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Researchers synthesize material for efficient plasmonic devices in mid-infrared range

February 17, 2015 8:14 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

A research team led by North Carolina State Univ. has identified and synthesized a material that can be used to create efficient plasmonic devices that respond to light in the mid-infrared (IR) range. This is the first time anyone has demonstrated a material that performs efficiently in response to this light range, and it has applications in fields ranging from high-speed computers, to solar energy to biomedical devices.

UV light sensor for improved fire detection

February 17, 2015 8:02 am | by Amy Sutton, Univ. of Surrey | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute manipulated zinc oxide, producing nanowires from this readily available material to create an ultraviolet (UV) light detector that is 10,000 times more sensitive to UV light than a traditional zinc oxide detector. Currently, photoelectric smoke sensors detect larger smoke particles found in dense smoke, but are not as sensitive to small particles of smoke.

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 material that not only self-stretches upon cooling; it reverts back to its original shape when heated, all without physical manipulation. The material is like a shape-memory polymer because it can be switched between two different shapes.

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How iron feels the heat

February 13, 2015 1:34 pm | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

As you heat up a piece of iron, the arrangement of the iron atoms changes several times before melting. This unusual behavior is one reason why steel, in which iron plays a starring role, is so sturdy and ubiquitous in everything from teapots to skyscrapers. But the details of just how and why iron takes on so many different forms have remained a mystery.

Better catalysts, made-to-order

February 13, 2015 11:03 am | by Joe Rojas-Burke, Univ. of Utah | News | Comments

Most of our medicine, plastics and synthetic fibers wouldn't exist without catalysts. And yet chemists don't fully understand how most catalysts work, and developing new catalysts often still depends on laborious trial-and-error. But in a new study, chemists captured enough data on the crucial steps in a reaction to accurately predict the structures of the most efficient catalysts.

Silver-glass sandwich structure acts as inexpensive color filter

February 13, 2015 10:37 am | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

The engineering world just became even more colorful. Northwestern Univ. researchers have created a new technique that can transform silver into any color of the rainbow. Their simple method is a fast, low-cost alternative to color filters currently used in electronic displays and monitors.

Making a better wound dressing

February 13, 2015 10:18 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

With a low price tag and mild flavor, tilapia has become a staple dinnertime fish for many Americans. Now it could have another use: helping to heal our wounds. In ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, scientists have shown that a protein found in this fish can promote skin repair in rats without an immune reaction, suggesting possible future use for human patients.

Researchers glimpse distortions in atomic structure of materials

February 13, 2015 10:10 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. are using a technique they developed to observe minute distortions in the atomic structure of complex materials, shedding light on what causes these distortions and opening the door to studies on how such atomic-scale variations can influence a material's properties.

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Gold nanotubes launch a three-pronged attack on cancer cells

February 13, 2015 9:10 am | by Sarah Reed, Univ. of Leeds | News | Comments

Scientists have shown that gold nanotubes have many applications in fighting cancer: internal nanoprobes for high-resolution imaging, drug delivery vehicles and agents for destroying cancer cells. The study, published in Advanced Functional Materials, details the first successful demonstration of the biomedical use of gold nanotubes in a mouse model of human cancer.

Exotic states materialize with supercomputers

February 13, 2015 9:03 am | by Jorge Salazar, TACC | News | Comments

Scientists used supercomputers to find a new class of materials that possess an exotic state of matter known as the quantum spin Hall effect. The researchers published their results in Science in December 2014, where they propose a new type of transistor made from these materials. The team calculated the electronic structures of the materials using the Stampede and Lonestar supercomputers of the Texas Advanced Computing Center.

Bacterial armor holds clues for self-assembling nanostructures

February 13, 2015 8:35 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Imagine thousands of copies of a single protein organizing into a coat of chainmail armor that protects the wearer from harsh and ever-changing environmental conditions. That is the case for many microorganisms. In a new study, researchers with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have uncovered key details in this natural process that can be used for the self-assembly of nanomaterials into complex 2- and 3-D structures.

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 destroyed serial numbers on metal objects such as firearms, a common challenge in forensics. The technique might also meet other forensic needs such as reconstructing vehicle identification numbers or imprints on ammunition casings.  

Beavers Inspire Method to Aid Tooth Enamel

February 13, 2015 7:00 am | by Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Beavers don't brush their teeth, and they don't drink fluoridated water, but a new study reports beavers do have protection against tooth decay built into the chemical structure of their teeth: iron. This pigmented enamel, the researchers found, is both harder and more resistant to acid than regular enamel, including that treated with fluoride.

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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, according to the National Institutes of Health. Bacteria cells gain a foothold in the body by accumulating and forming into adhesive colonies called biofilms, which help them to thrive and survive but cause infections and associated life–threatening risks to their human hosts.

To make novel atomic properties, engineers change electron trajectories

February 10, 2015 2:23 pm | by Yale Univ. | News | Comments

How do you make nickel look and behave like copper? A team of scientists at Yale Univ. has done just that by developing a novel technique to artificially alter a material’s atomic properties by substantially modifying the orbital properties of electrons. The electrons can also be tunably configured in orbital patterns with unique magnetic, superconductive and optical properties.

Nanotubes self-organize and wiggle

February 10, 2015 1:41 pm | by Siv Schwink, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

The second law of thermodynamics tells us that all systems evolve toward a state of maximum entropy, wherein all energy is dissipated as heat, and no available energy remains to do work. Since the mid-20th century, research has pointed to an extension of the second law for nonequilibrium systems.

Electronics you can wrap around your finger

February 10, 2015 11:51 am | by American Institute of Physics | News | Comments

Electronic devices have shrunk rapidly in the past decades, but most remain as stiff as the same sort of devices were in the 1950s: a drawback if you want to wrap your phone around your wrist when you go for a jog or fold your computer to fit in a pocket. Researchers from South Korea have taken a new step toward more bendable devices by manufacturing a thin film that keeps its useful electric and magnetic properties even when highly curved.

Microfluidics enables production of shape-controllable microgels

February 10, 2015 10:41 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

A new, relatively simple process makes it possible to create biocompatible particles called shape-controllable microgels that could be custom designed for specific roles such as drug delivery vehicles, tissue engineering building blocks and biomedical research. The particles are made of two distinctly different materials: polymers called polyNIPAAm and sodium alginate, used in drug delivery.

Flipping the switch

February 10, 2015 10:11 am | by Christopher R. Samoray, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Inadequate insulation is one of the largest causes of wasted energy, quickly allowing comfortable heating or cooling to disperse air outside. That’s why researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are collaborating with industry to develop a high-performance material that nearly doubles the performance of traditional insulators without a high cost premium.

Battery startup promises safe lithium batteries

February 10, 2015 9:53 am | by Julie Chao, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory battery scientist Nitash Balsara has worked for many years trying to find a way to improve the safety of lithium-ion batteries. Now he believes he has found the answer in a most unlikely material: a class of compounds that has mainly been used for industrial lubrication.

Buckyballs offer environmental benefits

February 10, 2015 9:25 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Treated buckyballs not only remove valuable but potentially toxic metal particles from water and other liquids, but also reserve them for future use, according to scientists at Rice Univ. The Rice lab of chemist Andrew Barron has discovered that carbon-60 fullerenes (buckyballs) that have gone through the chemical process known as hydroxylation aggregate into pearl-like strings as they bind to and separate metals from solutions.

New design tool for metamaterials

February 10, 2015 8:33 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Metamaterials offer tantalizing future prospects such as high-resolution optical microscopes and superfast optical computers. To realize the vast potential of metamaterials, however, scientists will need to hone their understanding of the fundamental physics behind them. This will require accurately predicting nonlinear optical properties.

Nano-antioxidants prove their potential

February 10, 2015 8:23 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Injectable nanoparticles that could protect an injured person from further damage due to oxidative stress have proven to be astoundingly effective in tests to study their mechanism. A team of scientists designed methods to validate their 2012 discovery that combined polyethylene glycol-hydrophilic carbon clusters could quickly stem the process of overoxidation that can cause damage in the minutes and hours after an injury.

3D printing with custom molecules creates low-cost mechanical sensor

February 10, 2015 8:03 am | by Hannah Hickey, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Imagine printing out molecules that can respond to their surroundings. A research project at the Univ. of Washington merges custom chemistry and 3D printing. Scientists created a bone-shaped plastic tab that turns purple under stretching, offering an easy way to record the force on an object.

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.

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