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.
Silicon-based electronics have physical limits that slow and may eventually halt the miniaturization of electronic devices. One of the possible solutions is to use molecules as circuits, but their poor conduction capabilities make them unlikely candidates. Researchers in Italy says, however, that the Kondo effect, in which molecules behave like magnetic impurities, could offer a solution.
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.
“Cool it!” That’s a prime directive for microprocessor chips and a promising new solution to meeting this imperative is in the offing. Researchers with the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have developed a process-friendly technique that would enable the cooling of microprocessor chips through carbon nanotubes.
Sometimes solving a problem doesn’t require a high-tech solution. Sometimes, you have to look no farther than your desktop. Three students from Northwestern Univ.’s McCormick School of Engineering have proven that pencils and regular office paper can be used to create functional devices that can measure strain and detect hazardous chemical vapors.
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.
Researchers in Ireland and Germany have discovered a novel solid state reaction which lets kesterite grains grow within a few seconds and at relatively low temperatures. The work points towards a new pathway for the fabrication of thin microcrystalline semiconductor films without the need of expensive vacuum technology.
In only a few years, the efficiency of perovskite-based solar cells has increased from 3% to more than 16%. However, a detailed explanation of the mechanisms of operation within this photovoltaic system is still lacking. in recent work, scientists have now uncovered the mechanism by which these novel light-absorbing semiconductors transfer electrons along their surface.
Recreating the story of humanity’s past by studying ancient bones can hit a snag when they deteriorate, but scientists are now reporting an advance inspired by seashells that can better preserve valuable remains. Their findings, which appear in Langmuir, could have wide-ranging implications for both archeology and paleontology.
Four Univ. of Washington School of Dentistry faculty members have received a patent for a new way of using titanium-based materials to fight oral bacteria. The patent culminates several years of work in which the group studied a novel class of substances called titanates and peroxotitanates, which can inhibit bacterial growth when bound to metal ions.
Researchers at North Carolina State Univ. have shown that a one-atom thick film of molybdenum sulfide (MoS2) may work as an effective catalyst for creating hydrogen. The work opens a new door for the production of cheap hydrogen. Hydrogen holds great promise as an energy source, but the production of hydrogen from water electrolysis currently relies in large part on the use of expensive platinum catalysts.
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.
Some may think of turkeys as good for just lunch meat and holiday meals, but bioengineers at the Univ. of California (UC), Berkeley saw inspiration in the big birds for a new type of biosensor that changes color when exposed to chemical vapors. This feature makes the sensors valuable detectors of toxins or airborne pathogens.
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.
Turbine manufacturers have employed special nickel-based high-performance “superalloys” for decades as a way to guarantee turbines maintain their chemical and mechanical properties almost to their melting point. New research shows in detail how new phases in a nickel-based alloy form and evolve during heat treatment, providing clues to how these high-performance alloys could be improved.
Scientists at Ames Laboratory have demonstrated broadband terahertz (THz) wave generation using metamaterials. The discovery may help develop noninvasive imaging and sensing, and make possible THz-speed information communication, processing and storage.
A breakthrough for the field of spintronics, a new type of technology which it is widely believed could be the basis of a future revolution in computing, has been announced by scientists in the U.K. The new study breaks new ground by showing, for the first time, that the natural spin of electrons can be manipulated, and more importantly detected, within the current flowing from a superconductor.
Many of the most interesting things in nature, from spectacular lightning strikes to the subtlety of life itself, are transient. To discover the secrets of transient, or far from equilibrium, states, physicists need simple yet appealing laboratory systems. Researchers have managed to create just such a system in the magnetic material known as "spin ice".
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.