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Published on August 31st, 2016 | By: April Gocha, PhD

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Other materials stories that may be of interest

Published on August 31st, 2016 | By: April Gocha, PhD

[Image above] Credit: NIST

 

NANOMATERIALS

 

Researchers reduce expensive noble metals for fuel cell reactions

Washington State University researchers have developed a novel nanomaterial that could improve the performance and lower the costs of fuel cells by using fewer precious metals like platinum or palladium. The WSU team created a series of bimetallic aerogels, incorporating inexpensive copper and using less precious metal than other metal aerogels.

 

Promising route to the scalable production of highly crystalline graphene films

Researchers discovered a procedure to restore defective graphene oxide structures that cause the material to display low carrier mobility. By applying a high-temperature reduction treatment in an ethanol environment, defective structures were restored, leading to the formation of a highly crystalline graphene film with excellent band-like transport.

 

Scientists have created tiny quantum dots in graphene

Artificial atoms may also feature properties beyond those of conventional ones, with the potential for many applications for example in quantum computing. Scientists from TU Wien, RWTH Aachen, and the University of Manchester have now shown such additional properties for artificial atoms in the carbon material graphene.

 

Graphene under pressure

Small balloons made from one-atom-thick material graphene can withstand enormous pressures, much higher than those at the bottom of the deepest ocean, scientists at the University of Manchester report. The researchers found such balloons can also be created with other two-dimensional crystals such as single layers of molybdenum disulfide or boron nitride.

 

 

ENERGY

 

How a new tandem solar cell is at the forefront of solar innovation

A team of researchers from the Masdar Institute and MIT may have found a way around the seemingly inseparable high-efficiency and high-cost linkage through an innovative multi-junction solar cell that leverages a unique “step-cell” design approach and low cost silicon. The new cell combines two layers of sunlight-absorbing material to harvest a broader range of the sun’s energy while using a novel, low-cost manufacturing process.

 

Interface engineering with molybdenum disulfide for stable perovskite solar cells

Researchers from the Graphene Flagship have significantly enhanced the stability of perovskite solar cells by including few-layer molybdenum disulphide (MoS2) flakes as an active buffer layer in the cell design. These cells retain 93% of the initial light conversion efficiency after 550 h, compared to only 66% for cells without the MoS2 buffer layer.

 

Novel silicon-coated carbon nanofibers could mean better batteries

Inventors at Kansas State University and Catalyst Power Technologies Inc. are paving the way for the future with energy-efficient batteries for sensors, portable devices and electric cars. The team recently patented a lithium-ion battery anode, including a core-shell heterostructure of silicon-coated vertically aligned carbon nanofibers.

 

New flexible material can make any window ‘smart’

Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin have invented a new flexible smart window material that, when incorporated into windows, sunroofs, or even curved glass surfaces, will have the ability to control both heat and light from the sun.

 

New class of fuel cells offer increased flexibility, lower cost

A Los Alamos National Laboratory team, in collaboration with the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan and Sandia National Laboratories, has discovered that fuel cells made from phosphate-quaternary ammonium ion-pair can be operated between 80°C and 200°C with and without water, enhancing the fuel cells usability in a range of conditions.

 

Silicon–metal composite material for high-capacity lithium-ion rechargeable batteries

A research group have developed an anode material for lithium-ion rechargeable batteries by forming nanoparticles made of silicon-metal composites on metal substrates. The resulting anode material had high capacity—almost twice as high as conventional materials—and a long cycle life. These results will lead to the development of higher-capacity, longer-life anode materials for Li-ion rechargeable batteries.

 

New membrane technology may give electric car drivers more miles per minute of charging

Ohio State University researchers have designed a thin plastic membrane that stops rechargeable batteries from discharging when not in use and allows for rapid recharging. The patent-pending technology controls how charge flows inside a battery, and was inspired by how living cell membranes transport proteins in the body.

 

Battery you can swallow could enable future ingestible medical devices

Non-toxic, edible batteries could one day power ingestible devices for diagnosing and treating disease. One team reports new progress toward that goal with their batteries made with melanin pigments, naturally found in the skin, hair, and eyes.

 

 

ENVIRONMENT

 

Map helps maximize carbon-capture material

A careful balance of the ingredients in carbon-capture materials would maximize the sequestration of greenhouse gases while simplifying the processing—or “sweetening”—of natural gas, according to researchers at Rice University. The lab led a project to map how changes in porous carbon materials and the conditions in which they’re synthesized affect carbon capture.

 

Fungi recycle rechargeable lithium-ion batteries

Rechargeable batteries in smartphones, cars and tablets don’t last forever. Old batteries often wind up in landfills or incinerators, potentially harming the environment. And valuable materials remain locked inside. Now, a team of researchers is turning to fungi to drive an environmentally friendly recycling process to extract cobalt and lithium from tons of waste batteries.

 

 

MANUFACTURING

 

‘4-D printing’ a new dimension for additive manufacturing

A team of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have demonstrated the 3D printing of shape-shifting structures that can fold or unfold to reshape themselves when exposed to heat or electricity. The micro-architected structures were fabricated from a conductive, environmentally responsive polymer ink developed at the Lab.

 

3-D printed structures ‘remember’ their shapes

Engineers from MIT and Singapore University of Technology and Design are using light to print three-dimensional structures that “remember” their original shapes. Even after being stretched, twisted, and bent at extreme angles, the structures—from small coils and multimaterial flowers, to an inch-tall replica of the Eiffel tower—sprang back to their original forms within seconds of being heated to a certain temperature “sweet spot.”

 

New method developed for producing some metals

The MIT researchers were trying to develop a new battery, but it didn’t work out that way. Instead, thanks to an unexpected finding in their lab tests, what they discovered was a whole new way of producing the metal antimony—and potentially a new way of smelting other metals, as well.

 

 

OTHER RESEARCH

 

Squid, jellyfish and wrinkled skin inspire materials for anti-glare screens and encryption

What do squid and jellyfish skin have in common with human skin? All three have inspired a team of chemists to create materials that change color or texture in response to variations in their surroundings. These materials could be used for encrypting secret messages, creating anti-glare surfaces, or detecting moisture or damage, they say.

 

ZnO-coated high-performance bearings reduce friction by one-third

A research group from the National Institute for Materials Science has developed a coating technique using an exclusive zinc oxide material, an environment-friendly, low-friction material. When bearing balls were coated with the material, its low frictional characteristics were maintained and the friction coefficient of the bearing was reduced by approximately one-third.

 

Crystal unclear: Why might this uncanny crystal change laser design?

New research suggests that the relatively large crystals used to change several properties of light in lasers—changes that are crucial for making lasers into practical tools—might be created by stacking up far smaller, rod-shaped microcrystals that can be grown easily and cheaply.

 

Feeling the force between sand grains

For the first time, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have measured how forces move through 3-D granular materials, determining how this important class of materials might pack and behave in processes throughout nature and industry. Using X-ray diffraction, computed tomography and new mathematical analysis, the team measured how forces move through a slowly compressed, opaque 3-D granular material.

 


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