A new impermeable form of graphene oxide could be the ultimate protective coating

Kurzweil AI - Fri, 19/09/2014 - 9:20am

Water permeation through a brick without (left) and with (right) “graphene paint” coating (credit: Y. Su et al./ArXiv)

A new form of graphene oxide could be the ultimate protective coating and could have a significant impact on chemical, pharmaceutical, and electronic industries, according to University of Manchester researchers.

For example, applied as paint, it could provide an ultra-strong, non-corrosive coating for a wide range of industrial applications.

Besides being protective, the new material is mechanically nearly as tough as graphene itself, the strongest known material.

The University of Manchester team is led by Rahul Nair and Sir Andre Geim, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics 2010 for his work in first reliably producing graphene in the lab. However, while graphene is impermeable to all gases and liquids, it has proved challenging to develop large-area defectless graphene films suitable for industrial use, they previously found.

So Nair and Geim developed multilayer films made from graphene oxide. These are vacuum-tight under dry conditions, but if exposed to water (or water vapor), they act as molecular sieves, allowing passage of small molecules below a certain size (which could have huge implications for water purification). That’s because graphene-oxide films consist of millions of small flakes stacked randomly on top of each other, leaving nano-sized capillaries between them.

‘Graphene paint’: a new impermeable form of graphene oxide

However, the researchers were able to tightly close these nanocapillaries in graphene oxide. The trick: using simple chemical “reduction” treatments (specifically, the use of hydroiodic acid), creating “reduced graphene oxide” (RDO) films that are stronger mechanically and completely impermeable to everything — gases, liquids or strong chemicals — at least more than 100 nanometers in thickness, as the researchers note in an article published in Nature Communications (also available as an open-access ArXiv article).

For example, the researchers demonstrate that glassware or copper plates covered with “graphene paint” (as the researchers call this form of RDO) can be used as containers for strongly corrosive acids.

“Graphene paint has a good chance to become a truly revolutionary product for industries that deal with any kind of protection either from air, weather elements or corrosive chemicals,” said Nair, including medical, electronics, nuclear, and shipbuilding industries.

Yang Su, the first author in this work added: “Graphene paint can be applied to practically any material, independently of whether it’s plastic, metal or even sand. For example, plastic films coated with graphene could be of interest for medical packaging to improve shelf life because they are less permeable to air and water vapor than conventional coatings. In addition, thin layers of graphene paint are optically transparent.”

Abstract of Nature Communications paper

Flexible barrier films preventing permeation of gases and moistures are important for many industries ranging from food to medical and from chemical to electronic. From this perspective, graphene has recently attracted particular interest because its defect-free monolayers are impermeable to all atoms and molecules. However, it has been proved to be challenging to develop large-area defectless graphene films suitable for industrial use. Here we report barrier properties of multilayer graphitic films made by gentle chemical reduction of graphene oxide laminates with hydroiodic and ascorbic acids. They are found to be highly impermeable to all gases, liquids and aggressive chemicals including, for example, hydrofluoric acid. The exceptional barrier properties are attributed to a high degree of graphitization of the laminates and little structural damage during reduction. This work indicates a close prospect of graphene-based flexible and inert barriers and protective coatings, which can be of interest for numerous applications.

Categories: Science

Car hacking: who’s monitoring (or controlling) your car?

Kurzweil AI - Fri, 19/09/2014 - 7:35am

The EFF says Ford shares emails sent via its Ford SYNC car-communication system with business partners (credit: Ford)

As vehicles become computers on wheels, the risk of car hacking is real, according to Australia-based Queensland University of Technology (QUT) road-safety expert Professor Andry Rakotonirainy from QUT’s Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety – Queensland (CARRS).

He has researched the security systems of existing fleet and future autonomous and connected cars and found there is little protection against hacking.

“The security protection on cars is virtually non-existent; it is at a level of protection that a desktop computer system had in the 1980s,” he said. “The basic security requirements such as authentication, confidentiality and integrity are not strong.

Accessing the “brains” of a car

“What this means is that as vehicles become more and more connected and autonomous, with the ability to communicate to other vehicles and infrastructure through wireless networks, the threat of cyber attack increases putting people’s safety and security at risk.”

The development of intelligent transport systems means future cars will be connected to wireless networks as standard. He said technology called CAN bus (controller area network), accessible under the steering wheel, provides access to the “brain” of a car and will allow anyone to check the health of a vehicle and control it.

“CAN bus allows all microcontrollers within a car to communicate to each other and is accessible via a mere plug,” he said. “It can be used to control almost everything such as the airbags, brakes, cruise control and power steering systems” and can be accessed locally or remotely with simple devices.

However, “applications of the future will depend on high data rates that cannot possibly be supported by today’s CAN” and other systems, according to an EE Times blog. “Parking cameras, HD digital infotainment, ADAS sensors like Radar and eventually the ‘eyes and ears’ for self-driving systems of the future will all be built on a high bandwidth Ethernet backbone…. [driven by the need to] minimize the additional cabling in the car. …  For example, BMW’s camera based driver assistance system is supported by Ethernet.”

Connected cars

A planned vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications system could help drivers avoid accidents (credit: U.S. Department of Transportation)

“This is just the tip of the iceberg, as future cars will feature a tremendous mix of wireless networks and offer numerous opportunities to improve safety, entertainment and comfort,” Rakotonirainy continued.

“For example, cars will be wirelessly connected to other cars,” he said. “If a vehicle stops ahead, a warning can be issued to drivers behind to slow down, or vehicles can automatically take control and slowdown without the driver’s intervention. (KurzweilAI has covered this coming “vehicle-to-vehicle, V2V, technology in several articles.)

“It will also be possible for vehicles to connect with infrastructure. For example, if a light turned red, but an approaching vehicle failed to slow, perhaps because the driver was distracted, a warning could be issued or action taken to automatically control the vehicle.”

Rakotonirainy said that while these features had the potential to improve road safety, if someone hacks into a vehicle’s electronics via a wireless network and exploits the current security loophole, they can track or take control of it.

He said it was vital for car makers, government and road safety experts to turn their attention to this global security threat. “We need to be analyzing the types of risk that that these intelligent vehicles are facing and work to provide a secure, reliable and trusted protection system.

“A vehicle’s communication security over wireless networks cannot be an afterthought and needs to be comprehensively considered at the early stages of design and deployment of these high-tech systems from the hardware, software, user and policy point of view.”

Nightmare scenarios

“Modern vehicles can have as many as 200 CPUs and multiple communications networks between internal computer systems,” according to Ken Schneider, vice president of technology strategy at software security company Symantec, as Computerworld notes. “While most systems are isolated within the car, others are used to transmit data back to manufacturers, dealers or even the government. …

For example, “Ford says it’s collecting location data and call data if you use [Ford] SYNC to dictate emails. Ford then shares that data with business partners … according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.”

Schnenider said nightmare scenarios could include traffic violations being issued without law enforcement officers on the scene or federal agencies having the ability to track your every move in a car.

“Perhaps even worse, if it were possible to hack into on-board systems, malicious software could be downloaded to a car’s computers, with potentially deadly outcomes. Among other things, a piece of malware could, for example, “tell the braking control system to suddenly activate,” Schneider said.

Categories: Science

The Myths and Realities of Synthetic Bioweapons

Slashdot - Fri, 19/09/2014 - 7:04am
Lasrick writes Three researchers from King's College, London, walk through the security threats posed by synthetic and do-it-yourself biology, assessing whether changes in technology and associated costs make it any easier for would-be terrorists to pursue biological weapons for high-consequence, mass- casualty attacks (and even whether they would want to). "Those who have overemphasized the bioterrorism threat typically portray it as an imminent concern, with emphasis placed on high-consequence, mass-casualty attacks, performed with weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This is a myth with two dimensions."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

Europeans Came From Three Ancestry Groupings

Slashdot - Fri, 19/09/2014 - 5:33am
Taco Cowboy writes A recent study by researchers at Harvard Medical School and the University of Tübingen in Germany has found that present day Europeans are descendants of three different groups of people — A near east farmer group, an indigenous hunter gatherer group, and an ancient North Eurasian group from Siberia. "Nearly all Europeans have ancestry from all three ancestral groups," said Iosif Lazaridis, a research fellow in genetics in Reich's lab and first author of the paper. "Differences between them are due to the relative proportions of ancestry. Northern Europeans have more hunter-gatherer ancestry — up to about 50 percent in Lithuanians — and Southern Europeans have more farmer ancestry." The most surprising part of the project, however, was the discovery of the Basal Eurasians. Before Australian Aborigines, New Guineans, South Indians, Native Americans and other indigenous hunter-gatherers split, they split from Basal Eurasians. The study also found that Mediterranean groups such as the Maltese, as well as Ashkenazi Jews, had more Near East ancestry than anticipated, while far northeastern Europeans such as Finns and the Saami, as well as some northern Russians, had more East Asian ancestry in the mix.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

A long-lasting, water-based nuclear-energy-powered battery

Kurzweil AI - Fri, 19/09/2014 - 5:01am

Schematic diagram of the Platinum/titanium dioxide electrode in the new nuclear-powered battery design (credit: Baek Hyun Kim & Jae W. Kwon/Scientific Reports)

University of Missouri (MU) researchers have developed a prototype of an efficient nuclear-energy-powered* battery that does not require recharging and could be a reliable energy source in automobiles and space vehicles.

Betavoltaics [a battery technology that generates electrical power from beta-particle radiation] has been studied as an energy source since the 1950s,” said Jae W. Kwon, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and nuclear engineering in the College of Engineering at MU.

However, the existing solid-state designs are limited by the radiation damage to semiconductors and the subsequent performance degradation, he said.

Kwon’s solution is a water-based battery. As in nuclear reactors, water efficiently absorbs large amounts of nuclear energy, generating free radicals. His design uses a strontium-90 radioactive isotope, which generates electrochemical energy in water. A nanostructured titanium dioxide electrode with a platinum coating collects and converts the electrochemical energy into electrons.

“Water acts as a buffer and surface plasmons created in the device turned out to be very useful in increasing its efficiency,” Kwon said. “The ionic solution is not easily frozen at very low temperatures and could work in a wide variety of applications, including car batteries and, if packaged properly, perhaps spacecraft.”

The research was published in Nature (open access).

* Kwon assures us that “controlled nuclear technologies are not inherently dangerous. We already have many commercial uses of nuclear technologies in our lives, including fire detectors in bedrooms and emergency exit signs in buildings.”

Abstract of Scientific Reports paper

The field of conventional energy conversion using radioisotopes has almost exclusively focused on solid-state materials. Herein, we demonstrate that liquids can be an excellent media for effective energy conversion from radioisotopes. We also show that free radicals in liquid, which are continuously generated by beta radiation, can be utilized for electrical energy generation. Under beta radiation, surface plasmon obtained by the metallic nanoporous structures on TiO2 enhanced the radiolytic conversion via the efficient energy transfer between plasmons and free radicals. This work introduces a new route for the development of next-generation power sources.

Categories: Science

Study: Chimpanzees Have Evolved To Kill Each Other

Slashdot - Fri, 19/09/2014 - 4:24am
sciencehabit writes A major new study of warfare in chimpanzees finds that lethal aggression can be evolutionarily beneficial in that species, rewarding the winners with food, mates, and the opportunity to pass along their genes. The findings run contrary to recent claims that chimps fight only if they are stressed by the impact of nearby human activity—and could help explain the origins of human conflict as well.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

Slashdot Asks: What's In Your Home Datacenter?

Slashdot - Fri, 19/09/2014 - 2:01am
First time accepted submitter jvschwarz writes There was a time when I had rack-mount systems at home, preferring old Unix boxes, Sun-3 and early SPARC machines, but have moved to low-power machines, Raspberry Pi systems, small NAS boxes, etc. Looks like some are taking it to another level. What do other slashdotters have in their Home Datacenter?

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

New biomedical implants heal bones faster, focus on personalized medicine

Science Daily - Fri, 19/09/2014 - 1:34am
A major success in developing new biomedical implants with the ability to accelerate bone healing has been reported by a group of scientists, which suggests a move toward a future of personalized products. "It is very much like your taste in music and TV shows. People are different and the new trend in biotechnology is to make personalized medicine that matches the patient's needs," he says. "With regard to implants, we have the problem of variations in bone density in patients with osteoporosis and in some cases, even healthy individuals."
Categories: Science

Video games could dramatically streamline educational research

Science Daily - Fri, 19/09/2014 - 1:01am
Scientists have figured out a dramatically easier and more cost-effective way to do research on science curriculum in the classroom -- and it could include playing video games. Called 'computational modeling,' it involves a computer 'learning' student behavior and then 'thinking' as students would. It could revolutionize the way educational research is done.
Categories: Science

Unique waste cleanup for rural areas developed

Science Daily - Fri, 19/09/2014 - 1:01am
A unique method has been developed to use microbes buried in pond sediment to power waste cleanup in rural areas. The first microbe-powered, self-sustaining wastewater treatment system could lead to an inexpensive and quick way to clean up waste from large farming operations and rural sewage treatment plants while reducing pollution.
Categories: Science

Gun deaths twice as high among African-Americans as white citizens in US

Science Daily - Fri, 19/09/2014 - 1:01am
Gun deaths are twice as high among African-Americans as they are among white citizens in the US, finds a study of national data. But the national figures, which have remained relatively steady over the past decade, mask wide variation in firearms deaths by ethnicity and state, the findings show.
Categories: Science

Double mastectomy: 'Angelina Effect' in referrals for genetic counseling and breast cancer testing

Science Daily - Fri, 19/09/2014 - 1:01am
Referrals for genetic counseling and testing for breast cancer risk more than doubled across the UK after actress Angelina Jolie announced in May last year that she tested positive for a BRCA1 gene mutation and underwent a double mastectomy. The rise in referrals continued through to October long after the announcement was made, a study shows.
Categories: Science

Tree rings used to determine history of geological features, arroyos

Science Daily - Fri, 19/09/2014 - 1:00am
A new study uses tree rings to document arroyo evolution along the lower Rio Puerco and Chaco Wash in northern New Mexico, USA. By determining burial dates in tree rings from salt cedar and willow, investigators were able to precisely date arroyo sedimentary beds 30 cm thick or greater. They then combined this data with aerial imagery, LiDAR, longitudinal profiles, and repeat surveys to reconstruct the history of these arroyos. Arroyos are deep, oversized channels that have vertical or steeply cut walls made up of silt, clay, or sand.
Categories: Science

Spouse's personality influences career success, study finds

Science Daily - Fri, 19/09/2014 - 12:59am
As much as we might try to leave personal lives at home, the personality traits of a spouse have a way of following us into the workplace, exerting a powerful influence on promotions, salaries, job satisfaction and other measures of professional success, new research suggests.
Categories: Science

Quorum-sensing signals control when bacteria turn deadly

Science Daily - Fri, 19/09/2014 - 12:59am
No matter how many times it’s demonstrated, it’s still hard to envision bacteria as social, communicating creatures. But by using a signaling system called “quorum sensing,” these single-celled organisms radically alter their behavior to suit their population. Chemists now report that they have been making artificial compounds that mimic the natural quorum-sensing signals.
Categories: Science

Cooling of dialysis fluids protects against brain damage

Science Daily - Fri, 19/09/2014 - 12:59am
Dialysis drives progressive white matter brain injury due to blood pressure instability, however, patients who dialyzed at 0.5 degrees Celcius below body temperature were completely protected against such white matter changes, a study shows.
Categories: Science

Dealership Commentator: Tesla's Going To Win In Every State

Slashdot - Fri, 19/09/2014 - 12:18am
cartechboy writes Unless you've been in a coma for a while you're aware that many dealer associations have been causing headaches for Tesla in multiple states. The reason? They are scared. Tesla's new, different, and shaking up the ridiculously old way of doing things. But the thing is, Tesla keeps winning. Now Ward's commenter Jim Ziegler, president of Ziegler Supersystems in Atlanta, wrote an opinion piece that basically says Tesla's going to prevail in every state against dealer lawsuits. He says Tesla's basically busy defending what are nuisance suits. This leads to the question of whether there will be some sort of sweeping federal action in Tesla's favor.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

Microsoft Lays Off 2,100, Axes Silicon Valley Research

Slashdot - Fri, 19/09/2014 - 12:06am
walterbyrd writes with news of Microsoft layoffs. Microsoft Corp will close its Silicon Valley research-and-development operation as part of 2,100 layoffs announced on Thursday, as it moves toward its new CEO's goal of cutting 18,000 staff, or about 14 percent of its workforce. News of the closure of the Microsoft Research lab at the company's campus in Mountain View, California, was first made public on Twitter by employees. The company later confirmed the move and said it would involve the loss of 50 jobs.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

Apple's "Warrant Canary" Has Died

Slashdot - Thu, 18/09/2014 - 11:34pm
HughPickens.com writes When Apple published its first Transparency Report on government activity in late 2013, the document contained an important footnote that stated: "Apple has never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. We would expect to challenge such an order if served on us." Now Jeff John Roberts writes at Gigaom that Apple's warrant canary has disappeared. A review of the company's last two Transparency Reports, covering the second half of 2013 and the first six months of 2014, shows that the "canary" language is no longer there suggesting that Apple is now part of FISA or PRISM proceedings. Warrant canaries are a tool used by companies and publishers to signify to their users that, so far, they have not been subject to a given type of law enforcement request such as a secret subpoena. If the canary disappears, then it is likely the situation has changed — and the company has been subject to such request. This may also give some insight into Apple's recent decision to rework its latest encryption in a way that makes it almost impossible for the company to turn over data from most iPhones or iPads to police.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

Mystery Signal Could Be Dark Matter Hint In ISS Detector

Slashdot - Thu, 18/09/2014 - 10:51pm
astroengine writes Analysis of 41 billion cosmic rays striking the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer particle detector aboard the International Space Station shows an unknown phenomena that is "consistent with a dark matter particle" known as a neutralino, researchers announced Thursday. Key to the hunt is the ratio of positrons to electrons and so far the evidence from AMS points in the direction of dark matter. The smoking gun scientists look for is a rise in the ratio of positrons to electrons, followed by a dramatic fall — the telltale sign of dark matter annihilating the Milky Way's halo, which lies beyond its central disk of stars and dust. However, "we have not found the definitive proof of dark matter," AMS lead researcher Samuel Ting, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and CERN in Switzerland, wrote in an email to Discovery News. "Whereas all the AMS results point in the right direction, we still need to measure how quickly the positron fraction falls off at the highest energies in order to rule out astrophysical sources such as pulsars." But still, this new finding is a tantalizing step in the dark matter direction.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science