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Robotic laser system strips paint from aircraft, saving money and time

November 26, 2012 5:42 pm | News | Comments

Engineers at Carnegie Mellon University and Concurrent Technologies Corporation are working with the Air Force Research Laboratory and Ogden Air Logistics Center 309 AMXG to develop and demonstrate a robotic system that uses high-powered lasers to remove coatings from fighter and cargo aircraft. The continuous-wave lasers should replace abrasives and chemicals used in traditional coating removal processes.

Physicists achieve record ionization for xenon

November 26, 2012 4:38 pm | News | Comments

Scientists using the X-ray laser at the Linac Coherent Light Source have removed more than two complete shells from the electron cloud surrounding xenon atoms. The ejection of 36 electrons easily surpasses the greatest possible ionization estimated for the X-ray energy used. This high level of ionization is possible because of a resonance effect that the team discovered, and which will need to be considered when using X-rays for future studies of biomolecules.

Researchers create flexible, low-voltage circuits using nanocrystals

November 26, 2012 2:40 pm | News | Comments

Electronic circuits are typically integrated in rigid silicon wafers, but flexibility opens up a wide range of applications. In a world where electronics are becoming more pervasive, flexibility is a highly desirable trait, but finding materials with the right mix of performance and manufacturing cost remains a challenge. Now a team of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania has shown that nanocrystals of the semiconductor cadmium selenide can be "printed" or "coated" on flexible plastics to form high-performance electronics.

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New device hides, on cue, from infrared cameras

November 26, 2012 1:18 pm | News | Comments

Now you see it, now you don't. A new device invented at Harvard University can absorb 99.75% of infrared light that shines on it. When activated, it appears black to infrared cameras. Composed of just a 180-nm-thick layer of vanadium dioxide on top of a sheet of sapphire, the device reacts to temperature changes by reflecting dramatically more or less infrared light.

Sieve holds nanoparticles, acts as solar absorber

November 26, 2012 12:43 pm | News | Comments

Colloidal suspensions of metal nanoparticles in water passes too easily through commonly used macroporous polymeric membranes. To handle these nanofluids, researchers have built a membrane equipped functionalized proteins that can act as filters for nanoscaled particles in aqueous solutions. Such a nano-sieve could act as a catalyzer or could capture solar energy.

Diamond-like coating improves electron microscope images

November 26, 2012 12:01 pm | News | Comments

Coating the surface of a material with a single layer of diamond-like crystals greatly improves images of it taken with an electron microscope, according to a study led by scientists at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University. In results, the group reported a nearly three-fold improvement in the quality of photoelectron emission microscope images when they used the coating.

Metamaterials and transformation optics control light on a microchip

November 26, 2012 9:40 am | News | Comments

Using a combination metamaterials and transformation optics, engineers at Penn State University have developed designs for miniaturized optical devices that can be used in chip-based optical integrated circuits, the equivalent of the integrated electronic circuits that make possible computers and cell phones. Controlling light on a microchip could, in the short term, improve optical communications and allow sensing of any substance that interacts with electromagnetic waves.

Modeling the breaking points of metallic glasses

November 26, 2012 7:44 am | News | Comments

Metallic glass alloys (or liquid metals) are three times stronger than the best industrial steel, but can be molded into complex shapes with the same ease as plastic. These materials are highly resistant to scratching, denting, shattering, and corrosion. Mathematical methods developed by a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientists will help explain why liquid metals have wildly different breaking points.

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New structures self-assemble in synchronized dance

November 21, 2012 2:02 pm | News | Comments

With self-assembly guiding the steps and synchronization providing the rhythm, a new class of materials forms dynamic, moving structures in an intricate dance. Researchers from the University of Illinois and Northwestern University have demonstrated tiny spheres that synchronize their movements as they self-assemble into a spinning microtube.

Scotch tape finds new use as grasping "smart material"

November 21, 2012 7:55 am | News | Comments

Scotch tape, a versatile household staple and a mainstay of holiday gift-wrapping, may have a new scientific application as a shape-changing "smart material." Researchers used a laser to form slender half-centimeter-long fingers out of the tape. When exposed to water, the four wispy fingers morph into a tiny robotic claw that captures water droplets.

Researchers improve technology to detect hazardous chemicals

November 20, 2012 2:32 pm | News | Comments

Scientists at Imperial College London have developed a system to quickly detect trace amounts of chemicals like pollutants, explosives, or illegal drugs. The new system can pick out a single target molecule from 10,000 trillion water molecules within milliseconds, by trapping it on a self-assembling single layer of gold nanoparticles.

Smartphones, labs to reveal health effects of environmental pollutants

November 20, 2012 10:27 am | News | Comments

A major new initiative in the European Union is being launched to build a complete picture of how environmental pollutants influence health. Researchers are being asked to use smartphones equipped with GPS and environmental sensors to monitor study participants and their exposure to potential hazards. This information will be combined with blood and urine analysis to investigate whether exposure to risk factors leaves chemical fingerprints that can be detected in bodily fluids.

Nanotech device mimics dog's nose to detect explosives

November 20, 2012 10:01 am | News | Comments

Portable, accurate, and highly sensitive devices that sniff out vapors from explosives and other substances could become as commonplace as smoke detectors in public places, thanks to researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The researchers have designed a detector that uses microfluidic nanotechnology to mimic the biological mechanism behind canine scent receptors.

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Researchers find rainbow on nanoscale

November 20, 2012 8:24 am | News | Comments

New research at King's College London may lead to improved solar cells and light-emitting diode (LED)-displays. The researchers have demonstrated in detail how to separate colors and create "rainbows" using nanoscale structures on a metal surface.

Making 'nanospinning' practical

November 20, 2012 8:03 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Nanofibers have a huge range of possible applications: scaffolds for bioengineered organs, ultrafine air and water filters, and lightweight Kevlar body armor, to name just a few. But so far, the expense of producing them has consigned them to a few high-end, niche applications. Now, a team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology has described a new system for spinning nanofibers that should offer significant productivity increases while reducing power consumption.

Physicists demonstrate crucial method for monitoring ultra-short X-ray pulses

November 19, 2012 6:51 pm | News | Comments

With their ultra short X-ray flashes, free-electron lasers offer the opportunity to film chemical reactions or atoms in motion. However, for this super slow motion the arrival time and the temporal profile of the pulses must be precisely known. An international team of scientists has now developed a measurement technique that provides complete temporal characterization of individual free-electron laser pulses.

Invisibility cloaking to shield floating objects from waves

November 19, 2012 6:17 pm | News | Comments

A new approach to invisibility cloaking may one day be used at sea to shield floating objects—such as oil rigs and ships—from rough waves. Unlike most other cloaking techniques that rely on transformation optics, this one is based on the influence of the ocean floor's topography on the various "layers" of ocean water.

Chemists reveal behavior of antifreeze molecules

November 19, 2012 4:03 pm | News | Comments

New York University chemists have discovered a family of antifreeze molecules that prevent ice formation when water temperatures drop below 32 F. Their findings may lead to new methods for improving food storage and industrial products.

Researchers create hollow, soft-shelled quantum dots

November 19, 2012 3:38 pm | News | Comments

Serendipity proved to be a key ingredient for the latest nanoparticles discovered at Rice University. The new "lava dot" particles were discovered accidentally when researchers stumbled upon a way of using molten droplets of metal salt to make hollow, coated versions of a nanotech staple called quantum dots.

Scientists unveil super-efficient solar energy technology

November 19, 2012 12:00 pm | News | Comments

Rice University scientists have unveiled a new technology that uses nanoparticles to convert solar energy directly into steam. The new "solar steam" method from Rice's Laboratory for Nanophotonics (LANP) is so effective it can even produce steam from icy cold water.

Scientists chart the emergence of high-temperature superconductivity

November 19, 2012 8:07 am | News | Comments

The next generation of sustainable energy systems hinges in part on high-temperature superconductors (HTS), which can carry current with zero loss and perfect efficiency. Unfortunately, that loss-free behavior comes at the cost of extreme and inefficient cooling, and the fundamental physics that governs the behavior of these materials remains mysterious. Now, scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory and other collaborating institutions have discovered unexpected behavior that could be key to solving the HTS puzzle.

Researchers create electronic bandgap in graphene for electronics

November 19, 2012 7:48 am | News | Comments

By fabricating graphene structures atop nanometer-scale "steps" etched into silicon carbide, researchers have, for the first time, created a substantial electronic bandgap in the material suitable for room-temperature electronics. Researchers have measured a bandgap of approximately 0.5 electron-volts in 1.4-nm bent sections of graphene nanoribbons.

Recipe for oxide interface perfection opens path to novel materials

November 16, 2012 3:22 pm | News | Comments

By tweaking the formula for growing oxide thin films, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory achieved virtual perfection at the interface of two insulator materials. The research team demonstrated that a single unit cell layer of lanthanum aluminate grown on a strontium titanate substrate is sufficient to stabilize a chemically and atomically sharp interface.

Nano insights could lead to improved nuclear reactors

November 16, 2012 11:41 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | News | Comments

In order to build the next generation of nuclear reactors, materials scientists are trying to unlock the secrets of certain materials that are radiation-damage tolerant. Now researchers at the California Institute of Technology have brought new understanding to one of those secrets—how the interfaces between two carefully selected metals can absorb, or heal, radiation damage.

Injectable gels toughen up after entering the body

November 16, 2012 9:12 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Gels that can be injected into the body, carrying drugs or cells that regenerate damaged tissue, hold promise for treating many types of disease. However, these injectable gels don't always maintain their solid structure once inside the body. Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemical engineers have now designed an injectable gel that responds to the body's high temperature by forming a reinforcing network that makes the gel much more durable, allowing it to function over a longer period of time.

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