How To Extract Hydrogen Fuel from Seawater

It’s possible to produce hydrogen to power fuel cells by extracting the gas from seawater, but the electricity required to do it makes the process costly. UCF researcher Yang Yang from the University of Central Florida (UCF)  has come up with a new hybrid nanomaterial that harnesses solar energy and uses it to generate hydrogen from seawater more cheaply and efficiently than current materials. The breakthrough could someday lead to a new source of the clean-burning fuel, ease demand for fossil fuels and boost the economy of Florida, where sunshine and seawater are abundant. Yang, an assistant professor with joint appointments in the University of Central Florida’s NanoScience Technology Center and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, has been working on solar hydrogen splitting for nearly 10 years.

It’s done using a photocatalyst – a material that spurs a chemical reaction using energy from light. When he began his research, Yang focused on using solar energy to extract hydrogen from purified water. It’s a much more difficulty task with seawater; the photocatalysts needed aren’t durable enough to handle its biomass and corrosive salt.

We’ve opened a new window to splitting real water, not just purified water in a lab,” Yang said. “This really works well in seawater.”

As reported in the journal Energy & Environmental Science, Yang and his research team have developed a new catalyst that’s able to not only harvest a much broader spectrum of light than other materials, but also stand up to the harsh conditions found in seawater.

 

Source: https://today.ucf.edu/

Solar Nanotech-Powered Clothing

Marty McFly’s self-lacing Nikes in Back to the Future Part II inspired a University of Central Florida’s (UCF) scientist who has developed filaments that harvest and store the sun’s energy — and can be woven into textile.

The breakthrough would essentially turn jackets and other clothing into wearable, solar-powered batteries that never need to be plugged in. It could one day revolutionize wearable technology, helping everyone from soldiers who now carry heavy loads of batteries to a texting-addicted teen who could charge his smartphone by simply slipping it in a pocket.

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That movie was the motivation,” Associate Professor Jayan Thomas, a nanotechnology scientist at the University of Central Florida’s NanoScience Technology Center, said of the film released in 1989. “If you can develop self-charging clothes or textiles, you can realize those cinematic fantasies – that’s the cool thing.

Thomas already has been lauded for earlier ground-breaking research. Last year, he received an R&D 100 Award – given to the top inventions of the year worldwide – for his development of a cable that can not only transmit energy like a normal cable but also store energy like a battery. He’s also working on semi-transparent solar cells that can be applied to windows, allowing some light to pass through while also harvesting solar power.

His new work builds on that research. “The idea came to me: We make energy-storage devices and we make solar cells in the labs. Why not combine these two devices together?” Thomas said.

Thomas, who holds joint appointments in the College of Optics & Photonics and the Department of Materials Science & Engineering, set out to do just that.

Taking it further, he envisioned technology that could enable wearable tech. His research team developed filaments in the form of copper ribbons that are thin, flexible and lightweight. The ribbons have a solar cell on one side and energy-storing layers on the other.

The research was published Nov. 11 in the academic journal Nature Communications.

Source: https://today.ucf.edu

Full-Color, Flexible, Skin-like Display

Imagine a soldier who can change the color and pattern of his camouflage uniform from woodland green to desert tan at will. Or an office worker who could do the same with his necktie. Is someone at the wedding reception wearing the same dress as you? No problem – switch yours to a different color in the blink of an eye.

A breakthrough in a University of Central Florida (UCF) lab has brought those scenarios closer to reality. A team led by Professor Debashis Chanda of UCF’s NanoScience Technology Center and the College of Optics and Photonics (CREOL) has developed a technique for creating the world’s first full-color, flexible thin-film reflective display.

Chanda’s research was inspired by nature. Traditional displays like those FLEXIon a mobile phone require a light source, filters and a glass plates. But animals like chameleons, octopuses and squids are born with thin, flexible, color-changing displays that don’t need a light source – their skin.

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All manmade displays – LCD, LED, CRT – are rigid, brittle and bulky. But you look at an octopus, they can create color on the skin itself covering a complex body contour, and it’s stretchable and flexible,” Chanda said. “That was the motivation: Can we take some inspiration from biology and create a skin-like display?”

As detailed in the cover article of the June issue of the journal Nature Communications, Chanda is able to change the color on an ultrathin nanostructured surface by applying voltage. The new method doesn’t need its own light source. Rather, it reflects the ambient light around it.

Source: http://today.ucf.edu/

1$ Cancer Test Provides Result in 3 minutes

The simple test developed by University of Central Florida (UCF) scientist Qun “Treen” Huo holds the promise of earlier detection of one of the deadliest cancers among men, the prostate cancer. It would also reduce the number of unnecessary and invasive biopsies stemming from the less precise PSA test that’s now used.

It’s fantastic,” said Dr. Inoel Rivera, a urologic oncologist at Florida Hospital Cancer Institute, which collaborated with Huo on the recent pilot studies. “It’s a simple test. It’s much better than the test we have right now, which is the PSA, and it’s cost-effective.”
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When a cancerous tumor begins to develop, the body mobilizes to produce antibodies. Huo’s test detects that immune response using gold nanoparticles about 10,000 times smaller than a freckle.

When a few drops of blood serum from a finger prick are mixed with the gold nanoparticles, certain cancer biomarkers cling to the surface of the tiny particles, increasing their size and causing them to clump together.

Among researchers, gold nanoparticles are known for their extraordinary efficiency at absorbing and scattering light. Huo and her team at UCF’s NanoScience Technology Center developed a technique known as nanoparticle-enabled dynamic light scattering assay (NanoDLSay) to measure the size of the particles by analyzing the light they throw off. That size reveals whether a patient has prostate cancer and how advanced it may be.

And although it uses gold, the test is cheap. A small bottle of nanoparticles suspended in water costs about $250, and contains enough for about 2,500 tests.

What’s different and unique about our technique is it’s a very simple process, and the material required for the test is less than $1,” Huo said. “And because it’s low-cost, we’re hoping most people can have this test in their doctor’s office. If we can catch this cancer in its early stages, the impact is going to be big.”
Huo also is researching her technique’s effectiveness as a screening tool for other tumors.

Potentially, we could have a universal screening test for cancer,” she said. “Our vision is to develop an array of blood tests for early detection and diagnosis of all major cancer types, and these blood tests are all based on the same technique and same procedure.”

The results of the pilot studies were published recently in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.
Source; http://today.ucf.edu/

Thousand Miles Range Electric Car

Imagine owning an electric vehicle that can travel 1,000 miles (1610 km) before needing to be recharged. Now imagine that same vehicle being able to be charged to capacity in less than 5 minutes. Or, imagine owning a smart phone that only needs to be charged once a week and that charge taking less than one minute. Now a little start-up company, HyCarb, led by Sigrid Cottrell, is working to allow that imaginary world to come true. Hyper efficient supercapacitors & batteries are designed by utilizing Nanotechnology and nano-super structure technologies in order to power the next generation of consumer electronics, electric vehicles, military equipment and medical devices. They function as both a battery and a supercapacitor. They provide the long, steady power output comparable to a conventional battery, as well as a supercapacitor’s quick burst of high energy.

2014 Renault

HyCarb, Inc. is a Florida-based, for-profit, small business, headquartered at the UCF Business Incubator in Research Park. The team of researchers has already filed 3 patents protecting the system of processes required to generate a Hy-Carb supercapictor battery develops nanostructured materials using high-throughput combinatorial electrochemical methods and other proprietary techniques.

Nano-engineered battery/super capacitor is lightweight, ultra thin, completely flexible, and geared toward meeting the trickiest design and energy requirements of tomorrow’s gadgets, electric vehicles, implantable medical equipment and any number of other applications. aligned carbon nanotubes, which will give the device its black color. The nanotubes act as electrodes and allow the storage devices to conduct electricity.
The creation of this unique nano-composite surface drew from a diverse pool of disciplines, requiring expertise in materials science, energy storage, and chemistry. Along with use in small handheld electronics, the batteries’ lighter weight could make them ideal for use in automobiles, aircraft, and even boats. The Hy-Carb Supercapicitor could also be manufactured into different shapes, such as a car door, which would enable important new engineering innovations. .
Source: http://www.hy-carb.com/

Your Jacket Will Be The Power Source

Imagine being able to carry all the juice you needed to power your MP3 player, smartphone and electric car in the fabric of your jacket? Sounds like science fiction, but it may become a reality thanks to breakthrough technology developed at a University of Central Florida research lab. So far electrical cables are used only to transmit electricity. However, nanotechnology scientist and professor Jayan Thomas and his Ph.D. student Zenan Yu have developed a way to both transmit and store electricity in a single lightweight copper wire.

It’s an interesting idea,” Thomas said. “When we did it and started talking about it, everyone we talked to said, Hmm, never thought of that. It’s unique.’” Copper wire is the starting point but eventually, Thomas said, as the technology improves, special fibers could also be developed with nanostructures to conduct and store energy.

More immediate applications could be seen in the design and development of electrical vehicles, space-launch vehicles and portable electronic devices. By being able to store and conduct energy on the same wire, heavy, space-consuming batteries could become a thing of the past. It is possible to further miniaturize the electronic devices or the space that has been previously used for batteries could be used for other purposes. In the case of launch vehicles, that could potentially lighten the load, making launches less costly, Thomas said.

In other words, Thomas and his team created a supercapacitor on the outside of the copper wire. Supercapcitors store powerful energy, like that needed to start a vehicle or heavy-construction equipment.

Although more work needs to be done, Thomas said the technique should be transferable to other types of materials. That could lead to specially treated clothing fibers being able to hold enough power for big tasks. For example, if flexible solar cells and these fibers were used in tandem to make a jacket, it could be used independently to power electronic gadgets and other devices.

Source: http://today.ucf.edu/

A Step Towards Invisibility

Controlling and bending light around an object so it appears invisible to the naked eye is the theory behind fictional invisibility cloaks. It may seem easy in Hollywood movies, but is hard to create in real life because no material in nature has the properties necessary to bend light in such a way. Scientists have managed to create artificial nanostructures that can do the job, called metamaterials. But the challenge has been making enough of the material to turn science fiction into a practical reality. The work of Debashis Chanda at the University of Central Florida (UCF), however, may have just cracked that barrier. The cover story in the March edition of the journal Advanced Optical Materials, explains how Chanda and fellow optical and nanotech experts were able to develop a larger swath of multilayer 3-D metamaterial operating in the visible spectral range. They accomplished this feat by using nanotransfer printing, which can potentially be engineered to modify surrounding refractive index needed for controlling propagation of light.

Such large-area fabrication of metamaterials following a simple printing technique will enable realization of novel devices based on engineered optical responses at the nanoscale,” said Chanda, an assistant professor at UCF.


By improving the technique, the team hopes to be able to create larger pieces of the material with engineered optical properties, which would make it practical to produce for real-life device applications. For example, the team could develop large-area metamaterial absorbers, which would enable fighter jets to remain invisible from detection systems.

Source: http://today.ucf.edu/

3-D TV Without Glasses

Assistant professor Jayan Thomas, a researcher from University of Central FloridaUCF -, may be on the brink of bringing 3-D- TV back from the dead. Gone are the goofy glasses required of existing sets. Instead, Pr. Thomas is working on creating the materials necessary to create a 3-D image that could be seen from 360 degrees with no extra equipment.
The TV screen should be like a table top,” Thomas said. “People would sit around and watch the TV from all angles like sitting around a table. Therefore, the images should be like real-world objects. If you watch a football game on this 3-D TV, you would feel like it is happening right in front of you. A holographic 3-D TV is a feasible direction to accomplish this without the need of glasses.”

When 3-D TVs first came on the market in 2010, there was a lot of hype and the market expected the new sets would take off. Several broadcasters even pledged to create special channels for 3-D programming, such as ESPN and the BBC. But in the past year, those broadcasters have canceled plans because sales have lagged and the general public hasn’t adopted the sets as hoped. Some say that’s because the television sets are expensive and require bulky equipment and glasses.

Thomas’ approach would use new plastic composites made with nanotechnology to make the 3-D image recording process multitudes faster than currently possible. This would eliminate the need for glasses.
The research team has developed the specific plastic composite needed to create the display screens necessary for effectively showing the 3-D images.
The findings have been published in the journals Nature and Advanced Materials.

Source: https://today.ucf.edu/

Solar Powered House For Hours

Converting sunshine into electricity is not difficult, but doing so efficiently and on a large scale is one of the reasons why people still rely on the electric grid and not a national solar cell network. But a team of researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Central Florida in Orlando may be one step closer to tapping into the full potential of solar cells. The team found a way to create large sheets of nanotextured, silicon micro-cell arrays that hold the promise of making solar cells lightweight, more efficient, bendable and easy to mass produce. The team used a light-trapping scheme based on a nanoimprinting technique where a polymeric stamp mechanically emboss the nano-scale pattern on to the solar cell without involving further complex lithographic steps. This approach has led to the flexibility researchers have been searching for, making the design ideal for mass manufacturing, said UCF assistant professor Debashis Chanda, lead researcher of the study.

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Previously, scientists had suggested designs that showed greater absorption rates of sunlight, but how efficiently that sunlight was converted into electrical energy was unclear, said UCF assistant professor Debashis Chanda, lead researcher of the study. This study demonstrates that the light-trapping scheme offers higher electrical efficiency in a lightweight, flexible module.
The team believes this technology could someday lead to solar-powered homes fueled by cells that are reliable and provide stored energy for hours without interruption.

The study’s findings are the subject of the November cover story of the journal Advanced Energy Materials.

Source: http://today.ucf.edu/