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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.

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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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Fighting bacteria with mucus

November 9, 2012 9:28 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Slimy layers of bacterial growth, known as biofilms, pose a significant hazard in industrial and medical settings. Once established, biofilms are very difficult to remove, and a great deal of research has gone into figuring out how to prevent and eradicate them. Results from a recent study suggest a possible new source of protection against biofilm formation: polymers found in mucus.

Improving lithium battery performance

November 8, 2012 8:50 am | News | Comments

Lithium batteries are used in many devices such as cell phones, computers, and cameras, among others. University of Delaware doctoral student Wei-Fan Kuan is investigating ways to improve membranes used in lithium batteries by capitalizing on the innate properties of block copolymers.

Stem cells and nanofibers produce promising nerve research

November 7, 2012 2:45 pm | News | Comments

Nerves often die or shrink as a result of disease or injury. Researchers in Michigan and California have recently reported success in developing polymer nanofiber technologies for understanding how nerves form, why they don’t reconnect after injury, and what can be done to prevent or slow damage. The breakthrough involves growing and myelinating nerve cells along thin polymer nanofibers.

Butterfly wings inspire new high-tech surfaces

November 7, 2012 2:33 pm | by Pam Frost Gorder, Ohio State University | News | Comments

After carefully studying the structure of butterfly wings and rice leaves, Ohio State University engineers designed a coated plastic surface resembling a butterfly wing’s texture. Butterflies in the wild need to have bright, clean wings for reproduction and flying, and the surface created by engineers was reportedly easier to keep free of dust particles than a flat surface. The finding could inform designs for a variety of surfaces in various industries.

A step toward stronger polymers

November 6, 2012 8:56 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed, for the first time, a way to measure how many loops are present in a given polymer network, an advance they believe is the first step toward creating better materials that don't contain weak spots.

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Super-microbes engineered to solve world environmental problems

October 8, 2012 1:29 pm | News | Comments

Microorganisms isolated from nature use their own metabolism to produce certain chemicals. But they are often inefficient, so metabolic engineering is used to improve microbial performance. Recent work at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology highlights the potential for engineered organism, such as Escherichia coli, to aid in common industrial processes such as polymer production.

Chemical nanofiber sensor finds landmines and buried IEDs

August 2, 2012 5:21 am | News | Comments

A chemical sensing system developed by engineers at the University of Connecticut is believed to be the first of its kind capable of detecting vapors from buried landmines and other explosive devices with the naked eye rather than advanced scientific instrumentation. The key to the system is a fluorescent nanofiberous film that can detect ultra-trace levels of explosive vapors.

Wrinkled surfaces could have widespread applications

August 1, 2012 4:30 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A group of Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers has discovered a way of making perfectly ordered and repeatable surfaces with patterns of microscale wrinkles. The method involves chemical vapor deposition of a layer onto a stretched silicon-polymer substrate. When tension is released first one way, then the other, a perfectly ordered wrinkled pattern emerges.

How to avoid traps in plastic electronics

July 31, 2012 5:15 am | News | Comments

Plastic semiconductors have an important design flaw: The electronic current is influenced by poorly understood "charge traps" in the material. A new study by an international team of researchers reveals a common mechanism underlying these traps and provides a theoretical framework to design trap-free plastic electronics.

Triboelectric generator captures power from plastic

July 9, 2012 11:58 am | News | Comments

Researchers have discovered yet another way to harvest small amounts of electricity from motion in the world around us—this time by capturing the electrical charge produced when two different kinds of plastic materials rub against one another. Based on flexible polymer materials, this "triboelectric" generator could provide alternating current from activities such as walking.

Eating garbage: Bacteria for bioremediation

June 26, 2012 6:36 am | News | Comments

City officials in Medellín, Colombia, recently faced the difficult task of relocating an entire neighborhood off of a contaminated landfill they were using to grow food and collect water. Unable to pay for removal, officials may have found another way: Researchers at the University of Illinois have put together an experiment to see if biological agents could be used to neutralize the hydrocarbon contaminants at the site.

“Dirt cheap” magnetic field sensor made from “plastic paint”

June 13, 2012 5:08 am | News | Comments

University of Utah physicists developed an inexpensive, highly accurate magnetic field sensor for scientific and possibly consumer uses based on a “spintronic” organic thin-film semiconductor that basically is “plastic paint.” Its inventors say the new type of magnetometer also resists heat and degradation, works at room temperature and never needs to be calibrated.

Researchers develop durable plastic that may replace metals

June 7, 2012 9:06 am | News | Comments

As landfills overflow with discarded plastics, scientists have been working to produce a biodegradable alternative that will reduce pollution. Now a Tel Aviv University researcher is giving the quest for environmentally friendly plastics an entirely new dimension—by making them tougher than ever before.

Researchers design and build synthetic platelets

May 31, 2012 7:52 am | News | Comments

Platelets are the components of blood that allow it to prevent excessive bleeding and to heal wounds. Through a complex series of deposition and crosslinking techniques, researchers have recently built a synthetic version of the platelet that shares the natural cells characteristics. Synthetic platelets could have many biomedical uses.

Researcher achieves voltage control in plastic transistor

May 17, 2012 4:44 am | News | Comments

A year after a researcher at Linköping University in Sweden built a fully functional field-effect transistor from plastic, another scientist at the same institution has shown that it is possible to control these transistors with great precision, allowing the device to function as a logic circuit.

New process technologies bring better helmets to the field

May 17, 2012 4:40 am | News | Comments

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory-led Army ManTech program has achieved a breakthrough in the ability to process thermoplastic-based composites for use in the helmets of soldiers. The new material grades have produced several types of head protection, each of which saves at least one-quarter the weight and up to 35% higher tolerance from fragmenting munitions.

New class of thin-film electronics is based on copolymers

May 11, 2012 9:28 am | News | Comments

A French-American collaboration has developed a new combination of polymers that makes it possible to design ultra-thin films capable of self-organization with a 5-nm resolution. These hybrid copolymers are based on sugars and oil-based macromolecules. Previous attempts using nothing but oil-based molecules were limited to 20 nm in thickness.

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