Scientists use nanoparticles to control growth of materials

Growth is a ubiquitous phenomenon in plants and animals. But it also occurs naturally in chemicals, metals, and other inorganic materials. Controlling the growth within materials is critical for creating products with uniform physical properties so that they can be used as components of machinery and electronic devices. A team led by researchers from UCLA has developed a new process to control molecular growth within the “building block” components of inorganic materials. The method, which uses nanoparticles to organize the components during a critical phase of the manufacturing process, could lead to innovative new materials, such as self-lubricating bearings for engines, and it could make it feasible for them to be mass-produced.

Oxide interfaces: Blueprint for a super-material

Metal oxides play many important roles across a variety of high-tech energy applications, such as photovoltaic cells and lithium-ion batteries. Recently, scientists discovered that the electronic properties of extremely thin metal oxide films are unlike those of any other material. Researchers from the AIMR at Tohoku University have now used scanning tunneling microscopy to visualize atoms inside metal oxide thin films. This approach provided the researchers with unprecedented surface images of strontium titanate (SrTiO3)—an insulating metal oxide that transforms into a two-dimensional conductor, a magnet, or even a superconductor when interfaced with lanthanum aluminate (LaAlO3).

Forty-six transistors constructed on six CNTs is most complicated device of its kind to date

( As silicon-based electronics are predicted to reach their absolute limits on performance around 2020, new technologies have been proposed to continue the trend in the miniaturization of electronic devices. One of these approaches consists of constructing field-effect transistors (FETs) directly on carbon nanotubes (CNTs). The resulting devices are on the scale of mere nanometers, although their fabrication is still a challenge. Now researchers at Peking University in Beijing, China, have developed a modular method for constructing complicated integrated circuits made from many FETs on individual CNTs.

Liberating devices from their power cords

Imagine a future in which our electrical gadgets are no longer limited by plugs and external power sources. With these hopes in mind, research on electrical energy storage capacity directly integrated into devices has flourished. Researchers at Vanderbilt University have now developed a supercapacitor that stores electricity by assembling electrically charged ions on the surface of a porous material, instead of storing it in chemical reactions the way batteries do. As a result, supercaps can charge and discharge in minutes, instead of hours, and operate for millions of cycles, instead of thousands of cycles like batteries.

New graphene-type material created

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have created a new material, related to graphene, which has the potential to improve transistors used in electronic devices. The new material, ‘triazine-based graphitic carbon nitride’, or TGCN, was predicted theoretically in 1996, but this is the first time that it has been made. Graphene is one atom thick, strong and conducts heat and electricity highly efficiently. The new TGCN material is also two-dimensional, but it has an electronic band gap, making it potentially suitable for use in transistors.

First measurement of moly’s thermal conductivity

NIST researchers have succeeded in measuring a previously unknown but essential property—thermal conductivity—of an ultrathin material that is expected to play a major role in the fast-emerging field of nanoelectronics. The 2D compound, similar to graphene, is molybdenum disulfide (MoS2, or “moly” for short). Such materials are of increasingly urgent interest to researchers and industry for use in advanced electronic device structures with feature dimensions measured in nanometers that can read, write, and store data in ways quite different from conventional transistors.

Atomic-level protection for drivers

A new window on the world of atoms will make future vehicles safer in collisions. Scientists at SINTEF (Norway) have set out on a journey into the interior of certain materials. They are about to build a mathematical model of tiny but vital zones in aluminum vehicle bumper systems. The research group will use this virtual “mini-laboratory” to study the chaos of a car crash. The model will be the first in the world that enables calculations on these phenomena in aluminum components.