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The Lead

Protecting olive oil from counterfeiters

April 24, 2014 1:50 pm | by Barbara Vonarburg, ETH Zurich | News | Comments

Counterfeit or adulterated olive oil has been a persistent presence on the market, in part because the oil is difficult to track. An invisible label, developed by researchers in Switzerland, could perform this task. The tag consists of tiny magnetic DNA particles encapsulated in a silica casing and mixed with the oil. Just a few grams of the new substance are enough to tag the entire olive oil production of Italy.

Chameleon crystals could make active camouflage possible

April 24, 2014 8:04 am | by Kate McAlpine, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

The ability to control crystals with light and chemistry could lead to chameleon-style color-...

Atomic switcheroo explains origins of thin-film solar cell mystery

April 24, 2014 7:55 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Treating cadmium-telluride (CdTe) solar cell materials with cadmium-chloride improves their...

Superconducting qubit array points the way to quantum computers

April 24, 2014 7:46 am | by Julie Cohen, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara | News | Comments

A fully functional quantum computer is one of the holy grails of physics. Unlike conventional...

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When things get glassy, molecules go fractal

April 24, 2014 7:36 am | News | Comments

Combining theory and numerical simulations, researchers have resolved an enduring question in the theory of glasses by showing that their energy landscapes are far rougher than previously believed. The new model, which shows that molecules in glassy materials settle into a fractal hierarchy of states, unites mathematics, theory and several formerly disparate properties of glasses.

SUNY college may partner with Solar Frontier on thin-film R&D, production

April 23, 2014 9:33 am | News | Comments

Solar Frontier and the State Univ. of New York College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering have signed a memorandum of understanding to conduct a technical and economic feasibility study for potential joint R&D and manufacturing of CIS thin-film modules in Buffalo, New York. This move is part of Solar Frontier’s plans to establish production bases for its proprietary technology outside of Japan, the company’s home market.

High-performance, low-cost ultracapacitors built with graphene and carbon nanotubes

April 23, 2014 9:25 am | News | Comments

By combining the powers of two single-atom-thick carbon structures, researchers at the George Washington Univ.'s Micro-propulsion and Nanotechnology Laboratory have created a new ultracapacitor that is both high performance and low cost. The device capitalizes on the synergy brought by mixing graphene flakes with single-walled carbon nanotubes, two carbon nanostructures with complementary properties.

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Gold nanoparticles help target, quantify breast cancer gene segments in a living cell

April 23, 2014 8:59 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

A team at Purdue Univ. has used gold nanoparticles to target and bind to fragments of genetic material known as BRCA1 messenger RNA splice variants, which can indicate the presence and stage of breast cancer. The number of these synthetic DNA “tails” in a cell can be determined in a living cell by examining the specific signal that light produces when it interacts with the gold nanoparticles.

Like a hall of mirrors, nanostructures trap photons inside ultra-thin solar cells

April 23, 2014 8:13 am | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | News | Comments

In the quest to make sun power more competitive, researchers are designing ultra-thin solar cells that cut material costs. At the same time, they’re keeping these thin cells efficient by sculpting their surfaces with photovoltaic nanostructures that behave like a molecular hall of mirrors.

Rolls-Royce, collaborators study ways to strengthen titanium aircraft parts

April 23, 2014 8:01 am | by Glenn Roberts Jr., SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

Rolls-Royce researchers came to SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory earlier this month as part of a team testing titanium and titanium alloys such as those used in engine parts, landing gear and other aircraft components. While the Rolls-Royce brand is also associated with luxury cars, this separate company, Rolls-Royce PLC, is a major global manufacturer of aircraft engines that power over 30 types of commercial aircraft.

Ion collision physics change drastically for ultra-thin films

April 22, 2014 11:27 am | News | Comments

A bullet fired through a block of wood will slow down. In a similar way, ions are decelerated when they pass through a solid material: the thicker the material, the larger the energy loss will be. However, as recent experiments in Austria have shown, this picture breaks down in ultra-thin target materials, which only consist of a few layers of atoms.

Cloaked DNA nanodevices survive pilot mission

April 22, 2014 9:13 am | by Dan Ferber, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

It's a familiar trope in science fiction: In enemy territory, activate your cloaking device. And real-world viruses use similar tactics to make themselves invisible to the immune system. Now scientists at Harvard Univ.'s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have mimicked these viral tactics to build the first DNA nanodevices that survive the body's immune defenses.

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Progress made in developing nanoscale electronics

April 22, 2014 8:39 am | News | Comments

Scientists are facing a number of barriers as they try to develop circuits that are microscopic in size, including how to reliably control the current that flows through a circuit that is the width of a single molecule. Recent work at the Univ. of Rochester may have solved this problem through the addition of a second, inert layer of molecules that can act like a plastic casing on the wires.

New material coating technology mimics nature’s Lotus effect

April 22, 2014 8:34 am | News | Comments

Of late, engineers have been paying more and more attention to nature’s efficiencies, such as the Lotus effect, which describes the way the Lotus plant uses hydrophobic surfaces to survive in muddy swamps. A researcher at Virginia Tech has developed a simpler two-step application process to create a superhydrophobic copper surface that leverages the Lotus effect.

Gecko-like adhesives now useful for real world surfaces

April 21, 2014 3:12 pm | News | Comments

The ability to stick objects to a wide range of surfaces such as drywall, wood, metal and glass with a single adhesive has been the elusive goal of many research teams across the world, but now a team of Univ. of Massachusetts Amherst inventors describe a new, more versatile version of their invention, Geckskin, that can adhere strongly to a wider range of surfaces, yet releases easily, like a gecko's feet.

Physicist creates new nanoparticle for cancer therapy

April 21, 2014 3:06 pm | News | Comments

Physicist Wei Chen at Univ. of Texas at Arlington’s Center for Security Advances Via Applied Nanotechnology was testing a copper-cysteamine complex created in his laboratory when he discovered unexplained decreases in its luminescence, or light emitting power, over a time-lapse exposure to x-rays. Further testing work revealed that the “Cu-Cy” nanoparticles, when combined with x-ray exposure, significantly slowed tumor growth in studies.

New research method produces large volumes of high-quality graphene

April 21, 2014 8:45 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Ireland have used a simple method for transforming flakes of graphite into defect-free graphene using commercially available tools, such as high-shear mixers.  They demonstrated that the process could be scaled up to produce hundreds of liters or more, and they have partnered with Thomas Swan Ltd. to develop two new graphene-based products for the marketplace.

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Nanoreporters tell ‘sour’ oil from ‘sweet’

April 21, 2014 8:38 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Scientists at Rice Univ. have created a nanoscale detector that checks for and reports on the presence of hydrogen sulfide in crude oil and natural gas while they’re still in the ground. The nanoreporter is based on nanometer-sized carbon material developed by a consortium of Rice labs led by chemist James Tour, R&D’s 2013 Scientist of the Year.  

Scientists produce thinnest feasible membrane

April 18, 2014 3:10 pm | by Fabio Bergamin, ETH Zurich | News | Comments

Researchers have produced a stable porous membrane that is thinner than a single nanometer. The membrane consists of two layers of graphene on which have been etched tiny pores of a precisely defined size. Extremely light and breathable, the new material could help enable a new generation of ultra-rapid filters or functional waterproof clothing.

“Exotic” material is like a switch when super thin

April 18, 2014 3:05 pm | by Anne Ju, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

Ever-shrinking electronic devices could get down to atomic dimensions with the help of transition metal oxides. Researchers from Cornell Univ. and Brookhaven National Laboratory have shown how to switch a particular transition metal oxide, a lanthanum nickelate (LaNiO3), from a metal to an insulator by making the material less than a nanometer thick.

Impurity size affects performance of emerging superconductive material

April 18, 2014 8:45 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Research from North Carolina State Univ. finds that impurities can hurt performance, or possibly provide benefits, in a key superconductive material that is expected to find use in a host of applications, including future particle colliders. The size of the impurities determines whether they help or hinder the material’s performance.

Electrically controlled polymer changes its optical properties

April 18, 2014 8:28 am | News | Comments

An international team of chemists from Italy, Germany and Poland have developed a polymer with unique optical and electrical properties. Components of this polymer change their spatial configuration depending on the electric potential applied. In turn, the polarization of transmitted light is affected. The new material could be used in a windows, polarization filters or chemical sensors.

High-temperature plasmonics eyed for solar, computer innovation

April 18, 2014 8:09 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

New plasmonic metamaterials that operate at high temperatures could radically improve solar cell performance and bring advanced computer data storage technology that uses heat to record information on a magnetic disk. The materials could make it possible to harness clouds of electrons called surface plasmons to manipulate and control light.

Surprising material could play role in saving energy

April 18, 2014 7:56 am | by Megan Fellman, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

One strategy for addressing the world’s energy crisis is to stop wasting so much energy when producing and using it, which can happen in coal-fired power plants or transportation. Nearly two-thirds of energy input is lost as waste heat. Now Northwestern Univ. scientists have discovered a surprising material that is the best in the world at converting waste heat to useful electricity.

Breakthrough atomic-level observation uses super-resolution microscope

April 17, 2014 9:46 am | News | Comments

A research group in Japan has developed a new advanced system that combines a super-resolution microscope and a deposition chamber for growing oxide thin films. With this system, they successfully observed for the first time the growing of metal-oxide thin films at an atomic level on the surface of single-crystal strontium titanate.

Information storage for the next generation of plastic computers

April 17, 2014 9:41 am | by Gary Galluzzo, Univ. of Iowa | News | Comments

Although it is relatively cheap and easy to encode information in light for fiber optic transmission, storing information is most efficiently done using magnetism, which ensures information will survive for years without any additional power. But a new proposal by researchers would replace silicon used in these devices with plastic. Their solution converts magnetic information to light in a flexible plastic device.

Making new materials an atomic layer at a time

April 17, 2014 9:36 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Pennsylvania and Texas have shown the ability to grow high quality, single-layer materials one on top of the other using chemical vapor deposition. This highly scalable technique, often used in the semiconductor industry, can produce materials with unique properties that could be applied to solar cells, ultracapacitors for energy storage, or advanced transistors for energy efficient electronics, among many other applications.

Progress in the fight against quantum dissipation

April 17, 2014 7:50 am | by Eric Gershon, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Scientists at Yale Univ. have confirmed a 50-year-old, previously untested theoretical prediction in physics and improved the energy storage time of a quantum switch by several orders of magnitude. High-quality quantum switches are essential for the development of quantum computers and the quantum Internet.

Scientists capture ultrafast snapshots of light-driven superconductivity

April 16, 2014 2:34 pm | News | Comments

Carefully timed pairs of laser pulses at the Linac Coherent Light Source have been used to trigger superconductivity in a promising copper-oxide material and immediately take x-ray snapshots of its atomic and electronic structure as superconductivity emerged. The results of this effort have pinned down a major factor behind the appearance of superconductivity, and it hinges around “stripes” of increase electrical charge.

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