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Synthetic polymers enable durable alkaline fuel cells

August 9, 2013 7:54 am | News | Comments

A new cost-effective polymer membrane can decrease the cost of alkaline batteries and fuel cells by allowing the replacement of expensive platinum catalysts without sacrificing important aspects of performance, according to Penn State Univ. researchers.

NanoMech wins 2013 R&D 100 Award

August 8, 2013 3:22 pm | News | Comments

NanoMech announced that TuffTek is a winner of a 2013 R&D 100 Award. TuffTek has redefined the cutting tool industry by significantly improving the heat resistance of the tools as well as their precision and wear resistance. TuffTek performance increases are due in large part to the new product’s nanocomposite patents using bio-inspired and nano-engineered technology for advanced machining of automotive and aerospace components.

Disorder creates rust protection

August 8, 2013 12:01 pm | News | Comments

Corrosion and rust exacts a substantial financial toll on economic output. But determining how it affect steels and alloys has traditionally been difficult. However, recent studies that have analyzed an amorphous steel of iron, chromium, molybdenum, boron and carbon show that the more ordered a material’s structure is, and the more uneven the distribution of its atoms, the more easily it is corroded by rust.

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Size matters in nanocrystals’ ability to release gases

August 7, 2013 8:20 am | by David Salisbury, Vanderbilt Univ. | News | Comments

Nanocrystals can grab specific molecules and particles out the air, hold on to them and then release them. But progress in utilizing adsorption and desorption has been hindered by limitations in existing methods for measuring the physical and chemical changes that take place in individual nanocrystals. A newly developed system may solve this by directly measuring the manner in which nanocrystals adsorb and release hydrogen and other gases.

Disorder can improve performance of plastic solar cells

August 7, 2013 7:48 am | by Mark Shwartz, Stanford University | News | Comments

Scientists have spent decades trying to build flexible plastic solar cells efficient enough to compete with conventional cells made of silicon. To boost performance, research groups have tried creating new plastic materials that enhance the flow of electricity through the solar cell. Recently, scientists discovered that disorder at the molecular level actually improves the polymers' performance.

Technique allows closer study of how radiation damages materials

August 6, 2013 9:56 am | News | Comments

A team of researchers led by North Carolina State Univ. has developed a technique that provides real-time images of how magnesium changes at the atomic scale when exposed to radiation. The technique may give researchers new insights into how radiation weakens the integrity of radiation-tolerant materials, such as those used in space exploration and in nuclear energy technologies.

Interface superconductivity withstands variations in atomic configuration

August 6, 2013 8:54 am | News | Comments

Scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have discovered an unexpected and anomalous pattern in the behavior of one high-performing class of HTS materials. In the new frontier of interface physics, two non-conducting materials can be layered to produce HTS behavior, with tantalizing and mystifying results.

Alternative materials could bring “plasmonic” technologies

August 6, 2013 7:50 am | News | Comments

Researchers are working on a range of options to overcome a fundamental obstacle in commercializing plasmonic metamaterials that could bring advanced optical technologies for more powerful computers, new cancer treatments and other innovations. The materials could make it possible to harness clouds of electrons called "surface plasmons" to manipulate and control light.

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Auto lubricant could rev up medical imaging

August 5, 2013 9:57 am | News | Comments

Engineers at the Univ. of California, Berkeley have built a device that could speed up medical imaging without breaking the bank. The key ingredient? An engine lubricant called molybdenum disulfide, or MoS2, which has been sold in auto parts shops for decades.

Understanding interface properties of graphene paves way for new applications

August 5, 2013 8:43 am | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. and the Univ. of Texas have revealed more about graphene’s mechanical properties and demonstrated a technique to improve the stretchability of graphene—developments that should help engineers and designers develop new technologies that make use of the material.

A layer of tiny grains can slow sound waves

August 5, 2013 8:18 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In some ways, granular material can behave much like a crystal, with its close-packed grains mimicking the precise, orderly arrangement of crystalline atoms. Now researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have pushed that similarity to a new limit, creating 2-D arrays of micrograins that can funnel acoustic waves, much as specially designed crystals can control the passage of light or other waves.

A crystal of a different color

August 5, 2013 7:52 am | News | Comments

Chemists have unexpectedly made two differently colored crystals—one orange, the other blue—from one chemical in the same flask while studying a special kind of molecular connection called an agostic bond. The discovery is providing new insights into important industrial chemical reactions such as those that occur while making plastics and fuels.

Materials break, then remake, bonds to build strength

August 5, 2013 7:40 am | News | Comments

Microscopic tears in a new kind of man-made material may actually help the substance bulk up like a bodybuilder at the gym. A Duke Univ. team has shown how normally destructive mechanical forces can be channeled to bring about stronger materials. The material responses are like Silly Putty transforming into a solid as stiff as a pen cap or a runny liquid transforming into soft Jell-O.

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Light that moves and molds gels

August 1, 2013 4:08 pm | News | Comments

Some animals, like the octopus and cuttlefish, transform their shape based on environment. For decades, researchers have worked toward mimicking similar biological responses in non-living organisms, as it would have significant implications in the medical arena. Now, researchers at the Univ. of Pittsburgh have demonstrated such a biomimetic response using hydrogels.

Ultrathin saw for cutting silicon is made of carbon nanotubes

August 1, 2013 9:09 am | News | Comments

Semiconductor manufacturers look for ways to save wafer material. According to recent research, ultra-thin saws made of carbon nanotubes and coated with diamond would be able to cut through silicon wafers with minimum loss. A new method that grows both nanotubes and diamonds makes it possible to manufacture the saw wires.

Wonders of nature inspire exotic man-made materials

August 1, 2013 8:34 am | News | Comments

In Physics World, a group of physicists describe how unique structures in the natural world are inspiring scientists to develop new types of materials with unprecedented properties. From adhesive tape inspired by the toes of geckos to a potential flaw-resistant coating of airplanes inspired by mother of pearl, the attractiveness centers on one concept—hierarchical design.

Researchers discover universal law for light absorption in 2-D semiconductors

July 31, 2013 5:30 pm | by Lynn Yarris, Berkeley Lab | News | Comments

Many of today’s semiconductor technologies hinge upon the absorption of light. Absorption is critical for nano-sized structures at the interface between two energy barriers called quantum wells, in which the movement of charge carriers is confined to two dimensions. Working with the semiconductor indium arsenide, a team of researchers has discovered a quantum unit of photon absorption that should be general to all 2-D semiconductors.

Insect-inspired super rubber moves toward practical uses in medicine

July 31, 2013 10:52 am | News | Comments

A recent publication evaluates the latest advances toward using a protein called resilin in nanosprings, biorubbers, biosensors and other applications. This remarkable protein is rubber-like and enables dragonflies, grasshoppers and other insects to flap their wings, jump and chirp. Resilin could have major potential uses in medicine.

A step towards energy-efficient voltage control of magnetic devices

July 31, 2013 9:08 am | News | Comments

Researchers from NIST and the Univ. of California, Berkeley have discovered a way to create simultaneous images of both the magnetic and the electric domain structures in ferromagnetic/ferroelectric multilayer materials. By combining these two types of materials, it is possible to create low-power magnetic devices, including memory that can be controlled by electric fields instead of less energy-efficient magnetic fields.

Microdroplets stabilized using ink jet process

July 30, 2013 2:31 pm | by Angelika Jacobs, ETH Zurich | News | Comments

To save material and resources, scientists are trying to reduce their experiments to increasingly smaller sizes and scales. But micrometer-sized droplets evaporate very quickly, making the smooth handling of a micro experiment difficult. Researchers in Switzerland have address this difficulty by making use of a process they developed for 3D printing electronic parts to control and stabilize tiny droplets.

Researchers create electronic ink from silicon nanocrystals

July 30, 2013 12:02 pm | News | Comments

A collaboration of scientists from the Univ. of Minnesota and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have developed a new method to use an ionized gas, called nonthermal plasma, to produce silicon nanocrystals and cover their surfaces with a layer of chlorine atoms. This method allows production of stable silicon inks without organic ligand molecules and also greatly enhances conductivity.

The best of two worlds: Solar hydrogen production breakthrough

July 29, 2013 2:43 pm | News | Comments

Using a simple solar cell and a photo anode made of a metal oxide, scientists in Europe have successfully stored nearly 5% of solar energy chemically in the form of hydrogen. The significance of the advance is based on the design of the solar cell, which is much simpler than that of the high-efficiency triple-junction cells based on amorphous silicon or class III-V semiconductors.

Researchers discover new material for cooling electronic devices

July 29, 2013 2:24 pm | News | Comments

A team of theoretical physicists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and Boston College has identified cubic boron arsenide as a material with an extraordinarily high thermal conductivity and the potential to transfer heat more effectively from electronic devices than diamond, the best-known thermal conductor to date.

Nanostructured Powders

July 29, 2013 2:10 pm | Product Releases | Comments

Innovnano, a manufacturer of high performance ceramic powders, has invested in a high-tech, brand new facility for production of its nanostructured powders, including 3 and 4 mol % yttria stabilized zirconia (YSZ). The new site, based in Portugal, will enable the production of up to 1000 tons per year.

Researchers set the stage for “programmable matter” using nanocrystals

July 29, 2013 9:56 am | News | Comments

Nanoscientists who recently created beautiful, tiled patterns with flat nanocrystals faced a mystery: Why did crystals arrange themselves in an alternating, herringbone style, even though it wasn’t the simplest pattern? Help from computer simulations have given them a new tool for controlling how objects one-millionth the size of a grain of sand arrange themselves into useful materials.

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