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Food Color Material Repurposed as Sensors

By John Toon, Georgia Tech

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Atlanta, GA —Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology have found a material that has been used for decades to color food items ranging from corn chips to ice cream could po- tentially have uses far beyond food dyes. In a study published in March,

the researchers described how a class of water soluble liquid crystals, called lyotropic chromonic liquid crystals, ex- hibited unexpected characteristics that could be harnessed for use in sen- sors and other potential applications. (Karthik Nayani, Jinxin Fu, Rui Chang, Jung Ok Park, and Mohan

Srinivasarao, “Using chiral tactoids as optical probes to study the aggre- gation behavior of chromonics,” Pro- ceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, March 2017) “We were seeking to understand

the aggregation and phase behavior of these plank-like molecules as a function of temperature and concen- tration,” says Karthik Nayani, a for- mer Georgia Tech student who worked on the problem. “When ob- served under crossed polarizers in an optical microscope, liquid crystals can exhibit beautiful textures that hint toward how the molecules them-

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Georgia Tech students Jinxin Fu and Rui Chang view the liquid crystals created from a common food dye (Photo credit: Rob Felt).

Graphene Used as “Copy Machine” for Semiconductor Wafers

By Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office

Gowanda creates surface mount ER inductor for RF ap- plications; Creative Electron learns from IoT teardowns; EasyLogix resolves irritating PCB issues. Special Features begin on…

Cambridge, MA — In 2016, annual global semiconductor sales reached their highest-ever point, at $339 bil- lion worldwide. That same year, the semiconductor industry spent about $7.2 billion worldwide on wafers that serve as the substrates for microelec- tronics components, which can be turned into transistors, LEDs, and other electronic and photonic devices. A new technique developed by

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MIT engineers may vastly reduce the overall cost of wafer technology and

enable devices made from more exot- ic, higher-performing semiconductor materials than conventional silicon. The new method, reported in

Nature, uses graphene — single- atom-thin sheets of graphite — as a sort of “copy machine” to transfer in- tricate crystalline patterns from an underlying semiconductor wafer to a top layer of identical material. The engineers worked out care-

fully controlled procedures to place single sheets of graphene onto an ex- pensive wafer. They then grew semi- conducting material over the graph - ene layer. They found that graphene is thin enough to appear electrically invisible, allowing the top layer to see through the graphene to the underly- ing crystalline wafer, imprinting its patterns without being influenced by the graphene. Graphene is also rather “slip-

pery” and does not tend to stick to other materials easily, enabling the

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Making Batteries from Waste Glass Bottles

Riverside, CA — Researchers at the University of California, Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering have used waste glass bottles and a low- cost chemical process to create nanosilicon anodes for high-perform- ance lithium ion batteries. The bat- teries will extend the range of elec- tric vehicles and plug-in hybrid elec- tric vehicles, and provide more power with fewer charges to personal elec- tronics like cell phones and laptops. Titled “Silicon Derived from

Glass Bottles as Anode Materials for Lithium Ion Full Cell Batteries,” an article describing the research was published in the Nature journal Sci- entific Reports. Cengiz Ozkan, pro- fessor of mechanical engineering, and Mihri Ozkan, professor of electri- cal engineering, led the project. Even with today’s recycling pro-

grams, billions of glass bottles still end up in landfills every year, prompting the researchers to ask whether silicon dioxide recovered from waste beverage bottles could provide high-purity silicon nanopar- ticles for lithium ion batteries. Silicon anodes can store up to 10

times more energy than conventional graphite anodes, but expansion and shrinkage during charge and dis- charge make them unstable. Howev- er, downsizing silicon to the nanoscale has been shown to reduce this prob-

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