Friday, September 10, 2010

This week in nanotechnology - September 10, 2010

Researchers create new self-assembling photovoltaic technology that repairs itself. Plants are good at doing what scientists and engineers have been struggling to do for decades: converting sunlight into stored energy, and doing so reliably day after day, year after year. Now some MIT scientists have succeeded in mimicking a key aspect of that process. Plants constantly break down their light-capturing molecules and reassemble them from scratch, so the basic structures that capture the sun's energy are, in effect, always brand new.

Researchers from ETH Zurich's Institute for Field Theory and High Frequency Electronics have developed new surfaces for radar absorption. Thanks to this multifaceted application, window panes could even double up as solar panels in future. The researchers have devised a new method to produce surfaces that can absorb radar radiation over an extremely broad range.
new metamaterials are particularly efficient at absorbing radar radiation through a recurring pattern of copper plates and holes.

The new metamaterials are particularly efficient at absorbing radar radiation through a recurring pattern of copper plates and holes.

A North Carolina State University researcher and colleagues have figured out a way to make an aluminum alloy, or a mixture of aluminum and other elements, just as strong as steel. The aluminum alloys have unique structural elements that, when combined to form a hierarchical structure at several nanoscale levels, make them super-strong and ductile.

Scientists have discovered that electrons in graphene can split up into an unexpected and tantalizing set of energy levels when exposed to extremely low temperatures and extremely high magnetic fields. The new research raises several intriguing questions about the fundamental physics of this exciting material and reveals new effects that may make graphene even more powerful than previously expected for practical applications.

For the first time, a team of MIT chemical engineers has observed single ions marching through a tiny carbon-nanotube channel. Such channels could be used as extremely sensitive detectors or as part of a new water-desalination system. They could also allow scientists to study chemical reactions at the single-molecule level.