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[Image above] Credit: NIST

To conduct, or to insulate? That is the question

A new study has discovered mysterious behavior of a material that acts like an insulator in certain measurements, but simultaneously acts like a conductor in others. In an insulator, electrons are largely stuck in one place, while in a conductor, the electrons flow freely. The results challenge current understanding of how materials behave.

Making new materials with micro-explosions

Scientists at Australian National University have made exotic new materials by creating laser-induced micro-explosions in silicon, the common computer chip material. The new technique could lead to the simple creation and manufacture of superconductors or high-efficiency solar cells and light sensors. By focusing lasers onto silicon buried under a clear layer of silicon dioxide, the group has perfected a way to reliably blast tiny cavities in the solid silicon. This creates extremely high pressure around the explosion site and forms the new phases.

Synergeering laser-sinters glass-filled nylon parts

Rapid prototyping is a method of producing 3D parts without the use of molds or tooling. The process is geared toward engineers and manufacturers who need a low quantity of parts in a short amount of time. In 2001, Synergeering Group sought to bring this technology to the automotive industry by opening up a facility to perform selective laser sintering (SLS) in Farmington Hills, Michigan.

Ultrathin heat exchangers could pave the way for artificial organs

Researchers at HRL Laboratories have announced that they have developed a miniaturized, high-performance heat exchange method that could be the first breakthrough in creating artificial organs. HRL’s process starts with additive manufacturing, which uses lasers to build up the object one ultrathin layer at a time. “We were able to overcome these limits by adding a coating step followed by mold removal step, creating walls measuring less than 1 micron—potentially 100 times thinner than a human hair.”

Silica ‘spiky screws’ could enhance industrial coatings, additive manufacturing

A molecular process developed by researchers at the Oak Ridge National Lab paves the way for improved silica structure design by introducing microscopic, segmented screw-like spikes that can more effectively bond materials for commercial use. Created by emulsion droplets applied to a silica particle’s surface, the new, segmented spikes offer an alternative tool for material scientists and engineers that can better maintain and fuse bonds within a variety of microstructures.

New method can make cheaper solar energy storage

Storing solar energy as hydrogen is a promising way for developing comprehensive renewable energy systems. EPFL scientists have now developed a simple, unconventional method to fabricate high-quality, efficient solar panels for direct solar hydrogen production with low cost. The team’s innovative and cheap method uses a boundary between two non-mixing liquids, and focuses on one of the best 2-D materials for solar water splitting, tungsten diselenide.

Could black phosphorus be the next silicon?

New research from McGill University and Université de Montréal adds to evidence that black phosphorus could emerge as a strong candidate material to be able to pack more transistors on a chip. The researchers report that when electrons move in a phosphorus transistor, they do so only in two dimensions. The finding suggests that black phosphorus could help engineers surmount one of the big challenges for future electronics: designing energy-efficient transistors.