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Other materials stories that may be of interest

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[Image above] Credit: NIST

UW team refrigerates liquids with a laser for the first time

Since the first laser was invented in 1960, lasers have given off heat—either as a useful tool, a byproduct, or a fictional way to vanquish intergalactic enemies. But those concentrated beams of light have never been able to cool liquids. University of Washington researchers are the first to solve a decades-old puzzle—figuring out how to make a laser refrigerate water and other liquids under real-world conditions.

ORNL microscopy captures real-time view of evolving fuel cell catalysts

Atomic-level imaging of catalysts could help manufacturers lower the cost and improve the performance of emission-free fuel cell technologies. An ORNL team used scanning TEM to track atomic reconfigurations in individual platinum-cobalt nanoparticle catalysts as the particles were heated inside the microscope. The in-situ measurements allowed the researchers to collect atomic level data that could not be obtained with conventional microscopy techniques.

Rice makes light-driven nanosubmarines

Though they’re not quite ready for boarding a lá “Fantastic Voyage,” nanoscale submarines created at Rice University are proving themselves seaworthy. Each of the single-molecule, 244-atom submersibles built in the Rice lab of chemist James Tour has a motor powered by ultraviolet light. With each full revolution, the motor’s tail-like propeller moves the sub forward 18 nanometers.

Neutrons explain aging process in lithium ion batteries

To date, very little is known about the causes of aging of lithium-ion batteries, but scientists at the Technical University of Munich have now come a step closer. The group determined two key mechanisms for the loss of capacity during operation: The active lithium in the cell is slowly used up in various side reactions and is thus no longer available. The process is very temperature dependent: At 25°C the effect is relatively weak but becomes quite strong at 60°C.

Orion ingenuity improves manufacturing while reducing mass

How do you reduce the weight of a spacecraft’s underlying structure, while using the same materials as the heavier version and still hold to the same manufacturing schedule? This month, the engineers who helped answer that question are seeing their hard work pay off. Technicians have finished welding together three cone panels that make up a section of the Orion crew module that will fly beyond the moon on Exploration Mission-1.

Twente researchers develop flexo-electric nanomaterial

Researchers at the University of Twente’s MESA+ research institute, together with researchers from several other institutions, have developed a ‘flexo-electric’ nanomaterial. The material has built-in mechanical tension that changes shape when you apply electrical voltage or that generates electricity if you change its shape. The thinner you make the material, the stronger this flexo-electric effect becomes.

Increased potential for perovskites as a material for solar cells

Scientists at the National Renewable Energy Lab have demonstrated a way to significantly increase the efficiency of perovskite solar cells by reducing the amount of energy lost to heat. The research determined that charge carriers created by absorbing sunlight encounter a bottleneck where phonons that are emitted while charge carriers cool cannot decay quickly enough. Instead, the phonons re-heat charge carriers, thereby drastically slowing the cooling process.