UW-Madison engineers reveal record-setting flexible phototransistor

MADISON, Wis. -- Inspired by mammals' eyes, University of Wisconsin-Madison electrical engineers have created the fastest, most responsive flexible silicon phototransistor ever made.

The innovative phototransistor could improve the performance of myriad products -- ranging from digital cameras, night-vision goggles and smoke detectors to surveillance systems and satellites -- that rely on electronic light sensors. Integrated into a digital camera lens, for example, it could reduce bulkiness and boost both the acquisition speed and quality of video or still photos.

Developed by UW-Madison collaborators Zhenqiang "Jack" Ma, professor of electrical and computer engineering, and research scientist Jung-Hun Seo, the high-performance phototransistor far and away exceeds all previous flexible phototransistor parameters, including sensitivity and response time.

The researchers published details of their advance this week in the journal Advanced Optical Materials.

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Boosting gas mileage by turning engine heat into electricity

"Thermoelectric Power Generation from Lanthanum Strontium Titanium Oxide at Room Temperature Through the Addition of Graphene" ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces

Automakers are looking for ways to improve their fleets’ average fuel efficiency, and scientists may have a new way to help them. In a report in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, one team reports the development of a material that could convert engine heat that’s otherwise wasted into electrical energy to help keep a car running — and reduce the need for fuels. It could also have applications in aerospace, manufacturing and other sectors.

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Oil spill cleanup by sponge: Madison scientists tout tidy technology

By Thomas Content of the Journal Sentinel

In a development arising from nanotechnology research, scientists in Madison have created a spongelike material that could provide a novel and sustainable way to clean up oil spills.

It's known as an aerogel, but it could just as well be called a "smart sponge."

To demonstrate how it works, researchers add a small amount of red dye to diesel, making the fuel stand out in a glass of water. The aerogel is dipped in the glass and within minutes, the sponge has soaked up the diesel. The aerogel is now red, and the glass of water is clear.

"It was very effective," said Shaoqin "Sarah" Gong, who runs a biotechnology-nanotechnology lab at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery in Madison.

"So if you had an oil spill, for example, the idea is you could throw this aerogel sheet in the water and it would start to absorb the oil very quickly and efficiently," said Gong, a University of Wisconsin-Madison associate professor of biomedical engineering. "Once it's fully saturated, you can take it out and squeeze out all the oil."

The material's absorbing capacity is reduced somewhat after each use, but the product "can be reused for a couple of cycles," Gong said.

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Insect-inspired super rubber moves toward practical uses in medicine

The remarkable, rubber-like protein that enables dragonflies, grasshoppers and other insects to flap their wings, jump and chirp has major potential uses in medicine, scientists conclude in an article in the journal ACS Macro Letters. It evaluates the latest advances toward using a protein called resilin in nanosprings, biorubbers, biosensors and other applications.

Kristi Kiick and colleagues explain that scientists discovered resilin a half-century ago in the wing hinges of locusts and elastic tendons of dragonflies. The extraordinary natural protein tops the best synthetic rubbers. Resilin can stretch to three times its original length, for instance, and then spring back to its initial shape without losing its elasticity, despite repeated stretching and relaxing cycles. That’s a crucial trait for insects that must flap or jump millions of times over their lifetimes. Scientists first synthesized resilin in 2005 and have been striving to harness its properties in medicine.

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The formula for turning cement into metal

BY TONA KUNZ

LEMONT, Ill. – In a move that would make the Alchemists of King Arthur’s time green with envy, scientists have unraveled the formula for turning liquid cement into liquid metal. This makes cement a semi-conductor and opens up its use in the profitable consumer electronics marketplace for thin films, protective coatings, and computer chips.

“This new material has lots of applications, including as thin-film resistors used in liquid-crystal displays, basically the flat panel computer monitor that you are probably reading this from at the moment,” said Chris Benmore, a physicist from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory who worked with a team of scientists from Japan, Finland and Germany to take the “magic” out of the cement-to-metal transformation. Benmore and Shinji Kohara from Japan Synchrotron Radiation Research Institute/SPring-8 led the research effort.

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Environmentally safe electronics that also vanish in the body

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Physicians and environmentalists alike could soon be using a new class of electronic devices: small, robust and high performance, yet also biocompatible and capable of dissolving completely in water – or in bodily fluids.

Researchers at the University of Illinois, in collaboration with Tufts University and Northwestern University, have demonstrated a new type of biodegradable electronics technology that could introduce new design paradigms for medical implants, environmental monitors and consumer devices.

“We refer to this type of technology as transient electronics,” said John A. Rogers, the Lee J. Flory-Founder Professor of Engineering at the U. of I., who led the multidisciplinary research team. “From the earliest days of the electronics industry, a key design goal has been to build devices that last forever – with completely stable performance. But if you think about the opposite possibility – devices that are engineered to physically disappear in a controlled and programmed manner – then other, completely different kinds of application opportunities open up.”

Three application areas appear particularly promising. First are medical implants that perform important diagnostic or therapeutic functions for a useful amount of time and then simply dissolve and resorb in the body. Second are environmental monitors, such as wireless sensors that are dispersed after a chemical spill, that degrade over time to eliminate any ecological impact. Third are consumer electronic systems or sub-components that are compostable, to reduce electronic waste streams generated by devices that are frequently upgraded, such as cellphones or other portable devices.

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Red blood cells converted into chemical sensors

20 Aug 2012 by Daniel Cressey

Chemists have turned red blood cells into long lived sensors that could be put back into circulation to monitor the make up of patients’ blood in real time.

Many patients require monitoring of their blood, such as diabetics who must prick themselves with needles to elicit blood for determining their glucose levels. But extracting blood is both invasive and provides only a one-off measurement. At the American Chemical Society meeting in Philadelphia on Sunday, Xiaole Shao explained how her team have built sensors that may one day allow both non-invasive and long-term monitoring of crucial aspects of blood chemistry.

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Chemical makes blind mice see

A team of University of California, Berkeley, scientists in collaboration with researchers at the University of Munich and University of Washington, in Seattle, has discovered a chemical that temporarily restores some vision to blind mice, and is working on an improved compound that may someday allow people with degenerative blindness to see again.

The approach could eventually help those with retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disease that is the most common inherited form of blindness, as well as age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause of acquired blindness in the developed world. In both diseases, the light sensitive cells in the retina — the rods and cones — die, leaving the eye without functional photoreceptors.

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Northwestern Researchers Create “Rubber-Band Electronics”

For people with heart conditions and other ailments that require monitoring, life can be complicated by constant hospital visits and time-consuming tests. But what if much of the testing done at hospitals could be conducted in the patient’s home, office, or car?

Scientists foresee a time when medical monitoring devices are integrated seamlessly into the human body, able to track a patient’s vital signs and transmit them to his doctors. But one major obstacle continues to hinder technologies like these: electronics are too rigid.

Researchers at the McCormick School of Engineering, working with a team of scientists from the United States and abroad, have recently developed a design that allows electronics to bend and stretch to more than 200 percent their original size, four times greater than is possible with today’s technology. The key is a combination of a porous polymer and liquid metal.

A paper about the findings, “Three-dimensional Nanonetworks for Giant Stretchability in Dielectrics and Conductors,” was published June 26 in the journal Nature Communications.

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Mequon company - Endece LLC - may be on the verge of CURING MS

By Alysha Schertz

Multiple sclerosis is a debilitating, often deadly disease that attacks the body's central nervous system. It can devastate a victim's brain, spinal cord, optic nerves and vision.

Approximately 400,000 people in the United States are living with MS. Worldwide, more than 2.1 million people are afflicted with the disease, many with different symptoms and levels of severity.

The disease is unpredictable. While treatments and medication currently on the market can help slow down the attacks, there is no cure.

Yet.

But the cure for MS just might be sitting right in southeastern Wisconsin's backyard.

Endece LLC, a Mequon-based drug discovery company, recently formed Endece Neural, a subsidiary company focused on neurological drug development. More specifically, Endece Neural is pursing the development of a drug that could help repair and even reverse the damage caused by MS.

Endece's work is getting some attention in the world of MS research.

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Rare Coupling of Magnetic and Electric Properties in a Single Material

New multiferroic mechanism could lead to next-generation memory and sensing devices

UPTON, NY — Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory have observed a new way that magnetic and electric properties — which have a long history of ignoring and counteracting each other — can coexist in a special class of metals. These materials, known as multiferroics, could serve as the basis for the next generation of faster and energy-efficient logic, memory, and sensing technology.

The researchers, who worked with colleagues at the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research in Germany, published their findings online in Physical Review Letters on July 25, 2011.

Ferromagnets are materials that display a permanent magnetic moment, or magnetic direction, similar to how a compass needle always points north. They assist in a variety of daily tasks, from sticking a reminder to the fridge door to storing information on a computer’s hard drive. Ferroelectrics are materials that display a permanent electric polarization — a set direction of charge — and respond to the application of an electric field by switching this direction. They are commonly used in applications like sonar, medical imaging, and sensors.

“In principle, the coupling of an ordered magnetic material with an ordered electric material could lead to very useful devices,” said Brookhaven physicist Stuart Wilkins, one of the paper’s authors. “For instance, one could imagine a device in which information is written by application of an electric field and read by detecting its magnetic state. This would make a faster and much more energy-efficient data storage device than is available today.”

But multiferroics — magnetic materials with north and south poles that can be reversed with an electric field — are rare in nature. Ferroelectricity and magnetism tend to be mutually exclusive and interact weakly with each other when they coexist.

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Shine Medical raises $11 million in venture funding

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

Middleton-based Shine Medical Technologies said Tuesday morning it has raised $11 million of venture capital funding.

Knox LLC -- the investment vehicle for Frederick J. Mancheski, former chairman and chief executive of automotive parts supplier Echlin - led the round and contributed $10 million of the funding.

Fourteen other individual investors participated, Greg Piefer, Shine's chief executive, said in a news release.

Shine, formerly known as Phoenix Nuclear, is using its unique nuclear fusion technology to make molybdenum-99. The substance produces an isotope that's critical for certain medical imaging tests that diagnose, monitor and treat some cancers, as well as heart and brain diseases.

Two nuclear reactors in Canada and the Netherlands that are operating well past their design life provide the majority of the isotope used by Shine. Frequent shut-downs have created a worldwide shortage of the material.

Shine's nuclear fusion technology offers a possible alternative.

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Virent focusing on bottle technology

By Thomas Content of the Journal Sentinel

Madison biofuels firm Virent Energy Systems Inc. said Monday it has developed a process to help make plastic bottles from plant sugars instead of petroleum.

The company said its chemical engineers have been able to produce a molecule that mimics a petroleum molecule that's key to making PET recyclable bottles.

The molecule paraxylene, also known as PX, is made from 100% plant sugars. When combined with existing technology, this can allow manufacturers to offer 100% natural plant-based plastic bottles and packaging.

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Berkeley Scientists Discover Inexpensive Metal Catalyst for Generating Hydrogen from Water

Hydrogen would command a key role in future renewable energy technologies, experts agree, if a relatively cheap, efficient and carbon-neutral means of producing it can be developed. An important step towards this elusive goal has been taken by a team of researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California, Berkeley. The team has discovered an inexpensive metal catalyst that can effectively generate hydrogen gas from water.

“Our new proton reduction catalyst is based on a molybdenum-oxo metal complex that is about 70 times cheaper than platinum, today’s most widely used metal catalyst for splitting the water molecule,” said Hemamala Karunadasa, one of the co-discoverers of this complex. “In addition, our catalyst does not require organic additives, and can operate in neutral water, even if it is dirty, and can operate in sea water, the most abundant source of hydrogen on earth and a natural electrolyte. These qualities make our catalyst ideal for renewable energy and sustainable chemistry.”

Karunadasa holds joint appointments with Berkeley Lab’s Chemical Sciences Division and UC Berkeley’s Chemistry Department. She is the lead author of a paper describing this work that appears in the April 29, 2010 issue of the journal Nature, titled “A molecular molybdenum-oxo catalyst for generating hydrogen from water.” Co-authors of this paper were Christopher Chang and Jeffrey Long, who also hold joint appointments with Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley. Chang, in addition, is also an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).

Hydrogen gas, whether combusted or used in fuel cells to generate electricity, emits only water vapor as an exhaust product, which is why this nation would already be rolling towards a hydrogen economy if only there were hydrogen wells to tap. However, hydrogen gas does not occur naturally and has to be produced. Most of the hydrogen gas in the United States today comes from natural gas, a fossil fuel. While inexpensive, this technique adds huge volumes of carbon emissions to the atmosphere. Hydrogen can also be produced through the electrolysis of water – using electricity to split molecules of water into molecules of hydrogen and oxygen. This is an environmentally clean and sustainable method of production – especially if the electricity is generated via a renewable technology such as solar or wind – but requires a water-splitting catalyst.

Nature has developed extremely efficient water-splitting enzymes – called hydrogenases – for use by plants during photosynthesis, however, these enzymes are highly unstable and easily deactivated when removed from their native environment. Human activities demand a stable metal catalyst that can operate under non-biological settings.

Metal catalysts are commercially available, but they are low valence precious metals whose high costs make their widespread use prohibitive. For example, platinum, the best of them, costs some $2,000 an ounce.

“The basic scientific challenge has been to create earth-abundant molecular systems that produce hydrogen from water with high catalytic activity and stability,” Chang says. “We believe our discovery of a molecular molybdenum-oxo catalyst for generating hydrogen from water without the use of additional acids or organic co-solvents establishes a new chemical paradigm for creating reduction catalysts that are highly active and robust in aqueous media.”

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Ultra-powerful Laser Makes Silicon Pump Liquid Uphill with No Added Energy

Researchers at the University of Rochester's Institute of Optics have discovered a way to make liquid flow vertically upward along a silicon surface, overcoming the pull of gravity, without pumps or other mechanical devices.

In a paper in the journal Optics Express, professor Chunlei Guo and his assistant Anatoliy Vorobyev demonstrate that by carving intricate patterns in silicon with extremely short, high-powered laser bursts, they can get liquid to climb to the top of a silicon chip like it was being sucked through a straw.

Unlike a straw, though, there is no outside pressure pushing the liquid up; it rises on its own accord. By creating nanometer-scale structures in silicon, Guo greatly increases the attraction that water molecules feel toward it. The attraction, or hydrophile, of the silicon becomes so great, in fact, that it overcomes the strong bond that water molecules feel for other water molecules.

Thus, instead of sticking to each other, the water molecules climb over one another for a chance to be next to the silicon. (This might seem like getting energy for free, but even though the water rises, thus gaining potential energy, the chemical bonds holding the water to the silicon require a lower energy than the ones holding the water molecules to other water molecules.) The water rushes up the surface at speeds of 3.5 cm per second.

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Researcher Creates Strongest Metal Foam Ever

by Bridgette Meinhold, 02/01/10

Spongy metal sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, but it’s actually a real material that is capable of absorbing large impacts without damage. Metal foams have been around for some time, but new research by Dr. Afsaneh Rabiei of North Carolina State University, has revealed the strongest metal foam ever. It can compress up to 80% of its original size under loading and still retain its original shape. The applications for this type of material are too numerous to fathom, but one of the most anticipated uses for the spongy metal is in automobiles to lessen the impact of crashes and protect the driver and passengers.

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QUANTUM COMPUTER CHIPS NOW ONE STEP CLOSER TO REALITY

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- In the quest for smaller, faster computer chips, researchers are increasingly turning to quantum mechanics -- the exotic physics of the small.

The problem: the manufacturing techniques required to make quantum devices have been equally exotic.

That is, until now.

Researchers at Ohio State University have discovered a way to make quantum devices using technology common to the chip-making industry today.

This work might one day enable faster, low-power computer chips. It could also lead to high-resolution cameras for security and public safety, and cameras that provide clear vision through bad weather.

Paul Berger, professor of electrical and computer engineering and professor of physics at Ohio State University, and his colleagues report their findings in an upcoming issue of IEEE Electron Device Letters.

The team fabricated a device called a tunneling diode using the most common chip-making technique, called chemical vapor deposition.

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Component of asphalt eyed as new fuel source

The pavement material that cars drive on may wind up in their fuel tanks as scientists seek ways of transforming asphaltenes -- the main component of asphalt -- into an abundant new source of fuel, according to the cover story in the current issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS' weekly newsmagazine.

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Organic electronics a two-way street, thanks to new plastic semiconductor

Plastic that conducts electricity holds promise for cheaper, thinner and more flexible electronics. This technology is already available in some gadgets -- the new Sony walkman that was introduced earlier this summer and the Microsoft Zune HD music player released last week both incorporate organic light-emitting electronic displays.

Until now, however, circuits built with organic materials have allowed only one type of charge to move through them. New research from the University of Washington makes charges flow both ways. The cover article in an upcoming issue of the journal Advanced Materials describes an approach to organic electronics that allows transport of both positive and negative charges.

"The organic semiconductors developed over the past 20 years have one important drawback. It's very difficult to get electrons to move through," said lead author Samson Jenekhe, a UW professor of chemical engineering. "By now having polymer semiconductors that can transmit both positive and negative charges, it broadens the available approaches. This would certainly change the way we do things."

Co-authors are Felix Kim, a doctoral student working with Jenekhe, and graduate student Xugang Guo and assistant professor Mark Watson at the University of Kentucky. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the Ford Foundation.

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Printable batteries

Research News July 2009 

For a long time, batteries were bulky and heavy. Now, a new cutting-edge battery is revolutionizing the field. It is thinner than a millimeter, lighter than a gram, and can be produced cost-effectively through a printing process.

In the past, it was necessary to race to the bank for every money transfer and every bank statement. Today, bank transactions can be easily carried out at home. Now where is that piece of paper again with the TAN numbers? In the future you can spare yourself the search for the number. Simply touch your EC card and a small integrated display shows the TAN number to be used. Just type in the number and off you go. This is made possible by a printable battery that can be produced cost-effectively on a large scale. It was developed by a research team led by Prof. Dr. Reinhard Baumann of the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Electronic Nano Systems ENAS in Chemnitz together with colleagues from TU Chemnitz and Menippos GmbH. “Our goal is to be able to mass produce the batteries at a price of single digit cent range each,” states Dr. Andreas Willert, group manager at ENAS.

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Crustacean shell with polyester creates mixed-fiber material for nerve repair

In the clothing industry it's common to mix natural and synthetic fibers. Take cotton and add polyester to make clothing that's soft, breathable and wrinkle free.

Now researchers at the University of Washington are using the same principle for biomedical applications. Mixing chitosan, found in the shells of crabs and shrimp, with an industrial polyester creates a promising new material for the tiny tubes that support repair of a severed nerve, and could serve other medical uses. The hybrid fiber combines the biologically favorable qualities of the natural material with the mechanical strength of the synthetic polymer.

"A nerve guide requires very strict conditions. It needs to be biocompatible, stable in solution, resistant to collapse and also pliable, so that surgeons can suture it to the nerve," said Miqin Zhang, a UW professor of material science and engineering and lead author of a paper now available online in the journal Advanced Materials. "This turns out to be very difficult."

After an injury that severs a peripheral nerve, such as one in a finger, nerve endings continue to grow. But to regain control of the nerve surgeons must join the two fragments. For large gaps surgeons used to attempt a more difficult nerve graft. Current surgical practice is to attach tiny tubes, called nerve guides, that channel the two fragments toward each other.

Today's commercial nerve guides are made from collagen, a structural protein derived from animal cells. But collagen is expensive, the protein tends to trigger an immune response and the material is weak in wet environments, such as those inside the body.

The strength of the nerve guide is important for budding nerve cells.

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A Billion Year Ultra-Dense Memory Chip

When it comes to data storage, density and durability have always moved in opposite directions - the greater the density the shorter the durability. For example, information carved in stone is not dense but can last thousands of years, whereas today’s silicon memory chips can hold their information for only a few decades. Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley have smashed this tradition with a new memory storage medium that can pack thousands of times more data into one square inch of space than conventional chips and preserve this data for more than a billion years!

This video shows an iron nanoparticle shuttle moving through a carbon nanotube in the presence of a low voltage electrical current. The shuttle’s position inside the tube can function as a high-density nonvolatile memory element. (Courtesy of Zettl Research Group) “We’ve developed a new mechanism for digital memory storage that consists of a crystalline iron nanoparticle shuttle enclosed within the hollow of a multiwalled carbon nanotube,” said physicist Alex Zettl who led this research.

“Through this combination of nanomaterials and interactions, we’ve created a memory device that features both ultra-high density and ultra-long lifetimes, and that can be written to and read from using the conventional voltages already available in digital electronics.”

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MSOE receives grant to upgrade chemistry labs

     Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) received a grant of $250,000 from The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation Inc. to renovate and upgrade its general and organic chemistry laboratories in the Physics and Chemistry Department.

     "In today's academic climate, especially at MSOE, the demand for state-of-the-art general and organic chemistry laboratories is vital to our educational endeavors," said MSOE President Hermann Viets, Ph.D. "More than ever, employers are requiring more chemistry as many Wisconsin companies are becoming actively involved with the bio-chemical and bio-technical aspects of a growing industrial base for the state."

     "Every day new technologies with the potential to dramatically improve our lives are finding their way from the research bench to real-life applications," said Dr. Matey Kaltchev, associate professor and chair of the Physics and Chemistry Department. "The upgrade of the chemistry labs will create an excellent opportunity for providing our students with the unique laboratory experience necessary to meet these new challenges."

     The grant from The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation Inc. will benefit nearly all of MSOE's students, as chemistry and physics are required courses in most majors. Those studying biomedical engineering, biomolecular engineering, nursing, perfusion and medical informatics rely on laboratories that facilitate the highest level of teaching and learning.

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Scientists find new way to produce hydrogen

Scientists at Penn State University and the Virginia Commonwealth University have discovered a way to produce hydrogen by exposing selected clusters of aluminum atoms to water. The findings are important because they demonstrate that it is the geometries of these aluminum clusters, rather than solely their electronic properties, that govern the proximity of the clusters' exposed active sites. The proximity of the clusters' exposed sites plays an important role in affecting the clusters' reactions with water. The team's findings will be published in the 23 January 2009 issue of the journal Science.

"Our previous research suggested that electronic properties govern everything about these aluminum clusters, but this new study shows that it is the arrangement of atoms within the clusters that allows them to split water," said A. Welford Castleman Jr., Eberly Family Distinguished Chair in Science and Evan Pugh Professor in the Penn State Departments of Chemistry and Physics. "Generally, this knowledge might allow us to design new nanoscale catalysts by changing the arrangements of atoms in a cluster. The results could open up a new area of research, not only related to splitting water, but also to breaking the bonds of other molecules, as well."

The team, which also includes Penn State graduate students Patrick Roach and Hunter Woodward and Virginia Commonwealth University Professor of Physics Shiv Khanna and postdoctoral associate Arthur Reber, investigated the reactions of water with individual aluminum clusters by combining them under controlled conditions in a custom-designed flow-reactor. They found that a water molecule will bind between two aluminum sites in a cluster as long as one of the sites behaves like a Lewis acid, a positively charged center that wants to accept an electron, and the other behaves like a Lewis base, a negatively charged center that wants to give away an electron. The Lewis-acid aluminum binds to the oxygen in the water and the Lewis-base aluminum dissociates a hydrogen atom. If this process happens a second time with another set of two aluminum sites and a water molecule, then two hydrogen atoms are available, which then can join to become hydrogen gas (H2).

The team found that the aluminum clusters react differently when exposed to water, depending on the sizes of the clusters and their unique geometric structures. Three of the aluminum clusters produced hydrogen from water at room temperature. "The ability to produce hydrogen at room temperature is significant because it means that we did not use any heat or energy to trigger the reaction," said Khanna. "Traditional techniques for splitting water to produce hydrogen generally require a lot of energy at the time the hydrogen is generated. But our method allows us to produce hydrogen without supplying heat, connecting to a battery, or adding electricity. Once the aluminum clusters are synthesized, they can generate hydrogen on demand without the need to store it."

Khanna hopes that the team's findings will pave the way toward investigating how the aluminum clusters can be recycled for continual usage and how the conditions for the release of hydrogen can be controlled. "It looks as though we might be able to come up with ways to remove the hydroxyl group (OH-) that remains attached to the aluminum clusters after they generate hydrogen so that we can reuse the aluminum clusters again and again," he said.

The team plans to continue their research with a goal of refining their new method. This research was supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

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Argonne scientists prove unconventional superconductivity in new iron arsenide compounds

Inelastic neutron scattering is sensitive to sign of superconducting gap

ARGONNE, Ill. (Jan. 9, 2009) — Scientists at U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory used inelastic neutron scattering to show that superconductivity in a new family of iron arsenide superconductors cannot be explained by conventional theories.


"The normal techniques for revealing unconventional superconductivity don't work with these compounds," physicist Ray Osborn said. "Inelastic neutron scattering is so far the only technique that does."

Conventional superconductivity can be explained by a theory developed by Bardeen, Cooper and Schrieffer (BCS) in 1957. In BCS theory, electrons in a superconductor combine to form pairs, called Cooper pairs, which are able to move through the crystal lattice without resistance when an electric voltage is applied. Even when the voltage is removed, the current continues to flow indefinitely, the most remarkable property of superconductivity, and one that explains the keen interest in their technological potential.

Normally, electrons repel each other because of their similar charge, but, in superconductors, they coordinate with vibrations of the crystal lattice to overcome this repulsion. But scientists don't believe the vibrational mechanism in the iron arsenides is strong enough to make them superconducting. This has led theorists to propose that this superconductivity has an unconventional mechanism, perhaps like high-temperature copper-oxide superconductors. Some iron arsenides are antiferromagnetic, rather than superconducting, so magnetism rather than atomic vibrations might provide the electron glue.

In BCS superconductors, the energy gap between the superconducting and normal electronic states is constant, but in unconventional superconductors the gap varies with the direction the electrons are moving. In some directions, the gap may be zero. The puzzle is that the gap does not seem to vary with direction in the iron arsenides. Theorists have argued that, while the size of the gap shows no directional dependence in these new compounds, the sign of the gap is opposite for different electronic states. The standard techniques to measure the gap, such as photoemission, are not sensitive to this change in sign.

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Almost frictionless

Lubricants in bearings and gear units ensure that not too much energy is lost through friction. Yet it still takes a certain percentage of the energy to compensate for friction losses. Lubricants made of liquid crystals could reduce friction to almost zero.

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Scientists Engineer Superconducting Thin Films

One step closer to fabrication of useful devices such as superconductive transistors

UPTON, NY - One major goal on the path toward making useful superconducting devices has been engineering materials that act as superconductors at the nanoscale — the realm of billionths of a meter. Such nanoscale superconductors would be useful in devices such as superconductive transistors and eventually in ultrafast, power-saving electronics.

In the October 9, 2008, issue of Nature, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory report that they have successfully produced two-layer thin films where neither layer is superconducting on its own, but which exhibit a nanometer-thick region of superconductivity at their interface. Furthermore, they demonstrate the ability to elevate the temperature of superconductivity at this interface to temperatures exceeding 50 kelvin (-370°F), a relatively high temperature deemed more practical for real-world devices.

“This work provides definitive proof of our ability to produce robust superconductivity at the interface of two layers confined within an extremely thin, 1-2-nanometer-thick layer near the physical boundary between the two materials,” said physicist Ivan Bozovic, who leads the Brookhaven thin film research team. “It opens vistas for further progress, including using these techniques to significantly enhance superconducting properties in other known or new superconductors.”

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Compressor-free refrigerator may loom in the future

  Thursday, August 7, 2008

University Park, Pa. -- Refrigerators and other cooling devices may one day lose their compressors and coils of piping and become solid state, according to Penn State researchers who are investigating electrically induced heat effects of some ferroelectric polymers.

"This is the first step in the development of an electric field refrigeration unit," says Qiming Zhang, distinguished professor of electrical engineering. "For the future, we can envision a flat panel refrigerator. No more coils, no more compressors, just solid polymer with appropriate heat exchangers."

Other researchers have explored magnetic field refrigeration, but electricity is more convenient.

Zhang, working with Bret Neese, graduate student, materials science and engineering; postdoctoral fellows Baojin Chu and Sheng-Guo Lu; Yong Wang, graduate student, and Eugene Furman, research associate, looked at ferroelectric polymers that exhibit temperature changes at room temperature under an electrical field. These polarpolymers include poly(vinylidene fluoride-trifluoroethylene) and poly(vinylidene fluoride-trifluoroethylene)-chlorofluoroethylene, however there are other polarpolymers that exhibit the same effect.

Conventional cooling systems, -- refrigerators or air conditioners -- rely on the properties of gases to cool and most systems use the change in density of gases at changing pressures to cool. The coolants commonly used are either harmful to people or the environment. Freon, one of the fluorochlorocarbons banned because of the damage it did to the ozone layer, was the most commonly used refrigerant. Now, a variety of coolants is available. Nevertheless, all have problems and require energy-eating compressors and lots of heating coils.

Zhang's approach uses the change form disorganized to organized that occurs in some polarpolymers when placed in an electric field. The natural state of these materials is disorganized with the various molecules randomly positioned. When electricity is applied, the molecules become highly ordered and the material gives off heat and becomes colder. When the electricity is turned off, the material reverts to its disordered state and absorbs heat.

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New metamaterial proves to be a 'perfect' absorber of light

Resonators couple individually to electric and magnetic fields to absorb all incident radiation

CHESTNUT HILL, MA – A team of scientists from Boston College and Duke University has developed a highly-engineered metamaterial capable of absorbing all of the light that strikes it – to a scientific standard of perfection – they report in the latest edition of Physical Review Letters.

The team designed and engineered a metamaterial that uses tiny geometric surface features to successfully capture the electric and magnetic properties of a microwave to the point of total absorption.

"Three things can happen to light when it hits a material," says Boston College Physicist Willie J. Padilla. "It can be reflected, as in a mirror. It can be transmitted, as with window glass. Or it can be absorbed and turned into heat. This metamaterial has been engineered to ensure that all light is neither reflected nor transmitted, but is turned completely into heat and absorbed. It shows we can design a metamaterial so that at a specific frequency it can absorb all of the photons that fall onto its surface."

In addition to Padilla, the team included BC researcher Nathan I. Landy, Duke University Professor David R. Smith and researchers Soji Sajuyigbe and Jack J. Mock.

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Researchers engineer new polymers to change their stiffness and strength when exposed to liquids

CLEVELAND -- An interdisciplinary team of researchers from the departments of macromolecular science and engineering and biomedical engineering at the Case School of Engineering and the Louis Stokes Cleveland Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center has published ground-breaking work on a new type of polymer that displays chemoresponsive mechanic adaptability -- meaning the polymer can change from hard to soft plastic and vice versa in seconds when exposed to liquid -- in the March 7, 2008, issue of Science, one of the world's most prestigious scholarly journals covering all aspects of science.

Jeffrey R. Capadona, associate investigator at the VA's Advanced Platform Technology (APT) Center, graduate student Kadhiravan Shanmuganathan, and Case Western Reserve University professors and APT investigators Dustin Tyler (biomedical engineering), Stuart Rowan (macromolecular science) and Christoph Weder (macromolecular science) have unveiled a radically new approach for developing polymer nanocomposites which alter their mechanical properties when exposed to certain chemical stimuli.

"We can engineer these new polymers to change their mechanical properties -- in particular stiffness and strength -- in a programmed fashion when exposed to a specific chemical," says Weder, one of the senior authors of the paper.

"The materials on which we reported in Science were designed to change from a hard plastic -- think of a CD case -- to a soft rubber when brought in contact with water," adds Rowan, who has been Weder's partner on the project for almost six years.

"Our new materials were tailored to respond specifically to water and to exhibit minimal swelling, so they don't soak up water like a sponge," saud Shanmuganathan.

In their new approach, the team used a biomimetic approach -- or mimicking biology -- copying nature's design found in the skin of sea cucumbers.

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Lithium and Beryllium No Longer "Lack Chemistry"

Even though the lightest known metals in the universe, lithium (Li) and beryllium (Be), do not bind to one another under normal atmospheric or ambient pressure, an interdisciplinary team of Cornell scientists predicts in the Jan. 24 issue of Nature that Li and Be will bond under higher levels of pressure and form stable Li-Be alloys that may be capable of superconductivity. Superconductivity is the flow of electricity with zero resistance.

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Catalyst-free chemistry makes self-healing materials more practical

James E. Kloeppel, Physical Sciences Editor
217-244-1073; kloeppel@uiuc.edu

11/27/07

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. —  A new catalyst-free, self-healing material system developed by researchers at the University of Illinois offers a far less expensive and far more practical way to repair composite materials used in structural applications ranging from airplane fuselages to wind-farm propeller blades.

The new self-healing system incorporates chlorobenzene microcapsules, as small as 150 microns in diameter, as an active solvent. The expensive, ruthenium-based Grubbs’ catalyst, which was required in the researchers’ first approach, is no longer needed.

“By removing the catalyst from our material system, we now have a simpler and more economical alternative for strength recovery after crack damage has occurred,” said Jeffrey Moore, the Murchison-Mallory Professor of Chemistry at Illinois. “Self-healing of epoxy materials with encapsulated solvents can prevent further crack propagation, while recovering most of the material’s mechanical integrity.”

The new chemistry is described in a paper accepted for publication in Macromolecules, and posted on the journal’s Web site.

During normal use, epoxy-based materials experience stresses that can cause cracking, which can lead to mechanical failure. Autonomous self-healing – a process in which the damage itself triggers the repair mechanism – can retain structural integrity and extend the lifetime of the material.

“Although we demonstrated the self-healing concept with a ruthenium-based catalyst, the cost of the catalyst made our original approach too expensive and impractical,” said Moore, who also is affiliated with the university’s Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory and with the Beckman Institute. “Our new self-healing system is simple, very economical and potentially robust.”

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Scientists hail ‘frozen smoke’ as material that will change world

A MIRACLE material for the 21st century could protect your home against bomb blasts, mop up oil spillages and even help man to fly to Mars.

Aerogel, one of the world’s lightest solids, can withstand a direct blast of 1kg of dynamite and protect against heat from a blowtorch at more than 1,300C.

Scientists are working to discover new applications for the substance, ranging from the next generation of tennis rackets to super-insulated space suits for a manned mission to Mars.

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Full-time sensors can detect bridge defects

Crack detection sensors proven on aircraft structures

LBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Networks of small, permanently mounted sensors could soon check continuously for the formation of structural defects in I-beams and other critical structural supports of bridges and highway overpasses, giving structural engineers a better chance of heading off catastrophic failures.

A Sandia National Laboratories team is developing and evaluating a family of such sensors for use on a variety of safety-critical structures. Full-time monitoring sensors already have been tested and proven by Sandia for use on aircraft structures.

Over time, the stresses on a bridge caused by traffic, weather, and construction can result in the formation of tiny cracks in the steel and concrete structures of bridges. Exposure to wind, rain, and other elements can cause corrosion that can become a structural concern as well.

Like nerve endings in a human body, permanently mounted, or in-situ sensors offer levels of vigilance and sensitivity to problems that periodic checkups cannot, says Dennis Roach, who leads the Sandia team.

Structural health monitoring (SHM) techniques, as they are called, are gaining acceptance in the commercial aviation sector as a reliable and inexpensive way to alert safety engineers to the first stages of defect formation and give them the earliest possible warning that maintenance is needed.

With sensors continually checking for the first signs of wear and tear, engineers can detect cracks sooner, do the right maintenance at the right time, and possibly prevent massive failures, he says.

Sandia is a National Nuclear Security Administration laboratory.

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METAMATERIALS FOUND TO WORK FOR VISIBLE LIGHT

Ames Laboratory researchers announce findings in Science

AMES, Iowa – For the first time ever, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory have developed a material with a negative refractive index for visible light. Ames Laboratory senior physicist Costas Soukoulis, working with colleagues in Karlsruhe, Germany, designed a silver-based, mesh-like material that marks the latest advance in the rapidly evolving field of metamaterials, materials that could lead to a wide range of new applications as varied as ultrahigh-resolution imaging systems and cloaking devices.

The discovery, detailed in the Jan. 5 issue of Science and the Jan. 1 issue of Optic Letters, and noted in the journal Nature, marks a significant step forward from existing metamaterials that operate in the microwave or far infrared – but still invisible –regions of the spectrum. Those materials, announced this past summer, were heralded as the first step in creating an invisibility cloak.

Metamaterials, also known as left-handed materials, are exotic, artificially created materials that provide optical properties not found in natural materials. Natural materials refract light, or electromagnetic radiation, to the right of the incident beam at different angles and speeds. However, metamaterials make it possible to refract light to the left, or at a negative angle. This backward-bending characteristic provides scientists the ability to control light similar to the way they use semiconductors to control electricity, which opens a wide range of potential applications.

“Left-handed materials may one day lead to the development of a type of flat superlens that operates in the visible spectrum,” said Soukoulis, who is also an Iowa State University Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Such a lens would offer superior resolution over conventional technology, capturing details much smaller than one wavelength of light to vastly improve imaging for materials or biomedical applications,” such as giving researchers the power to see inside a human cell or diagnose disease in a baby still in the womb.

The challenge that Soukoulis and other scientists who work with metamaterials face is to fabricate them so that they refract light at ever smaller wavelengths. The “fishnet” design developed by Soukoulis’ group and produced by researchers Stefan Linden and Martin Wegener at the University of Karlsruhe was made by etching an array of holes into layers of silver and magnesium fluoride on a glass substrate. The holes are roughly 100 nanometers wide. For some perspective, a human hair is about 100,000 nanometers in diameter.

“We have fabricated for the first time a negative-index metamaterial with a refractive index of -0.6 at the red end of the visible spectrum (wavelength 780 nm),” said Soukoulis. “This is the smallest wavelength obtained so far.”

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UD scientists discover new class of polymers

UD scientists discover new class of polymers

3:56 p.m., Jan. 2, 2007--They said it couldn't be done.

And that's what really motivated UD polymer chemist Chris Snively and Jochen Lauterbach, professor of chemical engineering at UD.

For years, polymer chemistry textbooks have stated that a whole class of little molecules called 1,2-disubstituted ethylenes could not be transformed into polymers--the stuff of which plastics and other materials are made.

However, the UD scientists were determined to prove the textbooks wrong. As a result of their persistence, the researchers have discovered a new class of ultra-thin polymer films with potential applications ranging from coating tiny microelectronic devices to plastic solar cells.

The discovery was reported as a “communication to the editor” in the Nov. 28 edition of Macromolecules, a scientific journal published by the American Chemical Society.

The research, which also involved doctoral student Seth Washburn, focused on formerly nonpolymerizable ethylenes. Among them are several compounds that are derived from natural sources, such as cinnamon, and are FDA-approved for use in fragrances and foods. One of the compounds is found in milkshakes, according to the scientists.

“There's been a rule that these molecules wouldn't polymerize,” Snively, who is a research associate in Lauterbach's laboratory group, noted. “When I first saw that in a textbook when I was in graduate school, I said to myself, 'Don't tell me I can't do this.'”

And thus, the quest to disprove a widely accepted scientific rule of thumb began.


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New magnetic polymers may advance spintronics technologies

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory have pioneered a new approach for making magnetic polymers that are held together with very strong hydrogen bonds. These polymers contain an innovative bifluoride, HF2–, building block that allows a magnetically ordered state to be obtained. The development may help lead to new techniques for faster and more versatile computer chips, among other applications.

The research is reported in the December 21 issue of Chemical Communications and is featured on the cover of the journal.

The research examines the role of hydrogen bonds in designing the structure of molecular materials. “Nature uses hydrogen bonds to do all kinds of things, including holding the DNA double helix together, and is important in a wide range of biological processes,” said John Schlueter, Argonne chemist and an author of the research paper. “When making molecular materials, strong bonds are needed to fabricate the molecular building blocks. Weaker bonds, including hydrogen bonds, act as the glue to hold the blocks together.” It's this phenomenon that allowed the creation of the first fully organic superconductor, discovered at Argonne a decade ago.

The magnetic polymer, which forms as beautiful deep blue crystals, is produced when copper ions bind to pyrazine molecules, creating a sheet-like structure. Like a Tinkertoy® building block, the bifluoride ion acts as a bridge to hold the planes together. The product is a three-dimensional coordination polymer, which forms through very mild synthetic conditions.

The exceptionally simple structure is held together by one of the strongest hydrogen bonds known, making this a very thermally stable material. Each copper ion, which sits at the corner of a molecular cube, contains one unpaired electron. These spins are disordered at normal temperatures, a state known as paramagnetism; however, the spins begin to align in opposite directions as the temperature drops, creating a magnetic state called antiferromagnetism.

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Unusually Stable Glasses May Benefit Drugs, Coatings

Unusually Stable Glasses May Benefit Drugs, Coatings

Just spray and chill. That sums up a new approach to making remarkably stable glassy materials from organic (carbon-containing) molecules that could lead to novel coatings and to improvements in drug delivery. The processing advance is reported in this week’s issue of Science* by scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Center for Neutron Research (NCNR).

The researchers suggest that their approach might be useful for preparing pharmaceutical compounds in non-crystalline forms that are readily absorbed by the body. Such “amorphous pharmaceuticals” have been the subject of recent research intended to enhance drug delivery and to enable active therapeutic ingredients to reach targets inside the body.

The new technique entails depositing vapors of organic molecules onto a substrate cooled to 50 degrees (Celsius) below the glass transition temperature—the point at which a compound normally begins to solidify en route to becoming glass, a frozen, liquid-like structure with no long-range internal order. Conceived by UW-Madison chemist Mark Ediger and colleagues, the method short-circuits the conventional cooling process to great practical advantage.

The result, the researchers say, is a dramatically altered internal “energy landscape.” The glass molecules position themselves more densely in low-energy valleys that dot this landscape. In contrast, the molecules that make up conventional glasses are dispersed more widely and become “frozen” on higher-energy bluffs and mesas.

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UWM research helps industry make stronger, lighter and cheaper alloys

UWM research helps industry make stronger, lighter and cheaper alloys

High performance metals could revive foundries
Car engines that consume less energy and can keep running on low oil, lead-free plumbing fixtures, and tanks that are light enough to be airlifted, but are just as rugged as the much heavier varieties.

They sound futuristic, but these products are already realities thanks to materials that stretch the limits of performance. Called cast metal matrix composites (MMCs), they are cheaper, lighter and stronger than their original alloys. In fact, an aluminum-based MMC developed at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) can replace iron-based alloys.

"These composites have many applications in the transportation, small engines, aerospace and computer industries," says Pradeep Rohatgi, a Wisconsin Distinguished Professor of Engineering who pioneered cost-effective methods of manufacturing these composites.

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First Demonstration of a Working Invisibility Cloak

The cloak, made with advanced 'metamaterials,' deflects microwave beams and may find a variety of wireless communications or radar applications

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Durham, NC -- A team led by scientists at Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering has demonstrated the first working "invisibility cloak." The cloak deflects microwave beams so they flow around a "hidden" object inside with little distortion, making it appear almost as if nothing were there at all.

Cloaks that render objects essentially invisible to microwaves could have a variety of wireless communications or radar applications, according to the researchers.

The team reported its findings on Thursday, Oct. 19, in Science Express, the advance online publication of the journal Science. The research was funded by the Intelligence Community Postdoctoral Fellowship
The researchers manufactured the cloak using "metamaterials" precisely arranged in a series of concentric circles that confer specific electromagnetic properties. Metamaterials are artificial composites that can be made to interact with electromagnetic waves in ways that natural materials cannot reproduce.

The cloak represents "one of the most elaborate metamaterial structures yet designed and produced," the scientists said. It also represents the most comprehensive approach to invisibility yet realized, with the potential to hide objects of any size or material property, they added.


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Laser controls chemical reaction rates

Physicists in Canada are the first to use laser light as a catalyst to control chemical reactions. The technique could prove to be an important tool for manipulating the properties of matter at the molecular level.

While chemists routinely use lasers to control reactions, some light is absorbed by the target molecules – a process that has permanent and unwanted effects on the chemistry. No light is absorbed in this new technique called dynamic Stark control (DSC), which makes it similar to a traditional chemical catalyst.

The method was developed by Albert Stolow and colleagues at Ottawa’s Steacie Institute for Molecular Sciences and Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario (Science 314 278). The group used the electric field associated with an ultrafast laser pulse to modify the molecular energy levels that dictated how a chemical reaction proceeded.


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Brown Team Creates Uncanny Cell Replicas for Treatment, Research

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Call them genuine fakes. Brown University biomedical engineer Diane Hoffman-Kim and her research team have made plastic replicas of real cells through a novel two-part molding process. The copies looked so authentic, Hoffman-Kim couldn’t tell if they were real or rubber at first.

“When I saw the images from the microscope, I said, ‘OK, I can’t tell the difference,’” Hoffman-Kim said. “It was pretty amazing – and just what we wanted.”

A description of the replicas, their ability to support cell growth, and their possible applications in science and medicine are published in Langmuir, a journal of the American Chemical Society.

The main cells used in the experiments were Schwann cells, which protect peripheral nerves by wrapping around their axons to create insulating myelin sheaths. Schwann cells also direct axon growth during cell development and repair.

Hoffman-Kim, an assistant professor in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology and the Division of Engineering, said the realistic replicas could be used in laboratories to help scientists understand how these critical support cells sustain and direct nerve growth.


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Organic semiconductors make cheap. flexible photovoltaics and LEDs

Organic semiconductors make cheap. flexible photovoltaics and LEDs
By Bill Steele

Imagine T-shirts that light up, or a beach umbrella that collects solar energy to run a portable TV. How about really cheap solar collectors for the roof?

All this and more could come from cutting-edge research at Cornell that demonstrates a new type of organic semiconductor device which shows electroluminescence and acts as a photovoltaic cell. The device is the first to use an "ionic junction," which researchers say could lead to improved performance. Since organic semiconductors can be made in thin, flexible sheets, they could create displays on cloth or paper.

"Flexible means low-cost fabrication," said George Malliaras, Cornell associate professor of materials science and engineering, in whose laboratory the research was done. And that means another result of the research could be mass-produced, inexpensive solar cells.

The work is described in the Sept. 7 issue of the journal Science in a paper by Cornell graduate researchers Daniel Bernards and Samuel Flores-Torres, Héctor Abruña, the E. M. Chamot Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Cornell, and Malliaras.

Semiconductors -- organic or otherwise -- are materials that contain either an excess of free electrons (N-type) or "holes" (P-type). Holes are spaces where an atom ought to have an electron but doesn't, representing a positive charge. N- and P-type materials can be joined to form diodes and transistors. The Cornell researchers went a step further by making a diode out of organic semiconductors that also contain free ions (molecules with an electrical charge). They laminated together two organic layers, one that contained free positive ions and the other negative ions. They then added thin conducting films on the top and bottom; the top conductor is transparent to allow light in and out.

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UW-Madison team invents fast, flexible computer chips on plastic

UW-Madison team invents fast, flexible computer chips on plastic

Madison -- New thin-film semiconductor techniques invented by University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers promise to add sensing, computing and imaging capability to an amazing array of materials.

Historically, the semiconductor industry has relied on flat, two-dimensional chips upon which to grow and etch the thin films of material that become electronic circuits for computers and other electronic devices. But as thin as those chips might seem, they are quite beefy in comparison to the result of a new UW-Madison semiconductor fabrication process detailed in the current issue of the Journal of Applied Physics.

A team led by electrical and computer engineer Zhenqiang (Jack) Ma and materials scientist Max Lagally have developed a process to remove a single-crystal film of semiconductor from the substrate on which it is built. This thin layer (only a couple of hundred nanometers thick) can be transferred to glass, plastic or other flexible materials, opening a wide range of possibilities for flexible electronics. In addition, the semiconductor film can be flipped as it is transferred to its new substrate, making its other side available for more components. This doubles the possible number of devices that can be placed on the film.

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Theoretical Blueprint for Invisibility Cloak Reported

Theoretical Blueprint for Invisibility Cloak Reported

Once devised using exotic artificial 'metamaterials,' the cloak will have numerous uses, from defense applications to wireless communications

Durham, N.C. -- Using a new design theory, researchers at Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering and Imperial College London have developed the blueprint for an invisibility cloak. Once devised, the cloak could have numerous uses, from defense applications to wireless communications, the researchers said.
Such a cloak could hide any object so well that observers would be totally unaware of its presence, according to the researchers. In principle, their invisibility cloak could be realized with exotic artificial composite materials called "metamaterials," they said.

"The cloak would act like you've opened up a hole in space," said David R. Smith, Augustine Scholar and professor of electrical and computer engineering at Duke's Pratt School. "All light or other electromagnetic waves are swept around the area, guided by the metamaterial to emerge on the other side as if they had passed through an empty volume of space."

Electromagnetic waves would flow around an object hidden inside the metamaterial cloak just as water in a river flows virtually undisturbed around a smooth rock, Smith said.

The research team, which also includes David Schurig of Duke's Pratt School and John Pendry of Imperial College London, reported its findings on May 25, 2006, in Science Express, the online advance publication of the journal Science. The work was supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
First demonstrated by Smith and his colleagues in 2000, metamaterials can be made to interact with light or other electromagnetic waves in very precise ways. Although the theoretical cloak now reported has yet to be created, the Duke researchers are on their way to producing metamaterials with suitable properties, Smith said.

"There are several possible goals one may have for cloaking an object,” said Schurig, a research associate in electrical and computer engineering. "One goal would be to conceal an object from discovery by agents using probing or environmental radiation."

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UW Loses Super Conductivity Research Center

UW Loses Research Center
NBC 15

The University of Wisconsin Madison is losing a major research lab to Florida State University.
The Applied Super Conductivity Center will move south next year, after a 20–year stint in Madison.

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Plastic gains flexibility

Plastic gains flexibility
State's businesses benefit from advances
By RICK BARRETT
rbarrett@journalsentinel.com
Posted: July 26, 2005

Plastic parts so small they can be seen only with a microscope.

Plastic walls that capture light.

Corn fibers in plastic to make car bumpers.

These are just some of the promising products and technologies under development in the plastics industry, which is an integral part of Wisconsin's economy. The state ranks about 10th in the nation for employment in plastics manufacturing and 12th for plastics shipments, which total more than $10 billion a year, according to industry sources.

Advances in areas such as polymers and resins are critical to the industry's survival, said Jay Smith, president of Teel Plastics Inc., a Baraboo manufacturer that also does research.

"Plastics is one area where I believe the United States leads other countries," Smith said. "There aren't a lot of those product areas today, but plastics is one of them."

The use of nanoparticles, measured as 1 billionth of a meter, is one of the hottest areas in plastics. Essentially, the tiny bits of materials are added as filler to change the way plastics behave.

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UW-MADISON PROFESSOR WEAVES WISCONSIN IDEA INTO THE CHEMISTRY OF CLOTH

CONTACT: Majid Sarmadi, (608) 262-7492, majidsar@wisc.edu

UW-MADISON PROFESSOR WEAVES WISCONSIN IDEA INTO THE CHEMISTRY OF CLOTH

MADISON - To paraphrase a popular advertising line, Majid Sarmadi doesn't make the products you use every day. He makes them better.

The products in question here are textiles, and Sarmadi has uncovered new technologies to make cloth less static, more absorbent, more repellent, better able to take prints and dyes, deflect or absorb light, shield from electromagnetic radiation and more. In addition, he also has found methods of reducing waste and environmental pollution relating to textile manufacture.

A member of the University of Wisconsin-Madison faculty since 1986, Sarmadi holds joint appointments in both the College of Engineering's Materials Science Graduate Program and the School of Human Ecology's Department of Environment, Textiles and Design (ETD). As one of the world's leading textile chemists, a member of the Center for Plasma-Aided Manufacturing, Sarmadi works closely with colleagues in the disciplines of forestry, chemistry, medicine and biological systems engineering as well as materials science and textiles.

"I feel like a cluster hire all on my own," he says, although he is quick to credit his graduate students and colleagues, especially materials science associate professor Ferencz Denes, for his success. "Faculty stand on the shoulders of their colleagues and their graduate students," Sarmadi says.

The cornerstone of Sarmadi's research is applying cold plasma technology, generated in a high-voltage electric field at low pressure, to textiles. Specific plasma gases can modify functional characteristics of the fabric or achieve new properties.

Not one to stop there, however, Sarmadi also has applied his plasma technologies to reduce manufacturing waste and environmental pollution. For example, every day millions of gallons of water go toward the dyeing of fabrics; Sarmadi has devised a way to reuse the dye bath to both cut the level of environmental contaminants and save water and energy.

This application of plasma techniques has proved most personally satisfying of all his research activities, he says.

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Laura L. Kiessling of UW to be Editor in Chief of ACS Chemical Biology

CHEMICAL SOCIETY APPOINTS LAURA KIESSLING TO LEAD NEW CHEMICAL BIOLOGY INITIATIVE

MADISON - The world's largest scientific society, the American Chemical Society, has named Laura L. Kiessling editor in chief of ACS Chemical Biology, a new publication scheduled to launch in 2006. Kiessling is professor of chemistry and biochemistry and MacArthur Foundation Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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UWM researchers' new metals could help save state foundries

Lighter, stronger materials
UWM researchers' new metals could help save state foundries
By RICK BARRETT
rbarrett@journalsentinel.com
Posted: April 25, 2005

Stronger than steel and lighter than aluminum, advanced materials are being developed at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee that could be used in mobile, spare-part factories on battlefields.

Pradeep Rohatgi, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee holds an aluminum-graphite composite cylinder liner that is self-lubricating. The composite could be used in making artificial hip joints and lighter, stronger engines. The computer in the background displays an image of particles of cast aluminum composite material.

Taken a step further, wounded soldiers could get emergency bone replacement implants made in mobile laboratories.

"That is the Army's dream, and it's something they have asked us to look at," said Pradeep Rohatgi, a UWM engineering professor and director of the university's Center for Composite Materials.

Some of the new composites could be used to help save Wisconsin's foundry industry, Rohatgi said.

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