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“Designer carbon” boosts battery performance

June 1, 2015 7:51 am | by Mark Shwartz, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Stanford Univ. scientists have created a new carbon material that significantly boosts the performance of energy-storage technologies. Their results are featured in ACS Central Science. The new "designer carbon" is both versatile and controllable and represents a dramatic improvement over conventional activated carbon.

Making power plants more efficient

June 1, 2015 7:27 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Most of the world’s electricity-producing power plants, whether powered by coal, natural gas or nuclear fission, make electricity by generating steam that turns a turbine. That steam then is condensed back to water, and the cycle begins again. But the condensers that collect the steam are quite inefficient, and improving them could make a big difference in overall power plant efficiency.

DNA double helix does double duty in assembling nanoparticle arrays

May 29, 2015 8:18 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

In a new twist on the use of DNA in nanoscale construction, scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory and collaborators put synthetic strands of the biological material to work in two ways: They used ropelike configurations of the DNA double helix to form a rigid geometrical framework, and added dangling pieces of single-stranded DNA to glue nanoparticles in place.

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Researchers prove magnetism can control heat, sound

May 29, 2015 7:47 am | by Jamie Abel, Ohio Supercomputer Center | News | Comments

Phonons have magnetic properties. In Nature Materials, Ohio State Univ. researchers describe how a magnetic field, roughly the size of a medical MRI, reduced the amount of heat flowing through a semiconductor by 12%. Simulations performed at the Ohio Supercomputer Center then identified the reason for it—the magnetic field induces a diamagnetic response in vibrating atoms known as phonons, which changes how they transport heat.

Physicists precisely measure interaction between atoms, carbon surfaces

May 29, 2015 7:36 am | by Peter Kelley, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Physicists at the Univ. of Washington have conducted the most precise and controlled measurements yet of the interaction between the atoms and molecules that comprise air and the type of carbon surface used in battery electrodes and air filters; key information for improving those technologies.

Spiraling laser pulses could change graphene

May 28, 2015 11:46 am | by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

A new study predicts that researchers could use spiraling pulses of laser light to change the nature of graphene, turning it from a metal into an insulator and giving it other peculiar properties that might be used to encode information. The results pave the way for experiments that create and control new states of matter with this specialized form of light, with potential applications in computing and other areas.

Who needs water to assemble DNA?

May 28, 2015 7:42 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Scientists around the world are using the programmability of DNA to assemble complex nanometer-scale structures. Until now, however, production of these artificial structures has been limited to water-based environments, because DNA naturally functions inside the watery environment of living cells. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have now shown that they can assemble DNA nanostructures in a solvent containing no water.

Spinning a new version of silk

May 28, 2015 7:22 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

After years of research decoding the complex structure and production of spider silk, researchers have now succeeded in producing samples of this exceptionally strong and resilient material in the laboratory. The new development could lead to a variety of biomedical materials made from synthesized silk with properties specifically tuned for their intended uses.

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Bioresorbable electronic stent could provide feedback, therapy

May 27, 2015 10:39 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Every year, an estimated half-million Americans undergo surgery to have a stent prop open a coronary artery narrowed by plaque. But sometimes the mesh tubes get clogged. Scientists report in ACS Nano a new kind of multi-tasking stent that could minimize the risks associated with the procedure. It can sense blood flow and temperature, store and transmit the information for analysis and can be absorbed by the body after it finishes its job.

A new kind of wood chip

May 27, 2015 7:57 am | by John Steeno, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

Portable electronics are discarded at an alarming rate in consumers' pursuit of the next best electronic gadget. In an effort to alleviate the environmental burden of electronic devices, a team of Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison researchers has collaborated with researchers in the Madison-based U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Forest Products Laboratory to develop a surprising solution: a semiconductor chip made almost entirely of wood.

Linking superconductivity and structure

May 27, 2015 7:31 am | by Carnegie Institution | News | Comments

Superconductivity is a rare physical state in which matter is able to conduct electricity without any resistance. It can only be found in certain materials, and even then it can only be achieved under controlled conditions of low temperatures and high pressures. New research from the Carnegie Institution hones in on the structural changes underlying superconductivity in iron arsenide compounds.

One step closer to a single-molecule device

May 26, 2015 10:57 am | by Columbia Univ. | News | Comments

Under the direction of Latha Venkataraman, associate professor of applied physics at Columbia Engineering, researchers have designed a new technique to create a single-molecule diode, and, in doing so, they have developed molecular diodes that perform 50 times better than all prior designs. Venkataraman's group is the first to develop a single-molecule diode that may have real-world technological applications for nanoscale devices.

Fine-tuned molecular orientation is key to more efficient solar cells

May 26, 2015 10:19 am | by RIKEN | News | Comments

Polymer solar cells are a hot area of research due to both their strong future potential and the significant challenges they pose. It is believed that thanks to lower production costs, they could become a viable alternative to conventional solar cells with silicon substrates when they achieve a power conversion efficiency of between 10 and 15%.

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Engineering phase changes in nanoparticle arrays

May 26, 2015 7:56 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have just taken a big step toward the goal of engineering dynamic nanomaterials whose structure and associated properties can be switched on demand. In a paper appearing in Nature Materials, they describe a way to selectively rearrange the nanoparticles in 3-D arrays to produce different configurations, or phases, from the same nanocomponents.

Slip sliding away

May 26, 2015 7:47 am | by Jared Sagoff, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory have found a way to use tiny diamonds and graphene to give friction the slip, creating a new material combination that demonstrates the rare phenomenon of “superlubricity.” The five-person Argonne team combined diamond nanoparticles, small patches of graphene and a diamond-like carbon material to create superlubricity, a highly-desirable property in which friction drops to near zero.

Slinky lookalike “hyperlens” helps us see tiny objects

May 22, 2015 10:27 am | by Cory Nealon, Univ. at Buffalo | News | Comments

It looks like a Slinky suspended in motion. Yet this photonics advancement, called a metamaterial hyperlens, doesn’t climb down stairs. Instead, it improves our ability to see tiny objects. The hyperlens may someday help detect some of the most lethal forms of cancer.

Physicists develop efficient method of signal transmission from nanocomponents

May 22, 2015 9:44 am | by Univ. of Basel | News | Comments

Physicists have developed an innovative method that could enable the efficient use of nanocomponents in electronic circuits. To achieve this, they have developed a layout in which a nanocomponent is connected to two electrical conductors, which uncouple the electrical signal in a highly efficient manner.

Turn that defect upside down

May 21, 2015 11:01 am | by Allison Mills, Michigan Technological Univ. | News | Comments

Most people see defects as flaws. A few Michigan Technological Univ. researchers, however, see them as opportunities. Twin boundaries may present an opportunity to improve lithium-ion batteries. The twin boundary defects act as energy highways and could help get better performance out of the batteries. This finding turns a previously held notion of material defects on its head.

Gauging materials’ physical properties from video

May 21, 2015 10:42 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Last summer, MIT researchers published a paper describing an algorithm that can recover intelligible speech from the analysis of the minute vibrations of objects in video captured through soundproof glass. In June, researchers from the same groups will describe how the technique can be adapted to infer material properties of physical objects, such as stiffness and weight, from video.

New class of magnets could energize the world

May 21, 2015 10:30 am | by Temple Univ. | News | Comments

A new class of magnets that expand their volume when placed in a magnetic field and generate negligible amounts of wasteful heat during energy harvesting, has been discovered by researchers at Temple Univ. and the Univ. of Maryland. This transformative breakthrough has the potential to not only displace existing technologies but create altogether new applications due to the unusual combination of magnetic properties.

Simulations predict flat liquid

May 21, 2015 10:11 am | by Academy of Finland | News | Comments

Computer simulations have predicted a new phase of matter: atomically thin 2-D liquid. This prediction pushes the boundaries of possible phases of materials further than ever before. Two-dimensional materials themselves were considered impossible until the discovery of graphene around 10 years ago.

Shape-shifting plastic

May 21, 2015 8:18 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | Videos | Comments

Not all plastics are created equal. Malleable thermoplastics can be easily melted and reused in products such as food containers. Other plastics, called thermosets, are essentially stuck in their final form because of cross-linking chemical bonds that give them their strength for applications such as golf balls and car tires.

Defects can “Hulk-up” materials

May 21, 2015 8:09 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

In the story of the Marvel Universe superhero known as the Hulk, exposure to gamma radiation transforms scientist Bruce Banner into a far more powerful version of himself. In a study at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, exposure to alpha-particle radiation has been shown to transform certain thermoelectric materials into far more powerful versions of themselves.

How to make continuous rolls of graphene

May 21, 2015 7:30 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Graphene is a material with a host of potential applications, including in flexible light sources, solar panels that could be integrated into windows and membranes to desalinate and purify water. But all these possible uses face the same big hurdle: the need for a scalable and cost-effective method for continuous manufacturing of graphene films.

Bent and flexible surfaces of various materials, such as paper and plastic, can be provided with a coating to make them glow. Courtesy of S. Walter/Binder Group

New printing process makes three-dimensional objects glow

May 20, 2015 12:00 pm | by Karlsruhe Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Conventional electroluminescent (EL) foils can be bent up to a certain degree only and can be applied easily onto flat surfaces. The new process allows for the direct printing of electroluminescent layers onto three-dimensional components. Such EL components might be used to enhance safety in buildings in case of power failures. Other potential applications are displays and watches or the creative design of rooms.

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