CO2 Key to Unique Nanomaterials

In common perception, carbon dioxide is just a greenhouse gas, one of the major environmental problems of humankind. But, for Warsaw chemists CO2 became something else: a key element of reactions allowing for creation of nanomaterials with unprecedented properties.

In reaction with carbon dioxide, appropriately designed chemicals allowed researchers from the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IPC PAS) in Warsaw and the Faculty of Chemistry, Warsaw Univ. of Technology, (WUT) for production of unprecedented nanomaterials. The novel materials are highly porous, and in their class they show the most extended, and so the largest surface area, which is of key importance for the envisaged use. Prospective applications include storage of energetically important gases, catalysis or sensing devices. Moreover, microporous fluorescent materials obtained using CO2 emit light with quantum yield significantly higher than those of classical materials used in OLEDs.

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Bionic plants

Plants have many valuable functions: They provide food and fuel, release the oxygen that we breathe, and add beauty to our surroundings. Now, a team of MIT researchers wants to make plants even more useful by augmenting them with nanomaterials that could enhance their energy production and give them completely new functions, such as monitoring environmental pollutants.

In a new Nature Materials paper, the researchers report boosting plants’ ability to capture light energy by 30 percent by embedding carbon nanotubes in the chloroplast, the plant organelle where photosynthesis takes place. Using another type of carbon nanotube, they also modified plants to detect the gas nitric oxide. Together, these represent the first steps in launching a scientific field the researchers have dubbed “plant nanobionics.” 

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Quantum dots are poetically named semiconducting nanoparticles with diameters that measure in the billionths of a meter. These tiny crystals have huge potential for applications that make use of their ability to absorb or emit light and/or electric charges — things like more vividly colored LEDs, photovoltaic solar cells, nanoscale transistors, and biosensors. But because these applications have differing and sometimes opposite requirements, finding ways to control the dots’ optical and electronic properties is crucial to their success.

Brookhaven scientists working with researchers at Stony Brook University and Syracuse University show in recently published research that shrinking the core of a quantum dot can enhance the ability of a surrounding polymer (the white ball-and-rod structures in the image) to extract electric charges generated by the absorbing light. Got that? That extra billionth of a meter can make a world of difference.

At our Center for Functional Nanomaterials, scientists can make and study a single particle, allowing them to tease out properties of a material that might be blurred or averaged out in larger samples. In this study, when they varied the size of the quantum dot’s core, the scientists found that the smaller the diameter, the more efficient and more consistent the charge transfer process.

Solar cells made of quantum dots are far easier to make and cheaper than the conventional silicon-based cells. And with this research, we’re starting to understand how to amp up the efficiency of the nanoparticles. Soon, our solar power may be generated by these teeny tiny particles. 

Chemists Construct Molecular Traps for Nanomaterials

Using clever but elegant design, Univ. at Buffalo chemists have synthesized tiny, molecular cages that can be used to capture and purify nanomaterials. Sculpted from a special kind of molecule called a “bottle-brush molecule,” the traps consist of tiny, organic tubes whose interior walls carry a negative charge. This feature enables the tubes to selectively encapsulate only positively charged particles.

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A recent study suggests that the future of humanity may depend, in part, on the well-being and population size of certain types of fungi.

The ScienceDaily article “Fungi May Determine the Future of Soil Carbon" reports:

Soil contains more carbon than air and plants combined. This means that even a minor change in soil carbon could have major implications for the Earth’s atmosphere and climate. New research by Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute scientist Benjamin Turner and colleagues points to an unexpected driver of soil carbon content: fungi. …

Some types of symbiotic fungi can lead to 70 percent more carbon in the soil. The role of these fungi is currently not considered in global climate models. …

Turner said the study provides strong evidence to support a theory published in 2011 by researchers in the United Kingdom and New Zealand. The results suggest any widespread shift in the species composition of forests could change the amount of carbon stored in soil, with consequences for atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.

Another recent study found that in the past, ancient forests (with the help of fungi) “Stabilized Earth’s CO2 and Climate.

Why aren’t policy makers doing more to protect the beneficial fungi upon which the future of humanity may depend? There are a range of potential threats to the well-being of beneficial fungi; including fungicides, pesticides, nanomaterials, deforestation, and the spread of industrial agriculture,

New boron nanomaterial may be possible


Researchers from Brown Univ. have shown experimentally that a boron-based competitor to graphene is a very real possibility.

Graphene has been heralded as a wonder material. Made of a single layer of carbon atoms in a honeycomb arrangement, graphene is stronger pound-for-pound than steel and conducts electricity better than copper. Since the discovery of graphene, scientists have wondered if boron, carbon’s neighbor on the periodic table, could also be arranged in single-atom sheets. Theoretical work suggested it was possible, but the atoms would need to be in a very particular arrangement.

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At Brookhaven, we actually do love science, and we also really dig the data images science produces. Like this one, where a metallic alloy of platinum, iridium, and strontium formed an accidental heart.

The familiar shape was a chance discovery made when scientists examined the atomic-scale structure of the custom-made material. Each of those red dots is an individual atom pinpointed with a scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM) at our Center for Functional Nanomaterials. Way down on the nanoscale color doesn’t actually exist, so physicist Dong Su added the red to bring out the romance.

3D Method Reveals Nanomaterial Defects

A team of scientists from the Univ. of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Northwestern Univ. has produced 3D images and videos of a tiny platinum nanoparticle at atomic resolution that reveal new details of defects in nanomaterials that have not been seen before.

Prior to this work, scientists only had flat, two-dimensional images with which to view the arrangement of atoms. The new imaging methodology developed at UCLA and Northwestern will enable researchers to learn more about a material and its properties by viewing atoms from different angles and seeing how they are arranged in three dimensions.

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Nanotechnology: Will it kill us all?

You can’t look at internet news lately without seeing the latest and greatest in nanotechnology developments. Everything these days is being manufactured smaller, faster, more durable, and under more and more human control with the help of science. Nanotechnology is a giant rising star in business, already cresting $225 billion dollars in product sales as of 2009 with exponential growth continuing. It’s the cure-all, the golden egg, or the philosopher’s stone, if you will, of the modern world of science. As such, every other industry wants a piece of this new revenue pie and is developing nanotech faster than we can think about it.

What’s not understood, however, is the effects that nanomaterial will have on humans and the environment. More than anything else, that’s a cause for concern that everyone should pause and take note of.

Chances are you have been using products that contain nanomaterials for a couple years now, from clothing to cosmetics to even paint. Building objects from the atomic level adds a layer of customization and refinement that we’re not able to find in nature, not to mention many substances are shown to have abnormal and useful qualities when shaped in such a form, like self-cleaning t-shirts and plaque-fighting silver in toothpaste.


Spinning Nanofibers Into Energy Efficient Cloth: The nanofiber project at the Berkeley Sensor & Actuator Center has spun energy-scavenging nanofibers with electrogeneration properties. Read further …

Top photo: A fiber nanogenerator on a plastic substrate. For inset, see next image.

Bottom photo: Nanofibers can convert energy from mechanical stresses into electricity

Credit: Richard Muller, University of California Berkeley

New ultrastiff, ultralight material developed

New ultrastiff, ultralight material developed

Nanostructured material based on repeating microscopic units has record-breaking stiffness at low density. David L. Chandler | MIT News Office June 19, 2014

Found here: New ultrastiff, ultralight material developed

What’s the difference between the Eiffel Tower and the Washington Monument?

Both structures soar to impressive heights, and each was the world’s tallest building when completed.…

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When we want to “see” the structure of a material on the nanoscale - where the distance between atoms is just one billionth of a meter - we use an x-ray beam to give us an idea of where each atom is located.

That mesmerizing arc in the image above is called an x-ray diffraction pattern. When you beam x-rays at a crystal, they bounce off atoms in the structure at different angles. The location and brightness of the red spots are where the x-rays landed after angling away from the sample they encountered. Then, our scientists use customized mathematical models to piece together the data and get an idea of the structure within a material.

The way you set up your experiment can tell you different traits of the materials you’re probing, says staff scientist Kevin Yager at Brookhaven’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN).

“There are many different kinds of x-ray scattering experiments, tuned to probe different structures at different scales. For instance, wide-angle scattering can reveal molecular structure, molecular packing, and atomic spacing, while small-angle scattering can address nanoscale structure, phase separation of polymers, lithographic patterns, particle orientations, and so on.” 

Kevin and his colleagues employ x-rays using several different techniques at our National Synchrotron Light Source to determine what’s going on inside catalysts and other materials built or grown at the CFN. When our new light source begins beaming x-rays in 2015, the higher energy and focusing capability of the beam will make it possible to shine light on things that may never have been seen before. 

As we learn more about what’s going on inside catalysts for future energy sources or new kinds of batteries, we’ll find ourselves staring into these beautiful diffractions patterns. Go on, get lost in there with us. 

Chemists Create New Method for Making Alloy Nanomaterials

Chemists at Syracuse Univ. have figured out how to synthesize nanomaterials with stainless steel-like interfaces. Their discovery may change how the form and structure of nanomaterials are manipulated, particularly those used for gas storage, heterogeneous catalysis and lithium-ion batteries.

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