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“Wetting” a battery’s appetite for renewable energy storage

August 4, 2014 9:22 am | by Frances White, PNNL | Videos | Comments

Sun, wind and other renewable energy sources could make up a larger portion of the electricity America consumes if better batteries could be built to store the intermittent energy for cloudy, windless days. Now a new material could allow more utilities to store large amounts of renewable energy and make the nation's power system more reliable and resilient.

Light pulses control graphene’s electrical behavior

August 4, 2014 8:10 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Graphene has become a focus of research on a variety of potential uses. Now researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found a way to control how the material conducts electricity by using extremely short light pulses, which could enable its use as a broadband light detector.

Method provides nanoscale details of electrochemical reactions in EV battery materials

August 4, 2014 7:33 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Using a new method to track the electrochemical reactions in a common electric vehicle battery material under operating conditions, scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have revealed new insight into why fast charging inhibits this material's performance. The study also provides the first direct experimental evidence to support a particular model of the electrochemical reaction. 

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Researchers close in on pure lithium anode

July 31, 2014 4:15 pm | by Andrew Myers, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

In a recent paper, a team at Stanford Univ. which includes materials science expert Yi Cui and 2011 R&D Magazine Scientist of the Year Steven Chu report that they have taken a big step toward accomplishing what battery designers have been trying to do for decades: design a pure lithium anode.

Chemists demonstrate “bricks-and-mortar” assembly of new molecular structures

July 31, 2014 10:16 am | News | Comments

Scientists in Indiana have recently described the self-assembly of large, symmetrical molecules in “bricks-and-mortar” fashion. While researchers have created many such large, cyclic molecules, or macrocycles, what these chemists have built is a cyanostar, a five-sided molecule that is unusual in that it can be readily synthesized in a "one pot" process. It also has an unprecedented ability to bind with large, negatively charged anions.

Nature inspires a greener way to make colorful plastics

July 30, 2014 2:00 pm | News | Comments

Long before humans figured out how to create colors, nature had already perfected the process. Now scientists are tapping into those secrets to develop a more environmentally friendly way to make colored plastics. Their paper on using structure—or the shapes and architectures of materials—rather than dyes, to produce color appears in Nano Letters.

World’s smallest propeller could be used for microscopic medicine

July 30, 2014 9:29 am | by Kevin Hattori, American Technion Society | News | Comments

An Israeli and German research team have succeeded in creating a tiny screw-shaped propeller that can move in a gel-like fluid, mimicking the environment inside a living organism. The filament that makes up the propeller, made of silica and nickel, is only 70 nm in diameter. The entire propeller is just 400 nm long.

Tough foam from tiny sheets

July 29, 2014 12:59 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Tough, ultra-light foam of atom-thick sheets can be made to any size and shape through a chemical process invented at Rice Univ. In microscopic images, the foam dubbed “GO-0.5BN” looks like a nanoscale building, with floors and walls that reinforce each other. The structure consists of a pair of 2-D materials: floors and walls of graphene oxide that self-assemble with the assistance of hexagonal boron nitride platelets.

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A new way to make microstructured surfaces

July 29, 2014 12:49 pm | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A team of researchers has created a new way of manufacturing microstructured surfaces that have novel 3-D textures. These surfaces, made by self-assembly of carbon nanotubes, could exhibit a variety of useful properties—including controllable mechanical stiffness and strength, or the ability to repel water in a certain direction.

Optimum inertial design for self-propulsion

July 29, 2014 11:01 am | News | Comments

A new study has investigated the effects of small but finite inertia on the propulsion of micro- and nano-scale swimming machines. Scientists have found that the direction of propulsion made possible by such inertia is opposite to that induced by a viscoelastic fluid. The findings could help to optimize the design of swimming machines to improve their mobility in medical applications.

Mineral magic? Common mineral capable of making, breaking bonds

July 29, 2014 8:39 am | by Nikki Cassis, Arizona State Univ. | News | Comments

Reactions among minerals and organic compounds in hydrothermal environments are critical components of the Earth’s deep carbon cycle. They provide energy for the deep biosphere, and may have implications for the origins of life. However, very little is known about how minerals influence organic reactions. A team of researchers has demonstrated how a common mineral acts as a catalyst for specific hydrothermal organic reactions.

Physicists unlock nature of high-temperature superconductivity

July 28, 2014 4:14 pm | by Jeanne Galatzer-Levy, Univ. of Illinois, Chicago | News | Comments

Physicists have identified the “quantum glue” that underlies a promising type of superconductivity—a crucial step towards the creation of energy superhighways that conduct electricity without current loss. The research, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is a collaboration between the Univ. of Illinois at Chicago,  Cornell Univ. and Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Cagey material acts as alcohol factory

July 28, 2014 2:37 pm | by Kate Greene, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Some chemical conversions are harder than others. Refining natural gas into an easy-to-transport, easy-to-store liquid alcohol has so far been a logistic and economic challenge. But now, a new material, designed and patented by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is making this process a little easier.

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Scientists create model “bead-spring” chains with tunable properties

July 28, 2014 2:25 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. researchers are using magnetic beads and DNA “springs” to create chains of varying flexibility that can be used as microscale models for polymer macromolecules. The experiment is visual proof that “bead-spring” polymers, introduced as theory in the 1950s, can be made as stiff or as flexible as required and should be of interest to materials scientists who study the basic physics of polymers.

Graphene surfaces on photonic racetracks

July 28, 2014 11:12 am | News | Comments

Scientists in the U.K. recently published work that describes how graphene can be wrapped around a silicon wire, or waveguide, and modify the transmission of light through it.  These waveguide loops, called “racetrack resonators” because of their shape, could help form a device architecture that would make graphene biochemical sensors a reality.

Measuring the smallest magnets

July 28, 2014 11:05 am | News | Comments

A wildly bouncing tennis ball that travels a millions times the distance of its own size would be difficult to measure. But attaching the same ball to a measuring device would eliminate the “noise”. Researchers in Israel recently used a similar trick to measure the interaction between the smallest possible magnets (two electrons) after neutralizing magnetic noise that was a million times stronger than the signal they needed to detect.

Building invisible materials with light

July 28, 2014 7:51 am | News | Comments

A new method of building materials using light, developed by researchers at the Univ. of Cambridge, could one day enable technologies that are often considered the realm of science fiction. Although cloaked starships won’t be a reality for quite some time, the technique which researchers have developed for constructing materials with building blocks a few nanometers across can be used to control the way that light flies through them.

Magnets may act as wireless cooling agents

July 28, 2014 7:40 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The magnets cluttering the face of your refrigerator may one day be used as cooling agents, according to a new theory. The theory describes the motion of magnons. In addition to magnetic moments, magnons also conduct heat; from their equations, the researchers found that when exposed to a magnetic field gradient, magnons may be driven to move from one end of a magnet to another, carrying heat with them and producing a cooling effect.

Super-strong superconducting magnet achieves world record current

July 25, 2014 4:38 pm | News | Comments

Using a new type of large-scale magnet conductor, scientists in Japan have recently achieved an electrical current of 100,000 A, a world record. The conductor, which was built using yttrium-based high-temperature superconducting tapes for high mechanical strength, is a prototype for using in a future fusion reactor.

Nanoparticle “alarm clock” may awaken immune systems put to sleep by cancer

July 25, 2014 3:09 pm | News | Comments

Cancerous tumors protect themselves by tricking the immune system into accepting everything as normal, even while cancer cells are dividing and spreading. One pioneering approach to combat this effect is to use nanoparticles to jumpstart the body's ability to fight tumors. Recent combines these therapeutic nanoparticles with heat to stimulate the immune system.

Study reveals new characteristics of complex oxide surfaces

July 25, 2014 8:25 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

A novel combination of microscopy and data processing has given researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) an unprecedented look at the surface of a material known for its unusual physical and electrochemical properties. The research team led by ORNL’s Zheng Gai examined how oxygen affects the surface of a perovskite manganite, a complex material that exhibits dramatic magnetic and electronic behavior.

Chemist develops x-ray vision for quality assurance

July 25, 2014 6:57 am | by Iben Julie Schmidt, Technical Univ. of Denmark | News | Comments

A new method that uses x-rays for the rapid identification of substances present in an indeterminate powder has been developed by a scientist in Denmark. The new technique has the capacity to recognize advanced biological molecules such as proteins, which makes it potentially important in both food production and the pharmaceutical industry, where it opens up new opportunities for the quality assurance of protein-based medicines.

Antioxidant biomaterial promotes healing

July 25, 2014 6:55 am | News | Comments

When a foreign material like a medical device or surgical implant is put inside the human body, the body usually reacts negatively. For the first time ever, researchers at Northwestern Univ. have created a biodegradable biomaterial that is inherently antioxidant. The material can be used to create elastomers, liquids that turn into gels, or solids for building devices that are more compatible with cells and tissues.

The birth of topological spintronics

July 24, 2014 10:31 am | News | Comments

Research led by Penn State Univ. and Cornell Univ. physicists is studying "spintorque" in devices that combine a standard magnetic material with a new material known as a topological insulator. The new insulator, which is made of bismuth selenide and operates at room temperature, overcomes one of the key challenges to developing a spintronics technology based on spin-orbit coupling.

Discovery is key to metal wear in sliding parts

July 24, 2014 9:24 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have discovered a previously unknown mechanism for wear in metals: a swirling, fluid-like microscopic behavior in a solid piece of metal sliding over another. The findings could be used to improve the durability of metal parts in numerous applications.

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