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Scientists discover 3D magnetic vortices

May 7, 2013 11:15 am | News | Comments

Magnetic vortices typically occur in nanometer-scale magnetic disks, which are studied for their potential roles in wireless data transmission. So far, magnetic vortex states have been observed only within a plane, but recently researchers in Europe have discovered 3D magnetic vortices for the first time in a specially designed stack of magnetic disks.

Nanoparticles give major enhancement to polymer solar cells

May 7, 2013 11:11 am | News | Comments

A polymer thin film solar cell (PSC) produces electricity from sunlight by the photovoltaic effect. Though light and inexpensive, PSCs currently suffer from a lack of enough efficiency for large scale applications and they also have stability problems. Researches in Korea have designed and added multi-positional silica-coated silver nanoparticles that have greatly improved stability and performance of these cells.

Ultrathin transistors spread like butter on toast

April 18, 2013 8:37 am | by Anne Ju, Cornell University | News | Comments

Like spreading a thin layer of butter on toast, Cornell University scientists have helped develop a novel process of spreading extremely thin organic transistors, and used synchrotron X-rays to watch how the films crystallize. The coating procedure, called solution shearing, is like the buttering of a slice of toast.

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Nanoengineered plastic film is the future of 3D on-the-go

April 2, 2013 12:40 pm | News | Comments

Ditch the 3D glasses. Thanks to a simple plastic filter, mobile device users can now view unprecedented, distortion-free, brilliant 3D content with the naked eye. This latest innovation from researchers in Singapore is the first ever glasses-free 3D accessory that can display content in both portrait and landscape mode, and measures less than 0.1 mm in thickness.

Inorganic materials display massive swelling and shrinkage

April 1, 2013 8:15 pm | News | Comments

There is high interest in methods to produce 2D crystals by exfoliating materials with layered structures, but certain ions or solvents can infiltrate materials with layered structures, forcing exfoliation spontaneously and complicating efforts to build practical materials. While working to develop these procedures, researchers in Japan have reported an unusual phenomenon that layered materials undergo drastic swelling without breaking into separate 2D crystal layers.

Chemical vapor sensors built with new monolayer materials

April 1, 2013 1:33 pm | News | Comments

Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory have fabricated a vapor sensor using a single monolayer of molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) on a silicon dioxide wafer. They show that it functions effectively as a chemical vapor sensor, exhibiting highly selective reactivity to a range of analytes, and providing sensitive transduction of transient surface physisorption events to the conductance of the monolayer channel.

Watching fluid flow at nanometer scales

April 1, 2013 7:34 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Imagine if you could drink a glass of water just by inserting a solid wire into it and sucking on it as though it were a soda straw. It turns out that if you were tiny enough, that method would work just fine—and wouldn’t even require the suction to start. New research has demonstrated, for the first time, that when inserted into a pool of liquid, nanowires naturally draw the liquid upward in a thin film that coats the surface of the wire.

Hybrid ribbons a gift for powerful batteries

March 25, 2013 12:21 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice University | News | Comments

According to recent research at Rice University, vanadium oxide and graphene may be a key new set of materials for improving lithium-ion storage. Ribbons created at Rice from these two materials are thousands of times thinner than a sheet of paper, yet have potential that far outweighs current materials for their ability to charge and discharge very quickly. Initial capacity remains at 90% or more after more than 1,000 cycles.

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Paint-on plastic electronics

March 25, 2013 7:51 am | News | Comments

Semiconducting polymers are an unruly bunch, but University of Michigan engineers have developed a new method for getting them in line that could pave the way for cheaper, greener, "paint-on" plastic electronics.

Device may lead to quicker, more efficient diagnostics

March 13, 2013 12:18 pm | News | Comments

A current optical-sensing technology can launch and guide a single light wave, called a surface-plasmon-polariton (SPP) wave, that travels along the flat interface of the sample to be analyzed. However, only one wave can be used, allowing the analysis of just one substance. Researchers at Penn State University have designed a thin film that can create additional channels for the SPP waves. 

Riddle solved: How two unlikely materials are held together

March 11, 2013 9:38 am | News | Comments

For years, researchers have developed thin films of bismuth telluride, which converts heat into electricity or electricity to cooling, on top of gallium arsenide to create cooling devices for electronics. But it was not clear how this could be done because the atomic structures do not appear to be compatible. Researchers from North Carolina State University and RTI International have now solved the mystery.

New spectroscopy technique could improve optical devices

March 5, 2013 2:10 pm | News | Comments

A multi-university research team has used a new spectroscopic method—energy-momentum spectroscopy—to gain a key insight into how light is emitted from layered nanomaterials and other thin films. The technique lets researchers understand the source and orientation of light in light-emitting thin films and could lead to better LEDs, solar cells, and other devices that use layered nanomaterials.

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.

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Nanotubes generate huge electric currents from osmotic flow

March 4, 2013 7:44 am | by Thorsten Naeser, Max-Planck-Institute of Quantum Optics | News | Comments

The salinity difference between freshwater and saltwater could be a source of renewable energy. However, power yields from existing techniques are not high enough to make them viable. A team led by physicists in France has discovered a new means of harnessing this energy. Their method of osmotic flow through boron nitride nanotubes generates electric currents with 1,000 times the efficiency of any previous system.

Clever battery completes stretchable electronics package

February 27, 2013 8:05 am | News | Comments

Northwestern University’s Yonggang Huang and the University of Illinois’ John A. Rogers are the first to demonstrate a stretchable lithium-ion battery—a flexible device capable of powering their innovative stretchable electronics. Their battery continues to work—powering a commercial light-emitting diode (LED)—even when stretched, folded, twisted and mounted on a human elbow. The battery can work for eight to nine hours before it needs recharging, which can be done wirelessly.

New carbon films improve prospects of solar energy devices

February 14, 2013 9:25 am | News | Comments

New research by Yale University scientists helps pave the way for the next generation of solar cells, a renewable energy technology that directly converts solar energy into electricity. In a pair of recent papers, Yale engineers report a novel and cost-effective way to improve the efficiency of crystalline silicon solar cells through the application of thin, smooth carbon nanotube films.

New material class could help create better solar cells

February 12, 2013 9:54 am | News | Comments

Recent research shows that a newly discovered class of materials, called layered oxide heterostructures, could have optimal electrical characteristics. A research team at the Vienna University of Technology, together with colleagues from the United States and Germany, has now shown that these heterostructures can be used to create a new kind of extremely efficient ultra-thin solar cells.

Researchers strain to improve electrical material

February 11, 2013 11:09 am | News | Comments

Like turning coal to diamond, adding pressure to an electrical material enhances its properties. Now, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers have devised a method of making ferroelectric thin films with twice the strain, resulting in exceptional performance.

With voltage, “smart” oxide flips from open to closed

February 8, 2013 11:48 am | News | Comments

Researchers have tried for decades to replicate the effects of transistors in transition metal oxides by using a voltage to convert the material from an insulator to a metal, but the induced change only occurs within a few atomic layers of the surface. Recently, however, scientists in Japan have discovered that applying a voltage to a vanadium dioxide film several tens of nanometers thick converts the entire film from an insulator to a metal.

New options for transparent contact electrodes

January 29, 2013 10:29 am | News | Comments

Found in flat screens, solar modules, or in new organic light-emitting diode (LED) displays, transparent electrodes have become ubiquitous. But since raw materials like indium are becoming more and more costly, researchers have begun to look elsewhere for alternatives. A new review article sheds some light on the different advantages and disadvantages of established and new materials for use in these kinds of contact electrodes.

Liquid crystal’s chaotic inner dynamics

January 24, 2013 4:08 pm | News | Comments

Physicists have recently demonstrated that the application of a very strong alternating electric field to thin liquid crystal cells leads to a new distinct nonlinear dynamic effect in the response of the cells. Researchers were able to explain this result through spatio-temporal chaos theory. The finding has implications for the operation of liquid crystal devices because their operation depends on electro-optic switch phenomena.

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.   

Atomic layer deposition technique improves thermoelectric materials

January 22, 2013 9:49 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the Aalto University School of Chemical Technology have applied atomic layer deposition (ALD) technique to the synthesis of thermoelectric materials. Converting waste energy into electricity, these materials are a promising means of producing energy cost-effectively and without carbon dioxide emissions in the future.

New surfaces repel most known liquids

January 16, 2013 1:18 pm | News | Comments

In an advance toward stain-proof, spill-proof clothing, protective garments and other products that shrug off virtually every liquid—from blood and ketchup to concentrated acids—scientists are reporting development of new "superomniphobic" surfaces. These new surfaces display extreme repellency to two families of liquids: Newtonian and non-Newtonian.

NREL, Stanford team up on peel-and-stick solar cells

January 13, 2013 10:48 pm | News | Comments

It may be possible soon to charge cell phones, change the tint on windows, or power small toys with peel-and-stick versions of solar cells. A partnership between Stanford University and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory aims to produce water-assisted transfer printing technologies that support thin-film solar cell production.

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