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Separating finely mixed oil and water

July 1, 2014 11:51 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Whenever there is a major spill of oil into water, the two tend to mix into a suspension of tiny droplets, called an emulsion, that is extremely hard to separate and can cause severe damage to ecosystems. A new membrane developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers can separate even these highly mixed fine oil-spill residues.

A smashing new look at nanoribbons

July 1, 2014 9:56 am | News | Comments

Recent research at the Rice Univ. lab of materials scientist Pulickel Ajayan has discovered that nanotubes that hit a target end first turn into mostly ragged clumps of atoms. But nanotubes that happen to broadside the target unzip into handy ribbons that can be used in composite materials for strength and applications that take advantage of their desirable electrical properties.

Engineers envision electronic switch just three atoms thick

July 1, 2014 9:53 am | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | News | Comments

Computer simulation has shown Stanford Univ. engineers how to make a crystal that would toggle like a light switch between conductive and non-conductive structures. This flexible, switchable lattice, just three atoms thick, can be turned on or off by mechanically pushing or pulling, and could lead to flexible electronic materials.

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Interlayer distance in graphite oxide gradually changes when water is added

June 30, 2014 2:21 pm | News | Comments

Physicists in Europe have solved a mystery that has puzzled scientists for half a century. it has long been known that the distance between the graphene oxide layers depends on the humidity, not the actual amount of water added. But now, with the help of powerful microscopes, it can be seen how distance between graphite oxide layers gradually increases when water molecules are added, and why this phenomenon occurs.

More pores for more power

June 30, 2014 2:10 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Germany have produced a new material the size of a sugar cube that has a surface area equivalent to more than seven tennis courts. This novel type of nanofiber has a highly ordered and porous structure gives it an extraordinarily high surface-to-volume ratio and could be a key enabling technology for lithium-sulfur batteries.

Scientists develop force sensor from carbon nanotubes

June 30, 2014 2:05 pm | News | Comments

A group of researchers from Russia, Belarus and Spain, including MIPT professor Yury Lozovik, have developed a microscopic force sensor based on carbon nanotubes. The device consists of two nanotubes placed so that their open ends are opposite to each other. Voltage of just 10 nA is then applied to the nanocircuit and force is measured by the change in position of the nanotubes.

Physicists explain counterintuitive phenomenon in superconductivity

June 30, 2014 8:54 am | by Julie Cohen, UC Santa Barbara | News | Comments

For his doctoral dissertation, Yu Chen developed a novel way to fabricate superconducting nanocircuitry. However, the extremely small zinc nanowires he designed did some unexpected things, including demonstrating dissipation characteristics though only to be present in normal states. After long and careful work, which involved both experimental and theoretical efforts, researchers have found an explanation that fits.

Silver in the washing machine

June 30, 2014 8:35 am | News | Comments

The antibacterial properties of silver-coated textiles are popular in the fields of sport and medicine. A team in Switzerland has now investigated how different silver coatings behave in the washing machine, and they have discovered something important: textiles with nano-coatings release fewer nano-particles into the washing water than those with normal coatings.

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Diamond plates create nanostructures through pressure, not chemistry

June 27, 2014 3:09 pm | News | Comments

You wouldn’t think that mechanical force could process nanoparticles more subtly than the most advanced chemistry. But researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have created a newly patented and original method that uses simple pressure to produce finer and cleaner results in forming silver nanostructures than do chemical methods, which are not only inflexible in their results but leave harmful byproducts.

Chemists develop magnetically responsive liquid crystals

June 27, 2014 9:38 am | News | Comments

Scientists at the Univ. of California, Riverside have constructed liquid crystals with optical properties that can be instantly and reversibly controlled by an external magnetic field. Unlike conventional liquid crystals, which rotate and align themselves when an electric field is applied, the new crystals are essentially a liquid dispersion of magnetic nanorods.

Carbon-fiber epoxy honeycombs mimic material performance of balsa wood

June 25, 2014 4:06 pm | by Paul Karoff, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

In wind farms across North America and Europe, sleek turbines equipped with state-of-the-art technology convert wind energy into electric power. But tucked inside the blades of these feats of modern engineering is a decidedly low-tech core material: balsa wood.

New synthesis method generates functionalized carbon nanolayers

June 25, 2014 8:10 am | News | Comments

An international team has developed an elegant method for producing self-organized and functionalized carbon nanolayers and equipping them chemically with a range of functions. The effort depended on the development of a special compound, the molecules of which were aligned perfectly in parallel to each other in a single self-organized layer, like the bristles on a brush.

Oak Ridge National Lab launches imaging institute

June 24, 2014 10:06 am | by Dawn Levy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Oak Ridge National Laboratory has launched the Institute for Functional Imaging of Materials to accelerate discovery, design and deployment of new materials. The institute will meld world-class capabilities in imaging, high-performance computing, materials science and other scientific disciplines to probe materials.

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Morphable surfaces could cut air resistance

June 24, 2014 7:56 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

There’s a story about how the modern golf ball, with its dimpled surface, came to be: In the mid-1800s, it’s said, new golf balls were smooth, but became dimpled over time as impacts left permanent dents. Smooth new balls were typically used for tournament play, but in one match, a player ran short, had to use an old, dented one, and realized that he could drive this dimpled ball much further than a smooth one.

Measuring the mass of “massless” electrons

June 23, 2014 2:57 pm | News | Comments

The electrons in graphene behave as “massless” particles, yet these electrons also seem to have dual personalities. Phenomena observed in the field of graphene plasmonics suggest that when the electrons move collectively, they must exhibit mass. After two years of effort, researchers at Harvard Univ. have successfully measured the collective mass of “massless” electrons in motion in graphene.

Super-stretchable yarn is made of graphene

June 23, 2014 12:30 pm | News | Comments

According to researchers, a simple, scalable method of making strong, stretchable graphene oxide fibers that are easily scrolled into yarns and have strengths approaching that of Kevlar is possible. An international collaboration has recently produced graphene oxide yarn fibers much stronger than other carbon fibers.

“Sensing skin” quickly detects cracks, damage in concrete structures

June 23, 2014 8:10 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. and the Univ. of Eastern Finland have developed new “sensing skin” technology designed to serve as an early warning system for concrete structures, allowing authorities to respond quickly to damage in everything from nuclear facilities to bridges.

Researchers develop new ultra-light, ultra-stiff 3-D printed materials

June 19, 2014 4:11 pm | by Kenneth Ma, LLNL | News | Comments

Imagine a material with the same weight and density as aerogel—a material so light it's called “frozen smoke”—but with 10,000 times more stiffness. This material could have a profound impact on the aerospace and automotive industries as well as other applications where lightweight, high-stiffness and high-strength materials are needed.

Physicists predict behavior of rare materials

June 19, 2014 10:56 am | News | Comments

New theoretical physics research reveals rare materials that possess both controllable magnetic and electric polarization properties at near-room temperatures. The discovery could lead to longer battery life and increased memory storage for electronic devices, said Yurong Yang, a research assistant professor at the Univ. of Arkansas.

Collecting light with artificial moth eyes

June 18, 2014 4:00 pm | News | Comments

Researchers the world over are investigating solar cells which imitate plant photosynthesis, with the goal of using sunlight and water to create synthetic fuels such as hydrogen. Scientists in Switzerland have developed this type of photoelectrochemical cell, but this one recreates a moth’s eye to drastically increase its light collecting efficiency. The cell is made of cheap raw materials: iron and tungsten oxide.

Crowdsourcing the phase problem

June 17, 2014 4:26 pm | News | Comments

The term “crowdsourcing” was coined in 2006 and since then has seen its definition broadened to a wide range of activities involving a network of people. A challenging problem that might benefit from crowdsourcing, according to recently published research, is the phase problem in x-ray crystallography. Retrieving the phase information has plagued many scientists for decades when trying to determine the crystal structure of a sample.

Nanoparticle production method could lead to better lights, lenses, solar cells

June 17, 2014 4:02 pm | News | Comments

Titanium dioxide nanoparticles show great promise as optical encapsulants or fillers for tunable refractive index coatings. However, they've been largely shunned because they’ve been difficult and expensive to make. Scientists at Sandia National Laboratories have now come up with an inexpensive way to synthesize properly sized titanium dioxide nanoparticles and is seeking partners who can demonstrate the process at industrial scale.

Superconducting secrets solved after 30 years

June 16, 2014 9:14 am | News | Comments

A breakthrough has been made in identifying the origin of superconductivity in high-temperature superconductors, which has puzzled researchers for the past three decades. Researchers in the U.K. have found that ripples of electrons, known as charge density waves or charge order, create twisted ‘pockets’ of electrons in these materials, from which superconductivity emerges.

Nanoscale composites improve MRI

June 16, 2014 7:31 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Submicroscopic particles that contain even smaller particles of iron oxide could make magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) a far more powerful tool to detect and fight disease. Scientists at Rice Uni. led an international team of researchers in creating composite particles that can be injected into patients and guided by magnetic fields.

Nano-imaging probes molecular disorder

June 13, 2014 10:59 am | News | Comments

In semiconductor-based components, high mobility of charge-carrying particles is important. In organic materials, however, it is uncertain to what degree the molecular order within the thin films affects the mobility and transport of charge carriers. Using a new imaging method, researchers have shown that thin-film organic semiconductors contain regions of structural disorder that could inhibit the transport of charge and limit efficiency.

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