Hybrid ribbons a gift for powerful batteries: Vanadium oxide – graphene material works well for lithium-ion storage


Hybrid ribbons a gift for powerful batteries: Vanadium oxide – graphene material works well for lithium-ion storage

QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8The Rice University lab of materials scientist Pulickel Ajayan determined that the well-studied material is a superior cathode for batteries that could supply both high energy density and significant power density. The research appears online this month in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters. The ribbons created at Rice are thousands of times thinner than a sheet of paper, yet have potential that far outweighs current materials for their ability to charge and discharge very quickly. Cathodes built into half-cells for testing at Rice fully charged and discharged in 20 seconds and retained more than 90 percent of their initial capacity after more than 1,000 cycles. “This is the direction battery research is going, not only for something with high energy density but also high power density,” Ajayan said. “It’s somewhere between a battery and a supercapacitor.”


Hydrothermal processing of vanadium pentoxide and graphene oxide creates graphene-coated ribbons of crystalline vanadium oxide, which show great potential as ultrafast charging and discharging electrodes for lithium-ion batteries. Credit: Ajayan Group/Rice University

The ribbons also have the advantage of using relatively abundant and cheap materials. “This is done through a very simple hydrothermal process, and I think it would be easily scalable to large quantities,” he said. Ajayan said vanadium oxide has long been considered a material with great potential, and in fact vanadium pentoxide has been used in lithium-ion batteries for its special structure and high capacity.

But oxides are slow to charge and discharge, due to their low electrical conductivity. The high-conductivity graphene lattice that is literally baked in solves that problem nicely, he said, by serving as a speedy conduit for electrons and channels for ions.

The atom-thin graphene sheets bound to the crystals take up very little bulk. In the best samples made at Rice, fully 84 percent of the cathode’s weight was the lithium-slurping VO2, which held 204 milliamp hours of energy per gram. The researchers, led by Rice graduate student Yongji Gong and lead author Shubin Yang, said they believe that to be among the best overall performance ever seen for lithium-ion battery electrodes. “One challenge to production was controlling the conditions for the co-synthesis of VO2 ribbons with graphene,” Yang said.

The process involved suspending graphene oxide nanosheets with powdered vanadium pentoxide (layered vanadium oxide, with two atoms of vanadium and five of oxygen) in water and heating it in an autoclave for hours. The vanadium pentoxide was completely reduced to VO2, which crystallized into ribbons, while the graphene oxide was reduced to graphene, Yang said.

The ribbons, with a web-like coating of graphene, were only about 10 nanometers thick, up to 600 nanometers wide and tens of micrometers in length. “These ribbons were the building blocks of the three-dimensional architecture,” Yang said. “This unique structure was favorable for the ultrafast diffusion of both lithium ions and electrons during charge and discharge processes. It was the key to the achievement of excellent electrochemical performance.”

In testing the new material, Yang and Gong found its capacity for lithium storage remained stable after 200 cycles even at high temperatures (167 degrees Fahrenheit) at which other cathodes commonly decay, even at low charge-discharge rates. “We think this is real progress in the development of cathode materials for high-power lithium-ion batteries,” Ajayan said, suggesting the ribbons’ ability to be dispersed in a solvent might make them suitable as a component in the paintable batteries developed in his lab.

More information: pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/nl400001u

Journal reference: Nano Letters

Nanotechnology helps packaging smarten up

Christian Raaflaub, swissinfo.ch (translated from German text by Simon Bradley) Mar 25, 2013 – 11:00

QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8In the near future packaging will be much more than a simple external protective wrapper or support for product advertising. Biotechnologist Christoph Meili outlines the major role nanotechnology will play.



The Swiss packaging industry, which represents about 250 firms and 19,000 workers, accounts for about 1.1 per cent of national annual gross domestic product (GDP), or CHF586 billion – a much higher figure than in other countries. Of this, CHF3.6 billion comes from plastics, while CHF1 billion is from cardboard sales. Swiss firms include the Model Group, Bourquin and SIG.

swissinfo.ch: You argue that the future of packaging will be closely tied to advances in nanotechnology. What additional properties can nanotechnology offer?

Christoph Meili: Nanotechnology is all about enhancement. Certain properties that are very much in demand can be introduced into packing using nano-materials. Here I’m talking mostly about the shelf life of food, which can be extended. The amount of information and the quality of information on packaging will also increase. The consumer will learn about the state of the product, whether the food is still edible or if there is oxygen present in the packaging, for example. Hopefully, this will also lead to a conservation of resources so that better biodegradable packaging is developed.

Possible applications in packaging

– anti-microbial properties: nano-silver, nanoparticles with zinc, calcium magnesium oxide or titanium dioxide, essential oils or wasabi-coated film. – gas barrier properties: “Nanoclay” layers to better seal PET plastic bottles. – brand protection: traceability  – nanometre barcodes made of nano-silver or gold particles. – environmentally friendly packaging materials: biodegradable packaging based on natural polymer compounds or nano-sized starches from corn. (Source: Christoph Meili)

swissinfo.ch: Are there any smart alternatives to packaging so that we use less in the future?

C.M.: Edible packaging is something on our radar screens. On the other hand it’s important for consumers to be able to differentiate clearly between the product and the packaging. Compostable or biodegradable packaging would be a major step forward. I have my doubts whether this could also be edible. But a product without packaging would be the very best solution.

swissinfo.ch: Nowadays many products are tossed away although they are still usable.

C.M.: Nanotechnology should help us reduce the amount of food that is thrown away. Around one third of all purchased food is thrown away as consumers believe it’s no longer any good or because the sell-by-date has passed. In Switzerland this represents around two million tonnes of food, or 1.3 billion tonnes worldwide. That’s a tremendous waste.

swissinfo.ch: How can ‘smart’ packaging help solve this problem?

C.M.: Smart packaging is able to react to ambient conditions, for example, when the gas mixture in a product changes such as when carbon dioxide or nitrogen are released and escape from the packaging’s protective atmosphere. The second example is self-protecting packaging, which protects itself against oxygen for example. Then there are indicators about the levels of moisture or bacterial and microbial decomposition, which show when the product is no longer usable. Nano-silver, titanium dioxide or zinc oxide slow the growth of bacteria on products, thus extending their shelf-life and freshness.

Christoph Meili

Christoph Meili is founder and head of the Innovation Society.
He studied Biotechnology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich and Business Administration at the University of St.Gallen, where he achieved his PhD. He was head of the Competence Center for Risks of biotechnology, genetic engineering, and nanotechnology at the Institute of Insurance Economics of the University of St.Gallen.
In addition he has considerable consulting experience in the risk management of emerging technologies. He is an innovation and risk expert in applied nano- and micro technology.
He is also a senior lecturer in business administration and management at the University of St.Gallen.

swissinfo.ch: But how practical and realistic are all these new ideas?

C.M.: They really do offer something extra. For example, you have beer bottles with a ‘nano-clay’ plastic layer which slow the leakage of gas and entry of oxygen. This allows products to be kept much longer.  This is really interesting for manufacturers as they can lower costs. On the one hand fewer products are withdrawn and on the other consumers can keep them longer.

swissinfo.ch: What will the packing of the future look like? Will every product contain a chip with accessible information on the packaging?

C.M.: The ability to identify products using a Radio-frequency Identification Device (RFID) is definitely an issue right now. It’s practical for retailers. There are several options already available. The problem is the price. Packaging must be very cheap. RFID is currently only offered on higher-priced items or on large quantities, which enable products to be traced. Trademark protection becomes easier.

swissinfo.ch: You are a biotechnologist and a molecular biologist but you also work as a risk researcher. What are the possible future health threats of integrating minute nanoparticles in packaging?

C.M.: The question we have to ask ourselves is: can nanoparticles escape from packaging? If so, where do they go? Into food, or are they dispersed into the environment? Or do they transform into something else in the biological cycle? In active packaging, where a considerable part involves active elements escaping and interacting with foodstuffs, we have to look at what is happening. The migration and dispersion of low-molecular substances is an issue. Substances that are dangerous for your health shouldn’t end up in the product. But it’s a difficult issue. Where should the limit be set? What level is still safe? What is problematic? Also, alongside respiration, it’s possible for nanoparticles to be absorbed into the digestive system. A lot of research is still needed on this. We have to honest about that.

Christian Raaflaub, swissinfo.ch (translated from German text by Simon Bradley)

DFI Expands into Emerging Southeast Asia Market

QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8Diamon-Fusion International, Inc.  (DFI), global developer and exclusive licensor of patented hydrophobic nanotechnologies, announced today the signing of a new license agreement with Pacific Ring Incorporated (PRI). The agreement includes the authorized distribution of DFI’s proprietary, award-winning auto product line, a scientifically-proven safety feature designed to protect auto glass from chips, splits, cracks and more.  Later this month, PRI will unveil the DFI auto product line at INAPA, the largest SE Asian trade fair for automotive parts, accessories, equipment and services taking place in Jakarta, Indonesia.Pacific Ring Incorporated is a multinational distributor of renewable products with almost 20 years of manufacturing experience. The quality, performance and consistency of PRI products is unmatched in the international marketplace and  as the economic outlook for Indonesia remains strong, with a growth rate of  over 6 percent in 2012, PRI is well-positioned to expand its market share  through the new DFI partnership agreement. PRI’s clients include some of the  largest and most profitable woodworking companies in Japan, China, Taiwan, South East Asia, North America, Europe and South Korea.

“After  personally experiencing repeat  issues with my auto glass, a colleague  suggested I try DFI’s flagship product, Diamon-Fusion on my windshield and I was sold,” shared Jacob Goss, President of  PRI. “Diamon-Fusion  not only dramatically improved  my night vision by decreasing glare and  preventing pollution build up but also protected the glass from damaging chips  and cracks which saved me thousands of dollars in replacement costs. I knew  then I had to bring this product to the heavily pollution prone Indonesian  market so others could benefit from it as well. I have tried many other  products and nothing could clean and protect glass like DFI. I trust this  new partnership with DFI for the automotive sector will only be the beginning  of our journey, as we’re planning to expand into other market segments,”  added Mr. Goss.

Guillermo Seta, Corporate Vice President and Executive  Director of DFI,  added:“The expansion into Indonesia with PRI further showcases our growing international market of those who clearly understand the vast benefits and unmatched business opportunities DFI presents. This new  partnership also serves as a solid platform to grow our South East Asia (SEA)  business and we are thrilled to be teaming up with such a highly reputable and  eco-friendly partner.”

DFI  offers a wide-range of coatings and application methods providing the most  industrial flexibility in the coatings marketplace. From hand-applied, to the most cost-effective chemical vapor chamber method, which treats both sides of the surface with virtually no labor, no other company can offer the range of  application methods. In addition, DFI products have no cure time, so  manufacturers do not experience the bottlenecks of slow cure times of other  coatings in the marketplace.


March 25th, 2013

Liposomes Disguise Chemotherapy Drug Packed into Trojan Horse Nanobins

QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8A new gentler chemotherapy drug in the form of nanoparticles has been designed by Northwestern Medicine® scientists to be less toxic to a young woman’s fertility but extra tough on cancer. This is the first cancer drug tested while in development for its effect on fertility using a novel in vitro test.

The scientists designed a quick new in vitro test that predicts the toxicity of a chemotherapy drug to fertility and can be easily used to test other cancer drugs in development as well as existing ones. Currently the testing of cancer drugs for fertility toxicity is a time and resource intensive process.

“Our overall goal is to create smart drugs that kill the cancer but don’t cause sterility in young women,” said Teresa Woodruff, a co-principal investigator of the study and chief of fertility preservation at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. The paper was published March 20 in in the journal PLOS ONE.

The scientists hope their integration of drug development and reproductive toxicity testing is the beginning of a new era in which chemotherapy drugs are developed with an eye on their fertotoxity (fertility toxicity). As cancer survival rates increase, the effect of cancer treatments on fertility is critically important to many young patients.

Woodruff and Thomas O’Halloran, also a co-principal investigator and director of the Chemistry of Life Processes Institute at Northwestern, are a wife and husband team who developed and tested the drug. Their intersecting interests — hers in fertility preservation, his in cancer drug development — percolated over dinner conversations and sparked the collaboration.

O’Halloran also is the associate director for basic sciences research at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University and Woodruff is the Thomas J. Watkins Memorial Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Feinberg. Richard Ahn, now a fourth-year medical student at Feinberg in the M.D.-PhD program and the study’s lead author, coordinated the preclinical testing of the nanobins as a graduate student in O’Halloran’s lab.

A Tiny Trojan Horse

The chemotherapy drug, arsenic trioxide, is packed into a very tiny Trojan horse called a nanobin. The nanobin consists of nano-size crystalline arsenic particles densely packed and encapsulated in a fat bubble. The fat bubble, a liposome, disguises the deadly cargo — half a million drug molecules.

“You have to wallop the tumor with a significant dose of arsenic but at the same time prevent exposure to normal tissue from the drug,” said O’Halloran. The fat bubble is hundreds of times smaller than the average human cell. It is the perfect size to stealthily slip through holes in the leaky blood vessels that rapidly grow to feed tumors. The local environment of the tumor is often slightly acid; it is this acid that causes the nanobin to release its drug cargo and deliver a highly effective dose of arsenic where it is needed.

The scientists show this approach to packaging and delivering the active drug has the desired effect on the tumor cells but prevents damage to ovarian tissue, follicles or eggs.

While the drug is gentle on fertility, it is ferocious on cancer. When tested against lymphoma, it was more potent than the drug in its traditional free form.

“The drug was designed to maximize its effectiveness but reduce fertotoxicity,” said O’Halloran, also the Morrison Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern. “Many cancer drugs cause sterilization, that’s why the reproductive tract is really important to focus on in the new stages of drug design. Other body systems get better when people stop taking the drug, but fertility you can’t recover.”

Arsenic trioxide was approved a few years ago for treating some types of blood cancers such as leukemia in humans, but O’Halloran thinks the arsenic trioxide nanobins can be used against breast cancer and other solid tumors. In his previously published preclinical research, nanobins were effective in reducing tumor growth in triple-negative breast cancer, which often doesn’t respond well to traditional chemotherapy and has a poor survival rate.

Quick Test For Fertility Toxicity

Woodruff was able to show early effects of the drug on fertility by using an in vitro follicle culture and a quick, simple new test she developed. She compared the fertotoxicity of the nanobin and free drug and found the nanobin was much less toxic to female fertility than the free drug in the experimental model.

“The system can be adapted very easily for any cancer drug under development to get an early peek under the tent,”said Woodruff, also the Thomas J. Watkins Memorial Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Feinberg. “As this new drug goes forward in development, we can say this is a good drug for young female cancer patients who are concerned about fertility.”

The information gained from the toxicity test will help inform the treatment decisions of oncologists and their young female cancer patients to improve their chances of creating a future family.

“They may prescribe less toxic drug regimens or refer them to specialists in fertility preservation,” Woodruff said.

Source: http://www.northwestern.edu/

Future medicine: Stem cells can leverage silica nanoparticles to track where they actually go

QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8Giving patients stem cells packaged with silica nanoparticles could help  doctors determine the effectiveness of the treatments by revealing where the  cells go after they’ve left the injection needle.

Researchers from Stanford University report in a paper  published on Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine  that silica nanoparticles taken up by stem cells make the cells visible on  ultrasound imaging. While other imaging techniques such as MRI can show where  stem cells are located in the body, that method is not as fast, affordable, or  widely available as an ultrasound scanner, and more importantly, it does not  offer a real-time view of injection, say experts.

Stem cells have significant medical promise because they can be turned into  other types of living cell. As well as helping doctors adjust therapeutic  dosages in patients, the new technique could help scientists perfect stem cell  treatments, says senior author Sanjiv  Gambhir. “For the most part, researchers shoot blindly—they don’t quite know  where the cells are going when they are injected, they don’t know if they home  in to the right target tissue, they don’t know if they survive, and they don’t  know if they leak into other tissue types,” says Gambhir.

This, in part, could be slowing advances in stem cell treatments. “If stem  cells are going to be used as a legitimate medical treatment for the repair of  damaged or diseased tissue, then we will need to know precisely where they are  going so the treatments can be optimized,” says Lara  Bogart, a physicist at the University of Liverpool. Bogart is developing  magnetic nanoparticles for tracking stem cells using MRI.To get a better view of where cells are going during and after injection,  Gambhir and colleagues used nanoparticles made of silica, a material that  reflects sound waves, so it can be detected in an ultrasound scan. The  nanoparticles were incubated with mesenchymal stem cells, which can develop into  cell types including bone cells, fat cells, and heart cells. The cells ingested  the nanoparticles, which did not change the cells’ growth rate or ability to  develop into different cell types. Inside the cells, the nanoparticles clumped  together, which made them more visible in an ultrasound.

The researchers then injected the nanoparticle-laden stem cells into the  hearts of mice and tracked their movements. Many research groups are testing  stem cells as a treatment after a heart attack or for other heart conditions in  both lab animals (see “A  Step Toward Healing Broken Hearts with Stem Cells” and “Injecting  Stem Cells into the Heart Could Stop Chronic Chest Pain”) as well as in  patients in clinical trials. A fast and real-time imaging tool could help  because researchers and doctors need to be sure that the cells reach the most  beneficial spots in a sickly heart.

“It’s very important to know where you inject the cells because you don’t  want to put them in areas damaged by the heart attack; that tissue is dead and a  very hostile environment,” says Jeff Bulte, a cell engineer at the Johns Hopkins  University School of Medicine who was not involved in the study. “On the other  hand, you want to place them as close to the site of damage as possible,” he  says.

The silica nanoparticles can also be detected in MRI machines because they  contain a strongly magnetic heavy metal known as gadolinium that shows up in the  scans. And they can be detected optically (through microscopes) because they  carry a fluorescent dye. “This gives us three complementary ways to image the  same particle,” says Bogart. Depending on the part of the body receiving the  transplant, the type of scanner available and the amount of time since  injection, a researcher may choose one method over another.

The mice used in the study were healthy, but the team plans to test the  tracking method in mice or other lab animals that have heart damage. The team  will also use the nanoparticles in different cell types and do more toxicity  studies prior to filing for FDA approval to test the nanoparticles in humans. “It will be about a three-year process to do first-in-man studies,” says  Gambhir.

Read more: http://medcitynews.com/2013/03/future-medicine-stem-cells-can-leverage-silica-nanoparticles-to-track-cells-once-in-the-body/#ixzz2OXjcfbXH


10 Mistakes to Avoid When Pitching Investors (Infographic)

QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8Like it or not, money is the lifeblood of a business. If you are on the hunt  for capital and have landed a meeting with an investor, your first impression  can either be a deal breaker or money in the bank.



According to Founder Institute,  an early-stage startup accelerator in Mountain View, Calif., one of the biggest  flubs rookies make in an investor presentation pitch is failing to include  charts and graphs. If you aren’t sure how to go about making charts and graphs  that relate to your financial projections, you can consider hiring a business  student or a certified public accountant for a day to help. Also, the institute  says, steer clear of promising potential investors that your startup is going to  be worth $1 billion by its fifth year. Investors want conservative estimates  that they can trust, not pie-in-the-sky guesstimates.

Other tips from the Founder Institute include:

  • Avoid a “hard coded” financial spreadsheet in your presentation – that is,  don’t make your numbers unchangeable in a spreadsheet. Present your information  so that investors can play with your various financial inputs to see how your  business model will survive in changing conditions.
  • Skip what’s known as a “top down” financial forecast where you assume that  your company will automatically win a percentage of some existing market.  Instead, use what’s called “bottom up” forecasting, where you base your  financial projections on an actual budget: essentially, how many items you are  going to sell multiplied by how much each is worth.
  • Talk about the size of your total addressable market (TAM), but don’t focus  on it. For example, if you are creating an iPhone game for women ages 35 and up,  the size of the entire gaming industry would be your total addressable market  and would be largely irrelevant. Instead, research your serviceable addressable  market (SAM), which in this example would be the total market for women over the  age of 35.

In the infographic below, Founder Institute offers a list of the 10 rookie  pitching mistakes it sees on a regular basis.

Top Ten ‘Rookie Mistakes’

1. Not using Charts, Graphs or Tabs in pitch materials.

2. Hard Coding numbers into your spreadsheet.

3. Not using “Bottom Up” Analysis

4. Not Connecting the Financial model to the Narrative

5. Not knowing your “Total Adressable Market” (TAM) and your “Serviceable Adressable Market” (SAM)

6. Not using Generally Accepted Accounting Rules.

7. Not doing a Cash Flow Analysis

8. Underestimating your Variable Expenses

9. Not knowing your Comparable Market Metrics

10. Projecting $1 Billion in Revenues Year 5.


What is your best piece of advice for new entrepreneurs heading  to a first pitch session with an investor? Leave a note below and let  us know.

Related: Entrepreneurship: Risks You Need to Consider  (Infographic)

7 Habits of the Ultra Wealthy

QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8How many times has your success depended on knowing something that  most people don’t? The survey research I did for my new book, Business Brilliant, uncovered just how frequently highly-successful people think and act  differently from the great majority of people with identical levels of  education and smarts.


There are certain elements of success that everyone agrees  on–ambition, hard work, persistence, and a positive attitude. But my  survey showed how some people have “business brilliance,” a distinctive  take on getting ahead that is often at odds with the more pervasive  mindset.

If you want to get an edge and separate yourself from the common  herd, take some cues from the seven beliefs and habits of the most  successful people:

1. An equity position is necessary to get wealthy.

Ninety percent of the super-successful say this is true,  versus fewer than half of the masses. More importantly, 80 percent of  “business brilliant” people say they already have an equity  stake in their work. Just 10 percent of the middle-class have an equity  position of any kind, and the vast majority (70 percent) say they’re not even trying to get one.

2. I’m always looking to gain an advantage in my business dealings.

About 90 percent of “business brilliant” individuals say they  are always trying to grab an edge, compared with just about 40 percent  of the middle-class. Gaining even small advantages in a series of deals  can have a cumulative effect on your wealth, but since most people  aren’t even looking for one, they’re that much more likely to end up on  the disadvantaged side of every deal.

3. Doing things well is more important than doing new things.

Getting wealthy usually means you’ve taken an ordinary idea  and executed it exceptionally well. That’s what 9 in 10 “business  brilliant” people believe. Most other people, though, think that wealth  requires a big, new idea. Unfortunately for them, big ideas are rare and risky. Too many people are waiting on the sidelines for the perfect big idea to come along, while the most successful people have jumped in the game, and busily honed their skills at execution.

4. I hire people who are smarter than I am.

Exceptional execution requires those who are business  brilliant to focus on the two or three things they do very well. So they get their work done by building teams with complementary capabilities.  Surveys show that most people, though, would rather learn to do tasks  they’re bad at than get others to do them. The business brilliant know  that you get to the top because of your strengths, not your weaknesses.

5. It’s essential I really understand my business associates’ motivations.

If you’re dependent on other talented employees, you’d best  know what makes those talented people tick. That’s the belief of about  seven in 10 people in my “business brilliant” cohort, compared with  fewer than 20 percent of the middle-class. My survey suggests that your  willingness and desire to really get to know and understand your  business associates is a sure marker of success–and one that most  people don’t have.

6. I can easily walk away from a deal if it’s not right.

The “business brilliant” know that bad deals, like bad  marriages, can be painful–and costly. So if the deal on the table isn’t right, 71 percent say they have no problem cutting bait and moving on.  Only about 22 percent of the middle-class say the same. Most people are  willing to take their chances on deals that don’t seem right from the  start, even though it’s less risky to walk away.

7. Setbacks and failures have taught me what I’m good at.

Those who are “business brilliant” have, on average,  more failures than members of the middle-class. But they use those  failures to help them succeed on the next attempt. Just 17 percent of  the middle-class say they learn from their failures in this way, which  is really a shame. Everything worth trying contains an element of risk,  after all. If you fall on your face, you might as well learn from the  experience to help you succeed on your next try.

Making the Most of Big Data

QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8Aiming to make the most of the explosion of Big Data and the tools needed to analyze it, the Obama Administration announced a “National Big Data Research and Development Initiative” on March 29, 2012.  To launch the initiative, six Federal departments and agencies announced more than $200 million in new commitments that, together, promise to greatly improve and develop the tools, techniques, and human capital needed to move from data to knowledge to action.   The Administration is also working to “liberate” government data and voluntarily-contributed corporate data to fuel entrepreneurship, create jobs, and improve the lives of Americans in tangible ways.

As we enter the second year of the Big Data Initiative, the Administration is encouraging multiple stakeholders including federal agencies, private industry, academia, state and local government, non-profits, and foundations, to develop and participate in Big Data innovation projects across the country. Later this year, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), NSF, and other agencies in the Networking and Information Technology R&D (NITRD) program plan to convene an event that highlights high-impact collaborations and identifies areas for expanded collaboration between the public and private sectors.  The Administration is particularly interested in projects and initiatives that:

  • Advance technologies that support Big Data and data analytics;
  • Educate and expand the Big Data workforce;
  • Develop, demonstrate and evaluate applications of Big Data that improve key outcomes in economic growth, job creation, education, health, energy, sustainability, public safety, advanced manufacturing, science and engineering, and global development;
  • Demonstrate the role that prizes and challenges can play in deriving new insights from Big Data; and
  • Foster regional innovation.

Please submit a two-page summary of projects to BIGDATA@nsf.gov.  The summary should identify:

  1. The goal of the project, with metrics for evaluating the success or failure of the project;
  2. The multiple stakeholders that will participate in the project and their respective roles and responsibilities;
  3. Initial financial and in-kind resources that the stakeholders are prepared to commit to this project; and
  4. A principal point of contact for the partnership.

The submission should also indicate whether the NSF can post the project description to a public website.  This announcement is posted solely for information and planning purposes; it does not constitute a formal solicitation for grants, contracts, or cooperative agreements.

Deadline Date for Submission of Summaries: April 22, 2013

Massive Solar Power Plant Opens In Abu Dhabi

QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8One of the world’s largest solar power plants opened this weekend in the oil-rich city of Abu Dhabi. The 100-megawatt plant, called Shams 1, is a first step in a plan to make seven percent of Abu Dhabi’s energy resources renewable, Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, head of the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, said during a news conference. Abu Dhabi is part of the United Arab Emirates, which are famed for their oil wealth. The emirates rank 13th in the world for per capita GDP, a standing driven mostly by their oil exports.


Abu Dhabi Solar Mirrors shine at the newly built Shams 1 concentrated solar power plant south of Abu Dhabi. Masdar on Facebook

The new plant includes a huge field of parabolic mirrors located in the desert about 74 miles (120 kilometers) south of Abu Dhabi. Shams 1 will serve 20,000 homes and cost an estimated $600 million to build, the BBC reported. Similar Shams 2 and Shams 3 plants are in the works, Clean Technica reported.

Shams 1 is a concentrated solar energy plant, which means its technology is a little different from the flat, black photovoltaic panels you might have seen on people’s roofs. Shams 1’s uses mirrors to concentrate the sun’s energy to heat a fluid, which produces steam to turn turbines to make electricity.

Shams 1 isn’t a perfectly efficient solution, however. The plant’s process still requires some natural gas to “superheat” the fluid, Clean Technica reported. It also requires uses some energy in the form of brusher trucks that clean the mirrors of sand. Even in the middle of the desert, it’s impossible to make a solar power station totally efficient.

Although there are certainly other solar plants in the world Shams 1’s size or larger, the Abu Dhabi plant holds the title of the largest single concentrated solar energy plant. Other concentrated solar plants are connected with thermal power plants, IEEE Spectrum reported. There are also larger concentrated solar energy projects that are near completion, but aren’t yet plugged into their local grids.

Nanotechnology enhanced organic photovoltaics: Breaking the 10% efficiency barrier

QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8Nanowerk Spotlight) Many researchers are investigating  the development of flexible solar cells in hopes of improving efficiency and  lowering manufacturing costs. Organic solar cells hold the potential for  integration into building facades and windows, due to their optical translucency  and ability to be manufactured on large areas at high-throughput.

As an  important member of the organic photovoltaics (OPV) family, polymer solar cells  draw the most research interest, due to the relatively high power conversion  efficiency (PCE) achieved (read more: “The  state of nanoimprinted polymer organic solar cell technology”).

However,  compared to the high efficiencies (>10%) of inorganic solar cells, the best  polymer solar cells (6-7%) still show a lower efficiency. Organic solar cells are regarded as an emerging technology to  become one of the low-cost thin-film alternatives to the current dominating  silicon photovoltaic technology, due to their intrinsic potential for low-cost  processing (high-speed and at low temperature).

However, it is generally  believed that the PCE needs to be improved to above 10% in order for organic  solar cells to become truly competitive in the marketplace. Currently, the best  reported PCE, achieved in laboratories, lies in the range of 6.7% to 7.6% for  molecular, and 8.3% to 10.6% for polymeric OPVs.

A recent review article in Advanced Materials (“Plasmonic-Enhanced Organic Photovoltaics: Breaking  the 10% Efficiency Barrier”) looks at the recent progress on  plasmonic-enhanced OPV devices using metallic nanoparticles, and one-dimensional  (1D) and two-dimensional (2D) patterned periodic nanostructures. The authors,  Qiaoqiang Gan from The State University of New York, Filbert Bartoli from Lehigh  University, and Zakya Kafafi from Northwestern University, discuss the benefits  of using various plasmonic nanostructures for broad-band,  polarization-insensitive and angle-independent absorption enhancement, and their  integration with one or two electrode(s) of an OPV device.

Organic Solar

2D  nanoaperture arrays with high-order symmetries: SEM images of periodic and quasi  periodic 2D nanoaperture arrays milled in a 300 nm-thick silver film. The right  insets show the 2D discrete Fourier transform power spectra for each array. The  left inset in (b) shows a high-resolution cross sectional SEM image of a polymer  filled hole in the triangular array. (© 2011, AIP)

The authors focus on two main research areas: the broadening of  the absorption band for an OPV material and its extension to the NIR region,  achieving polarization insensitive/independent plasmonic nanostructures; and  omnidirectional absorption enhancement as well as the integration of the  metallic plasmonic nanostructure(s) with one or two of the electrode(s) of an  OPV device. The two main patterned nanostructures frequently used to  introduce plasmonic enhancement in OPVs are randomly distributed metallic  nanoparticles, and 1D and 2D periodic nanopatterned arrays.

Metallic Nanoparticles

Metallic nanoparticles are probably the most popular and  extensively employed nanostructures for enhancing the performance of PV devices,  due to their relative ease of fabrication (see for instance: “Gold nanoparticles boost  organic solar cell efficiency”). Design considerations using metallic nanoparticles of different  materials, concentrations, shapes, sizes, and distributions have been introduced  in various layers and interfaces within the devices. One option introduces  metallic nanoparticles outside the active layer(s) of the OPV device.

A strong  localized plasmon field enhancement and/or increased light scattering when  metallic nanostructures were placed outside the active light-harvesting layer  result in an enhanced PCE. Embedding metallic nanoparticles inside the active layers of  OPVs exploits the strongly confined field of the localized surface plasmon  resonance and more efficient light scattering within the active layers.

It is  generally believed that small metallic nanoparticles (usually <20 nm in  diameter) can act as sub-wavelength antennas in which the enhanced near-field is  coupled to the absorbing OPV layer(s), increasing its effective absorption  cross-section; while large nanoparticles (>40 nm in diameter) can be used as  effective subwavelength scattering elements that significantly increase the  optical path length of the sunlight within the active layers.

High-Order Symmetric Plasmonic Nanostructures

Although the synthesis of plasmonic metal nanoparticles seems  relatively simple, it is quite challenging to control their size, shape, and  monodispersity using solution processing or vacuum thermal evaporation or  electrodeposition. Periodically patterned metallic nanostructures offer another  approach to enhance the optical absorption of the organic active  light-harvesting layers in OPVs. By properly designing plasmonic nanostructures,  light can be effectively coupled to surface plasmon polaritons modes which are  strongly confined at the metal surface next to the thin active layer. Both 1D  and 2D periodic metallic nanostructures have been explored in various OPV  designs to achieve unique and remarkable features. The review summarizes  important results from numerous studies on these nanostructures.

Organic Solar 2

Plasmonic nanostructures for omnidirectional absorption: (a) SEM  image of fabricated crossed trapezoid arrays and (b) a single unit cell of  crossed trapezoid where the scale bars are 500 and 100 nm, respectively; (c)  schematic drawing of a periodically crossed trapezoid array with the angle of  incidence shown as θ; (d) extinction plotted as a function of wavelength and  angle of incidence (note that broadband extinction is preserved even at higher  angles of incidence). (© 2011, NPG)

The authors conclude that, in order to achieve further progress  with OPVs, a renewed focus on the science and technology of nanophotonics for  light management and trapping offers the potential of achieving  higher-efficiency devices. Plasmonic strategies offer several unique features and are one  of the most promising solutions for enhancing the OPV optical absorption and  device performance. By incorporating plasmonic nanostructures in the front and  back metallic electrodes of an OPV device, it is possible to achieve broadband,  polarization- and angle-independent absorption enhancement.

This  plasmonic-assisted OPV has the potential to significantly surpass the 10% PCE  barrier if the enhanced optical absorption can be transferred into excitons and  separated photo-generated charge carriers which are efficiently collected at the  respective electrodes.

By Michael Berger. Copyright © Nanowerk