Australian Nanotechnology Alliance

In This Issue

SOLAR: Solar power captured in fuel
Scientists have long dreamt of using solar energy to produce chemicals that can be stored and later used to create electricity or fuels. Research sh0ws they are one step closer

GRAPHENE: A new 2D nanomaterial from CSIRO
A new 2D nanomaterial that encourages the free flow of electrons may be the foundation for a new electronics revolution.

 

GRAPHENE: Invisible barrier wards off metal corrosion
A coating so thin it's invisible to the human eye has been shown to make copper nearly 100 times more resistant to corrosion, creating tremendous potential for metal protection even in harsh environments.

 

ELECTRONICS: Nanotech researach yeilds bouncing liquid metal marbles
In another Australian breakthrough from RMIT, reserachers have found that coating liquid metal droplets in a nanoparticle mix creates an extra strong non-stick conductive material that retains its shape even under high impact.

INNOVATION: Next generation data storage devices
Researchers from A*STAR's Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) and the National University of Singapore (NUS) have discovered that an ultra-smooth surface is the key factor for 'self-assembly'.

 

TECHNOLOGY: Nanomaterial can clean water
New research has demonstrated the potential of a new kind of nanomaterial to filter out environmental toxins in water.

 

 

Chair's Corner

Ian Gentle

Welcome to 2013. In Australia it’s been a mixed start to this year with both devastating bushfires and floods, so many properties lost and families having to restart their lives. This year’s floods weren’t as severe (at least in SE Queensland) as those that had a major impact just two years ago when many parts of my university, The University of Queensland, saw water in buildings and major damage to infrastructure. Fortunately there was no damage to scientific equipment. At the Australian Nanotechnology Alliance our thoughts are with those Australians impacted.

Listening to the media commentary with the Australian Prime Minister when asked what else could have been done, she reminded us that science has already played a tremendous role in better understanding natural phenomena like bushfires, and science is playing a major part in saving lives and property. In most cases the reality is that nature will win out, and it’s our role as scientists to learn, communicate and, as often as possible, translate our findings into applications that improve our way of life. ANA’s newsletter this year will continue to bring you those nanotechnology applications and research that bring better outcomes.

We have also very recently seen events on the Australian political landscape that are significant for science, including the announcement of a Federal Election and the resignation of the minster responsible for science. It has been encouraging to see both the Prime Minister and outgoing minster Evans stressing the importance of innovation to this country. It is our hope that innovation, research and development will be significant election issues and will receive the attention and funding that are necessary for Australia’s development.

I hope you find this newsletter interesting and as always, if you have a story, please contact me.

Ian Gentle
Chairman - Australian Nanotechnology Alliance


Australian Nanotechnology Alliance

School of Chemistry and Molecular Biology
The University of Queensland

Phone: +61 (0)7 3365 4800 • Email: info@nanotechnology.org.auWeb: nanotechnology.org.au

 


 

Event Calendar

 

February

 

 

March

 

 

April

 

 

May

 


June


July


August

 

September

 

October

 

November

 

December

 


Notice Board

 

  • Congratulations to Professor Sébastien Perrier, University of Sydney who is the 2013 recipient of the Australian Academy of Science Le Fèvre Memorial Prize for research in basic chemistry.



  • The French Embassy has opened the call for proposals for the Scientific Mobility Program 2013, a grant program for early career researchers in France and Australia. This program will replace the former Cotutelle Travel Grant Program.

    The call is open to all nationalities and the applicant must be:

    (i) Undertaking a joint PhD project (Cotutelle) between a French University and an Australian University, or undertaking a postdoctoral position in either France or Australia, or have previously held a postdoctoral position in either France or Australia which ceased on or before 31 December 2010; and

    (ii) Conducting or developing research which favours research collaborations between France and Australia.
    The application must be submitted to the Embassy of France in Australia no later than Thursday 28 February.

    Further information can be found here: http://www.ambafrance-au.org/Scientific-Mobility-Program-2013.
    All enquiries relating to the application process should be directed to science@ambafrance-au.org.

 



  • The L'Oreal For Women in Science Fellowships opens 18 March. This fellowship recognise three outstanding young women scientists from Australia and New Zealand. Each winner receives $25,00 towards their research.

    The 2012 winners were: Giving patients more control of their lives Dr Suetonia Palmer, University of Otago; More efficient solar cells with quantum dots Dr Baohua Jia, Swinburne University of Technology New treatments for blood cancers; and Dr Kylie Mason, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research/Royal Melbourne Hospital.

    For more information visit the L'Oreal website.


SOLAR

Solar power captured in feul

Scientists have long dreamt of using solar energy to produce chemicals that can be stored and later used to create electricity or fuels.

A recent scientific breakthrough from researchers at Melbourne's RMIT has brought this dream one step closer.

The development would offer many benefits, including the ability to store chemicals until needed - a deficiency in current solar power technology.

In the laboratory, a new technology mimics photosynthesis, the process used by plants, by combining sunlight and water in such a way that promises storable fuels.

The "solar to chemical energy conversion" process is outlined in an article published in the prominent journal, Nature Photonics, authored by RMIT University researcher Associate Professor Yasuhiro Tachibana, from the School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering.

Inspired by photosynthesis, in which oxygen and carbohydrates are produced from water and carbon dioxide, the newly developed technology emulates this process using man-made materials.

According to Associate Professor Tachibana, it remains a challenge to construct a device capable of producing molecular fuels like hydrogen at a scale and cost able to compete with fossil fuels.

The key to improving efficiency will be in the development of new nanomaterials, along with efficient control of charge transfer reaction processes, and improvement to the structure of devices.

Recent developments in the field of nanotechnology have been leading to promising improvements in cost and effectiveness of the conversion process, Associate Professor Tachibana said.

"Our future scientific goal is to establish a solar water splitting system operated only by abundant sunlight and sea water," Associate Professor Tachibana remarked.

"Fortunately these resources are freely available on this blue planet."

Professor Xinghuo Yu, Director of RMIT's Platform Technologies Research Institute, said the latest research was significant, but challenges remained in how to translate laboratory-scale academic research into a practical, economically viable technology.

In addition to using solar energy, other commercially available renewable energy sources like wind and tidal power could also conceivably be applied, Professor Yu said.

Associate Professor Tachibana's review paper was published in the August 2012 edition of Nature Photonics, world-renowned as a pre-eminent platform for publication of international research in photonics.

 

Source: RMIT News October 2012

 

 


GRAPHENE


A new 2D nanomaterial from CSIRO

A new 2D nanomaterial that encourages the free flow of electrons may be the foundation for a new electronics revolution.

The material - made up of layers of crystal known as molybdenum oxides - has unique properties that encourage the free flow of electrons at ultra-high speeds.

In a paper published in the January 2013 issue of the journal Advanced Materials, the researchers explain how they adapted the revolutionary material graphene to create a new conductive nanomaterial.

Graphene was created in 2004 by scientists in the UK and won its inventors a Nobel Prize in 2010. While graphene supports high speed electrons, its physical properties prevent it from being used for high-speed electronics.

The CSIRO's Dr Serge Zhuiykov said the new nanomaterial was made up of layered sheets - similar to graphite layers that make up a pencil's core. 

"Within these layers, electrons are able to zip through at high speeds with minimal scattering," Dr Zhuiykov said.

"The importance of our breakthrough is how quickly and fluently electrons - which conduct electricity - are able to flow through the new material."

RMIT's Professor Kourosh Kalantar-Zadeh said the researchers were able to remove "road blocks" that could obstruct the electrons, an essential step for the development of high-speed electronics.

"Instead of scattering when they hit road blocks, as they would in conventional materials, they can simply pass through this new material and get through the structure faster," Professor Kalantar-Zadeh said.

"Quite simply, if electrons can pass through a structure quicker, we can build devices that are smaller and transfer data at much higher speeds.

"While more work needs to be done before we can develop actual gadgets using this new 2D nanomaterial, this breakthrough lays the foundation for a new electronics revolution and we look forward to exploring its potential."

In the paper titled 'Enhanced Charge Carrier Mobility in Two-Dimensional High Dielectric Molybdenum Oxide,' the researchers describe how they used a process known as "exfoliation" to create layers of the material approx. 11 nm thick.

The material was manipulated to convert it into a semiconductor and nanoscale transistors were then created using molybdenum oxide.

The result was electron mobility values of >1,100 cm2/Vs - exceeding the current industry standard for low dimensional silicon.

The work, with RMIT doctoral researcher Sivacarendran Balendhran as the lead author, was supported by the CSIRO Sensors and Sensor Networks Transformational Capability Platform and the CSIRO Materials Science and Engineering Division.

It was also a result of collaboration between researchers from Monash University, University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA), CSIRO, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and RMIT.

Source: http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20130401-23937.html

Image source: Dr Daniel J White, Science FX

 

Invisible barrier wards off metal corrosion

A coating so thin it's invisible to the human eye has been shown to make copper nearly 100 times more resistant to corrosion, creating tremendous potential for metal protection even in harsh environments.

In a paper published in the September issue of Carbon, researchers from Monash University and Rice University in the USA say their findings could mean paradigm changes in the development of anti-corrosion coatings using extremely thin graphene films.

Graphene is a microscopically thin layer of carbon atoms. It is already in use in such things as smartphone screens, and is attracting research attention for its possibilities as a means of increasing metal's resistance to corrosion. "We have obtained one of the best improvements that have been reported so far," said study co-author Dr Mainak Majumder.

"At this point we are almost 100 times better than untreated copper. Other people are maybe five or six times better, so it's a pretty big jump". Dr Parama Banerjee, who performed most of the experiments for this study, said graphene had excellent mechanical properties and great strength.

The polymer coatings that are often used on metals can be scratched, compromising their protective ability, but the invisible layer of graphene - although it changes neither the feel nor the appearance of the metal - is much harder to damage. "I call it a magic material," Dr Banerjee said.

The researchers applied the graphene to copper at temperatures between 800 and 900 degrees, using a technique known as chemical vapour deposition, and tested it in saline water. "In nations like Australia, where we are surrounded by ocean, it is particularly significant that such an atomically thin coating can provide protection in that environment," Dr Banerjee said. Initial experiments were confined to copper, but Dr Banerjee said research was already under way on using the same technique with other metals.

This would open up uses for a huge range of applications, from ocean-going vessels to electronics: anywhere that metal is used and at risk of corrosion. Such a dramatic extension of metal's useful life could mean tremendous cost savings for many industries. The process is still in the laboratory-testing stage, but Dr Majumder said the group was not only looking at different metals, but also investigating ways of applying the coating at lower temperatures, which would simplify production and enhance market potential.

Source: Monash Universty news


Image: A graphene coating can make copper nearly 100 times more resistant to corrosion. Credit: Derek Lobo.

 


ELECTRONICS

Nanotech research yields bouncing liquid metal marbles

In another Australian breakthrough from RMIT, reserachers have found that coating liquid metal droplets in a nanoparticle mix creates an extra strong non-stick conductive material that retains its shape even under high impact.

The breakthrough paves the way for new developments in soft electronics, said lead author of the research, Dr Vijay Sivan from RMIT's Electrical and Computer Engineering. "It's a bit premature at this stage but in future we can see it may have a lot of applications," he said, including extendable antennas, and stretchable and reconfigurable wires.

The research team's paper, published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials, described how droplets of galinstan liquid metal were coated with powdered insulators including Teflon and silica and semiconductors such as titanium dioxide and tungsten trioxide, as well as conducting carbon nanotubes.

Once given their nanoparticle coating, the liquid metal marbles "can be split and merged, can be suspended on water, and are even stable when moving under the force of gravity and impacting a flat solid surface," with semiconducting properties at their surface, the researchers said in their paper.

"This new element thus represents a significant platform for the advancement of research into soft electronics," the paper said. A before-and-after video created by the researchers shows how, without the coating, the liquid metal bles lose shape and stick when dropped onto a hard surface.

The coated liquid droplets, however, retain their shape and bounce like a soft ball. Associate Professor Patrick Kluth from the Australian National University's Department of Electronic Materials Engineering, said the researchers had produced an interesting finding.

"The applications and limitations for practical use for systems like this can be: reproducibility of the fabrication process, scalability and cost of the fabrication (can they be manufactured in sufficient quantities at reasonable cost), and long term stability under application conditions (how long do they last in applications). Such factors will certainly determine the industrial success of an innovation such as this," said Dr Kluth, who was not involved in the RMIT research.

TO WATCH A VIDEO DEMONSTRATING THIS RESEARCH (the video shows the behaviour of a liquid metal marble BEFORE its surface is coated with inorganic nanoparticles, and AFTER) CLICK HERE (http://phys.org/news/2013-01-nanotech-yields-liquid-metal-marbles.html)

Source: The Conversation This story is published courtesy of the The Conversation (under Creative Commons-Attribution/No derivatives).

 


INNOVATION

Nano-data storage a step closer

Imagine being able to store thousands of songs and high-resolution images on data devices no bigger than a fingernail.

Researchers from A*STAR's Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) and the National University of Singapore (NUS) have discovered that an ultra-smooth surface is the key factor for 'self-assembly' - a cheap, high-volume, high-density patterning technique.

This allows manufacturers to use the method on a variety of different surfaces. This discovery paves the way for the development of next generation data storage devices, with capacities of up to 10 Terabits per square inch, which could lead to significantly greater storage on much smaller data devices.

The 'self-assembly' technique is one of the simplest and cheapest high-volume methods for creating uniform, densely-packed nanostructures that could potentially help store data. Self-assembly is one of the leading candidates for large scale nanofabrication at very high pattern densities. One of its most obvious applications will be in the field of bit patterned media, or the hard disk industry. 

It is widely used in research and is gaining acceptance in industry as a practical lithographic tool for sub-100 nm, low-cost, large area patterning. However, attempts to employ self-assembly on different surface types, such as magnetic media used for data storage, have shown varying and erratic results to date. This phenomenon has continued to puzzle industry researchers and scientists globally.

Researchers from A*STAR's IMRE and NUS have now solved this mystery and identified that the smoother the surface, the more efficient the self-assembly of nanostructures will be. This breakthrough allows the method to be used on more surfaces and reduce the number of defects in an industrial setting. The more densely packed the structures are in a given area, the higher the amount of data that can be stored.          

"A height close to 10 atoms, or 10 angstroms in technical terms, is all it takes to make or break self-assembly," explained Dr MSM Saifullah, one of the key researchers from A*STARís IMRE who made the discovery. This is based on a root mean squared surface roughness of 5 angstrom. 

The team discovered that this was the limit of surface roughness allowed for the successful self-assembly of dots, which could eventually be used in making high-density data storage. ěIf we want large scale, large area nanopatterning using very affordable self-assembly, the surface needs to be extremely smooth so that we can achieve efficient, successful self-assembly and with lower incidences of defects."

The discovery was recently published in Scientific Reports, an open access journal from Nature.

 

Source:
www.a-star.edu.sg/Media/NewsPressReleases/tabid/828/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/1719/Default.aspx 

 

 


TECHNOLOGY

Nanomaterial can clean water

New research has demonstrated the potential of a new kind of nanomaterial to filter out environmental toxins in water.

A team of researchers led by Dr Mainak Majumder and Phillip Sheath from Monash University's Department of Mechanical Engineering and Dr Matthew Hill from CSIRO have developed a highly-porous Metal Organic Framework (MOF) that, almost uniquely, is stable and able to filter substances in water.

MOFs are clusters of metal atoms connected by organic molecules and known for their exceptional abilities to store or separate gases such as carbon dioxide. This is one of the first studies to demonstrate their separation applications in an aqueous environment.

Dr Majumder said the uniform structure of MOFs made them very efficient filters.

"These are crystalline materials with a difference - they have pores that are all exactly the same size. So while one substance can fit in the pores and be captured, another, just one tenth of a nanometre bigger, can't fit," Dr Majumder said.

"As a result you can detect and capture substances that are present in low concentrations, or in a mixture with other materials."

The researchers demonstrated the filtering ability of the new MOF by sieving paraquat - a herbicide that has been linked with the onset of Parkinson's Disease. The MOF was a very precise filter, removing paraquat, but leaving other contaminants.

"Because MOFs are flexible, we found that their structure changed when they absorbed the paraquat. This means that our MOF could form the basis of a device for quickly and easily testing for the contaminant in water," Dr Hill said.

"Due to its very precise filtering properties, this testing application could deliver very accurate contamination readings in the field."

Only one contaminant, paraquat, was tested in this study; however, the MOF could be altered to filter out other contaminants.

The research was published in the journal Chemistry of Materials and highlighted in the prestigious journal, Science.

Source: Monash University News, January 2013