Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Study of volcanoes in the outer solar system produces unexpected bonus for nanotechnology

Date:
February 11, 2011
Source:
Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL)
Summary:
Mysterious expanding ice crystals in the moons of Saturn and Neptune may be of interest to future developers of microelectronics. Neutron scattering has discovered that methanol crystals that may be found in outer solar system ‘ice lavas’ have unusual expansion properties. The unexpected finding by a planetary geologist will interest developers of ‘nano-switches’ – single atom thick valves used in ‘micro-electronics’ at the nano scale.

Mysterious expanding ice crystals in the moons of Saturn and Neptune may be of interest to future developers of microelectronics. Neutron scattering has discovered that methanol crystals that may be found in outer solar system 'ice lavas' have unusual expansion properties. The unexpected finding by a British planetary geologist using neutrons at the Institut Laue-Langevin and the ISIS neutron source will interest developers of 'nano-switches' -- single atom thick valves used in 'micro-electronics' at the nano scale.

Neutron scattering has discovered that methanol crystals that may be found in outer solar system 'ice lavas' have unusual expansion properties. The unexpected finding by a British planetary geologist using neutrons at the Institut Laue-Langevin and the ISIS neutron source will interest developers of 'nano-switches' -- single atom thick valves used in 'micro-electronics' at the nano scale.

Dr Dominic Fortes, UCL (University College London) made the discovery whilst investigating the internal structure of icy moons, such as Neptune's Triton, to explain the icy eruptions seen by passing space-craft. By studying the behaviour of methanol monohydrate, a known constituent of outer solar system ice, under conditions like those within the moons' interiors Fortes hoped to understand its role in volcanism.

Fortes measured structural changes in methanol crystals over a range of temperatures and pressures. He found that when heated at room pressure they would expand enormously in one direction whilst shrinking in the other two dimensions. However when heated under an even pressure they expanded in two directions, whilst compressing in the third. This unexpected expansion (elongating and thinning) under uniform pressure is known as negative linear compressibility (NLC).

Whilst these results form the next step towards understanding outer solar system volcanic activity, Fortes' discovery is of significant interest for material scientists developing nanotechnology. The predictable expansion of NLC materials in a particular direction under pressure makes them a good candidate for nano-switches where their shape-shifting properties can be used like a microscopic, pressure-controlled valve directing the flow of electricity.

NLC materials are extremely rare with only around 15 known examples. What causes this property is still relatively unknown. Scientists hope better understanding of the phenomenon can bring forward potential technological application.

"Currently the use of NLC materials in technologies such as nano-switches is purely theoretical and limited by our lack of understanding of the underlying physics," says Prof. Reinhard Neder chairman of the ILL crystallographic committee who approved Dr Fortes beam-time at the world's flagship centre for neutron science. "However, the simple structure of methanol monohydrate gives us a good chance to understand the source of this property and how to look for it in other more commercially viable materials."

"It was certainly unexpected," explains Dr Fortes. "As a planetary geologist my focus is understanding the mechanisms behind volcanic eruptions in the outer solar system. If my results open doors for more applied science back on Earth, that's a bonus."

Professor Richard Wagner, Director at the Institut Laue Langevin added "This research is a good example of how even basic academic studies can have completely unpredictable benefits in other areas of science and technology. It's because of discoveries like this that the ILL strives to maintain our delivery of world leading neutron science in both 'fundamental' and 'applied' fields."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. A. Dominic Fortes, Emmanuelle Suard, and Kevin S. Knight. Negative Linear Compressibility and Massive Anisotropic Thermal Expansion in Methanol Monohydrate. Science, vol 331. February 2011 p742 %u2013 746 DOI: 10.1126/science.1198640

Cite This Page:

Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL). "Study of volcanoes in the outer solar system produces unexpected bonus for nanotechnology." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 February 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110210141027.htm>.
Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL). (2011, February 11). Study of volcanoes in the outer solar system produces unexpected bonus for nanotechnology. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110210141027.htm
Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL). "Study of volcanoes in the outer solar system produces unexpected bonus for nanotechnology." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110210141027.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways

Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways

AP (July 30, 2014) British officials said on Wednesday that driverless cars will be tested on roads in as many as three cities in a trial program set to begin in January. Officials said the tests will last up to three years. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
China's Drone King Says the Revolution Depends on Regulators

China's Drone King Says the Revolution Depends on Regulators

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 30, 2014) Comparing his current crop of drones to early personal computers, DJI founder Frank Wang says the industry is poised for a growth surge - assuming regulators in more markets clear it for takeoff. Jon Gordon reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand

3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand

AP (July 30, 2014) 3-D printing is a cool technology, but it's not exactly a hands-on way to make things. Enter the 3Doodler: the pen that turns you into the 3-D printer. AP technology writer Peter Svensson takes a closer look. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Climate Change Could Cost Billions, According To White House

Climate Change Could Cost Billions, According To White House

Newsy (July 29, 2014) A report from the White House warns not curbing greenhouse gas emissions could cost the U.S. billions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins