Getting biomolecules past the body’s numerous defenses requires innovations such as drug-delivering nanoparticles. Polylactic acid (PLA) is a potential candidate because it is non-toxic, biodegradable, and spontaneously assembles into tiny structures under the right conditions. Researchers in Singapore have developed a robust method to synthesize PLA nanoparticles using copolymer technology and a rigid “nanocage” made from silicon.
Using carbon nanotubes, a research team in Switzerland and California has developed a sensor that greatly amplifies the sensitivity of commonly used but typically weak vibrational spectroscopic methods, such as Raman spectroscopy. This type of sensor makes it possible to detect molecules present in the tiniest of concentrations.
Increasingly, military and security operations occur at night. Darkness offers protection, but the existence of thermal optics means the need to guard against more than just visual detection. Many concealment solutions in use now offer only partial coverage of the infrared spectrum. Conceal Camouflage Technology from Milliken & Co. and SSZ Camouflage Technology AG offers coverage across a broad thermal range, from 2,500 to 12,000 nm.
A carbon-negative plastic has been sought-after for many years. While a material that pulls carbon out of the air has been produced, the cost to produce it has been three times higher than the cost to produce plastic from oil. Developers at Newlight Technologies LLC, however, have achieved a scalable, cost-effective production method for AirCarbon, a high-performance thermoplastic made by pulling carbon out of air.
Leveraging the amazing natural properties of the Morpho butterfly's wings, scientists have developed a hybrid material that shows promise for wearable electronic devices, highly sensitive light sensors and sustainable batteries. A honeycomb network of carbon nanotubes has actually been grown on Morpho butterfly wings, creating a composite material that can be activated with a laser.
More than 100 million gallons of cutting fluid is used each year in the U.S. to protect wet machining tools. Dry machining is a more ecologically friendly alternative to wet machining, but a lack of available cutting tools that offer the necessary lubrication and desired hot hardness has limited its usage. NanoMech Inc. has now introduced a technology that offers a potential 500% efficiency improvement on the industry-standard multilayer coatings for dry machining.
During aircraft operation, gas turbine engines are continuously exposed to erosive material that can damage engine parts. Coatings help protect wear components, and the advent of nanostructured materials has led to further improvements. MDS Coatings Technology Corp. has introduced an erosion-resistant nanocoating material and application process that significantly reduces damage to compressor airfoils.
Low-cost, convenient diagnostics are sought after, and colorimetric sensors such as pH paper offer a compelling mix of features. However, the expansion of colorimetric indicators to broad classes of chemical compounds is challenging because arbitrary chemical processes are seldom couple to visible color changes. The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard Univ., has introduced a multifunctional colorimetric indicator film that is as easy to use as pH paper, but can function with application to any type of liquid.
Demand for precise but efficient and durable micromachining solutions has prompted intensive research into better protective surfaces and coatings for machine tools. Diamond coatings offer a proven blend of toughness and smoothness, but producing these films can be problematic. NCD Technologies, with the assistance of Argonne National Laboratory, has introduced a new chemical process for applying diamond coatings that avoids standard acid etching treatments that weaken the tool.
Solidia Cement, a replacement for traditional PC binders from Solidia Technologies Inc., is intended to reduce emissions through the use of calcium metasilicate that can either be naturally mined or synthesized by solid-state reaction at lower temperatures than traditional methods.
Devices based on gallium arsenide (GaAs) have numerous applications, such as photovoltaics, because it is a wide bandgap semiconductor and can be used under extreme conditions—high-temperature, high-power and high-radiation environments—where conventional silicon-based devices can’t adequately perform. However, GaAs wafers have been expensive, inflexible and limited to 6 in in diameter. TexMat LLC and TapeSolar have introduced a new type of GaAs wafer that is flexible and can be produced in sizes measuring in meters, not inches.
Improvements to lithium-ion batteries have been difficult in part because of the relative simplicity of the battery. However, the glue-like binders used to hold electrode materials in place have been identified as a potential area for improvements. Typically, these anodic materials have been based on graphite. At Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a Conducting Polymer Binder has been developed based on silicon and offers four features of improvement over previous technologies.
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.