news from the lab 2017

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Materials Science - Chemistry - 30.12.2017
A step towards cheap aluminium batteries
A step towards cheap aluminium batteries
The energy transition depends on technologies that allow the inexpensive temporary storage of electricity from renewable sources. A promising new candidate is aluminium batteries, which are made from cheap and abundant raw materials. Scientists from Maksym Kovalenko's research group, which is based at both ETH Zurich and in Empa's Laboratory for Thin Films and Photovoltaics , are researching and developing batteries made from abundant raw materials.

Chemistry - Physics - 26.12.2017
Traces in scrap
Traces in scrap
Last year Empa's inorganic analytics lab was granted the status of "Reference Laboratory" within the scope of the ProSUM project, funded by the EU. Fine-grained samples of shredder waste from scrapped cars, e-waste or mine dumps from all over Europe end up here. Empa chemists find out what is in them, what is worth extracting and what could be dangerous for staff at recycling plants.

Chemistry - Materials Science - 23.12.2017
Search engine for «smart wood»
Search engine for «smart wood»
Mark Schubert modifies wood properties with the aid of the enzyme laccase. However, the search for suitable ingredients is complex - a bit like trying to find the key to an unknown lock. Instead of long, expensive series of experiments, Schubert uses artificial intelligence as it gets him to the goal more quickly.

Physics - Chemistry - 09.12.2017
Quantum chains in graphene nanoribbons
Quantum chains in graphene nanoribbons
Empa researchers, together with researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz and other partners, have achieved a breakthrough that could in future be used for precise nanotransistors or - in the distant future - possibly even quantum computers, as the team reports in the current issue of the scientific journal «Nature».

Chemistry - Materials Science - 05.12.2017
Warmed up and raring to go
Warmed up and raring to go
During cold-start, a car engine emits far more particulate matter and other pollutants than during warm conditions. This is because a cold catalytic converter is much less efficient at low exhaust gas temperatures. So what's the answer? Preheat the cat with microwaves. Empa scientists have developed the first microwave converter heating for passenger car applications.

Chemistry - Physics - 04.12.2017
Humidity switches molecular diode off and on
Humidity switches molecular diode off and on
Molecular electronics is a growing research area where scientists study electrical properties of the molecules with a chemically programmed function. Molecules can function as diodes, switches and transistors, all with a typical length of few nanometers. An international group of scientists from University of Bern, Leiden University, Delft University of Technology, and Chuo University has developed the first switchable molecular diode.

Life Sciences - Chemistry - 28.11.2017
Maize pest exploits plant defense compounds to protect itself
Maize pest exploits plant defense compounds to protect itself
A new study by the Institute of Plant Sciences of the University of Bern and the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology shows how the Western corn rootworm puts the maize plants' defense strategies out of action. The results explain why biological control of the crop pest has not been efficient. The Western corn rootworm continues to be on the rise in Europe.

Chemistry - Materials Science - 26.09.2017
New synthesis boosts commercialization
New synthesis boosts commercialization
Chemists from Empa have developed and patented an environmentally friendly way to produce flame retardants for foams that can be used in mattresses and upholstery.

Environment - Chemistry - 26.09.2017
Atmosphere in X-ray light
Atmosphere in X-ray light
Light from the particle accelerator helps to understand ozone decomposition A new experimental chamber coupled to the Swiss Light Source (SLS), a large-scale research facility of the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI, allows researchers to recreate atmospheric processes in the laboratory through unprecedented precision analysis involving X-rays.

Chemistry - Life Sciences - 25.08.2017
More inflexible than imagined
More inflexible than imagined
Oligosaccharides - chains of sugar building blocks - are essential for biological cells. Scientists had thought that these molecules were freely mobile, but an international research team has now shown that such sugar molecules can form rigid structures, previously found only in DNA and proteins. Oligosaccharides - chains of sugar building blocks - are some of the most important molecules in living creatures.

Life Sciences - Chemistry - 22.08.2017
How a bacterium can live on methanol
How a bacterium can live on methanol
ETH Zurich researchers have identified all the genes required by a bacterium to use methanol as a food source. The results will help scientists advance the use of this resource in the field of biotechnology. Many chemists are currently researching how small carbon molecules, such as methane and methanol, can be used to generate larger molecules.

Chemistry - Physics - 21.08.2017
Weaving with nanothreads
Weaving with nanothreads
For the first time, ETH researchers have succeeded in applying a millennia-old method for making fabrics to create a completely organic nanoweave.

Physics - Chemistry - 04.08.2017
Building a graphene-based nanotube biosensor
Building a graphene-based nanotube biosensor
Summer Series: Edward Honein has joined EPFL's Laboratory of Nanobiotechnology from the American University of Beirut.

Chemistry - Physics - 31.07.2017
Clarifiying complex chemical processes with quantum computers
Clarifiying complex chemical processes with quantum computers
Science and the IT industry have high hopes for quantum computing, but descriptions of possible applications tend to be vague. Researchers at ETH Zurich have now come up with a concrete example that demonstrates what quantum computers will actually be able to achieve in the future. Specialists expect nothing less than a technological revolution from quantum computers, which they hope will soon allow them to solve problems that are currently too complex for classical supercomputers.

Chemistry - Physics - 18.07.2017
New catalyst for future energy storage
New catalyst for future energy storage
In order to allow solar and wind energy to make a greater contribution to our future energy supply, it must be possible to store this energy efficiently, for instance in the form of hydrogen. This is done by means of the electrical cleavage of water in an electrolyser. Thanks to a new catalyst material developed by researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) and Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, this process may become cheaper and more efficient in the future.

Chemistry - Physics - 17.07.2017
Nanomaterial helps store solar energy: efficiently and inexpensively
Nanomaterial helps store solar energy: efficiently and inexpensively
Field trials show that new catalyst material for electrolysers is reliable Efficient storage technologies are necessary if solar and wind energy is to help satisfy increased energy demands. One important approach is storage in the form of hydrogen extracted from water using solar or wind energy. This process takes place in a so-called electrolyser.

Physics - Chemistry - 21.06.2017
New conductivity mechanism of ions
New conductivity mechanism of ions
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells.

Chemistry - Electroengineering - 13.06.2017
Active Implants: How Gold Binds to Silicone Rubber
Active Implants: How Gold Binds to Silicone Rubber
Flexible electronic parts could significantly improve medical implants. However, electroconductive gold atoms usually hardly bind to silicones.

Materials Science - Chemistry - 13.06.2017
Hard shell, hard core
Hard shell, hard core
Liquid lithium-ion rechargeable batteries are dangerous. They can leak or ignite rapidly if they become overheated.

Astronomy / Space Science - Chemistry - 08.06.2017
Relation between comets and earthâ? s atmosphere uncovered
Relation between comets and earthâ? s atmosphere uncovered
Media releases, information for representatives of the media Media Relations (E) The difficult yet successful measurement of several isotopes of the noble gas xenon on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko using the Bernese instrument ROSINA on the Rosetta probe shows that materials arrived on Earth due to comet impacts.