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Peeling back the layers of thin film structure and chemistry

July 11, 2014 12:33 pm | by Erika Gebel Berg, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Perovskites continue to entice materials scientists with their mix of conductivity, ferroelectricity, ferromagnetism, and catalytic activity. In recent years, scientists realized that they could vastly improve the properties of perovskites by assembling them into thin films, but nobody knew the reason why. But studying the chemistry layer-by-layer, experts working with x-ray beamline at Argonne National Laboratory are getting close.

Uncertainty gives scientists new confidence in search for novel materials

July 11, 2014 8:19 am | by Andrew Gordon, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists at Stanford Univ. and the Dept. of Energy (DOE)’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have found a way to estimate uncertainties in computer calculations that are widely used to speed the search for new materials for industry, electronics, energy, drug design and a host of other applications. The technique, reported in Science, should quickly be adopted in studies that produce some 30,000 scientific papers per year.

Silicon oxide memories catch manufacturers’ eye

July 10, 2014 5:06 pm | by Jade Boyd, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

First developed five years ago at Rice Univ., silicon oxide memories are a type of two-terminal, “resistive random-access memory” (RRAM) technology that beats flash memory’s data density by a factor of 50. At Rice, the laboratory of chemist and 2013 R&D Magazine Scientist of the Year James Tour has recently developed a new version of RRAM that Tour believes outperforms more than a dozen competing versions.

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“Nanopixels” promise thin, flexible high-res displays

July 10, 2014 9:35 am | News | Comments

A team in the U.K. has found that by sandwiching a 7-nm thick layer of a phase change material between two layers of a transparent electrode they could use a tiny current to “draw” images within the sandwich “stack”. The discovery could make it possible to create pixels just a few hundred nanometers across and pave the way for extremely high-resolution and low-energy thin, flexible displays.

Technology illuminates colder objects in deep space

July 10, 2014 7:42 am | News | Comments

Too cool and faint, many objects in the universe are impossible to detect with visible light. Now a Northwestern Univ. team has refined a new technology that could make these colder objects more visible, paving the way for enhanced exploration of deep space. The new technology uses a type II superlattice material called indium arsenide/indium arsenide antimonide (InAs/InAsSb).

Chemists develop novel catalyst with two functions

July 9, 2014 8:47 am | by Dr. Julia Weiler, Ruhr Univ. Bochum | News | Comments

A new type of catalyst, based on carbon, can facilitate two opposite reactions: electrolysis of water and combustion of hydrogen with oxygen. This bi-functionality, developed by researchers in Germany, is made possible from its construction: manganese-oxide or cobalt-oxide nanoparticles which are embedded in specially modified carbon, then integrated with nitrogen atoms in specific positions.

Using sand to improve battery performance

July 8, 2014 7:43 pm | by Sean Nealon, Univ. of California, Riverside | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of California, Riverside have used a quartz-rich material to fabricate a lithium-ion battery that outperforms the current industry standard by three times. This key material? Sand. Through a heating process with salt and magnesium, the scientists created a porous nano-silicon sponge that greatly increases active surface area.  

Highly reactive gold carbene complex shines in emerald green

July 8, 2014 1:09 pm | News | Comments

With a chemical “trick”, scientists in Germany have succeeded in isolating a stable gold carbene complex. Experts have been proposing gold carbenes as essential short-lived intermediates in catalytic reactions, but they elude study because of their high reactivity. Chemist Prof. Dr. Bernd F. Straub and his team are the first to have created the basis for directly examining the otherwise unstable gold-carbon double bond.

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New research shows that friction and fracture are interrelated

July 8, 2014 12:51 pm | News | Comments

Overturning conventional wisdom stretching all the way to Leonardo da Vinci, new research from Israel shows that how things break and how things slide are closely interrelated. The breakthrough study marks an important advance in understanding friction and fracture, with implications for describing the mechanics that drive earthquakes.

Silicon sponge improves lithium-ion battery performance

July 8, 2014 10:20 am | News | Comments

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed a porous material to replace the graphite traditionally used in a battery's electrodes. Made from silicon, which has more than 10 times the energy storage capacity of graphite, the sponge-like material can help lithium-ion batteries store more energy and run longer on a single charge.

Consider the “anticrystal”

July 7, 2014 3:12 pm | News | Comments

For the last century, the concept of crystals has been a mainstay of solid-state physics. Crystals are paragons of order; crystalline materials are defined by the repeating patterns their constituent atoms and molecules make. Now physicists have evidence that a new concept should undergird our understanding of most materials: the anticrystal, a theoretical solid that is completely disordered.

With "ribbons" of graphene, width matters

July 7, 2014 9:39 am | by Laura L. Hunt, UW-Milwaukee | News | Comments

Using graphene ribbons just several atoms across, a group of researchers at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has found a novel way to “tune” the material, causing the extremely efficient conductor of electricity to act as a semiconductor. By imaging the ribbons with scanning-tunneling microscopy, researchers have confirmed how narrow the ribbon width must be. Achieving less than 10 nm in width is a big challenge.

Japanese gold leaf artists worked on the nanoscale

July 2, 2014 3:10 pm | News | Comments

Ancient Japanese gold leaf artists were truly masters of their craft. An analysis of six of these Japanese paper screens show that these artifacts are gilded with gold leaf that was hand-beaten to the nanometer scale. The study was able to prove this without any damage to the screens through the use of x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy.

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Toward a new way to keep electronics from overheating

July 2, 2014 1:05 pm | News | Comments

Using something called a microchannel heat sink to simulate the warm environment of a working computer, researchers in Malaysia have analyzed three nanofluids for the traits that are important in an effective coolant. The results of their study show that the nanofluids, which are made of metallic nanoparticles that have been added to a liquid, such as water, all performed better than water as coolants, with one mixture standing out.

Nature of solids and liquids explored through new pitch drop experiment

July 2, 2014 12:47 pm | News | Comments

Known as the “world's longest experiment”, an experiment at the University of Queensland in Australia was famous for taking ten years for a drop of pitch, a black, sticky material, to fall from a funnel. A new test in the U.K. is using a different bitumen, or pitch, which is 30 times less viscous than the Queensland experiment, so that the flow can be seen at a faster rate and hopefully provide more insights.

New NIST metamaterial gives light a one-way ticket

July 2, 2014 11:58 am | News | Comments

The light-warping structures known as metamaterials have a new trick in their ever-expanding repertoire. Researchers at NIST have built a silver, glass and chromium nanostructure that can all but stop visible light cold in one direction while giving it a pass in the other. The device could someday play a role in optical information processing and in novel biosensing devices.

Inspired by nature, researchers create tougher metal materials

July 2, 2014 11:56 am | News | Comments

Materials science experts in North Carolina and China collaborated on work that drew inspiration from the structure of bones and bamboo. The team has found that by gradually changing the internal structure of metals, stronger, tougher materials can be created and customized for a wide variety of applications, from body armor to automobile parts. The gradient structure concept works on numerous metals, including stainless steel and nickel.

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.

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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