A significant challenge in soft robotics involves fabricating soft sensors and actuators which, so far, have been very tedious to produce. Building soft sensors used by roboticists usually requires a multi-step, manual molding-lamination-sealing-infilling process. As a result, the design and fabrication process is cumbersome; the sensor form factors are unnecessarily limited; and there are issues with mechanical robustness. Now, though, researchers have demonstrated a new method for creating highly stretchable sensors based on embedded 3D printing of a carbon-based resistive ink within an elastomeric matrix.
Nanotechnology has the potential to deliver the next generation lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) with improved performance, durability and safety at an acceptable cost. At present, there is a great deal of interest to upgrade the existing LIBs with improved properties and arrive at a battery technology that would permit smart-storage of electric energy. Futuristic smart electric grids that can provide an uninterruptible power supply to a household for 24 hours can replace the currently used lead acid battery systems by performing better in terms of longer back up time and reduced space requirements. With the advent of next generation LIBs, electric vehicles are expected to cover longer distances with shorter charging times; mobile phones and laptops are expected to be charged within minutes and last longer.
Researchers have developed a new separation membrane with 2D layered transition metal dichalcogenides (tungsten disulfide) for size-selective separation of small molecules of about 3 nm. The as-prepared WS2 membranes exhibit 5 times higher water permeance than graphene oxide membranes with similar rejection. To further improve the water permeance, they team employed ultrathin metal hydroxide nanostrands to create more fluidic channels while keeping the rejection rate of specific molecules unchanged.
Researchers report for the first time the fabrication and measurement of all-inkjet-printed, all-air-processed organic solar cells. Organic photovoltaic technologies have the potential to become a thin-film alternative to inorganic silicon photovoltaics due to their intrinsic potential for low-cost print processing from solution - high-speed and at low temperature. Organic solar cells can be integrated into building facades and windows because they are optically translucent and can be manufactured on large areas at high throughput.
A growing body of medical nanotechnology research deals with the development of antibacterial applications, ranging from nanotechnology-based approaches for diagnosing superbugs to antimicrobial surface coatings and wound treatment with antibacterial nanomaterials. Especially silver nanomaterials have been used effectively against different bacteria, fungi and viruses but also carbon nanomaterials like nanotubes and graphene. In new work, researchers have now designed an antibacterial system combining graphene quantum dots with a low dose of a common medical reagent, hydrogen peroxide H2O2.
Proton-conducting materials have become important for a wide range of technologies, such as fuel cells, batteries, and biosensors. A great deal of research has been devoted to developing improved and application-specific proton conducting materials. Researchers even developed a proton-based transistor that could let machines communicate with living things. Scientists now have discovered and characterized novel electrical properties for the cephalopod structural protein reflectin.
Renewable and high-capacity energy systems like fuel cells and metal-air batteries are key components in any scenario on future energy systems free of fossil fuels. The performance of fuel cells largely depends on the oxygen reduction reaction - the process that breaks the bonds of the oxygen molecules - which is substantially affected by the activity of the cathode catalyst. Researchers have now demonstrated the synthesis of a novel N-doped graphene/single-walled carbon nanotube hybrid material by a facile and cost-favorable one-step CVD method.
Almost all strategies for solar energy harvest and solar energy storage that exist today are developed as independent technologies. For instance, a solar cell generates electricity from the absorption and conversion of sunlight, while the storage of the produced electricity has to be implemented with another set of energy utilization solutions such as batteries/supercapacitors and fuel cells. With quite an ingenious solution, researchers have now demonstrated a hybrid, multifunctional material system that allows for simultaneous solar power generation (respectively hydrogen production), electrical energy storage, and chemical sensing.