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In an effort to create a more viable material for drug delivery, a team of researchers has accidentally created an entirely new material thought for more than 100 years to be impossible to make. Upsalite is a new form of non-toxic magnesium carbonate with an extremely porous surface area which allows it to absorb more moisture at low humidities than any other known material. “The total area of the pore walls of one gram of material would cover 800 square meters (8611 sq ft) if you would ‘roll them out'”, Maria Strømme, Professor of Nanotechnology at the Uppsala University, Sweden tells Gizmag. That’s roughly equal to the sail area of a megayacht. Aside from using substantially less energy to create drier environments for producing electronics, batteries and pharmaceuticals, Upsalite could also be used to clean up oil spills, toxic waste and residues.

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Scientists have long puzzled over this particular form of magnesium carbonate since it doesn’t normally occur in nature and has defied synthesis in laboratories. Until now, its properties have remained a mystery. Strømme confesses that they didn’t actually set out to create it. “We were really into making a porous calcium carbonate for drug delivery purposes and wanted to try to make a similarly porous magnesium carbonate since we knew that magnesium carbonate was non-toxic and already approved for drug delivery,” she tells us. “We tried to use the same process as with the calcium carbonate, totally unaware of the fact that researchers had tried to make disordered magnesium carbonates for many decades using this route without succeeding.”

The breakthrough came when they tweaked the process a little and accidentally left the material in the reaction chamber over a weekend. On their return they found a new gel in place. “We realized that the material we had made was one that had been claimed impossible to make,” Strømme adds. A year spent refining the process gave them Upsalite.

While creating a theoretical material sounds like cause for celebration, Strømme says the major scientific breakthrough is to be found in its amazing properties. No other known carbonate has a surface area as large as 800 sq m per gram. Though scientists have created many new high surface area materials with nanotechnology, such as carbon nanotubes and zeolites, what makes Upsalite special is the minuteness of its nanopores.

Each nanopore is less than 10 nanometers in diameter which results in one gram of the material having a whopping 26 trillion nanopores. “If a material has many small pores,” explains Strømme, “it gives the material a very large surface area per gram, which gives the material many reaction sites, i.e. sites that can react with the environment, with specific chemicals, or in the case of Upsalite, with moisture.”

Upsalite’s moisture absorption properties are striking. It was found to absorb 20 times more moisture than fumed silica, a material used for cat box fillers and as an anti-caking agent for moisture control during the transport of moisture sensitive goods. This means that you’d need 20 times less material to do the moisture control job.

Its unique pore structure also opens up new applications in drug delivery. The pores can host drugs that need protection from the environment before being delivered to the human body. It’s also useful in thermal insulation, drying residues from oil and gas industries, and as a dessicant for humidity control. Potential applications are still being discovered as the material undergoes development for industrial use.

The team at Uppsala University is commercializing Upsalite through their spin-off company Disruptive Materials. An article describing the material and its properties can be found at PLOS ONE.

Source: Disruptive Materials

MMMSS

Henry Sapiecha

Chinese scientists have developed a new foam-like ‘super material’ image www.sciencearticlesonline.com

Chinese scientists have developed a new foam-like ‘super material’ that is – to use a simile – as light as a balloon yet as strong as metal.

The foam-like material was created when tiny tubes of graphene were formed into a cellular structure which boasted of the same stability as a diamond.

Graphene has attracted great interest among researchers in recent years. And this was what led the researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Shanghai Institute of Ceramics to develop the new material.

About 207 times stronger than steel by weight and able to conduct heat and electricity with very high efficiency, the new foam-like material is been designed to support something 40,000 times its own weight without bending, reports science journal, Advanced Materials.

The researchers contend that one piece of the graphene foam can easily withstand the impact of a blow that has a force of more than 14,500 pounds per square inch – almost as much pressure experienced at the world’s deepest depth in the Pacific ocean known as Challenger Deep of the Mariana Trench.

It is for this reason that the Shanghai research team said their newly created material could withstand more external shocks than other previously reported graphene materials.

It could also be squashed to just 5 per cent of its original size and still return to its original shape, and remained intact after the process was repeated 1,000 times.

Primarily destined for military applications, the properties of the novel material implies that it could be used as a cushion under the surface of bulletproof vests or on the outside of tanks to absorb the shocks from incoming projectiles, the Shanghai study said.

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Henry Sapiecha

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Boeing has unveiled a new synthetic metal called the microlattice, a material that’s being hailed as the lightest metal ever made.

Microlattice is a nickel-phosphorus alloy coated onto an open polymer structure. The polymer when removed, leaves a structure consisting of 100 nanometer thick walls of nickel-phosphorus, thus being 99.99% air.

While the structure of microlattice is strong, it is so light that it can be balanced on top of a dandelion. It is about 100 times lighter than Styrofoam and could well be the key component in the future of aeronautical design.

Microlattice’s design is influenced by the human bone structure. It has a 3D open-cellular polymer structure consisting of interconnected hollow tubes, each tube with a wall about 1000 times lighter than human hair.

This arrangement makes the metal extremely light and very hard to crush. Additionally, microlattice’s ultra-low density gives it a unique mechanical behavior, in that it can recover completely from compressions exceeding 50% strain and absorb high amounts of energy.

Sophia Yang, Research Scientist of Architected Materials at HRL Labs who worked with Boeing on the project stated: “One of the main applications that we’ve been looking into is structural components in aerospace.”

Although direct applications for microlattice have not been settled yet, Boeing is looking to use it in structural reinforcement for airplanes – which could reduce the weight of the aircraft significantly and improve fuel efficiency.

Video and image courtesy of Boeing

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Henry Sapiecha

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Monuments of Imperial Rome have survived for more than a thousand years, despite repeated floods and earthquakes. Now researchers have a new clue as to why—the use of volcanic rock in their cement.

Researchers looked at Trajan’s Market and several other Imperial Roman structures to analyze the remarkable resilience of the concrete. They then reproduced a standard Imperial-age mortar—a simple mix of lime, water, and a specific kind of volcanic ash from an area now known as Pozzuoli. The recipe was taken from records of the Roman architect and engineer Vitruvius.

Scientists already knew that this particular Roman blend of concrete proved extremely tough; what they didn’t know was exactly why. After letting the test concrete toughen up over 180 and then looking at it via X-rays, the scientists here noticed dense growths of plate-like crystals made of a durable mineral known as strätlingite. Those crystals prevented the spread of microscopic cracks in parts of the mortar, which usually breaks down in modern-day cements.

They detailed their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

OOO

Henry Sapiecha

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ANN ARBOR–An odd, iridescent material that’s puzzled physicists for decades turns out to be an exotic state of matter that could open a new path to quantum computers and other next-generation electronics.

Physicists at the University of Michigan have discovered or confirmed several properties of the compound samarium hexaboride that raise hopes for finding the silicon of the quantum era. They say their results also close the case of how to classify the material–a mystery that has been investigated since the late 1960s.

The researchers provide the first direct evidence that samarium hexaboride, abbreviated SmB6, is a topological insulator. Topological insulators are, to physicists, an exciting class of solids that conduct electricity like a metal across their surface, but block the flow of current like rubber through their interior. They behave in this two-faced way despite that their chemical composition is the same throughout.

The U-M scientists used a technique called torque magnetometry to observe tell-tale oscillations in the material’s response to a magnetic field that reveal how electric current moves through it. Their technique also showed that the surface of samarium hexaboride holds rare Dirac electrons, particles with the potential to help researchers overcome one of the biggest hurdles in quantum computing.

These properties are particularly enticing to scientists because SmB6 is considered a strongly correlated material. Its electrons interact more closely with one another than most solids. This helps its interior maintain electricity-blocking behavior.

This deeper understanding of samarium hexaboride raises the possibility that engineers might one day route the flow of electric current in quantum computers like they do on silicon in conventional electronics, said Lu Li, assistant professor of physics in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts and a co-author of a paper on the findings published in Science.

“Before this, no one had found Dirac electrons in a strongly correlated material,” Li said. “We thought strong correlation would hurt them, but now we know it doesn’t. While I don’t think this material is the answer, now we know that this combination of properties is possible and we can look for other candidates.”

The drawback of samarium hexaboride is that the researchers only observed these behaviors at ultracold temperatures.

Quantum computers use particles like atoms or electrons to perform processing and memory tasks. They could offer dramatic increases in computing power due to their ability to carry out scores of calculations at once. Because they could factor numbers much faster than conventional computers, they would greatly improve computer security.

In quantum computers, “qubits” stand in for the 0s and 1s of conventional computers’ binary code. While a conventional bit can be either a 0 or a 1, a qubit could be both at the same time–only until you measure it, that is. Measuring a quantum system forces it to pick one state, which eliminates its main advantage.

Dirac electrons, named after the English physicist whose equations describe their behavior, straddle the realms of classical and quantum physics, Li said. Working together with other materials, they could be capable of clumping together into a new kind of qubit that would change the properties of a material in a way that could be measured indirectly, without the qubit sensing it. The qubit could remain in both states.

While these applications are intriguing, the researchers are most enthusiastic about the fundamental science they’ve uncovered.

“In the science business you have concepts that tell you it should be this or that and when it’s two things at once, that’s a sign you have something interesting to find,” said Jim Allen, an emeritus professor of physics who studied samarium hexaboride for 30 years. “Mysteries are always intriguing to people who do curiosity-driven research.”

Allen thought for years that samarium hexaboride must be a flawed insulator that behaved like a metal at low temperatures because of defects and impurities, but he couldn’t align that with all of its other properties.

“The prediction several years ago about it being a topological insulator makes a lightbulb go off if you’re an old guy like me and you’ve been living with this stuff your whole life,” Allen said.

In 2010, Kai Sun, assistant professor of physics at U-M, led a group that first posited that SmB6 might be a topological insulator. He and Allen were also involved in seminal U-M experiments led by physics professor Cagliyan Kurdak in 2012 that showed indirectly that the hypothesis was correct.

“But the scientific community is always critical,” Sun said. “They want very strong evidence. We think this experiment finally provides direct proof of our theory.”

Henry Sapiecha

Have you ever heard of Buckypaper? It is one of the strongest materials known to man. This carbon nanotechnology material is 500 times stronger than steel and ten times lighter. Believe it or not, Spider’s silk is also on this list. And one is from outer space. Are you familiar with any of them?

Henry Sapiecha

A U.S. team of researchers hunting for dark matter in a former gold mine in South Dakota, said Wednesday that the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment has proven itself to be the most sensitive dark matter detector ever created.

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LUX researchers, seen here in a clean room on the surface at the Sanford Lab, work on  the detector, before it is inserted into its titanium cryostat

Announcing the first results from the test’s initial 90-day run during a seminar at the Sanford Lab in Lead, S.D., the team said they have obtained results that are “the first physics outcomes achieved since the Ray Davis solar neutrino experiment, which earned him a Nobel Prize for Physics.”

“LUX is blazing the path to illuminate the nature of dark matter,” said Brown University physicist Rick Gaitskell, co-spokesperson for LUX with physicist Dan McKinsey of Yale University.

The scientists have been working at the one-of-a-kind laboratory located at the bottom of what was once North America’s deepest gold mine, hoping to find more definitive evidence of the mysterious substance estimated to make up as much as 85% of the universe’s total matter.

“This is only the beginning for LUX,” said team leader Dan McKinsey. “Now that we understand the instrument and its backgrounds, we will continue to take data, testing for more and more elusive candidates for dark matter.”

Less than 15% of the universe is made up of conventional matter — protons, neutrons, and electrons. Most of the rest is thought to be dark matter, which cannot be seen or felt, and seems to interact weakly, if at all, with conventional matter. (Hence the nickname for dark matter particles — WIMPs, or weakly interacting massive particles.) Identifying the raw material of the universe is a high priority for physicists and astronomers.

AAA

Henry Sapiecha

fine gold line

MAGIC SAND VIDEO SHOWS SHOW WATER CANNOT WET THIS SAND
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Sourcd & published by Henry Sapiecha