Solar Cells Take Inspiration from Art

One of the more common issues with solar cell efficiency is their inability to move with the sun as it crosses the sky. While large scale solar panels can be fitted with bulky motorized trackers, those with rooftop solar panels do not have that luxury. In an effort to solve this issues, researchers are drawing some inspiration from art in their mission toward higher solar efficiency.

Scientists are applying some of the shapes and designs from the ancient art of kirigami—the Japanese art of paper cutting—to develop a solar cell that can capture up to 36 percent more energy due to the design’s ability to grab more sun.

“The design takes what a large tracking solar panel does and condenses it into something that is essentially flat,” said Aaron Lamoureux, a doctoral student in materials science and engineering and first author on the paper.

In the United States alone, there are currently over 20,000 MW of operational solar capacity. Nearly 640,000 U.S. homes have opted to rely on solar power. However, if the home panels were able to follow the sun’s movement on a daily basis, we could see a dramatic increase in efficiency and usage.

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Member Spotlight – Chennupati Jagadish

jagadishECS Fellow Chennupati Jagadish has been awarded the IEEE Nanotechnology Pioneer Award for his outstanding contributions to compound semiconductor nanowire and quantum dot optoelectronics.

Dr. Jagadish is a Laureate Fellow and Distinguished Professor at the Australian National University, where he has made major advances in compound semiconductor quantum dot and nanowire growth techniques and optoelectronic devices.

Previously, Dr. Jagadish was awarded the ECS Electronics and Photonics Division Award for his excellence in electronics research outstanding technical contribution to the field of electronics science.

Throughout his scientific career, Dr. Jagadish has published more than 620 research papers—some of which can be found in the Digital Library—and has 5 U.S. patents.

Some of Dr. Jagadish’s current research focuses on nanostructured photovoltaics, which provides novel concepts to produce a more efficient solar cell.

ECS Podcast – A Word About Nanocarbons

A historic gathering of past chairmen of the ECS Nanocarbons Division was held at the 227th ECS Meeting in Chicago. ECS Executive Director Roque Calvo sat down with Karl Kadish, Prashant Kamat, Francis D’Souza, Dirk Guldi, and Bruce Weisman discuss the history of the Nanocarbons Division, practical applications of nanocarbons and fullerenes, and where we can expect this exciting science to go in the future.

Listen below and download this episode and others for free through the iTunes Store, SoundCloud, or our RSS Feed.

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Nano-Transistor Assesses Health

The low

The ultra-low power sensor can scan the contents of liquids such as perspiration.
Image: EPFL/Jamani Caillet

Researchers from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) have developed an ultra-low power sensor to monitor health through the scanning of perspiration.

Director of Nanoelectronic Devices Laboratory (Nanolab) at EPFL, Adrian Ionescu—ECS published author in both the Journal of The Electrochemical Society and ECS Transactions—states that the new sensor can sync to your mobile device to alert you of your hydration, stress, and fatigue levels.

“The ionic equilibrium in a person’s sweat could provide significant information on the state of his health,” says Ionescu. “Our technology detects the presence of elementary charged particles in ultra-small concentrations such as ions and protons, which reflects not only the pH balance of sweat but also more complex hydration of fatigues states. By an adapted functionalization I can also track different kinds of proteins.”

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Shortcut to Solar Cells

black-silicon

The newly developed black silicon has the potential to simplify the manufacturing of solar cells due to the ability of the material to more efficiently collect light.
Image: Barron Group

One of the roadblocks in developing a new, clean energy infrastructure lies in our ability to manufacture solar cells with ease and efficiency. Now, researchers from Rice University may have developed a way to simplify this process.

In Andrew Barron’s Rice University lab, he and postdoctoral student Yen-Tien Lu are developing black silicon by employing electrodes as catalysts.

The typical solar cell is made from silicon. By swapping that regular silicon for black silicon, solar cells gain a highly textured surface of nanoscale spikes that allows for a more efficient collection of light.

This from Rice University:

Barron said the metal layer used as a top electrode is usually applied last in solar cell manufacturing. The new method known as contact-assisted chemical etching applies the set of thin gold lines that serve as the electrode earlier in the process, which also eliminates the need to remove used catalyst particles.

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One Step Closer to Bionic Brain

New research shows that we’re one step closer to being able to replicate the human brain outside of the body, which could lead to life-altering research into common conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Project leader and ECS published author Sharath Sriram and his group have successfully engineered an electronic long-term memory cell, which mimics the way the human brain processes information.

“This is the closest we have come to creating a brain-like system with memory that learns and stores analog information and is quick at retrieving this stored information,” Sharath said.

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First Ever Liquid Nanoscale Laser

The laser also has the potential to be used in optical data storage and lithography.Image: Nature Communications

The laser also has the potential to be used in optical data storage and lithography.
Image: Nature Communications

Former ECS member Teri Odom has assisted in the development of the first ever liquid nanoscale laser. This development could lead to some very practical applications, as well as guiding researchers one step closer to developing a “lab on a chip” for medical diagnostics.

The laser is relatively simple to create, cheap to produce, and has the ability to operate at room temperature. Because the device works in real time, users can quickly and simply produce different colors.

This from Science World Report:

The laser’s cavity itself is made up of an array of reflective gold nanoparticles where the light is concentrated around each nanoparticle and then amplified. In contrast to conventional laser cavities, no mirrors are required for the light to bounce back and forth. As the laser color is tuned the nanoparticle cavity stays fixed and does not change.

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Engineers have developed a way to visualize the optical properties of objects that are thousands of times small than a grain of sand.Source: YouTube/Stanford University

Engineers have developed a way to visualize the optical properties of objects that are thousands of times small than a grain of sand.
Source: YouTube/Stanford University

In order to develop high efficiency solar cells and LEDs, researchers need to see how light interacts with objects on the nanoscale. Unfortunately, light is tricky to visualize in relation to small-scale objects.

Engineers from Stanford University, in collaboration with FOM Institute AMOLF, have developed a next-gen optical method to produce high-resolution, 3D images of nanoscale objects. This allows researchers to visualize the optical properties of objects that are several thousandths the size of a grain of sand.

The teams achieved this by combining two technologies: cathodluminescence and tomography.

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The nanotubes can be tumor-targeted and have a central 'hollow' core that can be loaded with a therapeutic payload.Image: Jing Claussen (iThera Medical, Germany)

The nanotubes can be tumor-targeted and have a central ‘hollow’ core that can be loaded with a therapeutic payload.
Image: Jing Claussen (iThera Medical, Germany)

Gold nanotubes have multiple applications in fighting cancer, including internal nanoprobes for high-resolution imaging and drug delivery vehicles. With new research from the University of Leeds, we’re discovering that these gold nanotubes may also be able to give doctors the chance to treat cancer as soon as they spot it.

“Gold nanotubes – that is, gold nanoparticles with tubular structures that resemble tiny drinking straws – have the potential to enhance the efficacy of these conventional treatments by integrating diagnosis and therapy in one single system,” said Professor at the University of Leeds Institute for Biomedical and Clinical Science Sunjie Ye in a release.

The new study shows the first successful demonstration of biomedical use of gold nanotubes in a mouse model of human cancer. The researchers hope that these results will aid in the treatment of cancer and address the issue of high recurrence rates of tumors after surgical removal.

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Image: Antalexion

Image: Antalexion

With climate change being a continually rising global dilemma, many scientist have turned their attention to research in the area of renewable energy sources. Even with some of the most brilliant minds working on improving efficiency and price of solar cells, they are still not widely used due to the high cost of materials used to develop the them. Now, a scientist may be on the path to cracking the code on material prices of solar cells by using nanotechnology.

Elijah Thimsen, assistant professor at the School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis, worked in conjunction with a team of engineers at the University of Minnesota to develop a technique to increase the performance of electrical conductivity.

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