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[Image above] Credit: NIST

Moving toward a cheaper, better catalyst for hydrogen production

Researchers have long viewed molybdenum sulfide (MoS2) as a promising, cheaper alternative to platinum as a water-splitting catalyst. “The biggest stumbling block to improving MoS2’s performance has been a lack of understanding of the connection between the material’s performance and its composition and structure,” says Linyou Cao, senior author of a new paper on the subject and a materials science and engineering researcher at North Carolina State University. “We’re now able to shed some light on that connection.”

Commonalities in how different glassy materials fail

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have now shown an important commonality that seems to extend through the range of glassy materials. They have demonstrated that the scaling between a glassy material’s stiffness and strength remains unchanged, implying a constant critical strain that these materials can withstand before catastrophic failure, despite the extreme variation found among this class of material’s physical properties.

New technique offers spray-on solar power

Researchers at the University of Toronto have invented a new way to spray solar cells onto flexible surfaces using miniscule light-sensitive materials known as colloidal quantum dots (CQDs)—a major step toward making spray-on solar cells easy and cheap to manufacture. The system is called sprayLD—a play on atomic layer deposition, in which materials are laid down on a surface one atom-thickness at a time.

Gothic cathedrals blend iron and stone

Using radiocarbon dating on metal found in Gothic cathedrals, an interdisciplinary team has shown—for the first time through absolute dating—that iron was used to reinforce stone from the construction phase. This innovative method could improve understanding of medieval buildings.