News & Publications

News & Publications

Polymeric Microparticle Barcodes Could Enhance Anti-counterfeiting Technology

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Polymer microparticles that can be embedded into, or embossed onto, paper currency, credit cards, pharmaceutical packaging, and even treasured artwork could be the next big advance in anti-counterfeiting technology. Though normally invisible, when illuminated with near-infrared (NIR) light they appear as micron-scaled rods with up to six horizontal stripes of different colors, due to different rare earth nanoparticles in each stripe. The codes contained in these stripes can be used to uniquely identify millions of objects, with an error rate of less than one in a billion.

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One-Step Process Uses Cellulose to Make N-Doped Nanoporous Carbon Membranes

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Invented in the 1960s, electrochemical capacitors, also referred to as supercapacitors or ultracapacitors, are attractive for their improved energy density over conventional electrolytic capacitors. Despite supercapacitors' many applications, the production of their electrode material is costly and environmentally hazardous, hindering the devices' widespread use. Now, researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) have discovered that a simple, one-step reaction, which involves the pyrolysis of cellulose in the presence of ammonia, can produce nitrogen-doped (N-doped) nanoporous carbon membranes —a supercapacitor electrode material.

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A New Biodegradable Battery Holds Promise for Transient Electronics

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Organic matter is transient. Left in the environment, it breaks down and disappears, reabsorbed into the system. But what if electronics could do the same? Researchers investigating this emerging line of technology are working toward creating things like zero-waste environmental sensors, military devices that self-destruct at a programmed time and biodegradable medical implants.

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Light-Activated Antimicrobial Surface Kills Bacteria in the Dark

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Despite strict cleaning and personal hygiene policies for staff, hospital-acquired infections are a major issue in the healthcare setting. Contaminated surfaces, such as door handles, phones and keyboards, help spread difficult-to-treat agents, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Clostridium difficile. To help reduce infection rates, numerous researchers have been trying to develop antimicrobial surfaces, with varying degrees of success. Now scientists at University College London (UCL) have devised a new light-activated bactericidal material that also works in the dark. The new surfaces, which consist of a polymer infused with gold nanoparticles and two dyes, can kill pathogenic bacteria within a few hours.

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Rebar Graphene Gains Strength, Conductivity from In-plane Carbon Nanotube Reinforcement

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By reinforcing graphene with in-plane carbon nanotubes (CNTs) to produce “rebar graphene”—analogous to concrete with reinforced steel bars—researchers have developed a simple new way to strengthen graphene sheets. The new process produces graphene that can be transferred to a glass or plastic substrate by floating it on water, eliminating the need for a polymer supporting layer typically used in the transfer process, which generally leaves the graphene with a polymer residue. This stronger, purer graphene could be used to replace brittle indium tin oxide touchscreens on smartphones with a flexible conductive window that would not shatter if dropped.

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Round-wire Cuprate Superconductors Generate 33 Tesla Magnetic Fields

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High temperature superconductors (HTS) such as RE-Ba 2 Cu 3 O 7-x (REBCO, where RE is a rare earth element) and Bi 2 Sr 2 Ca 2 Cu 3 O 10-x (Bi-2223) are available only in rectangular tape forms, making it geometrically difficult to wind them into coils, especially for large magnets where multi-kiloamp conductors are needed. So low temperature superconductors (LTS) such as Nb-Ti and Nb 3 Sn, which can be formed as round wires, still dominate the market for MRI, NMR and particle accelerator equipment. But newly announced round, multifilamentary Bi 2 Sr 2 CaCu 2 O 8-x (Bi-2212) HTS wires with a very high critical current density of 2500 A mm -2 at 20 T and 4.2 K, exceed a vital barrier that has so far restricted HTS rectangular tapes to a small sub-set of magnet applications.  The fact that high current density can be obtained even when many high angle grain boundaries are present suggests an important change in  the dominant paradigm of making HTS conductors - until now, just avoid grain boundaries and concentrate on processes that approximate "single crystals by the mile." 

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New Polymer Microgels Sense Light and Nerve Gas Agents

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Researchers in Canada have made tiny polymer globules that can swell and shrink in response to visible light, temperature, and the presence of a nerve gas. By sandwiching these polymer gels between gold films, the researchers have made tiny optical devices that change color when they sense changes in their environment.

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Quantitative STEM Technique Extracts 3D Atom Stacking Information from 2D Image

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Obtaining 3D information with atom-scale resolution is a real challenge in conventional scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM). “The typical method to obtain 3D information is 3D tomography, but this requires taking different images and tilting of the sample which is difficult to do and limits resolution to a few nanometers. While people have used that technique to make computer-reconstructed images of, e.g., nanoparticles, it does not give truly quantitative atomic resolution,” said Jinwoo Hwang, first author on an article published in the December 27, 2013 issue of Physical Review Letters (DOI:10.1103/PhysRevLett.111.266101).

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Californium May Show New Way to Recycle Radioactive Waste

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Out in the far reaches of the periodic table lies californium (Cf). It is an element - along with its fellow actinoids past plutonium, from periodic numbers 94-103 - that was thought to be rather mundane, without notable or truly usable properties. However, new research has shed light on these elements and their capabilities. In a study published in

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Graphene-based Photodetectors Show Ultra-broadband Sensitivity at Room Temperature

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Graphene is sensitive—at least to a small degree—to electromagnetic waves extending from the ultraviolet through the visible to the far infrared. But because it is a semimetal, the electrons and holes that form upon absorption of a photon quickly recombine, making it difficult to generate a current that can be used in practical photodetector devices. Now, by separating two sheets of graphene with a thin tunneling layer, researchers have succeeded in separating the electrons and holes and generating a large current. By making the bottom graphene layer into a transistor, they can amplify the current to useful levels. Because this ultrabroadband photodetector works at room temperature while currently available IR detectors require cooling, it opens up possibilities for use as a thermal (IR) detector in heat-seeking missiles and other military applications. 

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Proposals Sought: Department of Energy – Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Department of Energy

 The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) within the Department of Energy (DOE) is soliciting proposals to establish a Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Institute (CEMI) for Composite Materials and Structures. The technical topic area for this Institute is low cost, energy efficient manufacturing of fiber-reinforced polymer composites. The Institute will target continuous or discontinuous, primarily carbon and glass fiber systems, with thermoset or thermoplastic resin materials. These types of composites are foundational technologies that are broadly applicable and pervasive in multiple industries and markets with potentially transformational technical and economic impact.

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Living Materials Built by Bacteria

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 Timothy Lu, a synthetic biologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, wants materials science to go beyond biomimicry, to make functional materials that incorporate living cells so that they can change over time. Lu envisions self-healing materials—perhaps enabled by cells that would produce gluey proteins in response to stress—and new kinds of electronic materials. “Today’s materials are all dead. Living systems can adapt, grow and respond,” he says.

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Strong, Tough Ceramics That Mimic Nacre

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Researchers have mimicked the structure of nacre, also known as mother-of-pearl, to make tough, durable ceramics. The new material combines strength, toughness and stiffness unlike ceramics that have been engineered so far. And the simple processing route used to make the material should be easy to industrialize, say the researchers.

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New Stretchable Silver Nanowire Antenna Aims to Improve Wearable Health Monitoring

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Wearable technologies, from Google Glass to fitness trackers, are becoming increasing sophisticated and popular. Oftentimes, these trendy devices are primarily for entertainment, but in some contexts they could help to save lives. Wearable devices for health monitoring are starting to offer the chance to collect data and keep an eye on the wearer’s well being, potentially for 24-hours a day and regardless of the setting.

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New Broadband, Omnidirectional 3D Ground Cloak Hides Objects From Sound Waves

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In the last decade, the scientific and public interest in so-called invisibility cloaks, which would effectively hide objects in plain sight, has spiked. Rather than focus on electromagnetic (optical) cloaks, some researchers are investigating acoustic cloaks that mask objects from sound waves. Now, a team of researchers from Duke University in North Carolina has developed the first three-dimensional acoustic ground cloak that is not limited by the frequency or angle of incidence of incoming sound. In the future, such devices could see a wide array of applications, including underwater sonar avoidance and improved acoustic control in auditoriums.

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Bionic Plants Point Toward Leafy Sensors and Power Sources

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Plants are hardy organisms, built to withstand the elements. And a new field, plant nanobionics, intends to tap into that power to make not only more robust plants, but also more robust materials.

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Polarity of Light Contributes to Switching of Magnetic Memory Bits

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As the magnetic bits for storing data in memory get smaller and smaller, it is becoming more difficult for applied magnetic fields by themselves to switch a bit from a digital 0 to a digital 1 state in a stable manner. Tiny magnetic bits can be randomly switched by thermal fluctuations, wiping out recorded data. By adding a laser to the magnetic writing process to briefly heat the bit and apply a magnetic field before cooling it down again, greater stability against these thermal fluctuations can be gained. Now, researchers have demonstrated that there’s more in the laser beam than just heat—the helicity, or polarization, of the light can contribute to the switching of a bit’s magnetic state.

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Flexible Electronics without the Compromise

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Muhammad Hussain’s goal is to make flexible circuits that have the same performance as the best silicon chips, using the same materials and equipment. His lab at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia has now demonstrated some of the highest performance flexible transistors ever made, using device designs very similar to those found in Intel’s latest products.

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