Treating cadmium-telluride (CdTe) solar cell materials with cadmium-chloride improves their efficiency, but researchers have not fully understood why. Now, an atomic-scale examination of the thin-film solar cells led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory has answered this decades-long debate about the materials’ photovoltaic efficiency increase after treatment.
Combining theory and numerical simulations,...
Solar Frontier and the State Univ. of New York...
By combining the powers of two single-atom-thick...
In the quest to make sun power more competitive, researchers are designing ultra-thin solar cells that cut material costs. At the same time, they’re keeping these thin cells efficient by sculpting their surfaces with photovoltaic nanostructures that behave like a molecular hall of mirrors.
Rolls-Royce researchers came to SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory earlier this month as part of a team testing titanium and titanium alloys such as those used in engine parts, landing gear and other aircraft components. While the Rolls-Royce brand is also associated with luxury cars, this separate company, Rolls-Royce PLC, is a major global manufacturer of aircraft engines that power over 30 types of commercial aircraft.
Of late, engineers have been paying more and more attention to nature’s efficiencies, such as the Lotus effect, which describes the way the Lotus plant uses hydrophobic surfaces to survive in muddy swamps. A researcher at Virginia Tech has developed a simpler two-step application process to create a superhydrophobic copper surface that leverages the Lotus effect.
The ability to stick objects to a wide range of surfaces such as drywall, wood, metal and glass with a single adhesive has been the elusive goal of many research teams across the world, but now a team of Univ. of Massachusetts Amherst inventors describe a new, more versatile version of their invention, Geckskin, that can adhere strongly to a wider range of surfaces, yet releases easily, like a gecko's feet.
Researchers in Ireland have used a simple method for transforming flakes of graphite into defect-free graphene using commercially available tools, such as high-shear mixers. They demonstrated that the process could be scaled up to produce hundreds of liters or more, and they have partnered with Thomas Swan Ltd. to develop two new graphene-based products for the marketplace.
Scientists at Rice Univ. have created a nanoscale detector that checks for and reports on the presence of hydrogen sulfide in crude oil and natural gas while they’re still in the ground. The nanoreporter is based on nanometer-sized carbon material developed by a consortium of Rice labs led by chemist James Tour, R&D’s 2013 Scientist of the Year.
Researchers have produced a stable porous membrane that is thinner than a single nanometer. The membrane consists of two layers of graphene on which have been etched tiny pores of a precisely defined size. Extremely light and breathable, the new material could help enable a new generation of ultra-rapid filters or functional waterproof clothing.
Ever-shrinking electronic devices could get down to atomic dimensions with the help of transition metal oxides. Researchers from Cornell Univ. and Brookhaven National Laboratory have shown how to switch a particular transition metal oxide, a lanthanum nickelate (LaNiO3), from a metal to an insulator by making the material less than a nanometer thick.
Research from North Carolina State Univ. finds that impurities can hurt performance, or possibly provide benefits, in a key superconductive material that is expected to find use in a host of applications, including future particle colliders. The size of the impurities determines whether they help or hinder the material’s performance.
An international team of chemists from Italy, Germany and Poland have developed a polymer with unique optical and electrical properties. Components of this polymer change their spatial configuration depending on the electric potential applied. In turn, the polarization of transmitted light is affected. The new material could be used in a windows, polarization filters or chemical sensors.
New plasmonic metamaterials that operate at high temperatures could radically improve solar cell performance and bring advanced computer data storage technology that uses heat to record information on a magnetic disk. The materials could make it possible to harness clouds of electrons called surface plasmons to manipulate and control light.
One strategy for addressing the world’s energy crisis is to stop wasting so much energy when producing and using it, which can happen in coal-fired power plants or transportation. Nearly two-thirds of energy input is lost as waste heat. Now Northwestern Univ. scientists have discovered a surprising material that is the best in the world at converting waste heat to useful electricity.
A research group in Japan has developed a new advanced system that combines a super-resolution microscope and a deposition chamber for growing oxide thin films. With this system, they successfully observed for the first time the growing of metal-oxide thin films at an atomic level on the surface of single-crystal strontium titanate.
Researchers in Pennsylvania and Texas have shown the ability to grow high quality, single-layer materials one on top of the other using chemical vapor deposition. This highly scalable technique, often used in the semiconductor industry, can produce materials with unique properties that could be applied to solar cells, ultracapacitors for energy storage, or advanced transistors for energy efficient electronics, among many other applications.
Carefully timed pairs of laser pulses at the Linac Coherent Light Source have been used to trigger superconductivity in a promising copper-oxide material and immediately take x-ray snapshots of its atomic and electronic structure as superconductivity emerged. The results of this effort have pinned down a major factor behind the appearance of superconductivity, and it hinges around “stripes” of increase electrical charge.
Counterfeiters, beware! Scientists are reporting the development of a new type of inexpensive barcode that, when added to documents or currency, could foil attempts at making forgeries. Although the tags are easy for researchers to make, they still require ingredients you can’t exactly find at the local hardware store.
The chemistry of lithium-ion batteries limits how much energy they can store, and one promising solution is the lithium-sulfur battery, which can hold as much as four times more energy per mass. However, problematic polysulfides usually cause lithium-sulfur batteries to fail after a few charges. Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, however, have developed a new powdery nanomaterial that could solve the issue.
Researchers in Finland have succeeded in creating a surface on nano-sized cellulose crystals that imitates a biological structure. The surface adsorbs viruses and disables them, preventing their spread into cells. The results could prove useful in the development of antiviral ointments and surfaces.
Researchers in California have created, for the first time, compounds made from mixtures of calcium hexaboride, strontium and barium hexaboride. They also demonstrated that these ceramic materials could be manufactured using a simple, low-cost manufacturing method known as combustion synthesis.
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.
One of the great problems in physics is the detection of electromagnetic radiation—that is, light—which lies outside the small range of wavelengths that the human eye can see. Think x-rays, for example, or radio waves. Now, researchers have discovered a way to use existing semiconductors to detect a far wider range of light than is now possible, well into the infrared range.
A house window that doubles as a solar panel could be on the horizon, thanks to recent quantum dot work by Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers in collaboration with scientists from Univ. of Milano-Bicocca, Italy. Their project demonstrates that superior light-emitting properties of quantum dots can be applied in solar energy by helping more efficiently harvest sunlight.
For more than a quarter of a century, high-temperature superconductors have perplexed scientists who seek to understand the physical phenomena responsible for their unique properties. Thanks to a new study by Argonne National Laboratory, researchers have identified and solved at least one paradox in the behavior of high-temperature superconductors.
Scientists at Yale Univ. have devised a dramatically faster way of identifying and characterizing complex alloys known as bulk metallic glasses (BMGs), a versatile type of pliable glass that's stronger than steel. Using traditional methods, it usually takes a full day to identify a single metal alloy appropriate for making BMGs.
For optical communication to happen, it is essential to convert electrical information into light, using emitters. On the other end of the optical link, one needs to translate the light stream into electrical signals using detectors. Current technologies use different materials to realize these two distinct functions, but this might soon change thanks to a new discovery by researchers at IBM.
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