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Researchers predict the electrical response of metals to extreme pressures

June 3, 2014 8:32 am | by Mary Martialay, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute | News | Comments

Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences makes it possible to predict how subjecting metals to severe pressure can lower their electrical resistance, a finding that could have applications in computer chips and other materials that could benefit from specific electrical resistance.

New metal-organic framework offers efficient thermal cooling and heating

June 2, 2014 9:09 am | News | Comments

Thermal systems use heat to produce cold, and vice versa. The human body demonstrates this function when it perspires, but what is lacking for devices that operate on this principle are materials capable of sufficiently discharging the water vapor quickly. Metal organic frameworks (MOFs) are well suited to this task. Researchers have built a new 3-D porous MOF from metals and organic linkers that substantially increases water absorption.

New method is the first to control growth of metal crystals from single atoms

May 28, 2014 11:01 am | News | Comments

Using a doped-graphene matrix to slow down and then trap atoms of the precious metal osmium, researchers in the U.K. have shown the ability to control and quantify the growth of metal-crystals. When the trapped atoms come into contact with further osmium atoms they bind together, eventually growing into 3-D metal-crystals. They have called this new technique nanocrystallometry.

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New nickel catalyst forms bioactive frameworks from low-cost phenol derivatives

May 27, 2014 12:23 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Japan have developed a new nickel catalyst with a “kabuto-like” structure that was found to catalyze the cross-coupling reaction between carbonyl compounds and readily available phenol derivatives, to form arylketones, which are found in many biologically active compounds. A kabuto is a helmet worn by Japanese samurai.

A new solution for storing hydrogen fuel for alternative energy

May 21, 2014 2:13 pm | News | Comments

An international team of researchers have figured out a new way of storing and releasing hydrogen by making a unique crystal phase of a material containing lithium, boron and the key ingredient, hydrogen. To check how they could get the hydrogen back out of the material, the scientists heated it and found that it released hydrogen easily, quickly and only traces of unwanted by-products.

Strongly interacting electrons in wacky oxide synchronize to work like the brain

May 14, 2014 2:01 pm | by Walt Mills, Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

Vanadium dioxide is called a "wacky oxide" because it transitions between a conducting metal and an insulating semiconductor and with the addition of heat or electrical current. A device created by Penn State engineers uses a thin film of vanadium oxide on a titanium dioxide substrate to create an oscillating switch that could form the basis of a computational device that uses a fraction of the energy necessary for today’s computers.

Energy device for flexible electronics packs a lot of power

May 7, 2014 9:28 am | News | Comments

While flexible gadgets such as “electronic skin” and roll-up touch screens are moving ever closer to reality, their would-be power sources are either too wimpy or too stiff. But that’s changing fast. Scientists have developed a new device that’s far thinner than paper, can flex and bend, and store enough energy to provide critical back-up power for portable electronics.

Taking the lead out of a promising solar cell

May 6, 2014 7:32 am | News | Comments

Northwestern Univ. researchers are the first to develop a new solar cell with good efficiency that uses tin instead of lead perovskite as the harvester of light. The low-cost, environmentally friendly solar cell can be made easily using "bench" chemistry, with no fancy equipment or hazardous materials.

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Paper examines clues for superconductivity in an iron-based material

May 5, 2014 10:12 am | by Ron Walli, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Communications | News | Comments

For the first time, scientists have a clearer understanding of how to control the appearance of a superconducting phase in a material, adding crucial fundamental knowledge and perhaps setting the stage for advances in the field of superconductivity. The paper focuses on a calcium-iron-arsenide single crystal, which has structural, thermodynamic and transport properties that can be varied through carefully controlled synthesis.

Researchers see rare-earth-like magnetic properties in iron

April 29, 2014 10:12 am | News | Comments

Scientists at Ames Laboratory have observed magnetic properties typically associated with those observed in rare-earth elements in iron. These properties are observed in a new iron based compound that does not contain rare earth elements, when the iron atom is positioned between two nitrogen atoms.

Putting iron to the stress test

April 29, 2014 8:11 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboraotry | News | Comments

Using an ultra-fast laser system, a group in Physical and Life Sciences at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have subjected iron to extremely rapid dynamic compression and have shown that the transition from one crystal structure to another can take place in less than 100 trillionths of a second after the compression begins.

“Exotic” material is like a switch when super thin

April 18, 2014 3:05 pm | by Anne Ju, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

Ever-shrinking electronic devices could get down to atomic dimensions with the help of transition metal oxides. Researchers from Cornell Univ. and Brookhaven National Laboratory have shown how to switch a particular transition metal oxide, a lanthanum nickelate (LaNiO3), from a metal to an insulator by making the material less than a nanometer thick.

Glasses strong as steel

April 14, 2014 7:29 am | by Eric Gershon, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Scientists at Yale Univ. have devised a dramatically faster way of identifying and characterizing complex alloys known as bulk metallic glasses (BMGs), a versatile type of pliable glass that's stronger than steel. Using traditional methods, it usually takes a full day to identify a single metal alloy appropriate for making BMGs.

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Promising agents burst through superbug defenses to fight antibiotic resistance

April 10, 2014 9:02 am | News | Comments

In the fight against “superbugs,” scientists have discovered a class of agents that can make some of the most notorious strains vulnerable to the same antibiotics that they once handily shrugged off. Recently discovered metallopolymers, when paired with the same antibiotics MRSA normally dispatches with ease, helped evade the bacteria’s defensive enzymes and destroyed its protective walls, causing the bacteria to burst.

Tiny “step edges” are a big step for surface science

April 9, 2014 2:59 pm | News | Comments

Recent experiments in Austria have explained the behavior of electrons at tiny step edges on titanium oxide surfaces. The finding, which shows why oxygen atoms attach so well to these edges, is important for solar cell technology and novel, more effective catalysts.

A new twist for better steel

April 9, 2014 9:23 am | News | Comments

In steel making, two desirable qualities, strength and ductility, tend to be at odds: Stronger steel is less ductile, and more ductile steel is not as strong. Engineers at Brown Univ., three Chinese universities, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have shown that when cylinders of steel are twisted, their strength is improved without sacrificing ductility.

Researchers open path to finding rare, polarized metals

April 2, 2014 12:31 pm | Videos | Comments

Researchers are turning some of the basic tenets of chemistry and physics upside down to cut a trail toward the discovery of a new set of materials. They’re called “polar metals” and, according to many scientific principles, they probably shouldn’t exist.

Shape helps catalyst extract energy from biomass

April 2, 2014 6:06 am | News | Comments

Biomass is a good alternative for fossil fuels, but converting biomass into useful chemicals and fuels is difficult in practice. The metal oxide CeO2 can help the process by activating water, but until recent research in the Netherlands, it was not clear in which form the reactivity of this catalyst was highest.

Graphene-copper sandwich may improve, shrink electronics

March 12, 2014 2:00 pm | by Sean Nealon, Univ. of Riverside, Calif. | News | Comments

Researchers have discovered that creating a graphene-copper-graphene “sandwich” strongly enhances the heat conducting properties of copper, a discovery that could further help in the downscaling of electronics.

Squeezing light into metals

March 7, 2014 7:50 am | News | Comments

Using an inexpensive inkjet printer, Univ. of Utah electrical engineers produced microscopic structures that use light in metals to carry information. This new technique, which controls electrical conductivity within such microstructures, could be used to rapidly fabricate superfast components in electronic devices, make wireless technology faster or print magnetic materials.

Programmable material: Sheet metal that never rattles

March 5, 2014 4:52 pm | News | Comments

Researchers from Empa and ETH Zurich have succeeded in producing a prototype of a vibration-damping material that could change the world of mechanics. The material of the future is not only able to damp vibrations completely; it can also specifically conduct certain frequencies further.

Researchers discover highly promising new class of nanocatalyst

February 28, 2014 7:23 am | by Lyn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A big step in the development of advanced fuel cells and water-alkali electrolyzers has been achieved with the discovery of a new class of bimetallic nanocatalysts that are an order of magnitude higher in activity than the target set by the U.S. Department of Energy for 2017. The new catalysts feature a 3-D catalytic surface activity that makes them significantly more efficient and far less expensive than the best platinum catalysts.  

Silver gone astray

February 25, 2014 5:04 pm | News | Comments

It has long been known that free, ionic silver particles can be highly toxic to aquatic organisms. Yet we a lack of detailed knowledge about the doses required to trigger a response and how the organisms deal with the stress. To learn more about the cellular processes, scientists in Switzerland subjected algae to a range of silver concentrations. The results are reassuring, but the presence of other stressors could compound the problem.

Silver linings

February 25, 2014 8:48 am | by Justin H.S. Breaux, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory in collaboration with scientists at Northwestern Univ. are the first to grow graphene on silver which, until now, posed a major challenge to many in the field. Part of the issue has to do with the properties of silver, the other involves the process by which graphene is grown.

On the road to Mottronics

February 25, 2014 8:38 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Mottronics is a term seemingly destined to become familiar to aficionados of electronic gadgets. Named for the Nobel laureate Nevill Francis Mott, Mottronics involve materials that can be induced to transition between electrically conductive and insulating phases. If these phase transitions can be controlled, Mott materials hold promise for future transistors and memories that feature higher energy efficiencies and faster switching speeds.

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