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[Image above] Credit: NIST


Nanocrystal self-assembly sheds its secrets

The transformation of simple colloidal particles into tightly packed, beautiful lace-like meshes, or superlattices, has puzzled researchers for decades. Through a combination of techniques including controlled solvent evaporation and synchrotron X-ray scattering, MIT scientists have now observed the real time self-assembly of nanocrystal structures in-situ.

Wrinkles and crumples make graphene better

Brown University researchers have developed a method for making super-wrinkled and super-crumpled sheets of the nanomaterial graphene. The research shows that wrinkled graphene becomes significantly better at repelling water—a property that could be useful in making self-cleaning surfaces. Crumpled graphene also has enhanced electrochemical properties, which could make it more useful as electrodes in batteries and fuel cells.

Graphene nanoribbons: It’s all about the edges

A team of scientists from Empa, Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research, and Technical University of Dresden has synthesized graphene nanoribbons with perfectly zigzagged edges using suitable carbon precursor molecules and a perfected manufacturing process. The zigzags followed a very specific geometry along the longitudinal axis of the ribbons.

Nanocones may boost solar cell efficiency by 15%

A team of scientists at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia has announced the development of a nanostructure material made of what they are calling nanocones. The new cone structured material’s positive attributes come about due to an ultrahigh refractive index—each cone is made of a type of material that acts inside as an insulator and outside as a conductor.


Iron nitride transformers could boost energy storage options

A Sandia-led team has developed a way to make a magnetic material that could lead to lighter and smaller, cheaper and better-performing high-frequency transformers. The process, called low-temperature field-assisted sintering technique (FAST), enables creation of transformer cores from iron nitride in minutes, without decomposing the required materials.

New fuel cell design powered by graphene-wrapped nanocrystals

Researchers at Berkeley Lab have developed a new materials recipe for a battery-like hydrogen fuel cell—which surrounds hydrogen-absorbing magnesium nanocrystals with atomically thin graphene sheets—to push its performance forward in key areas. The graphene shields the nanocrystals from oxygen and moisture and contaminants, while tiny, natural holes allow the smaller hydrogen molecules to pass through.

LED lights improve energy efficiency and crop production in space

Philips Lighting has collaborated with the University of Arizona to test energy efficient ways to grow food that will help feed astronauts on missions to the moon, Mars, and beyond. A recent nine-week study found that replacing water-cooled high-pressure sodium systems with energy efficient LED lighting in a prototype lunar greenhouse increased crop yield while improving use of resources.

Technique for assembling active photovoltaic components from inexpensive metals

By rapidly heating silicon wafers covered with thin iron silicide and aluminum films, A*STAR researchers have developed a way to eliminate many of the complicated, time-consuming steps needed to fabricate light harvesting solar cells. The researchers found that metal silicides, substances produced when metal coatings are annealed with silicon wafers, hold new promise for reducing solar cell production costs.

Engineers adapt laser method to create micro energy units

Researchers at the University of Missouri have developed a method of transferring an energy source to virtually any shape. Using an efficient laser-writing technique, MU scientists can help smartphone manufacturers potentially fabricate energy storage units like microbatteries and micro fuel cells that are more environmentally friendly, highly designable and thin.


‘Keiser rigs’ stress materials to the max to improve products for power, propulsion

For decades, environmental exposure chambers at ORNL, including some called Keiser rigs, have subjected materials to corrosive gases, crushing pressures, and calamitous heat. The extreme environments created in the Keiser rigs have spurred advances and continue to do so by providing insight into the conditions under which materials fail.

Metal foam handles heat better than steel

A new study from North Carolina State University researchers finds that novel light-weight composite metal foams are significantly more effective at insulating against high heat than the conventional base metals and alloys that they’re made of, such as steel. The composite metal foam consists of metallic hollow spheres embedded in a metallic matrix.

New technique for advanced printed ferroelectric thin films

Researchers have developed a fabrication technique for single-crystalline thin-film arrays of an organic ferroelectric small molecules working as a memory device by using a solution process under ambient pressure at room temperature. The developed technique is expected to accelerate R&D on low power consumption printed electronics, such as ferroelectric memories.

3 questions: The origin of the cosmos’ heaviest elements

Reticulum II is an ancient and faint dwarf galaxy—though it looks unassuming, the chemical content of its stars may hold the key to unlocking a 60-year-old mystery about the cosmic origin of the heaviest elements in the periodic table. A team of astronomers at MIT and Carnegie Institution of Washington report on observations of this unique galaxy.

New type of catalyst could aid hydrogen fuel

Catalysis requires a surface that both grips a water molecule to split it and releases the hydrogen atoms separated in the process. Ordinary catalysts must compromise between these two competing qualities. But a ferroelectric substance such as lead titanate can be prepared so that heat can switch it from a state suitable for splitting to another state good at releasing, computer simulations show.

New research ensures car LCDs work in extreme cold, heat

UCF researchers have solved a stubborn problem: How to keep the electronic displays in cars working, whether driving in the frigid depths of winter or under the broiling desert sun. The team formulated several new liquid crystal mixtures that don’t have the temperature limitations of those now in use. The liquid crystals should maintain their speed and viscosity in temperatures as high as 212°F and as low as −40°F.