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Lowering titanium’s cost, environmental footprint for lightweight products

December 18, 2013 2:34 pm | News | Comments

A new method for extracting titanium significantly reduces the energy required to separate it from its tightly bound companion, oxygen. Scientists have discovered that they could eliminate the energy-intensive steps of the Kroll process, a finding that could lower cost and accessibility of future titanium products.

Roots of the lithium battery problem: Dendrites start below the surface

December 18, 2013 8:28 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Lithium-ion batteries could have significantly higher energy density if their graphite anodes were to be replaced by lithium metal anodes. Hampering this change, however, has been the persistent growth of dendrites that eventually short-circuit the battery. Researchers have recently discovered that the bulk of dendrite material lies below the surface of the lithium electrode, underneath the electrode/electrolyte interface.

Researchers discover a potential catalyst substitute for platinum

December 13, 2013 4:16 pm | News | Comments

Today’s fuel cells require costly platinum as a catalyst for the reaction that forms water from hydrogen and oxygen. A research team inspired by nature to develop an alternative catalyst has designed a material consisting of organic molecules as well as iron or manganese on a metallic substrate. These materials are less costly and more easily available than platinum.

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An inside look at a MOF in action

November 25, 2013 8:05 am | News | Comments

A unique inside look at the electronic structure of a highly touted metal-organic framework (MOF) as it is adsorbing carbon dioxide gas should help in the design of new and improved MOFs for carbon capture and storage. Researchers with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have recorded the first in situ electronic structure observations of the adsorption of carbon dioxide inside Mg-MOF-74.

Copper promises cheaper, sturdier fuel cells

November 22, 2013 11:01 am | News | Comments

Converting solar energy into storable fuel remains one of the greatest challenges of modern chemistry. Chemists have commonly tried to use indium tin oxide (ITO) because it has transparency, but it also expensive and rare. Researchers at Duke Univ. has created something they hope can replace ITO: copper nanowires fused in a see-through film.

Researchers grow graphene on silver

November 18, 2013 1:56 pm | by Sarah Ostman, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Northwestern Univ. and Argonne National Laboratory scientists have recently overcome problems with growing graphene on chemically inert substrates, demonstrating the first growth of graphene on a single-crystal silver substrate. Their method could advance graphene-based optical devices and enable the interfacing of graphene with other two-dimensional materials.

Scientists create low-cost, long-lasting water splitter from silicon and nickel

November 15, 2013 11:10 am | by Mark Shwartz, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Stanford Univ. researchers have developed an inexpensive device that uses light to split water into oxygen and clean-burning hydrogen. The goal is to supplement solar cells with hydrogen-powered fuel cells that can generate electricity when the sun isn't shining or demand is high.

Rust protection from nanocapsules

November 7, 2013 11:54 am | News | Comments

A remedy for the problem of rust may be available soon. Scientists from the Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung GmbH in Düsseldorf and the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz have succeeded in making two strides toward developing a self-healing anticorrosion coating.

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New aluminum alloy stores hydrogen

November 5, 2013 3:28 pm | News | Comments

We use aluminum to make planes lightweight, store sodas in recyclable containers, keep the walls of our homes energy efficient and ensure that the Thanksgiving turkey is cooked to perfection. Now, thanks to a group of Japanese researchers, there may soon be a new application for the versatile metal: hydrogen storage for fuel cells.

Breakthrough in study of aluminum should yield new technological advances

October 30, 2013 8:11 am | News | Comments

Researchers at Oregon State Univ. and the Univ. of Oregon announced a scientific advance that has eluded researchers for more than 100 years—a platform to study and fully understand the aqueous chemistry of aluminum, one of the world’s most important metals.

Cheap metals can be used to make products from petroleum

October 21, 2013 2:30 pm | News | Comments

A new process developed at the Univ. of Illinois at Chicago suggests that base metals may be used as catalysts in the manufacture of countless products made from petroleum-based raw materials. The metals, copper and iron, could potentially replace a rare and expensive metal catalyst currently required for the chemical process called borylation.

Tiny “LEGO brick”-style studs make solar panels a quarter more efficient

October 18, 2013 9:39 am | News | Comments

In new research, scientists have demonstrated that the efficiency of all solar panel designs could be improved by up to 22% by covering their surface with aluminium studs that bend and trap light inside the absorbing layer. At the microscopic level, the studs make the surface of the solar panels look similar to the interlocking building bricks played with by children across the world.

Cracked metal, heal thyself

October 9, 2013 8:00 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

It was a result so unexpected that Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers initially thought it must be a mistake: Under certain conditions, putting a cracked piece of metal under tension has the reverse effect, causing the crack to close and its edges to fuse together. The surprising finding could lead to self-healing materials that repair incipient damage before it has a chance to spread.

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Ultraviolet light to the extreme

October 7, 2013 1:52 am | News | Comments

When a tiny droplet of liquid tin is heated with a laser, plasma forms on the surface of the droplet and produces extreme ultraviolet (EUV) light, which has a higher frequency and greater energy than normal ultraviolet. Now, for the first time, researchers have mapped this EUV emission and developed a theoretical model that explains how the emission depends on the 3-D shape of the plasma.

Fuel-efficient cars, planes could be cheaper with magnesium drawn from ocean

September 20, 2013 1:03 pm | News | Comments

Magnesium is a lightweight metal used in cars and planes to improve their fuel efficiency. But it currently requires a lot of energy and money to produce the metal. Engineers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is developing a new production method that would be 50% more energy efficient than the United States' current production process.

Higher lead levels may lie just below surface

September 18, 2013 2:54 pm | News | Comments

A study of data from hundreds of soil samples taken around six old water tower sites in southern Rhode Island finds that even when lead levels on the surface are low, concentrations can sometimes be greater at depths down to a foot. The findings inform efforts to assess the effect of lead paint from old water towers on surrounding properties.

Model should expedite development of temperature-stable nanoalloys

September 16, 2013 8:29 am | News | Comments

Researchers have developed a new theoretical model that will speed the development of new nanomaterial alloys that retain their advantageous properties at elevated temperatures. Nanoscale materials are made up of grains that are less than 100 nm in diameter. These materials are of interest to researchers because two materials can have the same chemical composition but very different mechanical properties depending on their grain size.

The “50-50” chip: Memory device of the future?

September 13, 2013 12:32 pm | News | Comments

A new, environmentally-friendly electronic alloy consisting of 50 aluminum atoms bound to 50 atoms of antimony may be promising for building next-generation "phase-change" memory devices. Phase-change memory is being actively pursued as an alternative to the ubiquitous flash memory for data storage applications, because flash memory is limited in its storage density and phase-change memory can operate much faster.

Scientists reveal how organic mercury can interfere with vision

September 12, 2013 10:43 am | News | Comments

More than one billion people worldwide rely on fish as an important source of animal protein, consuming low levels of methylmercury. Methylmercury compounds specifically target the central nervous system, but now researchers have combined synchrotron x-rays with methylmercury-poisoned zebrafish larvae to learn that they may also affect our vision.

New nanoparticles to make solar cells cheaper to manufacture

August 29, 2013 4:43 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Canada have found that abundant materials in the Earth's crust can be used to make inexpensive and easily manufactured nanoparticle-based solar cells. The team has designed nanoparticles that absorb light and conduct electricity from two very common elements: phosphorus and zinc. These are much more plentiful than scarce cadmium, and safer than lead.

“Poisoning” corrosion brings stainless magnesium closer

August 19, 2013 9:25 am | News | Comments

Weighing in at two thirds less than aluminium, magnesium is the lightest structural metal. It has many potential industrial applications, but uptake is severely restricted by its poor resistance to corrosion. Scientists have found a way to dramatically reduce the corrosion rate of magnesium, however, and it involves adding arsenic.

Disorder creates rust protection

August 8, 2013 12:01 pm | News | Comments

Corrosion and rust exacts a substantial financial toll on economic output. But determining how it affect steels and alloys has traditionally been difficult. However, recent studies that have analyzed an amorphous steel of iron, chromium, molybdenum, boron and carbon show that the more ordered a material’s structure is, and the more uneven the distribution of its atoms, the more easily it is corroded by rust.

A crystal of a different color

August 5, 2013 7:52 am | News | Comments

Chemists have unexpectedly made two differently colored crystals—one orange, the other blue—from one chemical in the same flask while studying a special kind of molecular connection called an agostic bond. The discovery is providing new insights into important industrial chemical reactions such as those that occur while making plastics and fuels.

Engineers identify key factors for wireless power transfer

July 31, 2013 10:00 pm | News | Comments

What happens to a resonant wireless power transfer system in the presence of complex electromagnetic environments, such as metal plates? A team of researchers has explored the influences at play in this type of situation, and they describe how efficient wireless power transfer can be achieved in the presence of metal plates.

Engineering team makes breakthrough in solar energy research

July 30, 2013 8:46 am | News | Comments

The use of plasmonic black metals could someday provide a pathway to more efficient photovoltaics to improve solar energy harvesting, according to researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). The LLNL Materials Engineering Div. research team has made breakthroughs experimenting with black metals. These nanostructured metals are designed to have low reflectivity and high absorption of visible and infrared light.

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