MXenes Make Faraday Cages You Can Turn On And Off

Shielding is crucial for all manner of electronic devices. Whether you want to keep power supply noise out of an audio amplifier, or protect ICBMs against an electromagnetic pulse from a nuclear attack, the basic physics behind shielding remains the same. A Faraday cage or shield will do the trick.

At times, though, it would be desirable to shield and unshield a device at will. A new class of materials known as MXenes may be able to offer just that functionality, with microscopically thin films serving as shields that can be switched on and off at will.

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Antennas That You Install With A Spray-Can

With the explosion in cell phones, WiFi, Bluetooth, and other radio technologies, the demand for antennas is increasing. Everything is getting smaller and even wearable, so traditional antennas are less practical than ever. You’ve probably seen PCB antennas on things like ESP8266s, but Drexel University researchers are now studying using titanium carbide — known as MXene — to build thin, light, and even transparent antennas that outperform copper antennas. Bucking the trend for 3D printing, these antennas are sprayed like ink or paint onto a surface.

A traditional antenna that uses metal carries most of the current at the skin (something we’ve discussed before). For example, at WiFi frequencies, a copper antenna’s skin depth is about 1.33 micrometers. That means that antennas have to be at least thick enough to carry current at that depth from all surfaces –practically 5 micrometers is about the thinnest you can reasonably go. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you are trying to make something thin and flexible, it is pretty thick. Using MXene, the researchers made antennas as thin as 100 nanometers thick — that’s 10% of a micrometer and only 2% of a conventional antenna.

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