Getting the blues is rarely a desirable experience—unless you’re a solar cell, that is. Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory and the Univ. of Texas at Austin have together developed a new, inexpensive material that has the potential to capture and convert solar energy—particularly from the bluer part of the spectrum—much more efficiently than ever before.
If the chemical bonds that hold together the constituent atoms of a molecule could be tuned to become stronger or weaker, certain chemical properties of that molecule might be controlled to great advantage for applications in energy and catalysis. Researchers were able to accomplish this feat by using an applied voltage and electric current to tune the strength of chemical bonds in fullerene or buckyball molecules.
Flexible, layered materials textured with nanoscale wrinkles could provide a new way of controlling the wavelengths and distribution of waves, whether of sound or light. The new method could eventually find applications from nondestructive testing of materials to sound suppression, and could also provide new insights into soft biological systems and possibly lead to new diagnostic tools.
Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but they could also one day help us understand how the brain processes information, thanks to a new sensing technique developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). A team in MIT’s Quantum Engineering Group has developed a new method to control nanoscale diamond sensors, which are capable of measuring even very weak magnetic fields.
You’ve probably seen it in your kitchen cookware, or inside old plumbing pipes: scaly deposits left over time by hard, mineral-laden water. It happens not only in pipes and cooking pots in the home, but also in pipelines and valves that deliver oil and gas, and pipes that carry cooling water inside power plants. Scale, as these deposits are known, causes inefficiencies, downtime and maintenance issues.
New research hints that nanodevices in microcircuits can protect themselves from heat generation through the transformation of nanotransistors into quantum states. The finding, demonstrated in nanoscale semiconductors devices, could boost computing power without large-scale changes to electronics.
As part of his PhD, postdoctoral research fellow Dr. Daniel Tune in Australia has designed a computer modelling system that shows which combination of carbon nanotubes absorb the most sunlight, therefore providing the most energy. In 2011, researchers in the U.S. successfully fabricated a solar cell using carbon nanotubes, but there are more than 70 different types of carbon nanotube that could be used in such solar cells.
Transparent displays have a variety of potential applications. A number of technologies have been developed for such displays, but all have limitations. Now, researchers have come up with a new approach that can have significant advantages over existing systems, at least for certain kinds of applications: a wide viewing angle, simplicity of manufacture and potentially low cost and scalability.
Researchers in California have created tactile sensors from composite films of carbon nanotubes and silver nanoparticles similar to the highly sensitive whiskers of cats and rats. These new e-whiskers respond to pressure as slight as a single Pascal, about the pressure exerted on a table surface by a dollar bill.
Physicists at the Univ. of Arkansas and their collaborators have engineered novel magnetic and electronic phases in the ultra-thin films of in a specific electronic magnetic material, opening the door for researchers to design new classes of material for the next generation of electronic and other devices.
Superconducting quantum interference devices (SQUIDs) are incredibly sensitive magnetic flux sensors which have been limited in their applications because of thermal challenges at ultralow temperatures. Researchers in the U.K. have succeeded in overcoming this difficulty by introducing a new type of nanoscale SQUID based on optimized proximity effect bilayers.
A new approach to harvesting solar energy, developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers, could improve efficiency by using sunlight to heat a high-temperature material whose infrared radiation would then be collected by a conventional photovoltaic cell. This technique could also make it easier to store the energy for later use, the researchers say.
Solid catalysts based on precious metals, such as palladium, are widely used in industry to promote a range of chemical reactions. Finding ways to minimize the consumption of expensive catalytic materials, however, remains a critical challenge. Researchers in Japan have now developed a nanostructured catalyst that makes extremely efficient use of trace amounts of catalytic palladium.
A carbon nanotube (CNT) sponge capable of soaking up water contaminants more than three times more efficiently than previous efforts has been presented in a new study. The CNT sponges, uniquely doped with sulfur, also demonstrated a high capacity to absorb oil, potentially opening up the possibility of using the material in industrial accidents and oil spill cleanups.
Using the interaction between light and charge fluctuations in metal nanostuctures called plasmons, a Univ. of Arkansas physicist and his collaborators have demonstrated the capability of measuring temperature changes in very small 3-D regions of space. In the experiments the team fabricated plasmonic nanostructures with electron beam lithography and precisely focused a laser on to a gold nanowire with a scanning optical setup.
A collaboration of researchers has discovered that sodium bismuthate can exist as a form of quantum matter called a 3-D topological Dirac semi-metal (3DTDS). This is the first experimental confirmation of 3-D Dirac fermions in the interior or bulk of a material, a novel state that was only recently proposed by theorists. It is a natural counterpart because of its magnetoresistive properties.
North Carolina State Univ. researchers have used silver nanowires to develop wearable, multi-functional sensors that could be used in biomedical, military or athletic applications, including new prosthetics, robotic systems and flexible touch panels. The sensors can measure strain, pressure, human touch and bioelectronic signals such as electrocardiograms.
Rice Univ. scientists have found they can control the bonds between atoms in a molecule. The molecule in question is carbon-60, also known as the buckminsterfullerene and the buckyball, discovered at Rice in 1985. The scientists found that it’s possible to soften the bonds between atoms by applying a voltage and running an electric current through a single buckyball.
Using an approach akin to assembling a club sandwich at the nanoscale, NIST researchers have succeeded in crafting a uniform, multi-walled carbon nanotube-based coating that greatly reduces the flammability of foam commonly used in upholstered furniture and other soft furnishings. The flammability of the nanotube-coated polyurethane foam was reduced 35% compared with untreated foam.
Researchers have shown how to increase the efficiency of thin-film solar cells, a technology that could bring low-cost solar energy. The approach uses 3-D photonic crystals to absorb more sunlight than conventional thin-film cells. The synthetic crystals possess a structure called an inverse opal to make use of and enhance properties found in the gemstones to reflect, diffract and bend incoming sunlight.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers have devised a way to measure the mass of particles with a resolution better than an attogram. Weighing these tiny particles, including both synthetic nanoparticles and biological components of cells, could help researchers better understand their composition and function.
Plasmonic nanostructures are of great current interest as chemical sensors or imaging agents because they can detect the emission of light at a different wavelength than the excitation light. Researchers have struggled with how to interpret this resonant secondary light emission. Recent work that models the emission as Raman scattering from electron-hole pairs, however, has shown a way to predict emission outcome.
A new fabrication method inspired by blown sugar art has been used to make structure in which an ultrathin graphene layer, or layers, is glued to a 3-D strutted framework. The researchers in Japan, calling this the “chemical blowing method”, overcomes the weak intersheet connections that have made this type of structure so difficult to create in the past.
Scientists have grown sheets of an exotic material in a single atomic layer and measured its electronic structure for the first time. They discovered it’s a natural fit for making thin, flexible light-based electronics. In the study, the researchers give a recipe for making the thinnest possible sheets of the material, called molybdenum diselenide, in a precisely controlled way, using a technique that’s common in electronics manufacturing.
To understand how to design better thermoelectric materials, researchers are using neutron scattering at the Spallation Neutron Source and the High Flux Isotope Reactor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to study how silver antimony telluride is able to effectively prevent heat from propagating through it on the microscopic level.