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Credit: Multiscale Materials Laboratory/Rice University

Rice University scientists develop 'programmable' cement particles to attain enhanced properties

Bringing order to disorder is key to making stronger and greener cement, the paste that binds concrete. Scientists at Rice University have decoded the kinetic properties of cement and developed a way to "program" the microscopic, semicrystalline particles within. The process turns particles from disordered clumps into regimented cubes, spheres and other forms that combine to make the material less porous and more durable. Their study appears in the Royal Society of Chemistry's Journal of Materials Chemistry A. The technique may lead to stronger structures that require less concrete -- and less is better, said Rice materials scientist and lead author Rouzbeh Shahsavari... more read more

New stamping technique creates functional features at nanoscale dimensions

The next time you place your coffee order, imagine slapping onto your to-go cup a sticker that acts as an electronic decal, letting you know the precise temperature of your triple-venti no-foam latte. Someday, the high-tech stamping that produces such a sticker might also bring us food packaging that displays a digital countdown to warn of spoiling produce, or even a window pane that shows the day's forecast, based on measurements of the weather conditions outside. Engineers at MIT have invented a fast, precise printing process that may make such electronic surfaces an inexpensive reality. In a paper published today in Science Advances, the researchers report that they have fabricated... more read more

Credit: Cockrell School of Engineering

A military drone flying on a reconnaissance mission is captured behind enemy lines, setting into motion a team of engineers who need to remotely delete sensitive information carried on the drone's chips.

Because the chips are optical and not electronic, the engineers can now simply flash a beam of UV light onto the chip to instantly erase all content. Disaster averted. This James Bond-esque chip is closer to reality because of a new development in a nanomaterial developed by Yuebing Zheng, a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and engineering in the Cockrell School of Engineering. His team described its findings in the journal Nano Letters on Nov. 10. "The molecules in this material are very sensitive to light, so we can use a UV light or specific light wavelengths to erase or create optical components," Zheng said. "Potentially, we could incorporate... more read more

Credit: Christopher Moore, Georgia Tech

A simple solution-based electrical doping technique could help reduce the cost of polymer solar cells and organic electronic devices, potentially expanding the applications for these technologies.

By enabling production of efficient single-layer solar cells, the new process could help move organic photovoltaics into a new generation of wearable devices and enable small-scale distributed power generation. Developed by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and colleagues from three other institutions, the technique provides a new way of inducing p-type electrical doping in organic semiconductor films. The process involves briefly immersing the films in a solution at room temperature, and would replace a more complex technique that requires vacuum processing. "Our hope is that this will be a game-changer for organic photovoltaics by further simplifying the process... more read more

Credit: Photo by Autodesk

A research team from Autodesk and Dartmouth College has developed a new interactive design tool called "Printone," which provides users with the ability to create functional 3-D printed wind instruments in any shape or form using interactive sound simulation feedback.

The team designed 16 free-form wind instruments to play different melodies, including: a star that can play "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," a bunny that can play "Little Peter Rabbit;" a snowman that can play "Jingle Bells;" and a dragon that can play "Puff the Magic Dragon." The team's research will be presented this week at the 9th ACM SIGGRAPH Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques in Asia. To learn more about how Printone works, please see the following video. "With Printone, everybody can be a designer of new wind musical instruments. You can transform almost any shapes you like into instruments... more read more

Credit: IBS

IBS & KAIST researchers clarify how laser annealing technology can lead to production of ultrathin nanomaterials

All our smart phones have shiny flat AMOLED displays. Behind each single pixel of these displays hide at least two silicon transistors which were mass-manufactured using laser annealing technologies. While the traditional methods to make them uses temperatures above 1,000°C, the laser technique reaches the same results at low temperatures even on plastic substrates (melting temperature below 300°C). Interestingly, a similar procedure can be used to generate crystals of graphene. Graphene is a strong and thin nano-material made of carbon, its electric and heat-conductive properties have attracted the attention of scientists worldwide. Prof. KEON Jae Lee's research group at the Center... more read more

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a new strategy for fabricating more efficient plastic solar cells. The work has implications for developing solar cells with a wider absorption range and increased efficiency.

As plastic solar cells now rival silicon-based solar cells in power conversion efficiency, researchers want to increase the range of photonic energies that plastic solar cells absorb. Ternary solar cells, in which three materials are mixed together as a light-harvesting layer, offer a potential solution. However, while ternary solar cells have been manufactured for years, most of the devices have not been able to meet desired levels of performance ­– mainly due to unfavorable mixing. Masoud Ghasemi, a graduate student in physics at NC State and lead author of a paper describing the research, worked with a team of other NC State physicists led by Harald Ade and chemists from the University... more read more

Credit: Waseda University

Simpler process and higher efficiency creates great expectations for consumer market

Waseda University researchers have developed a new method for producing hydrogen, which is fast, irreversible, and takes place at much lower temperature using less energy. This innovation is expected to contribute to the spread of fuel cell systems for automobiles and homes. Hydrogen has normally been extracted from methane and steam using a nickel catalyst at temperatures of over 700°C. However, the high temperature creates major challenges for widespread use. The group led by Professor Yasushi Sekine, Waseda University Faculty of Science and Engineering, developed a method which allows hydrogen extraction at temperatures as low as 150~200°C. This shift greatly reduces energy input... more read more

Credit: Lei Tao/Rice University

Rice University theory shows way to enhance heat sinks in future microelectronics

Bumpy surfaces with graphene between would help dissipate heat in next-generation microelectronic devices, according to Rice University scientists. Their theoretical studies show that enhancing the interface between gallium nitride semiconductors and diamond heat sinks would allow phonons - quasiparticles of sound that also carry heat - to disperse more efficiently. Heat sinks are used to carry heat away from electronic devices. Rice computer models replaced the flat interface between the materials with a nanostructured pattern and added a layer of graphene, the atom-thick form of carbon, as a way to dramatically improve heat transfer, said Rice materials scientist Rouzbeh Shahsavari... more read more

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Throw a baseball, and you might say it's all in the wrist. For robots, it's all in the gears.

Gears are essential for precision robotics. They allow limbs to turn smoothly and stop on command; low-quality gears cause limbs to jerk or shake. If you're designing a robot to scoop samples or grip a ledge, the kind of gears you'll need won't come from a hardware store. At NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, technologist Douglas Hofmann and his collaborators are building a better gear. Hofmann is the lead author of two recent papers on gears made from bulk metallic glass (BMG), a specially crafted alloy with properties that make it ideal for robotics. "Although BMGs have been explored for a long time, understanding how to design and implement... more read more

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