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Photon

An organic single-crystal transistor made out of rubrene (red crystal) (Image: Rutgers Uni...

Silicon-based solar cells, by far the most prevalent type of solar cell available today, might provide clean, green energy but they are bulky, rigid and expensive to produce. Organic (carbon-based) semiconductors are seen as a promising way to enable flexible, lightweight solar cells that would also be much cheaper to produce as they could be “printed” in large plastic sheets at room temperature. New research from physicists at Rutgers University has strengthened hopes that solar cells based on organic semiconductors may one day overtake silicon solar cells in cost and performance, thereby increasing the practicality of solar-generated electricity as an alternative energy source to fossil fuels.  Read More

The University of Oregon's Michael G. Raymer has changed the color of individual photons w...

Physicists from the University of Oregon have successfully changed the color of individual photons within a fiber optic cable. They were able to do so by focusing a dual-color burst of light from two lasers onto an optical cable carrying a single photon of a distinct color. Through a process known as Bragg scattering, a small amount of energy was exchanged between the laser light and the photon, causing the photon to change color. The achievement could pave the way for transferring and receiving high volumes of secured electronic data.  Read More

Schematic diagram of a thin film organic solar cell shows the top layer, a patterned, roug...

Research has already shown that at the nanoscale, chemistry is different and the same is apparently true for light, which Engineers at Stanford University say behaves differently at scales of around a nanometer. By creating solar cells thinner than the wavelengths of light the engineers say it is possible to trap the photons inside the solar cell for longer, increasing the chance they can get absorbed, thereby increasing the efficiency of the solar cell. In this way, they calculate that by properly configuring the thicknesses of several thin layers of films, an organic polymer thin film could absorb as much as 10 times more energy from sunlight than predicted by conventional theory.  Read More

A rendering of the nanoantenna

Scientists at Houston’s Rice University have successfully increased the intensity of laser light a thousand-fold by shining it into a “nanoantenna.” At the heart of the device are two gold tips, separated by a gap measuring about a hundred-thousandth the width of a human hair. At the point where it passed through that gap, the light was “grabbed” and concentrated. Condensed matter physicist Doug Natelson believes that the technology could be useful in the development of tools for optics and chemical/biological sensing, with applications in industrial safety, defense and homeland security.  Read More

The photonic chip next to a UK penny. The chip contains micrometer and sub-micrometer feat...

Research conducted at the University of Bristol means a number of quantum computing algorithms may soon be able to execute calculations of a complexity far beyond what today's computers allow us to do. The breakthrough involves the use of a specially designed optical chip to perform what's known as a "quantum walk" with two particles ... and it suggests the era of quantum computing may be approaching faster than the scientific establishment had predicted.  Read More

Postdoctoral associate Jae-Hee Han, left, graduate student Geraldine Paulus and associate ...

The size and efficiency of current photovoltaic (PV) cells means most people would probably have to cover large areas of their rooftops with such cells to even come close to meeting all their electricity needs. Using carbon nanotubes, MIT chemical engineers have now found a way to concentrate solar energy 100 times more than a regular PV cell. Such nanotubes could form antennas that capture and focus light energy, potentially allowing much smaller and more powerful solar arrays.  Read More

Intel engineer, Dr. Mario Paniccia, holds the thin optical fiber used to carry data from o...

Today’s computer components are connected to each other using copper cables or traces on circuit boards. Due to the signal degradation that comes with using metals such as copper to transmit data, these cables have a limited maximum length. This limits the design of computers, forcing processors, memory and other components to be placed just inches from each other. Intel has announced an important breakthrough that could see light beams replace the use of electrons to carry data in and around computers, enabling data to move over much longer distances and at speeds many times faster than today’s copper technology.  Read More

A diamond-based nanowire device (Illustrated by Jay Penni)

Current computers operate using binary coding; thousands to trillions of small electrical circuits representing a binary digit (bit) of information that represent a "1" when the circuit is switched on and a "0" when switched off by means of an electronic switch. The future of computing is to move this to a quantum scale, where the weird properties of subatomic particles can be used to create much faster computers. A new device developed by Harvard scientists which uses nanostructured diamond wire to provide a bright, stable source of single photons at room temperature represents a breakthrough in making this quantum technology a reality.  Read More

Sunlight prompts the newly developed molecular nanomotor to unclasp in this artist’s illus...

Most solar powered motors require an intermediate step where the light is converted to electricity or heat, usually by a photovoltaic cell, before it can be used to drive the motor. But now a team of University of Florida chemists have developed a new type of “molecular nanomotor” that bypasses this step and transforms light directly into motion – albeit on a very tiny scale.  Read More

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