A surprising phenomenon has been found in metal nanoparticles: They appear, from the outside, to be liquid droplets, wobbling and readily changing shape, while their interiors retain a perfectly stable crystal configuration. The research team behind the finding says the work could have important implications for the design of components in nanotechnology, such as metal contacts for molecular electronic circuits.
Using a common laboratory filter paper decorated with gold nanoparticles, researchers at Washington Univ. in St. Louis have created a unique platform, known as “plasmonic paper,” for detecting and characterizing even trace amounts of chemicals and biologically important molecules, including explosives, chemical warfare agents, environmental pollutants and disease markers.
When a sturdy material becomes soft and spongy, one usually suspects damage. But this is not always the case, especially in biological cells. By looking at microscopic biopolymer networks, researchers in Germany revealed that such materials soften by undergoing a transition from an entangled spaghetti of filaments to aligned layers of bow-shaped filaments that slide past each other. This finding may explain how other filaments flow.
A long-sought goal of creating particles that can emit a colorful fluorescent glow in a biological environment, and that could be precisely manipulated into position within living cells, has been achieved by a team of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and several other institutions. The new technology could make it possible to track the position of the nanoparticles as they move within the body or inside a cell.
Researchers have developed a new method for harvesting the energy carried by particles known as “dark” spin-triplet excitons with close to 100% efficiency, clearing the way for hybrid solar cells which could far surpass current efficiency limits. To date, this type of energy transfer had only been shown for “bright” spin-singlet excitons.
A new crystallographic technique, called fast time-resolved crystallography, developed in the U.K. is set to transform scientists’ ability to observe how molecules work. Although this method, also known as Laue crystallography, has previously been possible, it has required advanced instrumentation that is only available at three sites worldwide. Only a handful of proteins have been studied using the traditional technique.
Anyone who has blown a bubble and seen how quickly it pops has first-hand experience on the major challenge in creating stable foams. At its most basic level, foam is a bunch of bubbles squished together. Liquid foams, a state of matter that arises from tiny gas bubbles dispersed in a liquid, are familiar in everyday life, from beer to bathwater. They also are important in commercial products and processes.
It’s a well-known phenomenon in electronics: Shining light on a semiconductor, such as the silicon used in computer chips and solar cells, will make it more conductive. But now researchers have discovered that in a special semiconductor, light can have the opposite effect, making the material less conductive instead. This new mechanism of photoconduction could lead to next-generation excitonic devices.
Axons are the shafts of neurons, on the tips of which connections are made with other neurons or cells. In a new study in Texas, researchers were able to use microfluidic stimulations to change the path of an axon at an angle of up to 90 degrees. The publication adds insight to the long accepted idea that chemical cues are primarily responsible for axonal pathfinding during human development and nervous system regeneration.
Conventional silicon solar cells could have an inexpensive competitor in the near future. Researchers in Europe have examined the working principle of a cell where an organic-inorganic perovskite compound acts as a light absorber. The scientists observed that charge carriers accumulate in a layer in these photovoltaic elements. If this jam can be dissolved, the already considerable efficiency of these solar cells could be further improved.
Imagine being able to tune the properties of a solid material just by flashing pulses of light on it. That is one potential payoff of electrons and atoms interacting with ultrashort pulses of light. The technology of ultrafast spectroscopy is a key to understanding this phenomenon and now a new wrinkle to that technology, observations of electron self-energy, has been introduced by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers.
Nanoparticles could revolutionize the medical industry, but they must first target a specific region in the body, be trackable, and perform their function at the right moment. Researchers in Japan have made progress in this direction with a new type of nanomaterial: the nanosheet. Specifically, they have designed a strong, stable and optically traceable smart 2-D material that responds to pH, or the acidity or basicity of its environment.
Arrays of tiny conical tips that eject ionized materials are being made at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The technology, which harnesses electrostatic forces, has a range of promising applications, such as spinning out nanofibers for use in “smart” textiles or propulsion systems for fist-sized “nanosatellites.” The latest prototype array that generates 10 times the ion current per emitter that previous arrays did.
Individuals in industrial associations, educational institutions and government organizations who are interested in composites, or materials made from constituent materials with different physical or chemical properties, now have free, 24/7 access to simulation tools through an online community with offices in the Purdue Research Park.
The world’s first “solar battery”, invented by researchers at Ohio State Univ., is a battery and a solar cell combined into one hybrid device. Key to the innovation is a mesh solar panel, which allows air to enter the battery, and a special process for transferring electrons between the solar panel and the battery electrode. Inside the device, light and oxygen enable different parts of the chemical reactions that charge the battery.
Nanostructures of virtually any possible shape can now be made using a combination of techniques developed to exploit the unique properties of so-called perovskites. The group based in the Netherlands, developed a pulsed laser deposition technique to create patterns in ultra thin layers, one atomic layer at a time. The perovskites’ crystal structure is undamaged by this soft lithography technique, maintaining electrical conductivity.
A Duke Univ. team has found that nanoparticles called single-walled carbon nanotubes accumulate quickly in the bottom sediments of an experimental wetland setting, an action they say could indirectly damage the aquatic food chain. According to the research, the risk to humans ingesting the particles through drinking water is slight, but aquatic food chains might be harmed by molecules "piggybacking" on the carbon nanoparticles.
Ice contains many atoms and molecules trapped inside its structure. A team of Univ. of Chicago and Loyola Univ. researchers has discovered a new mechanism they call "stable energetic embedding" of atoms and molecules within ice. This mechanism explains how some molecules, such as CF4, or "carbon tetrafluoride", interact with and become embedded beneath ice surfaces.
Thermal considerations are rapidly becoming one of the most serious design constraints in microelectronics, especially on submicron scale lengths. A study by researchers from the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has shown that standard thermal models will lead to the wrong answer in a 3-D heat-transfer problem if the dimensions of the heating element are on the order of one micron or smaller.
Droplets are simple spheres of fluid, not normally considered capable of doing anything on their own. But now researchers have made droplets of alcohol move through water, even moving through complex mazes. The droplets can be led to certain targets, using a surprisingly simple impetus. In the future, such moving droplets may deliver medicines, moving entire chemistries to targets.
In a rare case of having their cake and eating it too, scientists from NIST and other institutions have developed a toolset that allows them to explore the complex interior of tiny, multi-layered batteries they devised. It provides insight into the batteries’ performance without destroying them, which results in both a useful probe for scientists and a potential power source for micromachines.
A novel x-ray technique used at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source has revealed surprising dynamics in the nanomechanics of operating batteries and suggests a way to mitigate battery failures by minimizing the generation of elastic energy. The method could open a path to wider use of these batteries in conjunction with renewable energy sources.
A little change in temperature makes a big difference for growing a new generation of hybrid atomic-layer structures, according to scientists. Rice Univ. scientists led the first single-step growth of self-assembled hybrid layers made of two elements that can either be side by side and one-atom thick or stacked atop each other. The structure’s final form can be tuned by changing the growth temperature.
The key to creating a material that would be ideal for converting solar energy to heat is tuning the material’s spectrum of absorption just right: It should absorb virtually all wavelengths of light that reach Earth’s surface from the sun—but not much of the rest of the spectrum, since that would increase the energy that is reradiated by the material, and thus lost to the conversion process.
Confined photons have many potential applications, such as efficient miniature lasers, on-chip information storage, or tiny sensors on pharmaceuticals. Making a structure that can capture photons is difficult, but scientists in the Netherlands have recently devised a new type of resonant cavity inside a photonic crystal that imprisons light in all three dimensions.