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The Lead

All-plastic solar cell could help power future flexible electronics

June 26, 2015 7:06 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

If you picture a solar panel, it’s most likely dark blue or black, and rigid and flat. Now imagine one that’s semi-transparent, ultra-thin and bendable. Scientists are closing in on making the latter version a reality. They report in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces the development of a see-through, bendable solar cell made entirely out of plastic. The device could help power the coming wave of flexible electronics.

The secrets of secretion

June 22, 2015 11:45 am | by Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

Anything you can do, nature can do better. Chemical delivery systems, self-healing cells, non-...

Transparent, stretchable conductors use nano-accordion structure

June 16, 2015 10:59 am | by North Carolina State University | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State University have created stretchable, transparent...

Polymer network enhances cell adhesion, growth for tissue regeneration

June 10, 2015 8:07 am | by A*STAR | News | Comments

Tissues and organs in the body are sometimes damaged to such an extent that they require...

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Ultra-tough fiber imitates structure of spider silk

June 4, 2015 10:43 am | by Polytechnique Montréal | News | Comments

Professors Gosselin and Therriault, along with their master's student, are not related to Spiderman. Nevertheless, these researchers have produced an ultra-tough polymer fiber directly inspired by spider silk. Three to eight microns in diameter, but five to 10 times tougher than steel or Kevlar: despite its lightness, spider silk has such remarkable elongation and stretch-resistance properties that humans have long sought to replicate it.

Fine-tuned molecular orientation is key to more efficient solar cells

May 26, 2015 10:19 am | by RIKEN | News | Comments

Polymer solar cells are a hot area of research due to both their strong future potential and the significant challenges they pose. It is believed that thanks to lower production costs, they could become a viable alternative to conventional solar cells with silicon substrates when they achieve a power conversion efficiency of between 10 and 15%.

Shape-shifting plastic

May 21, 2015 8:18 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | Videos | Comments

Not all plastics are created equal. Malleable thermoplastics can be easily melted and reused in products such as food containers. Other plastics, called thermosets, are essentially stuck in their final form because of cross-linking chemical bonds that give them their strength for applications such as golf balls and car tires.

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Brookhaven Lab scientist Kevin Yager (left) and postdoctoral researcher Pawel Majewski with the new Laser Zone Annealing instrument at the Center for Functional Nanomaterials.

Intense lasers cook up complex, self-assembled nanomaterials 1,000 times faster

May 15, 2015 11:38 am | by Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Nanoscale materials feature extraordinary, billionth-of-a-meter qualities that transform everything from energy generation to data storage. But while a nanostructured solar cell may be fantastically efficient, that precision is notoriously difficult to achieve on industrial scales. The solution may be self-assembly, or training molecules to stitch themselves together into high-performing configurations.

From brittle to plastic in one breath

May 4, 2015 7:49 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

What if peanut brittle, under certain conditions, behaved like taffy? Something like that happens to a 2-D dichalcogenide analyzed by scientists at Rice Univ. Rice researchers calculated that atomically thin layers of molybdenum disulfide can take on the qualities of plastic through exposure to a sulfur-infused gas at the right temperature and pressure.

A dye-doped PNLC cell in the transparent and opaque states, placed on a printed sheet of paper. In the transparent state, the clear background image can be seen because of the high transmittance of this cell. In the opaque state, black color is provided a

Windows that act like an LCD screen

April 29, 2015 2:04 pm | by John Arnst, American Institute of Physics | News | Comments

The secret desire of urban daydreamers staring out their office windows at the sad brick walls of the building opposite them may soon be answered thanks to transparent light shutters. A novel liquid crystal technology allows displays to flip between transparent and opaque states— hypothetically letting you switch your view in less than a millisecond from urban decay to the Chesapeake Bay.

Juejun Hu and colleagues developed a way to embed very thin glass photonic devices such as flexible microdisk resonators and waveguides in alternating layers of soft and stiff polymers. Their flexible plastic device sustained being bent thousands of times

Bendable glass devices

April 27, 2015 12:43 pm | by Denis Paiste, MIT | News | Comments

A special class of glass materials known as chalcogenide glasses holds promise for speeding integration of photonic and electronic devices with functions as diverse as data transfer and chemical sensing. Juejun "JJ" Hu, the Merton C. Flemings Assistant Professor in Materials Science and Engineering, is finding new ways to deploy these glasses with surprising flexibility.

A tetrahedron is a polyhedron composed of four triangular faces, three of which meet at each corner or vertex. It has six edges and four vertices.

Revolutionary discovery leads to invention of new "building blocks"

April 24, 2015 10:16 am | by Univ. of Akron | News | Comments

Macromolecular science will have to add a new giant molecule to its lexicon thanks to new and cutting-edge polymer research at The Univ. of Akron (UA). The research team led by Stephen Z.D. Cheng, professor at UA’s college of polymer science and polymer engineering, invented a new thinking pathway in the design and synthesis of macromolecules—the backbone of modern polymers—by creating an original class of giant tetrahedra.

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Technique could slash energy used to produce plastics

April 14, 2015 11:52 am | by Univ. of Colorado, Boulder | News | Comments

A new material developed at the Univ. of Colorado Boulder could radically reduce the energy needed to produce a wide variety of plastic products, from grocery bags and cling wrap to replacement hips and bulletproof vests. Approximately 80 million metric tons of polyethylene is produced globally each year, making it the most common plastic in the world.

Accelerating materials discovery with world’s largest database of elastic properties

April 7, 2015 7:53 am | by Julie Chao, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have published the world’s largest set of data on the complete elastic properties of inorganic compounds, increasing by an order of magnitude the number of compounds for which such data exists.

Researchers discover N-type polymer for fast organic battery

April 6, 2015 11:46 am | by Jeannie Kever, Univ. of Houston | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Houston have reported developing an efficient conductive electron-transporting polymer, a long-missing puzzle piece that will allow ultrafast battery applications. The discovery relies upon a "conjugated redox polymer" design with a naphthalene-bithiophene polymer, which has traditionally been used for applications including transistors and solar cells.

Recipe for antibacterial plastic

March 30, 2015 8:21 am | by Cal Powell, Univ. of Georgia | News | Comments

Bioplastics made from protein sources such as albumin and whey have shown significant antibacterial properties, findings that could eventually lead to their use in plastics used in medical applications such as wound healing dressings, sutures, catheter tubes and drug delivery, according to a recent study by the Univ. of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Novel plastic could spur new green energy applications, artificial muscles

March 26, 2015 8:11 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

A plastic used in filters and tubing has an unusual trait: It can produce electricity when pulled or pressed. This ability has been used in small ways, but now researchers are coaxing fibers of the material to make even more electricity for a wider range of applications from green energy to "artificial muscles."

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Many plastics labeled “biodegradable” don’t break down as expected

March 18, 2015 1:43 pm | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Plastic products advertised as biodegradable have recently emerged, but they sound almost too good to be true. Scientists have now found out that, at least for now, consumers have good reason to doubt these claims. In a new study appearing in Environmental Science & Technology, plastics designed to degrade didn’t break down any faster than their more conventional counterparts.

Injectable polymer could prevent bleeding to death

March 11, 2015 8:09 am | by Jennifer Langston, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Most military battlefield casualties die before ever reaching a surgical hospital. Of those soldiers who might potentially survive, most die from uncontrolled bleeding. In some cases, there’s not much medics can do. That’s why Univ. of Washington researchers have developed a new injectable polymer that strengthens blood clots, called PolySTAT.

Researchers identify keys to improved polymer solar cells

February 23, 2015 8:38 am | by Bill Kisliuk, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | News | Comments

Paving the way for lighter and more flexible solar devices, Univ. of California, Los Angeles researchers have identified the key principles for developing high-efficiency polymer solar cells. Today’s commercially produced solar panels use silicon cells to efficiently convert sunlight to energy. But silicon panels are too heavy to be used for energy-producing coatings for buildings and cars, or flexible and portable power supplies.

New self-stretching material developed

February 13, 2015 2:23 pm | by Peter Iglinski, Univ. of Rochester | News | Comments

Although most materials slightly expand when heated, there is a new class of rubber-like material that not only self-stretches upon cooling; it reverts back to its original shape when heated, all without physical manipulation. The material is like a shape-memory polymer because it can be switched between two different shapes.

Mapping Can Recover Serial Numbers in Metals

February 13, 2015 7:00 am | by NIST | News | Comments

Researchers have demonstrated a technique for mapping deformation in metals that can recover destroyed serial numbers on metal objects such as firearms, a common challenge in forensics. The technique might also meet other forensic needs such as reconstructing vehicle identification numbers or imprints on ammunition casings.  

Non-stick material joins portfolio of slippery surface technologies

February 10, 2015 4:16 pm | by Kat J. McAlpine, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering | News | Comments

More than 80% of microbial infections in the human body are caused by a build–up of bacteria, according to the National Institutes of Health. Bacteria cells gain a foothold in the body by accumulating and forming into adhesive colonies called biofilms, which help them to thrive and survive but cause infections and associated life–threatening risks to their human hosts.

Electrochromic polymers create broad color palette for sunglasses, windows

February 9, 2015 9:54 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Artists, print designers and interior decorators have long had access to a broad palette of paint and ink colors for their work. Now, researchers have created a broad color palette of electrochromic polymers, materials that can be used for sunglasses, window tinting and other applications that rely on electrical current to produce color changes.

New fibers can deliver many simultaneous stimuli

January 20, 2015 7:33 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

The human brain’s complexity makes it extremely challenging to study; not only because of its sheer size, but also because of the variety of signaling methods it uses simultaneously. Conventional neural probes are designed to record a single type of signaling, limiting the information that can be derived from the brain at any point in time. Now researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology may have found a way to change that.

Solar cell polymers with multiplied electrical output

January 13, 2015 8:52 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

One challenge in improving the efficiency of solar cells is some of the absorbed light energy is lost as heat. So scientists have been looking to design materials that can convert more of that energy into useful electricity. Now a team from Brookhaven National Laboratory and Columbia Univ. has paired up polymers that recover some of that lost energy by producing two electrical charge carriers per unit of light instead of the usual one.

Renewable bioplastics made from squid proteins

December 18, 2014 2:33 pm | News | Comments

At Penn State, a group led by Melik Demirel, professor of engineering science and mechanics, is designing a biodegradable plastic from structural proteins that could help clean up the world's oceans and solve an interesting set of other problems along the way.

Microscopy pencils patterns in polymers at the nanoscale

December 17, 2014 2:50 pm | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists have used advanced microscopy to carve out nanoscale designs on the surface of a new class of ionic polymer materials for the first time. The study provides new evidence that atomic force microscopy, or AFM, could be used to precisely fabricate materials needed for increasingly smaller devices.

Squid supplies blueprint for printable thermoplastics

December 15, 2014 10:37 am | by Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

Squid, what is it good for? You can eat it and you can make ink or dye from it, and now a Penn State Univ. team of researchers is using it to make a thermoplastic that can be used in 3-D printing. The team looked at the protein complex that exists in the squid ring teeth (SRT). The naturally made material is a thermoplastic, but obtaining it requires a large amount of effort and many squid.

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