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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.

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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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Nanoscale solution to big problem of overheating in microelectronic devices

February 6, 2015 10:01 am | by Megan Hazle, Univ. of Southern California | News | Comments

Anyone who has ever toasted the top of their legs with their laptop or broiled their ear on a cell phone knows that microelectronic devices can give off a lot of heat. These devices contain a multitude of transistors, and although each one produces very little heat individually, their combined thermal output is significant and can damage the device.

Precision growth of light-emitting nanowires

February 6, 2015 9:12 am | by Kate Greene, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A novel approach to growing nanowires promises a new means of control over their light-emitting and electronic properties. In a recent issue of Nano Letters, scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab demonstrated a new growth technique that uses specially engineered catalysts. These catalysts, which are precursors to growing the nanowires, have given scientists more options than ever in turning the color of light-emitting nanowires.

Cesium atoms shaken, not stirred, to create elusive excitation in superfluid

February 6, 2015 8:04 am | by Steve Koppes, The Univ. of Chicago | News | Comments

Scientists discovered in 1937 that liquid helium-4, when chilled to extremely low temperatures, became a superfluid that could leak through glass, overflow its containers or eternally gush like a fountain. Future Nobel laureate Lev Landau came along in 1941, predicting that superfluid helium-4 should contain an exotic, particle-like excitation called a roton.

Diamonds could help bring proteins into focus

February 6, 2015 7:40 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Proteins are the building blocks of all living things, and they exist in virtually unlimited varieties, most of whose highly complex structures have not yet been determined. Those structures could be key to developing new drugs or to understanding basic biological processes. But figuring out the arrangement of atoms in these complicated, folded molecules usually requires getting them to form crystals large enough to be observed in detail.

Using disorder to control light on a nanoscale

February 5, 2015 9:52 am | by Matthew Chin, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | News | Comments

A breakthrough by a team of researchers could lead to the more precise transfer of information in computer chips, as well as new types of optical materials for light emission and lasers. The researchers were able to control light at tiny lengths around 500 nm, smaller than the light’s own wavelength, by using random crystal lattice structures to counteract light diffraction.

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Potassium salt outperforms precious metals as a catalyst

February 5, 2015 8:18 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | News | Comments

A team of Caltech chemists has discovered a method for producing a group of silicon-containing organic chemicals without relying on expensive precious metal catalysts. Instead, the new technique uses as a catalyst a cheap, abundant chemical that is commonly found in chemistry labs around the world, potassium tert-butoxide, to help create a host of products ranging from new medicines to advanced materials.

How to prevent metal embrittlement

February 5, 2015 8:00 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

When a metal tube lines an oil well thousands of feet below the surface of the ocean, that metal had better be solid and reliable. Unfortunately, the environment in such deep wells is often rich in hydrogen, a gas that can penetrate high-tech alloys and make them brittle, making fractures and leaks more likely. Now researchers have figured which characteristics of a metal structure foster this embrittlement in the presence of hydrogen.

Bioengineered miniature structures could prevent heart failure

February 4, 2015 4:10 pm | by Medical College of Wisconsin | News | Comments

The delivery of tiny biodegradable microstructures to heart tissue damaged by heart attack may help repair the tissue and prevent future heart failure. A team led by cardiovascular researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin bioengineered the microstructures to be the same size, shape and stiffness as adult heart muscle cells, or cardiomyocytes, with the goal of releasing biologically active peptides that act as cardioprotective agents.

Noncommittal material could make for hypersensitive magnetic direction detector

February 4, 2015 11:07 am | by Mark Esser, NIST | News | Comments

While the mysterious, unseen forces magnets project are now (mostly) well understood, they can still occasionally surprise us. For instance, thin films of cobalt have been observed to spontaneously switch their poles: something that typically doesn’t happen in the absence of an external magnetic field. Physicists at NIST and the Univ. of Maryland have measured this phenomenon on the largest scale yet.

Penta-graphene: A new structural variant of carbon, discovered

February 4, 2015 8:17 am | by Brian McNeill, Virginia Commonwealth Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth Univ. and universities in China and Japan have discovered a new structural variant of carbon called "penta-graphene", a very thin sheet of pure carbon that has a unique structure inspired by a pentagonal pattern of tiles found paving the streets of Cairo.

Rediscovering spontaneous light emission

February 4, 2015 8:06 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers have developed a nano-sized optical antenna that can greatly enhance the spontaneous emission of light from atoms, molecules and semiconductor quantum dots. This advance opens the door to light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that can replace lasers for short-range optical communications, including optical interconnects for microchips, plus a host of other potential applications.

One-atom-thin silicon transistors hold promise for super-fast computing

February 4, 2015 7:50 am | by Sandra Zaragoza, The Univ. of Texas at Austin | News | Comments

Researchers at The Univ. of Texas at Austin have created the first transistors made of silicene, the world’s thinnest silicon material. Their research holds the promise of building dramatically faster, smaller and more efficient computer chips. Made of a one-atom-thick layer of silicon atoms, silicene has outstanding electrical properties but has until now proved difficult to produce and work with.

Winding borders may enhance graphene

February 3, 2015 9:20 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Far from being a defect, a winding thread of odd rings at the border of two sheets of graphene has qualities that may prove valuable to manufacturers, according to Rice Univ. scientists. Graphene rarely appears as a perfect lattice of chicken wire-like six-atom rings. When grown via chemical vapor deposition, it usually consists of “domains,” or separately grown sheets that bloom outward from hot catalysts until they meet up.

Tell us your 3D printing experiences

February 3, 2015 9:13 am | by R&D Magazine Editors | News | Comments

The editors of R&D Magazine are looking for speakers to participate in a webinar on “Using Multiple Materials in 3D Printing.” Candidates are asked to give a 15-min PowerPoint-based talk over the phone on their experiences in fabricating 3D printed products using multiple materials or developing the processes and/or technologies to accomplish this.

Worms lead way to test nanoparticle toxicity

February 3, 2015 8:12 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

The lowly roundworm is the star of an ambitious Rice Univ. project to measure the toxicity of nanoparticles. The low-cost, high-output study measures the effects of many types of nanoparticles not only on individual organisms but also on entire populations. The researchers tested 20 types of nanoparticles and determined that five, including the carbon-60 molecules (“buckyballs”) discovered at Rice in 1985, showed little to no toxicity.

The quest for efficiency in thermoelectric nanowires

February 2, 2015 8:58 am | by Sue Holmes, Sandia National Laboratories | News | Comments

Efficiency is big in the tiny world of thermoelectric nanowires. Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories say better materials and manufacturing techniques for the nanowires could allow carmakers to harvest power from the heat wasted by exhaust systems or lead to more efficient devices to cool computer chips.

Method allows for greater variation in band gap tenability

January 30, 2015 4:10 pm | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

If you can’t find the ideal material, then design a new one. Northwestern Univ.’s James Rondinelli uses quantum mechanical calculations to predict and design the properties of new materials by working at the atom-level. His group’s latest achievement is the discovery of a novel way to control the electronic band gap in complex oxide materials without changing the material’s overall composition.

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