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Despite their ability to generate clean, green electricity, solar panels aren't as commonplace as the could be. The main sticking point, of course, is price. Due to their need for relatively expensive semiconductor materials, conventional solar cells don't yet have a price-efficiency combination that can compete with other sources of electricity. Now Profs. Alex Zettl and Feng Wang of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California at Berkeley have developed seriously unconventional solar cell technology that allows virtually any semiconductor material to be used to create photovoltaic cells. Read More
A significant step on the path to quantum computing has been taken by an international team of researchers applying a 22-year old theory. They have succeeded in creating quantum bits within a semiconductor for the very first time. Read More
Back in February, Darren Quick wrote about the unique properties of Molybdenite and how this material, previously used mostly as a lubricant, could actually outshine silicon in the construction of transistors and other electronic circuits. In brief: it's much more energy efficient than silicon, and you can slice it into strips just three atoms thick - meaning that you can make transistors as much as three times smaller than before, and make them flexible to boot. Well, the technology has now been proven with the successful testing of the world's first molybdenite microchip in Switzerland. Does this mean Lausanne will become known as "Molybdenite Valley?" Read More
Researchers have uncovered a material that they say has distinct advantages over traditional silicon and even graphene for use in electronics. Called molybdenite (MoS2), this mineral is abundant in nature and is commonly used as an element in steel alloys or, thanks to its similarity in appearance and feel to graphite, as an additive in lubricant. But the mineral hadn’t been studied for use in electronics, which appears to have been an oversight with new research showing that molybdenite is a very effective semiconductor that could enable smaller and more energy efficient transistors, computer chips and solar cells. Read More
Scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have come a step closer to the development of a commercially-viable full-spectrum solar cell. Traditionally, due to their limited band gap (energy range), semiconductors used in solar cells have only been able to respond to a certain segment of the solar spectrum – this segment varies, according to the semiconductor. Some cells have been created that respond to everything from low-energy infrared through visible light to high-energy ultraviolet, but these have been costly to produce and thus unfit for common use. The new cell, however, responds to almost the entire spectrum, and can be made using one of the semiconductor industry’s most common manufacturing processes. Read More
Solar cells could become more efficient and less expensive, thanks to the development of tapered nanopillar semiconductors that are narrow at the top and wide at the bottom. Created by chemist Ali Javey and his group from California’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the two-micron-high nanopillars’ unique shape allows them to collect as much or more light than conventional semiconductors, while using much less material. Read More
Walk barefoot on an asphalt road and you'll soon realize how good the substance is at storing solar heat – the heat-storing qualities of roadways has even been put forward as an explanation as to why cities tend to be warmer than surrounding rural areas. Not content to see all that heat going to waste, researchers from the University of Rhode Island (URI) want to put it to use in a system that harvests solar heat from the road to melt ice, heat buildings, or to create electricity. Read More
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
Researchers at two different institutions have recently announced the development of technologies for converting waste heat from electronics into something useful. At the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), they’ve created a silicon nanomesh film that could collect heat from electric appliances such as computers or refrigerators and convert it to electricity. Meanwhile, their colleagues at Ohio State University (OSU) have been working with a semiconducting material that has the capacity to turn waste heat from computers into additional processing power. Read More
Using a process described as “a lint roller in reverse,” engineers from the University of California, Berkeley, have created a pressure-sensitive electronic artificial skin from semiconductor nanowires. This “e-skin,” as it’s called, could one day be used to allow robots to perform tasks that require both grip and a delicate touch, or to provide a sense of touch in patients’ prosthetic limbs. Read More