Stanford and Oxford scientists report New Perovskite low cost solar cell design could outperform existing commercial technologies: Video

stanford-oxfoed-perovskite_news-960x640Researchers have created a new type of solar cell that replaces silicon with a crystal called perovskite. This design converts sunlight to electricity at efficiencies similar to current technology but at much lower cost.

A new design for solar cells that uses inexpensive, commonly available materials could rival and even outperform conventional cells made of silicon.

Stanford and Oxford have created novel solar cells from crystalline perovskite that could outperform existing silicon cells on the market today. This design converts sunlight to electricity at efficiencies of 20 percent, similar to current technology but at much lower cost.


Writing in the Oct. 21 edition of Science, researchers from Stanford and Oxford describe using tin and other abundant elements to create novel forms of perovskite – a photovoltaic crystalline material that’s thinner, more flexible and easier to manufacture than silicon crystals.

Video: Stanford and Oxford scientists have created novel solar cells from crystalline perovskite that could rival and even outperform existing silicon cells on the market today. The new design converts sunlight to electricity at efficiencies of 20 percent, similar to current technology but at much lower cost.

In the video, Professor Michael McGehee and postdoctoral scholar Tomas Leijtens of Stanford describe the discovery, which could lead to thin-film solar cells with a record-setting 30% efficiency.

“Perovskite semiconductors have shown great promise for making high-efficiency solar cells at low cost,” said study co-author Michael McGehee, a professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford. “We have designed a robust, all-perovskite device that converts sunlight into electricity with an efficiency of 20.3 percent, a rate comparable to silicon solar cells on the market today.”

The new device consists of two perovskite solar cells stacked in tandem. Each cell is printed on glass, but the same technology could be used to print the cells on plastic, McGehee added.

“The all-perovskite tandem cells we have demonstrated clearly outline a roadmap for thin-film solar cells to deliver over 30 percent efficiency,” said co-author Henry Snaith, a professor of physics at Oxford. “This is just the beginning.”

Tandem technology

Previous studies showed that adding a layer of perovskite can improve the efficiency of silicon solar cells. But a tandem device consisting of two all-perovskite cells would be cheaper and less energy-intensive to build, the authors said.

Stanford post-doctoral scholar Tomas Leijtens and Professor Mike McGehee examine perovskite tandem solar cells.

Stanford post-doctoral scholar Tomas Leijtens and Professor Mike McGehee examine perovskite tandem solar cells. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

“A silicon solar panel begins by converting silica rock into silicon crystals through a process that involves temperatures above 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,600 degrees Celsius),” said co-lead author Tomas Leijtens, a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford. “Perovskite cells can be processed in a laboratory from common materials like lead, tin and bromine, then printed on glass at room temperature.”

But building an all-perovskite tandem device has been a difficult challenge. The main problem is creating stable perovskite materials capable of capturing enough energy from the sun to produce a decent voltage.

A typical perovskite cell harvests photons from the visible part of the solar spectrum. Higher-energy photons can cause electrons in the perovskite crystal to jump across an “energy gap” and create an electric current.

A solar cell with a small energy gap can absorb most photons but produces a very low voltage. A cell with a larger energy gap generates a higher voltage, but lower-energy photons pass right through it.

An efficient tandem device would consist of two ideally matched cells, said co-lead author Giles Eperon, an Oxford postdoctoral scholar currently at the University of Washington.

“The cell with the larger energy gap would absorb higher-energy photons and generate an additional voltage,” Eperon said. “The cell with the smaller energy gap can harvest photons that aren’t collected by the first cell and still produce a voltage.”

Cross-section of new tandem solar cell

Cross-section of a new tandem solar cell designed by Stanford and Oxford scientists. The brown upper layer of perovskite captures low-energy lightwaves, and the red perovskite layer captures high-energy waves. (Image credit: Scanning electron microscopy image by Rebecca Belisle and Giles Eperon)

The smaller gap has proven to be the bigger challenge for scientists. Working together, Eperon and Leijtens used a unique combination of tin, lead, cesium, iodine and organic materials to create an efficient cell with a small energy gap.

“We developed a novel perovskite that absorbs lower-energy infrared light and delivers a 14.8 percent conversion efficiency,” Eperon said. “We then combined it with a perovskite cell composed of similar materials but with a larger energy gap.”

The result: A tandem device consisting of two perovskite cells with a combined efficiency of 20.3 percent.

“There are thousands of possible compounds for perovskites,” Leijtens added, “but this one works very well, quite a bit better than anything before it.”

Seeking stability

One concern with perovskites is stability. Rooftop solar panels made of silicon typically last 25 years or more. But some perovskites degrade quickly when exposed to moisture or light. In previous experiments, perovskites made with tin were found to be particularly unstable.

To assess stability, the research team subjected both experimental cells to temperatures of 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius) for four days.

“Crucially, we found that our cells exhibit excellent thermal and atmospheric stability, unprecedented for tin-based perovskites,” the authors wrote.

“The efficiency of our tandem device is already far in excess of the best tandem solar cells made with other low-cost semiconductors, such as organic small molecules and microcrystalline silicon,” McGehee said. “Those who see the potential realize that these results are amazing.”

The next step is to optimize the composition of the materials to absorb more light and generate an even higher current, Snaith said.

“The versatility of perovskites, the low cost of materials and manufacturing, now coupled with the potential to achieve very high efficiencies, will be transformative to the photovoltaic industry once manufacturability and acceptable stability are also proven,” he said.

Co-author Stacey Bent, a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford, provided key insights on tandem-fabrication techniques. Other Stanford coauthors are Kevin Bush, Rohit Prasanna, Richard May, Axel Palmstrom, Daniel J. Slotcavage and Rebecca Belisle. Oxford co-authors are Thomas Green, Jacob Tse-Wei Wang, David McMeekin, George Volonakis, Rebecca Milot, Jay Patel, Elizabeth S. Parrott, Rebecca Sutton, Laura Herz, Michael Johnston and Henry Snaith. Other co-authors are Bert Conings, Aslihan Babayigit and Hans-Gerd Boyen of Hasselt University in Belgium, and Wen Ma and Farhad Moghadam of SunPreme Inc.

Funding was provided by the Graphene Flagship, The Leverhulme Trust, U.K. Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, European Union Seventh Framework Programme, Horizon 2020, U.S. Office of Naval Research and the Global Climate and Energy Project at Stanford.


MIT.nano ~ Inspiring Innovation at the ‘nano-scale’ … Making Our World Better – One Atom at a Time: Video



MIT-nanoMIT is constructing, at the heart of the campus, a new 200,000-square-foot center for nanoscience and nanotechnology. This advanced facility will be a place for tinkering with atoms, one by one—and for constructing, from these fantastically small building blocks, the innovations of the future. Watch the MIT Video then Read More …


Read More

“Science is not only the disciple of Reason, but also one of Romance and Passion ~ Stephen B. Hawking

Nanotechnology is so small it’s measured in billionths of meters, and it is revolutionizing every aspect of our lives … Dictionary Series - Science: nanotechnology

The past 70 years have seen the way we live and work transformed by two tiny inventions. The electronic transistor and the microchip are what make all modern electronics possible, and since their development in the 1940s they have been getting smaller. Today, one chip can contain as many as 5 billion transistors. If cars had followed the same development pathway, we would now be able to drive them at 300,000 mph and they would cost just $6.00 (US) each.AmorChem Nanotechnology-300x200

But to keep this progress going we need to be able to create circuits on the extremely small, nanometer scale. A nanometer (nm) is one billionth of a meter and so this kind of engineering involves manipulating individual atoms. We can do this, for example, by firing a beam of electrons at a material, or by vaporizing it and depositing the resulting gaseous atoms layer by layer onto a base.

Read More: Nanotechnology is Changing EVERYTHING … Health Care, Clean Energy, Clean Water, Quantum Computing …

Be sure to ‘Follow Us’ on Twitter for the Latest ‘Nano’ Updates, News and Research:

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Stanford University: Solving the “Storage Problem” for Renewable Energies: A New Cost Effective Re-Chargeable Aluminum Battery


One of the biggest missing links in renewable energy is affordable and high performance energy storage, but a new type of battery developed at Stanford University could be the solution.

Solar energy generation works great when the sun is shining [duh…like taking a Space Mission to the Sun .. but only at night! :-)] and wind energy is awesome when it’s windy (double duh…), but neither is very helpful for the grid after dark and when the air is still. That’s long been one of the arguments against renewable energy, even if there are plenty of arguments for developing additional solar and wind energy installations without large-scale energy storage solutions in place. However, if low-cost and high performance batteries were readily available, it could go a long way toward a more sustainable and cleaner grid, and a pair of Stanford engineers have developed what could be a viable option for grid-scale energy storage.

With three relatively abundant and low-cost materials, namely aluminum, graphite, and urea, Stanford chemistry Professor Hongjie Dai and doctoral candidate Michael Angell have created a rechargeable battery that is nonflammable, very efficient, and has a long lifecycle.

“So essentially, what you have is a battery made with some of the cheapest and most abundant materials you can find on Earth. And it actually has good performance. Who would have thought you could take graphite, aluminum, urea, and actually make a battery that can cycle for a pretty long time?” – Dai

A previous version of this rechargeable aluminum battery was found to be efficient and to have a long life, but it also employed an expensive electrolyte, whereas the latest iteration of the aluminum battery uses urea as the base for the electrolyte, which is already produced in large quantities for fertilizer and other uses (it’s also a component of urine, but while a pee-based home battery might seem like just the ticket, it’s probably not going to happen any time soon).

According to Stanford, the new development marks the first time urea has been used in a battery, and because urea isn’t flammable (as lithium-ion batteries are), this makes it a great choice for home energy storage, where safety is of utmost importance. And the fact that the new battery is also efficient and affordable makes it a serious contender when it comes to large-scale energy storage applications as well.

“I would feel safe if my backup battery in my house is made of urea with little chance of causing fire.” – Dai

According to Angell, using the new battery as grid storage “is the main goal,” thanks to the high efficiency and long life cycle, coupled with the low cost of its components. By one metric of efficiency, called Coulombic efficiency, which measures the relationship between the unit of charge put into the battery and the output charge, the new battery is rated at 99.7%, which is high.WEF solarpowersavemoney-628x330

In order to meet the needs of a grid-scale energy storage system, a battery would need to last at least a decade, and while the current urea-based aluminum ion batteries have been able to last through about 1500 charge cycles, the team is still looking into improving its lifetime in its goal of developing a commercial version.

The team has published some of its results in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, under the title “High Coulombic efficiency aluminum-ion battery using an AlCl3-urea ionic liquid analog electrolyte.”


PNL Battery Storage Systems 042016 rd1604_batteriesGrid-scale energy storage to manage our electricity supply would benefit from batteries that can withstand repeated cycling of discharging and charging. Current lithium-ion batteries have lifetimes of only 1,000-3,000 cycles. Now a team of researchers from Stanford University, Taiwan, and China have made a research prototype of an inexpensive, safe aluminum-ion battery that can withstand 7,500 cycles. In the aluminum-ion battery, one electrode is made from affordable aluminum, and the other is composed of carbon in the form of graphite.

Read: A step towards new, faster-charging, and safer batteries


MIT: The Internet of Things ~ A RoadMap to a Connected World And  … The Super-Capacitors and Batteries Needed to Power ‘The Internet of Things”

The Internet of Things: Roadmap to a Connected World ~ The Sensors ~ The Super Capacitors and Batteries Needed to Power the IoT

Provided by: MIT PE: Dr. S. Sarma

The rapidly increasing number of interconnected devices and systems today brings both benefits and concerns. In this column and a new MIT Professional Education class, the head of MIT’s open and digital learning efforts discusses how to successfully navigate the IoT.

What if every vehicle, home appliance, heating system and light switch were connected to the Internet? Today, that’s not such a stretch of the imagination.

Modern cars, for instance, already have hundreds of sensors and multiple computers connected over an internal network. And that’s just one example of the 6.4 billion connected “things” in use worldwide this year, according to research by Gartner Inc. DHL and Cisco Systems offer even higher estimates—their 2015 Trend Report sets the current number of connected devices at about 15 billion, amidst industry expectations that the tally will increase to 50 billion by 2020.

The Internet of Things (IoT)—a sophisticated network of objects embedded with electronic systems that enable them to collect and exchange data—is disrupting technology and changing the way we live. 

Fewer than two decades ago, if I’d predicted that the IoT would transform the auto-rental industry, people would have laughed. Yet here we are now in the age of Zipcar. By pioneering a range of connected technologies, the car-sharing company has unlocked greater convenience for customers and kick-started the sharing economy. Now the functionality of IoT-enabled cars is transforming the auto industry—from the ultra-connected Tesla to Google’s self-driving cars—and Uber hopes one day to chauffeur you to your destination in an autonomous vehicle.

The IoT is ultimately bound to affect almost every aspect of daily life. In fact, I encourage you to try to figure out where the IoT will not be. But how “smart” is it to let the IoT pervade everything in our lives, without active and purposeful design?

Read About: How Smart-Nano Materials will Change the World Around Us

Watch a Video Presentation About a New Energy Company Making the Super-Capacitors and Batteries that will Power the IoT


The IoT: Then and Now

About 18 years ago, as a mechanical engineering professor at MIT, I worked with my colleagues to launch the research effort that laid some of the groundwork for the IoT.

In those early days, our goals were to help implement the radio-frequency identification (RFID) systems that would become integral to connected devices, and to work on developing a standard for data from those devices. At that time, we were excited by the potential for a world of networked things.

Since then, the IoT has expanded into many corners of society and industry, but I’ve become increasingly concerned about its security implications.

How ‘smart’ is it to let the Internet of Things pervade everything in our lives, without active and purposeful design?

I will address such concerns in my new MIT Professional Education online course, Internet of Things: Roadmap to a Connected World.

While we’ll focus on the future of IoT and its business potential, we’ll also tackle its significant challenges, which range from security, privacy, and authenticity issues to the desirable features of a distributed architecture for a network of things.

The IoT’s underlying challenge is that there are no clear and agreed-upon architectures for building connected systems. Your light switch may have one level of data-security encryption, while your TV remote control has another.
Wireless protocols may differ, too: One device might use ZigBee while others rely on Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Bridges to connect across all these options will proliferate. And even if independent systems are secure, we will have to cobble them together—and the resulting chain will only be as strong as the weakest link.

Controlling the Chaos

By creating new procedures, standards, and best practices, we can bring order to the disorder the IoT generates. As the IoT grows, we should focus on three primary issues:

1. Agreement on system architecture. Today, the IoT is an abstract collection of uses and products. It’s imperative that we establish paradigms for effective implementation and use.

2. Development of open standards reflecting the best architectural choices. Standards for communication between connected things do exist. But there are simply too many standards, each serving a different purpose. The result: a series of silos. For instance, think about how the blood oxygen sensor on a patient’s finger can be affected by what’s happening with the blood pressure monitor on his or her arm. Neither device is necessarily designed to share data.

Open standards, rather than a series of private ones, are necessary to facilitate genuine inter-connectedness. But the deeper question is how and why we need to make these connections, as well as how to extract value from them. This is where cloud computing comes in. Perhaps instead of having the sensors talk to each other directly, they need to talk in the cloud. (I’ll discuss this more in our online course.)

3. Creation of a “test bed” where best practices can be designed and perfected. While the first two needs are best handled by industry, the test bed platform is best created by the government. Remember that the current Internet would not have existed without the early leadership of the U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency (now called the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.) Today, the government could create a similar agency to incubate academic institutions, labs, and companies testing and working on best practices for the IoT.

A ‘Smarter’ Future  
No question about it: The IoT will influence everything from robots and retail to buildings and banking. To leverage the power of the IoT responsibly and profitably, you need to develop and implement your own IoT technologies, solutions, and applications.

Dr. Sanjay Sarma: MIT Professional Education Course: Internet of Things: Roadmap to a Connected World. This six-week course is designed to help you better understand the IoT—and, ultimately, harness its power. 

WEF: Was 2016 the Year We Turned the Corner? Are Renewables Now Cheaper than Fossil Fuels?

In 2016, after decades of painstaking work to deliver environmental progress based on government and corporate cooperation, we saw important political shifts in the world. The shocks of Brexit and the US election are the most visible part of this, but the signs are more widespread than the rise of populism, driven by stagnant wages and deep divisions among society.

I have felt the dismay in those who worked so hard to deliver the Paris Agreement, and their sense of concern that in this newly shaped environment we will fall back. We all knew in 2015 that we were setting a course and a destination, but that the speed of the shift was going to have to be iterative, with increasing cycles of ambition.

The fear is that this will now become a weak point, and that the ambition will not materialize. That would be highly dangerous; missing a target on climate and potentially unleashing natural feedback loops from which we may not recover is not that much better than never having set one at all.
I hear these concerns, and I understand them, but I myself take a different view.
There are three parts to my response.

The falling cost of renewables

First, we should remember that the Paris Agreement resulted in large extent from a deep shift in the underlying economics of our society. In recent years we have seen dramatic drops in the cost of renewable energy, to the point that solar is now the cheapest form of new energy, and the world record for unsubsidised power from solar is now below $30 per megawatt hour.

This makes renewables strong enough to permanently disrupt the monopoly of fossil fuel based energy around the world and indeed, fully half of the investment in new energy in 2015 went into renewables. That progress is being mirrored in the development of battery storage capacity, and is set to radically transform the world’s transportation sector, which currently accounts for over 50% of fossil fuel use. This is part of a long-term trend that is still unfolding as further breakthroughs in technology continue to bring prices down and capacity up.
Further, even the economics of resource exploitation are changing; in December 2016 the winning bid for a potential sea-floor development for a US offshore wind farm provided the US federal government over double what it got for new oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico earlier in the year.

Of course, a country could provide massive public subsidy for coal to try to protect the industry from the underlying economic trends, while simultaneously removing support for renewables and we may well see that, but the result of such an approach is questionable. Ultimately, a country cannot withstand the global shift forever, in particular with the state of public finances and the need to provide wage growth and jobs, any country that resists this trajectory also relinquishes potential competitive advantage in the new marketplace and in the long run, will only damage itself.

All on the same team

Second, there is overwhelming evidence now that people everywhere want their elected leaders to provide them with a safe and stable environment, including limiting climate change. Those who voted for populist candidates last year, and may do so again in 2017, are not voting for polluted air and health risks for their children. On 8 November, 2016, US citizens voted for more than $200 billion in local measures, funded by their own local tax dollars, to improve quality of life and reduce carbon pollution.

Ultimately we must understand that averting climate change is not part of the partisan debate. We are all united in wanting to live in a safe, stable environment and to provide our families with good jobs that will serve the economy of tomorrow. There is no us vs them when it comes to delivering a low-carbon future. Paris was achieved for everyone, and we must not let that fall from our minds or allow ourselves to be drawn into narratives of political divide.

Thirdly, leadership on climate change is proving to be remarkably resilient, even in this mixed up year, and it is evident and building from all sectors of society. For example:

National leaders are meeting potential setbacks with ambition, such as the 47 developing countries that upped their climate change plans to go to 100% renewable energy, well beyond what their NDC’s lay out, a week after the US election. The Indian government then forecast that India will exceed the renewable energy targets it set in Paris by nearly half, three years ahead of schedule. India predicts that 57% of its total electricity capacity will come from non-fossil fuel sources by 2027. The Paris Agreement target was 40% by 2030.

States and cities are continuing to lead the way. One hundred and sixty five states and regions in 33 countries representing one billion people and $25 trillion in GDP (35% of total GDP), have committed to transforming their economies to stay under the 2°C limit as part of the Under2MOU. The C40 cities, in which 1 in 12 people worldwide live, have adopted 2020 as the deadline to turn the corner on their emissions as part of plans to ensure their cities remain competitive, attractive and resilient. This leadership at the city level will deepen and grow with the announcement of the Global Covenant of Mayors as a merger of the Global Compact and the EU Covenant of Mayors, and will begin a period of significant expansion later this year.

The private sector is also not slowing down. Close to 90 multi-national companies have committed to using 100% renewable energy, creating incentive and demand for further progress. Further, and very importantly, over 200 businesses have set science-based targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in a manner that is sufficient given the scale of the challenge. We are even seeing high emitting industries such as the aviation industry begin to challenge themselves with limits on emissions.

Financial institutions already recognize the risk to their clients and beneficiaries of not participating in the transition to the low carbon economy. In October 2016 Société Générale joined the ranks of financial institutions that have committed to no longer finance new coal-fired power plant projects, and align their financing and investments with a 2°C climate pathway.

The fossil fuel divestment movement just passed the $5 trillion threshold across 688 institutions in 76 countries, and in the US alone, sustainable, responsible and impact investing assets have grown by 33% in just two years to $8.72 trillion.

Importantly, the financial industry is also moving forward with recommendations laid out by the Task Force for Climate-Related Financial Disclosure that should be adopted by the G20 in June. The recommendations will drive better accountability and transparency and ensure that business plans are stress-tested against the 2°C target.

These steps alone are not enough to achieve the Paris goals, but they are vital signals of intent, and show us what is possible with a strong vision and commitment. The benefits are already being felt in a steady increase in secure, long-term renewable-related jobs and reduced carbon pollution.

As the groundswell of momentum towards the Paris Agreement rose in 2015, global carbon intensity fell by a record-breaking 2.8%, and many emerging economies saw big reductions in their coal consumption.

At the same time global GDP grew 3.1%. That was the third year in a row that we glimpsed a world that has decoupled economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions.
Our ability to solve the challenge of climate change, which is also a challenge of energy, food security, immigration, health and fair economic growth, especially for the world’s most vulnerable people, is very strong. We must remain optimistic and realistic, pragmatic and visionary. We need to work together in radical collaboration, reaching out across the divides that have grown within our societies.

The next five years will make the difference, and this incredible opportunity demands immediate and urgent responsive leadership from us all. Despite the hurdles we have faced and will continue to face, the overlaying imperatives for achieving a long-term climate-safe world are on everyone’s side. I urge everyone to raise ambition so that we can go further, faster together.

Nanotechnology is Changing EVERYTHING … Health Care, Clean Energy, Clean Water, Quantum Computing …




“Science is not only the disciple of Reason, but also one of Romance and Passion ~ Stephen B. Hawking



Nanotechnology is so small it’s measured in billionths of meters, and it is revolutionizing every aspect of our lives … 

The past 70 years have seen the way we live and work transformed by two tiny inventions. The electronic transistor and the microchip are what make all modern electronics possible, and since their development in the 1940s they have been getting smaller. Today, one chip can contain as many as 5 billion transistors. If cars had followed the same development pathway, we would now be able to drive them at 300,000 mph and they would cost just $6.00 (US) each.AmorChem Nanotechnology-300x200

But to keep this progress going we need to be able to create circuits on the extremely small, nanometer scale. A nanometer (nm) is one billionth of a meter and so this kind of engineering involves manipulating individual atoms. We can do this, for example, by firing a beam of electrons at a material, or by vaporizing it and depositing the resulting gaseous atoms layer by layer onto a base.

The real challenge is using such techniques reliably to manufacture working nanoscale devices. The physical properties of matter, such as its melting point, electrical conductivity and chemical reactivity, become very different at the nanoscale, so shrinking a device can affect its performance. If we can master this technology, however, then we have the opportunity to improve not just electronics but all sorts of areas of modern life.

Doctors inside your body

Wearable fitness technology means we can monitor our health by strapping gadgets to ourselves. There are even prototype electronic tattoos that can sense our vital signs. But by scaling down this technology, we could go further by implanting or injecting tiny sensors inside our bodies. This would capture much more detailed information with less hassle to the patient, enabling doctors to personalize their treatment.

The possibilities are endless, ranging from monitoring inflammation and post-surgery recovery to more exotic applications whereby electronic devices actually interfere with our body’s signals for controlling organ function. Although these technologies might sound like a thing of the far future, multi-billion healthcare firms such as GlaxoSmithKline are already working on ways to develop so-called “electroceuticals”.

Sensors, sensors, everywhere

These sensors rely on newly-invented nanomaterials and manufacturing techniques to make them smaller, more complex and more energy efficient. For example, sensors with very fine features can now be printed in large quantities on flexible rolls of plastic at low cost. This opens up the possibility of placing sensors at lots of points over critical infrastructure to constantly check that everything is running correctly. Bridges, aircraft and even nuclear power plants could benefit.

Read More: Nanotechnology cancer treatment tested with ‘astounding’ results




Self-healing structures

If cracks do appear then nanotechnology could play a further role. Changing the structure of materials at the nanoscale can give them some amazing properties – by giving them a texture that repels water, for example. In the future, nanotechnology coatings or additives will even have the potential to allow materials to “heal” when damaged or worn. For example, dispersing nanoparticles throughout a material means that they can migrate to fill in any cracks that appear. This could produce self-healing materials for everything from aircraft cockpits to microelectronics, preventing small fractures from turning into large, more problematic cracks.

Making big data possible

All these sensors will produce more information than we’ve ever had to deal with before – so we’ll need the technology to process it and spot the patterns that will alert us to problems. The same will be true if we want to use the “big data” from traffic sensors to help manage congestion and prevent accidents, or prevent crime by using statistics to more effectively allocate police resources.

Here, nanotechnology is helping to create ultra-dense memory that will allow us to store this wealth of data. But it’s also providing the inspiration for ultra-efficient algorithms for processing, encrypting and communicating data without compromising its reliability. Nature has several examples of big-data processes efficiently being performed in real-time by tiny structures, such as the parts of the eye and ear that turn external signals into information for the brain.

Computer architectures inspired by the brain could also use energy more efficiently and so would struggle less with excess heat – one of the key problems with shrinking electronic devices further.

Renewable Energy Pix

Also Read: Can nanotechnology solve the energy crisis?   …

The late Richard Smalley, often considered to be one of the fathers of nanotechnology following his Nobel Prize-winning work on fullerenes, had a keen interest in energy. In many presentations he would ask the audience to call out what they considered to be the most pressing issues facing humanity. The answers were often similar to those identified in the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report, including persistent worries such as disease, clean water, poverty, inequality and access to resources. Smalley would then rearrange the list to put energy at the top and proceed to explain how a happy, healthy world of 9 billion could be achieved if we could only fix the problem of providing cheap and abundant clean energy.


Tackling climate change

The fight against climate change means we need new ways to generate and use electricity, and nanotechnology is already playing a role. It has helped create batteries that can store more energy for electric cars and has enabled solar panels to convert more sunlight into electricity.

The common trick in both applications is to use nanotexturing or nanomaterials (for example nanowires or carbon nanotubes) that turn a flat surface into a three-dimensional one with a much greater surface area. This means that there is more space for the reactions that enable energy storage or generation to take place, so the devices operate more efficiently

In the future, nanotechnology could also enable objects to harvest energy from their environment. New nano-materials and concepts are currently being developed that show potential for producing energy from movement, light, variations in temperature, glucose and other sources with high conversion efficiency.


MIT: Seeking sustainable solutions through Nanotechnology – Engineer’s designs may help purify water, diagnose disease in remote regions of world.



Read Genesis Nanotech Online ~ Stanford team demonstrates a graphene-based thermal-to-electricity conversion technology + More News


Global Nano II 041316 41hQZPuT5NL._SX298_BO1,204,203,200_


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New class of materials could revolutionize biomedical, alternative energy industries: Cancer Therapies ~ Low Cost Solar Cells

poly-new-material-170125145735_1_540x360Polyarylboranes are a new class of materials that could be used in biomedical, personal computer and alternative energy applications. Credit: Mark Lee

Polyhedral boranes, or clusters of boron atoms bound to hydrogen atoms, are transforming the biomedical industry. These humanmade materials have become the basis for the creation of cancer therapies, enhanced drug delivery and new contrast agents needed for radioimaging and diagnosis. Now, a researcher at the University of Missouri has discovered an entirely new class of materials based on boranes that might have widespread potential applications, including improved diagnostic tools for cancer and other diseases as well as low-cost solar energy cells.

Mark Lee Jr., an assistant professor of chemistry in the MU College of Arts and Science, discovered the new class of hybrid nanomolecules by combining boranes with carbon and hydrogen. Boranes are chemically stable and have been tested at extreme heat of up to 900 degrees Celsius or 1,652 degrees Fahrenheit. It is the thermodynamic stability these molecules exhibit that make them non-toxic and attractive to the biomedical, personal computer and alternative energy industries.

“Despite their stability, we discovered that boranes react with aromatic hydrocarbons at mildly elevated temperatures, replacing many of the hydrogen atoms with rings of carbon,” Lee said. “Polyhedral boranes are incredibly inert, and it is their reaction with aromatic hydrocarbons like benzene that will make them more useful.”

Lee also showed that the attached hydrocarbons communicate with the borane core.

“The result is that these new materials are highly fluorescent in solution,” Lee said. “Fluorescence can be used in applications such as bio-imaging agents and organic light-emitting diodes like those in phones or television screens. Solar cells and other alternative energy sources also use fluorescence, so there are many practical uses for these new materials.”

Lee’s discovery is based on decades of research. Lee’s doctoral advisor, M. Frederick Hawthorne, MU Curators Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Radiology, discovered several of these boron clusters as early as 1959. In the past, boranes have been used for medical imaging, drug delivery, neutron-based treatments for cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, catalysis and molecular motors. Borane researchers also have created a specific type of nanoparticle that selectively targets cancer cells.

“When these molecules were discovered years ago we never could have imagined that they would lead to so many advancements in biomedicine,” Lee said. “Now, my group is expanding on the scope of this new chemistry to examine the possibilities. These new materials, called ‘polyarylboranes,’ are much broader than we imagined, and now my students are systematically exploring the use of these new clusters.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Missouri-Columbia. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Mark W. Lee. Catalyst-Free Polyhydroboration of Dodecaborate Yields Highly Photoluminescent Ionic Polyarylated Clusters. Angewandte Chemie, 2017; 129 (1): 144 DOI: 10.1002/ange.201608249

Europe’s nanotechnology ‘Sunflower’ project to design and use less toxic photovoltaic materials (w/video)

Posted: Jan 27, 2017

The University Institute for Advanced Materials Research at the Universitat Jaume I (UJI) has participated in the European Project Sunflower, whose objective has been the development of organic photovoltaic materials less toxic and viable for industrial production. 

A consortium of 17 research and business institutions has carried out this European project in the field of nanotechnology for four years and with an overall budget of 14.2 million euros, with funding of 10.1 million euros from the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Commission.

An introduction to Sunflower

Researchers at Sunflower have carried out several studies, among the most successful of which there are the design of an organic photovoltaic cell that can be printed and, consequently, has great versatility. In short, “we can assure that, thanks to these works, progress has been made in the achievement of solar cells with a good performance, low cost and very interesting architectural characteristics”, states the director of the University Institute for Advanced Materials Research (INAM) Juan Bisquert.

The goals of Sunflower were very ambitious, according to Antonio Guerrero, researcher at the Department of Physics integrated in the INAM, since it was intended “not only to improve the stability and efficiency of the photovoltaic materials, but also to reduce their costs of production”. 

In fact, according to Guerrero, “the processes for making the leap from the laboratory to the industrial scale have been improved because, among others, non-halogenated solvents have been used that are compatible with industrial production methods and that considerably reduce the toxic loading of halogenates”.

“The involvement of our institute in these projects has a great interest because one of our priority lines of research is the new materials to develop renewable energies,” says Bisquert, who is also professor of Applied Physics. In addition, these consortia involve the work of academia and industry. According to the researcher, “the transfer of knowledge to society is favoured and, in this case, we demonstrate that organic materials investigated for twenty years are already close to become viable technologies”.

Change of use of plastic materials

The participation of UJI researchers at Sunflower has focused on “improving the aspect of chemical reactivity of materials or structural compatibility”, says Germà García, professor of Applied Physics and member of INAM. 

“We have worked to move from the concepts of inorganic electronics to photovoltaic cells to the part of organic electronics,” he adds. The researchers wanted to take advantage of the faculties of absorption and conduction of plastic materials and to verify its capacity of solar production, an unusual use because normally they are used as an electrical insulation.

At UJI laboratories, they have studied the organic materials, very complex devices because they have up to eight nanometric layers. “We have made advanced electrical measurements to see where the energy losses were and thus to inform producers of materials and devices in order to improve the stability and efficiency of solar cells,” explains Guerrero.

Solar energy in everyday objects

“The potential applications of organic photovoltaic technology (OPV) are numerous, ranging from mobile consumer electronics to architecture,” says the project coordinator Giovanni Nisato, from the Swiss Centre for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM). 

“Thanks to the results we have obtained, printed organic photovoltaics will become part of our daily lives, and will allow us to use renewable energy and respect the environment with a positive impact on our quality of life,” according to Nisato.

The European Sunflower project has been developed over 48 months with the main objective of extending the life and cost-efficiency of organic photovoltaic technology through better process control and understanding of materials. In addition, in the opinion of those responsible, the results of this research could double the share of renewable energy in its energy matrix, from 14% in 2012 to 27-30% by 2030. In fact, Sunflower has facilitated a significant increase in the use of solar energy incorporated in everyday objects.

The Sunflower consortium consists of 17 partners from across Europe: CSEM (Switzerland), DuPont Teijin Films UK Ltd (UK), Amcor Flexibles Kreuzlingen AG (Switzerland), Agfa-Gevaert NV (Belgium), Fluxim AG (Switzerland), University of Antwerp (Belgium), SAES Getters SpA (Italy), Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche-ISMN-Bologna (Italy), Hochschule für Life Sciences FHNW (Switzerland), Chalmers Tekniska Hoegskola AB (Sweden), Fraunhofer Institut der angewandten Forschung zur Foerderung @EV (Germany), Linköpings Universitet (Sweden), Universitat Jaume I (Spain), Genes’Ink (France), National Centre for Scientific Research (France), Belectric OPV GmbH (Germany) and Merck KGaA (Germany).

Meanwhile, the main lines of research at the INAM focus on new types of materials for clean energy devices, solar cells based on low cost compounds, such as perovskite and other organic compounds. Furthermore, INAM studies the production of fuels from sunlight, breaking water molecules and producing hydrogen and other catalytic materials in the chemical aspect, all of great importance in the context of international research.

Source: Ruvid

Rice University: Graphene Quantum Dots take on a NEW ‘green’ recycling role


Graphene quantum dots may offer a simple way to recycle waste carbon dioxide into valuable fuel rather than release it into the atmosphere or bury it underground, according to Rice University scientists.

Nitrogen-doped (NGQDs) are an efficient electrocatalyst to make complex hydrocarbons from carbon dioxide, according to the research team led by Rice materials scientist Pulickel Ajayan. Using electrocatalysis, his lab has demonstrated the conversion of the greenhouse gas into small batches of ethylene and ethanol.

The research is detailed this week in Nature Communications.

Though they don’t entirely understand the mechanism, the researchers found NGQDs worked nearly as efficiently as copper, which is also being tested as a catalyst to reduce carbon dioxide into liquid fuels and chemicals. And NGQDs keep their catalytic activity for a long time, they reported.

“It is surprising because people have tried all different kinds of catalysts. And there are only a few real choices such as copper,” Ajayan said. “I think what we found is fundamentally interesting, because it provides an efficient pathway to screen new types of catalysts to convert carbon dioxide to higher-value products.”

Those problems are hardly a secret. Atmospheric carbon dioxide rose above 400 parts per million earlier this year, the highest it’s been in at least 800,000 years, as measured through ice-core analysis.

Carbon dots dash toward 'green' recycling role
Nitrogen-doped graphene quantum dots stand out from a substrate in a transmission electron microscope image. The dots are effective electrocatalysts that can reduce carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, to valuable hydrocarbons like ethylene …more


“If we can convert a sizable fraction of the carbon dioxide that is emitted, we could curb the rising levels of levels, which have been linked to climate change,” said co-author Paul Kenis of the University of Illinois.

In lab tests, NGQDs proved able to reduce carbon dioxide by up to 90 percent and convert 45 percent into either ethylene or alcohol, comparable to copper electrocatalysts.

Graphene quantum dots are atom-thick sheets of carbon atoms that have been split into particles about a nanometer thick and just a few nanometers wide. The addition of nitrogen atoms to the dots enables varying chemical reactions when an electric current is applied and a feedstock like carbon dioxide is introduced.

“Carbon is typically not a catalyst,” Ajayan said. “One of our questions is why this doping is so effective. When nitrogen is inserted into the hexagonal graphitic lattice, there are multiple positions it can take. Each of these positions, depending on where nitrogen sits, should have different . So it’s been a puzzle, and though people have written a lot of papers in the last five to 10 years on doped and defective carbon being catalytic, the puzzle is not really solved.”

Carbon dots dash toward 'green' recycling role
An illustration of a nitrogen-doped graphene quantum dot like those being tested at Rice University for use as catalysts to reduce carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into valuable hydrocarbons. Credit: Ajayan Group/Rice University


“Our findings suggest that the pyridinic nitrogen (a basic organic compound) sitting at the edge of graphene leads the catalytic conversion of to hydrocarbons,” said Rice postdoctoral researcher Jingjie Wu, co-lead author of the paper. “The next task is further increasing nitrogen concentration to help increase the yield of hydrocarbons.” (Article continued below)

rice QD finetuneWhat is … A Quantum Dot

A quantum dot is a semiconductor whose excitons are confined in all three spatial dimensions. As a result, they have properties that are between those of bulk semiconductors and those of discrete molecules. They were discovered by Louis E. Brus, who was then at Bell Labs. The term “Quantum Dot” was coined by Mark Reed.

Researchers have studied quantum dots in transistors, solar cells, LEDs, and diode lasers. They have also investigated quantum dots as agents for medical imaging and hope to use them as qubits.


(Article Continued) Ajayan noted that while electrocatalysis is effective at lab scales for now, industry relies on scalable thermal catalysis to produce fuels and chemicals. “For that reason, companies probably won’t use it any time soon for large-scale production. But electrocatalysis can be easily done in the lab, and we showed it will be useful in the development of new catalysts.”

Explore further: Catalyst could make production of key chemical more eco-friendly

More information: Jingjie Wu et al, A metal-free electrocatalyst for carbon dioxide reduction to multi-carbon hydrocarbons and oxygenates, Nature Communications (2016). DOI: 10.1038/ncomms13869