New material could up efficiency of concentrated solar power

Above a certain temperature, it becomes possible to replace the steam with supercritical carbon dioxide. This works more efficiently, potentially providing a boost of more than 20 percent, but it requires temperatures in excess of 1,000K. That makes things a bit more challenging, given that many metals will melt at such temperatures; others will react with carbon dioxide under these conditions. Finding a material that could work involves balancing a lot of factors, including heat and chemical resistance, ea

Source: New material could up efficiency of concentrated solar power | Ars Technica

Flat lens promises possible revolution in optics

The lens is quite unlike the curved disks of glass familiar from cameras and binoculars. Instead, it is made of a thin layer of transparent quartz coated in millions of tiny pillars, each just tens of nanometres across and hundreds high.

Singly, each pillar interacts strongly with light. Their combined effect is to slice up a light beam and remould it as the rays pass through the array

Source: Flat lens promises possible revolution in optics – BBC News

“The quality of our images is actually better than with a state-of-the-art objective lens. I think it is no exaggeration to say that this is potentially revolutionary.”

IBM Scientists Achieve Storage Memory Breakthrough

Previously scientists at IBM and other institutes have successfully demonstrated the ability to store 1 bit per cell in PCM, but today at the IEEE International Memory Workshop in Paris, IBM scientists are presenting, for the first time, successfully storing 3 bits per cell in a 64k-cell array at elevated temperatures and after 1 million endurance cycles.

“Phase change memory is the first instantiation of a universal memory with properties of both DRAM and flash, thus answering one of the grand challenges of our industry,” said Dr. Haris Pozidis, an author of the paper and the manager of non-volatile memory research at IBM Research – Zurich. “Reaching 3 bits per cell is a significant milestone because at this density the cost of PCM will be significantly less than DRAM and closer to flash.”

Source: IBM Scientists Achieve Storage Memory Breakthrough

Q-carbon: A new phase of carbon so hard it forms diamonds when melted

Diamond, being the world’s hardest substance, has a range of uses in creating cutting and polishing tools across industries from mining to medicine. The challenge is that diamond is expensive to mine and to manufacture, requiring high temperatures and high pressures. But by mixing up the substrates and controlling the rate of cooling, Narayan and his team have discovered they can create tiny diamonds within the Q-carbon.

Source: Q-carbon: A new phase of carbon so hard it forms diamonds when melted

Kilogram conflict resolved at last

For decades, metrologists have strived to retire ‘Le Grand K’ — the platinum and iridium cylinder that for 126 years has defined the kilogram from a high-security vault outside Paris. Now it looks as if they at last have the data needed to replace the cylinder with a definition based on mathematical constants.

Source: Kilogram conflict resolved at last : Nature News & Comment

If they are proved right, in 2018, Le Grand K will join the metre as a museum piece. “We’ll keep it,” says Davis, “but it won’t be defining anything anymore.”

Expanding Magnets Have Potential to Energize the World

Because these new magnets also have energy efficient characteristics, they can be used to create a new generation of sensors and actuators with vanishingly small heat signatures, said the researchers. These magnets could also find applications in efficient energy harvesting devices; compact micro-actuators for aerospace, automobile, biomedical, space and robotics applications; and ultra-low thermal signature actuators for sonars and defense applications.

Since these new magnets are composed of alloys that are free of rare-earth elements, they could replace existing rare-earth based magnetostriction alloys, which are expensive and feature inferior mechanical properties, said researchers.

Source: Expanding Magnets Have Potential to Energize the World | UMD Right Now :: University of Maryland

‘Unparticles’ May Hold The Key To Superconductivity, Say Physicists

In very simple terms, when that happens, material properties such as resistance no longer depend on the length scales involved. So if electrons move without resistance on a tiny scale, they should also move without resistance on much larger scales too. Hence the phenomenon of superconductivity.

“We have described how it is possible for unparticles in strongly correlated matter to mediate superconductivity,” say LeBlanc and Grushin.

via ‘Unparticles’ May Hold The Key To Superconductivity, Say Physicists — The Physics arXiv Blog — Medium.

New ultrastiff, ultralight material developed

Normally, Fang explains, stiffness and strength declines with the density of any material; that’s why when bone density decreases, fractures become more likely. But using the right mathematically determined structures to distribute and direct the loads — the way the arrangement of vertical, horizontal, and diagonal beams do in a structure like the Eiffel Tower — the lighter structure can maintain its strength.

via New ultrastiff, ultralight material developed | MIT News Office.

Startup Has a New Way to Make Rare Earths and Other Metals

The ceramic material Powell showed me—which is made of zirconium oxide—replaces the carbon electrode and eliminates those emissions. Researchers have been trying to replace carbon for many years, but the molten salts have corroded the alternatives. The key advance for Infinium was developing alternative molten salts that don’t react with the zirconium oxide, so that it can last long enough to be practical.

via Startup Has a New Way to Make Rare Earths and Other Metals | MIT Technology Review.

Finding an alternative to carbon has long been the “dream” of the metals industry, says Donald Sadoway, a professor of materials science at MIT who is not involved with the company. “I believe [Infinium’s] technology is sound. It’s real,” he says. Whether the company succeeds “is all about the economics,” he says. “No one cares about the flow chart for the process. You care about the prices. If it produces a good metal at a lower cost, people will be interested.”

Preventing Heat From Going to Waste

 Thermoelectrics are slabs of semiconductor with a strange and useful property: heating them on one side generates an electric voltage that can be used to drive a current and power devices. To obtain that voltage, thermoelectrics must be good electrical conductors but poor conductors of heat, which saps the effect. Unfortunately, because a material’s electrical and heat conductivity tend to go hand in hand, it has proven difficult to create materials that have high thermoelectric efficiency—a property scientists represent with the symbol ZT.

via Preventing Heat From Going to Waste | Science/AAAS | News.

The key to the ultralow thermal conductivity, Kanatzidis says, appears to be the pleated arrangement of tin and selenium atoms in the material, which looks like an accordion. The pattern seems to help the atoms flex when hit by heat-transmitting vibrations called phonons, thus dampening SbSe’s ability to conduct heat. The researchers report the results today in Nature.