Strut like a peacock

Color is all about the wavelength of light that comes off an object.  A chemical, a pigment called anthocyanin is what makes an apple red.  But sometimes an object doesn't have a particular color because of pigment.  You can also make something appear to have color using physical structures that are on the nanometer scale.  If you have a bunch of ridges that are spaced out about 600 nanometers or so, then red light will be diffracted and the object will appear 'red'.  Peacocks and those blue morpho butterflies have color not because of pigments but because of tiny structures that diffract just certain wavelengths of light.  The problem is that the color produced by these ridges is very particular about the angle that you view them at.  Now scientists are making displays that show color but at less sensitive to the angle at which they are viewed.  These new types of structures are less sensitive to the angle at which they are viewed.  They hold promise for a new generation of displays that won't involve pigments but just these tiny ridges.
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All from the tip of a pencil

Like the fashion industry, nanotechnology has the latest hottest material.  These days for the fashion industry it might be stretch denim but for nanoscale science and engineering it is graphene, a material that has great potential for a variety of electronic applications.  Graphene? sounds like graphite, the stuff that is found in pencils?  Sort of?  Graphene like graphite is made of carbon, but graphene is made only of carbon and only one atom thick.  The carbon atoms are arranged where each carbon atom is bound to three other carbon atoms the same way they are bonded in carbon nanotubes or buckyballs.  Scientists who worked on graphene won the Nobel Prize in 2010.  Because graphene is a semiconductor it has lots of potential in electronics and because it is only a single atom think, sheets of it can be used to make flexible electronics. 
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Sometimes the world's tiniest isn't the best

Tomorrow is Valentine's day and just in time is the "world's tiniest" cupid.  Cupid is the little guy who flies around and shoots arrows into folks and makes them fall in love.  Now scientists at Brigham Young University have made a tiny cupid out of carbon nanotubes.  Just a few hundred nanometers across, cupid appears to have launched his nano arrow.  Now the love of your life can be smitten by a nano-gesture of your affection.  Best you also send flowers or a box of chocolate.

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This stuff resists everything

Some materials just hate water.  They are known as hydrophobic.  Superhydrophobic means they really hate water.  Now there is a new class of materials that really hate everything.  These are superomniphobic.  Scientists at the University of Michigan have made a material that not only repels water but repels oils, solvents and other liquids.  It is so repellant that these liquids literally bounce off the surface.  So what do you do with these superomniphobic materials.  In theory they should resist any kinds of stains, not just those from foods that are water based.  Not quite ready for prime-time, the materials are easily damaged by mechanical treatments like abrasions.  But someday we might not have to worry about getting that stain on our shirt right before a big event.  Look below at a series of pictures showing a liquid bouncing off a superomniphobic surface

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Magic cotton

Cotton is one of those materials that everyone takes for granted.  What's nano about that?  Scientists from Eindoven University (in the Netherlands) have treated cotton with a special polymer that makes the cotton magical.  At room temperature the polymer-treated cotton will hold 340% of its weight in water.  Water collected from mist and other places.  Heat it up and releases the water, pure enough to drink (or water plants).  What is great is that it can be used over and over again to gather water and then distribute it. Cotton is grown around the world and treating it with this magical polymer isn't too high tech, meaning that it might be useful technology for developing countries to help produce clean water. 

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