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Seahorse's armor gives engineers insight into robotics designs

May 1, 2013 12:55 pm | News | Comments

The tail of a seahorse can be compressed to about half its size before permanent damage occurs, engineers at the University of California, San Diego have found. The tail’s exceptional flexibility is due to its structure, made up of bony, armored plates, which slide past each other. Researchers are hoping to use a similar structure to create a flexible robotic arm equipped with muscles made out of polymer.

Zinc: The perfect material for bioabsorbable stents?

May 1, 2013 9:49 am | by Marcia Goodrich, Michigan Technological University | News | Comments

In 2012, more than 3 million people had stents inserted in their coronary arteries. But the longer a stent is in the body, the greater the risk of late-stage side effects. Studies have investigated iron- and magnesium-based bioabsorbable stents, but iron rusts and magnesium dissolves too fast. Recent research shows that a certain type of zinc alloy might be the answer.

Material loss protects teeth against fatigue failure

May 1, 2013 9:07 am | News | Comments

Computer simulations conducted in Germany have shown that the reduction of natural dental wear might be the main cause for widely spread non-carius cervical lesions—the loss of enamel and dentine at the base of the crown—in our teeth. The discovery was made by examining the biomechanical behavior of teeth using finite element analysis methods typically applied to engineering problems.

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Mysterious catalyst explained

May 1, 2013 9:01 am | by Julia Weiler, Ruhr University Bochum | News | Comments

Methanol to formaldehyde: This reaction is the starting point for the synthesis of many everyday plastics. Using catalysts made of gold particles, however, formaldehyde could be produced without the environmentally hazardous waste generated in conventional methods. But just how a gold catalyst could work has only recently been discovered by researchers. 

Room-temperature nuclear spins advance quantum computing efforts

April 30, 2013 11:42 am | News | Comments

An international team of researchers has recently succeeded in both initializing and reading nuclear spins—which are relevant to qubits for quantum computers—at room temperature. With the help of a spin filter developed in 2009, the team has produced a flow of free electrons with a given spin in a material. 

Silicone liquid crystal stiffens with repeated compression

April 29, 2013 4:19 pm | News | Comments

Squeeze a piece of silicone and it quickly returns to its original shape, as squishy as ever. But scientists at Rice University have discovered that the liquid crystal phase of silicone becomes 90% stiffer when silicone is gently and repeatedly compressed. Their research could lead to new strategies for self-healing materials or biocompatible materials that mimic human tissues.

Research find quantum phenomena can have effect on molecular level

April 29, 2013 10:42 am | News | Comments

Using uniquely sensitive experimental techniques, scientists have found that laws of quantum physics—believed primarily to influence at only sub-atomic levels—can actually impact on a molecular level. The study shows that movement of the ring-like molecule pyrrole over a metal surface runs counter to the classical physics that govern our everyday world.

Scientists control chirality in carbon nanotubes

April 29, 2013 10:30 am | News | Comments

Twenty years after the discovery of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs), a team of scientists in Finland, Russia, and Denmark has managed to control chirality in carbon nanotubes during their chemical vapor deposition synthesis. Because chirality defines the optical and electronic properties of nanotubes, the ability to predict it has been a longstanding goal for materials developers.

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Semiconductor spray paint could create organic electronics

April 25, 2013 9:46 am | News | Comments

Wake Forest University's Organic Electronics group has developed an organic semiconductor “spray paint” that can be applied to large surface areas without losing electric conductivity. The new spray-deposition method has the advantages of drop casting, spin coating, and prior spray-on techniques: It can applied to large surfaces of any medium, retaining electrical performance.

Researchers synthesize world’s first supramolecular thiophene nanosheets

April 25, 2013 9:36 am | News | Comments

A team of researchers from Japan and Germany have recently developed the world’s first 2D organic sheets from the heterocyclic compound thiophene, resulting in a 3.5-nm thick surfaces that are much more easily controlled in terms of size than similar graphene sheets. The sheets, which have been assembled for the first time in a simple, low-cost method, can also be chemically functionalized.

Antibacterial hydrogel offers protection from stubborn infections

April 24, 2013 5:00 pm | News | Comments

Coating medical supplies with an antimicrobial material is one approach that bioengineers are using to combat the increasing spread of multidrug-resistant bacteria. A research team in Singapore has now developed a highly effective antimicrobial coating based on cationic polymers. The coating can be applied to medical equipment, such as catheters.

New battery design could help solar and wind power the grid

April 24, 2013 3:58 pm | News | Comments

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have designed a low-cost, long-life battery that could enable solar and wind energy to become major suppliers to the electrical grid. The developers believe their new membrane-free battery, based on lithium and sulfur, may be the best yet designed to regulate alternative energies.

A greener method for making popular nanoparticle

April 24, 2013 10:37 am | News | Comments

Already renowned for its beneficial effects on human health, green tea could have a new role—along with other natural plant-based substances—in a healthier, more sustainable production of silver nanoparticles. According to a recent study, extracts from green tea and other plants could be used as substitutes for toxic materials normally used to make these popular nanoparticles.

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Surface structure controls liquid spreading

April 24, 2013 8:15 am | News | Comments

Researchers at Aalto University have developed a purely geometric surface structure that is able to stop and control the spreading of liquids on different types of surfaces. The structure has an undercut edge that works for all types of liquids, irrespective of their surface tension.

A blueprint for reversible wrinkling in composite materials

April 24, 2013 7:40 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Many natural composite materials have evolved to wrinkle in response to certain stimuli; and scientists say that understanding the mechanisms by which materials internally wrinkle could help in creating new, responsive materials. Now researchers have identified the mechanics involved in the wrinkling of thin interfacial layers within soft composite materials, and developed a model based on material properties and geometry.

Researchers capture wasted heat, use it to power devices

April 23, 2013 11:37 am | by Matthew Chin and Bill Kisliuk, UCLA | News | Comments

Excess heat, like that generated by extended use of a computer or other device, naturally creates what is known as a spin wave that can move a domain wall, the dividing line between magnetic materials that point in different directions. Using this phenomenon, scientists in California have demonstrated how to add power to a spintronics device using electron spin rather than electron charge.

Research findings open door to zinc-oxide-based UV lasers

April 23, 2013 8:31 am | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State University have solved a long-standing materials science problem, making it possible to create new semiconductor devices using zinc oxide (ZnO)—including efficient ultraviolet (UV) lasers and light-emitting diode (LED) devices for use in sensors and drinking water treatment, as well as new ferromagnetic devices.

Nanoparticle probes could drastically drop cost of two-photon microscopy

April 22, 2013 11:09 am | News | Comments

A dye-based imaging technique known as two-photon microscopy can produce pictures of active neural structures in much finer detail than functional magnetic resonance imaging, but it requires expensive femtosecond lasers to fluoresce existing dyes. A research team at the University of Pennsylvania has developed a new kind dye that fluoresces easily and produces quality images with far less powerful lasers.

Germanium made compatible with lasers

April 22, 2013 9:27 am | News | Comments

By introducing high tensile strain, a research group in Switzerland has rendered germanium, which is normally unsuitable for lasers, capable of emitting 25 times more photons than in its relaxed state. This change alters the optical properties of the material and is enough to allow the construction of lasers from this material. This is valuable because germanium is highly compatible with silicon.

Where does charcoal, or black carbon, in soils go?

April 22, 2013 7:43 am | News | Comments

The ability to determine the fate of charcoal is critical to knowledge of the global carbon budget, which in turn can help understand and mitigate climate change. However, until now, researchers only had scientific guesses about what happens to charcoal once it's incorporated into soil. They believed it stayed there. Surprisingly, the findings of a new study shows that most of these researchers were wrong.

Study: Nanosilver from consumer products quickly breaks down in water

April 18, 2013 10:07 am | News | Comments

Nanosilver in wastewater can cause severe environmental damage if it occurs as a metal. A study recently conducted in Switzerland. now shows that nanosilver is quickly transformed into less problematic substances on its way to the wastewater treatment plant. In addition, it is efficiently retained in the sewage sludge so that only a small portion of it reaches the water systems.

Team produces best image yet of atoms moving real time

April 17, 2013 4:59 pm | News | Comments

Using an ultra-bright electron source, scientists at the University of Toronto have recorded atomic motions in real time, offering a glimpse into the very essence of chemistry and biology at the atomic level. Their recording is a direct observation of a transition state in which atoms undergo chemical transformation into new structures with new properties.

High temperature alloy may be perfect solder for well electronics

April 17, 2013 9:01 am | by Meg Marquardt, Materials 360 Online | News | Comments

Technology used in downhole applications—such as geothermal or oil-well monitoring—must endure punishing conditions, from very high temperatures to tremendous pressures. Finding a solder material that can perform in these harsh environments is a constant challenge. Researchers have recently repurposed a solder alloy once intended defense applications that has all the right properties for well tasks.

New device could cut costs on household products, pharmaceuticals

April 16, 2013 9:54 am | by Michelle Ma, University of Washington | News | Comments

Surfactant molecules, which are commonly found in soaps and detergents, have two main parts, a head and a tail, that help them break down and penetrate grease and oil. A research team has recently built a palm-sized microfluidics tool that passes water, detergent, and salt through tiny posts, producing a viscous, elastic gel that requires fewer surfactant molecules.

Engineers craft material for high-performance supercapacitor

April 15, 2013 8:01 am | News | Comments

Taking a significant step toward improving the power delivery of systems ranging from urban electrical grids to regenerative braking in hybrid vehicles, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles have synthesized a material that shows high capability for both the rapid storage and release of energy.

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