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The Lead

Testing the Limits of Indentation

November 25, 2014 4:26 pm | by Duanjie Li, PhD and Pierre Leroux, Nanovea | Articles | Comments

A tensile strength is a common materials test. Typical, a sample is subjected to controlled tension until it fails, providing valuable data for fundamental materials development or quality control. The key data acquired include maximum elongation, reduction in cross-section and ultimate tensile strength. Derived from these are a host of properties: Young’s modulus, yield strength, Poisson’s ratio and strain-hardening characteristics.

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...

Scientists rank thousands of substances according to potential exposure level

October 29, 2014 1:09 pm | News | Comments

An overwhelming number of chemicals from household and industrial products are in the...

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...

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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.

Study: Odors, chemicals above health standards caused by “green building” plumbing

October 20, 2014 11:27 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Several types of plastic pipes in eco-friendly green buildings in the U.S. have been found to leach chemicals into drinking water that can cause odors and sometimes exist at levels that may exceed health standards. Purdue Univ. engineering professor Andrew Whelton will detail these findings during the 2014 U.S. Green Building Council’s Greenbuild International Conference & Exposition on Oct. 24 in New Orleans.

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Atomic trigger shatters mystery of how glass deforms

October 20, 2014 11:04 am | News | Comments

Research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory has cracked one mystery of glass to shed light on the mechanism that triggers its deformation before shattering. The study improves understanding of glassy deformation and may accelerate broader application of metallic glass, a moldable, wear-resistant, magnetically exploitable material that is thrice as strong as the mightiest steel and ten times as springy.

Project to detect possible damages in aircraft parts early in process

October 16, 2014 9:21 am | News | Comments

Univ. of Texas at Arlington engineering professors have received an Air Force grant to examine the material surface at the micro- and nano-scale level that will provide clues for predicting fatigue in aircraft parts. The new approach will rely on a scanning whitelight interferometric surface profiler integrated with a compact mechanical tester and an electron backscatter diffraction module to deliver in-situ 3-D surface profiling.

Of bio-hairpins and polymer-spaghetti

October 9, 2014 11:02 am | News | Comments

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.

Breakthrough allows researchers to watch molecules “wiggle”

October 8, 2014 12:11 pm | News | Comments

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.

Unconventional photoconduction in an atomically thin semiconductor

October 7, 2014 3:36 pm | by David L. Chandler, MIT | News | Comments

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.

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A quick look at electron-boson coupling

October 7, 2014 8:56 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

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.

Study: Surfactants do not harm the environment

October 3, 2014 11:03 am | by Janne Hansen, Aarhus Univ. | News | Comments

You can brush your teeth, and wash yourself and your clothes with a clear conscience. The most common soaps, shampoos and detergents actually pose a minimal risk to the environment. This is the conclusion of a comprehensive survey that covers more than 250 scientific studies over several decades.

Stressed out: Research sheds new light on why rechargeable batteries fail

October 2, 2014 8:18 am | by Marcia Goodrich, Michigan Technological Univ. | News | Comments

Drawn relentlessly by their electrical charges, lithium ions in a battery surge from anode to cathode and back again. Yet, no one really understands what goes on at the atomic scale as lithium ion batteries are used and recharged. Using transmission electron microscopy, researchers are now glimpsing what can happen to anodes as lithium ions work their way into them. The “atomic shuffling” these ions perform leads to rapid anode failure.

Study: Nanoparticles accumulate quickly in wetland sediment

October 2, 2014 8:14 am | by Ken Kingery, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

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.

Scientists improve microscopic batteries with homebuilt imaging analysis

September 29, 2014 12:26 pm | News | Comments

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.

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New technology may lead to prolonged power in mobile devices

September 29, 2014 8:40 am | News | Comments

Researchers from the Univ. of Texas at Dallas have created technology that could be the first step toward wearable computers with self-contained power sources or, more immediately, a smartphone that doesn’t die after a few hours of heavy use. This technology  taps into the power of a single electron to control energy consumption inside transistors, which are at the core of most modern electronic systems.

New imaging capability reveals possible key to extending battery lifetime, capacity

September 29, 2014 8:37 am | by Tona Kunz, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

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.

Multi-spectra “glasses” aid studies of light elements with SEMs

September 26, 2014 11:16 am | News | Comments

Scanning electron microscopes can determine chemical compositions with the help of energy dispersive spectrometers. However, lighter elements like carbon emit secondary fluorescence in an energy range insufficiently resolved by these instruments. Physicists have developed a potential solution to this problem by adding reflection zone plate optics to a specialized spectrometer that delivers high resolution from 50 to 1,120 eV.

World’s smallest reference material is a big plus for nanotechnology

September 25, 2014 9:44 am | News | Comments

If it's true that good things come in small packages, then NIST can now make anyone working with nanoparticles very happy. The institute recently issued Reference Material (RM) 8027, the smallest known reference material ever created for validating measurements of man-made, ultrafine particles between 1 and 100 nm in size.

2-D materials’ crystalline defects key to new properties

September 24, 2014 11:13 am | News | Comments

using an aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscope, researchers have recently understood how defects in 2-D crystals such as tungsten disulphide can move, or dislocate, to other locations in the material. Understanding how atoms "glide" and "climb" on the surface of 2-D crystals may pave the way for researchers to develop materials with unusual or unique characteristics.

Graphene flaws key to creating hypersensitive “electronic nose”

September 23, 2014 9:45 am | by Jeanne Galatzer-Levy, Univ. of Illinois Chicago | News | Comments

Researchers have discovered a way to create a highly sensitive chemical sensor based on the crystalline flaws in graphene sheets. The imperfections have unique electronic properties that the researchers were able to exploit to increase sensitivity to absorbed gas molecules by 300 times.

Uncovering the forbidden side of molecules

September 22, 2014 1:45 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Switzerland have succeeded in observing the “forbidden” infrared spectrum of a charged molecule for the first time. These extremely weak spectra offer perspectives for extremely precise measurements of molecular properties and may also contribute to the development of molecular clocks and quantum technology.

Physicists heat freestanding graphene to control curvature of ripples

September 18, 2014 8:52 am | News | Comments

While freestanding graphene offers promise as a replacement for silicon and other materials in microprocessors and next-generation energy devices, much remains unknown about its mechanical and thermal properties. An international team of physicists, led by a research group at the Univ. of Arkansas, has recently discovered that heating can be used to control the curvature of ripples in freestanding graphene.

Scientists now closer to industrial synthesis of a material harder than diamond

September 15, 2014 12:16 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Russia have developed a new method for the industrial synthesis of an ultra-hard material that exceeds diamond in hardness. An article recently published in Carbon describes in detail a method that allows for the synthesis of ultrahard fullerite, a polymer composed of fullerenes, or spherical molecules made of carbon atoms.

Study sheds new light on why batteries go bad

September 15, 2014 7:34 am | by Andrew Gordon, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | Videos | Comments

A comprehensive look at how tiny particles in a lithium-ion battery electrode behave shows that rapid-charging the battery and using it to do high-power, rapidly draining work may not be as damaging as researchers had thought—and that the benefits of slow draining and charging may have been overestimated.

Microscopic diamonds suggest cosmic impact responsible for major period of climate

September 11, 2014 4:53 pm | News | Comments

A new study published in The Journal of Geology provides support for the theory that a cosmic impact event over North America some 13,000 years ago caused a major period of climate change known as the Younger Dryas stadial, or “Big Freeze.”  The key to the mystery of the Big Freeze lies in nanodiamonds scattered across Europe, North America, and portions of South America.

Plastics in motion: Exploring the world of polymers

September 11, 2014 8:21 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

Plastics are made of polymers, which are a challenge for scientists to study. Their chain-like strands of thousands of atoms are tangled up in a spaghetti-like jumble, their motion can be measured at many time scales and they are essentially invisible to some common x-ray study techniques. A better understanding of polymers at the molecular scale could lead to improved manufacturing techniques and the creation of new materials.

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