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Researchers use weightlessness of space to design better materials

May 30, 2013 11:10 am | News | Comments

Researchers from Northeastern University are among the many scientists helping NASA use the weightlessness of space to design stronger materials here on Earth. Researchers say by observing the solidification process in a microgravity environment—in this case, the International Space Station—they were able to study how this morphological instability develops in three dimensions to shape the structure of materials on a micron scale.

Researchers develop high-efficiency zinc-air battery

May 30, 2013 7:59 am | News | Comments

Stanford University scientists have developed an advanced zinc-air battery with higher catalytic activity and durability than similar batteries made with costly platinum and iridium catalysts. The results could lead to the development of a low-cost alternative to conventional lithium-ion batteries widely used today.

A new kind of chemical glue

May 30, 2013 7:36 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Over the past three decades, researchers have found various applications of a method for attaching molecules to gold; the approach uses chemicals called thiols to bind the materials together. But while this technique has led to useful devices for electronics, sensing and nanotechnology, it has limitations. Now, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology team has found a new material that could overcome many of these limitations.

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Artificial muscle built using carbon nanotube yarn

May 29, 2013 1:29 pm | News | Comments

Traditional methods of building electrochemically powered yarn muscles resulted in devices with slow responses, low strain and force generation, a short cycle life, and low energy efficiency. A researcher in Korea has made a substantial improvement to this technology by confining paraffin waxes within the yarn. These act as actuators and remove the need for electrolytes.

Advanced paper: The foundation for inexpensive biomedical devices

May 28, 2013 3:24 pm | News | Comments

Paper is known for its ability to absorb liquids, making it ideal for products such as paper towels. But by modifying the underlying network of cellulose fibers, etching off surface “fluff” and applying a thin chemical coating, researchers have created a new type of paper that repels a wide variety of liquids—including water and oil.

“Crystal-clear” method distinguishes between glass and fluids

May 28, 2013 11:40 am | News | Comments

Many solids are produced from melting, a process that creates complex internal stresses as the material cools. Until now, our understanding of the unique characteristics exhibited by the condition of the glass as compared with a tough molten mass has been spotty. A collaboration of several research teams in Europe has recently offered a surprisingly simple model to explain the difference between glass and molten materials.

Are carbon nanotubes capable of "superfast" water transport?

May 28, 2013 9:08 am | by Peter Rüegg, ETH Zurich | News | Comments

Materials developers have had high hopes for using carbon nanotubes to desalinate seawater. However, a simulation recently conducted in Europe reveals that the ultra-fast transport rates required to accomplish this task have not been correctly measured in carbon nanotubes. These new findings suggest the use of a carbon nanotube membranes as a filter medium rather a transport mechanism might be more realistic.

How do cold ions slide?

May 28, 2013 7:47 am | News | Comments

When an object slides on another, the advancement may occur through a “stop and go” series in the characteristic manner which scientists call "stick-slip", a pervasive phenomenon at every scale. Researchers in Italy have studied and gained on the conditions in which, at the nanoscopic level, the switch from smooth sliding to stick-slip regime occurs, simulating the “toy-like” systems of “cold ions”.

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The formula for turning cement into metal

May 28, 2013 7:27 am | News | Comments

In a move that would make the alchemists of King Arthur’s time green with envy, scientists have unraveled the formula for turning liquid cement into liquid metal. This makes cement a semiconductor and opens up its use in the profitable consumer electronics marketplace for thin films, protective coatings, and computer chips.

A quantum simulator for magnetic materials

May 24, 2013 11:37 am | News | Comments

Physicists understand perfectly well why a fridge magnet sticks to certain metallic surfaces. But there are more exotic forms of magnetism whose properties remain unclear, despite decades of intense research. Now, researchers at ETH Zurich in Switzerland have developed a quantum simulator that can arrange atoms in a way that they mimic the behavior of electrons in magnetic materials.

New filtration material could make petroleum refining cheaper, more efficient

May 23, 2013 10:55 pm | News | Comments

A newly synthesized material might provide a dramatically improved method for separating the highest-octane components of gasoline. These components are expensive to isolate. Created in the laboratory of Jeffrey Long, professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, the material is a metal-organic framework, or MOF, which can be imagined as a sponge with microscopic holes.

Engineer helps pioneer flat spray-on optical lens

May 23, 2013 2:10 pm | News | Comments

A University of British Columbia engineer and a team of U.S. researchers have made a breakthrough utilizing spray-on technology that could revolutionize the way optical lenses are made and used. Nearly all lenses—whether in an eye, a camera, or a microscope—are presently curved, which limits the aperture, or amount of light that enters. The new spray-on lens is flat, and can be affixed to a glass slide.

Tests may lead to doubling of fuel cell life

May 23, 2013 8:49 am | News | Comments

To improve fuel cell module durability and predict longevity, researchers are studying the degradation mechanisms of the fuel cells that occur under real-world transit bus conditions. While quantifying the effects of electrode degradation stressors in the operating cycle of the bus on the membrane lifetime, the team has discovered links between electrode degradation and membrane durability.

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Researchers develop radioactive nanoparticles that target cancer cells

May 22, 2013 9:09 am | News | Comments

Scientists in Missouri have successfully created nanoparticles made of a radioactive form of the element lutetium. By covering these particles with gold shells and attaching targeting agents, they have a tool that can seek out dangerous secondary lymphoma tumors. They recently demonstrated the nanoparticles can find the tumors without attaching to or damaging healthy cells.

Iron-platinum alloys show promise for next-generation hard drives

May 21, 2013 9:56 am | News | Comments

Meeting the demand for more data storage in smaller volumes means using materials made up of ever-smaller magnets, or nanomagnets. One promising material for a potential new generation of recording media is an alloy of iron and platinum with an ordered crystal structure.

Soft matter offers way to study arrangement of ordered materials

May 21, 2013 7:46 am | News | Comments

A fried breakfast food popular in Spain provided the inspiration for the development of doughnut-shaped droplets that may provide scientists with a new approach for studying fundamental issues in physics, mathematics, and materials. The doughnut-shaped droplets, a shape known as toroidal, are formed from two dissimilar liquids using a simple rotating stage and an injection needle.

Inkjet-printed graphene may open doors to foldable electronics

May 20, 2013 3:15 pm | News | Comments

Northwestern University researchers have recently developed a graphene-based ink that is highly conductive and tolerant to bending, and they have used it to inkjet-print graphene patterns that could be used for extremely detailed, conductive electrodes. The resulting patterns are 250 times more conductive than previous attempts to print graphene-based electronic patterns and could be a step toward low-cost, foldable electronics.

Slow earthquakes: It's all in the rock mechanics

May 20, 2013 2:59 pm | News | Comments

Earthquakes that last minutes rather than seconds are a relatively recent discovery, according to an international team of seismologists. Researchers have been aware of these slow earthquakes, only for the past five to 10 years because of new tools and new observations, but these tools may explain the triggering of some normal earthquakes and could help in earthquake prediction.

Research shows defects in twin boundaries that strengthen materials

May 20, 2013 9:11 am | News | Comments

Through experiments and simulations, a team of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists have found that twin boundaries with good electrical conductivity and a strengthening mechanism in materials may not be so perfect after all.

Physicists create world’s smallest drops

May 17, 2013 12:15 pm | News | Comments

Results of a recent experiment conducted at the Large Hadron Collider may have generated the smallest drops of liquid ever produced in a laboratory. Evidence of the minuscule droplets was extracted from the results of colliding protons with lead ions at velocities approaching the speed of light. According to the scientists’ calculations, these short-lived droplets are the size of three to five protons.

DNA-guided assembly yields ribbon-like nanostructures

May 16, 2013 12:20 pm | News | Comments

Scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have discovered that DNA "linker" strands coax nano-sized rods to line up in way unlike any other spontaneous arrangement of rod-shaped objects. The arrangement—with the rods forming "rungs" on ladder-like ribbons linked by multiple DNA strands—results from the collective interactions of the flexible DNA tethers and may be unique to the nanoscale.

Insights into how materials transfer heat could lead to improved electronics

May 16, 2013 10:50 am | News | Comments

University of Toronto engineering researchers, working with colleagues from Carnegie Mellon University, have published new insights into how materials transfer heat, which could lead eventually to smaller, more powerful electronic devices.

Safer, eco-friendly flame retardant has first-of-its-kind dual effects

May 15, 2013 11:13 am | News | Comments

Amid concerns over the potential health effects of existing flame retardants for home furniture, fabrics and other material, are reporting development of an “exceptionally” effective new retardant that appears safer and more environmentally friendly. The key is a nanocoating made with a relatively benign polymer that creates a “gas blanket,” preventing oxygen from fueling a fire.

Scientists discover new uses for tiny carbon nanotubes

May 15, 2013 7:25 am | News | Comments

The atom-sized world of carbon nanotubes holds great promise for a future demanding smaller and faster electronic components. The challenge has been figuring out how to incorporate all of these nanotubes' great properties into useful electronic devices. A new discovery by four scientists at the University of California, Riverside has brought us closer to the goal.

New insight into early growth of solid thin-films

May 14, 2013 10:07 am | News | Comments

Thin films sometimes grow layer by layer, each layer one atom thick, while in other cases atoms deposited onto a surface form 3D islands that grow, impinge, and coalesce into a continuous film. Scientists have traditionally assumed that the islands are homogeneous and coalesce at roughly the same time. In a recent study, researchers have discovered that the process is more dynamic than suggested by the traditional view.

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