Researchers at the Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin Institute for Silicon Photovoltaics have shown that graphene retains its impressive set of properties when it is coated with a thin silicon film. These findings have paved the way for entirely new possibilities to use in thin-film photovoltaics. Graphene has extreme conductivity and is completely transparent while being inexpensive and nontoxic.
There is certainly no shortage of lab-on-a-chip devices, but in most cases manufacturers have not yet found a cost-effective way to mass produce them. Scientists are now developing a platform for series production of these pocket laboratories. The first major step is moving away from the usual injection molding or wet chemical processing techniques in favor of roll-to-roll processing.
An international collaboration at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Advanced Light Source has induced high-temperature superconductivity in a toplogical insulator, an important step on the road to fault-tolerant quantum computing.
Scientists at Switzerland have developed a new method for making antimicrobial surfaces that can eliminate bacteria under a minute. The breakthrough relies on a new sputtering technique that uses a highly ionized plasma to, for the first time, deposit antibacterial titanium oxide and copper films on 3-D polyester surfaces. This promotes the production of free radicals, which are powerful natural bactericides.
Flexible thin film solar cells that can be produced by roll-to-roll manufacturing are a highly promising route to cheap solar electricity. Researchers in Switzerland report that they have designed a low-cost cadmium telluride solar cell technology based on metal foil substrates. By doping the cells with cooper, they have elevated efficiency from 8 to 11.5%.
Sun-drenched rooms make for happy residents, but large glass windows also bring higher air-conditioning bills. Now a bioinspired microfluidic circulatory system for windows developed by researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University could save energy and cut cooling costs dramatically—while letting in just as much sunlight.
Diffusion of sodium ions from the glass substrate is thought to be the primary cause of potential-induced degradation (PID) in crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells. A research institute and metals company in Japan have partnered to develop a thin film solution. The titanium oxide-based composite metal compound they have developed is inexpensive to produce and highly scalable.
Concentric hexagons of graphene grown in a furnace at Rice University represent the first time anyone has synthesized graphene nanoribbons on metal from the bottom up—atom by atom. As seen under a microscope, the layers brought onions to mind. Though flat graphene could never be like an onion, the name stuck.
A team led by John Hagopian, an optics engineer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, has recently demonstrated that it can grow a uniform layer of carbon nanotubes through the use of atomic layer deposition. The marriage of the two technologies now means that NASA can grow nanotubes on 3-D components, such as complex baffles and tubes commonly used in optical instruments.
Veeco Instruments Inc. has been recognized by R&D Magazine with a 2013 R&D 100 Award for its SPECTOR-HT Ion Beam Deposition System. The SPECTOR-HT is used to create precision thin-film coatings for the optical market for applications such as laser machining, telecommunications, manufacturing of laser diodes, heads-up displays and laser guidance systems.
AKHAN Technologies Inc. announced that its Miraj Diamond Platform, developed in collaboration with Argonne National Laboratory, has received a 2013 R&D 100 Award. The Miraj Diamond Platform (CMOS compatible N-type nanocrystalline diamond thin-film technology), represents the combination of two recently enabled diamond technologies—low-temperature nanocrystalline diamond deposition technology and an efficient n-type doping process.
Designers of buildings typically have no choice but to use black or bluish-gray colored solar panels. With the help of thin-film technologies, however, researchers in Germany have now added color to solar cells. Optics specialists have changed physical thickness of the transparent conductive oxide layer, modifying its refractive index.
A magnetic phenomenon newly discovered by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers could lead to much faster, denser and more energy-efficient chips for memory and computation. The findings could reduce the energy needed to store and retrieve one bit of data by a factor of 10,000.
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.
Researchers at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford Univ. have created a new device, smaller than a grain of rice, that could streamline optical data communications. It can directly identify the wavelength of light that hits it, and should scale down to the even tinier dimensions needed for multichannel optical data receivers on future generations of computer chips.
SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford Univ. researchers have developed a new printing process for organic thin-film electronics that results in films of strikingly higher quality. The printing process called FLUENCE—fluid-enhanced crystal engineering—results in thin films capable of conducting electricity 10 times more efficiently than those created using conventional methods.
Materials developers have had high hopes for using carbon nanotubes to desalinate seawater. However, a simulation recently conducted in Europe reveals that the ultra-fast transport rates required to accomplish this task have not been correctly measured in carbon nanotubes. These new findings suggest the use of a carbon nanotube membranes as a filter medium rather a transport mechanism might be more realistic.
A University of British Columbia engineer and a team of U.S. researchers have made a breakthrough utilizing spray-on technology that could revolutionize the way optical lenses are made and used. Nearly all lenses—whether in an eye, a camera, or a microscope—are presently curved, which limits the aperture, or amount of light that enters. The new spray-on lens is flat, and can be affixed to a glass slide.
Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a new technique for creating high-quality semiconductor thin films at the atomic scale—meaning the films are only one atom thick. The technique can be used to create these thin films on a large scale, sufficient to coat wafers that are two inches wide, or larger.
Inspired by the structure of moth eyes, researchers at North Carolina State University have developed nanostructures that limit reflection at the interfaces where two thin films meet, suppressing the “thin-film interference” phenomenon commonly observed in nature. This can potentially improve the efficiency of thin-film solar cells and other optoelectronic devices.
Thin films sometimes grow layer by layer, each layer one atom thick, while in other cases atoms deposited onto a surface form 3D islands that grow, impinge, and coalesce into a continuous film. Scientists have traditionally assumed that the islands are homogeneous and coalesce at roughly the same time. In a recent study, researchers have discovered that the process is more dynamic than suggested by the traditional view.
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.
Magnetic vortices typically occur in nanometer-scale magnetic disks, which are studied for their potential roles in wireless data transmission. So far, magnetic vortex states have been observed only within a plane, but recently researchers in Europe have discovered 3D magnetic vortices for the first time in a specially designed stack of magnetic disks.
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.
Like spreading a thin layer of butter on toast, Cornell University scientists have helped develop a novel process of spreading extremely thin organic transistors, and used synchrotron X-rays to watch how the films crystallize. The coating procedure, called solution shearing, is like the buttering of a slice of toast.