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Not all diamonds are forever

May 23, 2014 7:50 am | News | Comments

Images taken by Rice Univ. scientists show that some diamonds are not forever. The Rice researchers behind a new study that explains the creation of nanodiamonds in treated coal also show that some microscopic diamonds only last seconds before fading back into less-structured forms of carbon under the impact of an electron beam.

A new way to make sheets of graphene

May 23, 2014 7:39 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Graphene’s promise as a material for new kinds of electronic devices, among other uses, has led researchers around the world to study the material in search of new applications. But one of the biggest limitations to wider use of the strong, lightweight, highly conductive material has been the hurdle of fabrication on an industrial scale.

Study finds crowding has big effects on biomolecules

May 22, 2014 1:58 pm | News | Comments

Crowding has notoriously negative effects at large size scales, blamed for everything from human disease and depression to community resource shortages. But relatively little is known about the influence of crowding at the cellular level. A new JILA study shows that a crowded environment has dramatic effects on individual biomolecules.

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Study probes resonant energy transfer from quantum dots to graphene

May 22, 2014 8:41 am | News | Comments

In recent work at Brookhaven National Laboratory, semiconductor quantum dots (QDs) have been combined with graphene to develop nanoscale photonic devices that can dramatically improve our ability to detect light. The research has demonstrated that the thickness of the organic molecule layer that typically surrounds the QDs is crucial in attaining sufficiently high efficiency of light/energy transfer into the graphene.

Why quantum dots suffer from “fluorescence intermittency”

May 22, 2014 8:12 am | News | Comments

Researchers have found that a particular species of quantum dots that weren't commonly thought to blink, do. So what? Well, although the blinks are short, even brief fluctuations can result in efficiency losses that could cause trouble for using quantum dots to generate photons that move information around inside a quantum computer or between nodes of a future high-security internet based on quantum telecommunications.

Why eumelanin is a good absorber of light

May 22, 2014 7:39 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Melanin—and specifically, the form called eumelanin—is the primary pigment that gives humans the coloring of their skin, hair and eyes. It protects the body from the hazards of ultraviolet and other radiation that can damage cells and lead to skin cancer, but the exact reason why the compound is so effective at blocking such a broad spectrum of sunlight has remained something of a mystery.

A new solution for storing hydrogen fuel for alternative energy

May 21, 2014 2:13 pm | News | Comments

An international team of researchers have figured out a new way of storing and releasing hydrogen by making a unique crystal phase of a material containing lithium, boron and the key ingredient, hydrogen. To check how they could get the hydrogen back out of the material, the scientists heated it and found that it released hydrogen easily, quickly and only traces of unwanted by-products.

Researchers combine weak chemical forces to strengthen new maging technology

May 21, 2014 2:08 pm | News | Comments

When doctors perform an MRI, they administer a contrast agent: a chemical that, when injected into the bloodstream or ingested by the patient just before the MRI, improves the clarity of structures or organs in the resulting image. Researchers in Illinois have turned contrast agent technology “inside out” to develop a scalable new way of building multipurpose agents using nanoparticles.

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Liquid crystal acts as machine lubricant

May 21, 2014 9:27 am | News | Comments

Although lubricants for machinery are widely used, almost no fundamental innovations for this type of product has been made in the last 20 years, according researchers in Germany who have been working on a new class of lubricating substance. Their new liquid crystalline lubricant enable nearly frictionless sliding because although it is a liquid, the molecules display directional properties like crystals do.

Metal-organic framework shows new talent

May 21, 2014 8:15 am | News | Comments

This gift from science just keeps on giving. Measurements taken at NIST show why a material already known to be good at separating components of natural gas also can do something trickier: help convert one chemical to another, a process called catalysis. The discovery is a rare example of a laboratory-made material easily performing a task that biology usually requires a complex series of steps to accomplish.

Chemists challenge conventional understanding of photocatalysis

May 21, 2014 8:13 am | by Iqbal Pittalwala, UC Riverside | News | Comments

Photocatalysis is a promising route to convert solar energy into chemical fuels, or to split water into molecular hydrogen. But viable photocatalysts, or promoters, for these applications are scarce. A team of chemists in California has come up with a model to explain this promoting effect that could shift the focus in the search for substitutes of the metals, and help identify better promoters for photocatalysis in the near future.

A new way to harness waste heat

May 21, 2014 7:55 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Vast amounts of excess heat are generated by industrial processes and by electric power plants; researchers around the world have spent decades seeking ways to harness some of this wasted energy. Most such efforts have focused on thermoelectric devices, solid-state materials that can produce electricity from a temperature gradient, but the efficiency of such devices is limited by the availability of materials.

Busting rust with light: New technique delivers perfect paint job

May 20, 2014 3:08 pm | News | Comments

Now researchers have developed a new way to measure the thickness of paint layers and the size of particles embedded inside. A technique called terahertz reflectometry is used to characterize coats of paint without damaging them. No other current methods can do this successfully, and the technique could be useful for a variety of applications from cars to cancer detection.

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Engineers build world's smallest, fastest nanomotor

May 20, 2014 2:55 pm | News | Comments

A team in Texas has built the smallest, fastest and longest-running tiny synthetic motor to date. The reliable, 18,000-rpm device can convert electrical energy into mechanical motion on a scale 500 times smaller than a grain of salt. Made from three parts, the nanomotor can rapidly mix and pump biochemicals and move through liquids.

Professors' super waterproof surfaces cause water to bounce like a ball

May 20, 2014 2:51 pm | News | Comments

Brigham Young Univ. engineering professors Julie Crockett and Dan Maynes have created a sloped channel that is super-hydrophobic, and causes water to bounce like a ball as it rolls down the ramp. Their recent study finds surfaces with a pattern of microscopic ridges or posts, combined with a hydrophobic coating, produces an even higher level of water resistance, depending on how the water hits the surface.

Scientists use nanoparticles to control growth of materials

May 20, 2014 7:59 am | by Matthew Chin, UCLA | News | Comments

A team led by researchers from the Univ. of California, Los Angeles has developed a new process to control molecular growth within the "building block" components of inorganic materials. The method, which uses nanoparticles to organize the components during a critical phase of the manufacturing process, could lead to innovative new materials, such as self-lubricating bearings for engines.

Bionic particles self-assemble to capture light

May 20, 2014 7:53 am | by Kate McAlpine, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Inspired by fictional cyborgs like Terminator, a team of researchers at the Univ. of Michigan and the Univ. of Pittsburgh has made the first bionic particles from semiconductors and proteins. These particles recreate the heart of the process that allows plants to turn sunlight into fuel.

New supercapacitor design stands up to abuse

May 20, 2014 7:52 am | by David Salisbury, Vanderbilt Univ. | News | Comments

Modern supercapacitors store ten times less energy than a lithium-ion battery but can last a thousand times longer. The main drawback of supercapacitors, however, is the inability to cope with stresses such as pressure and vibration. Researchers have developed a new supercapacitor that operates flawlessly in storing and releasing electrical charge while subject to stresses or pressures up to 44 psi and vibrational accelerations over 80 g.

New “T-ray” tech converts light to sound for weapons detection, medical imaging

May 19, 2014 1:17 pm | News | Comments

Terahertz, or T-ray, range of the electromagnetic has rich promise for scientific applications, but instrumentation that can take advantage of these rays for imaging are still in progress. Univ. of Michigan researchers have recently made a breakthrough by converting terahertz light into sound using a compact, sensitive detector that operates at room temperature and is fabricated in an unusual manner.

Improved supercapacitors provides twice the energy and power

May 19, 2014 9:44 am | by Sean Nealon, UC Riverside | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of California, Riverside have developed a new nanometer scale ruthenium oxide anchored nanocarbon graphene foam architecture that improves the performance of supercapacitors. They found that the new structure could operate safely in aqueous electrolyte and deliver two times more energy and power compared to supercapacitors commercially available today.

Team visualizes complex electronic state

May 19, 2014 7:35 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A material called sodium manganese dioxide has shown promise for use in electrodes in rechargeable batteries. Now a team of researchers has produced the first detailed visualization—down to the level of individual atoms—of exactly how the material behaves during charging and discharging, in the process elucidating an exotic molecular state that may help in understanding superconductivity.

IBM research discovers new class of industrial polymers

May 16, 2014 2:03 pm | News | Comments

Scientists at IBM Research have used a new “computational chemistry” hybrid approach to accelerate the materials discovery process that couples laboratory experimentation with the use of high-performance computing. The new polymers are the first to demonstrate resistance to cracking, strength higher than bone, the ability to reform to their original shape (self-heal), and the ability to be completely recycled back to the starting material.

Lighting the way to graphene-based devices

May 16, 2014 1:45 pm | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Graphene continues to reign as the next potential superstar material for the electronics industry, a slimmer, stronger and much faster electron conductor than silicon. With no natural energy bandgap, however, graphene’s superfast conductance can’t be switched off, a serious drawback for transistors and other electronic devices.

Silly Putty material inspires better batteries

May 16, 2014 7:56 am | by Sean Nealon, UC Riverside | News | Comments

Using a material found in Silly Putty and surgical tubing, a group of researchers at the Univ. of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering have developed a new way to make lithium-ion batteries that will last three times longer between charges compared to the current industry standard. The innovation involves the development of silicon dioxide nanotube anodes.

Researchers in Korea greatly improve piezoelectric nanogenerator efficiency

May 15, 2014 12:51 pm | News | Comments

Scientists at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology have increased the energy efficiency of a piezoelectric nanogenerator by almost 40 times, moving it closer to commercial flexible energy harvesters that can supply power infinitely to wearable, implantable electronic devices. The technique used to make this improvement, laser lift-off, allows the placement of a high-quality piezoelectric film on a sapphire substrate.

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