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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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. 

Semiconductor spray paint could create organic electronics

April 25, 2013 9:46 am | News | Comments

Wake Forest University's Organic Electronics group has developed an organic semiconductor “spray paint” that can be applied to large surface areas without losing electric conductivity. The new spray-deposition method has the advantages of drop casting, spin coating, and prior spray-on techniques: It can applied to large surfaces of any medium, retaining electrical performance.

New battery design could help solar and wind power the grid

April 24, 2013 3:58 pm | News | Comments

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have designed a low-cost, long-life battery that could enable solar and wind energy to become major suppliers to the electrical grid. The developers believe their new membrane-free battery, based on lithium and sulfur, may be the best yet designed to regulate alternative energies.

Study unlocks secrets of device that is both battery and memory

April 24, 2013 10:18 am | News | Comments

Unlike the building blocks of conventional hard disk drives and memories, resistive memory cells (ReRAM) are active electrochemical components. In these cells, ions generate voltage on electrodes in a similar manner to a battery. Researchers in Europe have conducted an extensive study of ReRAMs, also described as memristors, and have found previously undiscovered sources of voltage in these devices.

High temperature alloy may be perfect solder for well electronics

April 17, 2013 9:01 am | by Meg Marquardt, Materials 360 Online | News | Comments

Technology used in downhole applications—such as geothermal or oil-well monitoring—must endure punishing conditions, from very high temperatures to tremendous pressures. Finding a solder material that can perform in these harsh environments is a constant challenge. Researchers have recently repurposed a solder alloy once intended defense applications that has all the right properties for well tasks.

Redesigned material could lead to lighter, faster electronics

April 10, 2013 12:57 pm | News | Comments

The same material that formed the first primitive transistors more than 60 years ago can be modified in a new way to advance future electronics, according to a new study. Chemists at The Ohio State University have developed the technology for making a one-atom-thick sheet of germanium, and found that it conducts electrons more than ten times faster than silicon and five times faster than conventional germanium.

Tin nanocrystals for the battery of the future

April 9, 2013 6:17 pm | by Fabio Bergamin, ETH Zurich | News | Comments

More powerful batteries could help electric cars achieve a considerably larger range and thus a breakthrough on the market. A new nanomaterial made from tiny tin crystals, deployed at the anode of lithium-ion batteries, has been developed in the labs of chemists in Europe and enables considerably more power to be stored in these batteries.

Nanowires with the power to transform solar energy

April 9, 2013 5:00 am | News | Comments

Imagine a solar panel more efficient than today’s best solar panels, but using 10,000 times less material. This is what researchers in France expect given recent findings on these tiny filaments called nanowires. Solar technology integrating nanowires could capture large quantities of light and produce energy with incredible efficiency at a much lower cost.

High-efficiency neutron imaging detector features new oblique design

March 31, 2013 6:53 pm | News | Comments

To increase the neutron detection efficiency of bulk-micromegas (MICRO-MEsh GAseous Structure) neutron detectors, researchers from China and the University of Tennessee-Knoxville have proposed three new types of thin-film converters: micro-channel, parallel micro-pillar, and oblique micro-pillar 2D array. When validated using Monte Carlo simulations, the latter design showed a threefold increase in neutron detection efficiencies.

Hybrid ribbons a gift for powerful batteries

March 25, 2013 12:21 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice University | News | Comments

According to recent research at Rice University, vanadium oxide and graphene may be a key new set of materials for improving lithium-ion storage. Ribbons created at Rice from these two materials are thousands of times thinner than a sheet of paper, yet have potential that far outweighs current materials for their ability to charge and discharge very quickly. Initial capacity remains at 90% or more after more than 1,000 cycles.

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