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Laser pulses elevate efficiency of black silicon solar cells

October 9, 2012 11:49 am | News | Comments

Because conventional solar cells lose all of the energy available from the infrared portion of the solar spectrum, researchers have been investigating photovoltaics that can convert this lost energy. Black silicon is one material which can do this, researchers in Germany have recently managed to double the efficiency of black silicon solar cells by modifying the shape of the laser pulse used to irradiate the silicon.

Catalytic converters like it hot

October 9, 2012 11:29 am | News | Comments

The tiny metal particles in catalytic converters that work to clean up vehicle emissions require a minimum temperature to function efficiently, and work poorly when cold. A new measuring method using photoemission electron microscopy has made it possible to examine many different types of these particles at the same time, shedding light on what exactly affects converter efficiency.

Researchers seek way to make solar cell ultrathin, flexible

October 9, 2012 10:32 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas are developing nanotechnology that could lead to a new platform for solar cells, one that could drive the development of lighter, flexible, and more versatile solar-powered technology than is currently available.

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Graphene membranes enhance natural gas production, lower pollution

October 9, 2012 10:10 am | News | Comments

Engineering faculty and students at the University of Colorado Boulder have produced the first experimental results showing that atomically thin graphene membranes with tiny pores can effectively and efficiently separate gas molecules through size-selective sieving. Such capability could significantly enhance the efficiency of natural gas production while reducing carbon dioxide emissions at the plant.

Changing the dynamics of bulk materials

October 9, 2012 8:16 am | News | Comments

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have developed a new bulk material whose physical properties can be dynamically changed by an external signal. The scientists came up with a method to fabricate mass-producible, graphene-based bulk materials from low-cost, polymer-derived carbon foams by selectively removing carbon atoms form a network composed of both unstructured carbon and graphite nanoplatelets.

Drawing a line, with carbon nanotubes

October 9, 2012 8:06 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Carbon nanotubes offer a powerful new way to detect harmful gases in the environment. However, the methods typically used to build carbon nanotube sensors are hazardous and not suited for large-scale production. A new fabrication method created by chemists may overcome that obstacle.

Super-microbes engineered to solve world environmental problems

October 8, 2012 1:29 pm | News | Comments

Microorganisms isolated from nature use their own metabolism to produce certain chemicals. But they are often inefficient, so metabolic engineering is used to improve microbial performance. Recent work at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology highlights the potential for engineered organism, such as Escherichia coli, to aid in common industrial processes such as polymer production.

Licorice offers clue to cleaner medical implants

October 8, 2012 12:11 pm | News | Comments

Conventional sterilization techniques based on a blast of radiation, or exposure to toxic gas, can damage the functional biological components of certain medical devices. According to a team of researchers from Germany and Austria, materials containing an extract from licorice can be used to sterilize and protect medical devices and implants which include biological components.

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Silicon at the breaking point could be basis for efficient transistors

October 8, 2012 11:53 am | by Paul Piwnicki | News | Comments

When stretched, a layer of silicon can build up internal mechanical strain which can considerably improve its electronic properties. Using this principle, engineers have developed a method which allows them to produce 30-nm-thick highly strained wires in a silicon layer. This strain is the highest that has ever been observed in a material which can serve as the basis for electronic components.

Building 3D structures from a 2D template

October 8, 2012 9:36 am | News | Comments

Silicon is used in components, e.g. filters or deflectors, for telecommunications. So far, however, all these components have been flat, or 2D. Researchers have developed a new etching method for these structures that results 3D microstructures in silicon. Suitable for fiber optic communications, their optical properties are adjustable at the micrometer scale.

BASF cuts 400 jobs at building chemicals unit

October 4, 2012 6:40 am | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

Germany's BASF SE says it plans to cut about 400 jobs at its construction chemicals business as it adjusts to a slump in building in parts of Europe.BASF said Thursday that it aims to offer the affected employees jobs elsewhere in the company "wherever possible." It plans to start talks with...

Improving performance of a solar fuel catalyst

October 4, 2012 5:17 am | News | Comments

Hydrogen gas that is created using solar energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen has the potential to be a cost-effective fuel source if the efficiency of the catalysts used in the water-splitting process can be improved. By controlling the placement of key additives in an iron oxide catalyst, researchers from NIST have found that the final location of the dopants and the temperature at which they are incorporated into the catalyst crystal lattice determine overall catalytic performance in splitting water.

Sea urchin's spiny strength revealed

October 4, 2012 4:54 am | News | Comments

Using a process known as microtomography, a team of Australian engineers have created a high-resolution 3D microscopic image of a segment of spine of a sea urchin. This allowed them to identify unique features in the architecture of the spine, which is a single crystal of calcite that supplies an advantageous mix of elasticity and brittleness.

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X-ray laser reveals fast demagnetization in ferromagnets

October 4, 2012 4:42 am | News | Comments

Magnetized iron can be demagnetized extremely quickly (just a few hundred femtoseconds) when it is radiated with laser light pulses. Researchers in Europe have used x-ray light to reveal a new cause for this loss of magnetism. They found that electrons can move very quickly between areas with different magnetization and polarization, thereby influencing the demagnetization of the material. The effect could play a decisive role in reducing the size of magnetic memories.

FMC tearing down closed plant in South Charleston

October 4, 2012 3:40 am | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

A shuttered FMC Corp. hydrogen peroxide plant in South Charleston is being torn down.FMC stopped production in 2003. The plant remained open as a distribution site until 2008.FMC environmental manager Jim Bodamer tells the Charleston Gazette (http://bit.ly/O7c52L ) that asbestos removal has...

China billionaire offers $847M for copper miner

October 4, 2012 1:41 am | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

A Chinese billionaire has made an Australian dollars 830 million ($847 million) takeover offer for Botswana copper miner Discovery Metals Ltd.Shanghai-based Cathay Fortune Corporation, which is controlled by billionaire Yu Yong, and the China-Africa Development Fund are together offering A$1.70...

South Africa inquiry into mine violence postponed

October 3, 2012 9:40 am | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

South Africa's inquiry into violence that killed at least 44 people at Lonmin's Marikana mine is postponed until the end of October.The Marikana Commission of Inquiry Wednesday said the delay will allow lawyers to consult with clients and allow family members of the dead to travel to the...

Sticky paper offers cheap, easy solution for paper-based diagnostics

October 3, 2012 7:00 am | by Hannah Hickey | News | Comments

A University of Washington bioengineer has recently developed a way to make regular paper stick to medically interesting molecules. The work produced a chemical trick to make paper-based diagnostics using plain paper, the kind found at office supply stores around the world.

Ames Laboratory finds ordered atoms in metallic glasses

October 3, 2012 4:50 am | News | Comments

Glass materials may have a far less randomly arranged structure than formerly thought. Over the years, the ideas of how metallic glasses form have been evolving, from just a random packing, to very small ordered clusters, to realizing that longer range chemical and topological order exists. A team of scientists at the Ames Laboratory has been able to show for the first time there is some organization to these structures.

Visionary transparent memory a step closer to reality

October 3, 2012 4:31 am | News | Comments

Researchers at Rice University are designing transparent, two-terminal, 3D computer memories on flexible sheets that show promise for electronics and sophisticated heads-up displays. The technique is based on the switching properties of silicon oxide.

One glue, two functions

October 3, 2012 4:27 am | News | Comments

University of Akron polymer scientists and biologists have discovered that a certain house spider—in order to more efficiently capture different types of prey—performs an uncommon feat. It tailors one glue to demonstrate two adhesive strengths: firm and weak. The researchers who made the finding are already working toward developing a synthetic adhesive that mimics this design strategy.

Mobile Mini Chairman, CEO Bunger to step down

October 2, 2012 10:41 am | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

Mobile Mini says Chairman, President and CEO Steven Bunger will step down from those posts at the end of the year.Lead independent director Michael Watts will become chairman once Bunger departs. Watts has served as a board member since 2002 and became lead director in 2005.The company, which...

EPA signs eastern Idaho Superfund cleanup plan

October 2, 2012 10:40 am | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

Federal environmental regulators estimate it will cost at least $57 million and take up to five years to clean up phosphorous pollution at a contaminated Superfund site in southeastern Idaho.The Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday signed documents outlining the cleanup plan at the FMC Corp....

Myers Industries completes deal for Jamco Products

October 2, 2012 7:40 am | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

Myers Industries Inc., which makes plastic products for industrial, agricultural, automotive markets, said Tuesday that it completed its acquisition of Jamco Products Inc.Financial terms were not disclosed. Myers said Jamco's annual sales total between $15 million and $18 million.Jamco designs...

Research shows graphene nanopores can be controlled

October 2, 2012 4:16 am | News | Comments

Engineers at the University of Texas at Dallas have used advanced techniques to make the material graphene small enough to read DNA. Shrinking the size of a graphene pore to less than one nanometer, small enough to thread a DNA strand, opens the possibility of using graphene as a low-cost tool to sequence DNA.

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