New Phase of Carbon Shows Unique Properties

q-carbonA new form of carbon that has unprecedented strength and magnetism properties is making its mark in the world of materials science.

Researchers from North Carolina State University have recently developed a new phase of carbon called Q-carbon—an extraordinarily strong material that differs from carbon’s other two solid forms.

The first solid phase of carbon is graphite. Graphite is composed by lining up carbon atoms to form thin sheets, which results in a thin and flaky material. The other phase of carbon, diamond, occurs when carbon atoms form a rigid crystal lattice.

Third Phase of Carbon

“We’ve now created a third solid phase of carbon,” says Jay Narayan, lead author of the research. “The only place it may be found in the natural world would be possibly in the core of some planets.”

Q-carbon differs from both existing phases of carbon, with unique characteristics that researchers did not even think were possible prior to its development, such as its magnetic and glowing qualities. To fully understand its novel qualities, it’s essential to understand how Q-carbon was developed.


Diamond Nanothreads to Build Space Elevator

18enfuwsagjl5jpgThe space elevator: a concept first conceptualized in the late 19th century that has been highly disputed and contested over the years. Many scientists and research institutions believe that the space elevator can be actualized in our lifetime. Up until 2014, Google X’s Rapid Evaluation R&D team was still working on bringing this concept to life. However, the project came to a halt due to the lack of advancement in the field of carbon nanotubes—the material that many deemed necessary to meet the strength requirements for the space elevator.

But work in the field of carbon nanotubes pressed on, and in 2014 diamond nanothreads were first synthesized. With strength properties similar to that of carbon nanotubes, researchers are once again interested in the development of the space elevator.

After testing from the Queensland University of Technology in Australia, researchers are putting a breath of fresh air into the space elevator with large scale diamond nanothreads, which may potentially be the world’s strongest substance.


Potential of the Graphene Microphone

From solar cells to fuel cells to body armor, graphene has more potential applications than one could briefly summarize. Now, this wonder material is entering into a new realm of possibility.

According to new research from the University of Belgrade in Serbia, graphene has amazing sound detection qualities. Because of this, the researchers have developed the world’s first graphene-based condenser microphone. At about 32 times the strength of some of today’s best microphones, the graphene-based device has the ability to detect a range of audible frequencies. Further, the researchers believe that with a little more tweaking, it will be able to pick up sound that is well beyond the range of human hearing.

This from Gizmodo:

The researchers used a chemical vapor deposition process to “grow” sheets of graphene on a nickel foil substrate. They then etched the nickel away and placed the remaining graphene sheet (about 60 layers thick) in a commercial microphone casing. There, it acts as a vibrating membrane, converting sound to electric current.


Graphene for Next-Gen Night Vision

Graphene is called the “wonder material” with good reason. The material hosts a slew of unique chemical and physical properties, with applications from fuel cells to biomedical to energy storage.

Now, a team from MIT is taking the material and applying it to infrared sensors to create next-gen night vision goggles. Additionally, the team is looking to take that same technology and apply it to high-tech windshields and smartphones.

We achieve night vision capabilities through thermal imaging that allows people to see otherwise invisible infrared rays that are shed as heat. This technology is useful for many different applications, such as assisting soldiers and firefighters in their duty. While night vision devices currently exist, they need bulky cooling systems to create a useful image.

Because of graphene’s electrical qualities, researchers have known that the material would be an excellent infrared detector. The team at MIT took this idea and moved forwarding in creating a less bulky night vision goggle through the utilization of graphene.


New Approach to Materials Design

jz-2015-016605_0003A novel development from Virginia Tech aims to “significantly accelerate materials discovery,” all while combating the pressing global warming issue.

The new approach allows for efficient chemical conversions through a model that can predict novel alloy materials in a fast and accurate manner.

“This is the first example of learning from data in catalysis. We anticipate that this new research approach will have a huge impact in the future of materials design,” said Honglian Xin, lead author of the study.

Catalysts are hugely important in industry, with up to 90 percent of industrial chemicals being made from catalysts. These catalysts range from acids to nanoparticles, and even make up some enzymes in the human body.

Scientists have previously worked to improve catalysts through mixing metals with very precise atomic structures. While the results of these studies have led to metals with promising physical and chemical properties, the process has been costly and time consuming.

This from Virginia Tech:

That is why [the researchers] decided to use existing data to train computer algorithms to make predictions of new materials, a field called machine learning. The approach captures complex, nonlinear interactions of molecules on metal surfaces through artificial neural networks, thus allowing, “large scale exploration alloy materials space,” according to their article.


Hybrid Biomaterial to Change Clinical Practice

Fig1-Mayo-Mao-NEWS-WEBResearchers have developed completely new nanowires by combining synthetic DNA and protein.

Through combining these two promising synthetic biological materials to form nanowires, the door to promising applications requiring biomaterials has been opened.

While both synthetic DNA and synthetic protein structures show great potential in the areas of direct delivery of cancer drugs and virus treatment customization, the hybridization of materials provides even more advantages.

“If your material is made up of several different kinds of components, it can have more functionality. For example, protein is very versatile; it can be used for many things, such as protein–protein interactions or as an enzyme to speed up a reaction. And DNA is easily programmed into nanostructures of a variety of sizes and shapes,” said first author of the study, Yun (Kurt) Mou.


Luminescent Materials to Help Engineering

Researchers have developed a new family of luminescent materials with the ability detect chemical and biological compounds, and even respond accordingly to a wide variety of extreme mechanical and thermal conditions.

The material is essentially a metallic polymer gel comprised of earth elements.

This from MIT News:

The material, a light-emitting lanthanide metallogel, can be chemically tuned to emit light in response to chemical, mechanical, or thermal stimuli — potentially providing a visible output to indicate the presence of a particular substance or condition.

Read the full article here.

The bio-inspired polymers are predicted to help engineers derive design principles applicable to other kinds of materials.

By combining a rare-earth element with polyethylene glycol, the material gains qualities that allow it to produce tunable, multicolored light emissions. These emissions have the ability to detect subtle changes in the environment and reflect them accordingly.

By applying this material to structures, researchers believe that engineers may be able to catch structural weakness and eminent failure before it happens.

[Image: MIT]

PS: Want to learn more about luminescent materials? Check out our new focus issue, Novel Applications of Luminescent Optical Materials. All of the papers are free!

Solving the Beach Explosion Mystery

hydrogenRecently, a small explosion occurred underneath the sand at a Rhode Island beach. When state police and a bomb squad couldn’t figure out what caused the blast, researchers from the University of Rhode Island decided to make an attempt at solving the mystery.

The school’s oceanography interdisciplinary team—made up of researchers with expertise in everything from geology to chemistry—was able to pinpoint an unlikely culprit in the beach explosion: hydrogen.

An Unlikely Investigation

The researchers first began to suspect hydrogen when they discovered an underground uncorroded copper cable at the site, which could create hydrogen though an electrochemical process.

“The copper was like a shiny new penny, and the steel was silvery, even though it had been in seawater for many years,” said Professor Arthur Spivack of the University of Rhode Island. “That told me that it was consistent with there being a slight negative voltage in that end of the cable, which protects it from corroding but also could produce hydrogen.”


Introducing Graphene’s Cousin: Stanene

Stanene-LatticeResearchers made a prediction two years ago that a one-atom thick, tin super material would soon be developed. They believed that this mesh material would yield amazing advances for materials science and be able to conduct electricity with 100 percent efficiency. Now, those same researchers are making good on their prediction with the announcement of the newly developed film called stanene.

Theoretically, potential uses of this material could range from circuit structures to transistors.

Cousin to graphene, this lattice of carbon atoms has similar qualities to a host of other materials, but scientists predict stanene to have a special kick that no other material has yet.


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.

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