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[Image above] Credit: NIST

A metal composite that will (literally) float your boat

Researchers from Deep Springs Technology and the New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering have demonstrated a new metal matrix composite that is so light that it can float on water. The magnesium alloy matrix composite is reinforced with silicon carbide hollow particles and has a density of only 0.92 grams per cubic centimeter compared to 1.0 g/cc of water.

New shortcut to solar cells

Rice University scientists have found a way to simplify the manufacture of solar cells by using the top electrode as the catalyst that turns plain silicon into valuable black silicon. The new method known as contact-assisted chemical etching applies the set of thin gold lines that serve as the electrode earlier in the process, which also eliminates the need to remove used catalyst particles.

“Energy-generating rubber” can compete with piezoelectric ceramics

Ricoh has created a novel flexible material—“energy-generating rubber”—that converts pressure and vibration into electric energy with high efficiency. Piezoelectric ceramics are used for restricted purposes because of their fragility and heavy weight, although they generate relatively high electricity. On the other hand, piezoelectric polymers generate very slight electricity although they achieve flexibility by reducing the thickness. The material created by Ricoh generates as high a level of electricity as ceramics while its appearance is a soft and flexible sheet.

Boise State University/NSF program benefits high school materials scientists

With advances in science and technology, today’s high school students could end up working with materials that don’t even exist today. An innovative National Science Foundation program is partnering with industry, academia and K-12 educators to develop next generation-curriculum to address this challenge.

5 things to know as Pyrex reaches 100-year milestone

Pyrex cookware has been around for 100 years, ever since creator Corning Glass Works determined the heat-resistant glass used for rugged railroad lanterns also made a lovely sponge cake. The Corning Museum of Glass is marking the centennial with an exhibition devoted to the kitchen staple that started the country cooking in glass. Here are five things to know about Pyrex on its 100th anniversary, according to the Corning Museum of Glass.

These space-age ceramics will be your jet engine’s next cup of tea

Humans have been living with ceramics for 25,000 years. We’ve been using them for cups, pipes, pottery and many other handy everyday objects. But the light, strong, and heat resistant material has one fatal flaw, which has kept it confined mainly to the cupboard. “When you hit it, it fails catastrophically,” says Krishan Luthra, chief scientist for manufacturing and materials technologies at GE Global Research in New York. “I thought it would be the Holy Grail if we could get it inside machines, and get more power and savings out of our engines. It could really make an impact.”

Wearables may get boost from boron-infused graphene

A microsupercapacitor designed by scientists at Rice University that may find its way into personal and even wearable electronics is getting an upgrade. The scientists use commercial lasers to create thin, flexible supercapacitors by burning patterns into common polymers. The laser burns away everything but the carbon to a depth of 20 microns on the top layer, which becomes a foam-like matrix of interconnected graphene flakes. The laser-induced graphene device benefits greatly when boron becomes part of the mix.