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Weight Loss for Batteries

With $27 billion a year in sales, lithium-ion batteries already dominate the market for rechargeables. But there’s always pressure to do better. Now researchers report that they’ve come up with a way to use nanotechnology to either significantly increase the energy storage capacity of lithium-ion batteries or reduce their weight … More


Tiny Laser Could Light the Way to New Microchip Technology

A new type of laser takes up only a small fraction of as much space as a conventional laser, a team of physicists reports. The nanometer-sized gizmo could provide a key tool for researchers trying to develop a new type of microchip technology called “plasmonics” that mixes electronics and optics. … More


A Greener Way to Make Plastic

Chemical refineries are great at converting petroleum into gasoline and the building blocks of plastics and other consumer goods. But when it comes to sustainable starting materials, such as wood chips, corn stalks, or other plant “biomass,” refineries are too inefficient to make the process commercially viable. Researchers have now … More


New State of Matter Seen in Clay

Researchers have observed a new kind of extremely light and stable gel in a suspension of clay at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble, France. The so-called equilibrium gel, predicted 4 years ago by physicists, could lead to improved drug-delivery systems and other novel microscopic devices. A gel … More


Better Molecular Pens

Someday, nanotechnologists fancy, they’ll be able to build materials atom by atom from the bottom up, LEGO-style. Right now they’re still working on the two-dimensional equivalent: writing ultrafine lines and dots of selected molecules on ultrasmooth surfaces. Unfortunately, all the molecular “pens” developed so far have been either too blunt-tipped … More


A Battery That Charges in Seconds

Imagine being able to charge your cell phone in a matter of seconds or your laptop in a few minutes. That might soon be possible, thanks to a new kind of nanostructured battery electrode developed by scientists at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The researchers found that their electrode can … More


Plastic, Heal Thyself

Leave your child’s plastic toys out in the backyard over the summer, and the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays bleach them and make them brittle. But UV light can be a healer, too, according to a new study. Researchers have created a polymer that mends itself when hit with a bright … More


A Cell Becomes a Laser

Lasers, the key to optical communications, data storage, and a host of other modern technology, are usually made from inanimate solids, liquids, or gases. Now, a pair of scientists have developed what could be the world’s first biological laser. Built into a single cell, the laser might one day be … More


Self-Healing Sensor Can Take the Strain

Whether it’s monitoring the integrity of buildings during earthquakes or airplane wings during flight, so-called strain sensors are getting more and more important for our safety. But what if a sensor itself is broken? A pair of engineers claims to have developed an answer to this problem: a new type … More


Scientists Play World’s Oldest Commercial Record

This scratchy, 12-second audio clip of a woman reciting the first verse of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” doesn’t sound like much. But the faint, 123-year-old recording—etched into a warped metal cylinder and brought back to life after decades of silence by a three-dimensional (3D) optical scanning technique—appears to belong to … More