Monday, October 31, 2016

Artificial muscles show more flex

Artificial muscles made significant gains when a literal twist in the development approach uncovered the tensile or stretchy abilities of polymer fibers once they were twisted and coiled into a spring-like geometry. In a similar manner to the powerful climbing tendrils of cucumber plants, the unique geometry gives the coil a flexing motion when fiber material shrinks a reaction that can be controlled with heat. Now, researchers have improved these tensile properties even further by focusing on the thermal properties of the polymer fiber and the molecular structure that makes best use of the chiral configuration.

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Close up of the new mineral merelaniite

The scroll-like structure of the newly discovered mineral merelaniite grows into tiny, silver-gray whiskers. A physicist has found the mineral on a sample of larger minerals from the Merelani Mining District in Tanzania.

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Sunday, October 30, 2016

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

Targeted medicine deliveries and increased energy efficiency are just two of many ways that nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years, say researchers.

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Friday, October 28, 2016

New surfaces repel water in oil as well as oil in water

New surface materials that are extremely difficult to wet both by water and oil have now been developed by scientists. Because they don't need isolating air to stay trapped between the droplet and rough surface to prevent wetting, these surface materials work even when wet by another liquid. Researchers' novel dual superlyophobic surfaces repel water even when covered by oil and oil when covered by water. So far, this has been regarded as contradictory to each other and not expected to be present on the same surface.

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Researchers on cloud nine as they uncover the origin of atmospheric particles

Scientists have solved one of the most challenging and long-standing problems in atmospheric science: to understand how particles are formed in the atmosphere.

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Elusive intermediate compound discovered in atmospheric chemistry

Physicists have identified a long-missing piece in the puzzle of exactly how fossil fuel combustion contributes to air pollution and a warming climate. Performing chemistry experiments in a new way, they observed a key molecule that appears briefly during a common chemical reaction in the atmosphere.

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Thursday, October 27, 2016

New method to help solve the problem of nuclear waste

In the last decades, nanomaterials have gained broad scientific and technological interest due to their unusual properties compared to micrometre-sized materials. At this scale, matter shows properties governed by size. At the present time, nanomaterials are studied to be employed in many different fields, including the nuclear one. Thus, nuclear fuels production, structural materials, separation techniques and waste management, all may benefit from an excellent knowledge in the nano-nuclear technology. No wonder researchers are on the constant lookout for better ways to improve their production.

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Controlling the properties of matter in two-dimensional crystals

The discovery of chains of atoms in a two-dimensional crystal could help researchers control the properties of matter.

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Forging a brand-new chemical bond using the pressure of the Mars core

When it comes to making chemical bonds, some elements go together like peanut butter and jelly; but for others, it's more like oil and water. Scientists can combat this elemental antipathy using extreme pressures. And now in a new article, researchers report that they have used pressure equivalent to that within the core of Mars to forge the first-ever iron-bismuth bond, which could help them make brand-new magnetic and superconducting materials.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Researchers invent 'perfect' soap molecule that is better for the environment, cleans in all conditions

A new soap molecule has been invented by scientists. The molecule is made from renewable sources that could dramatically reduce the number of chemicals in cleaning products and their impact on the environment.

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Splitting disulphide bonds in water is more complicated than previously thought

From a chemical perspective, splitting disulphide bonds under tensile stress is a substantially more complicated process than previously assumed. A team of researchers found out what happens in detail during this process – with the aid of extensive computer simulations on the J├╝lich supercomputer “Juqueen”.

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The quantum sniffer dog

A laser and detector in one: A microscopic sensor has been developed by researchers, which can be used to identify different gases simultaneously.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

New method increases energy density in lithium batteries

A new method to increase the energy density of lithium batteries has now been created by a researcher. He has built a trilayer structure that is stable even in ambient air, which makes the battery both longer lasting and cheaper to manufacture. The work may improve the energy density of lithium batteries by 10-30%, a new report suggests.

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Semi-volatile organic compounds diffuse between atmospheric particles

Semi-volatile organic compounds can readily diffuse into the billions of tiny atmospheric particles that inhabit the air, easily moving among them, researchers have discovered. The findings provide greater understanding into how organic particles behave in the atmosphere.

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Creeping gel Photosensitive self-oscillating gel to model biological crawling motions

Directed motion seems simple to us, but the coordinated interplay of complex processes is needed, even for seemingly simple crawling motions of worms or snails. By using a gel that periodically swells and shrinks, researchers developed a model for the waves of muscular contraction and relaxation involved in crawling. They were able to produce two types of crawling motion by using inhomogeneous irradiation.

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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Non-metal catalyst splits hydrogen molecule

Hydrogen (H2) is an extremely simple molecule and yet a valuable raw material which as a result of the development of sophisticated catalysts is becoming more and more important. In industry and commerce, applications range from food and fertilizer manufacture to crude oil cracking to utilization as an energy source in fuel cells. A challenge lies in splitting the strong H-H bond under mild conditions. Chemists have now developed a new catalyst for the activation of hydrogen by introducing boron atoms into a common organic molecule.

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Polymer scaffolds build a better pill to swallow

Nanoparticle drugs can make it easier for medications to reach their targets, say researchers. The researchers have developed a polymeric 'scaffold' that helps drugs that often have trouble entering the bloodstream, such as anti-cancer agents, form highly stable nanoparticles with improved bioavailability.

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Discovery of carbon storage signaling mechanism in algae offers new potential for sustainable biofuel production

Algae with altered intracellular signaling have increased oil yields, report scientists. This finding may represent a way to make algae better oil producers without sacrificing growth

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Biochemistry: Combining two catalytic worlds

Chemical and biological catalysts tend to require very different reaction conditions, making their combination challenging. Researchers have succeeded in taking this hurdle by using a special gel matrix to compartmentalize both types of catalysts. 

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Inspiration from the ocean: Non-toxic, high-quality surface treatment for organic field-effect transistors

In a development beneficial for both industry and environment, researchers have created a high-quality coating for organic electronics that promises to decrease processing time as well as energy requirements.

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Unraveling the science behind biomass breakdown

Lignocellulosic biomass—plant matter such as cornstalks, straw, and woody plants—is a sustainable source for production of bio-based fuels and chemicals. However, the deconstruction of biomass is one of the most complex processes in bioenergy technologies. Although researchers had already uncovered information about how woody plants and waste biomass can be converted into biofuel more easily, they have now discovered the chemical details behind that process.

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Friday, October 21, 2016

From ancient fossils to future cars

Engineers are developing cheap, energy-efficient lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles from silicon in diatomaceous earth. The research could lead to the development of ultra-high capacity lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and portable electronics.

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Physicists use lasers to capture first snapshots of rapid chemical bonds breaking

An international team has used a molecule's own electrons to scatter the molecule — a process called mid-infrared laser-induced electron diffraction, or LIED — and capture snapshots of acetylene as it is breaking apart.

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Working under pressure: Diamond micro-anvils will produce immense pressures to make new materials

Researchers will use pressures greater than those found at the center of the Earth to potentially create as yet unknown new materials. In the natural world, such immense forces deep underground can turn carbon into diamonds, or volcanic ash into slate.

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Can we find more benign nanomaterials?

A chemist has won a grant to access a supercomputer network funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation. The research group will use its time to better define the atom-to-atom interactions of various nanoparticles, hoping to learn more about the particles’ effects on energy, the environment, and human health.

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Pre-treatment of bandages may improve the antibacterial properties of nanoparticles

Pre-treating the fabric surface of the bandages used to treat burns with enzymes and polyethylene glycol or cellulase may promote the adhesion of antibacterial nanoparticles and improve their bacteria-repelling ability, a group of scientists has found.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Biomass heating could get a 'green' boost with the help of fungi

In colder weather, people have long been warming up around campfires and woodstoves. Lately, this idea of burning wood or other biomass for heat has surged in popularity as an alternative to using fossil fuels. Now scientists report a step toward a "greener" way to generate heat with biomass. Rather than burning it, which releases pollutants, they let fungi break it down to release heat.

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With new model, buildings may 'sense' internal damage

When a truck rumbles by a building, vibrations can travel up to the structure's roof and down again, generating transient tremors through the intervening floors and beams. Now researchers have developed a computational model that makes sense of such ambient vibrations, picking out key features in the noise that give indications of a building's stability. The model may be used to monitor a building over time for signs of damage or mechanical stress.

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Window into battery life for next-gen lithium cells

Dendrites, whiskers of lithium that grow inside batteries and can cause fires like those in the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, are the bane of next-generation lithium batteries. While they usually spread under cover of darkness in a closed cell, a team of researchers has spied on them by cutting a window in a battery and filming the dendrites as they grew. Their work could help researchers safely take lithium batteries to the next level.

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How water flows near the superhydrophobic surface

Water (and other liquids) has an unusual property when it flows closely to some specially designed surfaces: its speed isn't equal to zero even in the layer that directly touches the wall. This means that liquid doesn't adhere to the surface, but instead slides along it. Such an effect is called hydrodynamic slip and it was first described more than 200 years ago. However, at that time it hasn't received much attention as it didn't significantly influence the cumulative liquid flow.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Pushing the boundaries of magnet design

For physicists, loss of magnetization in permanent magnets can be a real concern. In response, scientists created the strongest available magnet -- one offering ten times more magnetic energy than previous versions -- in 1983. These magnets are a combination of materials including rare-earth metal and so-called transition metals, and are accordingly referred to as RE-TM-B magnets.

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When it comes to polymer fragility, size does matter

By combining a number of tools and techniques, a team of researchers was able to find a more complete picture of the glass transition phenomenon in polymers and to point out where the polymers differ from small molecular liquids.

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Graphene cracks the glass corrosion problem

Graphene coating protects glass from corrosion, a new study as demonstrated. This research can contribute to solving problems related to glass corrosion in several industries, say the study's authors.

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With designer lignin, biofuels researchers reproduced evolutionary path

When scientists reported in 2014 that they had successfully engineered a poplar plant "designed for deconstruction," the finding made international news. The highly degradable poplar, the first of its kind, could substantially reduce the energy use and cost of converting biomass to a number of products, including biofuels, pulp and paper. Now, some of those same researchers are reporting a surprising new revelation.

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Static electricity can control nanoballoons

Molecular sized machines could in the future be used to control important mechanisms in the body. In a recent study, researchers show how a nanoballoon comprising a single carbon molecule ten thousand times thinner than a human hair can be controlled electrostatically to switch between an inflated and a collapsed state.

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Finding ideal materials for carbon capture

In recent years, a class of highly absorbent, nanoporous materials called metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) have emerged as a promising material for carbon capture in power plants. But finding the optimal MOF to do the best job is another story.

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Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Bioengineers' sweat sensor monitors glucose

Researchers are sweating the small stuff in their efforts to develop a wearable device that can monitor an individual's glucose level via perspiration on the skin. They have demonstrated the capabilities of a biosensor they designed to reliably detect and quantify glucose in human sweat.

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Chemists design organic molecules that glow persistently at room temperature

LEDs have inspired a new generation of electronics, but there is still work ahead if we want luminescent materials to consume less energy and have longer lifespans. Certain inorganic metals seem promising, but they are rare, expensive to process, and potentially toxic. Researchers now present an alternative: a group of metal-free phosphorescent molecules that efficiently and persistently glow different colors at room temperature and are potentially three times more efficient than a fluorescent organic LED.

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Highly efficient organic solar cells with improved operation stability

A new study has presented an effective and simple strategy to simutaneously improve and stablize the performance of Organic Solar Cells.

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'Weighing' atoms with electrons

The chemical properties of atoms depend on the number of protons in their nuclei, placing them into the periodic table. However, even chemically identical atoms can have different masses – these variants are called isotopes. Although techniques to measure such mass differences exist, these have either not revealed where they are in a sample, or have required dedicated instrumentation and laborious sample preparation. Researchers now report a new way for "weighing" atoms by atomic-resolution imaging of graphene, the one-atom-thick sheet of carbon.

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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Nano-spike catalysts convert carbon dioxide directly into ethanol

In a new twist to waste-to-fuel technology, scientists have developed an electrochemical process that uses tiny spikes of carbon and copper to turn carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into ethanol.

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New, carbon-nanotube tool for ultra-sensitive virus detection, identification

A new tool that uses a forest-like array of vertically-aligned carbon nanotubes that can be finely tuned to selectively trap viruses by their size can increase the detection threshold for viruses and speed the process of identifying newly-emerging viruses.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Scientists discover 'supramolecule' that could help reduce nuclear, agricultural waste

The first definitive evidence has been reported for a chemical bond between two negatively charged molecules of bisulfate, or HSO4, a new molecular structure with potential applications to the safe storage of nuclear waste and reduction of chemicals that contaminate water and trigger large fish kills.

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New kind of supercapacitor made without carbon

Energy storage devices called supercapacitors have become a hot area of research, in part because they can be charged rapidly and deliver intense bursts of power. However, all supercapacitors currently use components made of carbon, which require high temperatures and harsh chemicals to produce. Now researchers have for the first time developed a supercapacitor that uses no conductive carbon at all, and that could potentially produce more power than existing versions of this technology.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

New approach for screening toxic chemicals mimics mammal senses

A new approach for analyzing toxic chemicals in complex samples has been developed by researchers. The work, they say, mimics the way mammals smell and taste.

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Saturday, October 8, 2016

Brewery wastewater transformed into energy storage

Engineers have developed an innovative bio-manufacturing process that uses a biological organism cultivated in brewery wastewater to create the carbon-based materials needed to make energy storage cells. This unique pairing of breweries and batteries could set up a win-win opportunity by reducing expensive wastewater treatment costs for beer makers while providing manufacturers with a more cost-effective means of creating renewable, naturally-derived fuel cell technologies.

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Clean water-treatment option to target sporadic outbreaks

An environmentally friendly technology to zap outbreak-causing viruses and bacteria from public drinking water has been developed by scientists. The protein-based photocatalyst uses light to generate hydrogen peroxide to eliminate E. coli, Listeria, and potentially protozoa like giardia and cryptosporidium.

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Friday, October 7, 2016

Catalyst structure identified in an operating proton exchange membrane fuel cell

The structure of the palladium catalyst for hydrogen oxidation in proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells has been revealed by scientists. Contrary to current views the results, obtained by applying X-ray spectroscopy under operating conditions, indicate the existence of a hydride phase throughout the operating range.

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Scientists rev up speed of bionic enzyme reactions

Bionic enzymes got a needed boost in speed thanks to new research. By pairing a noble metal with a natural enzyme, scientists created a hybrid capable of churning out molecules at a rate comparable to biological counterparts.

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