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Water Splitter Runs on AAA Battery

Scientists at Stanford University have developed a low-cost, emissions-free device that uses an ordinary AAA battery to produce hydrogen by water electrolysis.  The battery sends an electric current through two electrodes that split liquid water into hydrogen and oxygen gas. Unlike other water splitters that use precious-metal catalysts, the electrodes in the Stanford device are made of inexpensive and abundant nickel and iron.In addition to producing hydrogen, the novel water splitter could be used to make chlorine gas and sodium hydroxide, an important industrial chemical. Splitting water to make hydrogen requires no fossil fuels and emits no greenhouse gases. But scientists have yet to develop an affordable, active water splitter with catalysts capable of working at industrial scales."It's been a constant pursuit for decades to make low-cost electrocatalysts with high activity and long durability," said Stanford University Professor Hongjie Dai. "When we found out that a nickel-based catalyst is as effective as platinum, it came as a complete surprise."SourceAlso: Learn about a Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell.

Posted in: Batteries, Electronics & Computers, Power Management, Alternative Fuels, Green Design & Manufacturing, Materials, Metals, Energy, News

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Researchers Create Energy-Absorbing Material

Materials like solid gels and porous foams are used for padding and cushioning, but each has its own advantages and limitations.A team of engineers and scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has found a way to design and fabricate, at the microscale, new cushioning materials with a broad range of programmable properties and behaviors that exceed the limitations of the material's composition, through additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing. Livermore researchers, led by engineer Eric Duoss and scientist Tom Wilson, focused on creating a micro-architected cushion using a silicone-based ink that cures to form a rubber-like material after printing. During the printing process, the ink is deposited as a series of horizontally aligned filaments (which can be fine as a human hair) in a single layer. The second layer of filaments is then placed in the vertical direction. This process repeats itself until the desired height and pore structure is reached.The researchers envision using their novel energy-absorbing materials in many applications, including shoe and helmet inserts, protective materials for sensitive instrumentation, and in aerospace applications to combat the effects of temperature fluctuations and vibration.SourceAlso: Read more Materials tech briefs.

Posted in: Manufacturing & Prototyping, Rapid Prototyping & Tooling, Materials, Aerospace, Defense, News

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NASA 3D Printing Technique Creates Metal Spacecraft Parts

Researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory are implementing a printing process that transitions from one metal or alloy to another in a single object. JPL scientists have been developing a technique to address this problem since 2010. An effort to improve the methods of combining parts made of different materials in NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission inspired a project to 3D print components with multiple alloy compositions.

Posted in: Manufacturing & Prototyping, Rapid Prototyping & Tooling, Materials, Metals, Aerospace, News

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Secret of Eumelanin’s Ability to Absorb Broad Spectrum of Light Uncovered

Melanin — and specifically, the form called eumelanin — is the primary pigment that gives humans the coloring of their skin, hair, and eyes. It protects the body from the hazards of ultraviolet and other radiation that can damage cells and lead to skin cancer. But the exact reason why the compound is so effective at blocking such a broad spectrum of sunlight has remained something of a mystery. Now, however, researchers at MIT and other institutions have solved that mystery, potentially opening the way for the development of synthetic materials that could have similar light-blocking properties.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Photonics, Optics, Materials, Composites, Medical, Solar Power, Energy, News

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Engineers Hope to Create Electronics That Stretch at the Molecular Level

Nanoengineers at the University of California, San Diego are asking what might be possible if semiconductor materials were flexible and stretchable without sacrificing electronic function?

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Electronic Components, Board-Level Electronics, Electronics, Materials, Sensors, Semiconductors & ICs, News

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Researchers Build 'Invisible' Materials with Light

Metamaterials have a wide range of potential applications, including sensing and improving military stealth technology. Before cloaking devices can become reality on a larger scale, however, researchers must determine how to make the right materials at the nanoscale. Using light is now shown to be an enormous help in such nano-construction. A new technique uses light like a needle to thread long chains of particles. The development could help bring sci-fi concepts, such as cloaking devices, one step closer to reality.The technique developed by the University of Cambridge team involves using unfocused laser light as billions of needles, stitching gold nanoparticles together into long strings, directly in water for the first time. The strings can then be stacked into layers one on top of the other, similar to Lego bricks. The method makes it possible to produce materials in much higher quantities than can be made through current techniques. SourceAlso: See other Sensors tech briefs.

Posted in: Photonics, Lasers & Laser Systems, Materials, Sensors, Nanotechnology, Defense, News

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Spongelike Structure Converts Solar Energy into Steam

A new material structure developed at MIT generates steam by soaking up the sun.The structure — a layer of graphite flakes and an underlying carbon foam — is a porous, insulating material structure that floats on water. When sunlight hits the structure’s surface, it creates a hotspot in the graphite, drawing water up through the material’s pores, where it evaporates as steam. The brighter the light, the more steam is generated.The new material is able to convert 85 percent of incoming solar energy into steam — a significant improvement over recent approaches to solar-powered steam generation.“Steam is important for desalination, hygiene systems, and sterilization,” says Hadi Ghasemi, a postdoc in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, who led the development of the structure. “Especially in remote areas where the sun is the only source of energy, if you can generate steam with solar energy, it would be very useful.”SourceAlso: See other Energy tech briefs.

Posted in: Materials, Solar Power, Energy Harvesting, Energy, News

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