First Ever Liquid Nanoscale Laser

The laser also has the potential to be used in optical data storage and lithography.Image: Nature Communications

The laser also has the potential to be used in optical data storage and lithography.
Image: Nature Communications

Former ECS member Teri Odom has assisted in the development of the first ever liquid nanoscale laser. This development could lead to some very practical applications, as well as guiding researchers one step closer to developing a “lab on a chip” for medical diagnostics.

The laser is relatively simple to create, cheap to produce, and has the ability to operate at room temperature. Because the device works in real time, users can quickly and simply produce different colors.

This from Science World Report:

The laser’s cavity itself is made up of an array of reflective gold nanoparticles where the light is concentrated around each nanoparticle and then amplified. In contrast to conventional laser cavities, no mirrors are required for the light to bounce back and forth. As the laser color is tuned the nanoparticle cavity stays fixed and does not change.

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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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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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Ushering in Next-Gen Batteries, Fuel Cells

ECS member

ECS member Shumin Fang was a contributor in a development that could dramatically improve the efficiency of batteries and fuel cells.
Image: Nature Communications

Sometimes the tiniest things could have the biggest impact—especially when it comes to battery technology.

New research from a collaborative team of engineers from Clemson University and the University of South Carolina developed a new material that could boost batteries’ power and help power plants.

ECS student member Shumin Fang of the University of South Carolina was a collaborator on the study. (Take a look at his paper on solid oxide fuel cells.)

The new material acts as a superhighway for ions, allowing for more powerful batteries and boosting the general efficiency of energy conversion.

Because batteries and fuel cells are limited by how fast ions can pass through the electrolyte, engineers must find a mix of electrolyte ingredients that allows for fast movement. This study proposes the answer to this in gadolinium doped ceria.

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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.

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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The Excrevator will help put an end to emptying pit latrines by hand.Image: NC State University

The Excrevator will help put an end to emptying pit latrines by hand.
Image: NC State University

Critical technology gaps in water, sanitation, and hygiene are being faced all over the world. According to UNICEF, 2.5 billion people—36 percent of the world’s population—don’t have access to a toilet. Due to this, many people in the developing world either practice open defecation or utilize pit latrines. In turn, this leads to a high risk of contracting diseases ranging from typhoid to hepatitis.

Tate Rogers, an engineering student from North Carolina State University, decided that something has to be done about this. In 2011, Rogers began developing a device that would help those in the developing world more safely deal with raw sewage.

It’s four years later, and the project is still under way—but it’s beginning to come to fruition.

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Paper-like Material to Boost Li-ion Batteries

The newly developed silicon nanofiber structure allow the battery to be cycled hundreds of times without significant degradation.Image: Nature Scientific Reports

The newly developed silicon nanofiber structure allows the battery to be cycled hundreds of times without significant degradation.
Image: Nature Scientific Reports

Electric cars and personal electronics may get the battery boost they need with this new development in lithium-ion batteries.

Researchers from the University of California, Riverside have created silicon nanofibers that are 100 times thinner than human hair, which will provide the potential to boost the amount of energy that can be delivered per unit weight of the batteries.

The research has been detailed in the paper “Towards Scalable Binderless Electrodes: Carbon Coated Silicon Nanofiber Paper via Mg Reduction of Electrospun SiO₂ Nanofibers.”

This from University of California, Riverside:

The nanofibers were produced using a technique known as electrospinning, whereby 20,000 to 40,000 volts are applied between a rotating drum and a nozzle, which emits a solution composed mainly of tetraethyl orthosilicate (TEOS), a chemical compound frequently used in the semiconductor industry. The nanofibers are then exposed to magnesium vapor to produce the sponge-like silicon fiber structure.

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3D Printing Organs for Transplant

A two-part water-based gel made of synthetic DNA and peptide could bring the inventors of a 3D bioprinter closer to being able to print organs for transplant, or to replace animal testing.Image:Angewandte Chemie

A two-part water-based gel made of synthetic DNA and peptide could bring the inventors of a 3D bioprinter closer to being able to print organs for transplant, or to replace animal testing.
Image: Angewandte Chemie

Need a new pancreas? These scientists will print one right up for you.

Thanks to the development of a two-part water-based gel made out of synthetic DNA from Heriot Watt University, the 3D bio-printer is one step closer to reality.

The team from Heriot-Watt that engineered this developed is led by Prof. Rory Duncan and Dr.Will Shu of the University’s Institute of Biological Chemistry, Biophysics, and Bioengineering.

“The first challenge was that if we used a normal gel it was not possible to mix live cells with it for 3D printing. Colleagues at Tsinghua University in Beijing have developed a gel which, like some proprietary glues, comes as two separate liquids into which cells can be added. These do not turn into a gel until the two liquids are actually mixed together during the printing process,” said Prof. Duncan in a release.

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Recognizing Advances in the Biomedical Sciences

A mouse brain before and after it's been made transparent using CLARITY.Image: Kwanghun Chung and Karl Deisseroth, Howard Hughes Medical Institute/Stanford University

A mouse brain before and after it’s been made transparent using CLARITY.
Image: Kwanghun Chung and Karl Deisseroth, Howard Hughes Medical Institute/Stanford University

Researchers in the biomedical sciences, such as bioelectrochemistry and biomedical engineering, work every day to create new processes and technology that will better the lives of all. The scientific community is recognizing one expert – Karl Diesseroth – for his two innovative techniques that are now widely used to study Alzheimer’s disease, autism, and other brain disorders.

Disseroth has just been awarded the Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences for his achievements in the advancement of brain research technology. Disseroth is the pioneer behind a process called CLARITY and the technique called optogenics. In case you missed them, here’s a brief recap:

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