OMS header

[Image above] Credit: NIST

No joke: Chemistry thesis transmuted into comic book

As thesis writing approached, University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate student Veronica Berns faced a conundrum. She knew how hard it was to describe her work on quasicrystals to friends and family. Berns liked drawing and using “normal, English-language words,” and so about a year before graduation, she opted to accompany her traditional Ph.D. thesis with a comic book version.

Running fuel cells on bacteria

Researchers in Trondheim have succeeded in getting bacteria to power a fuel cell. The “fuel” used is wastewater, and the products of the process are pure water droplets and electricity. In the future, the researchers hope to scale up this energy generation to enable the same energy to be used to power the water purification process, which commonly consists of many stages, often involving mechanical and energy-demanding decontamination steps at its outset.

Self-assembled nanotextures create antireflective surface on silicon solar cells

Scientists at the U.S. DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory show that etching a nanoscale texture onto the silicon material itself creates an antireflective surface that works as well as state-of-the-art thin-film multilayer coatings. The scientists coated the top surface of a silicon solar cell with a “block copolymer,” which can be made to self-organize into an ordered surface pattern with dimensions measuring only tens of nanometers.

New composite protects from corrosion at high mechanical stress

Researchers at the INM–Leibniz Institute for New Materials have presented a new composite material that prevents metal corrosion in an environmentally friendly way, even under extreme conditions. “The key is the structuring of this layer—the protective particles arrange themselves like roof tiles. As in a wall, several layers of particles are placed on top of each other in an offset arrangement; the result is a self-organized, highly structured barrier,” researchers say.

NFL, GE, Under Armour collaborate with NIST on open innovation competition for advanced materials

The NFL, GE, and Under Armour joined with NIST to launch Head Health Challenge III, an open innovation competition to advance materials that better absorb or dissipate energy. These new materials could improve the performance of protective equipment for athletes, military personnel and those in dangerous occupations. The challenge, which will award up to $2 million for innovative materials, is part of the $60 million Head Health Initiative, a multiyear collaboration between GE and the NFL.

Big perovskite crystals point to cheaper, more efficient solar power

University of Toronto engineers have shone new light on an emerging family of solar-absorbing materials that could clear the way for cheaper and more efficient solar panels and LEDs. Using a new technique, researchers grew large, pure perovskite crystals and studied how electrons move through the material as light is converted to electricity.

Transparent artificial nacre: A brick wall at the nanoscale

A group at DWI have prepared a nacre-inspired nanocomposite that combines exceptional mechanical properties with glass-like transparency and a high gas- and fire-barrier. The team used synthetic nanoclays and coated them with a layer of polyvinylalcohol, creating core/shell particles that self-assemble into a thin film upon water removal. The nacre-mimetic material is a promising candidate for future applications, not only as a structural material, but also for gas storage applications and food packaging.