Materials & Innovations

Video: Tracking the moon with laser beams

By Lisa McDonald / August 19, 2020

For more than 50 years, the Apollo-era Laser Ranging Retroreflector experiment helped scientists track the moon’s orbit and distance from Earth. The efficiency of the moon-based reflectors decreased over time, though, so NASA scientists looked to reflect light from a spacecraft-based reflector instead—a feat they recently achieved for the first time.

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A real power brick—polymer-coated bricks store energy

By Lisa McDonald / August 14, 2020

Construction and refractory applications are main uses of bricks, but unusual applications show up in academic journals as well. In a recent paper, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis explain how they made ordinary bricks capable of storing energy like a battery.

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Video: I “Spot” a new application—novel uses of robots during the COVID-19 pandemic

By Lisa McDonald / August 5, 2020

When Boston Dynamics premiered their dog-like robot Spot in September 2019, they imagined the robot being used in hazardous environments, such as construction and electric utility. Now in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Spot has stepped into some unusual roles that previously were not considered primary applications.

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Video: Forever eliminate ‘forever’ chemicals—boron nitride destroys PFOA, GenX

By Lisa McDonald / July 15, 2020

PFAS chemicals are notoriously difficult to destroy, giving them the moniker “forever” chemicals. But researchers at Rice University were recently surprised to discover that boron nitride serves as an efficient photocatalyst for degrading PFAS chemicals.

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Isolating a better option—ceramic Faraday rotators improve optical isolator performance

By Lisa McDonald / July 14, 2020

Optical isolators traditionally use single crystals to polarize light—could transparent ceramics be used instead? Researchers in Japan created high-performing transparent ceramics using lanthanide rare-earth oxides, materials previously believed to not be suited for optical applications.

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Say goodbye to nasal swabs—researchers use breathalyzers to detect COVID-19

By Lisa McDonald / June 30, 2020

Deep nasal swabs are currently the main testing method for COVID-19. Researchers at The Ohio State University are investigating using a specially designed breathalyzer instead, which has the potential to provide results faster and at less cost.

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Butter-like ceramic interlayer may solve interface instability of solid-state batteries

By April Gocha / June 19, 2020

Scientists at Chalmers University of Technology and Xi’an Jiaotong University developed a new ceramic interlayer—a butter-like mixture of glass-ceramic nanoparticles within an ionic liquid—that provides adequately high ionic conductivity, high thermal stability, and low interfacial resistance to potentially make solid-state batteries a commercial reality.

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Light is the new heat—ultrafast heating system using photon energy

By Lisa McDonald / June 16, 2020

The idea of harnessing photons rather than electricity to produce heat has gained increasing attention in recent years. In a new research brief, ACerS Fellow Akio Ikesue and colleagues describe a photonic heating system based on transparent yttria alumina garnet ceramics.

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Video: Harvest solar energy from outer space

By Lisa McDonald / June 3, 2020

In their search for places to install PV infrastructure, solar companies have taken several creative approaches, including floating solar panels on reservoirs and co-locating them with crops. Space-based solar power is another concept studied since the 1970s, and this May, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory launched the first orbital experiment with space-based solar power.

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Ultrafast high-temperature sintering—opening the door to AI-driven materials discovery

By Lisa McDonald / May 15, 2020

Artificial intelligence techniques hasten the process of identifying new ceramic and glass compositions, but current synthesis methods limit how quickly new compositions can be experimentally tested. University of Maryland researchers and colleagues developed a new ultrafast high-temperature sintering method that could greatly speed up ceramic synthesis.

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