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Smartgels are thicker than water

September 19, 2014 10:08 am | by Poncie Rutsch, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology | News | Comments

Transforming substances from liquids into gels plays an important role across many industries, but the transformation process, called gelation, is expensive and energy demanding. Instead of adding chemical thickeners and heating or cooling the fluids, as is traditional, researchers in Okinawa are experimenting with microfluidic platforms, adding nanoparticles and biomolecules with used pH, chemical and temperature sensing properties.

Breaking “electrode barrier” creates a better low-cost organic solar cell

September 19, 2014 9:02 am | News | Comments

For decades, the power conversion efficiency of organic solar cells was hampered by the drawbacks of commonly used metal electrodes, including their instability and susceptibility to oxidation. Now for the first time, researchers at the Univ. of Massachusetts Amherst have developed a more efficient, easily processable and lightweight solar cell that can use virtually any metal for the electrode, effectively breaking the “electrode barrier.”

Nanoscience makes your wine better

September 18, 2014 1:13 pm | by Anne-Mette Siem, Aarhus Univ. | News | Comments

One sip of a perfectly poured glass of wine leads to an explosion of flavors in your mouth. Researchers in Denmark have now developed a nanosensor that can mimic what happens in your mouth when you drink wine. The sensor, which uses gold nanoparticles to act as a “mini-mouth”, measures how you experience the sensation of dryness in the wine.

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Advanced molecular “sieves” could be used for carbon capture

September 18, 2014 12:33 pm | News | Comments

Researchers from the Univ. of Cambridge have developed advanced molecular synthetic membranes, or “sieves”, which could be used to filter carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. The sieves were made by heating microporous polymers using low levels of oxygen which, produces a tougher and far more selective membrane that is still relatively flexible.

Physicists heat freestanding graphene to control curvature of ripples

September 18, 2014 8:52 am | News | Comments

While freestanding graphene offers promise as a replacement for silicon and other materials in microprocessors and next-generation energy devices, much remains unknown about its mechanical and thermal properties. An international team of physicists, led by a research group at the Univ. of Arkansas, has recently discovered that heating can be used to control the curvature of ripples in freestanding graphene.

Team aims to improve plant-based battery with neutrons, simulation

September 18, 2014 8:02 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

When Orlando Rios first started analyzing samples of carbon fibers made from a woody plant polymer known as lignin, he noticed something unusual. The material’s microstructure—a mixture of perfectly spherical nanoscale crystallites distributed within a fibrous matrix—looked almost too good to be true.

Shrink-wrapping spacesuits

September 18, 2014 7:32 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

For future astronauts, the process of suiting up may go something like this: Instead of climbing into a conventional, bulky, gas-pressurized suit, an astronaut may don a lightweight, stretchy garment, lined with tiny, muscle-like coils. She would then plug in to a spacecraft’s power supply, triggering the coils to contract and essentially shrink-wrap the garment around her body.

Oxides discovered by chemists could advance memory devices

September 17, 2014 1:35 pm | News | Comments

Combining materials that exhibit magnetic and ferroelectric properties could be a boon for electronics designs, revolutionizing logic circuits and jumpstarting spintronics. This task has proven difficult until a recently developed inorganic synthesis technique, created by chemists at The City College of New York, produced a new complex oxide that demonstrate both properties.

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Scientists refine formula for nanotube types

September 17, 2014 9:52 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | Videos | Comments

Many a great idea springs from talks over a cup of coffee. But it’s rare and wonderful when a revelation comes from the cup itself. Rice Univ. theoretical physicist Boris Yakobson, acting upon sudden inspiration at a meeting last year, obtained a couple of spare coffee cups from a server and a pair of scissors and proceeded to lay out—science fair-style—an idea that could have far-reaching implications for the nanotechnology industry.

Toward optical chips

September 17, 2014 9:42 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Chips that use light, rather than electricity, to move data would consume much less power. Of the three chief components of optical circuits—light emitters, modulators and detectors—emitters are the toughest to build. One promising light source for optical chips is molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), which has excellent optical properties when deposited as a single, atom-thick layer.

For electronics beyond silicon, a new contender emerges

September 17, 2014 8:13 am | by Caroline Perry, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

Silicon has few serious competitors as the material of choice in the electronics industry. Yet transistors can’t simply keep shrinking to meet the needs of powerful, compact devices; physical limitations like energy consumption and heat dissipation are too significant. Now, using a quantum material called a correlated oxide, researchers have achieved a reversible change in electrical resistance of eight orders of magnitude.

Nanoribbon film keeps glass ice-free

September 17, 2014 7:58 am | by Jade Boyd, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists who created a deicing film for radar domes have now refined the technology to work as a transparent coating for glass. The new work by Rice chemist James Tour and his colleagues could keep glass surfaces from windshields to skyscrapers free of ice and fog while retaining their transparency to radio frequencies (RF).

How to hide like an octopus

September 17, 2014 7:33 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Cephalopods are among nature’s most skillful camouflage artists, able to change both the color and texture of their skin within seconds to blend into their surroundings. Engineers have long struggled to duplicate this in synthetic materials. Now a team of researchers has come closer than ever to achieving that goal, creating a flexible material that can change its color or fluorescence and its texture at the same time.

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Researchers control surface tension to manipulate liquid metals

September 16, 2014 9:40 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | Videos | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed a technique for controlling the surface tension of liquid metals by applying very low voltages, opening the door to a new generation of reconfigurable electronic circuits, antennas and other technologies. The technique hinges on the fact that the oxide “skin” of the metal acts as a surfactant, lowering the surface tension between the metal and the surrounding fluid.

“Squid skin” metamaterials project yields vivid color display

September 16, 2014 7:41 am | by Jade Boyd, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

The quest to create artificial “squid skin”—camouflaging metamaterials that can “see” colors and automatically blend into the background—is one step closer to reality, thanks to a breakthrough color-display technology unveiled by Rice Univ. The new full-color display technology uses aluminum nanoparticles to create the vivid red, blue and green hues found in today’s top-of-the-line LCD televisions and monitors.

Scientists now closer to industrial synthesis of a material harder than diamond

September 15, 2014 12:16 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Russia have developed a new method for the industrial synthesis of an ultra-hard material that exceeds diamond in hardness. An article recently published in Carbon describes in detail a method that allows for the synthesis of ultrahard fullerite, a polymer composed of fullerenes, or spherical molecules made of carbon atoms.

Materials experts construct precise inter-nanotube junctions

September 15, 2014 12:05 pm | News | Comments

A new method for controllably constructing precise inter-nanotube junctions and structures in carbon nanotube (CNT) arrays, Northeastern Univ. researchers say, is facile and easily scal­able. It will allow them to tailor the phys­ical prop­er­ties of nan­otube net­works for use in appli­ca­tions ranging from elec­tronic devices to CNT-reinforced com­posite mate­rials found in every­thing from cars to sports equipment.

Moving silicon atoms in graphene with atomic precision

September 15, 2014 10:34 am | Videos | Comments

In recent years, it has become possible to see directly individual atoms using electron microscopy, especially in graphene. Using electron microscopy and computer simulations, an international team has recently shown how an electron beam can move silicon atoms through the graphene lattice without causing damage.

Researchers roll “neat” nanotube fibers

September 15, 2014 7:57 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

The very idea of fibers made of carbon nanotubes is neat, but Rice Univ. scientists are making them neat—literally. The single-walled carbon nanotubes in new fibers created at Rice line up like a fistful of uncooked spaghetti through a process designed by chemist Angel Martí and his colleagues.

Study sheds new light on why batteries go bad

September 15, 2014 7:34 am | by Andrew Gordon, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | Videos | Comments

A comprehensive look at how tiny particles in a lithium-ion battery electrode behave shows that rapid-charging the battery and using it to do high-power, rapidly draining work may not be as damaging as researchers had thought—and that the benefits of slow draining and charging may have been overestimated.

Magnetism intensified by defects

September 12, 2014 1:53 pm | News | Comments

As integrated circuits become increasingly miniaturized and the sizes of magnetic components approach nanoscale dimensions, magnetic properties can disappear. Scientists in Japan, with the help of a form of electron microscopy called split-illumination electron holography, have gained important insights into the development of stable, strong nanomagnets by discovering magnetism-amplifying atomic disorder in iron-aluminum alloys.

Engineers describe key mechanism in energy and information storage

September 12, 2014 8:48 am | by Bjorn Carey, Stanford News Service | News | Comments

The ideal energy or information storage system is one that can charge and discharge quickly, has a high capacity and can last forever. Nanomaterials are promising to achieve these criteria, but scientists are just beginning to understand their challenging mechanisms. Now, a team from Stanford Univ. has provided new insight into the storage mechanism of nanomaterials that could facilitate development of improved batteries and memory devices.

Physicists find new way to push electrons around

September 12, 2014 7:49 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

When moving through a conductive material in an electric field, electrons tend to follow the path of least resistance—which runs in the direction of that field. But now physicists have found an unexpectedly different behavior under very specialized conditions—one that might lead to new types of transistors and electronic circuits that could prove highly energy efficient.

Ceramics don’t have to be brittle

September 11, 2014 5:00 pm | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | News | Comments

Imagine a balloon that could float without using any lighter-than-air gas. Instead, it could simply have all of its air sucked out while maintaining its filled shape. Such a material might be possible with a new method developed at the California Institute of Technology that allows engineers to produce a ceramic that contains about 99.9% air yet is strong enough to recover its original shape after being smashed by more than 50%.

Microscopic diamonds suggest cosmic impact responsible for major period of climate

September 11, 2014 4:53 pm | News | Comments

A new study published in The Journal of Geology provides support for the theory that a cosmic impact event over North America some 13,000 years ago caused a major period of climate change known as the Younger Dryas stadial, or “Big Freeze.”  The key to the mystery of the Big Freeze lies in nanodiamonds scattered across Europe, North America, and portions of South America.

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