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The Lead

Promising ferroelectric materials suffer from unexpected electric polarizations

August 18, 2014 9:46 am | by Justin Eure, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Electronic devices with unprecedented efficiency and data storage may someday run on ferroelectrics—remarkable materials that use built-in electric polarizations to read and write digital information, outperforming the magnets inside most popular data-driven technology. But ferroelectrics must first overcome a few key stumbling blocks, including a curious habit of "forgetting" stored data.

Seven tiny grains captured by Stardust likely visitors from intersteller space

August 15, 2014 11:30 am | by Robert Sanders, Univ. of California, Berkeley | News | Comments

Since 2006, when NASA’s Stardust spacecraft...

The beetle’s white album

August 15, 2014 9:31 am | News | Comments

The physical properties of the ultra-white scales...

The mummy’s face: Solving an ancient mystery

August 14, 2014 8:51 am | News | Comments

The “Bearded Man, 170-180 A.D.” is a Roman-Egyptian portrait that adorned the sarcophagus...

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Test reveals purity of graphene

August 14, 2014 8:02 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Graphene may be tough, but those who handle it had better be tender. The environment surrounding the atom-thick carbon material can influence its electronic performance, according to researchers at Rice and Osaka universities who have come up with a simple way to spot contaminants.

Creating a GPS for aluminum ions

August 12, 2014 7:27 am | News | Comments

Zeolites used extensively in industry are promising catalysts that turn biomass into transportation fuels, but the activity and stability of this class of materials is challenging to understand and predict. Employing a combination of methods devised at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Swiss Light Source, scientists were able to determine the distribution of aluminum ions in structural variants of zeolites.

On the edge of graphene

August 11, 2014 1:50 pm | News | Comments

Researchers at the National Physical Laboratory in the U.K. have discovered that the conductivity at the edges of graphene devices is different to the central material. The group used local scanning electrical techniques to examine the local nanoscale electronic properties of epitaxial graphene, in particular the differences between the edges and central parts of graphene Hall bar devices.

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Driving Back Defects

August 6, 2014 10:13 am | by Paul Livingstone | Articles | Comments

Traditional lithography is based on a simple principle: Oil and water don’t mix. The method, first developed by an actor in Bavaria in 1796, used a smooth piece of limestone on which an oil-based image was drawn and overlayed with gum arabic in water. During printing, the ink was attracted to the oil, and was repelled by the gum.

Nano Testing for Future Electronics

August 6, 2014 8:56 am | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | Articles | Comments

The engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale, nanotechnology refers to the applied part of nanoscience which typically includes the engineering to control, manipulate and structure matter at an atomically small scale. Nanotechnology as a field is nothing less than diverse, ranging from extensions of conventional device physics to new approaches based upon molecular self-assembly.

The atomic picture of magnetism

August 5, 2014 10:05 pm | News | Comments

The search for zero-resistance conductors that can operate at realistic temperatures has been frustrated by the inability to understand high-temperature superconductors, particularly their magnetic structure. Researchers have done this at the atomic scale for the first time with a so-called strongly correlated electron system of iron telluride. Previously, magnetic information was provided by neutron diffraction, which is imprecise.

Method provides nanoscale details of electrochemical reactions in EV battery materials

August 4, 2014 7:33 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Using a new method to track the electrochemical reactions in a common electric vehicle battery material under operating conditions, scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have revealed new insight into why fast charging inhibits this material's performance. The study also provides the first direct experimental evidence to support a particular model of the electrochemical reaction. 

Mineral magic? Common mineral capable of making, breaking bonds

July 29, 2014 8:39 am | by Nikki Cassis, Arizona State Univ. | News | Comments

Reactions among minerals and organic compounds in hydrothermal environments are critical components of the Earth’s deep carbon cycle. They provide energy for the deep biosphere, and may have implications for the origins of life. However, very little is known about how minerals influence organic reactions. A team of researchers has demonstrated how a common mineral acts as a catalyst for specific hydrothermal organic reactions.

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Measuring the smallest magnets

July 28, 2014 11:05 am | News | Comments

A wildly bouncing tennis ball that travels a millions times the distance of its own size would be difficult to measure. But attaching the same ball to a measuring device would eliminate the “noise”. Researchers in Israel recently used a similar trick to measure the interaction between the smallest possible magnets (two electrons) after neutralizing magnetic noise that was a million times stronger than the signal they needed to detect.

Study reveals new characteristics of complex oxide surfaces

July 25, 2014 8:25 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

A novel combination of microscopy and data processing has given researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) an unprecedented look at the surface of a material known for its unusual physical and electrochemical properties. The research team led by ORNL’s Zheng Gai examined how oxygen affects the surface of a perovskite manganite, a complex material that exhibits dramatic magnetic and electronic behavior.

Chemist develops x-ray vision for quality assurance

July 25, 2014 6:57 am | by Iben Julie Schmidt, Technical Univ. of Denmark | News | Comments

A new method that uses x-rays for the rapid identification of substances present in an indeterminate powder has been developed by a scientist in Denmark. The new technique has the capacity to recognize advanced biological molecules such as proteins, which makes it potentially important in both food production and the pharmaceutical industry, where it opens up new opportunities for the quality assurance of protein-based medicines.

Quenching the world's water and energy crises, one tiny droplet at a time

July 24, 2014 8:40 am | by Sarah Bates, National Science Foundation | Videos | Comments

More than a decade ago, news of a Namibian desert beetle’s efficient water collection system inspired engineers to try and reproduce these surfaces in the laboratory. Small-scale advances in fluid physics, materials engineering and nanoscience since that time have brought them close to succeeding. And their work could have impact on a wide range of industries at the macroscale.

Building up bamboo

July 23, 2014 7:46 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Bamboo construction has traditionally been rather straightforward: Entire stalks are used to create latticed edifices, or woven in strips to form wall-sized screens. The effect can be stunning, and also practical in parts of the world where bamboo thrives. But there are limitations to building with bamboo.

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The stability of gold clusters: Every ligand counts

July 22, 2014 8:37 am | News | Comments

By colliding ultra-small gold particles with a surface and analyzing the resulting fragments, a trio of scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory discovered how and why the particles break. This information is important for controlling the synthesis of these tiny building blocks that are of interest to catalysis, energy conversion and storage, and chemical sensing.

Understanding graphene’s electrical properties on an atomic level

July 22, 2014 7:38 am | by Evan Lerner, Univ. of Pennsylvania | Videos | Comments

Graphene, a material that consists of a lattice of carbon atoms, one atom thick, is widely touted as being the most electrically conductive material ever studied. However, not all graphene is the same. With so few atoms comprising the entirety of the material, the arrangement of each one has an impact on its overall function.

New method for extracting radioactive elements from air, water

July 21, 2014 8:21 am | by Univ. of Liverpool Univ. News | News | Comments

Scientists have successfully tested a material that can extract atoms of rare or dangerous elements such as radon from the air. Gases such as radon, xenon and krypton all occur naturally in the air but in minute quantities—typically less than one part per million. As a result they are expensive to extract for use in industries such as lighting or medicine and, in the case of radon, the gas can accumulate in buildings.

Water molecules favor negative charges

July 17, 2014 7:52 am | News | Comments

Recent research shows that, in the presence of charged substances, water molecules favor associating with elements with a negative electrical charge rather than a positive electric charge. A study on the subject that employed advanced optical spectroscopy techniques could provide new insights on the processes of cell formation.

Labs characterize carbon for batteries

July 15, 2014 8:04 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Lithium-ion batteries could benefit from a theoretical model created at Rice Univ. and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that predicts how carbon components will perform as electrodes. The model is based on intrinsic electronic characteristics of materials used as battery anodes. These include the material’s quantum capacitance and the material’s absolute Fermi level.

Even geckos can lose their grip

July 9, 2014 2:17 pm | News | Comments

Geckos and spiders seem to be able to sit still forever upside down. But sooner or later the grip is lost, no matter how little force is acting on it. Engineers, using scanning electron microscopy, have recently demonstrated why this is so by showing how heat, and the subsequent movement of molecules at the nanoscale, eventually force loss of adhesion.

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.

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.

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.

Scientists discover how plastic solar panels work

July 1, 2014 11:52 am | News | Comments

Experts don't fully understand how “plastic” solar panels work, which complicates the improvement of their cost efficiency and hinders wider use of the technology. However, an international team has now determined how light beams excite the chemicals in solar panels, enabling them to produce charge. Their findings were made possible with the use of femtosecond Raman spectroscopy.

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.

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.

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