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MRS Communications Publishes New Manufacturing Process from Stanford Which Could Yield Better Solar Cells, Faster Chips

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The upcoming issue of MRS Communications features a paper from Stanford researchers Garrett Hayes and Bruce Clemens, who describe a new manufacturing process that could make gallium arsenide, a silicon alternative, more cost effective.

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Bio Focus: Biomaterial NanoART Combats HIV

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Advances in biomaterials are ultimately expected to revolutionize approaches to disease treatment by enabling a host of improved drug delivery platforms. A development in this direction has recently been demonstrated by a collaborative team of medical researchers. The researchers report that nanoformulations (i.e., nanoparticle composites comprised of small molecule drugs embedded in a polymer carrier matrix) can be harnessed to improve treatment of human.

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China eliminates rare-earths quotas

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China’s Ministry of Commerce eliminated the quota system for rare-earths exports starting in January 2015. These materials, some of which are considered critical in a broad range of high-tech applications, from consumer electronics and medical equipment to clean-energy and military applications, have been an area of scientific, industrial manufacturing, and government focus for several years.

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Karena W. Chapman and Ali Javey to Receive 2015 MRS Outstanding Young Investigator Awards

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The Materials Research Society’s Outstanding Young Investigator Award recognizes outstanding, interdisciplinary scientific work in materials research by a young scientist or engineer who shows exceptional promise as a developing leader in the materials area. This year, MRS has named two award recipients—Karena W. Chapman, Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), and Ali Javey, University of California, Berkeley (UC-Berkeley). Chapman and Javey will be presented with their awards on April 8, 2015 during the Award Ceremony of the 2015 MRS Spring Meeting in San Francisco.

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Ceramics improve operating conditions of solid-oxide fuel cells

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Solid-oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) are most efficient when they operate at high temperatures, originally around 800 to 1000°C. This is because the electrochemical processes inside the cell are thermally driven. The higher the temperature, the faster the reactions and transport rates, and the more current produced. But high operating temperatures also enhance intrinsic mechanical and structural degradation of the materials inside the cell, thus decreasing the SOFC lifetime. According to the September 2014 issue of the MRS Bulletin, the challenge of current SOFC research is to create a cell that can operate at lower temperatures (below 650°C), without sacrificing performance or reliability.

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New 2D material challenges graphene

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Researchers in South Korea have made a two-dimensional nitrogen-containing crystal that they say could rival graphene and silicon as a semiconductor material for electronics. The new 2D material could also find applications in energy storage and catalysis, the researchers say.

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Bio Focus: Spinning artificial spider silk remains a challenge

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The silk that forms spider webs is, by weight, one of the strongest materials found in nature. Spiders can become territorial and even cannibalistic when kept in close proximity to each other, however, and the labor required to harvest their silk is too great to make the process commercially viable. Instead, scientists are studying the molecular basis for spider silk’s valuable properties with the hopes of eventually creating a commercially viable biomimetic synthetic silk fiber.

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John M. Carpenter Receives 2015 MRS Innovation in Materials Characterization Award

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The Materials Research Society’s (MRS) Innovation in Materials Characterization Award, endowed by Toh-Ming Lu and Gwo-Ching Wang, honors an outstanding advance in materials characterization that notably increases knowledge of the structure, composition,

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Rubbery liquid crystal sheets programmed to take on 3D shapes

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Researchers have made a rubbery material that transforms from a flat sheet to complex three-dimensional shapes when triggered by heat. The material could find use in reformable antenna or shape-changing aircraft wings, says Timothy White, a senior research engineer at the Air Force Research Laboratory in Ohio. The material is a liquid crystal elastomer (LCE), a soft elastic solid made of liquid crystal molecules chemically bonded to a rubbery polymer network.

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Flower-shaped magnetic nanoparticles may help destroy deep-seated cancer cells

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Magnetic nanoparticles (MNP) have gained attention in recent years as promising tools to help defeat cancer through hyperthermia therapy, in which the MNPs produce cancer-destroying heat when subjected to an external alternating magnetic field. Using the technology, researchers have made headway with killing malignant cells close to the body’s surface. But other cancers, such as pancreatic and rectal cancers that are more deep-seated, have remained an issue. Now an interdisciplinary team from Dartmouth College has addressed this problem with their MNPs that form flower-like aggregates.

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Self-assembled polymer-nanoparticle hydrogel may be boon for controlled drug delivery

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Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have recently developed an injectable hydrogel that’s able to simultaneously deliver two different types of drugs—one hydrophobic and one hydrophilic—at different rates. The material, described recently in Nature Communications, is shear-thinning and self-healing, and broadly accessible to other laboratories due to its simple, available components and fabrication methods.

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Multi-imaging sets new directions for studying irradiation damage in materials

By Meg Marquardtfig2-220

As irradiation damage in materials occurs on an atomic level, transmission electron microscopy (TEM) is typically used for imaging the aftermath of the neutron or ion bombardment. But the TEM images can be tricky to interpret. In a study published in the Journal of Materials Research, a definitive method for TEM imaging has been established, one that can even be used to look at images obtained in the past to ensure they were read and interpreted correctly.

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Bio Focus: Spider-inspired vibration sensor detects music

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Spiders use crack-shaped slit organs near their leg joints to detect minute mechanical vibrations. This inspired Mansoo Choi and his team from Seoul National University to design their own version of a mechanical sensor based on nanoscale crack junctions. As the researchers describe in their December 2014 Nature publication (DOI: 10.1038/nature14002) they fabricated their sensors by depositing a stiff 20 nm thin film of electrically conductive platinum on a flexible polymer (polyurethane acrylate). The material is then wrapped around glass rods of different diameters to induce controlled directional cracking with different spacing between the individual zigzag cracks. This gap-geometry is crucial to achieve the remarkably high sensitivity to mechanical stress.

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High-entropy alloy exhibits low density but high hardness

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For metal alloys, there is a delicate balance between strength and ductility. Typically, the higher the strength, the more brittle is the material. In the search for materials that might achieve toughness without sacrificing tensile strength, researchers have turned to high-entropy alloys. A recent study presents a new high-entropy alloy that has a strength-to-weight ratio higher than most other nanocrystalline alloys.

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Versatile technique gives light, flexible ultra-strong steel

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Researchers in South Korea have devised a simple technique to make a lightweight steel that is stronger and more pliable than today’s lightest, strongest titanium alloys. It also costs less than one tenth of those alloys, says Hansoo Kim, a professor in the graduate institute of ferrous technology at Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea. The new alloy, which consists of brittle iron and aluminum compounds embedded in the steel matrix, holds promise for building lightweight, energy-efficient cars, ships, and machines.

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Nano Focus: New optical materials manipulate light into 3D profiles

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The discovery of new materials is being rapidly accelerated through the use of computational methods that can screen the constituent elements for a desired application. While simple materials systems and structures can be easily predicted using these methods, more complex systems can prove challenging due to the increased number of potential configurations. Researchers at Northwestern University now report a bottom-up strategy that uses a custom-built evolutionary design algorithm to predict a new class of materials.

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PCAST provides assessment of US Nanotechnology Initiative

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The US National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) is a crosscutting national vision for nanotechnology research and development (R&D) in the United States. Established in 2001, the NNI is not directly funded and has no centralized budget or management, but is rather an initiative involving 20 federal departments, independent agencies, and independent commissions working together to revolutionize nanotechnology across the range of industries to the benefit of society. The fifth assessment of the NNI characterizes the Initiative as a “truly successful venture” stating that the investment of over $20 billion in nanotechnology research and development (R&D) over the duration of the initiative has led to “great success in creating the building blocks of nanoscience.”

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Bio Focus: Sensors add touch and feel to prosthetic skin

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The loss of any limb is devastating, especially the loss of a hand which limits crucial functionalities including eating, handling objects, and texting! While prosthetic hands can mimic biological motion, an artificial “skin” must mimic the mechanoreceptors (sensing touch, pressure, and vibration) and thermoreceptors in human skin to enable real-time feedback as the person performs a task. And ideally, the patient won’t be left with cold hands! A research team based in South Korea has reported a flexible synthetic “skin” that could eventually be used with a hand prosthesis to permit the patient to feel heat, humidity, and pressure.

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Kevlar-based layered nanoscale membrane suppresses dendrite growth in lithium-ion battery

Materials Research Society/MRS Bulletin Dendrite-SEM-220

Dendrites that form in lithium-ion batteries can cause circuits to short, resulting in overheating and sometimes a fire or explosion. Now, a research team from the University of Michigan has built a battery membrane with pores that are just 15–20 nm in diameter—large enough to allow lithium ions to pass, but small enough to prevent dendrites from growing.

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Ion bonding in organic scaffolding promotes biomineralization

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An international team of materials researchers has demonstrated that organic scaffolds influence the crystallization process by binding most of the positively charged calcium ions, inducing mineral formation in specific locations. The results challenge previous assumptions about the molecular-level mechanisms responsible for biomineralization.

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