AirplaneA team of researchers has created a new material that could be used in microscopic sensors, also known as microelectromechanical systems [MEMS], for devices that are part of the Internet of Things.

The technological future of everything from cars and jet engines to oil rigs, along with the gadgets, appliances, and public utilities comprising the Internet of Things will depend on these kinds of microscopic sensors. These sensors are mostly made of the material silicon, however, which has its limits.

“For a number of years we’ve been trying to make MEMS out of more complex materials” that are more resistant to damage and better at conducting heat and electricity, says materials scientist and mechanical engineer Kevin J. Hemker of Johns Hopkins University’s Whiting School of Engineering.

Most MEMS devices have internal structures that are smaller than the width of strand of human hair and are shaped out of silicon. These devices work well in average temperatures, but even modest amounts of heat—a couple hundred degrees—causes them to lose their strength and their ability to conduct electronic signals. Silicon is also very brittle and prone to break.

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Powering Batteries in Harsh Environments

Researchers across the globe have been investing more and more effort into developing new materials to power the next generation of devices. With the population growing and energy demands rising, the need for smaller, faster, and more efficient batteries is more prevalent than ever.

While some researchers are attempting to develop complex material combinations to tackle this issue, researchers from Rice University are going back to basics by developing a clay-based electrolyte.

Utilizing clay as a primary material in a lithium ion battery could address current issues that the battery has with high temperature performance. With clay, the researchers were able to supply stable electrical power in environments with temperatures up 120°C. The addition of clay to the electrode could allow lithium ion batteries to function in harsh environments including space, defense, and oil and gas applications.

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The new polymer is able to store energy at higher temperatures.Image: Qi Li/Nature

The new polymer is able to store energy at higher temperatures.
Image: Qi Li/Nature

Polymer dielectric materials have many beneficial properties when it comes to energy storage for advanced electronics and power systems. While the materials are highly flexible and have good chemical stability, their main drawback is their limitation of functionality in primarily low working temperatures. In turn, this limits the wider use of polymer dielectric materials for applications such as electric vehicles and underground oil exploration.

However, researchers from Pennsylvania State University have developed a flexible, high-temperature dielectric material from polymer nanocomposites that looks promising for the application of high-temperature electronics.

The researchers, including current ECS member Lei Chen, were able to stabilize dielectric properties by crosslinking polymer nanocomposites that contain boron nitride nanosheets. In testing, the energy density was increased by 400 percent while remaining stable at temperatures as high as 300° C.

With the nanocomposites having huge energy storage capabilities at high temperatures, a much broader application of organic materials in high temperatures electronics and energy storage can be explored.

PS: Interested in polymer research? Make sure to attend the 228th ECS Meeting and get the latest polymer science at our polymers symposia.

Experiments at SLAC have produced the first direct evidence that the pseudogap competes for electrons with superconductivity over a wide range of temperatures at lower hole concentrations (SC+PG). At lower temperatures and higher hole concentrations, superconductivity wins out.<br.Credit: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Experiments at SLAC have produced the first direct evidence that the pseudogap competes for electrons with superconductivity over a wide range of temperatures at lower hole concentrations (SC+PG). At lower temperatures and higher hole concentrations, superconductivity wins out.
Credit: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

A new study out of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory shows the “pseudogap” phase – a mysterious phase of matter – hoards electrons that might otherwise conduct electricity with 100 percent efficiency.

Scientists state that this pseudogap phase competes with high-temperature superconductivity, which robs electrons that would otherwise pair up to carry current though a material.

The results of the study are a culmination of 20 years of research aimed to find out whether the pseudogap helps or hinders superconductivity.

The study shows that the pseudogap is one of the things that stands in the way of getting superconductors to work at higher temperatures for everyday uses – thus making electrical transmission, computing, and other areas less energy efficient.

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