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Building a better battery for renewable energy storage

October 29, 2012 10:49 am | by Glenn Roberts Jr., SLAC | News | Comments

Solar, wind and other renewable energy sources reduce consumption of fossil fuels but also pose challenges to the electrical grid because their power generation fluctuates. A team of researchers at Stanford and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has developed a mix of materials that shows promise as a cost-effective alternative to standard batteries—able to quickly and efficiently charge and discharge their energy over thousands of charges, with no energy loss after 1,000 charges.

Carbon nanotube films show promise for touchscreens

October 29, 2012 10:44 am | by Mike Williams, Rice University | News | Comments

A Rice University team has hit upon a method to produce nearly transparent films of electrically conductive carbon nanotubes. Slides dipped into a solution of pure nanotubes in chlorosulfonic acid, the researchers found, left them with an even coat of nanotubes that, after further processing, had none of the disadvantages seen with other methods. The films may be suitable for flexible electronic displays and touchscreens.

Research on nanocrystals to move from lab to market

October 29, 2012 10:33 am | by Iqbal Pittalwala | News | Comments

The University of California, Riverside has granted an exclusive license to The Idea Zoo, Inc., to commercialize nanotechnology research developed in the lab of Yadong Yin, an associate professor of chemistry. The Idea Zoo was granted exclusive rights to seven patents that cover various aspects of advanced superparamagnetic colloidal nanocrystals. Specifically, the patents focus on magnetically tunable photonic crystals and the ability to commercialize them.

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Fragile forests of nanotubes strengthened for MEMS applications

October 29, 2012 10:00 am | News | Comments

Conventional microelectromechanical systems tend to be made out of silicon-based materials familiar to the micro-electronics industry, but this ignores a suite of useful materials such as other semiconductors, ceramics, and metals. By using a variety of materials not commonly associated with MEMS technology, a team from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, has created stronger microstructures that can form precise, tall and narrow 3D shapes.

Glass, characterized with precision and efficiency

October 26, 2012 1:54 pm | News | Comments

Glass can possess a quite diverse array of characteristics, depending on what ingredients one uses to modify it. A new process developed at the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany now makes the analysis of glass characteristics up to five times faster than previous methods, and uses only 20% of the material. This system consists of an oven and a CMOS camera that enables researchers to observe the glass during the entire heating process.

Physicists bring fresh insights into topological insulators

October 26, 2012 11:28 am | News | Comments

The latest research by Boston College physicists offers fresh insights into topological insulators, a class of materials with unique properties that challenge some of the oldest laws of physics. The physicists report that the placement of tiny ripples on the surface of a topological insulator engineered from bismuth telluride effectively modulates so-called Dirac electrons so they flow in a pathway that mirrors the topography of the crystal's surface.

How silver turns people blue

October 26, 2012 11:17 am | News | Comments

Ingesting silver—in antimicrobial health tonics or for extensive medical treatments involving silver—can cause argyria, condition in which the skin turns grayish-blue. Brown University researchers have discovered how that happens. The process is similar to developing black-and-white photographs, and it's not just the silver.

Study is first to observe oscillatory cracking behavior of materials

October 25, 2012 3:08 pm | by Anne Ju, Cornell University | News | Comments

"Avalanches"—the crackling behavior of materials under slowly increasing stress, like crumpling paper or earthquakes—may have a novel facet previously unknown, say Cornell University researchers. Their study employs both theory and experiment to describe never-before-seen oscillatory behavior of microcrystal plastic bursts at very small scales, under highly controlled conditions.

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Versatile optomechanical sensors aid atomic force microscopy

October 25, 2012 2:25 pm | News | Comments

Researchers from NIST have developed on-chip optomechanical sensors for atomic force microscopy (AFM) that extend the range of mechanical properties found in commercial AFM cantilevers, potentially enabling the use of this technology to study a wide variety of physical systems.

Well-ordered nanorods could improve LED displays

October 25, 2012 2:16 pm | News | Comments

Synchrotron-based imaging has helped develop enhanced light-emitting diode (LED) displays using bottom-up engineering methods. Collaborative work between researchers from the University of Florida and Cornell University has produced a new way to make colloidal "superparticles" from oriented nanorods of semiconducting materials.

Researchers uncover living power cables

October 25, 2012 1:59 pm | by Robert Perkins | News | Comments

A multinational research team has discovered filamentous bacteria that function as living power cables in order to transmit electrons thousands of cell lengths away. These cells are so tiny that they are invisible to the naked eye. And yet, under the right circumstances, they form a multicellular filament that can transmit electrons across a distance as large as 1 cm as part of the filament’s respiration and ingestion processes.

Electron “sniper” targets graphene

October 25, 2012 1:45 pm | by Pete Wilton, Oxford University | News | Comments

One of the keys to exploiting graphene's potential is being able to create atomic-scale defects as these influence its electrical, chemical, magnetic, and mechanical properties. A team of materials experts have recently report a new approach to engineering graphene's atomic structure with unprecedented spatial precision.

Obstinate electrons “ignore” assumptions and follow another path

October 25, 2012 10:36 am | News | Comments

It is possible to make gold wires so thin that there is not even enough room for electrons to pass one another. But exactly what path do the electrons take? Measurements made by researchers have found that the electrons do not move through the nanowires themselves, but through the “troughs” between them.

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Study: Common flame retardant is an endocrine disruptor

October 25, 2012 9:19 am | News | Comments

Firemaster 550 is made up of four principal component chemicals and is used in polyurethane foam in a wide variety of products, ranging from mattresses to infant nursing pillows.  It was developed to replace a class of fire retardants being phased out of use because of concerns regarding their safety.

Reclaiming rare earths

October 25, 2012 8:59 am | News | Comments

The prices for rare earths increased ten-fold between 2009 and 2011, prompting researchers at Ames Laboratory to revisit a rare earth recovery process once employed to make high-strength alloy. Now, they are working to more effectively remove neodymium, a rare earth element, from the mix of other materials in a rare earth magnet.

Team finds Midas touch, changes the color of gold

October 24, 2012 12:20 pm | News | Comments

A University of Southampton team have discovered that by embossing tiny raised or indented patterns onto the metal’s surface they can change the way it absorbs and reflects light—ensuring our eyes don’t see it as “golden” in color at all. Equally applicable to other metals such as silver and aluminium, this breakthrough opens up the prospect of coloring metals without having to coat or chemically treat them.

Researchers gain new insights into membrane-assisted self-assembly

October 24, 2012 12:02 pm | News | Comments

Interest and research into self-assembly has accelerated in recent years, and much of this effort based on natural biological processes that involve proteins and capsids (complex protein structures). New research, using computational simulation techniques, is now showing how membranes influence and modify crucial biological self-assembly processes.

High-pressure science gets super-sized

October 24, 2012 7:47 am | News | Comments

The study of materials at extreme conditions took a giant leap forward with the discovery of a way to generate super high pressures without using shock waves whose accompanying heat turns solids to liquid. This discovery will allow scientists, for the first time, to reach static pressure levels exceeding four million atmospheres, a high-pressure environment where new compounds could be formed, materials change their chemical and physical properties, and metals become insulators.

Droplet response to electric voltage in solids exposed

October 23, 2012 4:09 pm | News | Comments

For the first time, scientists have observed how droplets within solids deform and burst under high electric voltages. This is important, according to the Duke University engineers who made the observation, because it explains a major reason why such materials as insulation for electrical power lines eventually fail and cause blackouts.

Tiny pores in graphene could give rise to membranes

October 23, 2012 12:22 pm | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Much has been made of graphene’s exceptional qualities, particularly its phenomenal strength and impermeability. But the material may not be as impenetrable as scientists have thought. Recent analysis shows that the material bears intrinsic defects, or holes in its atom-sized armor. Experiments demonstrate small molecules like salts can pass easily through a graphene membrane’s tiny pores, while larger molecules were unable to penetrate.

Lung mucus gel scaffold prevents nanoparticles from getting through

October 23, 2012 12:15 pm | News | Comments

Using optical tweezers, researches have unraveled the mechanics behind mucus gel scaffolding in human lungs. The natural structures inside our lungs, they have found prevents nanoparticle movement beyond pore boundaries, protecting us from nanoscale objects such as viruses and diesel soot. It was previously unclear the extent to which such nanoparticles were prevented from moving.

Neutron experiments give unprecedented look at quantum oscillations

October 23, 2012 12:03 pm | News | Comments

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have found that nitrogen atoms in the compound uranium nitride exhibit unexpected, distinct vibrations that form a nearly ideal realization of a physics textbook model known as the isotropic quantum harmonic oscillator.

Researchers build spin-polarized contacts on silicon

October 23, 2012 9:56 am | News | Comments

Naval Research Laboratory scientists have demonstrated that graphene can serve as a low resistance spin-polarized tunnel barrier contact which successfully enables spin injection/detection in silicon from a ferromagnetic metal. The graphene provides a highly uniform, chemically inert and thermally robust tunnel barrier free of defects and trap states which plague oxide barriers.

New finding could pave way to faster, smaller electronics

October 23, 2012 8:00 am | News | Comments

University of California, Davis researchers, for the first time, have looked inside gallium manganese arsenide, a type of material known as a "dilute magnetic semiconductor" that could open up an entirely new class of faster, smaller devices based on an emerging field known as spintronics.

Method to improve electric field intensity could boost Raman scattering

October 22, 2012 1:23 pm | News | Comments

Surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) is a sensitive technique used for the detection of trace amounts of chemicals. It is also one of the most promising for the nonlinear optical study of nanostructures. Researchers in China have identified a way to increase the sensitivity of this method by enhance local electrical fields around these structures. Single-molecule detection may be feasible.

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