Week in Review: 5/15/16 – 5/21/16

May 16, 2016

Scientists create novel ‘liquid wire’ material inspired by spiders’ capture silk

Pulling on a sticky thread in a garden spider’s orb web and letting it snap back reveals that the thread never sags but always stays taut – even when stretched to many times its original length. This is because any loose thread is immediately spooled inside the tiny droplets of watery glue that coat and surround the core gossamer fibres of the web’s capture spiral. This phenomenon is described in the journal PNAS by scientists from the University of Oxford, UK and the Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, France. The researchers studied the details of this ‘liquid wire’ technique in spiders’ webs and used it to create composite fibres in the laboratory which, just like the spider’s capture silk, extend like a solid and compress like a liquid. These novel insights may lead to new bio-inspired technology. http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2016-05-16-scientists-create-novel-liquid-wire-material-inspired-spiders-capture-silk

Technique improves the efficacy of fuel cells

Solid oxide fuel cells, which rely on low- cost ceramic materials, are among the most efficient and promising type of fuel cell. Now, researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have found a way to harness the quantum behavior of these fuel cells to make them even more efficient and robust. In doing so, they’ve observed a new type of phase transition in an oxide material. https://www.seas.harvard.edu/news/2016/05/technique-improves-efficacy-of-fuel-cells