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  • News in Brief

    Magnets make a new soft metamaterial stiffen up in a flash

    Magnetism transforms a weird new material from soft to rigid in a split second.

    This metamaterial — a synthetic structure designed to behave in ways that natural materials don’t — comprises a gridlike network of plastic tubes filled with fluid that becomes more viscous in a magnetic field, causing the tubes to firm up. The material could help make more adaptable robots or body armor,...

    12/07/2018 - 14:00 Materials
  • Letters to the Editor

    Questions about toxic red tides, and more reader feedback

    Hot stuff

    A new material that converts sunlight into heat could someday melt ice off airplane wings, wind turbines and rooftops, Maria Temming reported in “A new material harnesses light to deice surfaces” (SN: 9/29/18, p. 17).

    “What happens when the object (such as an airplane wing) to which the material has been applied is subjected to the sun on a hot summer day?” asked online...

    11/04/2018 - 06:00 Materials, Health, Physics
  • News

    Vanadium dioxide’s weird phase transition just got weirder

    For the first time, researchers have gotten a detailed view of how atoms in a compound called vanadium dioxide move when an ultrafast laser pulse transforms the material from an electrical insulator to a conductor — and it’s nothing like scientists expected.

    Rather than switching from one crystal formation to another in a direct, synchronized manner, like choreographed ballerinas, the...

    11/01/2018 - 14:00 Physics, Materials, Technology
  • News in Brief

    This reflective paint could keep sunbaked buildings cool

    A new polymer-based paint that reflects nearly all incoming sunlight could help keep buildings, cars, airplanes and other sunbaked structures cool.

    This polymer paint, described online September 27 in Science, can be applied to various surfaces, including plastics, metals and wood. It also could be fashioned into recyclable tarpaulins for covering homes, cars or other enclosed spaces....

    09/28/2018 - 09:00 Materials, Technology, Sustainability
  • News

    High-tech ‘skins’ turn everyday objects into robots

    A new type of soft robot gets its power from the skin it’s in.

    Robotic skin that bends, stretches and contracts can wrap around inanimate objects like stuffed animals, foam tubes or balloons to create flexible, lightweight robots. Removable, reusable sheets of this artificial skin, described online September 19 in Science Robotics, could also be used to build grippers or wearable devices...

    09/19/2018 - 14:00 Materials, Robotics, Technology
  • News

    Here’s how graphene could make future electronics superfast

    Graphene just added another badge to its supermaterial sash.

    New experiments show that this single layer of carbon atoms can transform electronic signals at gigahertz frequencies into higher-frequency terahertz signals — which can shuttle up to 1,000 times as much information per second.

    Electromagnetic waves in the terahertz range are notoriously difficult to create, and...

    09/11/2018 - 12:00 Materials, Technology