Water, water, everywhere: Controlling the properties of nanomaterials

Scientists at the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory are learning how the properties of water molecules on the surface of metal oxides can be used to better control these minerals and use them to make products such as more efficient semiconductors for organic light emitting diodes and solar cells, safer vehicle glass in fog and frost, and more environmentally friendly chemical sensors for industrial applications.


Pictured at the NOMAD instrument at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Spallation Neutron Source are David Wesolowski of the Chemical Sciences Division, Thomas Proffen of SNS, Hsiu-Wen Wang of JINS, and NOMAD instrument scientist Mikhail Feygenson. Wang and Feygenson are holding the NOMAD sample-mounting wand.

The behavior of water at the surface of a mineral is determined largely by the ordered array of atoms in that area, called the interfacial region. However, when the particles of the mineral or of any crystalline solid are nanometer-sized, interfacial water can alter the crystalline structure of the particles, control interactions between particles that cause them to aggregate, or strongly encapsulate the particles, which allows them to persist for long periods in the environment. As water is an abundant component of our atmosphere, it is usually present on nanoparticle surfaces exposed to air. Read more

Water in moon rocks provides clues and questions about lunar history

A recent review of hundreds of chemical analyses of Moon rocks indicates that the amount of water in the Moon’s interior varies regionally — revealing clues about how water originated and was redistributed in the Moon. These discoveries provide a new tool to unravel the processes involved in the formation of the Moon, how the lunar crust cooled, and its impact history.


This shows secondary electron image of pits left by ion microprobe analyses of a heterogeneous apatite grain in Apollo sample 14321, 1047. Water has now been detected in apatite in many different lunar rock types.

This is not liquid water, but water trapped in volcanic glasses or chemically bound in mineral grains inside lunar rocks. Rocks originating from some areas in the lunar interior contain much more water than rocks from other places. The hydrogen isotopic composition of lunar water also varies from region to region, much more dramatically than in Earth. Read more

Renewable energy from evaporating water, left-handed kangaroos and a fasting diet that slows aging

It was a good week for new technology as a team of researchers at Columbia University announced a way to get renewable energy from evaporating water—they have come up with two devices, one a piston-based engine that generates electricity while floating, and the other, a rotary engine that powers a tiny car.


Schematic illustration of electrically biased suspended graphene and light emission from the center of the suspended graphene.

Also, another team with members from the U.S. and Korea demonstrated for the first time an on-chip visible light source using graphene—the world’s thinnest light bulb. And a team of chemists at UCLA announced that they had devised technology that could transform solar energy storage—it is a way to extend energy storage in solar cells from microseconds to weeks. Read more

To save water, cool power plants with wax, say engineers

Nearly all power plants in the United States use water to regulate temperature. These water-cooled plants account for more than 40 percent of the nation’s freshwater withdrawals each year.


Nearly all power plants in the United States use water to regulate temperature. These water-cooled plants account for more than 40 percent of the nation’s freshwater withdrawals each year.

The towering plumes of steam emanating from power plant calderas that have come to symbolize the massive and, at times, menacing nature of the energy industry might soon have their natural dissipation into thin air preempted by a figurative one. A team of researchers from Drexel University, in concert with experts from academia and industry, are creating a new technology that replaces the voluminous amounts of steam-producing water used to cool the plants with trillions of tiny wax beads—and could be the end of those fluffy, yet ominous, white clouds. Read more

Clearer Protections for Clean Water

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is taking action to protect our precious water resources.

grviewMany of us have fond memories of playing at our neighborhood pond or taking a swim in the local river. We remember the unspoiled wetlands and streams where our parents took us hunting and fishing as kids. We value our deep-rooted ties to the lakes and rivers that shape where we grew up and where we live. Our waters define who we are as people and as a nation. Read more