Platinum, one of the rarest and most expensive metals on Earth, may soon find itself out of a job. Known for its allure in engagement rings, platinum is also treasured for its ability to jump-start chemical reactions. It’s an excellent catalyst, able to turn standoffish molecules into fast friends. But Earth’s supply of the metal is limited, so scientists are trying to coax materials that aren...
50 Years Ago
First germanium integrated circuits
Integrated circuits made of germanium instead of silicon have been reported … by researchers at International Business Machines Corp. Even though the experimental devices are about three times as large as the smallest silicon circuits, they reportedly offer faster overall switching speed. Germanium … has inherently greater mobility than silicon, which...
A team of scientists may have given hydrogen a squeeze strong enough to turn it into a metal. But critics vigorously dispute the claim.
Researchers from Harvard University report that under extremely high pressures hydrogen became reflective — one of the key properties of a metal. The feat required compressing hydrogen to 4.9 million times atmospheric pressure, the scientists report...
News in Brief
Hoverboards and certain cell phones powered by lithium-ion batteries occasionally go up in flames. Scientists now have a new plan for squelching these fires before they flare out of control: incorporating a flame retardant in the battery that’s released if temperatures get too toasty.
Within lithium-ion batteries, ions travel between positive and negative electrodes through a liquid...
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One hundred and ninety-two atoms have tied the knot.
Chains of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen atoms, woven together in a triple braid, form the most complex molecular knot ever described, chemists from the University of Manchester in England report in the Jan. 13 Science.
Learning how to tie such knots could one day help researchers weave molecular...
Graphene-infused Silly Putty forms an electrical sensor that is sensitive enough to detect the gentle caresses of spider feet walking across it.
Mixing graphene, or atom-thick sheets of carbon, and polysilicone, the substance found in the children’s toy Silly Putty, made it conduct electricity. Its electrical resistance was highly sensitive to pressure: Squishing the putty caused the...
An oddball superconductor is the first of its kind — and if scientists are lucky, its discovery may lead to others.
At a frigid temperature 5 ten-thousandths of a degree above absolute zero, bismuth becomes a superconductor — a material that conducts electricity without resistance — physicists from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, India, report online December 1 in...
Hyperelastic bone\ˈhī-per ə̇ˈlastik bōn\ n.10/11/2016 - 07:00 Materials, Health, Biomedicine
A highly flexible 3-D printed scaffold used to repair broken or damaged bones.
“Hyperelastic bones” don’t impart Stretch Armstrong abilities, but they could give surgeons a quick, inexpensive way to repair bone breaks. Created by Ramille Shah, a materials science engineer at Northwestern University in Chicago, and colleagues, the new...
Letters to the Editor
Metallic odyssey10/05/2016 - 13:30 Physics, Materials, Oceans, Astronomy
Scientists are getting closer to turning hydrogen into a solid metal, Emily Conover reported in “Chasing a devious metal” (SN: 8/20/16, p. 18).
“If, as some scientists think, [metallic hydrogen] formed under intense pressure remains solid at room temperature, why don’t we find any on our planet?” asked Michael Brostek. “If formed in a star that subsequently explodes,...
Bagels and pretzels have a lot in common with the physics of certain materials: The snacks illustrated the mathematics behind theoretical descriptions of exotic states of matter, work which won the 2016 Nobel Prize in physics on October 4. David Thouless of the University of Washington in Seattle, J. Michael Kosterlitz of Brown University and Duncan Haldane of Princeton University received the...