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New materials for future green tech devices

New materials for future green tech devices | Research | Scoop.it

 From your hot car to your warm laptop, every machine and device in your life wastes a lot of energy through the loss of heat. But thermoelectric devices, which convert heat to electricity and vice versa, can harness that wasted heat, and possibly provide the green tech energy efficiency that's needed for a sustainable future.

Now, a new study shows how porous substances can act as thermoelectric materials—pointing the way for engineering the use of such materials in thermoelectric devices of the future.

About 70 percent of all the energy generated in the world is wasted as heat, said Dimitris Niarchos of the National Center for Scientific Research Demokritos in Athens, Greece. He and Roland Tarkhanyan, also of NCSR Demokritos, have published their analysis in the journal APL Materials, from AIP Publishing.

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Laser physics upside down

Laser physics upside down | Research | Scoop.it

At the Vienna University of Technology a system of coupled lasers has been created which exhibits truly paradoxical behaviour: An increase in energy supply switches the lasers off, reducing the energy can switch them on.

Sound waves fade, water waves ebb, light waves are dissipated by a wall. The absorption of waves is a very common phenomenon. But only recently have physicists realized that amazing new possibilities are opened up, when this energy loss, rather than being seen as an annoying nuisance, is actually considered a desired effect. At the Vienna University of Technology, a system of two coupled lasers has been created, in which wave dissipation leads to a behaviour completely contrary to intuition: additional energy can switch it off; a reduction of energy may switch it on. This way, logical circuits can be built using light. The experiment has now been presented in the journal Nature Communications.

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Scientists characterize carbon for batteries

Scientists characterize carbon for batteries | Research | Scoop.it

Lithium-ion batteries could benefit from a theoretical model created at Rice University and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that predicts how carbon components will perform.

The model is based on intrinsic characteristics of materials used as battery electrodes. These include limitations on quantum capacitance (the ability of the material to absorb charge) and the material's absolute Fermi level, which determines how many lithium ions may bond to the electrodes.

Subtle changes in the structure, chemistry and shape of an electrode will alter how strongly lithium ions bond to it and affect a battery's capacity, voltage and energy density. In fact, the researchers found what they called a "universal" linear relationship between the lithium binding energy and the "states-filling work" (determined by the quantum capacitance and the Fermi level of the material) that should allow scientists to fine-tune electrodes.

The research appears in the journal Physical Review Letters. Lawrence Livermore scientist Brandon Wood and Rice theoretical physicist Boris Yakobson led the study.

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A narrower spectrum for a wider view of matter

A narrower spectrum for a wider view of matter | Research | Scoop.it

Condensed matter physicists, who study the physics of solids and liquids, often use a technique called "inelastic scattering," in which they bounce photons or neutrons of selected energy off a material and measure the energy loss to examine the collective vibrations of atoms in that material. The technique helps researchers understand the dynamics of energy transfers that occur in trillionths of a second (picoseconds) over distances of billionths of a meter (nanometers).

There are, however, gaps in the resolutions of these techniques—distances of one nanometer to a few hundredths of a nanometer and time scales from a few picoseconds to approximately 100 picoseconds. Unfortunately, a key physical phenomenon takes place within that gap: the liquid-glass transition. The details of how a material transforms from liquid to glass is one of the great mysteries of condensed matter physics, and understanding it could not only provide new theoretical insights, but also help pharmaceutical researchers make drugs that are more easily absorbed in the body.

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Arrays of electrons could form the basis for future scalable quantum computers

Arrays of electrons could form the basis for future scalable quantum computers | Research | Scoop.it

A single electron trapped in a semiconductor nanostructure can form the most basic of building blocks for a quantum computer. Before practical quantum computers can be realized, however, scientists need to develop a scalable architecture that allows full control over individual electrons in computational arrays.

Matthieu Delbecq and colleagues from the RIKEN Center for Emergent Matter Science, in collaboration with researchers from Purdue University in the United States, have now demonstrated the scalability of quantum dot architectures by trapping and controlling four electrons in a single device1.

Electrons have a property known as spin that can be either 'up' or 'down'. This is the same binary coding as used in conventional computing, but electrons can also be linked at the quantum level to form quantum bits, or 'qubits', that can have many more usable states, providing dramatic improvements in computational performance.

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Rice's silicon oxide memories catch manufacturers' eye

Rice's silicon oxide memories catch manufacturers' eye | Research | Scoop.it

Rice University's breakthrough silicon oxide technology for high-density, next-generation computer memory is one step closer to mass production, thanks to a refinement that will allow manufacturers to fabricate devices at room temperature with conventional production methods.

First discovered five years ago, Rice's silicon oxide memories are a type of two-terminal, "resistive random-access memory" (RRAM) technology. In a new paper available online in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters, a Rice team led by chemist James Tour compared its RRAM technology to more than a dozen competing versions.

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IBM bets $3 billion on the death of silicon chips

IBM bets $3 billion on the death of silicon chips | Research | Scoop.it

IBM is worried that the age of silicon may be drawing to a close. So it's going to spend $3 billion (£1.75 billion) over the next half-decade to try and find new ways to power the future generations of microprocessors.

"We really do see the clock ticking on silicon," says Tom Rosamilia, Senior Vice President of IBM Systems & Technology Group.

Today's state-of-the-art IBM chips use silicon components that are already tiny -- just 22 nanometers in width. But looking about five years into the future, parts become so small that it becomes extremely difficult to maintain a reliable on or off state. "As we get into the 7 nanometer timeframe, things really begin to taper off," Rosamilia says.

So the first step of IBM's $3 billion (£1.75 billion) quest will fund research into ways of making these smaller chip components work -- even if they don't use silicon. IBM has high hopes for a silicon alternative, called carbon nanotubes, but the concept still needs work if it's going to become as easy to crank out carbon nanotube chips as their silicon alternatives. Another promising area is silicon nanophotonics: a way of using light instead of electrical signals to send data around the chip.

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Silicon sponge improves lithium-ion battery performance

Silicon sponge improves lithium-ion battery performance | Research | Scoop.it

The lithium-ion batteries that power our laptops and electric vehicles could store more energy and run longer on a single charge with the help of a sponge-like silicon material.

Researchers developed the porous material to replace the graphite traditionally used in one of the battery's electrodes, as silicon has more than 10 times the energy storage capacity of graphite. A paper describing the material's performance as a lithium-ion battery electrode was published today in Nature Communications.

"Silicon has long been sought as a way to improve the performance of lithium-ion batteries, but silicon swells so much when it is charged that it can break apart, making a silicon electrode inoperable," said Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Fellow Ji-Guang "Jason" Zhang. "The porous, sponge-like material we've developed gives silicon the room it needs to expand without breaking."

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Harvesting energy from devices

Harvesting energy from devices | Research | Scoop.it

If there's one thing nearly all modern technology has in common, it's heat. Whether it's your car, computer, television, or even refrigerator, they all generate large amounts of heat. And nearly all of it goes to waste.

In an effort to recapture some of that energy and transform it into electricity, a team of researchers has developed computer simulations for a new type of meta-material that would have the ability to control heat and electrical current independently. Their work is described in a recently published paper in Physical Review X.

The team included Yuki Sato, a fellow at the Rowland Institute at Harvard, and Salvatore Savo, a postdoctoral fellow at the institute, along with Massimo Moccia, Giuseppe Castaldi, and Vincenzo Galdi at the University of Sannio in Italy.

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The Greek Mythical Hero of Storage Class Memory

The Greek Mythical Hero of Storage Class Memory | Research | Scoop.it

Theseus was a great hero in Greek mythology known for qualities such as strength, courage and wisdom. Therefore it’s no surprise that a team of Greek IBM scientists in Zurich and a professor from the University of Patras, Greece, borrowed his name as a codeword for a groundbreaking new memory technology, which combines flash with phase change memory (PCM) on a PCI-e card. Initial tests have clocked 12x and 275x improvements — and that’s no myth.

While flash is ubiquitous in everything from USB sticks to data centers, PCM is still relatively unknown.

First proposed for memory in the 1970s, phase-change materials, the premise of the technology, exhibit two metastable states which can store data when placed between two electrically conducting electrodes. When a high or medium current is applied to the material, it can be programmed to write a ‘0’ in the amorphous phase or a ‘1’ in the crystalline phase. A low current is then applied to read out the cells to access the data. Blue ray discs are an example of a phase change material.

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Improved supercapacitors for super batteries, electric vehicles

Improved supercapacitors for super batteries, electric vehicles | Research | Scoop.it

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have developed a novel nanometer scale ruthenium oxide anchored nanocarbon graphene foam architecture that improves the performance of supercapacitors, a development that could mean faster acceleration in electric vehicles and longer battery life in portable electronics.

The researchers found that supercapacitors, an energy storage device like batteries and fuel cells, based on transition metal oxide modified nanocarbon graphene foam electrode could work safely in aqueous electrolyte and deliver two times more energyand power compared to supercapacitors commercially available today.

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New lithium battery

New lithium battery | Research | Scoop.it

The long life of lithium ion batteries makes them the rechargeable of choice for everything from implantable medical devices to wearable consumer electronics. But lithium ion batteries rely on liquid chemistries involving lithium salts dissolved in organic solvents, creating flame risks that would be avoided if the cells were completely solid-state.

Now a team of researchers at Tohoku University in Japan has created a new type of lithium ion conductor for future batteries that could be the basis for a whole new generation of solid-state batteries. It uses rock salt Lithium Borohydride (LiBH4), a well-known agent in organic chemistry laboratories that has been considered for batteries before, but up to now has only worked at high temperatures or pressures.

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Nanotubes and Graphene Foam Make Hybrid Energy Storage Device

Nanotubes and Graphene Foam Make Hybrid Energy Storage Device | Research | Scoop.it

A paper in the journal Science earlier this year suggested that the problem of nomenclature for energy storage devices—specifically, defining the difference between what is a supercapacitor and what is a pseudocapacitor—is beginning to hold back development in the field.

To confuse matters further, researchers out of University of California Riverside have now developed an energy storage device that they define as a hybrid between a supercapacitor and a pseudocapacitor, but they prefer to term simply a supercapacitor.

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Fundamental Chemistry Findings Could Help Extend Moore’s Law

Fundamental Chemistry Findings Could Help Extend Moore’s Law | Research | Scoop.it

Over the years, computer chips have gotten smaller thanks to advances in materials science and manufacturing technologies. This march of progress, the doubling of transistors on a microprocessor roughly every two years, is called Moore’s Law. But there’s one component of the chip-making process in need of an overhaul if Moore’s law is to continue: the chemical mixture called photoresist. Similar to film used in photography, photoresist, also just called resist, is used to lay down the patterns of ever-shrinking lines and features on a chip. 

Now, in a bid to continue decreasing transistor size while increasing computation and energy efficiency, chip-maker Intel has partnered with researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (Berkeley Lab) to design an entirely new kind of resist. And importantly, they have done so by characterizing the chemistry of photoresist, crucial to further improve performance in a systematic way. The researchers believe their results could be easily incorporated by companies that make resist, and find their way into manufacturing lines as early as 2017. 

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Researchers demonstrate novel, tunable nanoantennas

Researchers demonstrate novel, tunable nanoantennas | Research | Scoop.it

A research team from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has developed a novel, tunable nanoantenna that paves the way for new kinds of plasmonic-based optomechanical systems, whereby plasmonic field enhancement can actuate mechanical motion.

"Recently, there has been a lot of interest in fabricating metal-based nanotextured surfaces that are pre-programmed to alter the properties of light in a specific way after incoming light interacts with it," explained Kimani Toussaint, an associate professor of mechanical science and engineering who led the research. "For our approach, one can take a nanoarray structure that was already fabricated and further reconfigure the plasmonic, and hence, optical properties of select antennas. Therefore, one can decide after fabrication, rather than before, how they want their nanostructure to modify light."

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First "Buckyball" Molecules Created from Boron

First "Buckyball" Molecules Created from Boron | Research | Scoop.it

Just in time for the World Cup final, researchers have succeeded in building the first ‘buckyballs’  made entirely from boron atoms. Unlike true, carbon-based buckyballs, the boron molecules are not shaped exactly like soccer balls.  But this novel form of boron might lead to new nanomaterials and could find uses in hydrogen storage.

Robert Curl, Harold Kroto and Richard Smalley found the first buckyball — or buckminsterfullerene — in 1985. The hollow cage, made of 60 carbon atoms arranged in pentagons and hexagons like a soccer ball, got its name from the US architect and engineer Richard Buckminster Fuller, who used the same shapes in designing his domes. The discovery opened the flood gates for creating more carbon structures with impressive qualities, such as carbon nanotubes and the single-atom-thick graphene. Since then, material scientists have also searched for buckyball-like structures made of other elements.

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New simple setup for X-ray phase contrast

New simple setup for X-ray phase contrast | Research | Scoop.it

X-ray phase-contrast imaging is a method that uses the refraction of X-rays through a specimen instead of attenuation resulting from absorption. The images produced with this method are often of much higher quality than those based on absorption. The scientists in the team of Prof. Franz Pfeiffer are particularly interested in developing new approaches for biomedical X-ray imaging and therapy – including X-ray phase-contrast imaging. One main goal is to make this method available for clinical applications such as diagnosis of cancer or osteoporosis in the future.

In their new study, the scientists have now developed an extremely simple setup to produce X-ray phase-contrast images. The solution to many of their difficulties may seem counter-intuitive: Scramble the X-rays to give them a random structure. These speckles, as they are called in the field, encode a wealth of information on the sample as they travel through it. The scrambled X-rays are collected with a high-resolution X-ray camera, and the information is then extracted in a post-measurement analysis step.

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Work on 'singlet fission' can increase solar cell efficiency by as much as 30 percent

Work on 'singlet fission' can increase solar cell efficiency by as much as 30 percent | Research | Scoop.it

A perspective article published last month by University of California, Riverside chemists in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters was selected as an Editors Choice—an honor only a handful of research papers receive. The perspective reviews the chemists' work on "singlet fission," a process in which a single photon generates a pair of excited states. This 1->2 conversion process, as it is known, has the potential to boost solar cell efficiency by as much as 30 percent.

Applications of the research include more energy-efficient lighting and photodetectors with 200 percent efficiency that can be used for night vision. Biology may use singlet fission to deal with high-energy solar photons without generating excess heat, as a protective mechanism.

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Novel Materials Could Provide the Next Generation of Low-Power, Color Displays

Novel Materials Could Provide the Next Generation of Low-Power, Color Displays | Research | Scoop.it

Researchers at Oxford University have used a type of phase-change material to make devices whose color changes instantly in response to a small jolt of power.  The materials, which are used in some types of DVDs, could lead to ultra-low-power, full-color displays, according to an article describing the work in the journal Nature.

Displays made using the approach might overcome some of the drawbacks of other, low-energy display technologies, such as the E-ink used in Kindle e-readers. For example, pixels can switch on and off much faster than in the E-reader, which could make it useful for displaying video.

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Sand-based lithium ion batteries that outperform standard by three times

Sand-based lithium ion batteries that outperform standard by three times | Research | Scoop.it

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside's Bourns College of Engineering have created a lithium ion battery that outperforms the current industry standard by three times. The key material: sand. Yes, sand.

"This is the holy grail – a low cost, non-toxic, environmentally friendly way to produce high performance lithium ion battery anodes," said Zachary Favors, a graduate student working with Cengiz and Mihri Ozkan, both engineering professors at UC Riverside.

The idea came to Favors six months ago. He was relaxing on the beach after surfing in San Clemente, Calif. when he picked up some sand, took a close look at it and saw it was made up primarily of quartz, or silicon dioxide.

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The new atomic age: building smaller, greener electronics

The new atomic age: building smaller, greener electronics | Research | Scoop.it

The digital age has resulted in a succession of smaller, cleaner and less power-hungry technologies since the days the personal computer fit atop a desk, replacing mainframe models that once filled entire rooms. Desktop PCs have since given way to smaller and smaller laptops, smartphones and devices that most of us carry around in our pockets.

But as Wolkow points out, this technological shrinkage can only go so far when using traditional transistor-based integrated circuits. That’s why he and his research team are aiming to build entirely new technologies at the atomic scale.

“Our ultimate goal is to make ultra-low-power electronics because that’s what is most demanded by the world right now,” said Wolkow, the iCORE Chair in Nanoscale Information and Communications Technology in the Faculty of Science. “We are approaching some fundamental limits that will stop the 30-year-long drive to make things faster, cheaper, better and smaller; this will come to an end soon.

“An entirely new method of computing will be necessary.”

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More pores for more power

More pores for more power | Research | Scoop.it

Whether or not the future of automotive traffic belongs to the softly purring electric car depends largely on the development of its batteries. The industry is currently placing most of its hopes in lithium-sulfur batteries, which have a very high storage capacity. Moreover, thanks to the inclusion of sulfur atoms, they are cheaper to make and less toxic than conventional lithium-ion power packs.

However, the lithium-sulfur battery still presents several major challenges that need to be resolved until it can be integrated into cars. For example, both the rate and the number of possible charge-discharge cycles need to be increased before the lithium-sulfur battery can become a realistic alternative to lithium-ion batteries.

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Bionic particles self-assemble to capture light

Bionic particles self-assemble to capture light | Research | Scoop.it

Inspired by fictional cyborgs like Terminator, a team of researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of Pittsburgh has made the first bionic particles from semiconductors and proteins.

These particles recreate the heart of the process that allows plants to turn sunlight into fuel.

"Human endeavors to transform the energy of sunlight into biofuels using either artificial materials or whole organisms have low efficiency," said Nicholas Kotov, the Florence B. Cejka Professor of Engineering at the University of Michigan, who led the experiment.

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Scientists use nanoparticles to control growth of materials

Scientists use nanoparticles to control growth of materials | Research | Scoop.it

Growth is a ubiquitous phenomenon in plants and animals. But it also occurs naturally in chemicals, metals and other inorganic materials. That fact has, for decades, posed a major challenge for scientists and engineers, because controlling the growth within materials is critical for creating products with uniform physical properties so that they can be used as components of machinery and electronic devices. The challenge has been particularly vexing when the materials' molecular building blocks grow rapidly or are processed under harsh conditions such as high temperatures.

 Now, a team led by researchers from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science has developed a new process to control molecular growth within the "building block" components of inorganic materials. The method, which uses nanoparticles to organize the components during a critical phase of the manufacturing process, could lead to innovative new materials, such as self-lubricating bearings for engines, and it could make it feasible for them to be mass-produced.

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Dual carbon battery that charges 20 times faster than current lithium ion batteries

Dual carbon battery that charges 20 times faster than current lithium ion batteries | Research | Scoop.it

Japanese power company, Power Japan Plus has announced the development of a new type of battery intended for use in automobiles and other applications, the Ryden or dual carbon battery. The company claims the battery charges 20 times faster than current lithium ion batteries, doesn't heat up, so it doesn't require cooling and is cost competitive with other current batteries used in cars and trucks. They believe the battery will be a game-changer, leading to a surge in sales of hybrid and all electric vehicles.

Representatives for Power Japan say the battery is actually something completely new—it's made of carbon instead of nickel, cobalt or manganese. Not only does that make it cheaper to make but it does away with the thermal change that exists with current batteries that necessitate the installation of cooling systems (and does away with the associated fire hazard in crashes). They add that the carbon they use is new as well—it's an organic compound grown from cotton fibers. That means that when the battery is no longer useful, it can be easily recycled. Due to its structure, it's also able to be fully discharged without damage, which means more power can be used before recharging, slightly increasing distance capabilities. The new battery can also be configured to fit in a standard 18650 cell and the unique design also lends itself to higher than average reliability, with a lifespan of 3,000 charge/discharge cycles.

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