Posts belonging to Category green power

Cloth That Produces Electricity

Fully flexible, foldable nanopatterned wearable triboelectric nanogenerator (WTNG) with high power-generating performance and mechanical robustness have been designed by researchers from the SKKU Advanced Institute of Nanotechnology (SAINT) (Korea). Triboelectric is an electrical charge produced by friction between two objects that are nonconductive. Very high voltage and current outputs with an average value of 170 V were obtained from a four-layer-stacked WTNG. The researchers created a novel tribo electric nano generator fabric out of a silvery textile coated with nanorods and a silicon-based organic material.
When they stacked four pieces of the cloth together and pushed down on the material, it captured the energy generated from the pressure. The material immediately pumped out that energy, which was used to power light-emitting diodes, a liquid crystal display and a vehicle’s keyless entry remote. The cloth worked for more than 12,000 cycles.


Solar Film: How To Increase The Absorption Of Sunlight

A biological structure in mammalian eyes has inspired a team headed by Silke Christiansen to design an inorganic counterpart for use in solar cells. With the help of conventional semiconductor processes, they etched micron-sized vertical funnels shoulder-to-shoulder in a silicon substrate. Using mathematical models and experiments, they tested how these kind of funnel arrays collect incident light and conduct it to the active layer of a silicon solar cell. Their result: this arrangement of funnels increases photo absorption by about 65% in a thin-film solar cell fitted with such an array and is reflected in considerably increased solar cell efficiency, among other improved parameters. This closely packed arrangement of cones has now inspired the team headed by Prof. Silke Christiansen to replicate something similar in silicon as a surface for solar cells and investigate its suitability for collecting and conducting light. Christiansen heads the Institute for Nanoarchitectures for Energy Conversion at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and a research team at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light (MPL) – Germany..

solar funnelThe simulation shows how the concentration of light (red = high concentration, yellow= low concentration) rises in the funnels with declining diameter of the lower end of the funnel
We’ve shown in this work that the light funnels absorbs considerably more light than other optical architectures tested over the last while”, says Sebastian Schmitt, one of the two first authors of the publication that has appeared in journal Nature Scientific Reports.


How To Boost Electric Vehicle Batteries

Researchers from the Professor Mihri Ozkan lab at the University of California, Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering have developed a novel paper-like material for lithium-ion batteries. It has the potential to boost by several times the specific energy, or amount of energy that can be delivered per unit weight of the battery.
This paper-like material is composed of sponge-like silicon nanofibers more than 100 times thinner than human hair. It could be used in batteries for electric vehicles and personal electronics.

electric carThe problem with silicon is that is suffers from significant volume expansion, which can quickly degrade the battery. The silicon nanofiber structure created in the Ozkan’s labs circumvents this issue and allows the battery to be cycled hundreds of times without significant degradation. This technology also solves a problem that has plagued free-standing, or binderless, electrodes for years: scalability. Free-standing materials grown using chemical vapor deposition, such as carbon nanotubes or silicon nanowires, can only be produced in very small quantities (micrograms). However, the team was able to produce several grams of silicon nanofibers at a time even at the lab scale.

The nanofibers were produced using a technique known as electrospinning, whereby 20,000 to 40,000 volts are applied between a rotating drum and a nozzle, which emits a solution composed mainly of tetraethyl orthosilicate (TEOS), a chemical compound frequently used in the semiconductor industry. The nanofibers are then exposed to magnesium vapor to produce the sponge-like silicon fiber structure.

The findings were just published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.

How To Grow High-Efficiency Perovskite Solar Cells

Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers reveal a new solution-based hot-casting technique that allows growth of highly efficient and reproducible solar cells from large-area perovskite crystals.
State-of-the-art photovoltaics using high-purity, large-area, wafer-scale single-crystalline semiconductors grown by sophisticated, high temperature crystal-growth processes are seen as the future of efficient solar technology. Solar cells composed of organic-inorganic perovskites offer efficiencies approaching that of silicon, but they have been plagued with some important deficiencies limiting their commercial viability. It is this failure that the Los Alamos technique successfully corrects.

The researchers fabricated planar solar cells from pervoskite materials with large crystalline grains that had efficiencies approaching 18%, among the highest reported in the field of perovskite-based light-to-energy conversion devices.
peroskite solar cell

These perovskite crystals offer promising routes for developing low-cost, solar-based, clean global energy solutions for the future,” said Aditya Mohite, the Los Alamos scientist leading the project.
Characterization and modeling attribute the improved performance to reduced bulk defects and improved charge-carrier mobility in large-grain pervoskite materials,” said Mohite, “and we’ve demonstrated that the crystalline quality is on par with that observed for high-quality semiconductors like silicon and gallium arsenides.

The resuls have been published in the journal Science,


Doubling The Electrical Output Of Solar Cells

One challenge in improving the efficiency of solar cells is that some of the absorbed light energy is lost as heat. So scientists have been looking to design materials that can convert more of that energy into useful electricity. Now a team from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory and Columbia University has paired up polymers that recover some of that lost energy by producing two electrical charge carriers per unit of light instead of the usual one.

solar cell
Critically, we show how this multiplication process can be made efficient on a single molecular polymer chain,” said physicist Matthew Sfeir, who led the research at Brookhaven Lab’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN), a DOE Office of Science User Facility. Having the two charges on the same molecule means the light-absorbing, energy-producing materials don’t have to be arrayed as perfect crystals to produce extra electrical charges. Instead, the self-contained materials work efficiently when dissolved in liquids, which opens the way for a wide range of industrial scale manufacturing processes, including “printingsolar-energy-producing material like ink.

The research is published as an Advance Online Publication in Nature Materials, January 12, 2015.


Anti reflective Solar Cells Boost Energy Output

Reducing the amount of sunlight that bounces off the surface of solar cells helps maximize the conversion of the sun’s rays to electricity, so manufacturers use coatings to cut down on reflections. Now scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory show that etching a nanoscale texture onto the silicon material itself creates an antireflective surface that works as well as state-of-the-art thin-film multilayer coatings. The surface nanotexture … drastically cut down on reflection of many wavelengths of light simultaneously.
Their method, described in the journal Nature Communications and submitted for patent protection, has potential for streamlining silicon solar cell production and reducing manufacturing costs. The approach may find additional applications in reducing glare from windows, providing radar camouflage for military equipment, and increasing the brightness of light-emitting diodes.

antireflection square of siliconA closeup shows how the nanotextured square of silicon completely blocks reflection compared with the surrounding silicon wafer
For antireflection applications, the idea is to prevent light or radio waves from bouncing at interfaces between materials,” said physicist Charles Black, who led the research at Brookhaven Lab’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN), a DOE Office of Science User Facility.
The issue with using such coatings for solar cells,” he said, “is that we’d prefer to fully capture every color of the light spectrum within the device, and we’d like to capture the light irrespective of the direction it comes from. But each color of light couples best with a different antireflection coating, and each coating is optimized for light coming from a particular direction. So you deal with these issues by using multiple antireflection layers. We were interested in looking for a better way.”


Super Battery For Electric Vehicles

An ultra-thin nanomaterial is at the heart of a major breakthrough by scientists from the University of Waterloo (Canada) who are in a global race to invent a cheaper, lighter and more powerful rechargeable battery for electric vehicles. Chemistry Professor Linda Nazar and her research team in the Faculty of Science at the University of Waterloo have announced a breakthrough in lithium-sulphur battery technology in a recent issue of Nature Communications.

Their discovery of a material that maintains a rechargable sulphur cathode helps to overcome a primary hurdle to building a lithium-sulphur (Li-S) battery. Such a battery can theoretically power an electric car three times further than current lithium-ion batteries for the same weight – at much lower cost.
Sulphur as a battery material is extremely abundant, relatively light, and very cheap.

electric car
This is a major step forward and brings the lithim-sulphur battery one step closer to reality,” said Nazar, who also holds the Canada Research Chair in Solid State Energy Materials.
You have to focus on the a fundamental understanding of the phenomenon before you can develop new, advanced materials,” said Nazar.

They found that the oxygenated surface of the ultrathin MnO2 nanosheet chemically recycles the sulphides in a two-step process involving a surface-bound intermediate, polythiosulfate. The result is a high-performance cathode that can recharge more than 2000 cycles.


Nano Filters Clean Dirty Industry

Prototypes of nano-cellulose based filters with high purification capacity towards environmentally hazardous contaminants from industrial effluents eg. process industries, have been developed by researchers at Luleå University of Technology (Sweden). The research, conducted in collaboration with Imperial College in the UK has reached a breakthrough with the prototypes and they will now be tested on a few industries in Europe.

– The bio-based filter of nano-cellulose is to be used for the first time in real-life situations and tested within a process industry and in municipal wastewater treatment in Spain. Other industries have also shown interest in this technology and representatives of the mining industry have contacted me and I have even received requests from a large retail chain in the UK, says Aji Mathew Associate Professor, Division of Materials Science at Luleå University.
nano filter

Researchers have combined a cheap residue from the cellulose industry, with functional nano-cellulose to prepare adsorbent sheets with high filtration capacity. The sheets have since been constructed to different prototypes, called cartridges, to be tested. They have high capacity and can filter out heavy metal ions from industrial waters, dyes residues from the printing industry and nitrates from municipal water. Next year, larger sheets with a layer of nano-cellulose can be produced and formed into cartridges, with higher capacity.

– Each such membrane can be tailored to have different removal capability depending on the kind of pollutant, viz., copper, iron, silver, dyes, nitrates and the like.


Nano Sponges Cut Greenhouse Gases

In the fight against global warming, carbon capture – chemically trapping carbon dioxide before it releases into the atmosphere – is gaining momentum, but standard methods are plagued by toxicity, corrosiveness and inefficiency. Using a bag of chemistry tricks, Cornell materials scientists have invented low-toxicity, highly effective carbon-trapping “sponges” that could lead to increased use of the technology. A research team led by Emmanuel Giannelis, Professor of Engineering, has invented a powder that performs as well or better than industry benchmarks for carbon capture.
The researchers have been working on a better, safer carbon-capture method . Their latest consists of a silica scaffold, the sorbent support, with nanoscale pores for maximum surface area. They dip the scaffold into liquid amine, which soaks into the support like a sponge and partially hardens. The finished product is a stable, dry white powder that captures carbon dioxide even in the presence of moisture.

A scanning electron microscopy image of a pristine silica support, before the amine is added
We have made great strides in sustainability, particularly in the energy supply areas of alternative energy sources, and the demand side areas of energy conservation and building design standards,” KyuJung Whang, Cornell’s vice president for facilities services said.

A paper with their results, co-authored by postdoctoral associates Genggeng Qi and Liling Fu, appeared in Nature Communications.

How To Make Drinking Water From Air Humidity

Understanding how a desert beetle harvests water from dew could help to improve drinking water collection in dew condensers mimicking the nanostructure of the beetle’s back

Insects are full of marvels—and this is certainly the case with a beetle from the Tenebrionind family, found in the extreme conditions of the Namib desert. Now, a team of scientists from ESPCI Paristech – France – has demonstrated that such insects can collect dew on their backs—and not just fog as previously thought. This is made possible by the wax nanostructure on the surface of the beetle’s elytra. These findings by José Guadarrama-Cetina,and colleagues were recently published in EPJ E. They bring us a step closer to harvesting dew to make drinking water from the humidity in the air. This, the team hopes, can be done by improving the water yield of man-made dew condensers that mimick the nanostructure on the beetle’s back.
desert beerle
It was not clear from previous studies whether water harvested by such beetles came from dew droplets, in addition to fog.

Guadarrama-Cetina and colleagues also performed an image analysis of dew drops forming on the insect’s back on the surface of the elytra, which appears as a series of bumps and valleys. Dew primarily forms in the valleys endowed with a hexagonal microstructure, they found, unlike the smooth surface of the bumps. This explains how drops can slide to the insect’s mouth when they reach a critical size.