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Semiconductors

Molybdenite could be used to make smaller and more energy efficient transistors

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

Berkeley researchers Kin Man Yu and Wladek Walukiewicz (Photo: Berkeley Lab)

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

Chemist Ali Javey, who led development of the tapered nanopillars (Photo: Berkeley Lab)

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

University of Rhode Island graduate student Andrew Correia (left) and Prof. K. Wayne Lee, ...

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

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

A scanning electron microscope image and a rendering of Caltech's silicon nanomesh (Image:...

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

An artist's impression of an artificial hand covered with the e-skin

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

The coupling of evanescence waves is key to obtaining higher-efficiency LEDs

One of the biggest challenges in creating a better light-emitting diode (LED) is the search for a way to efficiently extract the light generated in the semiconductor device into the surrounding air, while avoiding the internal light reflection that is cause for a considerable waste of energy. A team of Japanese researchers have recently managed to achieve just that, in what is believed to be a huge step toward significantly more energy-efficient LEDs.  Read More

Capturing heat energy currently lost from semiconductors could lead to cheaper and more ef...

Researchers from University of Minnesota have removed a barrier to improving solar cell efficiency by showing how heat energy currently lost from semiconductors can be captured and transferred to electric circuits. They hope manufacturers will use the results to produce solar cells with twice the output of current solar cells and at a lower cost.  Read More

Diagram of the gold monolayering process

We’ve reported on some rather questionable products of gold plating technology before, including a gilded iPhone, Wii gaming system and barbecue. There are legitimate reasons to coat things in gold, however, such as in the production of nanoelectronics and semiconductors. The coatings used in these applications are infinitely thinner than what you would typically use on an iPhone, so it is of the utmost importance that they be as smooth and uniform as possible. Recently, researchers at Troy, New York’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute announced that they have devised a quick and simple method of producing just such coatings.  Read More

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