A new toaster-sized 3-D printer, set for launch next year, is designed to greatly reduce the need for astronauts to load up with every tool, spare part or supply they might ever need. The printers would serve as a flying factory of infinite designs, creating objects by extruding layer upon layer of plastic from long strands coiled around large spools.
Researchers in Australia have developed a process for turning waste plastic bags into a high-tech nanomaterial. The furnace-driven process uses non-biodegradable plastic grocery bags to produce carbon layers that line pores in nanoporous alumina membranes. The result is carbon nanotube membranes.
Imagine an electronic display nearly as clear as a window, or a curtain that illuminates a room, or a smartphone screen that doubles in size, stretching like rubber. Now imagine all of these being made from the same material. Researchers from Univ. of California, Los Angeles have developed a transparent, elastic OLED that could one day make all these possible.
Anyone who’s stuffed a smartphone in their back pocket would appreciate the convenience of electronic devices that could bend. Alas, electronic components are generally made from stiff and brittle metals and inorganic semiconductors. Now, researchers have created the first theoretical framework seeking to understand, predict and improve the conductivity of semiconducting polymers.
Traditionally, the training of bomb-sniffing dogs has been a hazardous job, but newly developed odor-releasing materials could take the risk out of that work. Scientists at NIST are seeking to patent a novel system that can capture scents and release them over time.
Water pours into a cup at about the same rate regardless of whether the water bottle is made of glass or plastic. But at nanometer-size scales, material type does make a significant difference. A new study shows that in nanoscopic channels, the effective viscosity of water in channels made of glass can be twice as high as water in plastic channels, potentially affecting a variety of research approaches.
Scientists in Spain have reported the first self-healing polymer that spontaneously and independently repairs itself without any intervention. The researchers have dubbed the material a “Terminator” polymer in tribute to the shape-shifting, molten T-100 terminator robot from the Terminator 2 film.
A plastic material already used in absorbable surgical sutures and other medical devices shows promise for continuous administration of antibiotics to patients with brain infections, scientists are reporting in a new study. Use of the material, placed directly on the brain’s surface, could reduce the need for weeks of costly hospital stays now required for such treatment.
Getting biomolecules past the body’s numerous defenses requires innovations such as drug-delivering nanoparticles. Polylactic acid (PLA) is a potential candidate because it is non-toxic, biodegradable, and spontaneously assembles into tiny structures under the right conditions. Researchers in Singapore have developed a robust method to synthesize PLA nanoparticles using copolymer technology and a rigid “nanocage” made from silicon.
Improvements to lithium-ion batteries have been difficult in part because of the relative simplicity of the battery. However, the glue-like binders used to hold electrode materials in place have been identified as a potential area for improvements. Typically, these anodic materials have been based on graphite. At Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a Conducting Polymer Binder has been developed based on silicon and offers four features of improvement over previous technologies.
The Dow Chemical Co. has developed a new binder, called EVOQUE Pre-Composite Polymer Technology, which interacts with the surface of titanium dioxide to improve dispersal.
Most solar cells today are inorganic and made of crystalline silicon. These cells tend to be expensive, rigid and relatively inefficient when it comes to converting sunlight into electricity. Work by a team of chemical engineers at Penn State Univ. and Rice Univ. may lead to a new class of inexpensive organic solar cells, one that skips difficult-to-scale fullerene acceptors and relies on molecular self-assembly instead.
Polyethylene, an inexpensive commodity plastic, has been successfully used by researchers to synthesize the “ideal” polymer nanocrystal. Normally, this plastic is only partly crystalline, but a new catalyst has produced material that eliminates amorphous structures. The crystalline nanostructure could prove of interest to production of new kinds of coatings.
Polymer, or plastic, solar cells contain Earth-abundant and environmentally benign materials, can be made flexible and lightweight, and can be fabricated using roll-to-roll technologies. But the cells’ power-conversion efficiency has been limited. A Northwestern Univ. research reports the design and synthesis of new polymer semiconductors a plastic solar cells with fill factors of 80%. This number is close to that of silicon solar cells.
A team of chemists at Syracuse Univ. has used a temperature-sensitive polymer to regulate DNA interactions in both a DNA-mediated assembly system and a DNA-encoded drug-delivery system. Their findings may improve how nanomaterials self-assemble into functional devices and how anticancer drugs, including doxorubicin, are delivered into the body.
A new cost-effective polymer membrane can decrease the cost of alkaline batteries and fuel cells by allowing the replacement of expensive platinum catalysts without sacrificing important aspects of performance, according to Penn State Univ. researchers.
Scientists have spent decades trying to build flexible plastic solar cells efficient enough to compete with conventional cells made of silicon. To boost performance, research groups have tried creating new plastic materials that enhance the flow of electricity through the solar cell. Recently, scientists discovered that disorder at the molecular level actually improves the polymers' performance.
Some animals, like the octopus and cuttlefish, transform their shape based on environment. For decades, researchers have worked toward mimicking similar biological responses in non-living organisms, as it would have significant implications in the medical arena. Now, researchers at the Univ. of Pittsburgh have demonstrated such a biomimetic response using hydrogels.
Ethylene, now produced from petroleum, is one of the most important raw materials for everyday products. Researchers in China say they have identified a promising alternative to petroleum. Their proposal, a fluidized bed reactor, works by suspending the chemicals needed to make ethylene inside the walls of a chamber. Newly produced ethylene exits through a pipe, while the rest of the material remains to continue production.
Fluorescent tetrapod nanocrystals could light the way to the future design of stronger polymer nanocomposites. A team of researchers with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has developed an advanced optomechanical sensing technique based on tetrapod quantum dots that allows precise measurement of the tensile strength of polymer fibers with minimal impact on the fiber’s mechanical properties.
Scientists are working to reduce the nation's reliance on fossil fuels by developing environmentally friendly and cost effective plastics from natural, sustainable and renewable materials, such as vegetable oils, starches, sugars—even recycled grass clippings. The Univ. of Minnesota’s Center for Sustainable Polymers has recruited more than 25 companies to help develop new materials and those already on the market, like polylactide.
Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed more accurate measurements of how efficiently a polymer called MEH-PPV amplifies light, which should advance efforts to develop a new generation of lasers and photonic devices. MEH-PPV is a low-cost polymer that can be integrated with silicon chips, and researchers have sought to use the material to convert electricity into laser light for use in photonic devices.
Researchers in South Korea have reported the development of a new plasmonic material that can be applied to both polymer light-emitting diodes (PLEDs) and polymer solar cells (PSCs), resulting in high performance from a low-cost fabrication process. They say the material is easy to synthesize with basic equipment and has low-temperature solution processability.
Until now, polymers with temperature-controlled shape memory could only change form once. Biomaterial researchers have recently developed plastics that can repeatedly change from one shape to another and then back again when temperatures fluctuate within a selected range. The material is dubbed “polymer actuators” by its creators in Germany.
Today’s options for high-performance fibers, include Kevlar, Spectra, Dyneema and Zylon. They have been the strongest synthetics in the world. But Marilyn Minus, an asst. prof. of engineering at Northeastern Univ., has developed a type of fiber that is stronger than the first three commercial products mentioned above, and in its first generation approaches the strength of Zylon.