New Type of Graphene Aerogel (Video)

focus-issue-boxLogan Streu, ECS Content Associate & Assistant to the CCO, recently spotted an article out of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory detailing a new type of graphene aerogel that could improve energy storage, sensors, nanoelectronics, catalysis, and separations.

The researchers are creating graphene aerogel microlattics through a 3D printing process known as direct ink wetting.

This from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory:

The 3D printed graphene aerogels have high surface area, excellent electrical conductivity, are lightweight, have mechanical stiffness and exhibit supercompressibility (up to 90 percent compressive strain). In addition, the 3D printed graphene aerogel microlattices show an order of magnitude improvement over bulk graphene materials and much better mass transport.

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Earth Day: Science, Climate, and the Future

The modern environmental movement was born 45 years ago today. A small group of twenty-somethings with a passion for the environment rallied together to create a more earth-conscious society, establishing what has become known as Earth Day.

The original Earth Day focused primarily on the pollution issue, but this year’s Earth Day is heavily directed towards climate change and the energy infrastructure.

While there may be a war on science happening with people and politicians alike dismissing climate change as mere myth, scientists conducting research in the field state that evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.

When looking at climate change on a global level, the numbers speak for themselves.

  • Carbon dioxide levels are at their highest in 650,000 years
  • Nine of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2000
  • Land ice is dropping by 258 billion metric tons per year
  • Sea levels have risen nearly 7” over the past 100 years

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Mimicking Nature’s Camouflage

In the world of ocean life, the cuttlefish is the king of camouflage. The cuttlefish’s ability to disguise itself, becoming virtually invisible to the naked eye, is an amazing quality that is very difficult to engineer. But with a little inspiration from marine animal, engineers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) have developed a design that mimics patters and textures in a flash.

Within seconds of light exposure, the new structure begins to replicate color and texture of the surrounding environment. While engineers have developed camouflaging materials before, this new design responds to much lower-intensity light and at faster rates than the few predecessors that exist.

“This is a relatively new community of research,” said Li Tan, associate professor of mechanical and materials engineering. “Most of the people (in it) are inspired by the cuttlefish, whose skin changes color and texture, as well.”

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From Food Waste to Fuel

The new development will curtail or reduce the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases.Image: University of Cincinnati

The new development will curtail or reduce the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases.
Image: University of Cincinnati

The United States is wasting food at an alarming rate. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States, the country wastes 40 percent of all food produced—amounting to 1.3 billion tons of food waste produced.

But extra garbage and financial strain are not the only things food waste produces, it also generates a huge amount of greenhouse gas during decomposition. More specifically, global food waste creates 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gas annually.

Those numbers were especially alarming to researchers from the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering and Applied Science, who proposed a way to transform food waste into bioenergy back in 2013. That proposal has just been accepted.

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Novel Self-Powered Camera

This lens of this new camera acts like a solar panel.Image: Columbia University

This lens of this new camera acts like a solar panel. Click image to enlarge.
Image: Columbia University

Who needs batteries to power a camera? Engineers from Columbia University are working on a novel design in which the pixels of the camera not only capture an image, they also collect light as an energy source.

The engineers are researching a commonality between a typical camera and solar panels: photodiodes. Each device has always used photodiodes, but in different ways.

Engineers plan for the new camera to use photodiodes in both functions.

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“To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders.”

FIRST was founded in 1989 to inspire young people's interest and participation in science and technology.Image: FIRST

FIRST was founded in 1989 to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology.
Image: FIRST

That is the mission of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). The organization aims to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, and you can see their engineering and innovative expertise live this Saturday as some of the brightest young minds go head-to-head in this robotics competition.

The competition theme for this year is “Recycle Rush,” where hundreds of high school students will compete for the title of FIRST Champion. The competition aids in inspiring young people to be science and technology leaders by engaging them in mentor-based programs that combine the excitement of a varsity sport with hands-on training in science and technology.

Check out the live stream Saturday, April 11th at 9am.

Vibrating Vest Allows People to Feel Sound

A novel vibrating vest that will allow deaf people to feel sound is under development at Rice University. The low-cost, non-invasive VEST—Versatile Extra-Sensory Transducer—features dozens of embedded sensors to vibrate varying patterns based on the words spoken.

The VEST works in tandem with a phone or tablet app to isolate speech from ambient sound and allow for easier translation of the vibration patterns.

“We see other applications for what we’re calling tactile sensory substitution,” says Rice University junior Abhipray Sahoo. “Information can be sent through the human body. It’s not just an augmentative device for the deaf. The VEST could be a general neural input device. You could receive any form of information.”


227th ECS Meeting Chicago LogoInterested in how sensor technology could change the world? Make sure to join us at the 227th ECS Meeting in Chicago this May, where we’ll hold symposia dedicated to sensors and their applications in healthcare, the environment, and beyond.

Register online now!

Engineers have developed a way to visualize the optical properties of objects that are thousands of times small than a grain of sand.Source: YouTube/Stanford University

Engineers have developed a way to visualize the optical properties of objects that are thousands of times small than a grain of sand.
Source: YouTube/Stanford University

In order to develop high efficiency solar cells and LEDs, researchers need to see how light interacts with objects on the nanoscale. Unfortunately, light is tricky to visualize in relation to small-scale objects.

Engineers from Stanford University, in collaboration with FOM Institute AMOLF, have developed a next-gen optical method to produce high-resolution, 3D images of nanoscale objects. This allows researchers to visualize the optical properties of objects that are several thousandths the size of a grain of sand.

The teams achieved this by combining two technologies: cathodluminescence and tomography.

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People in remote locations can now detect viruses and bacteria without leaving their homes.Image: Scientific Reports

People in remote locations can now detect viruses and bacteria without leaving their homes.
Image: Scientific Reports

A team of researchers has developed a device that aims to provide adequate and efficient health care to those who live in remote regions with limited access to medical professionals.

The device utilizes biosensing to detected such viruses and bacteria as HIV and Staph from remote locations. Patients simply take a small blood or saliva sample and apply it to a film made of cellulose paper—each of which is designed to detect a specific bacteria or virus.

This from Popular Science:

The patient would then use a smartphone app to take a picture of the sample and send it to a doctor for diagnosis. Medical professionals, no matter where they are, would receive the cell-fies and look at the bacterial biomarkers in the sample to diagnose the disease. The film is sensitive, disposable, and much cheaper to produce than similar biosensing films.

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The Rise of Quantum Dots

Andrea Guenzel, ECS Publications Specialist, recently spotted a CNN article on quantum dots and how they’re poised to change industry.

The technology behind Edison’s incandescent blub may be a thing of the past, but the warm, gentle glow that it produced may be making its way back into your living room.

But we’re not scrapping the advancements in LEDs and regressing to old technology to do this. Instead, we’re turning our attention to quantum dots—the tiny crystal-like particles that are 10,000 times smaller than the width of human hair.

And the dots’ applications do not end simply at bulbs. These tiny bursts of light are expected to impact displays, solar cells, and cancer imaging equipment as well.

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