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The Lead

Strength in numbers

March 4, 2015 4:37 pm | by Sonia Fernandez, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara | News | Comments

When scientists develop a full quantum computer, the world of computing will undergo a revolution of sophistication, speed and energy efficiency that will make even our beefiest conventional machines seem like Stone Age clunkers by comparison. But, before that happens, quantum physicists will have to create circuitry that takes advantage of the marvelous computing prowess promised by the quantum bit.

Technology could cut costs of night vision, thermal imaging

March 4, 2015 4:06 pm | by LaKisha Ladson, UT Dallas | News | Comments

Engineers at The Univ. of Texas at Dallas have created semiconductor technology that could make...

Experiment and theory unite in debate over microbial nanowires

March 4, 2015 11:12 am | by Janet Lathrop, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst | News | Comments

Scientific debate has been hot lately about whether microbial nanowires, the specialized...

Energy-generating cloth could replace batteries in wearable devices

March 4, 2015 10:25 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

From light-up shoes to smart watches, wearable electronics are gaining traction among consumers...

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Material captures carbon dioxide with high capacity

March 4, 2015 8:36 am | by Amanda Bradford, New Mexico State Univ. | News | Comments

A new provisionally patented technology from a New Mexico State Univ. researcher could revolutionize carbon dioxide capture and have a significant impact on reducing pollution worldwide. Through research on zeolitic imidazolate frameworks, or ZIFs, the researcher synthesized a new subclass of ZIF that incorporates a ring carbonyl group in its organic structure.

New material to produce clean energy

March 3, 2015 3:36 pm | by Jeannie Kever, Univ. of Houston | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Houston have created a new thermoelectric material, intended to generate electric power from waste heat with greater efficiency and higher output power than currently available materials. The material, germanium-doped magnesium stannide, has a peak power factor of 55, with a figure of merit of 1.4.

Why seashells’ mineral forms differently in seawater

March 3, 2015 3:16 pm | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

For almost a century, scientists have been puzzled by a process that is crucial to much of the life in Earth’s oceans: Why does calcium carbonate, the tough material of seashells and corals, sometimes take the form of calcite, and at other times form a chemically identical form of the mineral, called aragonite, that is more soluble—and therefore more vulnerable to ocean acidification?

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Black phosphorous: A new wonder material for improving optical communication

March 3, 2015 9:18 am | by Lacey Nygard, Univ. of Minnesota | News | Comments

Phosphorus, a highly reactive element commonly found in match heads, tracer bullets and fertilizers, can be turned into a stable crystalline form known as black phosphorus. In a new study, researchers from the Univ. of Minnesota used an ultra-thin black phosphorus film, only 20 layers of atoms, to demonstrate high-speed data communication on nanoscale optical circuits.

Pens filled with high-tech inks for DIY sensors

March 3, 2015 9:06 am | by Ioana Patringenaru, Jacobs School of Engineering | Videos | Comments

A new simple tool developed by nanoengineers at the Univ. of California, San Diego, is opening the door to an era when anyone will be able to build sensors, anywhere. The team developed high-tech bio-inks that react with several chemicals, including glucose. They filled off-the-shelf ballpoint pens with the inks and were able to draw sensors to measure glucose directly on the skin and sensors to measure pollution on leaves.

Glass coating for improved battery performance

March 3, 2015 8:57 am | by Sean Nealon, Univ. of California, Riverside | News | Comments

Lithium-sulfur batteries have been a hot topic in battery research because of their ability to produce up to 10 times more energy than conventional batteries, which means they hold great promise for applications in energy-demanding electric vehicles. However, there have been fundamental road blocks to commercializing these sulfur batteries.

Nanodevice defeats drug resistance

March 3, 2015 7:30 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Chemotherapy often shrinks tumors at first, but as cancer cells become resistant to drug treatment, tumors can grow back. A new nanodevice developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers can help overcome that by first blocking the gene that confers drug resistance, then launching a new chemotherapy attack against the disarmed tumors.

Analysis shows ion slowdown in fuel cell material

March 2, 2015 11:01 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Dislocations in oxides such as cerium dioxide, a solid electrolyte for fuel cells, turn out to have a property that is the opposite of what researchers had expected, according to a new analysis. Researchers had thought that a certain kind of strain would speed the transport of oxygen ions through the material, potentially leading to the much faster diffusion that is necessary in high-performance solid-oxide fuel cells.

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How to best harness solar power

March 2, 2015 10:48 am | by Dawn Fuller, Univ. of Cincinnati | News | Comments

A research partnership is reporting advances on how to make solar cells stronger, lighter, more flexible and less expensive when compared with the current silicon or germanium technology on the market. The researchers discovered how a blend of conjugated polymers resulted in structural and electronic changes that increased efficiency three-fold, by incorporating graphene in the active layer of the carbon-based materials.

Innovative wireless sensor technology yields better energy efficiency

March 2, 2015 8:17 am | by Sara Shoemaker, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Regulating comfort in small commercial buildings could become more efficient and less expensive thanks to an innovative low-cost wireless sensor technology being developed by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Buildings are responsible for about 40% of the energy consumed in the U.S. Studies indicate that advanced sensors and controls have the potential to reduce the energy consumption of buildings by 20 to 30%.

Aerogel catalyst shows promise for fuel cells

March 2, 2015 7:54 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Graphene nanoribbons formed into a 3-D aerogel and enhanced with boron and nitrogen are excellent catalysts for fuel cells, even in comparison to platinum, according to Rice Univ. researchers. A team led by materials scientist Pulickel Ajayan and chemist James Tour made metal-free aerogels from graphene nanoribbons and various levels of boron and nitrogen to test their electrochemical properties.

Moving molecule writes letters

February 27, 2015 11:55 am | by Andreas Battenberg, TUM | News | Comments

On the search for high-performance materials for applications such as gas storage, thermal insulators or dynamic nanosystems it’s essential to understand the thermal behavior of matter down to the molecular level. Classical thermodynamics average over time and over a large number of molecules. Within a 3-D space single molecules can adopt an almost infinite number of states, making the assessment of individual species nearly impossible.

Electrochemical “fingers” unlock battery’s inner potential

February 27, 2015 8:18 am | by Justin Eure, Brookhaven National Laboratory | Videos | Comments

Lithium-ion batteries unleash electricity as electrochemical reactions spread through active materials. Manipulating this complex process and driving the reactions into the energy-rich heart of each part of these active materials is crucial to optimizing the power output and ultimate energy capacity of these batteries. Now, scientists have mapped these atomic-scale reaction pathways and linked them to the battery’s rate of discharge.

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Research predicts when, how materials will act

February 26, 2015 12:09 pm | by Kathleen Haughney, Florida State Univ. | News | Comments

In science, it’s commonly known that materials can change in a number of ways when subjected to different temperatures, pressures or other environmental forces.  A material might melt or snap in half. And for engineers, knowing when and why that might happen is crucial information.  Now, a Florida State Univ. researcher has laid out an overarching theory that explains why certain materials act the way they do.

Building blocks of the future defy logic

February 26, 2015 11:58 am | by Cassi Camilleri, Univ. of Malta | News | Comments

Wake up in the morning and stretch; your midsection narrows. Pull on a piece of plastic at separate ends; it becomes thinner. So does a rubber band. One might assume that when a force is applied along an axis, materials will always stretch and become thinner. Wrong.

A mollusk of a different stripe

February 26, 2015 10:59 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

The blue-rayed limpet is a tiny mollusk that lives in kelp beds along the coasts of Norway, Iceland, the U.K., Portugal and the Canary Islands. These diminutive organisms might escape notice entirely, if not for a very conspicuous feature: bright blue dotted lines that run in parallel along the length of their translucent shells. Depending on the angle at which light hits, a limpet’s shell can flash brilliantly even in murky water.

Warming up the world of superconductors

February 26, 2015 8:50 am | by Robert Perkins, Univ. of Southern California | News | Comments

A superconductor that works at room temperature was long thought impossible, but scientists at the Univ. of Southern California may have discovered a family of materials that could make it reality. The team found that aluminum "superatoms" appear to form Cooper pairs of electrons at temperatures around 100 K. Though 100 K is still pretty chilly, this is an increase compared to bulk aluminum metal.

X-ray microscope for nanoscale imaging

February 26, 2015 8:29 am | by Chelsea Whyte, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Delivering the capability to image nanostructures and chemical reactions down to nanometer resolution requires a new class of x-ray microscope that can perform precision microscopy experiments using ultra-bright x-rays from the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

A simple way to make and reconfigure complex emulsions

February 26, 2015 8:00 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have devised a new way to make complex liquid mixtures, known as emulsions, that could have many applications in drug delivery, sensing, cleaning up pollutants and performing chemical reactions. Many drugs, vaccines, cosmetics and lotions are emulsions, in which tiny droplets of one liquid are suspended in another liquid.

New “knobs” can dial in control of materials

February 25, 2015 9:52 am | by Anne Ju, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

Designing or exploring new materials is all about controlling their properties. In a new study, Cornell Univ. scientists offer insight on how different “knobs” can change material properties in ways that were previously unexplored or misunderstood.

Boosting carbon’s stability for better lithium-air batteries

February 25, 2015 9:15 am | by Ed Hayward, Boston College | News | Comments

To power a car so it can travel hundreds of miles at a time, lithium-ion batteries of the future are going to have to hold more energy without growing too big in size. That's one of the dilemmas confronting efforts to power cars through rechargeable battery technologies. In order to hold enough energy to enable a car trip of 300 to 500 miles before recharging, current lithium-ion batteries become too big or too expensive.

Graphene shows potential as anticancer therapeutic strategy

February 25, 2015 8:11 am | by Jamie Brown, Univ. of Manchester | News | Comments

Univ. of Manchester scientists have used graphene to target and neutralize cancer stem cells while not harming other cells. This new development opens up the possibility of preventing or treating a broad range of cancers, using a non-toxic material.

Optical nanoantennas set the stage for a NEMS lab-on-a-chip revolution

February 24, 2015 11:19 am | by Jason Socrates Bardi, American Institute of Physics | News | Comments

Newly developed tiny antennas, likened to spotlights on the nanoscale, offer the potential to measure food safety, identify pollutants in the air and even quickly diagnose and treat cancer. The new antennas are cubic in shape. They do a better job than previous spherical ones at directing an ultra-narrow beam of light where it is needed, with little or no loss due to heating and scattering.

Ultra-thin nanowires can trap electron “twisters”

February 24, 2015 11:11 am | by Phil Sneiderman, Johns Hopkins Univ. | News | Comments

Superconductor materials are prized for their ability to carry an electric current without resistance, but this valuable trait can be crippled or lost when electrons swirl into tiny tornado-like formations called vortices. These disruptive mini-twisters often form in the presence of magnetic fields, such as those produced by electric motors.

Building tailor-made DNA nanotubes step-by-step

February 24, 2015 8:10 am | by McGill Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at McGill Univ. have developed a new, low-cost method to build DNA nanotubes block-by-block, a breakthrough that could help pave the way for scaffolds made from DNA strands to be used in applications such as optical and electronic devices or smart drug delivery systems. Many researchers, including the McGill team, have previously constructed nanotubes using a method that relies on spontaneous assembly of DNA in solution.

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