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Container’s properties affect the viscosity of nanoscale water

September 19, 2013 10:38 am | by John Toon, Georgia Tech | News | Comments

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.

“Terminator”polymer regenerates itself

September 13, 2013 12:22 pm | News | Comments

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.

Material in dissolvable sutures could treat brain infections

August 29, 2013 2:59 pm | News | Comments

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.

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Polymer knots with silicon hearts help drug delivery applications

August 29, 2013 9:55 am | News | Comments

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.

Silicon Binder Boosts Batteries

August 28, 2013 1:29 pm | Award Winners

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.

Paint Hiding with Less

August 28, 2013 8:14 am | Award Winners

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.

Chemical engineers' research may lead to inexpensive, flexible solar cells

August 22, 2013 8:46 am | News | Comments

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.

Ideal nanocrystal produced from bulk plastics

August 20, 2013 8:08 am | News | Comments

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.

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Plastic solar cells’ new design promises bright future

August 14, 2013 9:53 am | by Megan Fellman, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

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.

“Smart” nanoparticles to improve drug delivery, DNA self-assembly

August 12, 2013 3:39 pm | by Rob Enslin, Syracuse Univ. | News | Comments

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.

Synthetic polymers enable durable alkaline fuel cells

August 9, 2013 7:54 am | News | Comments

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.

Disorder can improve performance of plastic solar cells

August 7, 2013 7:48 am | by Mark Shwartz, Stanford University | News | Comments

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.

Light that moves and molds gels

August 1, 2013 4:08 pm | News | Comments

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.

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Scientists point to alternative to petroleum for ethylene production

July 31, 2013 5:36 pm | News | Comments

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.

Tetrapod quantum dots light the way to stronger polymers

July 30, 2013 9:23 am | News | Comments

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.

Center creates new polymers from safe, renewable resources

July 25, 2013 7:23 pm | by Marlene Cimons, National Science Foundation, Center for Sustainable Polymers | News | Comments

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 get better metric on laser potential of key material

July 25, 2013 8:34 am | News | Comments

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.

Two-in-one: New material could enable low-cost polymer LEDs, solar cells

July 22, 2013 9:26 am | News | Comments

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.

Scientists create first shape-memory plastics able to reverse deformation

July 17, 2013 8:27 am | News | Comments

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.

Superstrong fiber gets helps from carbon nanotubes

July 11, 2013 10:39 am | by Angela Herring, Northeastern Univ. | News | Comments

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.

Engineers use adhesion to combine experimental advantages of silicones, organic materials

July 10, 2013 10:31 am | News | Comments

Introductory chemistry students learn that oil and water repel each other. So do other hydrophobic substances, which carry no electric charge, and hydrophilic substances, which carry an electric charge that allows them to mix with water. In a recent study, a group of bioengineers have found a way to strongly adhere hydrogels to hydrophobic silicone substrates, an innovation that provides a valuable new tool for microscale biotechnology.

Bringing color to solar façades

July 2, 2013 12:21 pm | News | Comments

Designers of buildings typically have no choice but to use black or bluish-gray colored solar panels. With the help of thin-film technologies, however, researchers in Germany have now added color to solar cells. Optics specialists have changed physical thickness of the transparent conductive oxide layer, modifying its refractive index.

Polymers key to oral protein-based drugs

June 28, 2013 9:55 am | News | Comments

In a new study, a “bioadhesive” coating developed at Brown Univ. significantly improved the intestinal absorption into the bloodstream of nanoparticles that someday could carry protein drugs such as insulin. Such a step is necessary for drugs taken by mouth, rather than injected directly into the blood.

Polymer-coated catalyst protects "artificial leaf"

June 17, 2013 6:42 pm | News | Comments

Electrolysis is often used to produce hydrogen that can be used for a storable fuel. Modified solar cells with highly efficient architecture can use this method to obtain hydrogen from water with the help of catalysts. But these solar cells rapidly corrode in aqueous electrolytes. By embedding the catalysts in an electrically conducting polymer, researchers have prevented this corrosion while maintaining competitive efficiency.

Detecting homemade explosives, not toothpaste

June 13, 2013 7:52 am | News | Comments

Sandia National Laboratories researchers want airports, border checkpoints and others to detect homemade explosives made with hydrogen peroxide without nabbing people whose toothpaste happens to contain peroxide. That’s part of the challenge faced in developing a portable sensor to detect a common homemade explosive called a FOx mixture, made by mixing hydrogen peroxide with fuels.

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