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Published on September 20th, 2017 | By: April Gocha

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Other materials stories that may be of interest

Published on September 20th, 2017 | By: April Gocha

[Image above] Credit: NIST

 

NANOMATERIALS

 

Graphene-wrapped nanocrystals make inroads toward next-gen fuel cells

A powdery mix of metal nanocrystals wrapped in single-layer sheets of carbon atoms developed at Berkeley Lab shows promise for safely storing hydrogen for use with fuel cells. And now, a new study provides insight into the atomic details of the crystals’ ultrathin coating and how it serves as selective shielding while enhancing their performance in hydrogen storage.

 

Key to ultrathin high-efficiency devices could be materials covered with tiny trenches

Future ultrathin solar cells and light sources could have their surfaces covered by tiny trenches, after A*STAR researchers found such structures enhance efficiency by four orders of magnitude. The researchers achieved a 20,000-fold increase in the photoluminescence of a one atom-thick layer of tungsten diselenide by mounting it on a gold surface patterned with narrow trenches.

 

Tough stuff: Spider silk enhanced with graphene-based materials

Natural spider silk has excellent mechanical properties. Researchers from the Graphene Flagship have found a way to boost the strength of spider’s silk using graphene-based materials, paving the way for a novel class of high-performance bionic composites.

 

New insights into nanocrystal growth in liquid

Many seashells, minerals, and semiconductor nanomaterials are made up of smaller crystals, which are assembled together like the pieces of a puzzle. Now, researchers have measured the forces that cause the crystals to assemble, revealing an orchestra of competing factors that researchers might be able to control.

 

Self-assembling nanoparticle arrays can switch between a mirror and a window

By finely tuning the distance between nanoparticles in a single layer, researchers have made a filter that can change between a mirror and a window. To form the layer, the team of researchers from Imperial College London created conditions for gold nanoparticles to localize at the interface between two liquids that do not mix.

 

Self-healing gold particles

Self-healing materials are able to repair autonomously defects, such as scratches, cracks or dents, and resume their original shape. Scientists of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology discovered that tiny particles of pure gold have surprising self-healing capacities.

 

 

ENERGY

 

Supercharging silicon batteries

OIST researchers now report the design of an anode built on nanostructured layers of silicon—not unlike a multi-layered cake—to preserve the advantages of silicon while preventing physical collapse. Layers of unstructured silicon films are deposited alternatively with tantalum metal nanoparticle scaffolds, resulting in the silicon being sandwiched in a tantalum frame.

 

Making lithium-ion batteries safer, stronger

University of Illinois at Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory researchers have concluded, following extensive studies using real-time transmission electron microscopy, that rechargeable lithium-ion batteries could be much better in the future. The technique is the most effective way to understand the electrochemical reactions of lithium-ion batteries and to learn how batteries can be modified to become safer, stronger, longer lasting, and cheaper.

 

A solar cell you can put in the wash

Scientists from RIKEN and the University of Tokyo have developed a new type of ultra-thin photovoltaic device, coated on both sides with stretchable and waterproof films, which can continue to provide electricity from sunlight even after being soaked in water or being stretched and compressed.

 

A new efficient and portable electrocaloric cooling device

A team of researchers with the University of California and SRI International has developed a new type of cooling device that is both portable and efficient. The team describes their new device and possible applications for its use.

 

 

ENVIRONMENT

 

Air pollution takes a toll on solar energy

Air pollution is a drag for renewable energy. Dust and other sky-darkening air pollutants slash solar energy production by 17–25% across parts of India, China, and the Arabian Peninsula, a new study estimates. The haze can block sunlight from reaching solar panels.

 

Airline industry could fly thousands of miles on biofuel from a new promising feedstock

A Boeing 747 burns one gallon of jet fuel each second. A recent analysis from researchers at the University of Illinois estimate that this aircraft could fly for 10 hours on bio-jet fuel produced on 54 acres of specially engineered sugarcane.

 

Reducing leather pollution with molten salts

From handbags and jackets to car interiors, leather products are almost everywhere. But processing the leather for these luxury items creates a lot of potentially harmful pollution. Now, scientists report a new method for processing leather that is more eco-friendly.

 

 

OTHER RESEARCH

 

Groundwork to better understanding optical properties of glass

Researchers demonstrated a new packing of glass with unique optical properties. What they learned could lead to innovations in technology, such as glass with different mechanical properties, and may elucidate some fundamental aspects of glass formation.

 

Nanoscale glimpse of crevice and pitting corrosion as it happens

Using a device called the surface forces apparatus, researchers at UC Santa Barbara investigated the process of crevice and pitting corrosion and were able to get a real-time look at the process of corrosion on confined surfaces.

 

High-speed switching for ultrafast electromechanical switches and sensors

Unlike the slow ferroelastic domain switching expected for ceramics, high-speed sub-microsecond ferroelastic domain switching and simultaneous lattice deformation are directly observed for the Pb(Zr0.4Ti0.6)O3 thin films. This exciting finding paves the way for high-frequency ultrafast electromechanical switches and sensors.

 

NIST researchers revolutionize the atomic force microscope

By fabricating an extremely lightweight AFM probe and combining it with a nanoscale device that converts minuscule deflections of the probe into large changes of an optical signal inside a waveguide, NIST researchers have broken new ground: Their AFM system measures rapid changes in structure with high precision.

 

Tracing the light inside an LED

The performance of white LEDs can be improved based on better knowledge of the absorption and scattering of light inside the LED. A new method, developed by the University of Twente in The Netherlands and Philips Lighting, can lead to efficiency improvement and powerful design tools.

 

Invisibility cloak closer to becoming a reality

Photonics is a rapidly growing field in which some of the most sci-fi ideas of the not-so-distant past, are taking form. Now EU-funded research is bringing the notion of an invisibility cloak closer by using microscopic structures that can bend light.

 


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