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  • Science Ticker

    Oyster shells could inspire improved armor

    Making tiny indentations in the shells of windowpane oysters (Placuna placenta) has revealed how the protective layer keeps from crumbling, even after multiple hits. The shells are made of layered, diamond-shaped calcite crystals. When stressed, the atoms of the crystals at the impact point move a short distance, mirroring the pattern of the original crystal structure.The process spurs...
    03/30/2014 - 13:00 Materials
  • News

    Light filter lets rays through from only one direction

    Like a traffic cop directing cars, a layered stack of transparent materials permits light arriving from only a single direction to pass through. Such angle-sensitive filters could improve cameras and telescopes or allow solar cells to convert sunlight into energy more efficiently.People have created effective light filters for thousands of years. Stained glass, for instance, filters light by...
    03/28/2014 - 11:07 Materials, Physics
  • Science Ticker

    Pearl coating inspires tougher ceramics

    A material called mother of pearl, or nacre, has inspired the design of more durable, less brittle ceramics.Nacre, which naturally coats pearls, is made of neatly stacked microplates. Researchers forced ceramic plates of aluminum oxide to grow in a similar pattern and added aluminum oxide nanoparticles to bind them.The resulting ceramics were stiff and tough and could withstand temperatures of up...
    03/24/2014 - 07:00 Materials
  • News in Brief

    World’s thinnest material stretches, bends, twists

    View the videoDENVER– A technique inspired by Japanese paper arts allows scientists to manipulate single-atom-thick sheets of carbon as if they were pieces of paper, researchers announced March 5 at a meeting of the American Physical Society. The team stretched, twisted and bent the sheets under...
    03/14/2014 - 16:36 Materials, Physics
  • News in Brief

    Milk protein a potential flame retardant

    Milk: It may not only do a body good but protect fabrics as well.Researchers led by Jenny Alongi of Italy’s Politecnico di Torino dunked cotton, polyester and a polyester-cotton blend into a liquid formula of powdered milk proteins called caseins, which are key to making cheese. The researchers found that the phosphate-rich proteins extinguished fires set on the fabrics, slowing the spread of...
    03/13/2014 - 11:01 Chemistry, Materials
  • News

    Phosphorene introduced as graphene alternative

    DENVER — Phosphorus has joined carbon as the only elements to be separated into sheets each a single atom thick, researchers announced March 7 at a meeting of the American Physical Society. The newly fabricated ultrathin material, dubbed phosphorene, could prove superior to its popular carbon counterpart for use in...
    03/10/2014 - 12:38 Materials
  • Science Ticker

    Silk bone screws may mend better than metal ones

    A silk screw isn’t as stiff as a metal one, and that may be important for putting bones back together.Implanting the silk screws into rats’ hind limbs showed that the material could successfully pin bones back together over an eight-week period. Because silk has a similar stiffness to bone and can break down in the body, the new screws could be safer and less invasive than metal ones, ...
    03/05/2014 - 14:22 Materials
  • How Bizarre

    Making artificial muscles with a spin

    View the video Scientists have given ordinary fishing line and sewing thread a new twist. When coiled into tight corkscrews, the fibers can lift loads more than 100 times as heavy as those hefted by human muscles.Each strand of fishing line and nylon thread contains tiny plastic polymers neatly organized into parallel chains. These chains contract when heated, making the...
    02/21/2014 - 10:20 Materials
  • Editor's Note

    Making it work, on paper and just maybe in practice

    Last spring, physics writer Andrew Grant reported on the lack of progress by the main U.S. nuclear fusion effort (“Ignition failed,” SN: 4/20/13, p. 26). As the researchers still contend, laser-initiated fusion should work. It works on paper. But in practice, even a set of extremely powerful lasers failed to trigger the...
    02/12/2014 - 00:00 Materials
  • Science Ticker

    Graphene-based material prevents blood clots

    Blood clotting is helpful to seal up a scrape. But platelet buildup can be dangerous during certain medical procedures such as dialysis. Now, a new graphene-based material could keep blood flowing.The material — made of blood-based and sugar-based enzymes attached to graphene, a single-atom-thick sheet of carbon — can produce hydrogen peroxide from blood sugar. The hydrogen peroxide then gets...
    02/11/2014 - 14:20 Materials, Biomedicine