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[Image above] Credit: NIST


Graphene device puts fuel-efficient cars in pole position

A graphene-based electrical nanodevice has been created which could substantially increase the energy efficiency of fossil fuel-powered cars. The nanodevice, known as a ‘ballistic rectifier’, is able to convert heat which would otherwise be wasted from the car exhaust and engine body into a useable electrical current.

Tiny probe could produce big improvements in batteries and fuel cells

A team of American and Chinese researchers has developed a new tool that could aid in the quest for better batteries and fuel cells. To get a better understanding of how chemical reactions progress at the level of atoms and molecules, the researchers developed a nanoscale probe. The method is similar to atomic force microscopies: A tiny cantilever “feels” the material and builds a map of its properties with a resolution of nanometers or smaller.

Attosecond camera for nanostructures

International physicists have observed a light-matter phenomenon in nano-optics, which lasts only attoseconds. The researchers sent strong infrared laser pulses onto a gold nanowire. When the light illuminated the nanowire, it excited collective vibrations of the conducting electrons surrounding the gold atoms. Through these electron motions, near-fields were created at the surface of the wire.


High-purity metals recovered from battery waste

Researchers at Lappeenranta University of Technology have succeeded in recovering important metals—lithium, cobalt and nickel—from battery waste with nearly 100% purity. The study separated metals through a liquid-liquid extraction process on a pilot scale. In the process, all other impurities are separated from the solution, leaving only lithium, cobalt and nickel.

New path forward for next-generation lithium-ion batteries

In the quest for a better lithium-ion battery, a promising direction is the “lithium-rich” cathode. While it has the potential for higher energy density, scientists have lacked a clear picture of the chemical processes. Now researchers at Berkeley Lab report a major advance in understanding how oxygen oxidation creates extra capacity in such cathodes, opening the door to batteries with far higher energy density.

Researchers use strain to engineer first high-performance, two-way oxide catalyst

Catalysts make chemical reactions more likely to occur. In most cases, a catalyst that’s good at driving chemical reactions in one direction is bad at driving reactions in the opposite direction. However, a research team led by Oak Ridge National Lab has created the first high-performance, two-way oxide catalyst and filed a patent application for the invention.

Better forecasting for solar and wind power generation

The sun does not shine and the wind does not blow with constant intensity. This is a problem for the power grid, where the power supply must always match the power demand. In the EWeLiNE project, Fraunhofer and the German Weather Service have been working to develop better models for forecasting the generation of renewable electricity. Now they have launched a platform for transmission system operators to test the new models live.


Appalachian coal ash richest in rare-earth elements

A study of the content of rare earth elements in U.S. coal ashes shows that coal mined from the Appalachian Mountains could provide rare materials critical to clean energy and other emerging technologies. Researchers from Duke University measured the content of rare earth elements in samples of coal ash representing every major coal source in the U.S. and looked at how much of these elements could be extracted from ash using a common industrial technique.

Optical fiber monitoring key to waste oil recycling

Scientists at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore are working to develop advanced optical fiber sensors that can withstand the high temperatures essential to the thermo-chemical process without compromising data accuracy and integrity. They are also developing technologies that will reduce sulfur content in waste oil to reduce the environmental impact when the recycled product is used as ship or diesel fuel.


Non-invasive analysis of damages to materials based on advanced signal processing techniques

Researchers at the Universitat Politècnica de València have developed a non-invasive means of determining the general state-of-repair of all kinds of materials in real time. The technique is based on advanced signal processing techniques and analyses the determinism of signals obtained from the ultrasonic inspection of the materials being tested. Variations in this parameter are indicative of possible damages.

Mantis shrimp inspires next generation of ultra-strong materials

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside and Purdue University are one step closer to developing super strong composite materials, thanks to the mantis shrimp. Their latest research describes for the first time a unique herringbone structure within the appendage’s outer layer. This structure that not only protects the club during impact, but also enables the mantis shrimp to inflict incredible damage to its prey.

‘Weak’ materials offer strong possibilities for electronics

New fundamental research by University of Texas at Dallas physicists may accelerate the drive toward more advanced electronics and more powerful computers. The scientists are investigating materials called topological insulators, whose surface electrical properties are essentially the opposite of the properties inside.

Mapping the defects of a supermaterial

Russian scientists have developed a technique that allows them to visualize defects on the surface of graphene. The technique may ultimately help scientists develop a better understanding of graphene’s properties in order to find novel applications for this supermaterial.

‘On-the-fly’ 3-D print system prints what you design, as you design it

Cornell researchers have come up with an interactive prototyping system that prints what you are designing as you design it; the designer can pause anywhere in the process to test, measure and, if necessary, make changes that will be added to the physical model still in the printer. The new version of the printer has “five degrees of freedom.” The nozzle can only work vertically, but the printer’s stage can be rotated to present any face of the model facing up.

Squeezing out opal-like colors by the mile

Researchers have devised a new method for stacking microscopic marbles into regular layers, producing intriguing materials which scatter light into intense colors, and which change color when twisted or stretched. The team, led by the University of Cambridge, has invented a way to make such sheets on industrial scales, opening up applications ranging from smart clothing for people or buildings, to banknote security.

Meta-lens works in the visible spectrum, sees smaller than a wavelength of light

Researchers from Harvard University have demonstrated the first planar lens that works with high efficiency within the visible spectrum of light—covering the whole range of colors from red to blue. The lens can resolve nanoscale features separated by distances smaller than the wavelength of light. It uses an ultrathin array of tiny waveguides, known as a metasurface, which bends light as it passes through, similar to a curved lens.