thomst writes: Science Magazines's Tim Wogan reports that chemical engineer Zhenan Bao of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, and her team have increased the conductivity of a self-healing polymer by incorporating nickel atoms. The polymer they have produced is sensitive to applied forces like pressure and torsion (twisting) because such forces alter the distance between the nickel atoms, changing the electrical resistance of the polymer. Their work is published online in the November 1 issue of Nature Nanotechnology (abstract here, full article paywalled). Now Bao and her team are working on making the polymer more flexible.
thomst writes: A team led by soils scientist Dr. Marek Zbik of Queensland University of Technology has discovered that samples of Moon dust contain nanoparticles that may explain the dust's notoriously strange properties. Moon dust is famously abrasive, sticky, and subject to puzzlingly-high electrostatic charges that cause it to remain suspended above the lunar surface for long periods of time, despite the virtual absence of any atmosphere on the satellite's surface. Dr. Zbik examined a sample of the dust via synchrotron-based nano-tomography, which uses high-energy X-rays to produce 3-D images of nano-scale particles. Dr. Zbik discovered that Moon dust includes a large number of glass "vesicles" or bubbles that contain interior networks of nanoparticles. He theorizes that, when the vesicles are ruptured by micrometeorite impacts, the nanoparticles are released, producing a mixture of "regular" lunar dust and nano-dust over time. According to Dr. Zbik, it's the nano-dust component that accounts for Moon dust's unusual properties, because nano-scale particles are small enough that their behavior is partially determined by the laws of quantum physics, rather than the Newtonian physics that govern larger-scale structures. The team's article in ISRN Astronomy and Astrophysics explains the technical details of the study, and Dr. Zbik has posted a 3-D video of a fractured lunar regolith vesicle on Youtube, as well.