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New process converts polyethylene into carbon fiber

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(Mar. 27, 2012) — Common material such as polyethylene used in plastic bags could be turned into something far more valuable through a process being developed at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

In a paper published in Advanced Materials, a team led by Amit Naskar of the Materials Science and Technology Division outlined a method that allows not only for production of carbon fiber but also the ability to tailor the final product to specific applications.

"Our results represent what we believe will one day provide industry with a flexible technique for producing technologically innovative fibers in myriad configurations such as fiber bundle or non-woven mat assemblies," Naskar...

Wind turbines that learn like humans

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(Mar. 27, 2012) — Depending on the weather, wind turbines can face whispering breezes or gale-force gusts. Such variable conditions make extracting the maximum power from the turbines a tricky control problem, but a collaboration of Chinese researchers may have found a novel solution in human-inspired learning models.

Most turbines are designed to produce maximum allowable power once winds reach a certain speed, called the rated speed. In winds above or below the rated speed...

Nanoparticles and magnetic current used to damage cancerous cells in mice

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(Mar. 27, 2012) — Using nanoparticles and alternating magnetic fields, University of Georgia scientists have found that head and neck cancerous tumor cells in mice can be killed in half an hour without harming healthy cells.

The findings, published recently in the journal Theranostics, mark the first time to the researchers' knowledge this cancer type has been treated using magnetic iron oxide nanoparticle-induced hyperthermia, or above-normal body temperatures, in laboratory...

Some flame retardants make fires more deadly

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(Mar. 27, 2012) — Some of the flame retardants added to carpets, furniture upholstery, plastics, crib mattresses, car and airline seats and other products to suppress the visible flames in fires are actually increasing the danger of invisible toxic gases that are the No. 1 cause of death in fires. That was the finding of a new study presented in San Diego on March 27 at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world's largest scientific...

Researchers discover a new path for light through metal

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(Mar. 27, 2012) — Helping bridge the gap between photonics and electronics, researchers from Purdue University have coaxed a thin film of titanium nitride into transporting plasmons, tiny electron excitations coupled to light that can direct and manipulate optical signals on the nanoscale. Titanium nitride's addition to the short list of surface-plasmon-supporting materials, formerly composed only of metals, could point the way to a new class of optoelectronic devices with unprecedented...

Ion Beam Laboratory looks at advanced materials for reactors

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(Mar. 27, 2012) — Sandia National Laboratories is using its Ion Beam Laboratory (IBL) to study how to rapidly evaluate the tougher advanced materials needed to build the next generation of nuclear reactors and extend the lives of current reactors.

Reactor operators need advanced cladding materials, which are the alloys that create the outer layer of nuclear fuel rods to keep them separate from the cooling fluid. Better alloys will be less likely to deteriorate from exposure to...

Microfluidic chip developed to stem flu outbreaks

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(Mar. 27, 2012) — The novel H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009 underscored weaknesses in methods widely used to diagnose the flu, from frequent false negatives to long wait times for results. Now a four-year, National Institutes of Health-funded study of 146 patients with flu-like symptoms spearheaded by Associate Professor Catherine Klapperich (BME, MSE) has validated a prototype rapid, low-cost, accurate, point-of-care device that promises a better standard of care. Once optimized and deployed...

Living human gut-on-a-chip: Tiny device simulates structure, microenvironment, and mechanical behavior of human intestine

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(Mar. 27, 2012) — Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have created a gut-on-a-chip microdevice lined by living human cells that mimics the structure, physiology, and mechanics of the human intestine -- even supporting the growth of living microbes within its luminal space. As a more accurate alternative to conventional cell culture and animal models, the microdevice could help researchers gain new insights into intestinal...

New catalyst promises cheaper, greener drugs

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(Mar. 27, 2012) — A chemistry team at the University of Toronto has discovered environmentally-friendly iron-based nanoparticle catalysts that work as well as the expensive, toxic, metal-based catalysts that are currently in wide use by the drug, fragrance and food industry.

"It is always important to strive to make industrial syntheses more green, and using iron catalysts is not only much less toxic, but it is also much more cost effective," said Jessica Sonnenberg, a PhD...