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AMSilk develops first man-made, scalable spider silk fiber

March 11, 2013 9:24 am | News | Comments

Germany-based company AMSilk has produced the world’s first competitive man-made spider silk fiber, called Biosteel, which is made entirely from recombinant silk proteins. Biosteel has mechanical properties similar to that of natural spider silk when comparing toughness, a measure indicating the kinetic energy absorbed before the fiber breaks.

New surface coating cuts through the fog

March 5, 2013 9:08 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Until recently, there has been no systematic way of evaluating how different anti-fog coatings perform under real-world conditions. A team of MIT researchers has developed such a testing method, and used it to find a coating that outperforms others not only in preventing foggy buildups, but also in maintaining good optical properties without distortion.

Polymer scientists develop double switchable membrane

February 27, 2013 10:46 pm | News | Comments

Pharmaceutical residues in water can pose a danger to humans. Filtration is often very difficult as these trace substances, which are soluble in water, are so minute. Newly-developed double switchable membranes could make it possible to filter these molecules, as well as other  biomolecules such as proteins and nucleic acids. The new membranes can reduce or enlarge pore size through changes in temperature and pH value.

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Research to probe deep within a solar cell

February 25, 2013 9:54 am | News | Comments

Engineers and scientists from the University of Sheffield have pioneered a new technique to analyze PCBM, a material used in polymer photovoltaic cells, obtaining details of the structure of the material which will be vital to improving the cell's efficiency.

Supramolecular “Velcro” aids underwater adhesion

February 22, 2013 8:50 am | News | Comments

When gluing things together, both surfaces usually need to be dry. Gluing wet surfaces or surfaces under water is a challenge. Korean scientists have now introduced a completely new concept. They were able to achieve reversible underwater adhesion by using supramolecular "Velcro".

New imaging device is flexible, flat, and transparent

February 20, 2013 12:20 pm | News | Comments

A research team in Austria has developed an entirely new way of capturing images based on a flat, flexible, transparent, and potentially disposable polymer sheet. The new imager, which resembles a flexible plastic film, uses fluorescent particles to capture incoming light and channel a portion of it to an array of sensors framing the sheet. With no electronics or internal components, the imager’s elegant design makes it ideal for a new breed of imaging technologies.

Photo-growth of pores in a polymer gel network

February 7, 2013 9:08 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have pioneered a new method for producing polymer gels with tailored mechanical properties. The approach, which depends on the use of ultraviolet to break chemical bonds and prime them for new connections, could be used to make new materials that physically grow towards a light source in order to optimize their properties.

Stronger than Kevlar, light as a tee-shirt

February 4, 2013 8:52 am | by Angela Herring, Northeastern University | News | Comments

Traditionally, carbon fibers are made by “carbonizing” a polymer called poly-acrylonitrile, or PAN, by spinning it into a fiber and heating to form a homogenous carbons structure. Since its invention, improvement have been incremental, and version made with 100% carbon nanotubes are extremely expensive. A researcher at Northeastern University is working on a much cheaper, and stronger, alternative.

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Exotic chemical compound could be useful in batteries

January 24, 2013 2:08 pm | News | Comments

Northwestern University graduate student Jonathan Barnes had a hunch for creating an exotic new chemical compound, and his idea that the force of love is stronger than hate proved correct. He and his colleagues are the first to permanently interlock two identical tetracationic rings that normally are repelled by each other. Many experts had said it couldn't be done.

New antimicrobial hydrogels fight superbugs and drug-resistant biofilms

January 24, 2013 8:20 am | News | Comments

Bacterial biofilms, which diseased groupings of cells found in 80% of infections, are a significant health hazard and one of the biggest headaches for hospitals and their constant battle against disease. Researchers from IBM, with the help of scientists in Singapore, revealed today a synthetic antimicrobial hydrogel that can break through diseased biofilms and completely eradicate drug-resistant bacteria upon contact. It is the first hydrogel to be biodegradable, biocompatible, and non-toxic.

Sensors from a spray can: Organic materials increase camera sensitivity

January 23, 2013 5:41 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Germany have developed a new generation of image sensors that are more sensitive to light than the conventional silicon versions. Simple and cheap to produce, they consist of electrically conductive plastics which are sprayed onto the sensor surface in an ultra-thin layer. The chemical composition of the polymer spray coating can be altered so that even the invisible range of the light spectrum can be captured.   

Bisphenol A substitute could spell trouble

January 23, 2013 8:35 am | News | Comments

In the same week that a team of researchers in France announced the harmful effects of bisphenol A (BPA) on hormone levels in human tissue, researchers in Texas have demonstrated through experiments that the BPA substitute bisphenol S also disrupts hormone activity at an extremely low level of exposure, and in an even more problematic way.

Study: Harmful effects of bisphenol A proven

January 22, 2013 11:43 am | News | Comments

The compound bisphenol A, which is found in plastics and resins, has been under scrutiny as chemists attempt to determine whether it is a health hazard for humans. According to researchers in France, even weak concentrations of bisphenol A are sufficient to produce a negative reaction in human testicles, reducing the production of testosterone hormones.

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A light switch inside the brain

January 18, 2013 11:06 am | News | Comments

Scientists in Germany and Switzerland have developed an implant that is able to genetically modify specific nerve cells, control them with light stimuli, and measure their electrical activity all at the same time. This new tool relies on an innovative genetic technique that forces nerve cells to change their activity by shining light of different colors onto them.

Self-assembled “soft Legos” create complex crystal shapes

January 17, 2013 12:24 pm | News | Comments

A team of researchers in Austria has shown that so-called block copolymer stars—polymers that consist of two different blocks and are chemically anchored on a common point—have a robust and flexible architecture and they possess the ability to self-assemble at different levels. The team has called their invention, which can form complex crystal diamonds or cubes, the “soft Lego”.

New material harvests energy from water vapor

January 10, 2013 2:50 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers have created a new polymer film that can generate electricity by drawing on a ubiquitous source: water vapor. The new material changes its shape after absorbing tiny amounts of evaporated water, allowing it to repeatedly curl up and down. Harnessing this continuous motion could drive robotic limbs or generate enough electricity to power micro- and nanoelectronic devices, such as environmental sensors.

Mussels inspire innovative new adhesive for surgery

January 9, 2013 6:33 pm | News | Comments

Mussels can be a mouthwatering meal, but the chemistry that lets mussels stick to underwater surfaces may also provide a highly adhesive wound closure and more effective healing from surgery. Researchers have incorporated the chemical structure from the mussel's adhesive protein into the design of an injectable synthetic polymer. The bioadhesives adhere well in wet environments, have controlled degradability, and improved biocompatibility.

Stopping leaks the way blood does

January 8, 2013 2:00 pm | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers has analyzed the blood clotting process and found, for the first time, exactly how the different molecular components work together to block the flow of blood from a cut. Now, they are working on applying that knowledge to the development of synthetic materials that could be used to control different kinds of liquid flows, and could lead to a variety of new self-assembling materials.

Thermoplastic composites made simpler to produce

December 6, 2012 12:41 pm | News | Comments

Continuous fiber-reinforced composites with thermoplastic matrix resins are well suited for use in automotive manufacturing, but the process of creating them is complex and expensive. A new approach now makes it possible to use an injection molding process. Previously, injection molding was limited to fiber-reinforced composites made of short fibers or long fibers.

Scientists develop indium-free OLEDs

December 4, 2012 8:56 am | News | Comments

Scientists at Ames Laboratory have discovered new ways of using a well-known polymer in organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), which could eliminate the need for an increasingly problematic and breakable metal-oxide used in screen displays. The polymer, known as PEDOT:PSS, has been around for about 15 years. However, until recently, the material wasn't sufficiently conductive or transparent enough to be a viable ITO substitute.

ORNL develops lignin-based thermoplastic conversion process

December 3, 2012 7:15 am | News | Comments

Turning lignin, a plant's structural glue and a byproduct of the paper and pulp industry, into something considerably more valuable is driving a research effort headed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The research team has developed a process that ultimately transforms the lignin byproduct into a thermoplastic by reconstructing larger lignin molecules either through a chemical reaction with formaldehyde or by washing with methanol.

Scientists image molecular structure of polymer blends

November 29, 2012 9:31 am | News | Comments

Using an enhanced form of "chemical microscopy" developed at NIST, researchers there have shown that they can peer into the structure of blended polymers, resolving details of the molecular arrangement at sub-micrometer levels. The capability has important implications for the design of industrially important polymers like the polyethylene blends used to repair aging waterlines.

Scientists image the molecular structure of polymer blends

November 28, 2012 11:34 am | News | Comments

Using an enhanced form of "chemical microscopy" developed at NIST, researchers there have shown that they can peer into the structure of blended polymers, resolving details of the molecular arrangement at sub-micrometer levels. The capability has important implications for the design of industrially important polymers like the polyethylene blends used to repair aging waterlines.

Sieve holds nanoparticles, acts as solar absorber

November 26, 2012 12:43 pm | News | Comments

Colloidal suspensions of metal nanoparticles in water passes too easily through commonly used macroporous polymeric membranes. To handle these nanofluids, researchers have built a membrane equipped functionalized proteins that can act as filters for nanoscaled particles in aqueous solutions. Such a nano-sieve could act as a catalyzer or could capture solar energy.

Computer memory could increase fivefold with self-assembly

November 13, 2012 7:39 pm | News | Comments

Engineers in Texas have adopted the nanoscale fabrication technique of directed self-assembly to increase the surface storage density of hard disk drives. The method, which relies on block copolymers, is able to organize magnetic dots into patterns far finer than existing methods. And it does so without risking the integrity of the magnetic fields.   

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