Platinum-Free Fuel Cells Eliminates Need For Expensive Catalysts

Platinum-Free Fuel Cells Eliminates Need For Expensive Catalysts 

 A new polymer, shown in powdered form, can be used to make stable fuel-cell membranes that conduct negatively charged ions.

Fuel cells are, in principle, the most efficient way to convert hydrogen fuel into electricity. But they require expensive catalysts such as platinum to split hydrogen into ions and electrical current. Cheaper metals simply can’t withstand the harsh acidic environment of the fuel cell. Now researchers in China have developed a fuel cell that uses a new membrane material to operate in alkaline conditions, eliminating the need for an expensive catalyst. The power output of the new prototype, which uses nickel as a catalyst, is still relatively low, but it provides a first demonstration of a potentially much less expensive fuel cell.

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A Shatterproof Ceramic That Could Be Used To Make Lightweight Vehicles

A Shatterproof Ceramic That Could Be Used To Make Lightweight Vehicles 

 A tough ceramic’s structure mimics that of abalone shells.

Ceramics are lightweight and hard, but you can’t make jet engines out of them because they’d shatter like dinner plates. So, materials scientists have been trying to mimic natural materials that combine strength (a measure of resistance to deformation) with toughness (a measure of resistance to fracture). In particular, they’ve looked to the porous but resilient material called nacre that lines abalone shells. Now researchers have developed a method for manufacturing nacre-like materials in the lab. These new materials have mechanical properties similar to metal alloys and are the toughest ceramics ever made. The new method could lead the way to ceramic structural materials for energy-efficient buildings and lightweight but resilient automobile frames.

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Making Materials That Repel All Liquids

Making Materials That Repel All Liquids 

 Water (dyed blue) and hexadecane (dyed red), an oil, bead up on an omniphobic surface, which repels all liquids.

Materials under development at MIT could lead to coatings that repel both water and oil. A group of MIT researchers have created an improved set of design rules for making any surface impervious to any liquid, be it water or gasoline. Such materials could eventually have promise as fingerprint-repelling coatings, fuel filters, self-washing car paints, and stain-resistant clothing.

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Helmet Patch To Measure Soldier’s Exposure To Explosions

Helmet Patch To Measure Soldier’s Exposure To Explosions 

The Palo Alto Research Center is using ink-jet printing technology to develop a disposable patch that can be worn on a soldier’s helmet for seven days to measure his or her exposure to blasts. 

Researchers are developing a cheap, lightweight plastic strip that can be worn on a soldier’s helmet to help diagnose brain injury.

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Crystal Biosensors To Contribute To Drug Development

Crystal Biosensors To Contribute To Drug Development 

Scientists from the University of Illinois have developed photonic crystal biosensors that would contribute a great deal to drug development, by detecting DNA-protein interactions. The physical setup of the biosensors include a low RI (refractive index) polymer grating that has an outer film coating of high RI Titanium Oxide. Above the film sits a standard microplate with 384 wells. Essentially, each well will have a biosensor at its base and will act like a test tube where DNA-protein reactions are studied.

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Tiny Handlike Gripper Could Make It Easier For Doctors

Tiny Handlike Gripper Could Make It Easier For Doctors

A tiny gripper that responds to chemical triggers could be a new tool for surgery.

A tiny handlike gripper that can grasp tissue or cell samples could make it easier for doctors to perform minimally invasive surgery, such as biopsies. The tiny device curls its “fingers” around an object when triggered chemically, and it can be moved around remotely with a magnet.

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A Plastic That Cools

A Plastic That Cools 

 Films of a specially designed polymer, just 0.4 to 2.0 micrometers thick, can get colder or hotter by 12 °C when an electric field is removed or applied across them.

Thin films of a new polymer developed at Penn State change temperature in response to changing electric fields. The Penn State researchers, who reported the new material in Science last week, say that it could lead to new technologies for cooling computer chips and to environmentally friendly refrigerators.

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Pressure-Sensing Contact Lenses To Monitor Glaucoma

Pressure-Sensing Contact Lenses To Monitor Glaucoma 

A new contact-lens prototype senses changes in pressure, which may one day provide continuous monitoring for patients with glaucoma.  Each lens (pictured) consists of a transparent polymer with tiny, opaque electrical circuits (gold).

A tiny electrical circuit built into contact lenses may provide 24-hour monitoring for glaucoma.  Currently, the only way for patients with glaucoma to keep tabs on the disease is to go to the doctor’s office. There, a clinician administers one of several tests to measure glaucoma’s main risk factor, intraocular pressure (IOP), and prescribes medication accordingly. But such visits normally occur two or three times a year, and there’s no take-home monitoring device for patients who may experience pressure spikes between visits.

 

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Tissue Engineers Creating Complex Tissue They Call Living Legos

Tissue Engineers Creating Complex Tissue They Call Living Legos

 Living Legos: Polymer building blocks whose complexity mimics that of human tissues.

Tissue engineers are ambitious. If they had their way, a dialysis patient could receive a new kidney made in the lab from his own cells, instead of waiting for a donor organ that his immune system might reject. Likewise, a diabetic could, with grafts of lab-made pancreatic tissue, be given the ability to make insulin again. But tissue engineering has stalled in part because bioengineers haven’t been able to replicate the structural complexity of human tissues. Now researchers have taken an important first step toward building complex tissues from the bottom up by creating what they call living Legos. These building blocks, biofriendly gels of various shapes studded with cells, can self-assemble into complex structures resembling those found in tissues.

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Plastic Lasers In Our Future

Plastic Lasers In Our Future

 That rule about not crossing the streams still applies, even if it comes from a plastic laser diode

Imperial researchers have come one step closer to finding the ‘holy grail’ in the field of plastic semiconductors by demonstrating a class of material that could make electrically-driven plastic laser diodes a reality.

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