In response to requests from the semiconductor industry, a team of researchers at the Physical Measurement Laboratory has demonstrated that atomic force microscope probe tips made from its near-perfect gallium nitride nanowires are superior in many respects to standard silicon or platinum tips. They also found a way to use the tips as LEDs to illuminate sample regions while scanning.
Graphene’s promise as a material for new kinds of electronic devices, among other uses, has led researchers around the world to study the material in search of new applications. But one of the biggest limitations to wider use of the strong, lightweight, highly conductive material has been the hurdle of fabrication on an industrial scale.
Automated guided vehicles—or AGVs—are robotic versions of draft animals, hauling heavy loads and navigating their way in factories, distribution centers, ports and other facilities. These modern beasts of burden are evolving so rapidly in capabilities and electronic intelligence that the need for the equivalent of standardized performance testing has become apriority for the fast-growing AGV industry and its customers.
Scientists from the Biorobotics Laboratory (BIOROB) at EPFL in Switzerland have developed small robotic modules that can change their shape to create reconfigurable furniture. Like Lego bricks, these robotic pieces, or Roombots, can be stacked upon each other to create various structures. Each piece has three motors that allow the module to pivot with three degrees of freedom, and each also has a battery and wireless connection.
Although lubricants for machinery are widely used, almost no fundamental innovations for this type of product has been made in the last 20 years, according researchers in Germany who have been working on a new class of lubricating substance. Their new liquid crystalline lubricant enable nearly frictionless sliding because although it is a liquid, the molecules display directional properties like crystals do.
Now researchers have developed a new way to measure the thickness of paint layers and the size of particles embedded inside. A technique called terahertz reflectometry is used to characterize coats of paint without damaging them. No other current methods can do this successfully, and the technique could be useful for a variety of applications from cars to cancer detection.
A team in Texas has built the smallest, fastest and longest-running tiny synthetic motor to date. The reliable, 18,000-rpm device can convert electrical energy into mechanical motion on a scale 500 times smaller than a grain of salt. Made from three parts, the nanomotor can rapidly mix and pump biochemicals and move through liquids.
Modern supercapacitors store ten times less energy than a lithium-ion battery but can last a thousand times longer. The main drawback of supercapacitors, however, is the inability to cope with stresses such as pressure and vibration. Researchers have developed a new supercapacitor that operates flawlessly in storing and releasing electrical charge while subject to stresses or pressures up to 44 psi and vibrational accelerations over 80 g.
Scientists at IBM Research have used a new “computational chemistry” hybrid approach to accelerate the materials discovery process that couples laboratory experimentation with the use of high-performance computing. The new polymers are the first to demonstrate resistance to cracking, strength higher than bone, the ability to reform to their original shape (self-heal), and the ability to be completely recycled back to the starting material.
When making cellulosic ethanol from plants, one problem is what to do with a woody agricultural waste product called lignin. The old adage in the pulp industry has been that one can make anything from lignin except money. A new review article in Science points the way toward a future where lignin is transformed from a waste product into valuable materials such as low-cost carbon fiber for cars or bio-based plastics.
Scientists at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology have increased the energy efficiency of a piezoelectric nanogenerator by almost 40 times, moving it closer to commercial flexible energy harvesters that can supply power infinitely to wearable, implantable electronic devices. The technique used to make this improvement, laser lift-off, allows the placement of a high-quality piezoelectric film on a sapphire substrate.
A new approach to integrated circuits, combining atoms of semiconductor materials into nanowires and structures on top of silicon surfaces, shows promise for a new generation of fast, robust electronic and photonic devices. Engineers in California have recently demonstrated 3-D nanowire transistors using this approach that open exciting opportunities for integrating other semiconductors, such as gallium nitride, on silicon substrates.
Scientists at NASA Langley Research Center have developed a new material technology that alters a surface’s topography and chemistry to promote or mitigate adhesion. LaRC is holding a workshop and meeting on May 22 that explains how these newly available materials work to enhance or remove adhesion. Manufacturers and developers are welcome to attend.
Are you an adhesives or coatings manufacturer? Do you need to adhesively join parts? Or, do you need durable non-stick coatings? Then, make plans to attend this meeting! Learn about new advanced materials and processing methods to either enhance adhesion or to create non-stick surfaces.
Culminating a ten-year development effort, Teraphysics Corp. scientists have demonstrated the emission of terahertz light by passing electron beams through a gold coil, smaller in diameter than a human hair, supported by a diamond structure. The detection of a terahertz signal provided proof of concept for Teraphysics’ suite of microfabricated vacuum electronic devices.
A research team that figured out how to coat an organic material as a thin film wanted a closer look at why their spreadable organic semiconductor grew like it did. So Cornell Univ. scientists used their high-energy synchrotron x-ray source to show how these organic molecules formed crystal lattices at the nanoscale. These high-speed movies could help advance the technology move from the laboratory to mass production.
In response to persistent haze and concerns about its health effects, scientists in Hong Kong have developed a simple face mask which can block out suspended particles. The nanofiber technology can filter ultra-fine pollutants that have yet been picked up by air quality monitors. These particles can measure 1 micrometer or less.
Scientists at Ames Laboratory have developed a nanoparticle that is able to perform two processing functions at once for the production of green diesel, an alternative fuel created from the hydrogenation of oils from renewable feedstocks like algae. The method is a departure from the established process of producing biodiesel, which is accomplished by reacting fats and oils with alcohols.
Optical metamaterials harness clouds of electrons called surface plasmons to manipulate and control light. However, plasmonic devices often use gold or silver, which is incompatible with CMOS manufacturing processes. Purdue Univ. scientists have now developed an ultra-thin crystalline superlattice that instead uses metal-dielectrics. Applied using epitaxy, this “hyperbolic” film could greatly expand applications for metamaterials.
Researchers in Australia have created a micrometer thin film with record-breaking optical nonlinearity suitable for high-performance integrated photonic devices. To create the thin film the researchers spin coated graphene oxide solution to a glass surface. Using a laser as a pen they created microstructures on the graphene oxide film to tune the nonlinearity of the material.
While flexible gadgets such as “electronic skin” and roll-up touch screens are moving ever closer to reality, their would-be power sources are either too wimpy or too stiff. But that’s changing fast. Scientists have developed a new device that’s far thinner than paper, can flex and bend, and store enough energy to provide critical back-up power for portable electronics.
Sandia National Laboratories is working to fill gaps in the fundamental understanding of materials science through an ambitious long-term, multidisciplinary project called Predicting Performance Margins (PPM). Since 2010, PPM has been helping to identify how material variability affects performance margins for engineering components. The goal, says Sandia experts, is a science-based foundation for materials design and analysis.
Super-resolution microscopy has allowed optical imaging of objects with dimensions smaller than the diffraction limit. Researchers studying a type of material called supramolecular polymers have used this type of imaging to develop a new technique that allows them study molecular self-assembly at an unprecedented level of detail.
Of all the electricity generated in the U.S., more than quarter is consumed by lighting. In 2010, North Carolina’s RTI International launched a new product, NLite, intended to help alleviate this burden by improving the reflectance performance of power-intensive lighting devices such as luminaires and liquid crystal displays. The technology, based on nanofiber reflectance polymers, won a 2011 R&D 100 Award.
Transparent conductive (TCO) films, present in tablets, laptops, flat screens and solar cells, are now an integral part of our lives. Yet they are expensive and complex to manufacture. Researchers in Europe have recently succeeded in developing a method of producing TCO films that relies on molecular self-organization. The technique is cheaper, simpler and more environmentally friendly than the traditional sputtering approach.