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Environment - Materials Science - 04.03.2021
Energy house-keeping
Energy house-keeping
Energy management in a house with a solar system is becoming increasingly complex: When do I turn on the heating so that it is nice and cosy in the evening? How much electricity can the hot water tank hold? Will there still be enough energy for the electric car? Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help solve the problem: Researchers at Empa developed an AI control system that can learn all these tasks - and save more than 25 percent energy in the process.

Materials Science - Environment - 03.03.2021
Graphene filter makes carbon capture more efficient and cheaper
Graphene filter makes carbon capture more efficient and cheaper
Chemical engineers at EPFL have developed a graphene filter for carbon capture that surpasses the efficiency of commercial capture technologies, and can reduce the cost carbon capture down to $30 per ton of carbon dioxide. One of the main culprits of global warming is the vast amount of carbon dioxide pumped out into the atmosphere mostly from burning fossil fuels and the production of steel and cement.

Physics - Materials Science - 22.02.2021
Concept for a new storage medium
Concept for a new storage medium
Physicists from Switzerland, Germany and Ukraine have proposed an innovative new data storage medium. The technique is based on specific properties of antiferromagnetic materials that had previously resisted experimental examination. Using nanoscale quantum sensors, an international research team has succeeded in exploring certain previously uncharted physical properties of an antiferromagnetic material.

Physics - Materials Science - 17.02.2021
Novel sandwich technology improves sensitivity of rapid tests
Novel sandwich technology improves sensitivity of rapid tests
Scientists have developed a method for boosting the sensitivity of rapid-detection tests like those used for the new coronavirus. The results of their feasibility study have just been published in Nano Letters. Pregnancy tests and rapid-detection tests for the new coronavirus work in the same way. They contain a surface - usually made of metal - on which chemical nanosensors detect specific compounds in a sample of urine, saliva or blood that indicate the presence of a given protein or part of a virus.

Materials Science - Physics - 08.02.2021
Droplets perform daredevil feats on gel surfaces
Scientists have succeeded in making droplets flow just as fast on soft surfaces as on hard ones by changing the surface texture. Welcome to the amazing world of soft substrates. These materials are made of silicon gels and have the same texture as panna cotta - but without the delicious flavor. They are used in a range of applications, especially in the pharmaceutical industry, because their biocompatible and antiadhesive properties make them resistant to corrosion and bacterial contamination.

Health - Materials Science - 04.02.2021
Safe to cross: low risk of coronavirus infection from high-touch surfaces
Safe to cross: low risk of coronavirus infection from high-touch surfaces
Surfaces which are frequently touched by many different people may be contaminated with the coronavirus, but the risk of infection via this route is low. However, regular collection of samples from door handles, buttons or keypads could be useful for monitoring the course of the pandemic. Have you ever tried pressing the button at a pedestrian crossing with your elbow?

Health - Materials Science - 26.01.2021
Heavy charge against water germs
Heavy charge against water germs
Removing pathogens from drinking water is especially difficult when the germs are too tiny to be caught by conventional filters. Researchers at Empa and Eawag are developing new materials and processes to free water from pathogenic microorganisms such as viruses. Water is life, biology teaches us. Reality teaches us something different: Water contaminated with pathogens causes hundreds of thousands of deaths each year in places where water treatment is lacking or poorly functioning.

Materials Science - Computer Science - 21.01.2021
New metamaterial offers reprogrammable properties
New metamaterial offers reprogrammable properties
Scientists have developed a metamaterial whose mechanical properties can be reprogrammed on demand and whose internal structure can be modified by applying a magnetic field.  Over the past 20 years, scientists have been developing metamaterials, or materials that don't occur naturally and whose mechanical properties result from their designed structure rather than their chemical composition.

Materials Science - 22.12.2020
50 years old and as good as new
50 years old and as good as new
Since 1970 a worldwide unique test has been running in the Empa testing hall in Dübendorf, in which the long-term behaviour of bonded steel reinforcements on a concrete beam is being investigated. Investigations such as these have contributed to the fact that adhesive-bonded reinforcement is now state of the art as a strengthening method and that engineers have confidence in this retrofitting method.

Physics - Materials Science - 16.12.2020
Big step with small whirls
Big step with small whirls
Skyrmions are small magnetic objects that could revolutionize the data storage industry and also enable new computer architectures. However, before they can be utilized in such applications, there are still a number of challenges that need to be overcome. A team of Empa researchers has now succeeded for the first time in producing a tunable multilayer system in which two different types of skyrmions - the future bits for "0" and "1" - can exist at room temperature, as they recently reported in the renowned .

Physics - Materials Science - 09.12.2020
"Game changer" perovskite can detect gamma rays
Scientists at EPFL have developed a game-changing perovskite material that can be used as a cheaper and highly efficient alternative to gamma-ray detectors. Perovskites are materials made up of organic compounds bound to a metal. Propelled into the forefront of materials' research because of their structure and properties, perovskites are earmarked for a wide range of applications, including in solar cells, LED lights, lasers, and photodetectors.

Environment - Materials Science - 06.12.2020
Disposable or fabric? Here is what matters
Disposable or fabric? Here is what matters
Anyone who wants to protect themselves and others from a COVID-19 infection wears a mask these days. But what about the environmental impact of this mass product, which is used millions of times over? Are masks made of fabric beneficial for the environment or are disposable masks preferable? Empa researchers have examined these questions using life cycle assessments (LCAs) and identified factors for sustainable design.

Physics - Materials Science - 25.11.2020
Phytoplankton disturbed by nanoparticles
Phytoplankton disturbed by nanoparticles
Due to its antibacterial properties, nanosilver is used in a wide range of products from textiles to cosmetics. But nanosilver if present at high concentrations also disrupts the metabolism of algae that are essential for the aquatic food web dynamics and the production of terrestrial oxygen. Products derived from nanotechnology are efficient and highly sought-after, yet their effects on the environment are still poorly understood.

Microtechnics - Materials Science - 24.11.2020
Miniscule robots of metal and plastic
Miniscule robots of metal and plastic
Researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a technique for manufacturing micrometre-long machines by interlocking multiple materials in a complex way. Such microrobots will one day revolutionise the field of medicine. Robots so tiny that they can manoeuvre through our blood vessels and deliver medications to certain points in the body - researchers have been pursuing this goal for years.

Materials Science - 19.11.2020
New process narrows the gap between natural and synthetic materials
New process narrows the gap between natural and synthetic materials
Skin and cartilage are both strong and flexible - properties that are hard to replicate in artificial materials. But a new fabrication process, developed by scientists at EPFL, brings lifelike synthetic polymers a step closer. Natural materials like skin, cartilage and tendons are tough enough to support our bodyweight and movements, yet flexible enough that they don't crack easily.

Chemistry - Materials Science - 18.11.2020
Decoding the way catalysts work
Decoding the way catalysts work
Splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen is an important chemical reaction, especially considering that the use of hydrogen as an energy source in sustainable mobility in the future. An international research team has now decoded how one of the catalysts used in this reaction works. Hydrogen is a key element for achieving sustainable mobility in the future, especially "green" hydrogen produced by splitting water using renewable power.

Transport - Materials Science - 15.10.2020
Volatile for heavy trucks
Volatile for heavy trucks
In future, commercial vehicles will not only have to emit less CO2 but also meet stricter exhaust emission limits. Many experts expect that this could herald the end for fossil diesel. One possible alternative is dimethyl ether: The highly volatile substance burns very cleanly and can be produced from renewable energy.

Materials Science - Physics - 15.10.2020
Hanging by a colored thread
Hanging by a colored thread
High-performance fibres that have been exposed to high temperatures usually lose their mechanical properties undetected and, in the worst case, can tear precisely when lives depend on them. For example, safety ropes used by fire brigades or suspension ropes for heavy loads on construction sites. Empa researchers have now developed a coating that changes color when exposed to high temperatures through friction or fire.

Physics - Materials Science - 12.10.2020
Well-formed disorder for versatile light technologies
Well-formed disorder for versatile light technologies
Researchers at ETH have managed to make an efficient material for broadband frequency doubling of light using microspheres made of disordered nanocrystals. The crucial idea for the method arose during a coffee break. In the future, the new approach could be used in lasers and other light technologies.

Materials Science - Physics - 09.10.2020
Modeling eternity in the rock laboratory
Modeling eternity in the rock laboratory
Cement is one of the key materials for the safe storage of radioactive waste. What is needed is an almost infinite durability of the containers. Empa researchers are therefore analyzing material systems that can handle this task. Exploratory tunnel in the Mont Terri international rock laboratory. Since 1996, rock formations that could play a role in the storage of radioactive waste have been investigated here.

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