A number of scientists at UCSB have been working on developing metals that remain strong at high temperatures, called superalloys. These materials are used in airplane engines and electrical power plants. Making materials that can remain tough despite being very hot makes it possible to build more efficient engines, which means that we can use less fuel and create less pollution.
Other scientists have discovered some magnetic materials that could be used to build a new type of refrigerator. Right now, refrigerators in your home contain a liquid that goes in and out of the refrigerator (through the coils in the back) and in the process takes heat out and makes the inside of the refrigerator cold. Unfortunately, many of the fluids used in refrigerators are very harmful to the environment, contributing to global warming and destroying the Earth's ozone layer. One way to stop using these dangerous fluids is to replace them with a special type of magnetic material. As the material becomes magnetic, or loses its magnetism, it can carry heat out of the refrigerator just as the fluid does, but without the danger of environmental damage if anything leaks or when the refrigerator is thrown away. While this technology is not quite ready to replace common refrigerators, the new magnetic materials being discovered at UCSB help bring this technology closer to being available.
One of the biggest recent UCSB Materials discoveries that I can think of is the blue LED. LEDs are very important because they are the most energy efficient type of lightbulb. Now that we have blue, red, and green LEDs, these colors can be combined to make any other color of light without wasting electricity! This can be useful for lighting up a room with white light, or making colorful electronic displays on TVs or phone screens.
This is the link for research at UCSB's MRL.
I'm most interested in bio materials, so I'm looking at that section, but I don't have any easy answers for you.
Here's Prof. Cyrus Safinya's research description:
- Current research is centered on (i) elucidation of interactions/forces between proteins derived from neurons with the goal of relating assembled architectures/structures to function, (ii) development of synthetic carriers of nucleic acids (DNA, RNA) for gene delivery and silencing applications, and (iii) development of lipid-based hydrophobic drug carriers for cancer therapeutics.
And here's the first sentence for Prof. Craig Hawker:
Current interests include design and synthesis of nanoscopically defined materials for applications ranging from next-generation microelectronic devices to polymer-based therapeutics.
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