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Bending in search of new materials

November 11, 2014 2:15 pm | by Britt Faulstick, Drexel Univ. | News | Comments

Making a paper airplane in school used to mean trouble. Today it signals a promising discovery in materials science research that could help next-generation technology get off the ground. Researchers at Drexel Univ. and Dalian Univ. of Technology in China have chemically engineered a new, electrically conductive nanomaterial that is flexible enough to fold, but strong enough to support many times its own weight.

Good vibrations rock an insulator to go metallic

November 11, 2014 8:24 am | by Dawn Levy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

For more than 50 years, scientists have debated what turns particular oxide insulators, in which electrons barely move, into metals, in which electrons flow freely. Some scientists sided with Nobel Prize–winning physicist Nevill Mott in thinking direct interactions between electrons were the key. Others believed, as did physicist Rudolf Peierls, that atomic vibrations and distortions trumped all.

Heat transfer sets noise floor for ultra-sensitive electronics

November 11, 2014 8:10 am | by Ken Than, Caltech | News | Comments

A team of engineers and scientists has identified a source of electronic noise that could affect the functioning of instruments operating at very low temperatures, such as devices used in radio telescopes and advanced physics experiments. The findingscould have implications for the future design of transistors and other electronic components.

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First look at atom-thin boundaries

November 10, 2014 10:55 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have made the first direct observations of a 1-D boundary separating two different, atom-thin materials, enabling studies of long-theorized phenomena at these interfaces. Theorists have predicted the existence of intriguing properties at 1-D boundaries between two crystalline components, but experimental verification has eluded researchers.

New materials yield record efficiency polymer solar cells

November 10, 2014 10:20 am | by Tracey Peake, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. and Hong Kong Univ. of Science and Technology have found that temperature-controlled aggregation in a family of new semiconducting polymers is the key to creating highly efficient organic solar cells that can be mass produced more cheaply. Their findings also open the door to experimentation with different chemical mixtures that comprise the active layers of the cells.

Longhorn beetle inspires ink to fight counterfeiting

November 5, 2014 9:30 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

From water marks to colored threads, governments are constantly adding new features to paper money to stay one step ahead of counterfeiters. Now a longhorn beetle has inspired yet another way to foil cash fraud, as well as to produce colorful, changing billboards and art displays. In ACS Nano, researchers report a new kind of ink that mimics the beetle’s color-shifting ability in a way that would be long-lasting and difficult to copy.

Novel sodium-conducting material could improve rechargeable batteries

November 5, 2014 9:23 am | by NIST | News | Comments

Rechargeable battery manufacturers may get a jolt from research performed at NIST and several other institutions, where a team of scientists has discovered a safe, inexpensive, sodium-conducting material that significantly outperforms all others in its class. The team's discovery is a sodium-based, complex metal hydride, a material with potential as a cheaper alternative to the lithium-based conductors used in many rechargeable batteries.

Combining “Tinkertoy” materials with solar cells for increased photovoltaic efficiency

November 5, 2014 8:42 am | by Mike Janes, Sandia National Laboratories | News | Comments

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have received a $1.2 million award from the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s SunShot Initiative to develop a technique that they believe will significantly improve the efficiencies of photovoltaic materials and help make solar electricity cost-competitive with other sources of energy.

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Engineer readies for rapid discovery of metallic glasses

November 4, 2014 9:22 am | by Rase McCry, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Yale Univ. engineer Jan Schroers will lead a three-year, $1.2 million project intended to dramatically accelerate the pace of discovering and characterizing bulk metallic glasses (BMGs), a versatile type of pliable glass that’s stronger than steel. The grant will enable Schroers’ team to screen more than 3,000 potential BMG alloys in a week, a vast improvement over traditional methods.

New way to make batteries safer

November 3, 2014 4:51 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Every year, nearly 4,000 children go to emergency rooms after swallowing button batteries, the flat, round batteries that power toys, hearing aids, calculators and many other devices. Ingesting these batteries has severe consequences, including burns that permanently damage the esophagus, tears in the digestive tract and, in some cases, even death.

Outsmarting thermodynamics in self-assembly of nanostructures

November 3, 2014 1:56 pm | by Rachel Berkowitz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

If you can uniformly break the symmetry of nanorod pairs in a colloidal solution, you’re a step ahead of the game toward achieving new and exciting metamaterial properties. But traditional thermodynamic-driven colloidal assembly of these metamaterials, which are materials defined by their non-naturally-occurring properties, often result in structures with high degree of symmetries in the bulk material.

Chemists gain edge in next-gen energy

November 3, 2014 1:37 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists who want to gain an edge in energy production and storage report they have found it in molybdenum disulfide. The Rice laboratory of chemist James Tour has turned molybdenum disulfide’s 2-D form into a nanoporous film that can catalyze the production of hydrogen or be used for energy storage.

A quantum leap in nanoparticle efficiency

October 31, 2014 12:55 pm | News | Comments

In an international study Univ. of Melbourne and NIST found that pairs of closely spaced nanoparticles made of gold can act as “optical antennas”. These antennae concentrate the light shining on them into tiny regions located in the gap between the nanoparticles. Researchers found the precise geometry of nanoparticle pairs that maximizes light concentration, resolving a hotly debated area of quantum physics.

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Pilot study reveals new findings about microplastics in wastewater

October 31, 2014 10:19 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Germany have employed micro-FTIR and ATR-FTIR spectroscopy to determine precisely the type and source of microplastics found in the wastewater of a regional water association in Lower Saxony. With these infrared imaging methods, it is now possible to specifically classify plastics, such as those used in toothpaste, cosmetics, fleece jackets and packaging.

“Swiss cheese” membrane with variable holes

October 31, 2014 10:01 am | News | Comments

A new membrane, developed scientists in the Netherlands, can be made more or less porous “on demand”. In this way, smart switching between “open” and “closed” is possible, which opens the way to innovative applications in biosensors, chemical analysis and catalysis.

Imaging electrons moving at 80,000 m/sec in a semiconductor

October 29, 2014 12:45 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Japan have directly observed and recorded electron flow at 80,000 m/sec in a semiconductor. They did so by combining a new laser pulse light source and a photoemission electron microscope to develop an ultra high-speed microscope that enabled visualization of electrons on a 20 nm and 200 femtosec scale.

Nanoparticle safety: The quest for the gold standard

October 29, 2014 9:53 am | News | Comments

Researching the safety of nanoparticles is all the rage. Thousands of scientists worldwide are conducting research on the topic, examining the question of whether titanium dioxide nanoparticles or carbon nanotubes can get into the body’s lungs or blood. However, the amount of new knowledge has only increased marginally. How do nanoparticles get into the body? Researchers in Switzerland are attempting to establish standards.

Cheap and efficient method improves SERS

October 28, 2014 12:07 pm | News | Comments

Researchers with CiQUS in Spain have developed a new method to overcome limitations of surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS), an ultra-sensitive analytical technique able to detect chemicals in very low concentration. The research results show how to cut production costs of substrates and also tackle the lack of reproducibility usually associated to this technique.

Watching the hidden life of materials

October 28, 2014 9:25 am | News | Comments

Researchers at McGill Univ. have succeeded in simultaneously observing the reorganizations of atomic positions and electron distribution during the transformation of the “smart material” vanadium dioxide from a semiconductor into a metal. The observations are made in a time frame a trillion times faster than the blink of an eye.

Emergent behavior lets bubbles “sense” environment

October 27, 2014 12:46 pm | Videos | Comments

Tiny, soapy bubbles can reorganize their membranes to let material flow in and out in response to the surrounding environment, according to new research. This behavior could be exploited in creating microbubbles that deliver drugs or other payloads inside the body, and could help us understand how the very first living cells on Earth might have survived billions of years ago.

New evidence for exotic, predicted superconducting state

October 27, 2014 12:35 pm | News | Comments

A research team led by a Brown Univ. physicist has produced new evidence for an exotic superconducting state, first predicted a half-century ago, that can arise when a superconductor is exposed to a strong magnetic field. This new understanding of what happens when electron spin populations become unequal could have implications beyond superconductivity.

Physicists find toxic halogens in Li-ion batteries

October 24, 2014 12:08 pm | by Brian McNeill, Virginia Commonwealth Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth Univ. have discovered that most of the electrolytes used in lithium-ion batteries are superhalogens, and that the vast majority of these electrolytes contain toxic halogens. At the same time, the researchers also found that the electrolytes in lithium-ion batteries could be replaced with halogen-free electrolytes that are both nontoxic and environmentally friendly.

Cooking up carbon: Sawdust and iron in the melting pot

October 24, 2014 10:16 am | News | Comments

Researchers in the U.K. have found a new way to make nanostructured carbon using the waste product sawdust. By cooking sawdust with a thin coating of iron at 700 C, they have discovered that they can create carbon with a structure made up of many tiny tubes. These tubes are one thousand times smaller than an average human hair.

3-D metamaterials with a natural bent

October 24, 2014 8:44 am | News | Comments

Scientists have been able to manufacture 3-D isotropic metamaterials, but up to now only on a very small scale. Now, in a significant breakthrough, scientists from RIKEN, in collaboration with colleagues in Taiwan, have succeeded in creating a large metamaterial up to 4-mm-square in size that is essentially isotropic, using a type of metamaterial element called a split-ring resonator.

Study reveals molecular structure of water at gold electrodes

October 24, 2014 8:19 am | by Rachel Berkowitz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

When a solid material is immersed in a liquid, the liquid immediately next to its surface differs from that of the bulk liquid at the molecular level. This interfacial layer is critical to our understanding of a diverse set of phenomena. When the solid surface is charged, it can drive further changes in the interfacial liquid. However, elucidating the molecular structure at the solid-liquid interface under these conditions is difficult.

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