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[Image above] Credit: NIST

Engineers rigged this Dreamliner jet engine with parts made from ceramics

Engineers at jet engine proving grounds in Ohio are using a jet engine GE developed for Boeing’s Dreamliner to test engine parts made from a new ceramic super-material. The material could help pave the way to more fuel-efficient planes. The temperatures inside jet engines are so extreme that even parts from high-end titanium alloys require an intricate cooling system to work well. But the new ceramic matrix composite needs 20% less cooling air, which allows engineers to extract more power from the extra heat.

A step closer to explaining high-temperature superconductivity?

For years some physicists have been hoping to crack the mystery of high-temperature superconductivity—the ability of some complex materials to carry electricity without resistance at temperatures high above absolute zero—by simulating crystals with patterns of laser light and individual atoms. Now, a team has taken—almost—the next-to-last step in such “optical lattice” simulation by reproducing the pattern of magnetism seen in high-temperature superconductors from which the resistance-free flow of electricity emerges.

Black phosphorus is new ‘wonder material’ for improving optical communication

In a new study, researchers from the University of Minnesota used an ultrathin black phosphorus film—only 20 layers of atoms—to demonstrate high-speed data communication on nanoscale optical circuits. The devices showed vast improvement in efficiency over comparable devices using the earlier “wonder material” graphene. The team demonstrated that the performance of the black phosphorus photodetectors even rivals that of comparable devices made of germanium—considered the gold standard in on-chip photodetection.

Meteoritic rise of perovskite solar cells under scrutiny over efficiencies

The sun has certainly been shining for perovskite solar cells in recent years. First created in 2012, perovskite solar cells have shown great promise as an affordable alternative to other solar technologies and their performance has reached efficiencies greater than 20%. But how realistic are these efficiency values? This question is now being asked by national laboratories, with a cluster of research groups finding that the very nature of efficiency testing, as well as the questionable stability of perovskites themselves, is only serving to exaggerate device performance.

Army Research Laboratory lays out science and technology priorities through 2019

U.S. Army Research Laboratory, or ARL, director Dr. Thomas Russell approved the final technical implementation plan that will guide the laboratory’s technical strategy through 2019. ARL’s major in-house thrusts are computational sciences; materials research; sciences-for maneuver; information sciences; sciences-for-lethality and protection; human sciences; and assessment and analysis. Among those campaigns, there are 24 program areas.

University of Houston researchers discover new material to produce clean energy

Researchers at the University of Houston have created a new thermoelectric material, intended to generate electric power from waste heat—from a vehicle tailpipe, for example, or an industrial smokestack—with greater efficiency and higher output power than currently available materials. The material, germanium-doped magnesium stannide, has a peak power factor of 55, with a figure of merit—a key factor to determine efficiency—of 1.4.

ORNL microscopy directly images problematic lithium dendrites in batteries

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have captured the first real-time nanoscale images of lithium dendrite structures known to degrade lithium-ion batteries. The researchers studied dendrite formation by using a miniature electrochemical cell that mimics the liquid conditions inside a lithium-ion battery. Placing the liquid cell in a scanning transmission electron microscope and applying voltage to the cell allowed the researchers to watch as lithium deposits—which start as a nanometer-size seed—grew into dendritic structures.