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Silicon

Researchers at the University of Aalto, Finland have broken the efficiency record for black silicon solar cells a type of cell that can gather sunlight even from tight angles by almost four percent.

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Solar cells don't at first glance have any relation to a tiny structure in the eye that makes our central vision sharp, but that tiny structure – called the fovea centralis – may be the key to a huge boost in solar cell efficiency. A team of scientists at Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light took the underlying mechanisms that guide the fovea and adapted them to silicon as a surface for collecting light in solar cells. Read More
As recently as 2010, human-made silicene – an atom-thin form of silicon – was purely theoretical. But now the exotic material has been used to make transistors, and researchers have found that silicene's electrical properties lend it extraordinary potential in powering the next generation of computer chips. Read More
Swiss scientists have created the first semiconductor laser consisting solely of elements of main group IV (the carbon group) on the periodic table. Simply, this means that the new device is directly compatible with other elements in that group – such as silicon, carbon, and lead – and so can be directly incorporated in a silicon chip as it is manufactured. This presents new possibilities for transmitting data around computer chips using light, which could result in potential transfer speeds exponentially faster than possible with copper wire and using only a fraction of the energy of today’s integrated circuits. Read More
You probably wouldn't be reading this if it weren't for silicon. It's the second most-abundant element in the Earth's crust as well as the key to modern technology – used in the integrated circuits that power such electronics as computers, mobile phones, and even some toasters and refrigerators. It's also used in compound form in building, ceramics, breast implants, and many other areas. And now the ubiquitous element may have a plethora of new applications, thanks to a team of Carnegie scientists who synthesized an allotrope (new/different physical form) with the chemical formula Si24. Read More
Most everyone not vested in oil and gas agrees that renewable energies such as solar are a more sustainable option, but cost remains an issue. To make solar more competitive by addressing the high cost of solar cell production, researchers out of Norway have developed a method that could bring down the amount of silicon used per unit area by as much as 90 percent. The price of silicon is a major driver in the cost of solar panels. Read More
In what are claimed to be new world records, two teams working in parallel at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia have each found solutions to problems facing the advancement of silicon quantum computers. The first involves processing quantum data with an accuracy above 99 percent, while the second is the ability to store coherent quantum information for more than thirty seconds. Both of these records represent milestones in the eventual realization of super-powerful quantum computers. Read More
Conventional lithium-ion batteries rely on anodes made of graphite, but it is widely believed that the performance of this material has reached its zenith, prompting researchers to look at possible replacements. Much of the focus has been on nanoscale silicon, but it remains difficult to produce in large quantities and usually degrades quickly. Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have overcome these problems by developing a lithium-ion battery anode using sand. Read More
Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have developed a silicon anode that would allow us to charge lithium-ion batteries up to 16 times faster than is currently possible. The new design relies on a three-dimensional, cone-shaped cluster of carbon nanotubes that could also result in batteries that hold about 60 percent more charge while being 40 percent lighter. Read More

Night-vision security cameras could be getting a lot less costly, thanks to the discovery that their lenses can be made from silicon. Ordinarily, thermal infrared camera lenses are made from materials such as germanium and chalcogenide, which are much more expensive. Read More

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