KACST conducted 193 research projects on nanotechnology in four years

Monday 12 November 2012

Last Update 12 November 2012 3:38 am


RIYADH: During a period of four years ending in 2011, King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) conducted 193 research projects in the field of nanotechnology. These cost SR 574 million, said KACST President Mohammed bin Ibrahim Alsuwaiyel yesterday.
Alsuwaiyel inaugurated the second Saudi International Nanotechnology Conference at KACST headquarters in Riyadh.
More than 300 delegates including speakers from various parts of the world took part in the conference.
Between 2007 and 2011, KACST initiated partnerships with local and international bodies and supported researchers to build partnerships with local and international organizations. It has been cooperating Saudi universities such as King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) and Princess Nora University, said Alsuwaiyel.
He indicated that nanotechnology has recently attracted the attention of experts for its scientific and business advantages that could benefit society in areas such as medicine, energy, electronics, and the pharmaceutical industry.
KACST has taken practical steps to introduce this technology through the National Plan of Science and Innovation (NPSI) with research findings of strategic importance to the Kingdom, he said.
He added that KACST has set up a national center for nanotechnology to act as a link between governmental and industrial sectors to meet the nation’s needs.
Since 2007, KACST has undertaken infrastructure projects for this technology including laboratories, researches and had also invited Saudi universities to attend specialized courses on nanotechnology, he noted.
Alsuwaiyel referred to applications KACST has developed, including technologies related to solar cells used in water desalination technology, which fall within the initiative of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah on water desalination using solar energy.
KACST set up a unit to produce 3-megawatt flat solar panels at the solar village in Al-Aiyyna, where it began production as from the year 2011 with a production capacity of 12,000 panels per year.
He said KACST aims to set up a world class plant to produce solar panels with a capacity of 120 megawatt in Al-Aiyyna solar village on an area of 75,000 square meters.
KACST researchers applied for registration of 49 patents on nanotechnology. It aims to build a generation of technicians and researchers equipped with the latest technologies to run and implement such projects.
With the help of nanotechnology, plans are underway to have a high-speed camera to monitor different transformations that occur on cancer cells compared to healthy cells, and to take advantage of this feature to distinguish between carcinogens and other cells, said Alsuwaiyel.


Solar power captured in fuel

19 October 2012


Solar power captured in fuel







Note To Readers: Our Comments: An abundant FREE source of energy … that is limitless … and GREEN to boot! Quoting from the news release:

” … “Our future scientific goal is to establish a solar water splitting system operated only by abundant sunlight and sea water,” Associate Professor Tachibana remarked. “Fortunately these resources are freely available on this blue planet.

“The key to improving efficiency will be in the development of new “nano-materials” (microscopically small components), along with efficient control of charge transfer reaction processes, and improvement to the structure of devices.”

Cheers! – BWH

It has long been a dream of scientists to use solar energy to produce chemicals which could be stored and later used to create electricity or fuels.

A recent scientific breakthrough is providing hope that this may soon be possible.

The development would offer many benefits, including the ability to store chemicals until needed – current solar power technology has difficulties in this area.

In the laboratory, a new technology mimics photosynthesis, the process used by plants, by combining sunlight and water in such a way that promises storable fuels.

The “solar to chemical energy conversion” process is outlined in an article just published in a prominent journal, Nature Photonics, authored by RMIT University researcher Associate Professor Yasuhiro Tachibana, from the School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering.

Inspired by photosynthesis, in which oxygen and carbohydrates are produced from water and carbon dioxide, the newly developed technology emulates this process using man-made materials.

According to Associate Professor Tachibana, it remains a challenge to construct a device capable of producing molecular fuels like hydrogen at a scale and cost able to compete with fossil fuels.

The key to improving efficiency will be in the development of new “nano-materials” (microscopically small components), along with efficient control of charge transfer reaction processes, and improvement to the structure of devices.

Recent developments in the field of nanotechnology have been leading to promising improvements in cost and effectiveness of the conversion process, Associate Professor Tachibana said.

“Our future scientific goal is to establish a solar water splitting system operated only by abundant sunlight and sea water,” Associate Professor Tachibana remarked.

“Fortunately these resources are freely available on this blue planet.”

Professor Xinghuo Yu, Director of RMIT’s Platform Technologies Research Institute, said the latest research was significant, but challenges remained in how to translate laboratory-scale academic research into a practical, economically viable technology.

In addition to using solar energy, other commercially available renewable energy sources like wind and tidal power could also conceivably be applied, Professor Yu said.

Associate Professor Tachibana’s review paper was published in the August 2012 edition of Nature Photonics, world-renowned as a pre-eminent platform for publication of international research in photonics.

Editor’s Note: Original news release can be found here.


Quantum dots: The next big small thing






Quantum dots – tiny fluorescent crystals that contain just a few dozen molecules of semiconducting metal – are about to transition from an emerging technology to a mainstream product. The leading industrial producers of quantum dots have started delivering the first batches of their product to major electronics manufacturers in Asia, and the first quantum dot televisions and computer displays – which promise both enhanced colors and lower power use than regular LCD and LED-lit screens – are forecast to be on shop shelves within 18 months.

If their promise holds true, quantum dots could soon feature in everything from cell phone displays to digital cinema screens, and quantum dot lighting could soon outstrip even the latest energy-saving fluorescent bulbs and LEDs in terms of power efficiency and better colors.

And yet, quantum dots are still a technology in their infancy. Proponents say they could form the basis of new technologies, including flexible electronic displays, fluorescent textiles and wearable electronics, and even quantum-dot-based wall paints that can capture light and re-emit it into a room. And, if that is not enough, quantum dots might be about to revolutionize many optoelectronic technologies, such as imaging and light-gathering sensors, communications equipment, and solar power cells – including the possibility of a dramatic increase in the electricity produced from silicon solar panels – by enabling them to harvest more of the solar spectrum.

Medical researchers are also investigating the use of non-toxic quantum dots for medical imaging within the human body – potentially replacing some of the radioactive isotopes used in medical common scans. Future biomedical uses could include therapeutic doses of quantum dots that would deliver targeted control over malfunctioning cells within the body – such as cancer cells, brain neurons injured by a stroke, or damaged retinal cells.

Quantum dots could also be the key to entirely new optical technologies, including ultra-fast computers that use light instead of electricity for their logic, and photon-based quantum computers that could solve eldritch calculations beyond the ken of the largest modern supercomputers.


Quantum dots sound rather exotic, and indeed they are: each is a tiny semiconducting crystal, a few billionths of a meter across, typically consisting of about 50 or so atoms. As a sort of “small island” of semiconducting atoms, quantum dots have electronic and quantum mechanical properties somewhere between bulk semiconductors and individual molecules.

Quantum dots also have the industrial virtue of being easy to mass-produce – they can now be fabricated as rolled-out films, sprayed onto surfaces, and even manufactured by the bucketful, as fluorescent colloidal liquids. The dots can be made from a number of relatively abundant ingredients, including zinc, cadmium, selenium and sulfur – and even from materials with other special properties, such as graphene. One team of scientists recently described a new wet bulk method of producing high-quality graphene quantum dots, by treating ordinary carbon fiber with acetic acid – a chemical process akin to soaking charcoal in vinegar.

The key technological feature of quantum dots is that they are very fluorescent, and very bright. When a quantum dot is energized, by light or by an electric charge, it immediately re-emits the energy in a small burst of light at a very precise wavelength and color. Quantum dots have been likened to a tuning fork that always makes a particular note when struck – but when a quantum dot is “struck”, it produces a burst of light of a particular color.

The color of the light depends on the size of the dot and the material it is made from: large quantum dots emit red light, the smallest quantum dots emit blue light, and quantum dots of intermediate sizes can produce light in the rest of the spectrum. The colors are very bright, and can be tuned precisely when the quantum dots are made by controlling the proportions of raw ingredients and the temperature of the process, which limits the growth of the quantum dot crystals.

Quantum dots are significantly brighter than the phosphors used in most modern flat screens. They are highly efficient at absorbing light and re-emitting it in their signature color. And quantum dots are also chemically stable, and less prone to fade over time than conventional phosphors.

This makes quantum dots the prime contenders to replace the phosphors currently used in most displays. Some analysts speculate that the introduction of quantum dots in displays could affect demand for the rare earth elements (REEs) essential to many semiconducting display technologies, such as europium, terbium, and yttrium.

Recent shortages of such REEs have driven up production costs for flat screen displays, which have, in turn, driven manufacturers to look for new ways of making them. In 2008, phosphors for displays accounted for around 35 percent of the global demand for REEs – demand that could be expected to decline if quantum dots come into widespread use.


Quantum dots will arrive in our homes first as thinner flat-screen televisions with better colors, which are expected to reach the shops by the end of 2013.  The first designs are likely to integrate quantum dot technology into the existing production methods, improving the image quality by reproducing a greater range of colors than existing LCD screens.

A leading California-based nanotechnology company, Nanosys, is producing what it calls a “Quantum Dot Enhancement Film” for Korean electronics manufacturers LG and Samsung. The film is used as a phosphor in front of a blue LED backlight – light from the blue LED excites the quantum dots in the film, and they emit light in a range of colors that combine to form white light.

Blue LEDs are brighter and more energy efficient than white LEDS – and the quantum dot film produces white light that is better adjusted to human vision. Nanosys says the final image has a color range up to fifty percent greater than conventional LED screens, which are currently limited to about a third of the colors that the human eye can see. The Nanosys display uses about half the energy as a screen that uses white LEDs, which should help extend the battery life of mobile devices.

British nanotechnology firm Nanoco Group is also supplying electronics manufacturers in Japan, the USA, Korea and Taiwan with quantum dots for electronic displays. The company’s chief executive has said the first products containing Nanoco’s quantum dots will hit the market next year, and the company has already made two milestone deliveries of quantum dots to one of its customers in Japan. Nanoco has not revealed which companies it is working with, but Sony and Sharp are known to be working on quantum dot display technology.

Nanoco Group began ten years ago as a university spinout, with technology developed at the Manchester University and Imperial College London; it is now one of the leading nanotechnology companies in the UK, and listed on the London Stock Exchange AIM market in 2009.

The company says it is exploring a range of new uses for its quantum dots, including government-funded research into using them to find and kill cancer cells, an agreement with one of the world’s largest lighting companies to develop uses for quantum dots in general lighting, and a development deal with semiconductor firm Tokyo Electronto develop a more efficient type of solar panels using quantum dots.  Both Nanoco and Nanosys have plans to increase the efficiency of solar cells – by using a screen of quantum dots to “tweak” the incoming sunlight, so more light matches the wavelengths absorbed by the silicon solar cells.

How to Double the Power of Solar Panels

Bandgap Engineering is developing a new kind of solar cell based on nanowires.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012









Solar collectors: A micrograph shows silicon nanowires produced by Bandgap Engineering. They can help a solar cell absorb more light.
Bandgap Engineering

In an attempt to further drop the cost of solar powerBandgap Engineering, a startup in Woburn, Massachusetts, is developing a nanowire-based solar cell that could eventually generate twice as much power as conventional solar cells.

That’s a long-term project, but meanwhile the company is about to start selling a simpler version of the technology, using silicon nanowires that can improve the performance and lower the cost of conventional silicon solar cells. Bandgap says its nanowires, which can be built using existing manufacturing tools, boost the power output of solar cells by increasing the amount of light the cells can absorb.

Right now most solar-panel manufacturers aren’t building new factories because the market for their product is glutted. But if market conditions improve and manufacturers do start building, they’ll be able to introduce larger changes to production lines. In that case the Bandgap technology could make it possible to change solar cells more significantly. For example, by increasing light absorption, it could allow manufacturers to use far thinner wafers of silicon, reducing the largest part of a solar cell’s cost. It could also enable manufacturers to use copper wires instead of more expensive silver wires to collect charge from the solar panels.


These changes could lead to solar panels that convert over 20 percent of the energy in sunlight into electricity (compared with about 15 percent for most solar cells now) yet cost only $1 per watt to produce and install, says Richard Chleboski, Bandgap’s CEO. (Solar installations cost a few dollars per watt now, depending on their size and type.) Over the operating lifetime of the system, costs would come to between 6 and 10 cents per kilowatt-hour. That’s still higher than the current cost of natural-gas power in the United States, which is about 4 cents per kilowatt-hour. But it’s low enough to secure solar power a substantial market in many parts of the world where energy costs can be higher, or in certain niche markets in the United States.

Meanwhile, Bandgap is pursuing technology that could someday improve efficiency enough to allow solar power to compete widely with fossil fuels. Double the efficiency of solar cells without greatly increasing manufacturing costs, and you substantially lower the cost per watt of solar panels and halve the cost of installation—currently the biggest expense in solar power—by making it possible to get the same amount of power out of half as many cells.

Both the cells Bandgap is about to introduce and the cells it hopes to produce in the long term are based on the idea of minimizing the energy loss that typically occurs when light passes through a solar cell unabsorbed or when certain wavelengths of light are absorbed but don’t have enough energy to dislodge electrons to create electricity. (That energy is wasted as heat.) In a conventional solar cell, at least two-thirds of the energy in sunlight is wasted—usually much more.

The company’s existing technology makes use of the fact that when light encounters the nanowires, it’s refracted in a way that causes it to bounce around in the solar cell rather than simply moving through it or bouncing off it. That increases its chances of being absorbed (see “Black Silicon Solar Cells to Capture More Light“).

But what Bandgap ultimately wants to do is to change the way light is converted to electricity inside the cell. If the nanowires can be made uniformly enough, and if they can be formed in such a way that their atoms line up along certain planes, the tiny structures could change the electronic properties of silicon. These changes could allow solar cells to generate electricity from low-energy light that normally produces only heat, says Marcie Black, the company’s founder and chief technology officer. It does this in part by providing a way to combine energy from more than one photon of low-energy light.

The technology could take many years to develop. For one thing, it requires very precise control over the properties of each of millions of nanowires. Also, the techniques needed to make the solar cells might not be cheap or reliable enough to produce them on a large scale. But such solar cells could theoretically convert 60 percent of the energy in sunlight into electricity. That will be hard to achieve in practice, so the company is aiming at a more modest 38 percent efficiency, which is still more than twice that of typical silicon solar cells made now.

Researchers are taking several other approaches to producing very high-efficiency solar cells, such as using quantum dots or combining several kinds of materials (see “TR10: Nanocharging Solar” and “New Materials Make Photovoltaics Better“). The nanowire technology could be simpler, however. “In theory, the approach has many potential advantages, but you’ve got to get it to work,” says Andrew Norman, a senior researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. Bandgap hasn’t yet built solar cells using the approach it hopes to pursue in the long term, but it’s made indirect measurements showing that its nanowires can change the electronic properties of silicon. “This is still in the research phase,” Black says. “We’re being very honest with investors—there’s still a lot of work to do.”

English: On 140 acres of unused land on Nellis...

English: On 140 acres of unused land on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., 70,000 solar panels are part of a solar photovoltaic array that will generate 15 megawatts of solar power for the base. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Sunflowers inspire efficient solar power

By Emily Eggleston    |  Sun, 09/30/2012 – 4:21pm

In August, UW-Madison researcher Hongrui Jiang published his design for solar panels that act like sunflowers, tracking the sun’s movement throughout the day. Jiang, a professor in computer and electrical engineering, used nanotechnology to design a system that helps the panels move by reacting to the warmth of the sun’s rays, rather than using a motor and global positioning system (GPS) as many solar tracking panels do. Read Jiang’s answers to Madison Commons’ questions about how the new solar technology works and what else he is doing with nanotechnology.


MC: Why are you interested in solar technology?

HJ: Renewable energy is very important right now because we are running out of fossil fuels. We have to look for other possible sources of energy. Solar energy is very promising because pretty much everywhere has sunlight, not like wind or geothermal, and it lasts forever.

MC: Describe the work you do in patterning solar panel movement after sunflowers.

HJ: The basic idea is solar-tracking. If you can have a solar panel follow the sun during the day, you’ll have more interception of light, and therefore more electricity. The idea is very simple and done by many plants in nature. Sunflower is one example, a buttercup flower is another. The idea is very simple but not easy to realizing it with solar plans is complicated because you have to mimic complex biochemical processes.

MC: Don’t some solar panels already track the sun’s movment?

HJ: In the solar tracking systems available now, most use GPS with motors. They are active mechanical systems to orient towards sun. Active systems are great but mechanics consume energy themselves. The purpose is to get as much electricity as possible. Our system is passive, it doesn’t consume electricity to drive solar tracking. Also, it is very hard for active systems to realize full range tracking, sunrise to sunset. Ours does.

MC: How does the passive system of solar tracking work?

HJ: We needed a material that would respond to natural sunlight, whole spectrum light of all wavelengths. has to be sensitive enough. Some materials are responsive to strong light like lasers, but we need the solar panel to be responsive to whatever intensity the sunlight is at. Sunlight hits a mirror which projects light onto actuator holding carbon nanotubes. When the nanotubes warm they contract, causing the panel to shift toward the contracted nanotubes.

MC: You use nanotechnology in your some of your other research. What else do you do on the super tiny nano scale?

HJ: My expertise in the microsystems and microscale optics. I’m working on making a tunable liquid contact lens that adds extra focusing power. When you are getting older the muscle in your eye starts to lose power and it becomes harder and harder for you to see up close so people wear bi- or trifocals. This contact lens autofocuses, basically like the point and shoot cameras that you use. It’s not just a lens, it’s a whole spectrum of gadgets [with] circuits and everything, but it has to be flexible. You need an energy source to provide electricity for the circuits. Right now we’re trying to harvest and store solar energy right in the lens. It’s a very challenging idea and we’re off to a good start.