From using colloids to model the behavior of glasses, to windows that can change their tint, to adding peptides that can repel dirt, our understanding of the characteristics of glass is changing. How long can it be before we actually have transparent aluminum?
Materials scientists find better model for glass creation – [nanowerk.com]
Glasses form through the process of vitrification, in which a glass-forming liquid cools and slowly becomes a solid whose molecules, though they’ve stopped moving, are not permanently locked into a crystal structure. Instead, they’re more like a liquid that has merely stopped flowing, though they can continue to move over long stretches of time.
The model is a colloidial fluid, a liquid with tiny particles, or colloids, suspended evenly in it. Milk, for example, is a familiar colloidial fluid. Scientists model solidifying glasses using colloids by adding more particles to the fluid. This increases the particles’ concentration, making the fluid thicker, and making it flow more slowly. The advantage of this approach to studying glasses directly is size, Weitz said. The colloid particles are 1,000 times bigger than a molecule of a glass and can be observed with a microscope.
Thin, battery-like films change color when the weather changes. – [technologyreview.com]
Thirty percent of the energy used by buildings in the United States is spent making up for heat loss or gain through windows. That adds up to about $40 billion in electricity costs each year. Windows that change color in response to changes in the weather can help save on electricity costs by absorbing sunlight in the winter and reflecting it in the summer. Such windows have existed for awhile, but they are expensive and not widely used. Now researchers are developing cheap printing methods for making these electrochromic systems, and hope to make electrochromic films that can be cut to fit existing windows.
But the team improved upon previous methods and achieved unprecedented resolution of the molecular structure of the crystal surface during the dynamic interaction of each growing layer with peptides. “We were able to watch peptides adhere to the surface, temporarily slow down a layer of the growing crystal, and surprisingly ‘hop’ to the next level of the crystal surface.”
The images also revealed a mechanism that molecules can use to bind to surfaces that would normally repel them. The high resolution images showed that peptides will cluster together on crystal faces that present the same electronic charge. Under certain conditions the peptides would slow down growth, while under other conditions the peptides could speed up growth.
A Window that Washes Itself? – [aftau.org]
Operating in the range of 100 nanometers (roughly one-billionth of a meter) and even smaller, graduate student Lihi Adler-Abramovich and a team working under Prof. Ehud Gazit in TAU’s Department of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology have found a novel way to control the atoms and molecules of peptides so that they “grow” to resemble small forests of grass. These “peptide forests” repel dust and water — a perfect self-cleaning coating for windows or solar panels which, when dirty, become far less efficient.
“This is beautiful and protean research,” says Adler-Abramovich, a Ph.D. candidate. “It began as an attempt to find a new cure for Alzheimer’s disease. To our surprise, it also had implications for electric cars, solar energy and construction.”