Sustainable and Self-Healing Mineral Plastic Created Using Microorganisms
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Here are 10 recent discoveries:
1. Sustainable and Self-Healing Mineral Plastic Created Using Microorganisms
Researchers at the University of Konstanz have developed a remarkable mineral plastic with unique properties.
This plastic is tougher than regular plastics, flame-resistant, and possesses self-healing abilities.
An exceptional feature is its ability to be shaped like chewing gum before solidifying.
It can also be reverted to its initial form using water, making it recyclable numerous times.
Initially introduced in 2016, this mineral plastic caught industry attention due to its impressive qualities.
However, it posed an environmental challenge, as it was not easily biodegradable.
To address this, the researchers, led by chemist Helmut Cölfen and postdoc Ilesha Avasthi, sought a solution.
Their latest version of the material employs polyglutamic acid, a biopolymer sourced sustainably from microorganisms, in contrast to the previous petroleum-based polyacrylic acid.
Importantly, this new version retains the same beneficial properties while being entirely biodegradable.
The researchers collaborated with biologists to confirm the plastic's biodegradability.
Microorganisms in natural environments broke down the mineral plastic within 32 days.
This achievement highlights the creation of an environmentally friendly, versatile plastic with a range of applications.
Source - Chemists develop next-generation self-healing plastic that's also biodegradable
2. Ionomer-Free Electrodes for Hydrogen Production
Clean hydrogen production via water electrolysis is essential for a sustainable future, but the scarcity of iridium-based electrocatalysts poses a challenge.
Researchers propose ionomer-free porous transport electrodes (PTEs) for proton-exchange-membrane water electrolyzers (PEMWEs).
These electrodes improve hydrogen production efficiency, enable iridium conservation, and simplify recycling.
The absence of ionomers, which can inhibit catalyst activity, enhances the electrode's performance.
Microelectrode studies show ionomers might negatively affect catalyst kinetics.
A novel manufacturing technique coats iridium directly onto porous transport layers (PTLs), reducing production costs and eliminating flammable solvents.
These ionomer-free PTEs demonstrate outstanding durability, with minimal degradation even after 50,000 stress cycles.
Moreover, these PTEs can be recycled, extending their lifespan.
The research introduces a game-changing approach for large-scale hydrogen electrolysis, potentially enabling the deployment of gigawatt-scale electrolyzers and fostering a circular clean hydrogen economy.
Source - Ionomer-free and recyclable porous-transport electrode for high-performing proton-exchange-membrane water electrolysis
3. Scientists Create "Fourth-Dimensional" Material to Control Energy Waves
Researchers have crafted a remarkable "fourth-dimensional" metamaterial, unveiled in recent research, with the unprecedented ability to manipulate energy waves on specific surfaces.
Conventionally, our spatial understanding is confined to three dimensions, governed by the X, Y, and Z axes.
However, this pioneering material extends the concept into the fourth dimension, permitting control over mechanical surface waves on solid materials.
Led by scientist Guolian Huang from the University of Missouri, the team engineered this metamaterial by exploring four-dimensional material construction.
This innovation empowers the steering of energy waves along desired pathways as they traverse between distinct materials.
Named "topological pumping," this discovery holds potential in quantum computing and related fields due to its ability to induce quantum mechanical effects beyond the standard three dimensions.
Beyond theoretical possibilities, practical applications include earthquake resilience by placing the metamaterial beneath structures to absorb seismic energy.
The material's transformative impact is anticipated in engineering and defense technology.
Huang envisions a wide array of applications, promising a paradigm shift in various industries.
Source - Strange Metamaterial with "Fourth Dimensional" Properties Leads to Breakthrough in Energy Manipulation
4. Deep Learning for Designing Novel Macrocycles
A new study introduces "Macformer," a computational method based on deep learning to facilitate the creation of novel macrocyclic compounds from acyclic molecules.
Macrocycles, cyclic molecules with 12 or more atoms, offer unique chemical scaffolds for drug development.
Macformer employs the Transformer architecture to explore diverse macrocyclic analogs by adding suitable linkers to acyclic compounds.
This aims to enhance their biological activity and physicochemical properties.
The method demonstrates effective reconstruction, chemical validity, novelty, and uniqueness of generated compounds.
Compared to existing approaches, Macformer generates more structurally diverse and similar macrocycles to known bioactive ones.
Macformer's potential was validated through molecular docking simulations and experimental validation in drug design, showcasing its utility in developing macrocyclic drug candidates.
Source - Macrocyclization of linear molecules by deep learning to facilitate macrocyclic drug candidates discovery
5. Innovative Liquid Polymer Electrolyte for Safer and High-Performance Lithium Batteries
A new approach to electrolytes, named liquid polymer electrolyte (LPE), has been developed for high-energy lithium metal batteries, addressing key challenges faced by solid polymer electrolytes.
Typically, enhancing performance of solid electrolytes involves introducing organic solvents or plasticizers, which compromises safety.
This LPE concept uses a brush-like liquid-state polymer to solely dissolve lithium salts, creating a non-flammable and highly conductive electrolyte.
This innovation overcomes the limitations of conventional organic liquid electrolytes and solid polymer electrolytes.
The LPE exhibits high ionic conductivity, remarkable lithium dendrite suppression, and stable long-term cycling across a wide temperature range.
Furthermore, the LPE-based battery resists thermal abuse, vacuum conditions, and mechanical stress.
Unlike prior solutions that compromise safety, this LPE approach proves highly promising for developing secure and high-performance polymer electrolytes.
This development opens avenues for expanding the operational temperature range of lithium batteries and achieving safer and more efficient energy storage solutions.
This is crucial for powering various applications and advancing energy technology.
Source - Non-flammable solvent-free liquid polymer electrolyte for lithium metal batteries
6. Revealing Atomic Motifs Governing Material Durability
Scientists at the Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung (MPIE) have devised a method to analyze and interpret grain boundaries in steels, two-dimensional defects that influence material durability.
By growing bicrystals with different grain boundary planes and using advanced transmission electron microscopy, they've identified atomic motifs, the smallest hierarchical level in materials, that dictate the chemical properties of grain boundaries.
These findings enable the design of more robust, tailored materials by engineering these motifs.
Machine learning and atom probe tomography were also employed for in-depth analysis.
This research offers crucial insights into understanding grain boundary behavior, with implications for corrosion resistance and failure prevention in materials.
Source - Seeing light elements in a grain boundary: Revealing material properties down to the atomic scale
7. Stacked Sandwich Compounds Form Nano-Sized Rings
Researchers from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the University of Marburg have achieved a significant breakthrough in organometallic chemistry by creating nano-sized rings from stacked sandwich compounds.
Traditionally, sandwich compounds consist of two flat aromatic organic rings with a central metal atom in between, forming a linear structure.
However, the researchers successfully formed a cyclocene structure – a nanoring composed of 18 building blocks – with an outer diameter of 3.8 nanometers.
Depending on the metal used as the central atom, the nanoring displays orange photoluminescence.
The discovery introduces a new building block to organometallic chemistry and opens possibilities for further research into unique physical properties and applications of these nano-sized rings.
Source - Nanorings: New building blocks for chemistry
8. Innovative Porous Material Shows Promise for CO2 Capture
Researchers from Kyoto University, along with colleagues from China, have developed an innovative and energy-efficient method for capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from gas mixtures.
They used a flexible porous coordination polymer (PCP), also known as a metal-organic framework (MOF), with adaptable pore structures.
This flexibility enables the PCP to interact with and adsorb CO2 molecules selectively by opening specific pores, effectively acting as gates for CO2 passage.
This process, called "exclusion discrimination gating," triggers structural changes that enhance binding and open the solid structure for the bound CO2 to enter.
Unlike previous methods, this new approach demonstrates significantly improved energy efficiency for selective gas capture and regeneration.
The researchers believe this advancement could contribute to sustainable gas separation technologies, support low-carbon industrial processes, and even aid large-scale efforts to extract CO2 from the atmosphere.
Source - Interactive networks for capturing gas with high selectivity
9. Creating Compostable Plastics Using Starch
Researchers at Michigan State University's School of Packaging have developed a compostable alternative to petroleum-based plastics.
Led by Rafael Auras, the team created a bio-based polymer blend that is capable of breaking down in both home and industrial composting settings.
This innovation addresses the significant issue of plastic waste, with less than 10% of plastic waste being recycled in the U.S.
The new material could divert plastic waste from landfills and reduce the need for intensive cleaning before recycling.
The team combined polylactic acid (PLA), a plant-derived plastic, with a carbohydrate-derived material called thermoplastic starch.
This blend enables faster degradation of PLA, making it suitable for home composting conditions.
The researchers used various blends to preserve the desirable properties of the plastic while enhancing its compostability.
The study showcases the potential of sustainable and easily degradable plastics for a more eco-friendly future.
Source - Putting starch into bio-based polymer makes bioplastics more compostable
10. Faster Charging with Cracked Cathode Particles in Batteries
Lithium-ion batteries can degrade due to cracks between cathode particles, which cause corrosion and degrade battery performance.
However, a study from the University of Michigan reveals that these cracks can actually be advantageous.
The cathode, the negative electrode in a battery, consists of tiny particles.
Cracks among these particles can speed up charging rates.
The study found that larger particles behave like collections of smaller particles when cracked, challenging the assumption that smaller particles charge faster due to their larger surface-area-to-volume ratio.
Researchers used a specialized chip to measure individual particle charging properties and found no correlation between particle size and charging times.
The study suggests that exploring cracked particles could improve lithium-ion battery charging times in the future.
Source - Lithium-Ion Battery Cracking Proves Counterintuitive In University Of Michigan Study
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