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Wrinkled surfaces could have widespread applications

August 1, 2012 4:30 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A group of Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers has discovered a way of making perfectly ordered and repeatable surfaces with patterns of microscale wrinkles. The method involves chemical vapor deposition of a layer onto a stretched silicon-polymer substrate. When tension is released first one way, then the other, a perfectly ordered wrinkled pattern emerges.

Quantum spin liquids get a new flavor

August 1, 2012 4:22 am | News | Comments

At its most fundamental level, classical physics considers liquids as being made up of atoms, ions or molecules that swirl and flow. In the quantum world, atomic spins can also be liquid-like. While the spins in these “quantum spin liquids” are not mobile, the directions that they point in fluctuate, like a collection of overly excited Weebles. The finding of a new class, or flavor, of quantum spin liquids in the mineral kapellasite by an international team is attracting excitement as it could herald the discovery of new types of quantum properties.

New coating evicts biofilms for good

July 31, 2012 8:19 am | News | Comments

Biofilms stick to just about everything, from copper pipes to steel ship hulls to glass catheters, and can be both a nuisance and a health threat. A team of Harvard University scientists has developed a slick 99%-effective way to prevent the troublesome bacterial communities from ever forming on a surface.

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Decades-old mystery how buckyballs form has been solved

July 31, 2012 8:14 am | News | Comments

Born under highly energetic conditions, making them grow quickly, the caged-carbon buckyball molecules are now famous, but still difficult to analyze. Until recently, scientists still weren’t quite sure how they formed. The puzzle was solved, unusually, by attempting to destroy a paste of buckyball with a high-energy laser.

The atomic nucleus: Fissile liquid or molecule of life?

July 31, 2012 5:26 am | News | Comments

A new view of the nucleus that unifies its liquid and molecule-like aspects has been suggested by a research team in Europe. For the first time, they have demonstrated one of the necessary conditions for the formation of molecule-like behavior within the atomic nucleus, and their theory draws on a comparison with a neutron star.

How to avoid traps in plastic electronics

July 31, 2012 5:15 am | News | Comments

Plastic semiconductors have an important design flaw: The electronic current is influenced by poorly understood "charge traps" in the material. A new study by an international team of researchers reveals a common mechanism underlying these traps and provides a theoretical framework to design trap-free plastic electronics.

Airborne pollutants lead a double life

July 31, 2012 5:09 am | News | Comments

Researchers at Harvard University and the University of British Columbia have provided visual evidence that atmospheric particles separate into distinct chemical compositions during their life cycle. They confirmed experimentally that changes in relative humidity can separate the organic and inorganic material in individual atmospheric particles into distinct liquid phases, much like oil separates from water.

Lotus leaf inspires fog-free finish for transparent surfaces

July 31, 2012 5:05 am | News | Comments

Superhydrophobic surfaces, such as the lotus leaf, are excellent at repelling water and also boast other "smart" self-cleaning, anti-glare, anti-icing, and anti-corrosion properties. By using hollow silica nanoparticles that resemble raspberries, scientists in China have applied a clear, slick, water-repellent surface to glass.

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Graphene isolation technique marks a new level of nano-engineering

July 30, 2012 10:24 am | News | Comments

Using a new side-view imaging technique, scientists in the U.K. have shown that their method for sandwiching individual graphene sheets between insulating layers in order to produce electrical devices works almost perfectly, even when more than 10 different layers are used to build the stack.

Scientists demonstrate breakthrough in tunnel barrier technology

July 30, 2012 10:20 am | News | Comments

Researchers reporting fabrication of magnetic tunnel junctions using graphene between two ferromagnetic metal layers have demonstrated, for the first time, the use of graphene as a tunnel barrier—an electrically insulating barrier between two conducting materials through which electrons tunnel quantum mechanically. They accomplished the feat using a fully scalable photolithographic process.

Breakthrough leads to record efficiency for next-generation solar cells

July 30, 2012 10:10 am | News | Comments

Researchers from the University of Toronto and King Abdullah University of Science & Technology in Saudi Arabia have made a breakthrough in the development of colloidal quantum dot (CQD) films, reaching 7.0% in conversion efficiency. A combination of organic and inorganic chemistry was used to produce the most efficient CQD solar cell ever, an improvement of 37% over previous efforts.

Photovoltaics from any semiconductor

July 27, 2012 4:29 am | News | Comments

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers have developed a technology that enables low-cost, high-efficiency solar cells to be made from virtually any semiconductor material. This opens the door to the use of plentiful, relatively inexpensive semiconductors previously considered unsuitable for photovoltaics.

New transistor can switch the state of matter

July 26, 2012 11:19 am | News | Comments

Developed at RIKEN in Japan, a new type of transistor harnessing strong electron correlations can actually enable electrical switching of the state of matter. The device uses the electrostatic accumulation of electrical charge on the surface of a strongly-correlated material to trigger bulk switching of electronic state.

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Need it, print it

July 26, 2012 7:01 am | News | Comments

Imagine being able to design a new aircraft engine part on a computer, and then being able to it. Not the design; the actual part. And not just a lightweight, nonfunctional model, but an actual working part to be installed in an engine. The University of Dayton Research Institute was awarded $3 million for the Ohio Third Frontier to provide specialized materials for use in additive manufacturing.

Cluster of gold atoms visualized for the first time

July 26, 2012 4:18 am | News | Comments

Physicists have theorized for many years how atoms of gold and other elements would be arranged. Ten years ago the structure of a 20-atom tetrahedral pyramid was proposed by scientists in the United States. U.K. physicists have now revealed this atomic arrangement for the first time by imaging the cluster with an electron microscope.

Lithography project could produce pliable cell phone

July 25, 2012 10:40 am | by Herb Booth | News | Comments

A new manufacturing process called “micropunching” lithography can be used to create lightweight, low-cost, and flexible polymer-based devices, such as sensors, actuators, or even a cellular telephone. According to its inventor, the technique has the potential to replace silicon-based materials commonly used in computers and other electronic devices.

Scientists create artificial mother of pearl

July 25, 2012 7:23 am | News | Comments

Nacre, also called mother of pearl, is the iridescent coating that is found on the inside of some molluscs and on the outer coating of pearls. By recreating the biological steps that form nacre in molluscs, the scientists were able to manufacture a material which has a similar structure, mechanical behaviour, and optical appearance of that found in nature.

Researchers create artificial mother of pearl

July 25, 2012 6:53 am | News | Comments

Mimicking the way mother of pearl, also called nacre, is created in nature, scientists have, for the first time, synthesized the strong, iridescent coating found on the inside of some mollusks. By recreating the biological steps that form nacre in mollusks, the scientists were able to manufacture a material which has a similar structure, mechanical behavior, and optical appearance of that found in nature.

Versalis to partner with Genomatica, Novamont for bio-based butadiene

July 24, 2012 11:19 am | News | Comments

Versalis together with Genomatica and Novamont signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to establish a strategic partnership to enable production of butadiene from renewable feedstocks. The partnership, on the basis of which a joint venture will be established, will develop a comprehensive end-to-end process for production of polymer-grade butadiene from biomass.

Goodyear discovers soybean oil can reduce use of petroleum in tires

July 24, 2012 11:04 am | News | Comments

The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company announced a development that could help consumers and the environment by reducing the amount of petroleum-based oil used in tires, while at the same time, extending tread life.

Research shows feasibility for capturing carbon dioxide directly from air

July 24, 2012 6:44 am | News | Comments

With a series of papers published in chemistry and chemical engineering journals, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology have advanced the case for extracting carbon dioxide directly from the air using newly developed adsorbent materials.

NASA successfully tests hypersonic inflatable heat shield

July 24, 2012 5:05 am | News | Comments

A large inflatable heat shield developed by NASA's Space Technology Program has successfully survived a trip through Earth's atmosphere while travelling at hypersonic speeds up to 7,600 mph. A cone of uninflated high-tech rings covered by a thermal blanket of layers of heat resistant materials, the shield was launched Monday from a three-stage Black Brant rocket for its suborbital flight.

“Rattle memory” moves magnetic data with a ratcheting magnetic field

July 23, 2012 7:36 am | News | Comments

Ion irradiation creates an asymmetric potential or 'ratchet' for the main walls (visualised as light yellow spheres). The bit with a magnetic coating is shifted one position to

How pre-eruption collisions affect what exist a volcano

July 23, 2012 7:10 am | News | Comments

Recent volcanic eruptions have demonstrated our continued vulnerability to ash dispersal, which can disrupt the aviation industry and cause billions of dollars in economic loss. Volcanic particle size is determined by the initial fragmentation process, when bubbly magma deep in the volcano changes into gas-particle flows. Recent laboratory experiments and computer simulations of this particle breakup, known as granular disruption, sheds light on the type of fragmentation likely to produce fine-grained ash.

Artificial jellyfish swims in a heartbeat

July 23, 2012 3:46 am | News | Comments

Using recent advances in marine biomechanics, materials science, and tissue engineering, a team of researchers at Harvard University and the California Institute of Technology have turned inanimate silicone and living cardiac muscle cells into a freely swimming "jellyfish."

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