the atomic scale, a prerequisite for many possible applications.

Novel superconducting hybrid crystals developed

January 12, 2015 11:39 am | by Gertie Skaarup, Niels Bohr Institute | News | Comments

A new type of nanowire crystals that fuses semiconducting and metallic materials on the atomic scale could lay the foundation for future semiconducting electronics. Researchers at the Univ. of Copenhagen are behind the breakthrough, which has great potential. The development and quality of extremely small electronic circuits are critical to how and how well future computers and other electronic devices will function.

Atomic placement of elements counts for strong concrete

January 9, 2015 8:20 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Even when building big, every atom matters, according to new research on particle-based materials at Rice Univ. Rice researchers have published a study showing what happens at the nanoscale when “structurally complex” materials like concrete rub against each other. The scratches they leave behind can say a lot about their characteristics.

Compact batteries enhanced by spontaneous silver matrix formations

January 9, 2015 7:40 am | by Justin Eure, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

In a promising lithium-based battery, the formation of a highly conductive silver matrix transforms a material otherwise plagued by low conductivity. To optimize these multi-metallic batteries, scientists needed a way to see where, when and how these silver, nanoscale "bridges" emerge. Now, researchers have used x-rays to map this changing atomic architecture and revealed its link to the battery's rate of discharge.

Honeybee hive sealant promotes hair growth in mice

January 7, 2015 2:58 pm | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Hair loss can be devastating for the millions of men and women who experience it. Now scientists are reporting that a substance from honeybee hives might contain clues for developing a potential new therapy. They found that the material, called propolis, encouraged hair growth in mice. The study appears in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Cheap asphalt provides “green” carbon capture

January 7, 2015 10:29 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

The best material to keep carbon dioxide from natural gas wells from fouling the atmosphere may be a derivative of asphalt, according to Rice Univ. scientists. The Rice laboratory of chemist James Tour followed up on last year’s discovery of a “green” carbon capture material for wellhead sequestration with the news that an even better compound could be made cheaply in a few steps from asphalt.

Nanowire clothing could keep people warm

January 7, 2015 9:26 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

To stay warm when temperatures drop outside, we heat our indoor spaces—even when no one is in them. But scientists have now developed a novel nanowire coating for clothes that can both generate heat and trap the heat from our bodies better than regular clothes. They report on their technology, which could help us reduce our reliance on conventional energy sources, in Nano Letters.

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