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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...

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...

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,...

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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.

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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.

Researchers develop inexpensive hydrolysable polymer

December 2, 2014 4:50 pm | by Rick Kubetz, Engineering Communications Office | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have figured out how to reverse the characteristics of a key bonding material—polyurea—providing an inexpensive alternative for a broad number of applications, such as drug delivery, tissue engineering and packaging.

Lengthening the life of high-capacity silicon electrodes in rechargeable lithium batteries

December 2, 2014 4:14 pm | by Mary Beckman, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | News | Comments

A new study will help researchers create longer-lasting, higher-capacity lithium rechargeable batteries, which are commonly used in consumer electronics. In a study published in ACS Nano, researchers showed how a coating that makes high-capacity silicon electrodes more durable could lead to a replacement for lower-capacity graphite electrodes.

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Researchers develop heat-conducting plastic

November 25, 2014 8:59 pm | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

The spaghetti-like internal structure of most plastics makes it hard for them to cast away heat, but a Univ. of Michigan research team has made a plastic blend that does so 10 times better than its conventional counterparts. Plastics are inexpensive, lightweight and flexible, but because they restrict the flow of heat, their use is limited in technologies like computers, smartphones, cars or airplanes.

Thermomagnetic processing method provides path to new materials

November 7, 2014 9:49 am | by ORNL | News | Comments

For much the same reason LCD televisions offer eye-popping performance, a thermomagnetic processing method developed at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory can advance the performance of polymers.           

Clearing a path for electrons in polymers

November 6, 2014 2:53 pm | by Univ. of Cambridge | News | Comments

A new class of low-cost polymer materials, which can carry electric charge with almost no losses despite their seemingly random structure, could lead to flexible electronics and displays which are faster and more efficient.

Pilot study reveals new findings about microplastics in wastewater

October 31, 2014 10:19 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Germany have employed micro-FTIR and ATR-FTIR spectroscopy to determine precisely the type and source of microplastics found in the wastewater of a regional water association in Lower Saxony. With these infrared imaging methods, it is now possible to specifically classify plastics, such as those used in toothpaste, cosmetics, fleece jackets and packaging.

“Swiss cheese” membrane with variable holes

October 31, 2014 10:01 am | News | Comments

A new membrane, developed scientists in the Netherlands, can be made more or less porous “on demand”. In this way, smart switching between “open” and “closed” is possible, which opens the way to innovative applications in biosensors, chemical analysis and catalysis.

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3-D metamaterials with a natural bent

October 24, 2014 8:44 am | News | Comments

Scientists have been able to manufacture 3-D isotropic metamaterials, but up to now only on a very small scale. Now, in a significant breakthrough, scientists from RIKEN, in collaboration with colleagues in Taiwan, have succeeded in creating a large metamaterial up to 4-mm-square in size that is essentially isotropic, using a type of metamaterial element called a split-ring resonator.

NIST offers electronics industry two ways to snoop on self-organizing molecules

October 23, 2014 12:33 pm | News | Comments

A few short years ago, the idea of a practical manufacturing process based on getting molecules to organize themselves in useful nanoscale shapes seemed far-fetched. Recent work at NIST, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and IBM Almaden Research Center suggest this capability isn’t far off, however, by demonstrating self-assembly of thin films on a polymer template that creates precise rows just 10 nm wide.

Study: Odors, chemicals above health standards caused by “green building” plumbing

October 20, 2014 11:27 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Several types of plastic pipes in eco-friendly green buildings in the U.S. have been found to leach chemicals into drinking water that can cause odors and sometimes exist at levels that may exceed health standards. Purdue Univ. engineering professor Andrew Whelton will detail these findings during the 2014 U.S. Green Building Council’s Greenbuild International Conference & Exposition on Oct. 24 in New Orleans.

Of bio-hairpins and polymer-spaghetti

October 9, 2014 11:02 am | News | Comments

When a sturdy material becomes soft and spongy, one usually suspects damage. But this is not always the case, especially in biological cells. By looking at microscopic biopolymer networks, researchers in Germany revealed that such materials soften by undergoing a transition from an entangled spaghetti of filaments to aligned layers of bow-shaped filaments that slide past each other. This finding may explain how other filaments flow.

Electrically conductive plastics promising for batteries, solar cells

October 9, 2014 10:46 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

An emerging class of electrically conductive plastics called "radical polymers” may bring low-cost, transparent solar cells, flexible and lightweight batteries, and ultrathin antistatic coatings for consumer electronics and aircraft. Researchers have established the solid-state electrical properties of one such polymer, called PTMA, which is about 10 times more electrically conductive than common semiconducting polymers.

Platelets modulate clotting behavior by “feeling” their surroundings

September 25, 2014 8:31 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Platelets, the tiny cell fragments whose job it is to stop bleeding, are very simple. They don’t have a cell nucleus. But they can “feel” the physical environment around them, researchers at Emory Univ. and Georgia Tech have discovered. Platelets respond to surfaces with greater stiffness by increasing their stickiness, the degree to which they “turn on” other platelets and other components of the clotting system, the researchers found.

Robotic fabric could bring “active clothing”, wearable robots

September 23, 2014 2:20 pm | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers are developing a robotic fabric that moves and contracts and is embedded with sensors, an approach that could lead to "active clothing" or a new class of "soft" robots. The robotic fabric, developed at Purdue Univ.,  is a cotton material containing sensors made of a flexible polymer and threadlike strands of a shape-memory alloy that return to a coiled shape when heated, causing the fabric to move.

Team improves solar cell efficiency with new polymer

September 19, 2014 4:49 pm | by Emily Conover, Univ. of Chicago | News | Comments

A collaboration between scientists in the Univ. of Chicago’s chemistry department, the Institute for Molecular Engineering and Argonne National Laboratory has produced the highest-ever recorded efficiency for solar cells made of two types of polymers and fulllerene. Researchers identified a new polymer that improved the efficiency of solar cells and also determined the method by which the polymer improved the cells’ efficiency.

Advanced molecular “sieves” could be used for carbon capture

September 18, 2014 12:33 pm | News | Comments

Researchers from the Univ. of Cambridge have developed advanced molecular synthetic membranes, or “sieves”, which could be used to filter carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. The sieves were made by heating microporous polymers using low levels of oxygen which, produces a tougher and far more selective membrane that is still relatively flexible.

Team aims to improve plant-based battery with neutrons, simulation

September 18, 2014 8:02 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

When Orlando Rios first started analyzing samples of carbon fibers made from a woody plant polymer known as lignin, he noticed something unusual. The material’s microstructure—a mixture of perfectly spherical nanoscale crystallites distributed within a fibrous matrix—looked almost too good to be true.

Shrink-wrapping spacesuits

September 18, 2014 7:32 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

For future astronauts, the process of suiting up may go something like this: Instead of climbing into a conventional, bulky, gas-pressurized suit, an astronaut may don a lightweight, stretchy garment, lined with tiny, muscle-like coils. She would then plug in to a spacecraft’s power supply, triggering the coils to contract and essentially shrink-wrap the garment around her body.

How to hide like an octopus

September 17, 2014 7:33 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Cephalopods are among nature’s most skillful camouflage artists, able to change both the color and texture of their skin within seconds to blend into their surroundings. Engineers have long struggled to duplicate this in synthetic materials. Now a team of researchers has come closer than ever to achieving that goal, creating a flexible material that can change its color or fluorescence and its texture at the same time.

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