Dutch Researchers Develop Smart Membranes


1-Porous_membrane_small-300x179Sat, Nov 1st, 2014 | Polymer chemistry | By BioNews

The pore size of the smart membranes can be adjusted from the outside: this is very attractive in applications like biosensors or chemical analysis. The ‘Swiss cheese’ structure is characteristic of many polymer membranes and is now modified by introducing iron within the polymer. Using an electric signal or a chemical reaction, the pore size can be adjusted. The key to this is controlled adding or extracting of electrons to and from iron.

Thanks to this adjustable pore size, the permeability and selectivity of the membrane can be tuned, for separation purposes or controlled release. The UT scientists see possibilities in analysis and separation of proteins, for example. An extra advantage of the new membranes is the change in colour that takes place. The process of protein detection and analysis becomes visible in an easy way, which may lead to a cheap type of biosensor.

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Changing membrane pore size by oxidation and reduction (Image Credit: University of Twente

Another application of the smart membrane is in catalysis. Here, it is possible to kill two birds with one stone. Whilst the pore size and permeabiliteit can be altered using a chemical reaction with silver salt, nanosize particles of silver are deposited on the membrane at the same time. Silver is an important catalyst in many applications.

The membrane research is conducted by the Materials Science and Technology of Polymers group, led by Prof. Julius Vancso. This group is part of the MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology of the University of Twente.

Scientific Summary from PubMed:

Redox-responsive porous membranes can be readily formed by electrostatic complexation between redox active poly(ferrocenylsilane) PFS-based poly(ionic liquid)s and organic acids. Redox-induced changes on this membrane demonstrated reversible switching between more open and more closed porous structures. By taking advantage of the structure changes in the oxidized and reduced states, the porous membrane exhibits reversible permeability control and shows great potential in gated filtration, catalysis, and controlled release.

Reference:
Kaihuan Zhang, Xueling Feng, Dr. Xiaofeng Sui, Dr. Mark A. Hempenius and Prof. G. Julius Vancso, Breathing Pores on Command: Redox-Responsive Spongy Membranes from Poly(ferrocenylsilane)s, Angewandte Chemie International Edition, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201408010

Controlling Nano-Energy Flows to Make Mobile Devices Last Longer


1-nano devices howtomakemobElectronic devices waste a lot of energy by producing useless heat. This is one of the main reasons our mobiles use up battery power so quickly. Researchers at University of Luxembourg have made a leap forward in understanding how this happens and how this waste could be reduced by controlling energy flows at a molecular level. This would make our technology cheaper to run and more durable.

Until now, scientists had just an average view of energy conversion efficiency in nano-devices. For the first time, a more complete picture has been described thanks to University of Luxembourg research. “We discovered universal properties about the way energy efficiency of nano-systems fluctuates,” explained Prof. Massimiliano Esposito of Luxembourg University’s Physics and Materials research unit. Using this knowledge it will be possible to control energy flows more accurately, so cutting waste.

These energy controls could be achieved by a technological regulator which would prevent the natural process whereby heat generated in one part of a device is lost as it spreads to cooler areas. In other words, this adds interesting nuances to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, one of the fundamental theories in physics. This theoretical understanding of how to regulate of energy flows brings to life “Maxwell’s demon”, a notion introduced by the major 19th Century mathematician and physicist James Clerk Maxwell. He imagined that this “demon” could overturn the laws of nature by allowing cold particles to flow towards hot areas.

Two recent papers published in highly respected scientific journals (Physical Review X and Nature Communications) describe these findings. The research team under Prof. Esposito used mathematical models to arrive at these conclusions. These ideas will be put into practice in the laboratory before any eventual practical technological applications are developed.

Explore further: Scientists produce a novel form of artificial graphene

Sunfire GmbH Wins Prestigious Award: ClenTech Fuels


Published on October 7, 2014 at 9:30 AM

Nano fuel cells c2cs35307e-f1

sunfire GmbH, a developer of high-temperature fuel cells, electrolysers and a pioneer in the fields of Power-to-Liquids and Power-to-Gas, today announced it was named in the prestigious 2014 Global Cleantech 100, produced by Cleantech Group, whose mission is to connect corporates to sustainable innovation through the i3 market intelligence platform, expert consulting services, and global events.

Yesterday Carl von Berninghausen, founder and CEO at sunfire attended the festive “Global Cleantech 100 Summit & Gala“ in Washington D.C., where he received his prize in person.

The entire sunfire team is very proud of this award. The Cleantech group has provided high level support throughout the past two years and has contributed to the international awareness of the technology developed by sunfire. We are very grateful for that. To us becoming part of the circle of 2014 Global Cleantech 100 is an incentive above all. We have to learn to globally rely upon renewable energies and not just focus on Germany. Our technology can make an important contribution, under the prerequisite that we now intensify our efforts to focus on its industrialization together with our partners. Together with the Cleantech Group this will be our next step.

Carl von Berninghausen, founder and CEO at sunfire

The Global Cleantech 100 represents the most innovative and promising ideas in cleantech. Featuring companies that are best positioned to solve tomorrow’s clean technology challenges, Global Cleantech 100 is a comprehensive list of private companies with the highest potential to make the most significant market impact. This list is collated by combining proprietary Cleantech Group research data, with weighted qualitative judgments of hundreds of nominations, and specific inputs from a global 84-person Expert Panel.

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This year, a record number of nominations were received: 5,995 distinct companies from 60 countries. The 84-member expert panel was drawn equally from leading financial investors and representatives of multi-national corporations and industrials active in technology and innovation scouting across Asia, Europe, and North America. The composition of the expert panel broadly represents the global cleantech community, from pioneers and leaders to veterans and new entrants. The diversity of panelists results in a list of companies that command an expansive base of respect and support from many important players within the global cleantech innovation ecosystem.

The complete list of 100 companies was revealed on October 6th at the Global Cleantech 100 Summit & Gala in Washington, D.C. (Link). For complete information on sunfire’s leadership within the cleantech space, access i3 by visiting i3connect.com — Cleantech Group’s leading market intelligence platform and search for sunfire.

New “gold nanocluster” Technology Revolutionizes Solar Power


QDOT images 6Scientists at Western University have discovered that a small molecule created with just 144 atoms of gold can increase solar cell performance by more than 10 per cent.

 

 

 

These findings, published recently by the high-impact journal Nanoscale, represent a game-changing innovation that holds the potential to take solar power mainstream and dramatically decrease the world’s dependence on traditional, resource-based sources of energy, says Giovanni Fanchini from Western’s Faculty of Science.

Fanchini, the Canada Research Chair in Carbon-based Nanomaterials and Nano-optoelectronics, says the new technology could easily be fast-tracked and integrated into prototypes of solar panels in one to two years and solar-powered phones in as little as five years.

“Every time you recharge your cell phone, you have to plug it in,” says Fanchini, an assistant professor in Western’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. “What if you could charge mobile devices like phones, tablets or laptops on the go? Not only would it be convenient, but the potential energy savings would be significant.”

The Western researchers have already started working with manufacturers of solar components to integrate their findings into existing and are excited about the potential.

“The Canadian business industry already has tremendous know-how in solar manufacturing,” says Fanchini. “Our invention is modular, an add-on to the existing production process, so we anticipate a working prototype very quickly.”

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Making nanoplasmonic enhancements, Fanchini and his team use “gold nanoclusters” as building blocks to create a flexible network of antennae on more traditional to attract an increase of light. While nanotechnology is the science of creating functional systems at the molecular level, nanoplasmonics investigates the interaction of light with and within these systems.

“Picture an extremely delicate fishnet of gold,” explains Fanchini explains, noting that the antennae are so miniscule they are unseen even with a conventional optical microscope. “The fishnet catches the light emitted by the sun and draws it into the active region of the solar cell.”

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According to Fanchini, the spectrum of light reflected by gold is centered on the yellow colour and matches the light spectrum of the sun making it superior for such antennae as it greatly amplifies the amount of sunlight going directly into the device.

“Gold is very robust, resilient to oxidization and not easily damaged, making it the perfect material for long-term use,” says Fanchini. “And gold can also be recycled.”

It has been known for some time that larger gold nanoparticles enhance solar cell performance, but the Western team is getting results with “a ridiculously small amount” – approximately 10,000 times less than previous studies, which is 10,000 times less expensive too.

Explore further: Using solar energy to turn raw materials into ingredients for everyday life

Provided by University of Western Ontario

Nanotechnology to provide Cleaner Diesel Engines


Applications of Nanomaterials Chart Picture1It may seem paradoxical that a rare precious metal such as platinum is used in something as simple as smoky truck exhaust systems—nonetheless, this has always been a fundamental technological principle.

When it comes to diesel engine catalysts—i.e. the element responsible for cleansing exhaust fumes particles—platinum has unfortunately proved to be the only viable option, which has resulted in material costs alone accounting for half of the price of a diesel catalyst.

Such dependency on precious metals is both costly and unsustainable, which is why InnovationsFonden invested an impressive DKK 15 million—half of the total budget—in a project to find new catalyst materials based on nanotechnology.

The collaborative project involves Aarhus University, Danish Technological Institute, Dinex A/S tasked with production—and finally DTU, where will bring more than 25 years’ experience in experimental surface physics, nanotechnology and catalysis to bear.

“I have devoted myself exclusively to catalysts and surface physics since 1987. I am therefore excited by the prospect of my research finding a specific technological application,” says Ib Chorkendorff, who usually works with catalysts and nanomaterials at basic research level.

New catalysts

In essence, Aarhus University has developed a new way to manufacture catalysts and is now assessing the further development options that are opening up.

“Our idea is to try and make better catalysts for diesel engines than those currently available, and in particular, to find a viable alternative to platinum, which is, of course, a very expensive raw material,” says Ib Chorkendorff.

“We are focusing on nanoparticles because we want to maximize the surface area, but objects don’t like surfaces—two drops of water merge into one large drop to reduce surface energy, for example. The art is to create small reactive nanoparticles and keep them apart so they don’t merge together. The greater the surface area, the less material you require,” explains Ib Chorkendorff.

Each time you optimize the platinum surface, you save material and thus achieve greater effect at less cost.

Dinex A/S, the company looking to transform the research behind the new technology into new catalysts for the global market, has found it invaluable working with someone of Chorkendorff’s calibre:

“We believe that collaboration between the business sector and the research community is a win-win situation. Such partnerships hold huge untapped potential,” says Lars Christian Larsen, R & D Director, Dinex.

With the assistance of Ib Chorkendorff and the rest of the team, he hopes to achieve a 25% platinum reduction, which will rank Dinex among global leaders in catalyst production.

The project will be launched in the autumn, and in addition to Ib Chorkendorffs 25 years of experience and insight, DTU’s contribution will include a PhD student or a postdoc.

Article from DTUavisen No. 7, September 2014.

Source: Technical University of Denmark

CdTe ink makes high-efficiency solar cell


Chicago CdE pic1Cadmium telluride nanocrystal colloids could be used as the photovoltaic “ink” in solar cells, according to new experiments by researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the University of Chicago. Devices made using CdTe layers as thin as just 330 nm have a sunlight-to-power conversion of efficiency of 10% while those made with 550 nm thick layers have an efficiency of more than 11%. They also boast an impressive blue light response of nearly 80% external quantum efficiency – something that allows for improved photocurrent from these cells.

Thin-film photovoltaic materials could be alternatives to traditional silicon-based solar-cell materials because they absorb sunlight more efficiently – thanks to the fact that they have direct rather than indirect bandgaps. This means that less material, weight for weight, is needed to absorb the same amount of solar radiation. What is more, thin-film photovoltaics, such as cadmium telluride, can be easily and cheaply deposited onto a wide range of flexible and rigid substrates in solution.

Chicago CdE pic1

Spheres, faceted nanocrystals and tetrapods

There is a problem, however, in that the power-conversion efficiencies of thin-film materials that have been processed from solution are typically lower than those produced by traditional vapour deposition techniques.

Now, a team led by Dmitri Talapin of Chicago and Joseph Luther at NREL has succeeded in synthesizing CdTe inks from solutions of nanocrystals that have controllable shapes, ranging from spheres to tetrapods, and controllable crystallographic phases: wurtzite and zincblende. The researchers found that the best performing solar-cell devices are those containing tetrapodal-shaped nanocrystals in the wurtzite phase. Following a relatively low-temperature short anneal, these crystals undergo a critical phase change from wurtzite to zincblende that coincides with the small grain soluble nanocrystals growing into large grain, photovoltaic quality, CdTe.

Layer-by-layer approach

“Rather than depositing the whole CdTe layer at once, we use a layer-by-layer approach to build up a very thin layer of the CdTe and control the grain growth,” explains team member Ryan Crisp, graduate student at the Colorado School of Mines. “We then deposit more nanocrystals and repeat the process until we reach the desired layer thickness.”

As the nanocrystals change phase and sinter (or grow) together, they form polycrystalline films, he adds. These films are unique in that they are exceptionally smooth and uniform (compared with films that are produced by traditional sublimation methods). “This means that further layers have a ‘nice’ surface on which we can deposit without fear of encountering short-circuits caused by irregularities and defects,” he tells nanotechweb.org.

“The crystal grains in our material extend from the top to the bottom in a finished device, allowing us to efficiently extract charge carriers (in this case photoexcited electrons) from it. We are able to do this since the electrons do not encounter many grain boundaries – something that minimizes their chance of being ‘lost’ to defect traps as they travel through the structure.”

Higher-efficiency, lower-cost devices

Solar cells made from the CdTe ink boast a sunlight-to-power conversion efficiency of 10–12%. This value might be further improved by placing the ink on the right type of substrate. “By employing this inexpensive solution-processed ink (instead of the more expensive, and slower throughput thin-film photovoltaic materials produced by sublimation), we can make potentially higher-efficiency, lower-cost devices,” says Crisp. “We explored several device structures and found that the ink-based films perform better in a simple ITO/CdTe/ZnO/Al structure rather than the traditional structure with CdS and ZnTe contacts.”

The main limiting factor to improving device efficiency is increasing the open circuit voltage. “We now plan on improving the quality of the ITO/CdTe interface (used in our highest efficiency device) to do this – and in particular by better controlling the energy levels (that is the band alignment) of the materials at this interface,” adds Crisp.

The new photovoltaic ink is described in ACS Nano

Electron microscopes take first measurements of nanoscale chemistry in action


electronmicrScientists’ underwater cameras got a boost this summer from the Electron Microscopy Center at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory. Along with colleagues at the University of Manchester, researchers captured the world’s first real-time images and simultaneous chemical analysis of nanostructures while “underwater,” or in solution.

 

“This technique will allow chemists and materials scientists to explore never-before-measured stages of nanoscale processes in materials,” said Argonne materials scientist Nestor Zaluzec, one of the paper’s authors. Understanding how materials grow at the nanoscale level helps scientists tailor them for everything from batteries to solar cells.

Electron microscopes are a prized tool in a scientist’s toolbox because they can see far smaller structures than regular light or X-ray microscopes. They use electrons, which are hundreds of times smaller than the wavelengths of light, to map the landscape all the way down to molecules and even atoms.

“We’ve been taking images at the atomic and nanoscale for decades, but it’s usually done with the sample in a vacuum,” Zaluzec said. When you’re looking for , any extra molecules, even the ones in air, can cloud the picture.

But the most interesting objects or processes on Earth generally aren’t found in a vacuum, so scientists have also been pushing from the beginning to get analysis and images of materials while they’re in more natural environments.

Over the last decade, developments allowed scientists to take images of materials in solution, but getting chemical analysis at the same time remained inaccessible. Imagine how helpful it would be for trainers to be able to watch a baseball player pitch with simultaneous X-ray and MRI vision to watch how their muscles and bones deform under stress, or for cooks to be able to watch how the egg whites are interacting with baking powder in the cake as it bakes in the oven.

“What we need today is to be able to fully interrogate a material—not just see what it looks like, but also measure its electronic and chemical states and even physical properties, all in real time and at the highest resolution, all under environmental conditions,” Zaluzec said. “All of this helps us understand why materials behave the way they do, and ultimately, to improve their properties.”

Watch copper deposited in a chemical reaction at the nanoscale

Zaluzec and his collaborators reworked the staging of the so that the specialized detectors could take a clearer look at the sample. With this innovation, the team was finally able to obtain images as well as simultaneous chemical maps of where different elements are located in the sample. This lets scientists watch as nanostructures grow and change with time during chemical reactions.

The team is now working with the manufacturer Protochips Inc. to make this capability available to the scientific community.

Argonne scientist Dean Miller is already looking ahead to incorporate this capability into the next challenge: being able to take measurements with an electric voltage across the sample in liquids. This replicates the conditions under which, for example, the next generation of batteries will operate.

“Engineering new to address today’s societal problems is a complex and demanding agenda,” Zaluzec said. “Part of our job at the Argonne Electron Microscopy Center is to anticipate the next wave of scientific questions and problems and figure out ways to study them. To meet this challenge we are developing scientific tools to tackle both today’s and tomorrow’s challenges in a range of areas.”

The study, “Real-time imaging and local elemental analysis of in liquids,” was published in the journal Chemical Communications with researchers from the University of Manchester and BP.

Explore further: New technique efficiently resolves chemistry of nanoparticles

 

 

 

 

 

 

Novel Solar Cell Production Using X-Ray Imaging


X Ray Solar id37265The sharp X-ray vision of DESY’s research light source PETRA III paves the way for a new technique to produce cheap, flexible and versatile double solar cells. The method developed by scientists from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) in Roskilde can reliably produce efficient tandem plastic solar cells of many metres in length, as a team around senior researcher Jens W. Andreasen reports in the journal Advanced Energy Materials (“Enabling Flexible Polymer Tandem Solar Cells by 3D Ptychographic Imaging”).

 

The scientists used a production process, where the different layers of a polymer (plastic) solar cell are coated from various solutions onto a flexible substrate. This way, the solar cell can be produced fast and cheap in a roll-to-roll process and in almost any desired length – up to several kilometers long single solar cell modules have already been manufactured. However, the energy harvesting efficiency of this type of solar cell is not very high. To increase the efficiency, a DTU team around Frederik C. Krebs stacked two such solar cells onto each other. Each of these absorbs a different part of the solar spectrum, so that the resulting tandem polymer solar cell converts more of the incoming sunlight into electric energy. But the multilayer coating presents several new challenges, as Andreasen explained: “Lab studies have shown that already coated layers may be dissolved by the solvent from the following layer, causing complete failure of the solar cell.”

 

X Ray Solar id37265

Ptychographic phase contrast projection of the polymer tandem solar cell stack (two by four microns in size), showing the silver electrode (lower green band) with a polymer layer on top, the upper electrode (upper green band, with red) and the zinc oxide layer (narrow dark blue band) between the two solar cells. The green triangel on top of the sample is the cut-off of a wolfram pin used to manipulate the sample under a scanning electron microscope. (Image: Jens Wenzel Andreasen/DTU)

To prevent redissolution of the first solar cell, the scientists added a carefully composed protective intermediate coating between the two solar cells. The protective coating contains a layer made of zinc oxide (ZnO) that is just 40 nanometres thick – about a thousand times thinner than a human hair. To check shape and function of the protective coating and the other layers of the tandem solar cell, the scientists used the exceptionally sharp X-ray vision of DESY’s research light source PETRA III that can reveal finest details. “The solar cell structure is very delicate, consisting of twelve individual layers altogether.

Imaging the complete structure is challenging,” explained co-author Juliane Reinhardt from DESY’s experimental station P06 where the investigations were made. “And the sample was just two by four microns in size.” Still, with the brilliant X-ray beam from PETRA III, the researchers could peer into the layer structure in fine detail, using a technique called 3D ptychography. This method reconstructs the three-dimensional shape and chemistry of a sample from the way it diffracts the incoming X-rays. For a full 3D reconstruction a great number of overlapping X-ray diffraction images have to be recorded from all sides and angles. The advantage of ptychography is that it yields a higher resolution than would be possible with conventional X-ray imaging alone. And in contrast to electron microscopy, X-ray ptychography can also look deep inside the sample.

“With 3D ptychography, we were able to image the complete roll-to-roll coated tandem solar cell, showing, among other things, the integrity of the 40 nanometres thin zinc oxide layer in the protective coating that successfully preserved underlying layers from solution damage,” said DESY scientist Gerald Falkenberg, head of the experimental station P06. “These are the 3D ptychography measurements with the highest spatial resolution we have achieved so far. The results show that with the correct formulation of the intermediate layer, the underlying solar cell is protected from redissolution.”

The investigation paves the way to a possible industrial application of the new technique. “In a complex multilayer device like a polymer tandem solar cell, the device may fail in multiple ways,” Andreasen pointed out.

“What we were able to see with 3D ptychography was that the preparation of the substrate electrode combines the good conductivity of a coarsely structured silver electrode with the good film forming ability of a conducting polymer that infiltrates the silver electrode and forms a smooth surface for the coating of the subsequent layers.” This is what allows the coating of very thin layers, at very high speeds, still forming contiguous layers, without pinholes.

Looking into the complete structure can also provide valuable information for a possible optimization of the device and the production process. “In principle we make the devices without knowing what the internal structure looks like in detail. But knowing the structure tells us which parameters we can modify, and which factors are important for the device architecture, for example the special type of substrate electrode, and the formulation of the intermediate layer,” Andreasen explained.

“We were now able to verify that we can coat contiguous, homogeneous layers, roll-to-roll from solution, at speeds up to several meters per minute. We have shown that roll-to-roll processing of tandem solar cells is possible, with all of the layers roll-coated from solution, and that it is only possible using a specific formulation of the intermediate layer between the two sub-cells.”

The resulting polymer tandem solar cell converts 2.67 per cent of the incoming sunlight into electric energy, which is way below the efficiency of conventional solar cells. “The efficiency is low, compared to conventional solar cells, by a factor of 7 to 8, but one should consider that the production cost of this type of solar cell is several orders of magnitude lower than for conventional solar cells. This is the particular advantage of polymer solar cells,” explained Andreasen. “Furthermore, this is the first example of a roll-to-roll coated tandem solar cell where the efficiency of the tandem device actually exceeds that of the individual sub-cell devices by themselves.”
Source: DESY

 

 

 

 

 

 

Genesis Nanotech ‘News and Updates’ – September 9, 2014


Nano Sensor for Cancer 50006

Genesis Nanotech ‘News and Updates’ – September 9, 2014

Follow This Link: https://paper.li/GenesisNanoTech/1354215819#

Or by Individual Articles:

Transfer Printing Methods for Flexible Thin Film Solar Cells: Basic Concepts and Working Principles – ACS Nano (ACS Publications)

Nanotechnology to slash NOx and “cancerous” emissions

Tumor-Homing, Size-Tunable Clustered Nanoparticles for Anticancer Therapeutics – ACS Nano (ACS Publications)

New Detector Capable of Capturing Terahertz Waves at Room Temperature

Quotable Coach: Plug In And Participate – The Multiplier Mindset: Insights & Tips for Entrepreneurs

Genesis Nanotechnology – “Great Things from Small Things!”

10 Emerging Technologies That Will Change/ Have Changed (?) Your World


CNT multiprv1_jpg71ec6d8c-a1e2-4de6-acb6-f1f1b0a66d46LargerNote to Readers: It is interesting (To Us at GNT anyway) that the BOLD predictions for technology, should always be IOHO “re-visited”. What follows is the “Top 10 List” from 2004. 10 Years … How have the technology “fortune-tellers” done?!

 

 

10 Emerging Technologies That Will Change Your World

Technology Review unveils its annual selection of hot new technologies about to affect our lives in revolutionary ways-and profiles the innovators behind them.

Full Article Link Here: http://www2.technologyreview.com/featured-story/402435/10-emerging-technologies-that-will-change-your/

Technology Review: February 2004

With new technologies constantly being invented in universities and companies across the globe, guessing which ones will transform computing, medicine, communication, and our energy infrastructure is always a challenge. Nonetheless, Technology Review’s editors are willing to bet that the 10 emerging technologies highlighted in this special package will affect our lives and work in revolutionary ways-whether next year or next decade. For each, we’ve identified a researcher whose ideas and efforts both epitomize and reinvent his or her field. The following snapshots of the innovators and their work provide a glimpse of the future these evolving technologies may provide.

10 Emerging Technologies That Will Change Your World
Universal Translation
Synthetic Biology
Nanowires
T-Rays
Distributed Storage
RNAi Interference
Power Grid Control
Microfluidic Optical Fibers
Bayesian Machine Learning
Personal Genomics

Excerpt: Nanowires:

(Page 4 of 11)

PEIDONG YANG

Nanowires

Few emerging technologies have offered as much promise as nanotechnology, touted as the means of keeping the decades-long electronics shrinkfest in full sprint and transfiguring disciplines from power production to medical diagnostics. Companies from Samsung Electronics to Wilson Sporting Goods have invested in nanotech, and nearly every major university boasts a nanotechnology initiative. Red hot, even within this R&D frenzy, are the researchers learning to make the nanoscale wires that could be key elements in many working nanodevices.

“This effort is critical for the success of the whole [enterprise of] nanoscale science and technology,” says nanowire pioneer Peidong Yang of the University of California, Berkeley. Yang has made exceptional progress in fine-tuning the properties of nanowires. Compared to other nanostructures, “nanowires will be much more versatile, because we can achieve so many different properties just by varying the composition,” says Charles Lieber, a Harvard University chemist who has also been propelling nanowire development.