The Quest for Better Bandages Turns to Nanofibers

Our skin is a protective barrier to bacterial infection, but damage to the skin allows bacteria to enter. Normally, our immune system kills the bacteria and allows wounds to heal. However, certain diseases can overload the immune system and lead to heavy infection. Antibiotics are commonly used to treat heavy bacterial infection, but bacteria can develop drug resistance after too much exposure. A team at … Continue reading The Quest for Better Bandages Turns to Nanofibers

Be the coolest house on the block with a fresh coat of a new polymer material

This summer, heat waves hit the Northern Hemisphere with temperatures upward of 100°F, highlighting one of the biggest current worldwide challenges: keeping buildings (and the people inside them) cool. A group of researchers from Columbia University may have an answer. They’ve designed a new material that chills buildings by reflecting sunlight. Instead of getting rid of heat that has already slipped into the building, this … Continue reading Be the coolest house on the block with a fresh coat of a new polymer material

Scientists make a polar bear-inspired invisibility cloak

Move aside Harry Potter, science has invisibility cloaks too. The non-magical version was inspired by polar bear fur and works by having, excellent thermal insulating properties. Polar bear hair has a hollow core which effectively prevents the infrared emission, or heat signature, of the polar bear from escaping the fur. This helps the bear retain its heat and stay warm. Because of this efficient reflection of … Continue reading Scientists make a polar bear-inspired invisibility cloak

Scientists draw from nature to build a material that is both stiff and tough—a rarity in material science

In material science, it is difficult to engineer a material that is both highly stiff and tough. In the past, scientists have increased the stiffness of soft polymers by adding nano-sized particles of stiff materials (e.g. carbon nanotubes, silica), but this does not increase the toughness. Drawing inspiration from structures in nature that are both stiff and tough, scientists injected a flexible elastomer disc with pockets of liquid gallium. Compared to control structures, the addition of liquid gallium significantly increased the stiffness and toughness of the overall structure. While this study leaves us with several questions, it demonstrates that putting liquid inside of solid doesn’t necessarily make the combined material softer, thus contradicting a long-standing theory in the material-science world. Continue reading Scientists draw from nature to build a material that is both stiff and tough—a rarity in material science

Researchers at IBM create triangulene, a magnetized molecule with unknown potential

IBM scientists use microscopy methods to create an “impossible” carbon molecule, triangulene. Triangulene is made of 6 carbon rings with two unpaired electrons roaming about. While triangulene has not been fully characterized at this point, the unpaired electrons have aligned spin, making this molecule a prime candidate for applications in quantum computing and other fields. Continue reading Researchers at IBM create triangulene, a magnetized molecule with unknown potential

The Light of Elendil in Shelob’s Lair

By Andrew Wong, a second year graduate student in the Applied Physics program at Harvard University.       The increase in global energy demand and subsequent carbon dioxide emissions has driven advancements in renewable energy generation technologies such as wind turbines and solar cells. However, these technologies are inherently intermittent, and require robust energy storage devices. Inexpensive, large-scale energy storage systems such as aqueous … Continue reading The Light of Elendil in Shelob’s Lair

Algae: Applications in Removing Arsenic and Beyond

Scientists at Zhejiang University have recently published an improved method for removing arsenic from drinking water, which relies on chemically modifying the shells of a type of algae, called diatoms, to make the shells efficient “sponges” for soaking up arsenic. Modified diatom shells are unique in that they can be widely manipulated for applications in fields as diverse as medicine and materials science. Despite their … Continue reading Algae: Applications in Removing Arsenic and Beyond

Why the blue LED should light up your life (and won a Nobel Prize)

What do you think of when you hear the phrase ‘green technology’? Do solar panels, wind turbines, and electric cars come to mind? What about light-emitting diodes (LEDs)? Unlike many costly green technologies, LEDs are accessible to the majority of Individuals who want to help the environment and save money. Using an LED for 50,000 hours of white-light home lighting (i.e. LED light bulbs for … Continue reading Why the blue LED should light up your life (and won a Nobel Prize)

Cash register receipts. Photograph by Hey Paul Studios (Flickr).

Cash Register Receipts and Clean Hands

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical compound that has been used in the production of plastics, including cell phones, contact lenses, and food storage containers, for over 50 years. Scientists have recently shown that the BPA found on cash register receipts (to help develop the printed text) may be a significant source of BPA exposure, thanks to our generous use of hand sanitizers and other skin care products. That’s because hand sanitizers contain ingredients that dissolve BPA, and also increase the skin’s ability to absorb the chemical. Although further studies and larger sample sizes will be necessary to conclude whether BPA is a true hazard, this finding suggests that certain populations, such as cashiers, may be exposed to higher than average amounts of BPA on a regular basis – and keeping hands clean may not be helping. Continue reading Cash Register Receipts and Clean Hands