Author: Laurie

2019: How was it for you?

If you’re a long-time reader, you’ll know that each December, I put together a ‘review’ blog post of the previous 12 months. These posts act as a kind of personal highlights (and lowlights) reel. As such, they tend to be pretty self-indulgent, so please don’t read this year’s one if that sort of thing annoys you (it’d probably annoy me too, to be...


A Sticky Situation

2.5 years ago, I sat down at my desk to write a blog post. In it, I told you, my lovely readers, that I’d signed a contract to write my second book – Sticky: The untold story of the forces that built civilisation. Reading the post back now, my excitement and disbelief are palpable! Since then, I’ve hardly mentioned it on the blog at all. That hasn’t been...


Image credit: VUW

MT Lab Profile: Dr Natalie Plank

I recently got to interview a friend and colleague, Dr Natalie Plank, for Materials Today. You can see it in its original form here: https://www.materialstoday.com/lab-profile-dr-natalie-plank\ Image credit: VUW Lab Name: Nanomaterials Devices Group Researcher: Dr Natalie Plank Location: Wellington, NZ Website:...


Super-speedy screening of nanotube devices

US researchers say that RF heating is ten times faster than two-point-probe measurements Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) were first synthesised almost thirty years ago, in 1991. In the decade that followed, researchers established many of their properties, and took the first tentative steps towards integrating them into working electronic devices. The development of...


Origami inspires shape-shifting microelectronics

Dutch researchers have demonstrated self-folding, biocompatible 3D structures Thanks to the ancient Japanese art of origami, we all know that it’s possible to transform a single sheet of paper into a complex, three-dimensional structure, simply by folding it. So, its perhaps surprising that origami took so long to attract the attention of engineers. In recent...


Stretchable, multifunctional electronic skin for tactile sensing

Photo courtesy of The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL) Flexible sensor array mimics some of the tactile properties of human skin Picking up an object is not a simple process. It relies on a range of data inputs – visual clues help you to gauge the object’s size and shape, allowing you to adjust your grip. Your fingers can...


Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH)

Tuneable efficiency of direct growth graphene solar cells

Direct growth technique could produce low-cost, high-efficiency graphene-on-silicon Schottky junction solar cells 2018 was a record year for renewable energy, and predictions point to another big year in 2019. But with a rising demand for solar energy comes wider questions on the sustainability of our current photovoltaic devices. The search for alternative...


Solution processing of perovskite thin films

Chinese researchers offer a simple route to bandgap engineering Lead-halide perovskite solar cells are one of the hottest topics in materials science. And for good reason – in less than a decade, their conversion efficiency has grown from 3.8 % to over 20 %, bringing them into the range of more traditional solar photovoltaic materials. But their reliance on...


Using sunlight to suck salt from seawater

Polymer foam offers potential route to practical solar desalination Freshwater scarcity is an urgent global issue. In some parts of the world, cities are growing increasingly reliant on seawater desalination plants. Ultimately, the goal of desalination is to take huge quantities of salt-laden seawater, and turn it into safe, drinking-quality water. Right now,...


3D printed nanogenerator powered by snow

Canadian researchers say that their device could find multiple uses in snowy environments Snow electrification – the natural phenomenon by which snow particles carry an electric charge – has been known by meteorologists since the early 1960s. The exact nature of the charge depends on temperature; snow layers tend to be positively charged between −5 °C...