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  • 2014-03-03 08:00:35
  • Article ID: 614245

Toward 'Vanishing' Electronics and Unlocking Nanomaterials' Power Potential

  • Credit: Credit: John Rogers
    Click here for high-resolution image.

    Biodegradable materials from Rogers’ lab could one day transform electronics for consumer and medical devices, as illustrated here in a dissolvable RFID tag prototype.

  • Credit: Credit: Emily Weiss
    Click here for high-resolution image.

    In Weiss’ lab, a solution of cadmium selenide nanocrystals glows in ultraviolet light.

EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: Monday, March 17, 2014, 5 p.m. Eastern Time Note to journalists: Please report that this research was presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.

DALLAS, March 17, 2014 — Brain sensors and electronic tags that dissolve. Boosting the potential of renewable energy sources. These are examples of the latest research from two pioneering scientists selected as this year’s Kavli lecturers at the 247th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society.

The meeting features more than 10,000 presentations from the frontiers of chemical research, and is being held here through Thursday. Two of these talks are supported by The Kavli Foundation, a philanthropic organization that encourages basic scientific innovation. These lectures, which are a highlight of the conference, shine a spotlight on the work of both young and established researchers who are pushing the boundaries of science to address some of the world’s most pressing problems.

Tackling health and sustainability issues simultaneously, John Rogers, Ph.D., is developing a vast toolbox of materials — from magnesium and silicon to silk and even rice paper — to make biodegradable electronics that can potentially be used in a range of applications. He will deliver “The Fred Kavli Innovations in Chemistry Lecture.”

“What we’re finding is that there’s a robust and diverse palette of material options at every level,” said Rogers, who’s with the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. “For the conductor, for the semiconductor, for the insulating layer and the package and the substrate, one can pick and choose materials depending on the application’s requirements.”

Rogers’ team is working to incorporate some of these elements in sensors that can, for example, detect the early onset of swelling and temperature changes in the brain after head injuries and then vanish when they’re no longer needed. Today, devices designed for these purposes are wired — they have to be implanted and later completely removed once they’re no longer needed. Rogers’ sensor could be implanted but work wirelessly and, after use, “simply disappear.” That eliminates the risk of infection and other complications associated with having to remove devices surgically. Rogers has successfully tested early prototypes of sensors in laboratory animals and envisions that such devices could be used one day in human patients.

His group is also working on biodegradable radio-frequency identification tags, or RFID tags. Currently, RFIDs are produced by the billions and used in everything from jeans for accurately tracking inventory to smart cards and injected into pets. They are also found in product packaging that ends up in landfills. Using cellulose, zinc and silicon, Rogers has successfully made dissolvable RFID tags in the lab. The next step would be figuring out how to scale production up and commercialize it.

“We’re quite optimistic,” Rogers said. “We see the way forward and are about halfway there.”

Delivering the “The Kavli Foundation Emerging Leader in Chemistry Lecture” is Emily Weiss, Ph.D., of Northwestern University. Her lab is focused on getting the most power possible out of mixed and matched nanomaterials that are being developed to maximize renewable energy sources. Scientists can now engineer these materials with unprecedented precision to capture large amounts of energy — for example, from the sun and heat sources. But getting all that energy from these materials and pushing it out into the world to power up homes and gadgets have been major obstacles.

“Electric current originates from the movement of electrons through a material,” Weiss explained. “But as they move through a material or device, they encounter places where they have to jump from one type of material to another at what’s called an interface. By interfaces, I mean places where portions of the material that are not exactly alike meet up. The problem is when an electron has to cross from one material to another, it loses energy.”

As structures in materials get smaller, the interface problem becomes amplified because nanomaterials have more surface area compared to their volume. So electrons in these advanced devices have to travel across more and more interfaces, and they lose energy as heat every time.

But thanks to the latest advances in analytical instruments and computing power, Weiss’ group is poised to turn this disadvantage into a plus. “Rather than seeing all these interfaces as a negative, now we don’t need to consider it a drawback,” she said. “We can design an interface such that we can get rid of defects and get rid of this slowdown. We can actually use carefully designed interfaces to enhance the properties of your device. That sort of philosophy is starting to take hold.”

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 161,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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A press conference on these topics will be held Tuesday, March 18, at 9 a.m. Central time in Room A122/A123 of the Dallas Convention Center. Reporters can attend in person or access live video of the event and ask questions at the ACS Ustream channel http://www.ustream.tv/channel/acslive.

Rogers also will participate in an ACS webinar on Monday, March 17, at 1 p.m. Central time. Weiss will participate in an ACS webinar on Tuesday, March 18, at 1 p.m. Central time. Register for the webinars here: http://acswebinars.org/dallas-2014. 

John Rogers, Ph.D.: Title Biodegradable electronics

Abstract A remarkable feature of the modern integrated circuit is its ability to operate in a stable fashion, with almost perfect reliability. Recently developed classes of electronic materials create an opportunity to engineer the opposite outcome, in the form of devices that dissolve completely in water, with harmless end products. The enabled applications range from 'green' consumer electronics to bio-resorbable medical implants – none of which would be possible with technologies that exist today. This talk summarizes recent work on this physically 'transient' type of electronics, from basic advances in materials chemistry, to fundamental studies of dissolution reactions, to engineering development of complete sets of device components, sensors and integrated systems. An 'electroceutical' bacteriocide designed for treatment of surgical site infections provides an application example.

Emily Weiss, Ph.D.: Title Behavior of electrons at nanoscopic organic/inorganic interfaces

Abstract The behavior of electrons and energy at interfaces between different types or phases of materials is an active research area of both fundamental and technological importance. Such interfaces often result in sharp free energy gradients that provide the thermodynamic driving force for some of the most crucial processes for energy conversion: migration of energy and charge carriers, conversion of excited states to mobile charge carriers, and redox-driven chemical reactions. Nanostructured materials are defined by high surface area-to-volume ratios, and should therefore be ideal for the job of energy conversion; however, they have a structural and chemical complexity that does not exist in bulk materials, and which presents a formidable challenge: mitigate or eliminate energy barriers to electron and energy flux that inevitably result from forcing dissimilar materials to meet in a spatial region of atomic dimensions. Chemical functionalization of nanostructured materials is perhaps the most versatile and powerful strategy for controlling the potential energy landscape of their interfaces, and for minimizing losses in energy conversion efficiency due to interfacial structural and electronic defects. Using metal and semiconductor nanoparticles as model systems, this talk will explore the power of tuning the chemistry at the organic-inorganic interface within colloidal semiconductor and metal nanoparticles as a strategy for controlling their structure and properties.

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Kentucky Researchers First to Produce High Grade Rare Earths From Coal

University of Kentucky researchers have produced nearly pure rare earth concentrates from Kentucky coal using an environmentally-conscious and cost-effective process, a groundbreaking accomplishment in the energy industry.

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Jefferson Lab Scientist Selected to Receive Francis Slack Award

Dr. Hari Areti, has been selected to receive the Francis G. Slack Award, established by the Southeastern Section of the American Physical Society, to honor excellence in service to Physics in the Southeastern U.S.

ORNL Wins Nine R&D 100 Awards

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Argonne Scientists Capture Several R&D 100 Awards

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CANDLE Shines in 2017 HPCwire Readers' and Editors' Choice Awards

Argonne National Laboratory has been recognized in the annual <em>HPCwire</em> Readers' and Editors' Choice Awards, presented at the 2017 International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage and Analysis (SC17), in Denver, Colorado.

SLAC's Helen Quinn Honored with 2018 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics

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PPPL Honors Grierson and Greenough for Distinguished Research and Engineering Achievements

Article describes PPPL's presentation of 2017 Kaul Prize and Distinguished Engineering Fellow awards.

INCITE Grants of 5.95 Billion Hours Awarded to 55 Computational Research Projects

The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science announced 55 projects with high potential for accelerating discovery through its Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) program. The projects will share 5.95 billion core-hours on three of America's most powerful supercomputers dedicated to capability-limited open science and support a broad range of large-scale research campaigns from infectious disease treatment to next-generation materials development.


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The Challenge of Estimating Alaska's Soil Carbon Stocks

A geospatial analysis determined the optimal distribution of sites needed to reliably estimate Alaska's vast soil carbon.

Unplugging the Cellulose Biofuel Bottleneck

Molecular-level understanding of cellulose structure reveals why it resists degradation and could lead to cost-effective biofuels.

How Fungal Enzymes Break Down Plant Cell Walls

Lignocellulose-degrading enzyme complexes could improve biofuel production.

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Scientists use heat and mismatched surfaces to stretch films that can potentially improve the efficient operation of devices.

Simple is Beautiful in Quantum Computing

Defect spins in diamond were controlled with a simpler, geometric method, leading to faster computing.

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Monoterpene measures how certain forests respond to heat stress.

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Whether carbon comes from leaves or needles affects how fast it decomposes, but where it ends up determines how long it's available.

Twisting Molecule Wrings More Power from Solar Cells

Readily rotating molecules let electrons last, resulting in higher solar cell efficiency.

Rules Are Only Suggestions in Heavy Elements

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