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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.

Material screening method allows more precise control over stem cells

April 11, 2013 5:43 pm | News | Comments

When it comes to delivering genes to living human tissue, the odds of success come down the molecule. The entire therapy— including the tools used to bring new genetic material into a cell—must have predictable effects. Now, a new screening process will simplify non-viral transfection, providing a method researchers and clinicians use to find an optimal set of biomaterials to deliver genes to cells.

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Researchers establish link between mechanical, structural properties of glass

April 11, 2013 1:58 am | News | Comments

For the first time, researchers from Amsterdam University in The Netherlands and DESY in Germany have now monitored subtle structural changes in a glass made from microscopic silica spheres, which they exposed to shear stress. Using a unique experimental setup at DESY’s PETRA III X-ray source, the scientists discovered coexisting structural states in the glass and related them to its flow behavior.

GUMBOS technology promises new drugs, electronic devices

April 10, 2013 1:06 pm | News | Comments

Mention a breakthrough involving "gumbo" technology in this city, and people think of a new twist on The Local Dish, the stew that's the quintessence of southern Louisiana cooking. But scientific presentations at a meeting of the world's largest scientific society this week are focusing on what may be an advance in developing GUMBOS-based materials with far-reaching medical, electronic and other uses.

Redesigned material could lead to lighter, faster electronics

April 10, 2013 12:57 pm | News | Comments

The same material that formed the first primitive transistors more than 60 years ago can be modified in a new way to advance future electronics, according to a new study. Chemists at The Ohio State University have developed the technology for making a one-atom-thick sheet of germanium, and found that it conducts electrons more than ten times faster than silicon and five times faster than conventional germanium.

Researchers invent better single-photon emitter for quantum cryptography

April 9, 2013 6:31 pm | News | Comments

In a development that could make the advanced form of secure communications known as quantum cryptography more practical, University of Michigan researchers have demonstrated a simpler, more efficient single-photon emitter that can be made using traditional semiconductor processing techniques.

Tin nanocrystals for the battery of the future

April 9, 2013 6:17 pm | by Fabio Bergamin, ETH Zurich | News | Comments

More powerful batteries could help electric cars achieve a considerably larger range and thus a breakthrough on the market. A new nanomaterial made from tiny tin crystals, deployed at the anode of lithium-ion batteries, has been developed in the labs of chemists in Europe and enables considerably more power to be stored in these batteries.

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“Artificial leaf” gains ability to self-heal damage, produce energy from dirty water

April 9, 2013 5:47 am | News | Comments

Another innovative feature has been added to the world’s first practical “artificial leaf,” making the device even more suitable for providing people in developing countries and remote areas with electricity, scientists reported at the American Chemical Society’s National Meeting & Exposition this week. It gives the leaf the ability to self-heal damage that occurs during production of energy.

Tortuous paths hamper ion transport

April 9, 2013 5:15 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Switzerland have used X-ray tomography to screen lithium-ion battery electrodes and have reconstructed these microstructures in high resolution. The flow behavior of the lithium ions, they have found, can be described by what is known as tortuosity. To put it simply, the more twisted the path of the ions through the electrode, the more slowly the battery is charged or discharged.

Nanowires with the power to transform solar energy

April 9, 2013 5:00 am | News | Comments

Imagine a solar panel more efficient than today’s best solar panels, but using 10,000 times less material. This is what researchers in France expect given recent findings on these tiny filaments called nanowires. Solar technology integrating nanowires could capture large quantities of light and produce energy with incredible efficiency at a much lower cost.

Experts propose research priorities for making concrete “greener”

April 8, 2013 4:20 am | News | Comments

The challenge of making concrete greener—reducing its sizable carbon footprint without compromising performance—is just like the world's most ubiquitous manufactured material—hard! But, according to a new report from NIST, the potential engineering performance, energy-efficiency, and environmental benefits make it a challenge worth tackling.

Electron conflict leads to “bad traffic” on way to superconductivity

April 5, 2013 6:28 pm | News | Comments

Rice University physicists on the hunt for the origins of high-temperature superconductivity have published new findings about a seemingly contradictory state in which a material simultaneously exhibits the conflicting characteristics of both a metallic conductor and an insulator. In this condition, some electrons remain mobile while their neighbors are locked down.

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Teijin enhances heat and impact resistance of its bioplastic

April 3, 2013 3:11 pm | News | Comments

Japan-based Teijin Limited has developed technology to significantly enhance the heat and impact resistance of PLANEXT, the company’s high-performance bioplastic. The technology modifies the molecular design of PLANEXT to achieve greatly improved heat resistance with a glass-transition temperature of 120 C, as well as superior resistance to impact.

Manipulating ultrafast spin at terahertz frequencies

April 3, 2013 10:46 am | News | Comments

The use of femtosecond light pulses—the fastest man-made event—with photon energies ranging from X-rays (as used for instance at the HZB femto-slicing facility) to terahertz spectral range has proved to be an indispensable tool in ultrafast spin and magnetization dynamics studies. Researchers have recently demonstrated a simple but powerful way of manipulating the spins at these unprecedented speeds.

A new understanding of metallic glass

April 3, 2013 9:00 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Gelatin sets by forming a solid matrix full of random, liquid-filled pores—much like a saturated sponge. It turns out that a similar process also happens in some metallic glasses, substances whose molecular behavior has now been clarified by new Massachusetts Institute of Technology research detailing the “setting” of these metal alloys.

Creating magnetic superatoms

April 3, 2013 8:39 am | News | Comments

Sounding like something out of a comic book, superatoms are not only an enticing idea, but experiments have confirmed they exist. Scientists at Virginia Commonwealth University have collaborated with scientists from Johns Hopkins University to synthesize the first magnetic superatoms.

Geckos keep firm grip in wet natural habitat

April 2, 2013 12:50 pm | News | Comments

A paper published this week offers a comprehensive answer to the long-debated question of how geckos are able to stick to trees and leaves during rainforest downpours. Researchers tackling this problem have discovered that wet, hydrophobic surfaces like those of leaves and tree trunks secure a gecko's grip similar to the way dry surfaces do. This link between “wettability” and adhesion could developers of synthetic adhesives.

Nanoengineered plastic film is the future of 3D on-the-go

April 2, 2013 12:40 pm | News | Comments

Ditch the 3D glasses. Thanks to a simple plastic filter, mobile device users can now view unprecedented, distortion-free, brilliant 3D content with the naked eye. This latest innovation from researchers in Singapore is the first ever glasses-free 3D accessory that can display content in both portrait and landscape mode, and measures less than 0.1 mm in thickness.

Inorganic materials display massive swelling and shrinkage

April 1, 2013 8:15 pm | News | Comments

There is high interest in methods to produce 2D crystals by exfoliating materials with layered structures, but certain ions or solvents can infiltrate materials with layered structures, forcing exfoliation spontaneously and complicating efforts to build practical materials. While working to develop these procedures, researchers in Japan have reported an unusual phenomenon that layered materials undergo drastic swelling without breaking into separate 2D crystal layers.

Chemical vapor sensors built with new monolayer materials

April 1, 2013 1:33 pm | News | Comments

Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory have fabricated a vapor sensor using a single monolayer of molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) on a silicon dioxide wafer. They show that it functions effectively as a chemical vapor sensor, exhibiting highly selective reactivity to a range of analytes, and providing sensitive transduction of transient surface physisorption events to the conductance of the monolayer channel.

Sensory helmet could mean firefighters are not left in the dark

March 29, 2013 1:38 pm | News | Comments

A specially-adapted “tactile helmet”, developed by researchers at the University of Sheffield, could provide fire-fighters operating in challenging conditions with vital clues about their surroundings. The helmet is fitted with a number of ultrasound sensors that are used to detect the distances between the helmet and nearby walls or other obstacles. These signals are transmitted to vibration pads that are attached to the inside of the helmet, touching the wearer's forehead.

Theory, practice key to optimized broadband, low-loss optical metamaterials

March 28, 2013 7:49 pm | by A'ndrea Elyse Messer, Penn State | News | Comments

Metamaterials are manufactured materials that derive their unusual properties from structure rather than only composition. In the past, to control the optics of metamaterials, researchers used complicated structures including 3D rings and spirals that are difficult to manufacture in large numbers and small sizes. Researchers at Penn State have applied nature-inspired optimization techniques based on genetic algorithms to simplify efforts to shape wavelength dispersion.

Foldable ceramic is wafer-thin, electrically conductible

March 28, 2013 12:25 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Germany have produced a paper-like material from a vanadium pentoxide ceramic which is as hard as copper, yet flexible enough to be rolled up or folded. The material is also different from other ceramics, as it is electrically conductive. Its special mechanical properties are derived from its structure, which resembles that of mother-of-pearl, and looks promising for applications in batteries, flat and flexible gas sensors, and actuators in artificial muscles.

Engineers enable bulk silicon to emit visible light for the first time

March 27, 2013 2:56 pm | News | Comments

Certain semiconductors, when imparted with energy, in turn emit light; they directly produce photons, instead of producing heat. This phenomenon is commonplace and used in light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. Research from the University of Pennsylvania has enabled "bulk" silicon to emit broad-spectrum, visible light for the first time, opening the possibility of using the element in devices that have both electronic and photonic components.

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