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TechnologyScientists Accidentally Create 'Wonder Material'

01:20  27 april  2019
01:20  27 april  2019 Source:   newsweek.com

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Scientists have created a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic drinks bottles – by accident. The breakthrough could help solve the global plastic pollution crisis by enabling for the first time the full recycling of bottles. “It is one of these wonder materials that has been made a little bit too well.”

Scientists have created an enzyme capable of digesting some of the most common types of plastics that pollute the Earth. "We can all play a significant part in dealing with the plastic problem, but the scientific community who ultimately created these ' wonder - materials ,' must now use all the

Some of the most famous scientific discoveries happened by accident. From Teflon and the microwave oven to penicillin, scientists trying to solve a problem sometimes find unexpected things. This is exactly how we created phosphorene nanoribbons—a material made from one of the universe’s basic building blocks, but that has the potential to revolutionize a wide range of technologies.

We’d been trying to separate layers of phosphorus crystals into two-dimensional sheets. Instead, our technique created tiny, tagliatelle-like ribbons one single atom thick and only 100 or so atoms across, but up to 100,000 atoms long. We spent three years honing the production process, before announcing our findings.

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Some of the most famous scientific discoveries happened by accident. From Teflon and the microwave oven to penicillin, scientists trying to solve a problem sometimes find unexpected things. This is exactly how we created phosphorene nanoribbons – a material made from one of the universe’s basic

Scientists have created a substance capable of “eating” plastic that could help tackle the world’s pollution problem. The substance is based on an enzyme – a “biological catalyst” – first produced by bacteria living in a Japanese recycling centre that researchers suggested had evolved it in order to eat

The two-dimensional ribbons have a number of remarkable properties. Their width to length ratio is similar to the cables that span the Golden Gate Bridge. Their incredibly uniform but manipulable width allows their properties, such as whether and how they conduct electricity, to be fine-tuned. They are also incredibly flexible, which means that they can follow the contours of any surfaces they’re put on perfectly, and even be twisted.

Transformative potential

More than 100 scientific papers predicted the transformative potential of these nanoribbons, should it be possible to create them, across a range of technologies—some as many as five years prior to the publishing of our discovery in Nature.

Perhaps the most important of these is in the area of battery technology. The corrugated structure of phosphorene nanoribbons means that the charged ions that power batteries could soon move up to 1000 times faster than currently possible. This would mean a significant decrease in charging time, alongside an increase in capacity of approximately 50%. Such performance gains would provide massive boosts to the electric car and aircraft industries, and allow us to much better harness renewable energy to eliminate reliance on fossil fuels even on grey, calm days.

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But in a new twist, British and American scientists have announced that while studying this bacteria, they accidentally created a mutant enzyme that’s even The discovery came as a team of scientists from the University of Portsmouth in the U.K. and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the

- Swedish lab accidentally created Upsalite, a new material that promises to find applications in everything from humidity control at home to chemical manufacturing No, upsalite really is the wonder stuff” was written by Dean Burnett, for The Guardian on Wednesday 14th August 2013 15.27 UTC.

It also means that in future, batteries could use sodium ions instead of lithium ions. Known lithium reserves may not be able to meet huge projected increases in battery demand, and extraction of the metal can be environmentally harmful. Sodium, by contrast, is abundant and cheap.

The field of electronics may also be thankful for nanoribbons. Moore’s law observes that computer processing power doubles every two years, but this rate is in danger of slowing down as the physical limits of materials are being fast approached. Using ‘2D’ materials like ours could redefine these limits, allowing us to make ever-smaller and faster devices.

The ribbons could solve another major roadblock in this area—how to electrically connect nanomaterials without creating large resistance (and therefore energy loss) at the joins. Several-layer thick versions of phosphorene nanoribbons can be seamlessly split into ribbons with different heights and electrical properties, circumventing the usual engineering requirements of connections. Thanks to this, high-efficiency solar cells could now be much closer to entering into reality.

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A couple years back, scientists discovered bacteria at a Japanese recycling plant that were breaking down a common type of plastic known as polyethylene But they ended up accidentally engineering a “mutant” version of the enzyme that’s even better at degrading PET plastic than the natural version

Scientists believe that the enzyme could be a miraculous solution to the million tons of plastic PET is favored for its lightweight, colorless, and durable properties that make it an ideal material for water In the midst of their studies, the scientists accidentally created a super enzyme that is derived from

The phosphorene nanoribbons’ flexibility and thermoelectric properties mean that they could also be embedded in wearable fabrics, and used to convert waste heat into useful electricity. For example, we could soon see thermoelectric t-shirts that function as heart and blood sugar level monitors, all powered by body heat alone.

The technology could unlock the potential of hydrogen as an efficient and low-carbon fuel. The gas is abundantly available in water and only produces oxygen as a byproduct when extracted. However, finding a way to do this cheaply has thus far eluded scientists. Water molecules can be split through a process called photocatalysis, but the method requires a material that absorbs lots of light, and whose energy properties match up well with water. Nanoribbons are predicted to have exactly these qualities, as well as a high surface area that would maximize contact with water, making it a promising candidate to crack the hydrogen-production conundrum.

Encouragingly, phosphorene nanoribbons have already navigated major obstacles on the route to commercialization. Finding a scalable production method like ours takes years for most new materials, and some never see the light of day. Added to this, phosphorus is a relatively abundant and easily extracted material in the Earth’s crust. And since our ribbons are already formed in liquids, inks or paints can easily be produced to manipulate them at scale using low-cost methods such as spray-coating or ink-jet printing.

German scientists create see-through human organs

German scientists create see-through human organs German scientists create see-through human organs

Scientists have created a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic drinks bottles – by accident. The breakthrough could help solve the global plastic pollution crisis by enabling for the first time the full recycling of bottles. “It is one of these wonder materials that has been made a little bit too well.”

SCIENTISTS have accidentally created a mutant protein that eats plastic — offering hope for a recycling revolution. "We can all play a significant part in dealing with the plastic problem, but the scientific community who ultimately created these ' wonder - materials ' must now use all the

Producing these ribbons is however just the first step towards revolutionizing the above technologies. Much research now needs to be carried out to test theoretical predictions, and investigate the extent to which the properties of the ribbons can be tailored for specific applications. As the 20-year plus journeys of Teflon, lithium batteries, and Velcro show us, the road from discovery to use can be long. But with society increasingly moving away from fossil fuels, we expect that road to soon be well-traveled.

Chris Howard, Associate Professor, UCL and Mitch Watts, Ph.D. Candidate - Production, characterization and simulation of few-layer black phosphorus, UCL

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Scientists Accidentally Create 'Wonder Material'© Oliver Payton/University of Bristol

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