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First observations of atoms moving inside bulk material

October 14, 2014 8:23 am | by Christopher R. Samoray, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | Videos | Comments

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have obtained the first direct observations of atomic diffusion inside a bulk material. The research, which could be used to give unprecedented insight into the lifespan and properties of new materials, is published in Physical Review Letters.

Force-sensing microrobots to probe cells

October 14, 2014 7:56 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Inexpensive microrobots capable of probing and manipulating individual cells and tissue for biological research and medical applications are closer to reality with the design of a system that senses the minute forces exerted by a robot's tiny probe. Microrobots small enough to interact with cells already exist. However, there is no easy, inexpensive way to measure the small forces applied to cells by the robots, until now.

Tailored flexible illusion coatings hide objects from detection

October 13, 2014 10:53 am | News | Comments

Developing the cloak of invisibility would be wonderful, but sometimes simply making an object appear to be something else will do the trick, according to Penn State Univ. engineers. To do this, they employ what they call "illusion coatings," which are made of a thin flexible substrate with copper patterns designed to create the desired result. The metamaterial coatings can function normally while appearing as something else.

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All that glitters is...slimy? Gold nanoparticles measure snot stickiness

October 13, 2014 10:40 am | News | Comments

Some people might consider mucus an icky bodily secretion best left wrapped in a tissue, but to a group of researchers in North Carolina, snot is an endlessly fascinating subject. The team has developed a way to use gold nanoparticles and light to measure the stickiness of the slimy substance that lines our airways. The new method could help doctors better monitor and treat lung diseases such as cystic fibrosis.

Ultra-fast charging batteries last 20 years, charge to 70% in 2 min

October 13, 2014 9:02 am | News | Comments

Scientists at Nanyang Technology University (NTU) in Singapore have developed a new type of lithium-ion battery in which the traditional graphite used for the anode has been replaced with a new gel material made from titanium dioxide. The new design allows the battery to endure more than 10,000 cycles, vs. about 500 recharge cycles for typical rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.

Teams set new records for silicon quantum computing

October 13, 2014 8:55 am | Videos | Comments

Two research teams working in the same laboratories in Australia have found distinct solutions to a critical challenge that has held back the realization of super powerful quantum computers. The teams created two types of quantum bits, or "qubits", which are the building blocks for quantum computers, that each process quantum data with an accuracy above 99%. They represent parallel pathways for building a quantum computer in silicon.

Solid nanoparticles can deform like a liquid

October 13, 2014 8:24 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A surprising phenomenon has been found in metal nanoparticles: They appear, from the outside, to be liquid droplets, wobbling and readily changing shape, while their interiors retain a perfectly stable crystal configuration. The research team behind the finding says the work could have important implications for the design of components in nanotechnology, such as metal contacts for molecular electronic circuits.

New sensor uses radio waves to detect subtle changes in pressure

October 10, 2014 2:09 pm | Videos | Comments

Stanford Univ. engineers have invented a sensor that uses radio waves to detect subtle changes in pressure. Already used to monitor brain pressure in laboratory mice as prelude to possible use with human patients, this pressure-sensing technology relies on a specially designed rubber and could lead to touch-sensitive “skin” for prosthetic devices.

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Plasmonic paper detects trace amounts of chemicals and molecules

October 10, 2014 12:25 pm | News | Comments

Using a common laboratory filter paper decorated with gold nanoparticles, researchers at Washington Univ. in St. Louis have created a unique platform, known as “plasmonic paper,” for detecting and characterizing even trace amounts of chemicals and biologically important molecules, including explosives, chemical warfare agents, environmental pollutants and disease markers.

Charged graphene gives DNA a stage to perform molecular gymnastics

October 10, 2014 8:12 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

When Illinois researchers set out to investigate a method to control how DNA moves through a tiny sequencing device, they didn’t know they were about to witness a display of molecular gymnastics. Fast, accurate and affordable DNA sequencing is the first step toward personalized medicine.

DNA nanofoundries cast custom-shaped metal nanoparticles

October 10, 2014 7:50 am | by Kat J. McAlpine, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering | News | Comments

Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard Univ. have unveiled a new method to form tiny 3-D metal nanoparticles in prescribed shapes and dimensions using DNA, nature's building block, as a construction mold. The ability to mold inorganic nanoparticles out of materials such as gold and silver in precisely designed 3-D shapes is a significant breakthrough.

Of bio-hairpins and polymer-spaghetti

October 9, 2014 11:02 am | News | Comments

When a sturdy material becomes soft and spongy, one usually suspects damage. But this is not always the case, especially in biological cells. By looking at microscopic biopolymer networks, researchers in Germany revealed that such materials soften by undergoing a transition from an entangled spaghetti of filaments to aligned layers of bow-shaped filaments that slide past each other. This finding may explain how other filaments flow.

Nanoparticles get a magnetic handle

October 9, 2014 10:50 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

A long-sought goal of creating particles that can emit a colorful fluorescent glow in a biological environment, and that could be precisely manipulated into position within living cells, has been achieved by a team of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and several other institutions. The new technology could make it possible to track the position of the nanoparticles as they move within the body or inside a cell.

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Electrically conductive plastics promising for batteries, solar cells

October 9, 2014 10:46 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

An emerging class of electrically conductive plastics called "radical polymers” may bring low-cost, transparent solar cells, flexible and lightweight batteries, and ultrathin antistatic coatings for consumer electronics and aircraft. Researchers have established the solid-state electrical properties of one such polymer, called PTMA, which is about 10 times more electrically conductive than common semiconducting polymers.

Hybrid materials could smash the solar efficiency ceiling

October 9, 2014 8:57 am | News | Comments

Researchers have developed a new method for harvesting the energy carried by particles known as “dark” spin-triplet excitons with close to 100% efficiency, clearing the way for hybrid solar cells which could far surpass current efficiency limits. To date, this type of energy transfer had only been shown for “bright” spin-singlet excitons.

NIST quantum probe enhances electric field measurements

October 9, 2014 8:37 am | News | Comments

Researchers at NIST and the Univ. of Michigan have demonstrated a technique based on the quantum properties of atoms that directly links measurements of electric field strength to the International System of Units. The new method could improve the sensitivity, precision and ease of tests and calibrations of antennas, sensors, and biomedical and nano-electronic systems and facilitate the design of novel devices.

Technology that controls brain cells with radio waves earns early BRAIN grant

October 8, 2014 12:30 pm | News | Comments

A proposal to develop a new way to remotely control brain cells from Sarah Stanley, a research associate in Rockefeller Univ.’s Laboratory of Molecular Genetics is among the first to receive funding from President Barack Obama’s BRAIN initiative. The project will make use of a technique called radiogenetics that combines the use of radio waves or magnetic fields with nanoparticles to turn neurons on or off.

Breakthrough allows researchers to watch molecules “wiggle”

October 8, 2014 12:11 pm | News | Comments

A new crystallographic technique, called fast time-resolved crystallography, developed in the U.K. is set to transform scientists’ ability to observe how molecules work. Although this method, also known as Laue crystallography, has previously been possible, it has required advanced instrumentation that is only available at three sites worldwide. Only a handful of proteins have been studied using the traditional technique.

New way to make foams could lead to lightweight, sustainable materials

October 8, 2014 8:30 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Anyone who has blown a bubble and seen how quickly it pops has first-hand experience on the major challenge in creating stable foams. At its most basic level, foam is a bunch of bubbles squished together. Liquid foams, a state of matter that arises from tiny gas bubbles dispersed in a liquid, are familiar in everyday life, from beer to bathwater. They also are important in commercial products and processes.

Unconventional photoconduction in an atomically thin semiconductor

October 7, 2014 3:36 pm | by David L. Chandler, MIT | News | Comments

It’s a well-known phenomenon in electronics: Shining light on a semiconductor, such as the silicon used in computer chips and solar cells, will make it more conductive. But now researchers have discovered that in a special semiconductor, light can have the opposite effect, making the material less conductive instead. This new mechanism of photoconduction could lead to next-generation excitonic devices.

Researchers demonstrate how direct fluid flow influences neuron growth

October 7, 2014 2:11 pm | News | Comments

Axons are the shafts of neurons, on the tips of which connections are made with other neurons or cells. In a new study in Texas, researchers were able to use microfluidic stimulations to change the path of an axon at an angle of up to 90 degrees. The publication adds insight to the long accepted idea that chemical cues are primarily responsible for axonal pathfinding during human development and nervous system regeneration.

Charge transport jamming in solar cells

October 7, 2014 2:08 pm | News | Comments

Conventional silicon solar cells could have an inexpensive competitor in the near future. Researchers in Europe have examined the working principle of a cell where an organic-inorganic perovskite compound acts as a light absorber. The scientists observed that charge carriers accumulate in a layer in these photovoltaic elements. If this jam can be dissolved, the already considerable efficiency of these solar cells could be further improved.

Droplets made to order

October 7, 2014 9:33 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have developed a new way of creating surfaces on which droplets of any desired shape can spontaneously form. They say this approach could lead to new biomedical assay devices and light-emitting diode display screens, among other applications. The new work represents the first time that scientists can control the shape of the contact area of the droplets.

A quick look at electron-boson coupling

October 7, 2014 8:56 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Imagine being able to tune the properties of a solid material just by flashing pulses of light on it. That is one potential payoff of electrons and atoms interacting with ultrashort pulses of light. The technology of ultrafast spectroscopy is a key to understanding this phenomenon and now a new wrinkle to that technology, observations of electron self-energy, has been introduced by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers.

New method creates scrolling nanosheets on demand

October 6, 2014 2:37 pm | by Poncie Rutsch, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology | News | Comments

Nanoparticles could revolutionize the medical industry, but they must first target a specific region in the body, be trackable, and perform their function at the right moment. Researchers in Japan have made progress in this direction with a new type of nanomaterial: the nanosheet. Specifically, they have designed a strong, stable and optically traceable smart 2-D material that responds to pH, or the acidity or basicity of its environment.

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