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Using RFID for fiber composites

July 18, 2013 1:48 pm | News | Comments

Antennas that are capable of transmitting radio waves turn components into intelligent objects. Researchers in Germany have now found a way to embed these antennas in fiber composites. As a result, the technology also works with carbon and glass fibers.

Engineers create broadband photodetector for polarized light

July 16, 2013 2:23 pm | by Jade Boyd, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Using carpets of aligned carbon nanotubes, researchers from Rice University and Sandia National Laboratories have created a solid-state electronic device that is hardwired to detect polarized light across a broad swath of the visible and infrared spectrum.

Nanoribbons research could lead to new generation of lithium-ion batteries

July 16, 2013 8:59 am | News | Comments

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research has been working with Jim Tour’s laboratory at Rice University to make graphene suitable for a variety of organic chemistry applications. Recently, the partnership made another technological advance. Their work has shown that graphene nanoribbons can significantly increase the storage capacity of lithium ion by combining these 2D ribbons with tin oxide.

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Silicon oxide memories transcend a hurdle

July 9, 2013 11:45 am | by Mike Williams, Rice University | News | Comments

A team led by Rice University chemist James Tour has built a 1-kilobit rewritable device with diodes that eliminate data-corrupting crosstalk. This chip, which uses cheap, plentiful silicon oxide to store data, shows it should be possible to surpass the limitations of flash memory in packing density, energy consumption per bit and switching speed.

Scientists make molecular chains hypersensitive to magnetic fields

July 8, 2013 7:55 am | News | Comments

A research collaboration in Europe is the first to successfully create perfect 1-D molecular wires of which the electrical conductivity can almost entirely be suppressed by a weak magnetic field at room temperature. The underlying mechanism is possibly closely related to the biological compass used by some migratory birds to find their bearings in the geomagnetic field.

Antifreeze, cheap materials may lead to low-cost solar energy

July 8, 2013 7:40 am | News | Comments

Engineers at Oregon State Univ. have determined that ethylene glycol, commonly used in antifreeze products, can be a low-cost solvent that functions well in a “continuous flow” reactor—an approach to making thin-film solar cells that is easily scaled up for mass production at industrial levels.

New catalyst could replace platinum for automotive applications

July 3, 2013 9:46 am | News | Comments

The research team from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea has developed an inexpensive and scalable bio-inspired composite electrocatalyst, designed using iron phthalocyanine, a macrocyclic compound, anchored to single-walled carbon nanotubes. Under certain conditions, the new catalyst has a higher electrocatalytic activity than platinum-based catalysts, and better durability during cycling.

Bringing color to solar façades

July 2, 2013 12:21 pm | News | Comments

Designers of buildings typically have no choice but to use black or bluish-gray colored solar panels. With the help of thin-film technologies, however, researchers in Germany have now added color to solar cells. Optics specialists have changed physical thickness of the transparent conductive oxide layer, modifying its refractive index.

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Team builds ultrasensitive molybdenum-based image sensor

July 2, 2013 12:08 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Switzerland have designed prototype for an image sensor based on the semiconducting properties of molybdenite. Their sensor only has a single pixel, but it needs five times less light to trigger a charge transfer than the silicon-based sensors that are currently available.

NREL reports record efficiency for a two-junction solar cell

June 25, 2013 1:21 pm | News | Comments

At the IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference in Tampa, Fla. last week, National Renewable Energy Laboratory scientist Myles Steiner announced a world record of 31.1% conversion efficiency for a two-junction solar cell under one sun of illumination. The achievement edges the previous record of 30.8% by Alta Devices.

Beyond silicon: Transistors without semiconductors

June 24, 2013 9:04 am | by Marcia Goodrich, Michigan Technological University | News | Comments

Most efforts to move past the limitations of traditional transistors have relied on the use of semiconducting materials. However, alternative materials like boron-nitride nanotubes (BNNTs) may be able to do the same thing through the phenomenon of quantum tunneling. Researchers in Michigan and at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have recently demonstrated precise control of electrons using quantum dot-equipped BNNTs.

Graphene-based system could lead to improved information processing

June 21, 2013 7:40 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have proposed a new system that combines ferroelectric materials with graphene. The resulting hybrid technology could eventually lead to computer and data-storage chips that pack more components in a given area and are faster and less power hungry. The new system works by controlling waves called surface plasmons.

Polymer-coated catalyst protects "artificial leaf"

June 17, 2013 6:42 pm | News | Comments

Electrolysis is often used to produce hydrogen that can be used for a storable fuel. Modified solar cells with highly efficient architecture can use this method to obtain hydrogen from water with the help of catalysts. But these solar cells rapidly corrode in aqueous electrolytes. By embedding the catalysts in an electrically conducting polymer, researchers have prevented this corrosion while maintaining competitive efficiency.

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The science of sculpture, nano-style

June 14, 2013 9:53 am | by Angela Herring, Northeastern University | News | Comments

Nanoscopic crys­tals of sil­icon assem­bled like sky­scrapers on wafer-scale sub­strates are being intensely studied as a possible breakthrough in highly efficient battery technologies. A researcher at Northeastern University has been using computational to understand the atomic-scale interactions between the growth of nanowires and new development in this area of technology: alloyed metal droplets.

Imec and Holst Centre unveil fully organic imager

June 12, 2013 9:37 am | News | Comments

At this week’s International Image Sensor Workshop in Utah, Belgium’s imec and Holst Centre, in collaboration with Philips Research, will present a large-area fully-organic photodetector array fabricated on a flexible substrate. The imager is sensitive in the wavelength range suitable for x-ray imaging applications.

Air bubbles could be the secret to artificial skin

June 11, 2013 2:01 pm | by Sarah Perrin, EPFL | News | Comments

Using foam substrates, researchers in Switzerland have made a flexible electronic circuit board. In experiments using various deformable materials, the team discovered a new kind of platform upon which to build circuits: elastomeric foams. These foams, used in packaging materials, serve as a substrate for metallic materials and can be stretched without disrupting electrical conductivity. The breakthrough could progress on electronic skin.

New boron-silicon electrode could boost lithium-ion battery capacity

June 6, 2013 2:04 pm | News | Comments

Silicon can accept ten times more lithium than the graphite used in the electrodes in lithium-ion batteries, but silicon also expands, shortening electrode life. Looking for an alternative to pure silicon, scientists in Germany have now synthesized a novel framework structure consisting of boron and silicon, which could serve as electrode material.

Researchers develop high-efficiency zinc-air battery

May 30, 2013 7:59 am | News | Comments

Stanford University scientists have developed an advanced zinc-air battery with higher catalytic activity and durability than similar batteries made with costly platinum and iridium catalysts. The results could lead to the development of a low-cost alternative to conventional lithium-ion batteries widely used today.

Inkjet-printed graphene may open doors to foldable electronics

May 20, 2013 3:15 pm | News | Comments

Northwestern University researchers have recently developed a graphene-based ink that is highly conductive and tolerant to bending, and they have used it to inkjet-print graphene patterns that could be used for extremely detailed, conductive electrodes. The resulting patterns are 250 times more conductive than previous attempts to print graphene-based electronic patterns and could be a step toward low-cost, foldable electronics.

First precise MEMS output measurement technique unveiled

May 14, 2013 1:06 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Europe have developed a new experimental system to gain accurate information on mechanical values and properties of any microelectromechanical (MEMS) device through electrical measurement. The technique works by applying a current across the device with a varying frequency and analyzes the harmonic content of the output voltage of the component parts.

Imaging nanoscale polarization in ferroelectrics with coherent X-rays

May 7, 2013 11:19 am | News | Comments

An international team working to image ferroelectric thin films have reported the development of a new X-ray imaging technique, coherent X-ray Bragg projection ptychography. Under certain conditions, these thin films, which are used in computer memory, form networks of nanoscale domains with distinct local polarizations that are normally difficult to image.

Nanoparticles give major enhancement to polymer solar cells

May 7, 2013 11:11 am | News | Comments

A polymer thin film solar cell (PSC) produces electricity from sunlight by the photovoltaic effect. Though light and inexpensive, PSCs currently suffer from a lack of enough efficiency for large scale applications and they also have stability problems. Researches in Korea have designed and added multi-positional silica-coated silver nanoparticles that have greatly improved stability and performance of these cells.

Composite thermoelectric outperforms constituent materials

May 6, 2013 1:05 pm | News | Comments

A team led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Materials Sciences Division’s Jeffrey Urban and Rachel Segalman have discovered highly conductive polymer behavior occurring at a polymer/nanocrystal interface. The composite organic/inorganic material is a thermoelectric—a material capable of converting heat into electricity—and has a higher performance than either of its constituent materials.

Microwave cooks up solar cell materials

May 6, 2013 12:56 pm | News | Comments

University of Utah metallurgists have used an old microwave oven to produce a nanocrystal semiconductor rapidly using cheap, abundant, and less toxic metals than other semiconductors. X-ray crystallography, electron microscopy, and atomic spectroscopy all helped confirm that the CZTS (copper, zinc, tin, and sulfur) semiconductor was suitable for use in a solar cell.  

Room-temperature nuclear spins advance quantum computing efforts

April 30, 2013 11:42 am | News | Comments

An international team of researchers has recently succeeded in both initializing and reading nuclear spins—which are relevant to qubits for quantum computers—at room temperature. With the help of a spin filter developed in 2009, the team has produced a flow of free electrons with a given spin in a material. 

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