While CNT alignment is still not perfect, it will now be able to be scaled up for large-scale production.Source: North Carolina State University

While CNT alignment is still not perfect, it will now be able to be scaled up for large-scale production.
Source: North Carolina State University

A new process called “microcombing” has been developed to created ultra-strong and highly conductive carbon nanotubes (CNTs).

The films produced from the microcombing technique could have practical applications in improving electronics and aerospace technology.

“It’s a simple process and can create a lightweight CNT film, or ‘bucky paper,’ that is a meter wide and twice as strong as previous such films—it’s even stronger than CNT fibers,” said Yuntian Zhu, Distinguished Professor of Material Science and Engineering at NC State.

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Engineering a Better Solar Cell

This new development will lead to accelerated improvements in the materials' uniformity, stability, and efficiency.Source: University of Washington

This new development will lead to accelerated improvements in the materials’ uniformity, stability, and efficiency.
Source: University of Washington

In light of the growth in solar energy research, scientists have been directing a lot of attention toward perovskites. The materials’ wide range of use and potential to outpace silicon-based semiconductors in the field of solar cells makes perovskites an interesting area of research with great potential.

Researchers from the University of Washington, in conjunction with the University of Oxford, have discovered a new quality to perovskites that could help engineer a better solar cell.

The researchers have shown in their research that, contrast to popular belief, the perovskites are uniform in composition. The materials actually contain flaws that can be engineered to improve solar devices even further.

“In that short amount of time, the ability of these materials to convert sunlight directly into electricity is approaching that of today’s silicon-based solar cells, rivaling technology that took 50 years to develop,” said Dane deQuilettes, a University of Washington doctoral student. “But we also suspect there is room for improvement.”

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Engineers developed this one-material battery by sprinkling carbon (red) into each side of a new material (blue) that forms the electrolyte and both electrodes at the ends of the battery.Source: Maryland NanoCenter

Engineers developed this one-material battery by sprinkling carbon (red) into each side of a new material (blue) that forms the electrolyte and both electrodes at the ends of the battery.
Source: Maryland NanoCenter

ECS student member Fudong Han and former member Chunsheng Wang have developed a novel solid state battery comprised of just one material that can both move and store electricity.

This new battery could prove to be revolutionary in the area of solid state batteries due to its incorporation of electrodes and electrolytes into a single material.

“Our battery is 600 microns thick, about the size of a dime, whereas conventional solid state batteries are thin films — forty times thinner. This means that more energy can be stored in our battery,” said Han, the first author of the paper and a graduate student in Wang’s group.

This from the University of Maryland:

The new material consists of a mix of sulfur, germanium, phosphorus and lithium. This compound is used as the ion-moving electrolyte. At each end, the scientists added carbon to this electrolyte to form electrodes that push the ions back and forth through the electrolyte as the battery charges and discharges. Like a little bit more sugar added at each end of a cookie-cream mixture, the carbon merely helps draw the electricity from side to side through the material.

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Three Atom Thick Transistor

A new study by two ECS published authors, David Muller and Jiwoong Park, has led to an electronic piece that is just three atoms thick.

The researchers have unveiled a process to develop ultra-thin transistors made from TMD, otherwise known as transition metal dichalcogenide. This material is novel in the fact that it possesses properties that make it a perfect fit for solar cells, light detectors, or semiconductors.

Researchers have been examining TMDs for some time now, but have been finding it difficult to get them to work consistently. This new study has discovered the best process yet to manufacture the materials, which could lead to a breakthrough in the future of electronics and possibly bring about an end to Moore’s law.

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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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New Type of Graphene Aerogel (Video)

focus-issue-boxLogan Streu, ECS Content Associate & Assistant to the CCO, recently spotted an article out of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory detailing a new type of graphene aerogel that could improve energy storage, sensors, nanoelectronics, catalysis, and separations.

The researchers are creating graphene aerogel microlattics through a 3D printing process known as direct ink wetting.

This from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory:

The 3D printed graphene aerogels have high surface area, excellent electrical conductivity, are lightweight, have mechanical stiffness and exhibit supercompressibility (up to 90 percent compressive strain). In addition, the 3D printed graphene aerogel microlattices show an order of magnitude improvement over bulk graphene materials and much better mass transport.

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Earth Day: Science, Climate, and the Future

The modern environmental movement was born 45 years ago today. A small group of twenty-somethings with a passion for the environment rallied together to create a more earth-conscious society, establishing what has become known as Earth Day.

The original Earth Day focused primarily on the pollution issue, but this year’s Earth Day is heavily directed towards climate change and the energy infrastructure.

While there may be a war on science happening with people and politicians alike dismissing climate change as mere myth, scientists conducting research in the field state that evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.

When looking at climate change on a global level, the numbers speak for themselves.

  • Carbon dioxide levels are at their highest in 650,000 years
  • Nine of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2000
  • Land ice is dropping by 258 billion metric tons per year
  • Sea levels have risen nearly 7” over the past 100 years

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Mimicking Nature’s Camouflage

In the world of ocean life, the cuttlefish is the king of camouflage. The cuttlefish’s ability to disguise itself, becoming virtually invisible to the naked eye, is an amazing quality that is very difficult to engineer. But with a little inspiration from marine animal, engineers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) have developed a design that mimics patters and textures in a flash.

Within seconds of light exposure, the new structure begins to replicate color and texture of the surrounding environment. While engineers have developed camouflaging materials before, this new design responds to much lower-intensity light and at faster rates than the few predecessors that exist.

“This is a relatively new community of research,” said Li Tan, associate professor of mechanical and materials engineering. “Most of the people (in it) are inspired by the cuttlefish, whose skin changes color and texture, as well.”

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From Food Waste to Fuel

The new development will curtail or reduce the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases.Image: University of Cincinnati

The new development will curtail or reduce the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases.
Image: University of Cincinnati

The United States is wasting food at an alarming rate. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States, the country wastes 40 percent of all food produced—amounting to 1.3 billion tons of food waste produced.

But extra garbage and financial strain are not the only things food waste produces, it also generates a huge amount of greenhouse gas during decomposition. More specifically, global food waste creates 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gas annually.

Those numbers were especially alarming to researchers from the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering and Applied Science, who proposed a way to transform food waste into bioenergy back in 2013. That proposal has just been accepted.

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Novel Self-Powered Camera

This lens of this new camera acts like a solar panel.Image: Columbia University

This lens of this new camera acts like a solar panel. Click image to enlarge.
Image: Columbia University

Who needs batteries to power a camera? Engineers from Columbia University are working on a novel design in which the pixels of the camera not only capture an image, they also collect light as an energy source.

The engineers are researching a commonality between a typical camera and solar panels: photodiodes. Each device has always used photodiodes, but in different ways.

Engineers plan for the new camera to use photodiodes in both functions.

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