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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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