World’s Most Expensive Material

The world’s most expensive material is being created in a lab and it’s going for $33,000 per 200 micrograms. To put that in perspective, that’s an astonishing $4.2 billion an ounce.

The novel material consists of molecular units called endohedral fullerenes, which are essentially a cage of carbon atoms containing nitrogen atoms.

Developers and scientists behind the material are focused on implementing the endohedral fullerenes into the development of a small, portable atomic clock. The atomic clock is the most accurate time-keeping system in the world and could assist in the accuracy of everything from a GPS to an automatic car.

“Imagine a minaturised atomic clock that you could carry around in your smartphone,” says Kriakos Porfyrakis, scientist working on the development of the material. “This is the next revolution for mobile.”

Aside from impacting cellphone technology, Porfyrakis expects the material to change transportation in a big way.

ICYMI: Learn about the early history of the Buckyball.

“There will be lots of applications for this technology,” says Lucius Cary, director of Oxford Technology SEIS fund. “The most obvious is in controlling autonomous vehicles. If two cars are coming towards each other on a country lane, knowing where they are to within 2m is not enough but to 1mm it is enough.”

Tiny Sensor Powered by Radio Waves

With smart technology on the rise, researchers are looking for ways to develop smaller sensors that can help building the landscape of the internet of things. However, this could potentially demand huge sums of power in an era where people are working hard to conserve energy. A research team from Eindhoven University of Technology may have found a solution to this problem with the development of their new extra-small, wireless sensors that are powered by radio waves that make up its wireless network.

With a router nearby, the tiny sensors can pull the necessary energy to give them functionality. The sensor is just 2 millimeters and can communicate temperatures.

This from Gizmodo:

Aboard the chip, a small antenna captures energy from the signals transmitted by the router. Once it’s charged, the sensor quickly switches on, measures the temperature, and then transmits a small signal for the router to detect. The frequency of the transmitted signal relates to the measured temperature.

Read the full article.

The researchers predict that the primary use for this sensor will be embedding the device within buildings to monitor conditions. Currently priced at 20 cents per sensor, researchers hope that with continued research, its potential could increase to detecting movement, light, and humidity.

The major issue right now lies in the fact that the sensor can only transmit its signal 2.5 centimeters. While the device is currently not practical, the team believes that its reach can grow to 16 feet with more research.

[Image: Eindhoven University of Technology]

Building a Biosensor from Bubblegum

What does Doublemint gum have to do with biomedical research? Apparently, a lot more than would be expected.

A combined research effort from the University of Manitoba and the Manitoba Children’s Hospital has recently created a stretchy, highly sensitive biosensor using chewed gum and carbon nanotubes.

After the gum in chewed for about 30 minutes, it is then cleaned with ethanol and laced with carbon nanotubes. The biosensor has the potential to monitor berating patterns and blood flow.

Even more impressive, the cost for the sensor come in under $3. Researchers believe the cheap, highly flexible biosensor could aid in a multitude of health care applications.

PS: Working in sensor science and technology? Make sure to check out our sensor symposia at the 229th ECS Meeting! Submit your abstract today!

Quantum Dots Make Infrared Light Visible

565db23d4c4abQuantum dots may be just the thing to take renewable energy technology to the next level.

A team from MIT has recently developed a double film coating that has the ability to transform infrared light into visible light.

While that may not outwardly seem like a huge gain for the energy technology sector, the development has the potential to vastly improve efforts in renewable. Essentially, this research could help increase the amount of light a solar cell could capture. By capturing and using protons below their normal bandgap and thus converting the typically unused infrared light into use visible light, researchers could see efficiency levels of solar panels rise.

The researchers went about this development by placing two films on top of a plate of glass. The bottom film was comprised by using a type of quantum dot, while the top layer was made up of an organic molecule.


Rusnanoprize Awarded to ECS Members

id41860Two ECS members were recently awarded the 2015 RUSNANOPRIZE Nanotechnology International Prize for their work in developing nanostructured carbon materials, which have facilitated the commercialization and wide-use of supercapacitors in energy storage, automotive, and many other industries. The organization honored Yury Gogotsi and Patrice Simon for their exemplary research in this field.

The RUSNANOPRIZE Nanotechnology International Prize, established in 2009, is presented annually to those working on nanotechnology projects that have substantial economic or social potential. The prize is aimed to promote successful commercialization of novel technology and strengthening collaboration in the field of nanotechnology.

Yury Gogotsi is a professor at Drexel University and director of the Anthony J. Drexel Nanotechnology Institute. Among his most notable accomplishments, Gogotsi was a member of a team that discovered a novel family of two-dimensional carbides and nitrides, which have helped open the door for exceptional energy storage devices. Additionally, Gogotsi’s hand in discovering and describing new forms of carbon and the development of a “green” supercapacitor built of environmentally friendly materials has advanced the field of energy technology.

Gogotsi is a Fellow of ECS and is currently the advisor of the Drexel ECS Student Chapter.

Patrice Simon is a professor at Paul Sabatier University. As a materials scientist and electrochemist, Simon has special interest in designing the next generation of batteries and supercapacitors. As the leader of the French Network on Electrochemical Energy Storage, Simon is making strides in developing next-gen technology through combining 17 labs and 15 companies in an effort to apply novel principals to issues in energy storage and technology. As an internationally recognized leader in the field of nanotechnology for energy storage, Simon’s work focuses on benefiting the entire energy storage industry.

Simon has been a member of ECS for 15 years.

ICYMI: Find other ECS researchers are doing in the world of nanocarbons.

A team lead by Bradley Bundy, chemical engineering associate professor, is paving the way for new life-saving vaccine technology.Image: Mark A. Philbrick

A team lead by Brad Bundy, chemical engineering associate professor, is paving the way for new life-saving vaccine technology.
Image: Mark A. Philbrick

When viruses emerge—spreading in a rapid and extensive way—researchers must scramble to create life-saving vaccines. At Brigham Young University, researchers are working to speed up that process.

A team of chemical engineers has devised a way to create machinery for vaccine production en masse, freeze drying the produced vaccines and stockpiling them for future use. This development could aid in relief efforts when new viruses hit populations, allowing researchers to rapidly produce vaccines.

“You could just pull it off the shelf and make it,” says Brad Bundy, senior author of the study. “We could make the vaccine and be ready for distribution in a day.”

This from Brigham Young University:

Bundy’s idea is a new angle on the emerging method of ‘cell-free protein synthesis,’ a process that combines DNA to make proteins needed for drugs (instead of growing protein in a cell). His lab is creating a system where the majority of the work is done beforehand so vaccine kits can be ready to go and be activated at the drop of a dime.


Ingestible Sensor to Improved Diagnostics

Researchers from MIT have unveiled new opportunities in diagnostics through the development of an ingestible sensor with the ability to continuously monitor vital signs. The device, which measures heart rate and breathing from within the gastrointestinal track, has the potential to offer beneficial assessment of trauma patients, soldiers in battle, and those with chronic illness.

“Through characterization of the acoustic wave, recorded from different parts of the GI tract, we found that we could measure both heart rate and respiratory rate with good accuracy,” says Giovanni Traverso, one of the lead authors of the study.

The development of pulse sensors such as this are beginning to outpace the traditional stethoscope. However, the pulse sensors that currently exist wrest on the patient’s skin, which is problematic for those with skin sensitivity such as burn victims.


Treating Infection with Electrical Stimulation

The electric current was able to kill almost all drug resistant bacterium within 24 hours.Image: Nature

The electric current was able to kill almost all drug resistant bacterium within 24 hours.
Image: Nature

A new alternative to traditional antibiotics is on the horizon. Through the application of electrical stimulation, researchers from Washington State University have found a way to kill drug resistant bacterium without the need for antibiotics.

“We have been doing fundamental research on this for many years, and finally, we are able to transfer it to technology,’’ says Haluk Beyenal, ECS member and co-author of the study. “It’s really exciting.’’

While these results are groundbreaking for biomedical science, the idea of treating infection through electrical stimulation is not new. Researchers have been attempting to do this for years, but have not been able to perfect the method.

Because of this, antibiotics have become the most effective and preferred treatment choice for infections. However, as antibiotic use increases, the bacteria being treated begin to adapt. Drug resistant strains then begin to form, which infect at least two million people a year in the United States alone. From those two million, about 23,000 people die annually as a direct result. With this, researchers see the need to find an alternative form of treatment for bacterial infection.


Fullerenes Inhibit Infection by Ebola Virus

A new breakthrough in biotechnology could have the potential to eradicate the Ebola virus infection. Through the construction of a supermolecule made up of 13 fullerenes, a new door has been opened in the world of antiviral agents.

A team from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid/IMDEA-Nanociencia (UCM) has designed a giant fullerene molecule, covered in carbohydrates. When the team tested the new supermolecule on an artificial Ebola virus model, the researchers saw a result that stops cell infection of Ebola.

The study was led by ECS member and UCM professor Nazario Martín.

“Fullerenes are hollow cages exclusively formed by carbon atoms,” says Martín.

This from UCM:

These molecules decorated with specific carbohydrates (sugars) present affinity by the receptor used as an entry point to infect the cell and act blocking it, thus inhibiting the infection. Researchers employed an artificial Ebola virus by expressing one of its proteins, envelope protein GP1, responsible of its entry in the cells. In a model in vitro, this protein is covering a false virus, which is able of cell infection but not of replication.


Building Better Electronic Devices

The development of the silicon chip forever changed the field of electronics and the world at large. From computers to cellphones to digital home appliances, the silicon chip has become an inextricable part of the structure of our society. However, as silicon begins to reach its limits many researchers are looking for new materials to continue the electronics revolution.

Fan Ren, Distinguished Professor at the University of Florida and Technical Editor of the ECS Journal of Solid State Science and Technology, has based his career in the field of electronics and semiconductor devices. From his time at Bell Labs through today, Ren has witnessed much change in the field.

Future of Electronics

Upon coming to the United States from Taiwan, Ren was hired by Bell Labs. This hub of innovation had a major impact on Ren and his work, and is where he first got his hands-on semiconductor research. During this time, silicon was the major player as far as electronic materials went. While electronics have transformed since that time, the materials used to create integrated circuits have essentially stayed the same.

People keep saying of other semiconductors, “This will be the material for the next generation of devices,” says Ren. “However, it hasn’t really changed. Silicon is still dominating.”