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[Image above] Credit: NIST

Ceramic materials inspired by nature could make it safer to store nuclear waste

Minerals that endure in nature for millions of years are inspiring a Clemson University-led research team to explore whether new materials could be developed to encase nuclear waste for safe storage. The team’s research is focused on crystalline ceramic that will be based on naturally occurring minerals, such as hollandite, which shows promise for housing cesium.

World record in solar energy efficiency set at 40%

University of New South Wales solar researchers have converted over 40% of the sunlight hitting a solar system into electricity, the highest efficiency ever reported. A key part of the prototype’s design is the use of a custom optical bandpass filter to capture sunlight that is normally wasted by commercial solar cells on towers and convert it to electricity at a higher efficiency than the solar cells themselves ever could.

Nanoparticle allows low-cost creation of 3D nanostructures

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a new lithography technique that uses nanoscale spheres to create 3D structures with biomedical, electronic, and photonic applications. The new technique is significantly less expensive than conventional methods and does not rely on stacking 2D patterns to create 3D structures.

Levitator suspends ball of liquid metal in space

An electromagnetic levitator developed by the European Space Agency was delivered to the International Space Station aboard a recent cargo mission. The device allows the formation of solid metals to be studied while eliminating the effect of gravity and without requiring a container to hold the liquid. The floating ball of metal will be cooled fast to observe the process involved, which is key to producing solid materials with specific properties.

The first X-ray diffraction measurements on Mars

CheMin, a miniaturised X-ray diffraction/X-ray fluorescence instrument, is one of ten instruments aboard the Curiosity Rover. The instrument has analyzed five Martian soil samples so far. Rietveld and full-pattern analysis of the data have revealed a complex mineralogy, with contributions from parent igneous rocks, amorphous components, and several minerals relating to aqueous alteration, for example clay minerals and hydrated sulphates.

Carbon nanotubes create smart anti-icing system for rotor blades

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA are developing an energy-efficient ice detection and anti-icing system for small wind turbine power generators. The rotor blade is divided in to a variety of zones each finished with a carbon nanotube coating, which has separate ice detectors integrated into each individual layer.

Germanium comes home to Purdue for semiconductor milestone

A Purdue University team has created the first modern germanium circuit—a complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor device—using germanium as the semiconductor instead of silicon. The researchers show how to use germanium to produce two types of transistors —P-type and N-type.