Connect with us

Science

Scientists Astonished by Strange Material That Can Be Made Like Plastic but Conducts Like Metal

Published

 on

 

A group of scientists at the University of Chicago has discovered a way to create a material in which the molecular fragments are jumbled and disordered, but can still conduct electricity extremely well. This goes against all of the rules we know about conductivity. Above is an artist’s conception of the lattice. Credit: Illustration by Frank Wegloski

 

‘Like conductive Play-Doh’: breakthrough could point way to a new class of materials for electronic devices.

<span class=”glossaryLink” aria-describedby=”tt” data-cmtooltip=”

University of Chicago
Founded in 1890, the University of Chicago (UChicago, U of C, or Chicago) is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois. Located on a 217-acre campus in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, near Lake Michigan, the school holds top-ten positions in various national and international rankings. UChicago is also well known for its professional schools: Pritzker School of Medicine, Booth School of Business, Law School, School of Social Service Administration, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, Divinity School and the Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies, and Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering.

” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”]”>University of Chicago scientists have discovered a way to create a material that can be made like a plastic, but conducts electricity more like a metal.

 

The research shows how to make a kind of material in which the molecular fragments are jumbled and disordered, but can still conduct electricity extremely well. It was published on October 26 in the journal Nature.

This goes against all of the rules we know about conductivity—to a scientist, it’s kind of like seeing a car driving on water and still going 70 mph. But the finding could also prove to be extraordinarily useful. Often, on the way to inventing something revolutionary, the process first starts with discovering a completely new material.

“In principle, this opens up the design of a whole new class of materials that conduct electricity, are easy to shape, and are very robust in everyday conditions,” said John Anderson, an associate professor of chemistry at the University of Chicago and the senior author on the study. “Essentially, it suggests new possibilities for an extremely important technological group of materials,” said Jiaze Xie (PhD’22, now at Princeton), the first author on the paper.

 

‘There isn’t a solid theory to explain this’

If you’re making any kind of electronic device, whether it be an iPhone, a solar panel, or a television, conductive materials are absolutely essential. Metals, such as copper, gold, and aluminum, are by far the oldest and largest group of conductors. Then, about 50 years ago, scientists were able to create conductors made out of organic materials, using a chemical treatment known as “doping,” which sprinkles in different atoms or “impurities” throughout the material. The fact that these materials are more flexible and easier to work with than conventional metals makes them attractive, but the problem is that they aren’t particularly stable and may lose their conductivity if exposed to moisture or if the temperature rises too high.

However, fundamentally, both organic and traditional metallic conductors share a common characteristic. They are made up of straight, closely packed rows of atoms or molecules. This means that electrons can easily flow through the material, much like cars on a highway. In fact, scientists thought a material had to have these straight, orderly rows in order to conduct electricity efficiently.

Illustration of the structure of the material. Nickel atoms are shown in green, carbon atoms in gray, and sulfur atoms in yellow. Credit: Illustration by Xie et al

Then Xie began experimenting with some materials that were discovered years ago, but largely ignored since. He strung nickel atoms like pearls into a string of molecular beads made of carbon and sulfur, and began testing.

 

To the scientists’ astonishment, the material easily and strongly conducted electricity. What’s more, it was very stable. “We heated it, chilled it, exposed it to air and humidity, and even dripped <span class=”glossaryLink” aria-describedby=”tt” data-cmtooltip=”

acid
Any substance that when dissolved in water, gives a pH less than 7.0, or donates a hydrogen ion.

” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”]”>acid and base on it, and nothing happened,” said Xie. That is enormously helpful for a device that has to function in the real world.

But the most striking thing to the scientists was that the molecular structure of the material was disordered. “From a fundamental picture, that should not be able to be a metal,” said Anderson. “There isn’t a solid theory to explain this.”

Xie, Anderson, and their lab worked with other scientists around the university to try to understand how the material can conduct electricity. After tests, simulations, and theoretical work, they think that the material forms layers, like sheets in a lasagna. Even if the sheets rotate sideways, no longer forming a neat lasagna stack, electrons can still move horizontally or vertically—as long as the pieces touch.

The end result is unprecedented for a conductive material. “It’s almost like conductive Play-Doh—you can smush it into place and it conducts electricity,” Anderson said.

 

To the scientists’ astonishment, the material easily and strongly conducted electricity.

The scientists are excited because the discovery suggests a fundamentally new design principle for electronics technology. Conductors are so important that virtually any new development opens up new lines for technology, they explained.

One of the material’s attractive characteristics is new options for processing. For example, metals usually have to be melted in order to be made into the right shape for a chip or device, which limits what you can make with them, since other components of the device have to be able to withstand the heat needed to process these materials.

Anderson Lab at University of Chicago

A group of scientists from the University of Chicago has discovered a way to create a material that can be made like a plastic, but conducts electricity more like a metal. Above, members of the Anderson lab at work. Credit: Photo by John Zich/University of Chicago

The new material has no such restriction because it can be made at room temperature. It can also be used where the need for a device or pieces of the device to withstand heat, acid or alkalinity, or humidity has previously limited engineers’ options to develop new technology.

 

The team is also exploring the different forms and functions the material might make. “We think we can make it 2D or 3D, make it porous, or even introduce other functions by adding different linkers or nodes,” said Xie.

Reference: “Intrinsic glassy-metallic transport in an amorphous coordination polymer” by Jiaze Xie, Simon Ewing, Jan-Niklas Boyn, Alexander S. Filatov, Baorui Cheng, Tengzhou Ma, Garrett L. Grocke, Norman Zhao, Ram Itani, Xiaotong Sun, Himchan Cho, Zhihengyu Chen, Karena W. Chapman, Shrayesh N. Patel, Dmitri V. Talapin, Jiwoong Park, David A. Mazziotti and John S. Anderson, 26 October 2022, Nature.
DOI: 10.1038/s41586-022-05261-4

Other authors on the paper include University of Chicago graduate students Norman Zhao, Garrett Grocke, Ram Itani, Baorui Cheng, Tengzhou Ma (PhD’21, now at Applied Materials), Simon Ewing (PhD’22, now at Intel) and Jan-Niklas Boyn (PhD’22, now at Princeton); postdoctoral researcher Xiaotong Sun; UChicago Director of X-ray Research Facilities Alexander S. Filatov; Himchan Cho (formerly a postdoctoral researcher at UChicago, now at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology); UChicago Profs. Shrayesh N. Patel, Dmitri V. Talapin, Jiwoong Park, and David A. Mazziotti; and Zhihengyu Chen and Prof. Karena Chapman of Stonybrook University.

Funding: Army Research Office, a directorate of U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory; U.S. Department of Energy; National Science Foundation.

Source link

Continue Reading

Science

Las Vegas Aces Rookie Kate Martin Suffers Ankle Injury in Game Against Chicago Sky

Published

 on

Las Vegas Aces rookie Kate Martin had to be helped off the floor and taken to the locker room after suffering an apparent ankle injury in the first quarter of Tuesday night’s game against the Chicago Sky.

Late in the first quarter, Martin was pushing the ball up the court when she appeared to twist her ankle and lost her balance. The rookie was in serious pain, lying on the floor before eventually being helped off. Her entire team came out in support, and although she managed to put some pressure on the leg, she was taken to the locker room for further evaluation.

Martin returned to the team’s bench late in the second quarter but was ruled out for the remainder of the game.

“Kate Martin is awesome. Kate Martin picks up things so quickly, she’s an amazing sponge,” Aces guard Kelsey Plum said of the rookie during the preseason. “I think (coach) Becky (Hammon) nicknamed her Kate ‘Money’ Martin. I think that’s gonna stick. And when I say ‘money,’ it’s not just about scoring and stuff, she’s just in the right place at the right time. She just makes people better. And that’s what Becky values, that’s what our coaching staff values and that’s why she’s gonna be a great asset to our team.”

Las Vegas selected Martin in the second round of the 2024 WNBA Draft. She was coming off the best season of her collegiate career at Iowa, where she averaged 13.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game during the 2023-24 campaign. Martin’s integration into the Aces organization has been seamless, with her quickly earning the respect and admiration of her teammates and coaches.

The team and fans alike are hoping for a speedy recovery for Martin, whose contributions have been vital to the Aces’ performance this season.

Continue Reading

Science

Asteroid Apophis will visit Earth in 2029, and this European satellite will be along for the ride

Published

 on

The European Space Agency is fast-tracking a new mission called Ramses, which will fly to near-Earth asteroid 99942 Apophis and join the space rock in 2029 when it comes very close to our planet — closer even than the region where geosynchronous satellites sit.

Ramses is short for Rapid Apophis Mission for Space Safety and, as its name suggests, is the next phase in humanity’s efforts to learn more about near-Earth asteroids (NEOs) and how we might deflect them should one ever be discovered on a collision course with planet Earth.

In order to launch in time to rendezvous with Apophis in February 2029, scientists at the European Space Agency have been given permission to start planning Ramses even before the multinational space agency officially adopts the mission. The sanctioning and appropriation of funding for the Ramses mission will hopefully take place at ESA’s Ministerial Council meeting (involving representatives from each of ESA’s member states) in November of 2025. To arrive at Apophis in February 2029, launch would have to take place in April 2028, the agency says.

This is a big deal because large asteroids don’t come this close to Earth very often. It is thus scientifically precious that, on April 13, 2029, Apophis will pass within 19,794 miles (31,860 kilometers) of Earth. For comparison, geosynchronous orbit is 22,236 miles (35,786 km) above Earth’s surface. Such close fly-bys by asteroids hundreds of meters across (Apophis is about 1,230 feet, or 375 meters, across) only occur on average once every 5,000 to 10,000 years. Miss this one, and we’ve got a long time to wait for the next.

When Apophis was discovered in 2004, it was for a short time the most dangerous asteroid known, being classified as having the potential to impact with Earth possibly in 2029, 2036, or 2068. Should an asteroid of its size strike Earth, it could gouge out a crater several kilometers across and devastate a country with shock waves, flash heating and earth tremors. If it crashed down in the ocean, it could send a towering tsunami to devastate coastlines in multiple countries.

Over time, as our knowledge of Apophis’ orbit became more refined, however, the risk of impact  greatly went down. Radar observations of the asteroid in March of 2021 reduced the uncertainty in Apophis’ orbit from hundreds of kilometers to just a few kilometers, finally removing any lingering worries about an impact — at least for the next 100 years. (Beyond 100 years, asteroid orbits can become too unpredictable to plot with any accuracy, but there’s currently no suggestion that an impact will occur after 100 years.) So, Earth is expected to be perfectly safe in 2029 when Apophis comes through. Still, scientists want to see how Apophis responds by coming so close to Earth and entering our planet’s gravitational field.

“There is still so much we have yet to learn about asteroids but, until now, we have had to travel deep into the solar system to study them and perform experiments ourselves to interact with their surface,” said Patrick Michel, who is the Director of Research at CNRS at Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur in Nice, France, in a statement. “Nature is bringing one to us and conducting the experiment itself. All we need to do is watch as Apophis is stretched and squeezed by strong tidal forces that may trigger landslides and other disturbances and reveal new material from beneath the surface.”

The Goldstone radar’s imagery of asteroid 99942 Apophis as it made its closest approach to Earth, in March 2021. (Image credit: NASA/JPL–Caltech/NSF/AUI/GBO)

By arriving at Apophis before the asteroid’s close encounter with Earth, and sticking with it throughout the flyby and beyond, Ramses will be in prime position to conduct before-and-after surveys to see how Apophis reacts to Earth. By looking for disturbances Earth’s gravitational tidal forces trigger on the asteroid’s surface, Ramses will be able to learn about Apophis’ internal structure, density, porosity and composition, all of which are characteristics that we would need to first understand before considering how best to deflect a similar asteroid were one ever found to be on a collision course with our world.

Besides assisting in protecting Earth, learning about Apophis will give scientists further insights into how similar asteroids formed in the early solar system, and, in the process, how  planets (including Earth) formed out of the same material.

One way we already know Earth will affect Apophis is by changing its orbit. Currently, Apophis is categorized as an Aten-type asteroid, which is what we call the class of near-Earth objects that have a shorter orbit around the sun than Earth does. Apophis currently gets as far as 0.92 astronomical units (137.6 million km, or 85.5 million miles) from the sun. However, our planet will give Apophis a gravitational nudge that will enlarge its orbit to 1.1 astronomical units (164.6 million km, or 102 million miles), such that its orbital period becomes longer than Earth’s.

It will then be classed as an Apollo-type asteroid.

Ramses won’t be alone in tracking Apophis. NASA has repurposed their OSIRIS-REx mission, which returned a sample from another near-Earth asteroid, 101955 Bennu, in 2023. However, the spacecraft, renamed OSIRIS-APEX (Apophis Explorer), won’t arrive at the asteroid until April 23, 2029, ten days after the close encounter with Earth. OSIRIS-APEX will initially perform a flyby of Apophis at a distance of about 2,500 miles (4,000 km) from the object, then return in June that year to settle into orbit around Apophis for an 18-month mission.

Related Stories:

Furthermore, the European Space Agency still plans on launching its Hera spacecraft in October 2024 to follow-up on the DART mission to the double asteroid Didymos and Dimorphos. DART impacted the latter in a test of kinetic impactor capabilities for potentially changing a hazardous asteroid’s orbit around our planet. Hera will survey the binary asteroid system and observe the crater made by DART’s sacrifice to gain a better understanding of Dimorphos’ structure and composition post-impact, so that we can place the results in context.

The more near-Earth asteroids like Dimorphos and Apophis that we study, the greater that context becomes. Perhaps, one day, the understanding that we have gained from these missions will indeed save our planet.

 

728x90x4

Source link

Continue Reading

Science

McMaster Astronomy grad student takes a star turn in Killarney Provincial Park

Published

 on

Astronomy PhD candidate Veronika Dornan served as the astronomer in residence at Killarney Provincial Park. She’ll be back again in October when the nights are longer (and bug free). Dornan has delivered dozens of talks and shows at the W.J. McCallion Planetarium and in the community. (Photos by Veronika Dornan)

Veronika Dornan followed up the April 8 total solar eclipse with another awe-inspiring celestial moment.

This time, the astronomy PhD candidate wasn’t cheering alongside thousands of people at McMaster — she was alone with a telescope in the heart of Killarney Provincial Park just before midnight.

Dornan had the park’s telescope pointed at one of the hundreds of globular star clusters that make up the Milky Way. She was seeing light from thousands of stars that had travelled more than 10,000 years to reach the Earth.

This time there was no cheering: All she could say was a quiet “wow”.

Dornan drove five hours north to spend a week at Killarney Park as the astronomer in residence. part of an outreach program run by the park in collaboration with the Allan I. Carswell Observatory at York University.

Dornan applied because the program combines her two favourite things — astronomy and the great outdoors. While she’s a lifelong camper, hiker and canoeist, it was her first trip to Killarney.

Bruce Waters, who’s taught astronomy to the public since 1981 and co-founded Stars over Killarney, warned Dornan that once she went to the park, she wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.

The park lived up to the hype. Everywhere she looked was like a painting, something “a certain Group of Seven had already thought many times over.”

The dome telescopes at Killarney Provincial Park.

She spent her days hiking the Granite Ridge, Crack and Chikanishing trails and kayaking on George Lake.  At night, she went stargazing with campers — or at least tried to. The weather didn’t cooperate most evenings — instead of looking through the park’s two domed telescopes, Dornan improvised and gave talks in the amphitheatre beneath cloudy skies.

Dornan has delivered dozens of talks over the years in McMaster’s W.J. McCallion Planetarium and out in the community, but “it’s a bit more complicated when you’re talking about the stars while at the same time fighting for your life against swarms of bugs.”

When the campers called it a night and the clouds parted, Dornan spent hours observing the stars. “I seriously messed up my sleep schedule.”

She also gave astrophotography a try during her residency, capturing images of the Ring Nebula and the Great Hercules Cluster.

A star cluster image by Veronika Dornan

“People assume astronomers take their own photos. I needed quite a lot of guidance for how to take the images. It took a while to fiddle with the image properties, but I got my images.”

Dornan’s been invited back for another week-long residency in bug-free October, when longer nights offer more opportunities to explore and photograph the final frontier.

She’s aiming to defend her PhD thesis early next summer, then build a career that continues to combine research and outreach.

“Research leads to new discoveries which gives you exciting things to talk about. And if you’re not connecting with the public then what’s the point of doing research?”

 

728x90x4

Source link

Continue Reading

Trending