Novel Nanosheet allows for efficient ‘Molecular Sieving’ – Zeolite Membranes have enormous potential in Energy and Chemical industries


Zeolites have played an important role in the chemical industry in past decades. These microporous, aluminosilicate materials are well-known catalysts and adsorbents for catalytic reforming and separation of petrochemicals. More recently, zeolites have also been used to remove radioactive cesium from seawater following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Now, recent work from the University of Cincinnati, has opened even more doors for the material by tweaking its geometry and surface chemistry.

Zishu Cao and her colleagues fabricated membranes by tiling with 6-nanometre-thick zeolite flat sheets, they synthesized by a modified hydrothermal crystallization procedure. The resultant membrane was much thinner than a conventional zeolite membrane, with a thickness of less than 500 nanometres versus a traditional membrane’s thickness of several micrometres.

Tiling enhancements

Cao’s adviser, Junhang Dong of the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, says Cao’s two-dimensional zeolite sheets overcome the major transport issues the conventional thicker zeolite membranes typically experience when they are several microns thick.

Fukushima 1 Infographic jpg

“The potential for zeolite membranes in the energy and chemical industries is enormous,” says Dong, “but the practical realization of their use is hindered by two serious issues caused by intercrystalline spaces in the films and their randomly oriented polycrystalline structure.”

These intercrystalline spaces, or gaps between the randomly oriented crystals that comprise the films, undermine the separation selectivity by causing nonselective permeation of molecules and ions. In addition, the random orientation of the crystals in the films results in longer and un-preferred diffusion paths making the membrane permeation inefficient.

The two-dimensional, zeolite nanosheet tiled membranes synthesized by Cao, however, provide an oriented straight channel structure that provides both reduced intercrystalline spaces and shortened diffusion lengths for enhanced selectivity and membrane flux.

“Imagine you are using blocks to waterproof a roof. Now we are using tiles or shingles to construct the roof,” says Dong.

READ MORE

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Petrochemical inspiration

Their readily scalable membrane fabrication by zeolite nanosheet lamination was inspired by recent work from the University of Minnesota, where researchers synthesized organophilic pure-silica zeolite nanosheets suitable for petrochemical separations. In Cao’s work, they incorporated aluminium ions into the silica-based zeolite framework to make the surface ionic and strongly hydrophilic – both favorable properties for water and ion separations. To the group’s knowledge, the ionic zeolite nanosheet laminated membrane is the first of its kind.

In their recently published paper, Cao displayed its potential for water desalination. The group chose to study this application because of its relevance to a wide range of needs in treating high salinity wastewaters, from industrial activities such as oil and gas drilling and power plant desulphurization and cooling. They reported high water flux with high salt rejection rates for brines containing up to 24% dissolved sodium chloride by weight.

The group says many routes are possible – desalination was just an example of the membrane’s capabilities. From here, they are exploring high-performance battery ion separators, catalysts, adsorbents, and thin-film sensors.

More details can be found in Science Advances.

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Quantum Dots and Lipid Rafts: Analytical Chemistry Solves a Nanoscale Mystery


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Article from Sustainable Nano

 

Remember all those great Black Friday deals on QLED televisions? You may not realize it, but they were all about nanotechnology!

The Q in QLED stands for quantum dots, which are not only being used to enhance the displays of TVs, but also are used in solar cells, medical imaging, and sensing.1-3 However, the disposal of these particles is not well regulated, leading to concern over their release into the environment. In the frenzy of holiday shopping, have you ever stopped to wonder what could happen if a quantum dot lands on the surface of a cell?

QLED

Figure 1. The “Q” in QLED TV stands for quantum dot (image by Samsung Newsroom)

As an analytical chemist, my mind is constantly blown by the suite of analytical tools that we have in the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology to study really hard scientific questions like this one. I recently used two of these analytical tools, the atomic force microscope(AFM) and the quartz crystal microbalance (QCM) to tackle the tricky question about quantum dots on a cell surface. In our study, we looked at how quantum dots interact with supported lipid bilayers, which (as we explained in a previous blog post) we can use as a mimic of the cell membrane. The paper was called “Quaternary Amine-Terminated Quantum Dots Induce Structural Changes to Supported Lipid Bilayers.” 4

Q dots

Figure 2. The goal of this work was to understand the impact of quantum dots on supported lipid bilayers, which are a mimic for the outer membrane of cells. (image by Arielle Mensch)

 

Let me break down why this problem is so tricky and why it required really fancy tools to be able to study it. Everything we were studying was too small to be seen by eye or even using regular microscopes – the nanoparticles were about 6 nm and the lipid bilayers were about 4-5 nm – so we needed to use tools that allowed us to really zoom in to the nanoscale to get an idea of what was happening. Furthermore, the cell membrane of an organism is naturally wet, so we needed tools to allow us to work in liquids. Finally, the interactions between nanoparticles and membranes are dynamic, meaning they can change from moment to moment, so we really wanted to use tools that allowed us to monitor the interactions of the quantum dots and bilayers over time and not just take a single snapshot.

single image.png

Figure 3. Only capturing a single image doesn’t necessarily tell you everything you need to know about a situation… (image by Axel Naud)

 

With these requirements in mind, I set out to design a system that we could use to understand these interactions in liquid and in real time. We chose to work with supported lipid bilayers that contain something called phase-segregated domains, or “lipid rafts.” These lipid rafts are found in the cell membranes of different organisms, from plants to animals to bacteria, and are important for moving things in and out of the cell, which makes them very interesting to study. Furthermore, my collaborator, Dr. Eric Melby, previously showed that 4-nm, positively charged gold nanoparticles attached more  to supported lipid bilayers that had lipid rafts than those that didn’t (you can read more about his work here). This suggested that lipid rafts may play an important role in nanoparticle interactions with cell membranes, which was something I wanted to explore further with different types of nanoparticles, namely quantum dots.

 

lipid raft

Figure 4. We used supported lipid bilayers either with or without lipid rafts to understand the impact of quantum dots on these types of bilayers. (image adapted from Mensch et al.4 with permission from the American Chemical Society)

 

To start, I used Eric’s method of forming supported lipid bilayers either with or without lipid rafts using quartz crystal microbalance. As I’ve described previously, QCM is a very sensitive balance that uses a quartz crystal to measure changes in frequency, which we can use to figure out changes in mass. For example, if we add quantum dots to a bilayer formed on the quartz crystal and notice that the frequency starts to decrease, this tells us that the bilayer is getting heavier because the added quantum dots are sticking to it.

In my experiments, we saw that when we added quantum dots to bilayers with or without lipid rafts the frequency decreased over time (Figure 5). This told us that the quantum dots were attaching to our bilayers. Interestingly, when we rinsed the bilayer with buffer (to get rid of any loosely attached quantum dots), we first saw a decrease of mass (likely due to quantum dots leaving the bilayer) and then saw another increase in mass before the measurement leveled off. This was the first time that we had observed this type of change using QCM before. We hypothesized that this was due to the quantum dots causing some sort of restructuring of the bilayer, such as holes, multilayers, or a combination of events. But with QCM alone, we were unable to say for certain what was happening.

 

QCM.png

Figure 5. By QCM we saw that the quantum dots attached to the lipid bilayers. However, interesting frequency shifts after the rinse suggested that something more complicated was going on with these interactions. (image adapted from Mensch et al.4 with permission from the American Chemical Society)

 

Because we were uncertain what impact the quantum dots were having on the structure of the bilayer, we decided to use another analytical technique to get an actual picture of what was happening. This time we used atomic force microscopy (AFM). This technique allows us to study these interactions in liquid and over time, which if you remember were two very key factors to this work. I’ve described AFM in detail previously here, but briefly AFM works by using a very sharp tip that is attached at the end of a cantilever. We line up a laser to the end of this tip, which reflects off the tip onto a sensitive detector. As the tip scans across the sample, the laser light will move up or down on the detector depending on the height of the sample. From these changes in the laser’s position, we’re able to determine how tall features of the sample are.

 

AFM.png

Figure 6. Atomic force microscopy allows us to visualize the interaction of quantum dots and supported lipid bilayers in liquid and in real time. (image by Arielle Mensch)

 

For the first part of our AFM experiment, we formed lipid bilayers with lipid rafts. These rafts are about 1 nm taller than the other part of the bilayer. You can see this in Figure 7, where the brighter regions of the bilayer are the lipid rafts.

 

AFM lipid rafts

Figure 7. Lipid rafts within a supported lipid bilayer are ~1 nm taller than the surrounding regions of the bilayer. The 2-micrometer scale bar equals 2,000 nanometers, and the axis on the left shows you how the brightness of each region corresponds to a height in nanometers. (image adapted from Mensch et al.4 with permission from the American Chemical Society)

 

To investigate the impact of quantum dots on these bilayers, we added quantum dots to the bilayers and collected AFM images over time. This allowed us to monitor the changes to the structure of the bilayers. Figure 8 shows what we found – and it was pretty neat!

 

afm images.png

Figure 8. Sequence of AFM images showing the disappearance of lipid rafts over 15 min. The blue arrows are pointing to the lipid rafts or disappearance of lipid rafts in the images. The axis on the right shows you how the brightness of each region corresponds to a height in nanometers. (image adapted from Mensch et al.4with permission from the American Chemical Society))

 

When we added quantum dots to the lipid bilayers, the lipid rafts shrank and eventually disappeared! It only took about 15 minutes for them to completely disappear. You can see this by following the blue arrows in Figure 8. The other bright regions in the images are quantum dots binding to the bilayers and inducing structural changes (increasing the height in these regions or burrowing into the bilayer). These two changes are consistent with the mass changes we saw using QCM. We believe that the lipid rafts collapse because of an increase in energy due to the addition of the quantum dots. Basically, it is easier for the lipid rafts to mix together with the other components in the bilayer rather than stay separated.

 

Schematic

Figure 9. Schematic showing how positively charged quantum dots can cause the collapse of lipid rafts in supported lipid bilayers. (image adapted from Mensch et al.1 with permission from the American Chemical Society)

 

So, you might be wondering what all of this means. Well, to summarize, we found that positively charged quantum dots attach to supported lipid bilayers either with or without lipid rafts present. They also cause restructuring of the bilayers. In particular, when lipid rafts were present, the quantum dots actually caused the collapse of these important cell membrane components. Lipid rafts are found in the cell membranes of many different organisms, so this could have important implications in figuring out how nanoparticles affect different organisms.

But like with all good studies, there are still many more questions to explore! For this study we used supported lipid bilayers, but it would be really interesting to look at lipid rafts naturally within the cell membranes of actual organisms to see if we see the same effects. Furthermore, we can consider different types of nanoparticles with different surface coatings and see if that changes the results. So, the next time I see a QLED TV at the store, I’ll be sure to admire its beautiful colors, but I’ll also be thinking about my next research project.


ADDITIONAL RESOURCES


REFERENCES

  1. Martynenko, I. V.; Litvin, A. P.; Purcell-Milton, F.; Baranov, A. V.; Fedorov, A. V.; Gun’ko, Y. K. Application of semiconductor quantum dots in bioimaging and biosensing. Materials Chemistry B, 2017, 5, 6701−6727. doi: 10.1039/C7TB01425B
  2. Rühle, S.; Shalom, M.; Zaban, A. Quantum-dot-sensitized solar cells. ChemPhysChem2010, 11, 2290−304. doi: 10.1002/cphc.201000069
  3. Medintz, I. L.; Uyeda, H. T.; Goldman, E. R.; Mattoussi, H. Quantum dot bioconjugates for imaging, labelling and sensing. Nature Materials, 2005, 4, 436-446. doi: 10.1038/nmat1390
  4. Mensch, A.C., Buchman, J.T., Haynes, C.L., Pedersen, J.A., Hamers, R.J. Quaternary amine-terminated quantum dots induce structural changes to supported lipid bilayers. Langmuir, 2018, 34, 12369-12378. DOI: 10.1021/acs.langmuir.8b02047

Aerospace Potential for Graphene – Provides Superior Mechanical and Thermal Properties – Lower Fuel and Operating Costs


Aernnova, Grupo Antolin-Ingenieria and Airbus – as partners in the Graphene Flagship, the European Union’s largest-ever research initiative with funding of EUR 1 billion – have produced a leading edge for the Airbus A350 horizontal tail plane using graphene-enhanced composites.

“We worked together with Grupo Antolin-Ingenieria and Airbus as part of the Graphene Flagship’s production work package and our collaboration greatly benefitted from the discussions during meetings,” said Ana Reguero of Aernnova.

“Airbus brought us – as the manufacturer of the current leading edge – together with Grupo Antolin-Ingenieria on the project.”

Aernnova, Grupo Antolin-Ingenieria and Airbus produced a leading edge for the Airbus A350 horizontal tail plane using graphene-enhanced composites. © Graphene Flagship

As the first part of the tail plane to contact air, the leading edge is subjected to extreme temperatures caused by compressive heating of the air ahead of the wing. Thus, it must possess excellent mechanical and thermal properties.

“Aernnova supplied the resin to Grupo Antolin-Ingenieria who added graphene directly to the resin and applied milling forces,” said Reguero.

This creates small graphene particles – an important step to get good graphene infiltration within the resin, avoiding unwanted impurities, such as solvents, which can alter the viscosity of the resin.  It is important to maintain the correct viscosity of the resin to ensure the optimal outcome during the resin transfer moulding of the leading edge.”

At a component level the team found that the resin with the added graphene showed increased mechanical and thermal properties, including a decreased fracture speed.

By increasing the resin properties with graphene, it will be possible to make the tail edge thinner, decreasing its weight while maintaining its safety. This will provide a significant saving in fuel and therefore costs and emissions over the aircraft lifetime.

At a component level the team found that the resin with the added graphene showed increased mechanical and thermal properties. © Graphene Flagship

“Our small-scale tests showed an increase in properties. We will next test a one third scale model,” said Reguero.

“This is a great example of the collaborations fostered by the Graphene Flagship,” said Professor Andrea C. Ferrari, its science and technology officer. “Three of our industrial partners came together to address a key problem and found that graphene offers a solution beyond the state of the art.

The development and system integration of graphene-based technologies follows the plans of our innovation and technology, where composite technologies play a prominent role.”

How brand new science will manage the fourth industrial revolution – “Managing the Machines”


It’s about artificial intelligence, data, and things like quantum computing and nanotechnology. Australian National University’s 3A Institute is creating a new discipline to manage this revolution and its impact on humanity.

Image: Diagram by Christoph Roser at AllAboutLean.com (CC BY-SA 4.0))

Diagrams explaining the fourth industrial revolution, like this one by Christoph Roser, are OK as far as they go. Apart from the term “cyber physical systems”. Ugh. What they mean is that physical systems are becoming digital. Think of the Internet of Things (IoT) supercharged by artificial intelligence (AI).

But according to Distinguished Professor Genevieve Bell, these diagrams are missing something rather important: Humans and their social structures.

“Now for those of us who’ve come out of the social sciences and humanities, this is an excellent chart because of the work it does in tidying up history,” Bell said in her lecture at the Trinity Long Room Hub at Trinity College Dublin in July.

“It doesn’t help if what you want to think about was what else was going on. Each one of those technological transformations was also about profound shifts in cultural practice, social structure, social organisations, profoundly different ideas about citizenship, governance, regulation, ideas of civil and civic society.”

Another problem with this simplistic view is the way the Industry 4.0 folks attach dates to this chart. Steam power and mechanisation in 1760-1820 or so. Mass production from maybe 1870, but the most famous chapter being Henry Ford’s work in 1913. Then computers and automation started being used to manage manufacturing from 1950.

“That time scheme works really well if you’re in the West. It doesn’t hold if you’re in China or India or Latin America or Africa, where most of those things happened in the 20th century, many of them since 1945,” Bell said.

Bell wants to know what we can learn from those first three revolutions. She heads  the 3A Institute at the Australian National University, which was launched in September 2017 and is working out how we should respond to, and perhaps even direct, the fourth revolution.

Take the steam engines of the first industrial revolution. They were built by blacksmiths and ironmongers, who knew what they needed to build the engines. But they didn’t know how to shape the industries the engines could power, or how to house them, or about the safety systems they’d need. These and other problems generated the new applied science of engineering. The first school of engineering, the École Polytechnique, was established in Paris in 1794.

The large-scale factories and railway systems of the second industrial revolution needed massive amounts of money. Raising and managing that money literally led to capitalism, and concepts like common stock companies and futures trading. And the first business school with funding from industry.

Early in the computer revolution, the US government had a problem. Nearly all of its computers relied on proprietary software from companies like IBM and Honeywell. So it asked Stanford University mathematician George Forsythe to create an abstract language for all computers. Two years later, his team developed a thing called computer science, and issued a standard 10-page curriculum. An updated version is still used globally today.

“So, engineering, business, and computer science: Three completely different applied sciences, emerging from three completely different technical regimes, with different impulses,” Bell said.

“Each starts out incredibly broad in terms of the ideas it draws on, rapidly narrows to a very clear set of theoretical tools and an idea about practice, then is scaled very quickly.”

With this in mind, Bell said that the fourth industrial revolution needs its own applied science, so that’s exactly what the 3A Institute is going to build — as the website puts it, “a new applied science around the management of artificial intelligence, data, and technology and of their impact on humanity”.

And the 3A Institute plans to do it by 2022.

Nine months into this grand project, it’s identified five sets of questions that this new science needs to answer.

First is Autonomy

If autonomous systems are operating without prewritten rules, how do we stop them turning evil, as so many fictional robots do? How do different autonomous systems interact? How do we regulate those interactions? How do you secure those systems and make them safe? How do the rules change when the systems cross national boundaries?

Or, as Bell asked, “What will it mean to live in a world where objects act without reference to us? And how do we know what they’re doing? And do we need to care?”

Second is Agency, which is really about the limits to an object’s autonomy. With an autonomous vehicle, for example, does it have to stop at the border? If so, which border? Determined by whom? Under what circumstances?

“Does your car then have to be updated because of Brexit, and if so how would you do that?” Bell asked.

If autonomous vehicles are following rules, how are those rules litigated? Do the rules sit on the object, or somewhere else? If there’s some network rule that gets vehicles off the road to let emergency vehicles through, who decides that and how? If you have multiple objects with different rule sets, how do they engage each other?

Third is Assurance, and as Bell explained, “sitting under it [is] a whole series of other words. Safety, security, risk, trust, liability, explicability, manageability.”

Fourth is Metrics

“The industrial revolution thus far has proceeded on the notion that the appropriate metric was an increase in productivity or efficiency. So machines did what humans couldn’t, faster, without lunch breaks, relentlessly,” Bell said.

Doing it over again, we might have done things differently, she said. We might have included environmental sustainability as a metric.

“What you measure is what you make, and so imagining that we put our metrics up at the front would be a really interesting way of thinking about this.”

Metrics for fourth revolution systems might include safety, quality of decision-making, and quality of data collection.

Some AI techniques, including deep learning, are energy intensive. Around 10 percent of the world’s energy already goes into running server farms. Maybe an energy efficiency metric would mean that some tasks would be done more efficiently by a human.

Fifth and finally are Interfaces. Our current systems for human-computer interaction (HCI) might not work well with autonomous systems.

“These are objects that you will live in, be moved around by, that may live in you, that may live around you and not care about you at all … the way we choose to engage with those objects feels profoundly different to the way HCI has gotten us up until this moment in time,” Bell said.

“What would it mean to [have] systems that were, I don’t know, nurturing? Caring? The robots that didn’t want to kill us, but wanted to look after us.”

As with computer science before it, the 3A Institute is developing a curriculum for this as-yet-unnamed new science. The first draft will be tested on 10 graduate students in 2019.

Bell’s speech in Dublin, titled “Managing the Machines”, included much more detail than reported here. Versions are being presented around the planet, and videos are starting to appear. This writer highly recommends them.

Four Emerging Technology Areas That Will Help Define Our World In 2019


Welcome to 2019....

2018 was surely a transformative year for technological innovation. We saw early development of ambient computing, quantum teleportation, cloaks of invisibility, genomics advancements and even robocops.

Granted we’re not flying around in our own cars like the Jetsons did yet, but we’re closer. In 2019 we will continue on the transformation path and expand even more into adopting cutting edge immersive technologies.

What’s ahead for the coming year? I envision four emerging technology areas that will significantly impact our lives in 2019.

1.  The Internet of Things and Smart Cities

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the general idea of devices and equipment that are readable, recognizable, locatable, addressable, and/or controllable via the internet. 

This includes everything from home appliances, wearable technology and cars. These days, if a device can be turned on, it most likely can be connected to the internet. Because of this, data can be shared quickly across a multitude of objects and devices increasing the rate of communications.

Cisco, who terms the “Internet of Things,” “The Internet of Everything,” predicts that 50 billion devices (including our smartphones, appliances and office equipment) will be wirelessly connected via a network of sensors to the internet by 2020.

The term “Smart City” connotes creating a public/private infrastructure to conduct activities that protect and secure citizens. The concept of Smart Cities integrates communications (5-G), transportation, energy, water resources, waste collections, smart-building technologies, and security technologies and services. They are the cities of the future.

IoT is the cog of Smart Cities that integrates these resources, technologies, services and infrastructure.

The research firm Frost & Sullivan estimates the combined global market potential of Smart City segments (transportation, healthcare, building, infrastructure, energy and governance) to be $1.5 Trillion ($20B by 2050 on sensors alone according to Navigant Technology).

The combined growth of IoT and Smart Cities will be a force to reckon with in 2019!

     2.  Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Emergent artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, human-computer interface, and augmented reality technologies are no longer science fiction. Head-spinning technological advances allow us to gain greater data-driven insights than ever before.

The ethical debate about AI is fervent over the threatening implications of future technologies that can think like a human (or better) and make their own decisions. The creation of a “Hal” type entity as depicted in Stanley Kubrick’s film, 2001 A Space Odyssey, is not far-fetched.

To truly leverage our ability to use data driven insights we need to make sure our thinking about how to best use this data keeps pace with its availability.

The vast majority of digital data is unstructured: a complex mesh of images, texts, videos and other data formats. Estimates suggest 80-90 percent of the world’s data is unstructured and growing at an increasingly rapid rate each day.

To even begin to make sense of this much data, advanced technologies are required. Artificial intelligence is the means by which this data is processed today, and it’s already a part of your everyday life.

In 2019, companies and governments will continue to develop technology that distributes artificial intelligence and machine learning software to millions of graphics and computer processors around the world. The question is how far away are we from a “Hal” with the ability for human analysis and techno emotions? 

     3.  Quantum Computing

The world of computing has witnessed seismic advancements since the invention of the electronic calculator in the 1960s. The past few years in information processing have been especially transformational.

What were once thought of as science fiction fantasies are now technological realities. Classical computing has become more exponentially faster and more capable and our enabling devices smaller and more adaptable.

We are starting to evolve beyond classical computing into a new data era called quantum computing. It is envisioned that quantum computing will accelerate us into the future by impacting the landscape of artificial intelligence and data analytics.

The quantum computing power and speed will help us solve some of the biggest and most complex challenges we face as humans.

Gartner describes quantum computing as: “[T]he use of atomic quantum states to effect computation. Data is held in qubits (quantum bits), which have the ability to hold all possible states simultaneously. Data held in qubits is affected by data held in other qubits, even when physically separated.

This effect is known as entanglement.” In a simplified description, quantum computers use quantum bits or qubits instead of using binary traditional bits of ones and zeros for digital communications.

Futurist Ray Kurzweil said that mankind will be able to “expand the scope of our intelligence a billion-fold” and that “the power of computing doubles, on average, every two years.” Recent breakthroughs in physics, nanotechnology and materials science have brought us into a computing reality that we could not have imagined a decade ago.

As we get closer to a fully operational quantum computer, a new world of supercomputing beckons that will impact on almost every aspect of our lives. In 2019 we are inching closer.

     4.  Cybersecurity (and Risk Management)

Many corporations, organizations and agencies have continued to be breached throughout 2018 despite cybersecurity investments on information assurance. The cyber threats grow more sophisticated and deadly with each passing year. The firm Gemalto estimated that data breaches compromised 4.5 billion records in first half of 2018. And a University of Maryland study found that hackers now attack computers every 39 seconds.

In 2019 we will be facing a new and more sophisticated array of physical security and cybersecurity challenges (including automated hacker tools) that pose significant risk to people, places and commercial networks.

The nefarious global threat actors are terrorists, criminals, hackers, organized crime, malicious individuals, and in some cases, adversarial nation states.

The physical has merged with the digital in the cybersecurity ecosystem. The more digitally interconnected we become in our work and personal lives, the more vulnerable we will become. Now everyone and anything connected is a target.

Cybersecurity is the digital glue that keeps IoT, Smart Cities, and our world of converged machines, sensors, applications and algorithms operational.

Addressing the 2019 cyber-threat also requires incorporating a better and more calculated risk awareness and management security strategy by both the public and private sectors. A 2019 cybersecurity risk management strategy will need to be comprehensive, adaptive and elevated to the C-Suite. 

I have just touched on a few of the implications of four emerging technology areas that will have significant impact in our lives in 2019.

These areas are just the tip of the iceberg as we really are in the midst of a paradigm shift in applied scientific knowledge.  We have entered a new renaissance of accelerated technological development that is exponentially transforming our civilization.

Yet with these benefits come risks. With such catalyzing innovation, we cannot afford to lose control. The real imperative for this new year is for planning and systematic integration.  

Hopefully that will provide us with a guiding technological framework that will keep us prosperous and safe.

Article by Chuck Brooks Special to Forbes Magazine
Chuck Brooks is an Advisor and Contributor to Cognitive World. In his full time role he is the Principal Market Growth Strategist for General Dynamics Mission Systems…MORE

Cold atoms offer a glimpse of flat physics – New Particles (Anyons) could one Day Power a Special Breed of Quantum Computers


JQI 1A gorshkov-anyon-1a Simulated images from two papers showing anyons spreading preferentially to the left in a 1-D grid (left) and a novel phase of matter that may arise from atoms constrained to move in 2-D (right). (Images courtesy of the authors)

These days, movies and video games render increasingly realistic 3-D images on 2-D screens, giving viewers the illusion of gazing into another world. For many physicists, though, keeping things flat is far more interesting.

One reason is that flat landscapes can unlock new movement patterns in the quantum world of atoms and electrons. For instance, shedding the third dimension enables an entirely new class of particles to emerge—particles that that don’t fit neatly into the two classes, bosons and fermions, provided by nature.

These new particles, known as anyons, change in novel ways when they swap places, a feat that could one day power a special breed of quantum computer.

But anyons and the conditions that produce them have been exceedingly hard to spot in experiments. In a pair of papers published this week in Physical Review Letters, JQI Fellow Alexey Gorshkov and several collaborators proposed new ways of studying this unusual flat physics, suggesting that small numbers of constrained atoms could act as stand-ins for the finicky electrons first predicted to exhibit low-dimensional quirks.

“These two papers add to the growing literature demonstrating the promise of cold atoms for studying exotic physics in general and anyons in particular,” Gorshkov says. “Coupled with recent advances in cold atom experiments—including by the group of Ian Spielman at JQI—this work hints at exciting experimental demonstrations that might be just around the corner.”

In the first paper, which was selected as an Editors’ Suggestion, Gorshkov and colleagues proposed looking for a new experimental signature of anyons—one that might be visible in a small collection of atoms hopping around in a 1-D grid. Previous work suggested that such systems might simulate the swapping behavior of anyons, but researchers only knew of ways to spot the effects at extremely cold temperatures.

Instead, Fangli Liu, a graduate student at JQI, along with Gorshkov and other collaborators, found a way to detect the presence of anyons without needing such frigid climes.

Ordinarily, atoms spread out symmetrically over time in a 1-D grid, but anyons will generally favor the left over the right or vice versa. The researchers argued that straightforward changes to the laser used to create the grid would make the atoms hop less like themselves and more like anyons. By measuring the way that the number of atoms at different locations changes over time, it would then be possible to spot the asymmetry expected from anyons. Furthermore, adjusting the laser would make it easy to switch the favored direction in the experiment.

“The motivation was to use something that didn’t require extremely cold temperatures to probe the anyons,” says Liu, the lead author of the paper. “The hope is that maybe some similar ideas can be used in more general settings, like looking for related asymmetries in two dimensions.”

In the second paper, Gorshkov and a separate group of collaborators found theoretical evidence for a new state of matter closely related to a Laughlin liquid, the prototypical example of a substance with topological order. In a Laughlin liquid, particles—originally electrons—find elaborate ways of avoiding one another, leading to the emergence of anyons that carry only a fraction of the electric charge held by an electron.

“Anyons are pretty much still theoretical constructs,” says Tobias Grass, a postdoctoral researcher at JQI and the lead author of the second paper, “and experiments have yet to conclusively demonstrate them.”

Although fractional charges have been observed in experiments with electrons, many of their other predicted properties have remained unmeasurable. This makes it hard to search for other interesting behavior or to study Laughlin liquids more closely. Grass, Gorshkov and their colleagues suggested a way to manipulate the interactions between a handful of atoms and discovered a new state of matter that mixes characteristics of the Laughlin liquid and a less exotic crystal phase.

The atoms in this new state avoid one another in a similar way as electrons in a Laughlin liquid, and they also fall into a regular pattern like in a crystal—albeit in a strange way, with only half of an atom occupying each crystal site. It’s a unique mix of crystal symmetry and more complex topological order—a combination that has received little prior study.

“The idea that you have a bosonic or fermionic system, and then from interactions there emerges completely different physics—that’s only possible in lower dimensions,” Grass says. “Having an experimental demonstration of any of these phases is just interesting from a fundamental perspective.”

Story by Chris Cesare

JOINT QUANTUM INSTITUTe

REFERENCE PUBLICATION

Asymmetric Particle Transport and Light-Cone Dynamics Induced by Anyonic Statistics,” Fangli Liu, James R. Garrison, Dong-Ling Deng, Zhe-Xuan Gong, Alexey V. Gorshkov, Phys. Rev. Lett., 121, 250404 (2018)Fractional Quantum Hall Phases of Bosons with Tunable Interactions: From the Laughlin Liquid to a Fractional Wigner Crystal,” Tobias Graß, Przemyslaw Bienias, Michael J. Gullans, Rex Lundgren, Joseph Maciejko, Alexey V. Gorshkov, Phys. Rev. Lett., 121, 253403 (2018)

RESEARCH CONTACT

Alexey Gorshkov gorshkov@umd.edu

Tobias Grass tgrass@umd.edu

Fangli Liu lflnankai@gmail.com

University of Waterloo Researchers develop New Powder that is 2X More Effective for ‘Carbon Capture’ – Could Drastically Reduce CO2 Emissions – Also Applications for Energy Storage and Water Filtration


Carbon capture 1 novelfunctioNovel functionalized nanomaterials for CO2 capture. Credit: Copyright Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC). Polshettiwar et al. Chemical Science

Scientists at the University of Waterloo have created a powder that can capture CO2 from factories and power plants.

The powder, created in the lab of Zhongwei Chen, a chemical engineering professor at Waterloo, can filter and remove CO2 at facilities powered by fossil fuels before it is released into the atmosphere and is twice as efficient as conventional methods.

Chen said the new process to manipulate the size and concentration of pores could also be used to produce optimized carbon powders for applications including water filtration and energy storage, the other main strand of research in his lab.

“This will be more and more important in the future,” said Chen, “We have to find ways to deal with all the CO2 produced by burning fossil fuels.”

CO2 molecules stick to the surface of carbon when they come in contact with it, a process known as adsorption. Since it is abundant, inexpensive and environmentally friendly, that makes carbon an excellent material for CO2 capture. The researchers, who collaborated with colleagues at several universities in China, set out to improve adsorption performance by manipulating the size and concentration of pores in carbon materials.

The technique they developed uses heat and salt to extract a black carbon powder from plant matter. Carbon spheres that make up the powder have many, many pores and the vast majority of them are less than one-millionth of a metre in diameter.Carbon Capture 2 16-MS-2494-EE-Science-Cover_v6-

“The porosity of this material is extremely high,” said Chen, who holds a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in advanced materials for clean energy. “And because of their size, these pores can capture CO2 very efficiently. The performance is almost doubled.”

Once saturated with carbon dioxide at large point sources such as fossil fuel power plants, the powder would be transported to storage sites and buried in underground geological formations to prevent CO2 release into the atmosphere.

A paper on the CO2 capture work, In-situ ion-activated carbon nanospheres with tunable ultra-microporosity for superior CO2 capture, appears in the journal Carbon.

Professor Chen can be reached at zhwchen@uwaterloo.ca or 519-888-4567 ext. 38664.

Read More About Recent CO2 Capture Technologies

Carbon Post 3 Carbon Reboot Guardian 3500

 

Scientists at the University of Manchester develop revolutionary method for graphene printed electronics – Impact for IoT


graphene post 1This visualisation shows layers of graphene used for membranes. Credit: University of Manchester

 

A team of researchers based at The University of Manchester have found a low cost method for producing graphene printed electronics, which significantly speeds up and reduces the cost of conductive graphene inks.

Printed electronics offer a breakthrough in the penetration of information technology into everyday life. The possibility of printing  will further promote the spread of Internet of Things (IoT) .

The development of printed conductive inks for electronic applications has grown rapidly, widening applications in transistors, sensors, antennas RFID tags and wearable electronics.

Current conductive inks traditionally use metal nanoparticles for their high electrical conductivity. However, these  can be expensive or easily oxidised, making them far from ideal for low cost IoT applications.

The team have found that using a material called dihydro-levo-gucosenone known as Cyrene is not only non-toxic but is environmentally- friendly and sustainable but can also provide higher concentrations and conductivity of  ink.

Professor Zhiurn Hu said: “This work demonstrates that printed graphene technology can be low cost, sustainable, and environmentally friendly for ubiquitous wireless connectivity in IoT era as well as provide RF energy harvesting for low power electronics”.

Professor Sir Kostya Novoselov said: “Graphene is swiftly moving from research to application domain. Development of production methods relevant to the end-user in terms of their flexibility, cost and compatibility with existing technologies are extremely important. This work will ensure that implementation of graphene into day-to-day products and technologies will be even faster”.

Kewen Pan, the lead author on the paper said: “This perhaps is a significant step towards commercialisation of printed graphene technology. I believe it would be an evolution in printed electronics industry because the material is such low cost, stable and environmental friendly”.

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL), who were involved in measurements for this work, have partnered with the National Graphene Institute at The University of Manchester to provide a materials characterisation service to provide the missing link for the industrialisation of graphene and 2-D materials. They have also published a joint NPL and NGI a good practice guide which aims to tackle the ambiguity surrounding how to measure graphene’s characteristics.

Professor Ling Hao said: “Materials characterisation is crucial to be able to ensure performance reproducibility and scale up for commercial applications of graphene and 2-D materials. The results of this collaboration between the University and NPL is mutually beneficial, as well as providing measurement training for Ph.D. students in a metrology institute environment.”

Graphene has the potential to create the next generation of electronics currently limited to science fiction: faster transistors, semiconductors, bendable phones and flexible wearable electronics.

 Explore further: Fully integrated circuits printed directly onto fabric

 

Holey graphene as ‘Holy Grail’ alternative to silicon chips – turning graphene into a semiconductor


3D Graphene

Graphene, in its regular form, does not offer an alternative to silicon chips for applications in nanoelectronics. It is known for its energy band structure, which leaves no energy gap and no magnetic effects.

Graphene antidot lattices, however, are a new type of graphene device that contain a periodic array of holes—missing several atoms in the otherwise regular single layer of carbon atoms. This causes an energy band gap to open up around the baseline energy level of the material, effectively turning graphene into a semiconductor.

 

In a new study published in EPJ B, Iranian physicists investigate the effect of antidot size on the electronic structure and magnetic properties of triangular antidots in graphene. Zahra Talebi Esfahani from Payame Noor University in Tehran, Iran, and colleagues have confirmed the existence of a band gap opening in such antidot graphene lattices, which depends on the electron’s spin degree of freedom, and which could be exploited for applications like spin transistors. The authors perform simulations using holes that are shaped like right and equilateral triangles, to explore the effects of both the armchair-shaped and zigzag-shaped edges of graphene holes on the material’s characteristics.

In this study, the values of the  and the total magnetisation, the authors find, depend on the size, shape and spacing of the antidots. These may actually increase with the number of zigzag edges around the holes. The induced  are mainly localised on the edge atoms, with a maximum value at the centre of each side of the equilateral triangle. By contrast, armchair edges display no local magnetic moment.

Thanks to the energy band gap created, such periodic arrays of triangular antidot lattices can be used as magnetic semiconductors. And because the  band gap depends on the electron spins in the material, magnetic antidot lattices are ideal candidates for spintronic applications.

 Explore further: Artificial magnetic field produces exotic behavior in graphene sheets

More information: Zahra Talebi Esfahani et al, A DFT study on the electronic and magnetic properties of triangular graphene antidot lattices, The European Physical Journal B (2018). DOI: 10.1140/epjb/e2018-90517-6

 

Promising New Battery Technology – Disordered Magnesium Crystals – Could make Batteries that are Smaller and that store More Energy – Longer Lasting Phones and EV Batteries


Magneseum Battery Nano 5c1966937fa4cTiny, disordered particles of magnesium chromium oxide may hold the key to new magnesium battery energy storage technology. Credit: UCL

 

Tiny, disordered particles of magnesium chromium oxide may hold the key to new magnesium battery energy storage technology, which could possess increased capacity compared to conventional lithium-ion batteries, find UCL and University of Illinois at Chicago researchers.

The study, published today in Nanoscale, reports a new, scalable method for making a material that can reversibly store  at high-voltage, the defining feature of a cathode.

While it is at an , the researchers say it is a significant development in moving towards -based batteries. To date, very few inorganic materials have shown reversible magnesium removal and insertion, which is key for the magnesium battery to function.

“Lithium-ion technology is reaching the boundary of its capability, so it’s important to look for other chemistries that will allow us to build batteries with a bigger storage capacity and a slimmer design,” said co-lead author, Dr. Ian Johnson (UCL Chemistry).

“Magnesium battery technology has been championed as a possible solution to provide longer-lasting phone and electric car batteries, but getting a practical material to use as a cathode has been a challenge.”

One factor limiting  is the anode. Low-capacity carbon anodes have to be used in lithium-ion batteries for safety reasons, as the use of pure lithium metal anodes can cause dangerous short circuits and fires.

In contrast, magnesium metal anodes are much safer, so partnering magnesium metal with a functioning cathode material would make a battery smaller and store more energy.

Previous research using computational models predicted that magnesium chromium oxide (MgCr2O4) could be a promising candidate for Mg battery cathodes.

Inspired by this work, UCL researchers produced a ~5 nm, disordered magnesium chromium oxide material in a very rapid and relatively low temperature reaction.

Collaborators at the University of Illinois at Chicago then compared its magnesium activity with a conventional, ordered magnesium chromium oxide material ~7 nm wide.

They used a range of different techniques including X-ray diffraction, X-ray absorption spectroscopy and cutting-edge electrochemical methods to see the structural and chemical changes when the two materials were tested for magnesium activity in a cell.

The two types of crystals behaved very differently, with the disordered particles displaying reversible magnesium extraction and insertion, compared to the absence of such activity in larger, ordered crystals.

“This suggests the future of batteries might lie in disordered and unconventional structures, which is an exciting prospect and one we’ve not explored before as usually disorder gives rise to issues in battery materials. It highlights the importance of seeing if other structurally defective materials might give further opportunities for reversible battery chemistry” explained Professor Jawwad Darr (UCL Chemistry).

“We see increasing the surface area and including disorder in the crystal structure offers novel avenues for important chemistry to take place compared to ordered crystals.

Conventionally, order is desired to provide clear diffusion pathways, allowing cells to be charged and discharged easily—but what we’ve seen suggests that a disordered structure introduces new, accessible diffusion pathways that need to be further investigated,” said Professor Jordi Cabana (University of Illinois at Chicago).

These results are the product of an exciting new collaboration between UK and US researchers. UCL and the University of Illinois at Chicago intend to expand their studies to other disordered, high  , to enable further gains in magnesium storage capability and develop a practical magnesium .

 Explore further: Research overcomes major technical obstacles in magnesium-metal batteries

More information: Linhua Hu et al, Tailoring the Electrochemical Activity of Magnesium Chromium Oxide Towards Mg Batteries Through Control of Size and Crystal Structure, Nanoscale (2018). DOI: 10.1039/C8NR08347A