Catalysts Move Away from Platinum

The new catalyst combines platinum and palladium, resulting in high efficiency levels and lower cost.Image: Mavrikakis group, UW-Madison

The new catalyst combines platinum and palladium, resulting in high efficiency levels and lower cost.
Image: Mavrikakis group, UW-Madison

In recent years, platinum has been the leading material in the energy industry. However, platinum is both expensive and scarce.

In order to boost alternative energy solutions, researchers have been searching for a substitute for platinum that will allow for cheaper and equally efficient energy technology.

In order to do this, a team from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Georgia Institute of Technology are focusing on a new catalyst that combines the more expensive platinum with the less expensive palladium.

This from University of Wisconsin-Madison:

This not only reduces the need for platinum but actually proves significantly more catalytically active than pure platinum in the oxygen reduction reaction, a chemical process key to fuel cell energy applications. The palladium-platinum combination also proves more durable, compounding the advantage of getting more reactivity with less material. Just as importantly, the paper offers a way forward for chemical engineers to design still more new catalysts for a broad range of applications by fine-tuning materials on the atomic scale.

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When an electrical current is delivered to one of the chip's tiny reservoirs, a single does of therapeutics releases into the body.Image: MIT/Microchips Biotech

When an electrical current is delivered to one of the chip’s tiny reservoirs, a single does of therapeutics releases into the body.
Image: MIT/Microchips Biotech

After extensive research, MIT engineers are on their way to commercializing microchips that release therapeutics inside of the body.

The implantable microchip-based device has the potential to outpace injections and conventional pills, changing the landscape of health care and treatment as we know it.

A startup stemming from MIT, Microchips Biotech, developed this technology and has partnered with Teva Pharmaceutical to get these chips into the market. Teva Pharmaceutical is a giant in the industry and the world’s largest producer of generic drugs.

This from MIT:

The microchips consist of hundreds of pinhead-sized reservoirs, each capped with a metal membrane, that store tiny doses of therapeutics or chemicals. An electric current delivered by the device removes the membrane, releasing a single dose. The device can be programmed wirelessly to release individual doses for up to 16 years to treat, for example, diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and osteoporosis.

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Using this National Geographic image, Dr. Chanda is able to demonstrate the color-changing abilities of the nanostructured reflective display.Image: University of Central Florida

Using this National Geographic image, Dr. Chanda is able to demonstrate the color-changing abilities of the nanostructured reflective display.
Image: University of Central Florida

The development to the first colorful, flexible, skin-like display is taking wearable electronics to a whole new level.

Researchers from the University of Central Florida’s NanoScience Technology Centre have created a digital “skin” that can cloak wearers in realistic images. This new technology could be applied to concepts as simple as outfit changes, or more serious matters like replacing camouflage for members of the military.

The research was led by Professor Debashis Chanda, who took inspiration for this development from nature.

“All manmade displays – LCD, LED, CRT – are rigid, brittle and bulky. But you look at an octopus, they can create color on the skin itself covering a complex body contour, and it’s stretchable and flexible,” Chanda said. “That was the motivation: Can we take some inspiration from biology and create a skin-like display?”

This from Wired:

The result is described as an ultra-thin nanostructure, which can change color when different voltage is applied. The method uses ambient light rather than its own light source, meaning no bulky backlighting is needed, and the structure is relatively simple; a thin liquid crystal layer above and metallic “egg carton” like nanomaterial that reflects wavelengths selectively.

Read the full article here.

In the end, the researchers developed something that is 25 times thinner than human hair for easy application to fabrics and plastics.

Head over to the Digital Library to read about some of the latest research and innovations in nanomaterials.

Printable Functional Materials

Potential technical applications of printable functional inks.

The video and information in this post relate to an ECS Journal of Solid State Science and Technology focus issue called: Printable Functional Materials for Electronics and Energy Applications.

(Read/download the focus issue now. It’s entirely free.)

Printing technologies in an atmospheric environment offer the potential for low-cost and materials-efficient alternatives for manufacturing electronics and energy devices such as luminescent displays, thin-film transistors, sensors, thin-film photovoltaics, fuel cells, capacitors, and batteries. Significant progress has been made in the area of printable functional organic and inorganic materials including conductors, semiconductors, and dielectric and luminescent materials.

These new printable functional materials have and will continue to enable exciting advances in printed electronics and energy devices. Some examples are printed amorphous oxide semiconductors, organic conductors and semiconductors, inorganic semiconductor nanomaterials, silicon, chalcogenide semiconductors, ceramics, metals, intercalation compounds, and carbon-based materials.

A special focus issue of the ECS Journal of Solid State Science and Technology was created about the publication of state-of-the-art efforts that address a variety of approaches to printable functional materials and device. This focus issue, consisting of a total of 15 papers, includes both invited and contributed papers reflecting recent achievements in printable functional materials and devices.

The topics of these papers span several key ECS technical areas, including batteries, sensors, fuel cells, carbon nanostructures and devices, electronic and photonic devices, and display materials, devices, and processing. The overall collection of this focus issue covers an impressive scope from fundamental science and engineering of printing process, ink chemistry and ink conversion processes, printed devices, and characterizations to the future outlook for printable functional materials and devices.

The video below show demonstrates Inkjet Printed Conductive Tracks for Printed Electronic conducted by S.-P. Chen, H.-L. Chiu, P.-H. Wang, and Y.-C. Liao, Department of Chemical Engineering, National Taiwan University, No. 1 Sec. 4 Roosevelt Road, Taipei 10617, Taiwan.

Step-by-step explanation of the video:

For printed electronic devices, metal thin film patterns with great conductivities are required. Three major ways to produce inkjet-printed metal tracks will be shown in this video.

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The "designer carbon" improved the supercapacitor's electrical conductivity threefold compared to electrodes made of conventional activated carbon.Image: Stanford University

The “designer carbon” improved the supercapacitor’s electrical conductivity threefold compared to electrodes made of conventional activated carbon.
Image: Stanford University

Stanford University researchers have developed a new “designer carbon” that can be fine-tuned for a variety of applications, including energy storage and water filters.

The newly developed carbon material has shown that it can significantly improve the power delivery rate of supercapacitors and boost the performance of energy storage technologies.

“We have developed a ‘designer carbon’ that is both versatile and controllable,” said Zhenan Bao, past member of ECS and the senior author of the study. “Our study shows that this material has exceptional energy-storage capacity, enabling unprecedented performance in lithium-sulfur batteries and supercapacitors.”

(PS: Check out some of Bao’s past papers in the Digital Library!)

Not only is the new carbon an improvement over existing versions, it also has a huge potential scope and is inexpensive to produce.

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Electrochemistry Tackles Air Quality

Researchers from Cambridge University have developed low-cost pollution detectors to help combat the world’s largest environmental health risk.

“To work out the factors we should be worried about, and how we can intervene, we need to rethink how we measure what’s going on,” said atmospheric scientists Professor Rod Jones.

While pollution detectors do exist, their network is currently limited due to the high cost of the devices. Jones and his team have set out to develop a small, low-cost pollution detector that is sensitive enough to track air changes and quality on a street-by-street basis.

The team based their work on an electrochemical sensor that is industrially safe and can detect toxins at the parts-per-billion level.

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Super-Sensor Spots Cancer Markers

Logan Streu, ECS Content Associate & Assistant to the CCO, recently came across this article detailing an electrochemical device’s life saving potential in cancer treatment.

A new electrochemical sensor is paving the way for quick and affordable “liquid biopsies,” opening the possibility of detecting deadly cancer markers in minutes. This new development could help tailor treatments to specific patients and improve the accuracy of initial diagnosis.

Personalized medicine is a huge part of a new, promising future in cancer treatment. With the ability to tailor treatment to each individual tumor, treatments can become more effective and yield less side-effects.

In an effort to get closer to the ultimate goal of tailored cancer treatment, Shana Kelley and her team at the University of Toronto joined forces with a researcher from the Montreal Children’s Hospital in Quebec to develop the new electrochemical super-sensor.

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Liquid Antenna Controlled by Voltage

The liquid metal antenna can be tuned to listen to various frequencies by applying electrical voltage.Image: Jacob Adams/NCSU

The liquid metal antenna can be tuned to listen to various frequencies by applying electrical voltage.
Image: Jacob Adams/NCSU

The scientific community has been trying to tap into the potential of liquid metals for some time now, but have faced roadblocks in developing something that is highly efficient when paired with electronics. Now, North Carolina State University researchers have successfully designed a liquid metal antenna controlled by only electrical voltage.

The work is relatively simple in theory. A positive voltage applied to a liquid metal will make it expand, whereas the application of a negative voltage will make it contract.

“Our antenna prototype using liquid metal can tune over a range of at least two times greater than systems using electronic switches,” said Jacob Adams, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at NCSU.

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Nano-Transistor Assesses Health

The low

The ultra-low power sensor can scan the contents of liquids such as perspiration.
Image: EPFL/Jamani Caillet

Researchers from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) have developed an ultra-low power sensor to monitor health through the scanning of perspiration.

Director of Nanoelectronic Devices Laboratory (Nanolab) at EPFL, Adrian Ionescu—ECS published author in both the Journal of The Electrochemical Society and ECS Transactions—states that the new sensor can sync to your mobile device to alert you of your hydration, stress, and fatigue levels.

“The ionic equilibrium in a person’s sweat could provide significant information on the state of his health,” says Ionescu. “Our technology detects the presence of elementary charged particles in ultra-small concentrations such as ions and protons, which reflects not only the pH balance of sweat but also more complex hydration of fatigues states. By an adapted functionalization I can also track different kinds of proteins.”

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One Step Closer to Bionic Brain

New research shows that we’re one step closer to being able to replicate the human brain outside of the body, which could lead to life-altering research into common conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Project leader and ECS published author Sharath Sriram and his group have successfully engineered an electronic long-term memory cell, which mimics the way the human brain processes information.

“This is the closest we have come to creating a brain-like system with memory that learns and stores analog information and is quick at retrieving this stored information,” Sharath said.

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