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Engineers roll up inductors to save space

December 14, 2012 10:09 am | News | Comments

Inductors are essential components of integrated circuits. The sprawling metal spirals store magnetic energy, acting as a buffer against changes in current and modulating frequency. However, because inductance depends on the number of coils, they take up a lot of space. Researchers have recently build a 3D rolled-up inductor with a footprint more than 100 times smaller without sacrificing performance.

Fullerene “mimics” may advance organic solar cell technology

December 11, 2012 11:07 am | News | Comments

Organic solar cells have advanced a great deal since they were first invented nearly 20 years ago, but the fullerene component has remained largely the same and this has had a braking effect on the evolution of the technology. Researchers in the U.K. have pinpointed an unappreciated property of fullerenes which could be replicated to create a new class of fullerene “mimics”.

Rust and water are used to store solar energy as hydrogen

November 13, 2012 9:44 am | News | Comments

Photoelectrochemical (PEC) tandem solar cells offer a way to produce hydrogen directly from water. But efforts to produce an efficient cell have only resulted in extremely expensive prototypes. Researchers in Switzerland have recently developed a PEC, however, that is made from inexpensive materials and achieves up to 16% efficiency.

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Conductance measurements opens doors to molecular electronics

November 9, 2012 12:58 pm | News | Comments

Instead of silicon transistors, the electronics of the future could use molecules to do their arithmetic. Every transistor would still need a connection, however, and researchers at the Max Planck Society have built an example from a narrow band of graphene. Using scanning tunnelling microscopy, the team was able to determine how the conductance of the carbon strip depends on its length and the energy of the electrons.

Study offers new insights into catalytic activity of copper

November 9, 2012 12:38 pm | News | Comments

Catalysis is an incredibly valuable tool in the field of chemistry, but it typically requires precious metals that are both expensive and potentially harmful to the environment. Researchers in Sweden say they have discovered that copper, which is not typically known for its catalytic properties, had unexpectedly been responsible for catalytic activity as part of research into iron catalysts.

Tooth “tattoo” sensor may help dentists assess patients' oral health

November 9, 2012 8:58 am | by David Levin, Tufts University | News | Comments

A sensor invented by Tufts University bioengineers, when attached temporarily to a tooth, could one day help dentists fine-tune treatments for patients with chronic periodontitis, for example, or even provide a window on a patient’s overall health. The thin foil-like sensor is built from gold, silk, and graphite, has a built-in antenna to receive power and signals, and is applied directly to a tooth.

Engineers build ultrasensitive photon hunter

November 8, 2012 9:50 am | News | Comments

When it comes to imaging, every single photon counts if there is barely any available light. This is the point where the latest technologies often reach their limits. Researchers have now developed a single photon avalanche photodiode that can read individual photons in just a few picoseconds. The speed allows the image sensor to capture high quality images with very low light levels.

Researchers develop new design for concentrator solar cell

November 8, 2012 9:02 am | News | Comments

Engineers in Israel have created a radically new design for a concentrator solar cell that, when irradiated from the side, generates solar conversion efficiencies which rival, and may eventually surpass, the most efficient photovoltaics. The design, the developers say, can exceed 40% conversion efficiency at intensities of 10,000 suns.

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Millimeter-wave oscillation possible in ferromagnetic nanocontact device

November 8, 2012 8:47 am | News | Comments

Conventional giant magnetoresistive devices or ferromagnetic tunnel junction devices provide only low frequency oscillation and have been deemed unsuitable for applications requiring millimeter-wave (30-300 GHz) oscillation, including radar. Researchers in Japan have recently demonstrated, however, that oscillations of 5 to 140 GHz is theoretically possible in these devices by supplying direct current.

The first controllable atom SQUID

November 7, 2012 9:43 am | News | Comments

Scientists at NIST have created the first controllable atomic circuit that functions analogously to a superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) and allows operators to select a particular quantum state of the system at will. By manipulating atoms in a superfluid ring thinner than a human hair the investigators were able for the first time to measure rotation-induced discrete quantized changes in the atoms’ state, thereby providing a proof-of-principle design for an “atomtronic” inertial sensor.

Power supply for sensors created with a printer

November 7, 2012 9:13 am | News | Comments

Wireless sensor networks monitor machinery and equipment in factories, cars and power stations. They increasingly “harvest” the energy they need to transmit measurement data from the environment, thus making them self-sufficient. At the Electronica 2012 trade fair, researchers will present a printed thermogenerator, which they say will be able to generate energy supply for sensors through temperature differences.

New device could allow your heartbeat to power pacemaker

November 5, 2012 3:29 pm | News | Comments

An experimental device invented at the University of Michigan is able to convert energy from a beating heart, enough to provide electricity to power a pacemaker. The innovation, which relies on piezoelectricity, could eliminate the need for surgeries to replace pacemakers with depleted batteries.

Cocktail achieves superconducting boost

October 30, 2012 1:59 pm | News | Comments

Scientists have recently developed a high-performance superconducting material by mixing iron and selenium in a new chemistry. Although this class of superconductors has already existed, the new material is the first to break the 44 Kelvin barrier. It also shows that iron-selenium superconductors can be successfully synthesized to a high degree of purity.

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Building a better battery for renewable energy storage

October 29, 2012 10:49 am | by Glenn Roberts Jr., SLAC | News | Comments

Solar, wind and other renewable energy sources reduce consumption of fossil fuels but also pose challenges to the electrical grid because their power generation fluctuates. A team of researchers at Stanford and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has developed a mix of materials that shows promise as a cost-effective alternative to standard batteries—able to quickly and efficiently charge and discharge their energy over thousands of charges, with no energy loss after 1,000 charges.

Carbon nanotube films show promise for touchscreens

October 29, 2012 10:44 am | by Mike Williams, Rice University | News | Comments

A Rice University team has hit upon a method to produce nearly transparent films of electrically conductive carbon nanotubes. Slides dipped into a solution of pure nanotubes in chlorosulfonic acid, the researchers found, left them with an even coat of nanotubes that, after further processing, had none of the disadvantages seen with other methods. The films may be suitable for flexible electronic displays and touchscreens.

Well-ordered nanorods could improve LED displays

October 25, 2012 2:16 pm | News | Comments

Synchrotron-based imaging has helped develop enhanced light-emitting diode (LED) displays using bottom-up engineering methods. Collaborative work between researchers from the University of Florida and Cornell University has produced a new way to make colloidal "superparticles" from oriented nanorods of semiconducting materials.

Researchers uncover living power cables

October 25, 2012 1:59 pm | by Robert Perkins | News | Comments

A multinational research team has discovered filamentous bacteria that function as living power cables in order to transmit electrons thousands of cell lengths away. These cells are so tiny that they are invisible to the naked eye. And yet, under the right circumstances, they form a multicellular filament that can transmit electrons across a distance as large as 1 cm as part of the filament’s respiration and ingestion processes.

Electron “sniper” targets graphene

October 25, 2012 1:45 pm | by Pete Wilton, Oxford University | News | Comments

One of the keys to exploiting graphene's potential is being able to create atomic-scale defects as these influence its electrical, chemical, magnetic, and mechanical properties. A team of materials experts have recently report a new approach to engineering graphene's atomic structure with unprecedented spatial precision.

Developing the next generation of microsensors

October 18, 2012 8:01 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier | News | Comments

Thanks to an ultrasensitive accelerometer—a type of motion detector—developed by researchers at the California Institute of Technology and the University of Rochester, a new class of microsensors is a step closer to reality. Instead of using an electrical circuit to gauge movements, this accelerometer uses laser light and is so sensitive it could be used to navigate shoppers through a grocery aisle or even stabilize fighter jets.

Scientists simultaneously measure electronic and optical properties of OLEDs

October 9, 2012 3:35 pm | News | Comments

A research team in Japan has succeeded in developing equipment that enables simple, high speed measurement of the band diagrams of organic semiconductor materials in atmospheric conditions. The device essentially combines a spectrophotometer system for studying band gaps with a photoemission yield system to examine ionized potential.

Interactive system detects touch and gestures on any surface

October 9, 2012 3:25 pm | News | Comments

People can let their fingers—and hands—do the talking with a new touch-activated system that projects onto walls and other surfaces and allows users to interact with their environment and each other. Developed at Purdue University, the "extended multitouch" system allows more than one person to use a surface at the same time and also enables people to use both hands, distinguishing between the right and left hand.

A robust home for qubits

October 9, 2012 12:42 pm | News | Comments

In 1937, Italian physicist Ettore Majorana predicted the existence of a class of particle that would serve as its own antiparticle. Such a particle might exist as a quasiparticle, or collection of excitons. Some scientists believe that qubits made from these Majorana “pulses”, when excited in topological materials, would be much more immune from decoherence than other qubits based on conventional particles.

Laser pulses elevate efficiency of black silicon solar cells

October 9, 2012 11:49 am | News | Comments

Because conventional solar cells lose all of the energy available from the infrared portion of the solar spectrum, researchers have been investigating photovoltaics that can convert this lost energy. Black silicon is one material which can do this, researchers in Germany have recently managed to double the efficiency of black silicon solar cells by modifying the shape of the laser pulse used to irradiate the silicon.

Silicon at the breaking point could be basis for efficient transistors

October 8, 2012 11:53 am | by Paul Piwnicki | News | Comments

When stretched, a layer of silicon can build up internal mechanical strain which can considerably improve its electronic properties. Using this principle, engineers have developed a method which allows them to produce 30-nm-thick highly strained wires in a silicon layer. This strain is the highest that has ever been observed in a material which can serve as the basis for electronic components.

Near-field scanning microwave microscope: Big at the nanoscale

October 1, 2012 5:52 am | News | Comments

The ability to determine the composition and physics of nanoscale materials and devices at NIST is about to improve dramatically with the arrival of a new near-field scanning microwave microscope (NSMM) design. Researchers there, using existing commercial and homemade NSMMs, have pioneered many applications, notably including determination of semiconductor dopant distribution in 2D and 3D. Now they hope to look at mechanical and magnetic resonance on the nanoscale.

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