Imagine a material with the same weight and density as aerogel—a material so light it's called “frozen smoke”—but with 10,000 times more stiffness. This material could have a profound impact on the aerospace and automotive industries as well as other applications where lightweight, high-stiffness and high-strength materials are needed.
Rice Univ. scientists have created a one-step process for producing highly efficient materials that let the maximum amount of sunlight reach a solar cell. The Rice laboratory of chemist Andrew Barron found a simple way to etch nanoscale spikes into silicon that allows more than 99% of sunlight to reach the cells’ active elements, where it can be turned into electricity.
New theoretical physics research reveals rare materials that possess both controllable magnetic and electric polarization properties at near-room temperatures. The discovery could lead to longer battery life and increased memory storage for electronic devices, said Yurong Yang, a research assistant professor at the Univ. of Arkansas.
Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers have demonstrated an almost four-fold boost of the carrier multiplication yield with nanoengineered quantum dots. Carrier multiplication is when a single photon can excite multiple electrons. Quantum dots are novel nanostructures that can become the basis of the next generation of solar cells, capable of squeezing additional electricity out of the extra energy of blue and ultraviolet photons.
Organic semiconductors have tremendous potential for complementing conventional, inorganic semiconductors, but energy losses or barriers at the connection interfaces have blocked development efforts. Physicists have now implemented a detailed electrostatic model which is capable of covering the full phenomenological range of interfacial energy-level alignment regimes within a single, consistent framework.
The inks on historical documents can hold many secrets about the past. And knowing how the ink breaks down can help scientists preserve valuable treasures. In a recent study, researchers report how a analysis method called tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy has been developed to help identify many types of inks on various papers and other surfaces.
Researchers the world over are investigating solar cells which imitate plant photosynthesis, with the goal of using sunlight and water to create synthetic fuels such as hydrogen. Scientists in Switzerland have developed this type of photoelectrochemical cell, but this one recreates a moth’s eye to drastically increase its light collecting efficiency. The cell is made of cheap raw materials: iron and tungsten oxide.
The term “crowdsourcing” was coined in 2006 and since then has seen its definition broadened to a wide range of activities involving a network of people. A challenging problem that might benefit from crowdsourcing, according to recently published research, is the phase problem in x-ray crystallography. Retrieving the phase information has plagued many scientists for decades when trying to determine the crystal structure of a sample.
A proposed hybrid quantum processor for a future quantum computer uses trapped atoms as the memory and superconducting qubits as the processor. The concept requires, however, an optical trap that is able to work well with superconductors, which don’t like magnetic fields or high optical power. Joint Quantum Institute scientists believe they’ve developed an effective method for creating these ultra-high transmission optical nanofibers.
Titanium dioxide nanoparticles show great promise as optical encapsulants or fillers for tunable refractive index coatings. However, they've been largely shunned because they’ve been difficult and expensive to make. Scientists at Sandia National Laboratories have now come up with an inexpensive way to synthesize properly sized titanium dioxide nanoparticles and is seeking partners who can demonstrate the process at industrial scale.
Researchers in Australia have discovered how algae that survive in very low levels of light are able to switch on and off a weird quantum phenomenon that occurs during photosynthesis. The function in the algae of this quantum effect, known as coherence, remains a mystery, but it is thought it could help them harvest energy from the sun much more efficiently.
Scientists are using a pioneering method of “caging” and cooling water molecules to study the change in orientation of the magnetic nuclei at the center of each hydrogen atom in the molecule. This process transforms the molecule from one form of water to another. The results of this work may one day help to enhance the diagnostic power of magnetic resonance imaging scans.
A physicist in Russia, Alexander Rozhkov, has presented theoretical calculations which indicate the possible existence of fermionic matter in a previously unknown state. It is defined as a 1-D liquid, which cannot be described within the framework of existing models. According to Rozhkov, the 1-D liquid state of matter is not necessarily one that can be observed with the naked eye on a macroscopic scale.
Nanoengineers at UC San Diego have developed a nanoshell to protect foreign enzymes used to starve cancer cells as part of chemotherapy. Enzymes are naturally smart machines that are responsible for many complex functions and chemical reactions in biology. However, despite their huge potential, their use in medicine has been limited by the immune system, which is designed to attack foreign intruders.
Nanopores may one day lead a revolution in DNA sequencing. By sliding DNA molecules one at a time through tiny holes in a thin membrane, it may be possible to decode long stretches of DNA at lightning speeds. Scientists, however, haven’t quite figured out the physics of how polymer strands like DNA interact with nanopores.
A large team of scientists have developed a “nanobarrel” molecular container that traps and concentrates light onto single molecule. These nanobarrels, which act as tiny test tubes, have been combined with gold nanoparticles so that researchers can detect what is in each one. The invention could be used as a low-cost and reliable diagnostic test.
A breakthrough has been made in identifying the origin of superconductivity in high-temperature superconductors, which has puzzled researchers for the past three decades. Researchers in the U.K. have found that ripples of electrons, known as charge density waves or charge order, create twisted ‘pockets’ of electrons in these materials, from which superconductivity emerges.
Submicroscopic particles that contain even smaller particles of iron oxide could make magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) a far more powerful tool to detect and fight disease. Scientists at Rice Uni. led an international team of researchers in creating composite particles that can be injected into patients and guided by magnetic fields.
In semiconductor-based components, high mobility of charge-carrying particles is important. In organic materials, however, it is uncertain to what degree the molecular order within the thin films affects the mobility and transport of charge carriers. Using a new imaging method, researchers have shown that thin-film organic semiconductors contain regions of structural disorder that could inhibit the transport of charge and limit efficiency.
Normally, keeping glass clean and clear depends on repelling or wiping away water droplets. Or a coating attached to help do this. But researchers in Singapore have discovered that doing just the opposite, collecting water, is the key to keeping a surface clear. Their superhydrophilic coating attracts water to create a uniform, thin, transparent layer.
Researchers have developed nanoparticles that not only bypass the body’s defence system, but also find their way to the diseased cells. The procedure uses fragments from a particular type of antibody that only occurs in camels and llamas. The small particles were even successful under conditions which are very similar to the situation within potential patients’ bodies.
Engineers at the Univ. of Arkansas have designed integrated circuits that can survive at temperatures greater than 350 C—or roughly 660 F. The team achieved the higher performance by combining silicon carbide with wide temperature design techniques. In the world of power electronics and integrated circuits, their work represents the first implementation of a number of fundamental analog, digital and mixed-signal blocks.
An advance has been achieved towards next-generation ultrasonic imaging with potentially 1,000 times higher resolution than today’s medical ultrasounds. Researchers with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have demonstrated a technique for producing, detecting and controlling ultra-high-frequency sound waves at the nanometer scale.
If you don’t want to die of thirst in the desert, be like the beetle. Or have a nanotube cup handy. New research by scientists at Rice Univ. demonstrated that forests of carbon nanotubes can be made to harvest water molecules from arid desert air and store them for future use.
When concrete shells are constructed, they usually have to be supported by elaborate timber structures. This is one reason why such structures are now rarely built. In Austria, engineers have developed a new construction method that does not require any solid supporting structure at all. Instead, an air cushion is inflated below a concrete slab, bending the concrete and quickly forming a self-supporting shell.