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A Sisyphean task for polar molecules

November 14, 2012 3:25 pm | by Olivia Meyer-Streng, Max Planck Institute | News | Comments

The investigation of ultracold molecules is of great interest to researchers of quantum computing methods, and could lead to a better understanding of chemical reactions in astrophysics. A recently developed cooling method—called optoelectrical Sisyphus cooling for the molecules’ need to navigate an arduous energy conversion—for polyatomic molecules will help scientists study these molecular gases near absolute zero.

Curiosity’s laboratory instrument suite gets first “taste” of soil

November 14, 2012 2:49 pm | News | Comments

A pinch of fine dust and sand from a patch of windblown material called “Rocknest” became the first sample of soil examined by the Mars Science Laboratory’s suite of laboratory instruments, called Sample Analysis at Mars. The sample was delivered on Nov. 9, allowing the mass spectrometry, gas chromatography, and laser spectrometry instruments to study the sample. Researchers are poring through the data now.

Scientists “clone” carbon nanotubes to unlock electronic potential

November 14, 2012 1:14 pm | News | Comments

Using a new method, researchers at the University of Southern California can now grow carbon nanotube semiconductors of predefined structures. Carbon nanotubes are typically grown using a catalyst. But the scientists instead grew “clones” with predictable diameter and chirality by planting pieces of carbon nanotubes that have been separated and pre-selected based on chirality. This breakthrough may pave the way for carbon to be used in future electronics.


X-ray laser FLASH observes molecular explosion

November 14, 2012 12:56 pm | News | Comments

Infrared laser pulses, when used on a diatomic iodine molecule, can strip away outer valence molecules, causing the ionized molecule to explode and reallocate its electrons. Researchers in Germany have now observed this phenomenon without disturbing the process. This ability comes from ultrashort femtosecond X-ray pulses that are even quicker than the molecular explosion.

Computer memory could increase fivefold with self-assembly

November 13, 2012 7:39 pm | News | Comments

Engineers in Texas have adopted the nanoscale fabrication technique of directed self-assembly to increase the surface storage density of hard disk drives. The method, which relies on block copolymers, is able to organize magnetic dots into patterns far finer than existing methods. And it does so without risking the integrity of the magnetic fields.   

Atom-scale imaging unlocks exact structure of glass

November 13, 2012 7:21 pm | News | Comments

Despite its great importance to industries like semiconductors, glass has remained something of a mystery, at least with respect to the precise position of atoms that make up its structure. Researchers in Germany have recently analyzed the atomic structure of amorphous silica, and are the first to have imaged the network of silicon and oxygen atoms—the main components of glass—in a silica film.

Rust and water are used to store solar energy as hydrogen

November 13, 2012 9:44 am | News | Comments

Photoelectrochemical (PEC) tandem solar cells offer a way to produce hydrogen directly from water. But efforts to produce an efficient cell have only resulted in extremely expensive prototypes. Researchers in Switzerland have recently developed a PEC, however, that is made from inexpensive materials and achieves up to 16% efficiency.

'Strain tuning' reveals promise in nanoscale manufacturing

November 12, 2012 3:22 pm | News | Comments

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have reported progress in fabricating advanced materials at the nanoscale. The spontaneous self-assembly of nanostructures composed of multiple elements paves the way toward materials that could improve a range of energy-efficient technologies and data storage devices.


Touch-sensitive plastic skin heals itself

November 12, 2012 8:09 am | by Kelly Servick, Stanford University | News | Comments

A team of Stanford University chemists and engineers has created the first synthetic material that is both sensitive to touch and capable of healing itself quickly and repeatedly at room temperature. The advance could lead to smarter prosthetics or resilient personal electronics that repair themselves.

Conductance measurements opens doors to molecular electronics

November 9, 2012 12:58 pm | News | Comments

Instead of silicon transistors, the electronics of the future could use molecules to do their arithmetic. Every transistor would still need a connection, however, and researchers at the Max Planck Society have built an example from a narrow band of graphene. Using scanning tunnelling microscopy, the team was able to determine how the conductance of the carbon strip depends on its length and the energy of the electrons.

Study offers new insights into catalytic activity of copper

November 9, 2012 12:38 pm | News | Comments

Catalysis is an incredibly valuable tool in the field of chemistry, but it typically requires precious metals that are both expensive and potentially harmful to the environment. Researchers in Sweden say they have discovered that copper, which is not typically known for its catalytic properties, had unexpectedly been responsible for catalytic activity as part of research into iron catalysts.

A new way of making glass

November 9, 2012 10:46 am | News | Comments

A new way to make glass has been discovered by a collaboration of researchers at the Universities of Düsseldorf and Bristol using a method that controls how the atoms within a substance are arranged around each other. The researchers created the new type of glass in a computer through encouraging atoms in a nickel-phosphorous alloy to form a polyhedron.

Building bones from wood

November 9, 2012 8:42 am | News | Comments

A research project in Europehas the aim of building bone implants that have been sourced from wood. The wood serves as a scaffolding that transforms to a ceramic identical to the mineral part of bone tissue: hydroxyapatite. The researchers believe the approach could appear in a clinical setting within ten years.


New study helps reveal how friction works at the nanoscale

November 8, 2012 12:13 pm | News | Comments

Recent work by scientists in Italy provides a new tool to better understand how sliding friction works in nanotribology, through colloidal crystals. By theoretically studying these systems of charged microparticles, researchers are able to analyze friction forces through molecular dynamics simulations with accuracy never experienced before.

Autoclave aerated concrete: Building material for new millenium?

November 8, 2012 11:34 am | News | Comments

Although widespread rebuilding in the hard-hit New York metro region from Super Storm Sandy has not yet begun, New Jersey Institute of Technology professor Mohamed Mahgoub says when the hammers start swinging, it's time to look at autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC). A combination of finely ground sand, cement, quick lime, gypsum, aluminum, and water, AAC offers light weight, strength, and environmental friendliness, but has yet to catch on widely in the U.S.

Capturing carbon with clever trapdoors

November 8, 2012 11:22 am | News | Comments

One method of capturing carbon dioxide is through molecular sieve that is an ultra-fine filter system that captures a variety of molecules that need further filtering. Engineers in Australia have developed new sieve that allows only carbon dioxide molecules to be trapped and stored, helping to eliminate the cost and energy typically required for filtering.

Engineers build ultrasensitive photon hunter

November 8, 2012 9:50 am | News | Comments

When it comes to imaging, every single photon counts if there is barely any available light. This is the point where the latest technologies often reach their limits. Researchers have now developed a single photon avalanche photodiode that can read individual photons in just a few picoseconds. The speed allows the image sensor to capture high quality images with very low light levels.

Millimeter-wave oscillation possible in ferromagnetic nanocontact device

November 8, 2012 8:47 am | News | Comments

Conventional giant magnetoresistive devices or ferromagnetic tunnel junction devices provide only low frequency oscillation and have been deemed unsuitable for applications requiring millimeter-wave (30-300 GHz) oscillation, including radar. Researchers in Japan have recently demonstrated, however, that oscillations of 5 to 140 GHz is theoretically possible in these devices by supplying direct current.

Stronger than a speeding bullet

November 7, 2012 3:13 pm | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

New tests of nanostructured material developed by scientists at Rice University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology could lead to better armor against everything from gunfire to micrometeorites. The key, they found, was to use composites made of two or more materials whose stiffness and flexibility are structured in very specific ways—such as in alternating layers just a few nanometers thick.

Butterfly wings inspire new high-tech surfaces

November 7, 2012 2:33 pm | by Pam Frost Gorder, Ohio State University | News | Comments

After carefully studying the structure of butterfly wings and rice leaves, Ohio State University engineers designed a coated plastic surface resembling a butterfly wing’s texture. Butterflies in the wild need to have bright, clean wings for reproduction and flying, and the surface created by engineers was reportedly easier to keep free of dust particles than a flat surface. The finding could inform designs for a variety of surfaces in various industries.

Coming soon: Tabletop molecular movies

November 7, 2012 2:07 pm | News | Comments

One of the most urgently sought-after goals in modern science is the ability to observe the detailed dynamics of chemical reactions as they happen—that is, on the spatial scale of molecules, atoms, and electrons, and on the time scale of picoseconds or even shorter. A team of scientists at NIST has devised and demonstrated a highly unusual, compact, and relatively inexpensive x-ray source for an imaging system that may soon be employed to produce the kind of “molecular movies” that scientists and engineers need.

The first controllable atom SQUID

November 7, 2012 9:43 am | News | Comments

Scientists at NIST have created the first controllable atomic circuit that functions analogously to a superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) and allows operators to select a particular quantum state of the system at will. By manipulating atoms in a superfluid ring thinner than a human hair the investigators were able for the first time to measure rotation-induced discrete quantized changes in the atoms’ state, thereby providing a proof-of-principle design for an “atomtronic” inertial sensor.

Power supply for sensors created with a printer

November 7, 2012 9:13 am | News | Comments

Wireless sensor networks monitor machinery and equipment in factories, cars and power stations. They increasingly “harvest” the energy they need to transmit measurement data from the environment, thus making them self-sufficient. At the Electronica 2012 trade fair, researchers will present a printed thermogenerator, which they say will be able to generate energy supply for sensors through temperature differences.

New type of gel allows scientists to control its properties at will

November 6, 2012 11:44 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Switzerland have just published research on how to combine two gels in such a way that they can monitor and change, almost at will, the transparency, electrical properties, and stiffness of the material. Called a “bigel”, the unique material was built by combining DNA fragments with nanoparticles.

A step toward stronger polymers

November 6, 2012 8:56 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed, for the first time, a way to measure how many loops are present in a given polymer network, an advance they believe is the first step toward creating better materials that don't contain weak spots.

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