Graphene Is So Yesterday — Meet Borophene

It wasn’t long ago that graphene seemed to take the science and engineering communities by storm. You can make bits of it with a pencil and some sticky tape, yet it had all sorts of wonderful properties. The key, of course, is that it is a single layer of atoms. Now scientists have done the same trick with boron to form borophene, and it looks to be even more exciting than graphene. You can read a pretty dense paper about the material if you want to dig deeper.

The new material is stronger and more flexible than graphene. It appears too that it could boost the performance of lithium-ion batteries. Computer simulations showed that borophene was possible back in 1990, but it wasn’t until 2015 that anyone was able to make any. The material is a good conductor of electricity and heat. It also exhibits superconductivity. Another exciting prospect is that it can be created in different arrangements, each with a unique set of properties. So you may be able to build borophene to be, for example, especially conductive or particularly strong.

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Anodizing Aluminium In The Land of the Queen

Aluminium is a useful material, both for its light weight and resistance to corrosion. This resistance can be improved further with various treatments, one of the more popular being anodizing. This is the process behind the fancy colored metal bling on your cousin’s BMX bike. It’s possible to perform this in the home lab, when taking the appropriate precautions.

[The Recreational Machinist] has been experimenting with anodizing on and off for the last few years, and decided to share their process – as a “what did”, rather than a “how to”. The video is from the perspective of performing this task in the United Kingdom, as the availability of chemicals varies around the world and can affect the viability of various processes involved.

All the relevant techniques are covered, from cathode design to the hardware chosen to give the best results. There’s even discussion of the use of magnetic stirrers to prevent bubble marks, as well as proper cleaning processes to avoid unsightly blemishes from fingerprints or other contaminants. Perhaps the most useful tip provided is that using specific anodizing dyes does give the best results, though it is possible to get by with various types of clothing dye. As always, your mileage may vary.

There’s a big difference between reading theory and seeing the specifics of an actual working process, and [The Recreational Machinist] does a great job of showing off the realities of achieving this at home. We’ve seen it done before, with different chemicals too. Video after the break. Continue reading “Anodizing Aluminium In The Land of the Queen”

Extracting Bismuth From Pepto Bismol

Bismuth is a very odd metal that you see in cosmetic pigments and as a replacement for lead, since it is less toxic. You will also see it — or an alloy — in fire sprinklers since it melts readily. However, the most common place you might encounter bismuth is Pepto Bismol — the ubiquitous pink liquid you use when your stomach is upset. [NileRed] tried extracting the bismuth from Pepto Bismol some time ago, but didn’t get good results. He decided that even though the process would not be cost-effective he wanted to try again, and you can see the crystals produced in the video below.

It turns out that you don’t need the pink liquid brand name. [Red Nile] started with ten boxes of generic chewable tablets — that’s 480 pills. A little bit of dilute hydrochloric acid eats the pills apart and generates a few reactions that he explains in the video.

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Common Chemicals Combine To Make Metallic Sodium

There’s no debating that metallic sodium is exciting stuff, but getting your hands on some can be problematic, what with the need to ship it in a mineral oil bath to keep it from exploding. So why not make your own? No problem, just pass a few thousand amps of current through an 800° pot of molten table salt. Easy as pie.

Thankfully, there’s now a more approachable method courtesy of this clever chemical hack that makes metallic sodium in quantity without using electrolysis. [NurdRage], aka [Dr. N. Butyl Lithium], has developed a process to extract metallic sodium from sodium hydroxide. In fact, everything [NurdRage] used to make the large slugs of sodium is easily and cheaply available – NaOH from drain cleaner, magnesium from fire starters, and mineral oil to keep things calm. The reaction requires an unusual catalyst – menthol – which is easily obtained online. He also gave the reaction a jump-start with a small amount of sodium metal, which can be produced by the lower-yielding but far more spectacular thermochemical dioxane method; lithium harvested from old batteries can be substituted in a pinch. The reaction will require a great deal of care to make sure nothing goes wrong, but in the end, sizable chunks of the soft, gray metal are produced at phenomenal yields of 90% and more. The video below walks you through the whole process.

It looks as though [NurdRage]’s method can be scaled up substantially or done in repeated small batches to create even more sodium. But what do you do when you make too much sodium metal and need to dispose of it? Not a problem.

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Make Your Own Phosphorescent Material

Phosphors are key to a whole swathe of display and lighting technologies. Cathode ray tubes, vacuum fluorsecent displays, and even some white LEDs all use phosphors to produce light. [Hydrogen Time] decided to make a green phosphorescent material, and has shared the process on Youtube, embedded below.

The aim is to produce zinc sulfide crystals doped with copper impurities. This creates a phosphor with a familiar green glow. [Hydrogen Time] starts by noting that it’s important to make sure all chemicals used are of good quality, as even slight impurities can spoil the final product.

Zinc sulfide is made into an aqueous solution, before a highly diluted copper sulfate solution is added, along with ammonium chloride to act as a flux. The mixture is stirred, before being heated in a tube flushed with argon. After firing, the phosphor is washed with water and allowed to cool.

The final product is demonstrated to glow a vibrant green under UV light, showing the process to be successful. [Hydrogen Time] intends to use the homebrew phosphor in future work to produce a display. It recalls us of [Jeri Ellsworth], producing her own EL wire at home. Video after the break.

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AI Patent Trolls Now on the Job for Drug Companies

Love it or loathe it, the pharmaceutical industry is really good at protecting its intellectual property. Drug companies pour billions into discovering new drugs and bringing them to market, and they do whatever it takes to make sure they have exclusive positions to profit from their innovations for as long a possible. Patent applications are meticulously crafted to keep the competition at bay for as long as possible, which is why it often takes ages for cheaper generic versions of blockbuster medications to hit the market, to the chagrin of patients, insurers, and policymakers alike.

Drug companies now appear poised to benefit from the artificial intelligence revolution to solidify their patent positions even further. New computational methods are being employed to not only plan the synthesis of new drugs, but to also find alternative pathways to the same end product that might present a patent loophole. AI just might change the face of drug development in the near future, and not necessarily for the better.

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Plastics: PETG

You’d be hard-pressed to walk down nearly any aisle of a modern food store without coming across something made of plastic. From jars of peanut butter to bottles of soda, along with the trays that hold cookies firmly in place to prevent breakage or let a meal go directly from freezer to microwave, food is often in very close contact with a plastic that is specifically engineered for the job: polyethylene terephthalate, or PET.

For makers of non-food objects, PET and more importantly its derivative, PETG, also happen to have excellent properties that make them the superior choice for 3D-printing filament for some applications. Here’s a look at the chemistry of polyester resins, and how just one slight change can turn a synthetic fiber into a rather useful 3D-printing filament.

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