Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Silicon

This image shows two electrodes connected via an external voltage source splitting water i...

Photoelectrochemical (PEC) cells can use sunlight to sustainably split water into hydrogen and oxygen, but efficient PEC materials tend to corrode rapidly in use. A Stanford research group has been studying this problem, and has found that depositing a thin layer of nickel atoms on a silicon PEC electrode allows it to operate for over 80 hours with no sign of corrosion.  Read More

Research at UNSW increases the conversion efficiency of solar cells made using lower-cost,...

While we wait for affordable multi-junction solar cells that are pushing past the 40 percent conversion efficiency mark to make it out of the lab and onto our roofs, we have to make do with standard commercial silicon cells that currently max out at around 19 percent. A team from the University of New South Wales in Australia has found a way to improve the quality of low-grade silicon, enabling higher efficiency solar cells to be produced from cheaper, low-grade silicon.  Read More

A chunk of germanium in its natural form (Photo: Gibe)

It consists of one-atom-thick sheets and it could revolutionize electronics ... but it’s not graphene. Chemists at Ohio State University, instead of creating graphene from carbon atoms, have used sheets of germanium atoms to create a substance known as germanane. Because of its numerous advantages over silicon, it could become the material of choice for semiconductors.  Read More

Scientists have used etched silicon nanoparticles in the anode of a next-generation lithiu...

In some peoples’ opinion, electric cars won’t become truly viable until their batteries offer a lot more driving range, and can be recharged much more quickly than is currently possible. Well, those people may soon be getting their wish. Scientists at the University of Southern California have developed a new type of lithium-ion battery, that they claim holds three times as much energy as a conventional li-ion, and can be recharged in just ten minutes.  Read More

Rice University researchers Madhuri Thakur, left, and Sibani Lisa Biswal with their crushe...

Researchers at Rice University and Lockheed Martin may have developed a low-cost method of creating longer-lasting, high-capacity lithium-ion batteries. Currently graphite is used as the anode in commercial li-ion products, despite the fact that a silicon anode could potentially store ten times more lithium ions. The team says it has solved one of the problems associated with silicon, which nearly triples the energy density of current li-ion batteries.  Read More

IBM researcher Hongsik Park examines a wafer packed with carbon nanotubes

Silicon’s reign as the standard material for microchip semiconductors may be coming to an end. Using standard semiconductor processes, scientists from IBM Research have succeeded in precisely placing over 10,000 working transistors made from carbon nanotubes onto a wafer surface – and yes, the resulting chip was tested, and it worked. According to IBM, “These carbon devices are poised to replace and outperform silicon technology allowing further miniaturization of computing components and leading the way for future microelectronics.”  Read More

UCL researchers have designed a silicon oxide-based memory chip that is faster than flash ...

These days, Flash memory is almost the defacto standard for data storage in consumer devices, being found in everything from PCs and digital cameras, to smartphones and USB thumb drives. But a team of researchers at University College of London (UCL) has developed a new type of memory chip that is much faster than Flash memory, while also offering greater storage densities and requiring much less power. Could the days of Flash memory's dominance be numbered?  Read More

Twin Creeks Technologies' Hyperion process is claimed to be able to produce crystalline si...

Boosting solar cell efficiency is seen as a key factor in making them more practical, but there is another way of looking at the matter ... if the price of those cells were lowered, we could generate more power simply by using more of them. That’s where Mississippi-based Twin Creeks Technologies comes into the picture. The company has developed a method of making crystalline silicon wafers which it says could reduce the cost of solar cell production by half.  Read More

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

Possible model of the Sahara Solar Breeder Project

This is ambition with a capital A. Universities in Japan and Algeria have teamed up on a project that aims to solve the world’s energy problems. Called the Sahara Solar Breeder Project, the plan is to build manufacturing plants around the Sahara Desert and extract silica from sand to make solar panels, which will then be used to build solar power plants in the desert. The power generated by the initial plant or plants would be used to “breed” more silicon manufacturing and solar power plants, which will in turn be used to breed more again, and so on. The ultimate goal is to build enough plants to provide 50 percent of the world’s electricity by 2050, which would be delivered via a global superconducting supergrid.  Read More

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