Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory have developed a general approach for combining different types of nanoparticles to produce large-scale composite materials. Described in a paper published online recently in Nature Nanotechnology, the technique opens opportunities for mixing and matching particles with different magnetic, optical, or chemical properties to form new, multifunctional materials or materials, the scientists say. The approach takes advantage of the attractive pairing of complementary strands of synthetic DNA to effect self-assembly of nanoparticles into a 3D array consisting of billions of particles. Varying the length of the DNA linkers, their surface density on particles, and other factors gives scientists the ability to control and optimize different types of newly formed materials and their properties, according to the researchers.
Researchers at the University of Alicante, Spain, have developed an innovative ceramic thermal conditioning panel they say can control the climate of any room and provide energy efficiency. The ceramic panel incorporates a capillary structure by which the water flows on its hidden face and heats or cools the room in which it is housed according to the water temperature. The system is made up of several layers, can be easily installed in ceilings and walls, requires minimal maintenance, and can be deployed across multiple designs and configurations, the scientists say.
Solar panels soon may not only be more efficient but also a lot more affordable, according to researchers at Nanyang (China) Technological University. The scientists’ cell design, made from organic-inorganic hybrid perovskite materials, is about five times cheaper than current thin-film solar cells due to a simpler solution-based manufacturing process. In a paper published Oct. 18 in Science, the researchers explain how they used ultrafast lasers to discover that electrons generated by sunlight can travel quite far in the material they developed. This allows a thicker solar absorption layer, which in turn generates more electricity. The material is made using a simple solution process that normally produces low-quality materials, they add.
In what’s said to be a first for horse racing, scientists from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization have used laser scanning and 3D printing to produce a set of custom titanium shoes for a Melbourne race horse. After scanning the animal’s hooves using a handheld 3D scanner, the workers used 3D modeling software to design and print perfect-fitting, lightweight racing shoes in only a few hours. Traditional aluminum shoes for race horses can weigh up to one kilogram; the titanium shoes weigh about half that and could provide an edge in a close race.
As electronic devices get smaller and smaller, one of the biggest challenges to packing a smartphone or tablet with maximum processing power and memory is managing the heat generated by the microelectronics at the heart of the device. A complex metal oxide film designed by IBM and University of Texas researchers and tested at IBM, the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) at Brookhaven National Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) could help reduce the voltage required to switch electronic signals, and thus the energy they require. Published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, the work focused on incorporating ferroelectrics into standard silicon-based devices to increase performance while reducing the need for more voltage, according to the scientists. The researchers grew a barium titanate film on a silicon base using molecular beam epitaxy. The team found they could produce ferroelectric switching within films 8–40 nm thick, though a thickness of 10 nm was best to ensure that polarity across the film was evenly distributed.