Researchers from the RIKEN Center for Life Science Technologies and Chiba Univ. have developed a high-temperature superconducting wire with an ultrathin polyimide coating only 4 micrometers thick, more than 10 times thinner than the conventional insulation used for high-temperature superconducting wires. The breakthrough should help the development of more compact superconducting coils for medical and scientific devices.
Graphene was originally made using a method called “exfoliation” which involves pulling graphite apart. Growing graphene epitaxially is more suitable for mass production, but the industry still lacks fast, inexpensive measurement tools to guarantee product quality. A new technique developed in the U.K. is based on optical microscopy and can be used to understand the effect of a silicon carbide substrate on the quality of the graphene layer.
A new nanocomposite material that exhibits hundreds of times greater strength than pure metals has been developed by researchers in Korea. The nanomaterial consists of graphene inserted in copper and nickel and exhibits strengths 500 times and 180 times, respectively, greater than that of pure metals.
In recent years, thermoelectric materials have enabled the re-use of otherwise wasted thermal energy as electrical power. But this ability is limited to materials, typically complex crystals, exhibiting high electrical conductivity and low thermal conductivity. Scientists have now discovered a way of suppressing thermal conductivity in sodium cobaltate, opening new paths for energy scavenging.
A RMIT Univ. research collaboration with top scientists in Australia and Japan is advancing next-generation solar cells. Currently, cadmium or lead elements dominate colloidal nanocrystals synthesis, despite toxicity concerns. In its research, the team has discovered a new selective synthesis of tetrahedrite and famatinite copper antimony sulphide nanocrystals, which could be promising for printable solar cell applications.
Over the last few years, the use of nanomaterials for water treatment, food packaging, pesticides, cosmetics and other industries has increased. A growing concern is that these particles could pose a potential health risk has prompted a large number of studies, including recent work at the Univ. of Missouri that showed the retention of silver nanoparticles in pear skin, even after repeated washing.
In the future, carbon nanomembranes are expected to be able to filter out very fine material or even gases. Right now, basic research is concentrating on methods for the production of these nanomembranes. Using a new process a research team in Germany has produced 12 different carbon nanomembranes from a variety of starting materials.
A simple kitchen sink experiment helped Northwestern Univ. researchers discover that green tea leaves not only can be used to steep a good cup of tea, but they make an excellent antibacterial coating, too. And so can red wine, dark chocolate and cacao beans, they found. It's the powerful and healthful polyphenols at work in a new way.
Lakes and streams are often receiving so much phosphorous that it can pose a threat to the local aquatic environment. Now, research in Denmark shows that an easy and inexpensive solution is available to prevent phosphorus from being discharged to aquatic environments: crushed concrete from demolition sites.
Most solar cells today are inorganic and made of crystalline silicon. These cells tend to be expensive, rigid and relatively inefficient when it comes to converting sunlight into electricity. Work by a team of chemical engineers at Penn State Univ. and Rice Univ. may lead to a new class of inexpensive organic solar cells, one that skips difficult-to-scale fullerene acceptors and relies on molecular self-assembly instead.
It is well known to scientists that the three common phases of water (ice, liquid and vapor) can exist stably together only at a particular temperature and pressure, called the triple point. Scientists now have made the first-ever accurate determination of a solid-state triple point in a substance called vanadium dioxide, which is known for switching rapidly from an electrical insulator to a conductor.
A three-year-old discovery made using x-ray spectroscopy has lead to the development of a new tool that enables scientists to get a “fingerprint” of the interactions on the atomic scale. The finding is based on observations of the disappearance of photons at a specific photon energy. This creates a fingerprint that can be interpreted and linked to specific chemical interactions.
An international team of researchers have recently showed that water purification membranes enhanced by plasma-treated carbon nanotubes are ideal for removing contaminants and brine from water. The study may lead to the next generation of portable water purification devices, which could be rechargeable and the size of a teapot.
Scientists at Switzerland have developed a new method for making antimicrobial surfaces that can eliminate bacteria under a minute. The breakthrough relies on a new sputtering technique that uses a highly ionized plasma to, for the first time, deposit antibacterial titanium oxide and copper films on 3-D polyester surfaces. This promotes the production of free radicals, which are powerful natural bactericides.
Liquid crystals are composed of long, thin, rod-like molecules which align themselves so they all point in the same direction. By controlling the alignment of these molecules, scientists can literally tie them in a knot. Researchers in the U.K. have done just this, tying knots in liquid crystals using a miniature Möbius strip made from silica particles.
When it comes to improving the performance of lithium-ion batteries, no part should be overlooked; not even the glue that binds materials together in the cathode, researchers at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford Univ. have found. Tweaking that material, which binds lithium sulfide and carbon particles together, created a cathode that lasted five times longer than earlier designs.
Polyethylene, an inexpensive commodity plastic, has been successfully used by researchers to synthesize the “ideal” polymer nanocrystal. Normally, this plastic is only partly crystalline, but a new catalyst has produced material that eliminates amorphous structures. The crystalline nanostructure could prove of interest to production of new kinds of coatings.
Tissues designed with pre-formed vascular networks are known to promote rapid vascular integration with the host. Generally, prevascularization has been achieved by seeding or encapsulating endothelial cells, but these methods are slow. Hydrogels have also been tried, but a new technique developed in Singapore uses hydrogels with a new patterning process to quickly incorporate different cell types separately into different fibers.
Researchers at Aalto Univ. and the Univ. of Tokyo have succeeded for the first time in experimentally measuring a probability distribution for entropy production of electrons. Entropy production means an increase in disorder when electrons are moved individually between two microscopic conductors of differing temperatures.
Weighing in at two thirds less than aluminium, magnesium is the lightest structural metal. It has many potential industrial applications, but uptake is severely restricted by its poor resistance to corrosion. Scientists have found a way to dramatically reduce the corrosion rate of magnesium, however, and it involves adding arsenic.
A team led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Amit Goyal, a former R&D Scientist of the Year, has demonstrated that superconducting wires can be tuned to match different operating conditions by introducing small amounts of non-superconducting material, or defects, that influences how the overall material behaves. A wire sample grown with this process exhibited new levels of performance in terms of engineering critical current density.
The evolution of fluid drops deposited on solid substrates has been a focus of large research effort for decades, and most recently it has focused on nanoscale properties. Two New Jersey Institute of Technology researchers are the first to demonstrate that simulations based on continuum fluid mechanics can explain the nanoscale dynamics of liquid metal particles on a substrate.
Scientists in France and China have embedded dye molecules in a liquid crystal matrix to throttle the group velocity of light back to less than one billionth of its top speed. The team says the ability to slow light in this manner may one day lead to new technologies in remote sensing and measurement science.
Polymer, or plastic, solar cells contain Earth-abundant and environmentally benign materials, can be made flexible and lightweight, and can be fabricated using roll-to-roll technologies. But the cells’ power-conversion efficiency has been limited. A Northwestern Univ. research reports the design and synthesis of new polymer semiconductors a plastic solar cells with fill factors of 80%. This number is close to that of silicon solar cells.
Flexible thin film solar cells that can be produced by roll-to-roll manufacturing are a highly promising route to cheap solar electricity. Researchers in Switzerland report that they have designed a low-cost cadmium telluride solar cell technology based on metal foil substrates. By doping the cells with cooper, they have elevated efficiency from 8 to 11.5%.