Thursday, 24 August 2017

Transformed by the Internet

In the last two decades, the Internet revolution has destroyed traditional ways of working but has also created entire industries with countless opportunities for innovation.

We take a quick look at 5 industries radically transformed by the Internet. According to marketing expert Douglas Karr, these five industries are music, retail, publishing, travel, and transport.

Let's start with music

With physical sales largely redundant and digital revenue growth slow, many high street music sellers are facing the music and artists are now finding additional revenue sources in live gigs and music festivals. The power has now shifted from big corporates to consumers and artists.


The convenience of online shopping where items can be searched for, purchased and delivered with just a few clicks of a mouse has to lead to the death of the high street, with beloved brands having faced cutbacks or liquidation including HMV, Woolworths, and Blockbuster. In UK, one in 4 pounds spent at Christmas on entertainment goods went to Amazon


Physical book sales are down as the popularity of e-readers like the Amazon Kindle continues to grow. Traditional publishers dealing in books, newspapers or magazines, have had to find new efficiencies to avoid becoming obsolete. The internet has also enabled the growth of self-publishing, giving authors greater control.


Holidaymakers are now saying bon voyage to the travel agent because there's no need for a middle man when you can book flights and hotels online and organize activities once you've arrived using your smartphone. The internet has also rocked the hotel industry by allowing people to rent out their own accommodation. Airbnb gets more than 4 million guests in a year.


Traditional cab drivers are being pushed aside as mobile apps make it easier for consumers to book their next ride. The internet has also given rise to a number of digital companies focused on transport, whether it's apps helping people to get around a city or urban planners tracking the movements of vehicles. Uber is said to have earned over 26 billion dollars in 2016.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Two-faced 2-D material: flat sandwich of sulfur, molybdenum and selenium

Materials scientists at Rice University replace all the atoms on top of a three-layer, two-dimensional crystal to make a transition-metal dichalcogenide with sulfur, molybdenum, and selenium. The new material has unique electronic properties that may make it a suitable catalyst, says Mike Williams in an article written for Science Daily.

Hear the experts talk about trends like these and discoveries sweeping Chemistry at the 2-day lecture cum workshop on Aug 28 and 29. For details:

Like a sandwich with wheat on the bottom and rye on the top, Rice University scientists have cooked up a tasty new twist on two-dimensional materials.

The Rice laboratory of materials scientist Jun Lou has made a semiconducting transition-metal dichalcogenide (TMD) that starts as a monolayer of molybdenum diselenide. They then strip the top layer of the lattice and replace precisely half the selenium atoms with sulfur.

The new material they call Janus sulfur molybdenum selenium (SMoSe) has a crystalline construction the researchers said can host an intrinsic electric field and that also shows promise for catalytic production of hydrogen.

The work is detailed this month in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano.

The two-faced material is technically two-dimensional, but like molybdenum diselenide, it consists of three stacked layers of atoms arranged in a grid. From the top, they look like hexagonal rings a la graphene, but from any other angle, the grid is more like a nanoscale jungle gym.

Tight control of the conditions in a typical chemical vapor deposition furnace -- 800 degrees Celsius (1,872 degrees Fahrenheit) at atmospheric pressure -- allowed the sulfur to interact with only the top layer of selenium atoms and leave the bottom untouched, the researchers said. If the temperature drifts above 850, all the selenium is replaced.

"Like the intercalation of many other molecules demonstrated to have the ability to diffuse into the layered materials, diffusion of gaseous sulfur molecules in between the layers of these Van der Waals crystals, as well as the space between them and the substrates, requires sufficient driving force," said Rice postdoctoral researcher Jing Zhang, co-lead author of the paper with graduate student Shuai Jia. "And the driving force in our experiments is controlled by the reaction temperature."

Close examination showed the presence of sulfur gave the material a larger band gap than molybdenum diselenide, the researchers said.

"This type of two-faced structure has long been predicted theoretically but very rarely realized in the 2-D research community," Lou said. "The break of symmetry in the out-of-plane direction of 2-D TMDs could lead to many applications, such as a basal-plane active 2-D catalyst, robust piezoelectricity-enabled sensors, and actuators at the 2-D limit."

He said preparation of the Janus material should be universal to layered materials with similar structures. "It will be quite interesting to look at the properties of the Janus configuration of other 2-D materials," Lou said.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Nanotechnology 101

Physicist Richard Feynman, the father of nanotechnology.
Does Nanotechnology excite you? To begin with, it is science, engineering, and technology conducted at the nanoscale, which is about 1 to 100 nanometers.

Physicist Richard Feynman is considered the father of nanotechnology. Nanoscience and nanotechnology are the study and application of extremely small things and can be used across all the other science fields, such as chemistry, biology, physics, materials science, and engineering.

The ideas and concepts behind nanoscience and nanotechnology started with a talk entitled “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom” by physicist Richard Feynman at an American Physical Society meeting at the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) on December 29, 1959, long before the term nanotechnology was used.

In his talk, Feynman described a process in which scientists would be able to manipulate and control individual atoms and molecules. Over a decade later, in his explorations of ultraprecision machining, Professor Norio Taniguchi coined the term nanotechnology.

It wasn't until 1981, with the development of the scanning tunneling microscope that could "see" individual atoms, that modern nanotechnology began.

Medieval stained glass windows are an example of how nanotechnology was used in the pre-modern era.

It’s hard to imagine just how small nanotechnology is. One nanometer is a billionth of a meter, or 10-9 of a meter. Here are a few illustrative examples:

There are 25,400,000 nanometers in an inch

A sheet of newspaper is about 100,000 nanometers thick

On a comparative scale, if a marble were a nanometer, then one meter would be the size of the Earth

Nanoscience and nanotechnology involve the ability to see and to control individual atoms and molecules. Everything on Earth is made up of atoms—the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the buildings and houses we live in, and our own bodies.

But something as small as an atom is impossible to see with the naked eye. In fact, it’s impossible to see with the microscopes typically used in a high school science classes. The microscopes needed to see things at the nanoscale were invented relatively recently—about 30 years ago.

Once scientists had the right tools, such as the scanning tunneling microscope (STM) and the atomic force microscope (AFM), the age of nanotechnology was born.

Although modern nanoscience and nanotechnology are quite new, nanoscale materials were used for centuries. Alternate-sized gold and silver particles created colors in the stained glass windows of medieval churches hundreds of years ago. The artists back then just didn’t know that the process they used to create these beautiful works of art actually led to changes in the composition of the materials they were working with.

Today's scientists and engineers are finding a wide variety of ways to deliberately make materials at the nanoscale to take advantage of their enhanced properties such as higher strength, lighter weight, increased control of light spectrum, and greater chemical reactivity than their larger-scale counterparts.

What's so special about nanoscale?

Nanoscale particles are not new in either nature or science. However, the recent leaps in areas such as microscopy have given scientists new tools to understand and take advantage of phenomena that occur naturally when matter is organized at the nanoscale.

In essence, these phenomena are based on "quantum effects" and other simple physical effects such as expanded surface area (more on these below). In addition, the fact that a majority of biological processes occur at the nanoscale gives scientists models and templates to imagine and construct new processes that can enhance their work in medicine, imaging, computing, printing, chemical catalysis, materials synthesis, and many other fields.

Nanotechnology is not simply working at ever smaller dimensions; rather, working at the nanoscale enables scientists to utilize the unique physical, chemical, mechanical, and optical properties of materials that naturally occur at that scale.