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The Lead

Scientists open door to better solar cells, superconductors and hard-drives

April 14, 2014 1:05 pm | News | Comments

Recent research using free-electron laser sources has enhanced the understanding of the interface of two materials, where completely new properties can arise. For instance, two insulators and non-magnetic materials can become metallic and magnetic at their interface. The breakthrough was the discovery of a discrepancy in the number of charge carriers of two promising electronic materials.

A first principles approach to creating new materials

April 9, 2014 3:02 pm | by Marlene Cimons, National Science Foundation | News | Comments

Traditionally, scientists discover new materials,...

Tiny “step edges” are a big step for surface science

April 9, 2014 2:59 pm | News | Comments

Recent experiments in Austria have explained the...

Domain walls in nanowires cleverly set in motion

April 8, 2014 12:02 pm | News | Comments

Using a new trick, researchers in Germany have...

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Even thinner solar cells through use of nanoparticles

April 8, 2014 11:16 am | News | Comments

New research shows that nanostructures could enable more light to be directed into the active layer of solar cells, increasing their efficiency. Prof. Martina Schmid of Freie Univ. in Berlin has measured how irregularly distributed silver particles influence the absorption of light. Nanoparticles interact with one another via their electromagnetic near-fields, so that local “hot spots” arise where light is concentrated especially strongly.

Graphene nanoribbons as electronic switches

April 8, 2014 9:29 am | News | Comments

A new theoretical study shows the conductivity conditions under which graphene nanoribbons can become switches in externally controlled electronic devices. The results, obtained by researchers in Argentina and Brazil, yield a clearer theoretical understanding of conductivity in graphene samples of finite size, which have applications in externally controlled electronic devices.

Trees go high-tech: Process turns cellulose into energy storage devices

April 7, 2014 1:19 pm | News | Comments

Chemists have found that cellulose, the most abundant organic polymer on Earth, can be heated in a furnace in the presence of ammonia and turned into the building blocks for supercapacitors. The new process produces nitrogen-doped, nanoporous carbon membranes, which act as the electrodes of a supercapacitor. The only byproduct is methane, which could be used immediately as a fuel or for other purposes.

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Stick-on electronic patches monitor health

April 4, 2014 9:17 am | by Liz Ahlberg, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Engineers have demonstrated thin, soft stick-on patches that stretch and move with the skin and incorporate commercial, off-the-shelf chip-based electronics for sophisticated wireless health monitoring.                  

Scientist developing materials, electronics that dissolve when triggered

April 4, 2014 9:12 am | by Iowa State University | News | Comments

A medical device, once its job is done, could harmlessly melt away inside a person’s body. Or, a military device could collect and send its data and then dissolve away, leaving no trace of an intelligence mission. Or, an environmental sensor could collect climate information, then wash away in the rain. It’s a new way of looking at electronics.

Flipping the switch on magnetism in strontium titanate

March 31, 2014 8:09 am | by Nancy Ambrosiano, Los Alamos National Laboratory | News | Comments

Interest in oxide-based semiconductor electronics has exploded in recent years, fueled largely by the ability to grow atomically precise layers of various oxide materials. One of the most important materials in this burgeoning field is strontium titanate, a nominally nonmagnetic wide-bandgap semiconductor, and researchers have found a way to magnetize this material using light, an effect that persists for hours at a time.

Study: Perovskite solar cells can double as lasers

March 28, 2014 10:50 am | News | Comments

New research on perovskite-based solar cells pioneered in the U.K. suggests that they can double up as a laser as well as photovoltaic device. By sandwiching a thin layer of the lead halide perovskite between two mirrors, the Univ. of Cambridge team produced an optically driven laser which proves these cells “show very efficient luminescence”, with up to 70% of absorbed light re-emitted.

Controlling electron spins by light

March 27, 2014 2:16 pm | News | Comments

Topological insulators are considered a very promising material class for the development of future electronic devices because they are insulators inside but conductors at the surface. A research team in Germany has discovered how light can be used to alter the physical properties of the electrons in these materials by using it to alter electron spin at the surface.

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New battery technology employs sticky composites

March 26, 2014 9:20 am | by Diane Kukich, Univ. of Delaware | News | Comments

Lithium-ion batteries power a vast array of modern devices, from cell phones, laptops, and laser pointers to thermometers, hearing aids, and pacemakers. The electrodes in these batteries typically comprise three components: active materials, conductive additives, and binders. Now, a team of researchers at the Univ. of Delaware has discovered a “sticky” conductive material that may eliminate the need for binders.

Scientists discover material that can be solar cell by day, light panel by night

March 25, 2014 7:49 am | News | Comments

In what was almost a chance discovery, researchers in Singapore have developed a solar cell material which can emit light in addition to converting light to electricity. This solar cell is developed from perovskite, a promising material that could hold the key to creating high-efficiency, inexpensive solar cells. The new cells not only glow when electricity passes through them, they can also be customized to emit different colours.

Materials experts create spintronic thermoelectric power generators

March 21, 2014 2:18 pm | News | Comments

Imagine a computer so efficient that it can recycle its own waste heat to produce electricity. While such an idea may seem far-fetched today, significant progress has already been made to realize these devices. Researchers at the Univ. of Utah have fabricated spintronics-based thin film devices which do just that, converting even minute waste heat into useful electricity.

Scientists discover potential way to make graphene superconducting

March 20, 2014 8:02 am | News | Comments

Researchers in California have used a beam of intense ultraviolet light to look deep into the electronic structure of a material made of alternating layers of graphene and calcium. While it's been known for nearly a decade that this combined material is superconducting, the new study offers the first compelling evidence that the graphene layers are instrumental in this process. The finding could lead to super-efficient nanoelectronics.

Imec achieves record 8.4% efficiency in fullerene-free organic solar cells

March 11, 2014 9:50 am | News | Comments

Organic solar cells are a compelling thin-film photovoltaic technology in part because of their compatibility with flexible substrates and tunable absorption window. Belgium-based chipmaker imec has set a new conversion efficiency record of 8.4% for this type of cell by developing fullerene-free acceptor materials and a new multilayer semiconductor device structure.

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New hybrid material promising for solar fuels

March 9, 2014 11:42 pm | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A new study by Berkeley Lab researchers shows that nearly 90% of the electrons generated by a hybrid material designed to store solar energy in hydrogen are being stored in the target hydrogen molecules. Interfacing the semiconductor gallium phosphide with a cobaloxime catalyst provides an inexpensive photocathode for bionic leaves that produce energy-dense fuels from nothing more than sunlight, water and carbon dioxide.

Scientists establish a new principle for future spin devices

March 7, 2014 1:04 pm | News | Comments

A new mechanism of controlling magnetic states by electric currents has been discovered by an international team of researchers who have exploited a quantum phenomenon to control magnetic states with electrical currents. The research hinges on a quantum geometrical phase, called the Berry phase, that exists in the momentum space of electronic band structures in specific materials.

LED lamps: Less energy, more light with gallium nitride

March 7, 2014 12:55 pm | News | Comments

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are durable and save energy. Now, researchers have found a way to make LED lamps even more compact while supplying more light than commercially available models. The key to this advance are a new type of transistors made of the semiconductor material gallium nitride.

Professor invents magnet for fast and cheap data storage

March 3, 2014 12:20 pm | News | Comments

According to recent findings by an international team of computer engineers, optical data storage does not require expensive magnetic materials because synthetic alternatives work just as well. The team’s discovery that synthetic ferrimagnets can be switched optically brings a much cheaper method for storing data using light a step closer.

Scientists twist sound with metamaterials

February 25, 2014 5:14 pm | News | Comments

A Chinese-U.S. research team is exploring the use of metamaterials to create devices that manipulate sound in versatile and unprecedented ways. In a recently published paper, the team reports a simple design for a device, called an acoustic field rotator, which can twist wave fronts inside it so that they appear to be propagating from another direction.

Want your computer to go faster? Just add light

February 25, 2014 1:26 pm | by Angela Herring, Northeastern Univ. | News | Comments

Last year, a physicist and a mechanical engineer at Northeastern Univ. com­bined their expertise to integrate electronic and optical properties on a single electronic chip, enabling them to switch electrically using light alone. Now, they have built three new devices that implement this fast technology: an AND-gate, an OR-gate and a camera-like sensor made of 250,000 miniature devices.

Controlling magnetism with an electric field

February 19, 2014 8:16 am | by Marie Guma-Diaz and Annette Gallagher UM News | News | Comments

There is a big effort in industry to produce electrical devices with more and faster memory and logic. Magnetic memory elements, such as in a hard drive, and in the future in what is called MRAM (magnetic random access memory), use electrical currents to encode information. However, the heat which is generated is a significant problem, since it limits the density of devices and hence the performance of computer chips.

Possible explanation for light-degradation silicon solar cells

February 13, 2014 10:19 am | by Ralf Butscher, Helmholtz Center | News | Comments

An undesired effect in thin film amorphous silicon solar cells has puzzled the scientific community for the last 40 years. This effect, known as light-induced degradation, is responsible for reducing solar cell efficiency over time. Researchers in Germany have recently demonstrated that tiny voids within the silicon network are partly responsible for 10 to 15% efficiency loss as soon as they are used.

Researchers develop first single-molecule LED

February 13, 2014 9:42 am | News | Comments

A team in France has greatly miniaturized the light-emitting diode (LED) by creating one from a single polythiophene wire placed between the tip of a scanning tunneling microscope and a gold surface. This nanowire, which is made of the same hydrogen, carbon and sulfur components found in much larger LEDs, emits light only when the current passes in a certain direction.

Stirring-up atomtronics in a quantum circuit

February 12, 2014 5:02 pm | by E. Edwards, JQI | News | Comments

Modern electronics relies on utilizing the charge properties of the electron. The emerging field of atomtronics, however, uses ensembles of atoms to build analogs to electronic circuit elements. Physicists have built a superfluid atomtronic circuit that have allowed them to demonstrate a tool that is critical to electronics: hysteresis. It is the first time that hysteresis has been observed in an ultracold atomic gas.

Physicists reveal novel magnetoelectric effect

February 12, 2014 8:53 am | by Chris Branam, Univ. of Arkansas | News | Comments

New research at the Univ. of Arkansas reveals a novel magnetoelectric effect that makes it possible to control magnetism with an electric field. The novel mechanism may provide a new route for using multiferroic materials for the application of RAM (random access memories) in computers and other devices, such as printers.

Fine-tuning a rainbow of colors at the nanoscale

February 11, 2014 1:34 pm | News | Comments

Engineers are increasingly turning to plasmonic color filters (PCFs) to create and control a broad spectrum of colors for imaging applications. However, PCF light transmission efficiency has been limited to only about 30%, less than half the rate of conventional filters. Researchers have now developed a new PCF scheme that achieves a transmission efficiency of 60 to 70%.

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