Organic solar cells are regarded as an emerging technology to become one of the low-cost thin-film alternatives to the current dominating silicon photovoltaic technology, due to their intrinsic potential for low-cost processing (high-speed and at low temperature). However, it is generally believed that the PCE needs to be improved to above 10% in order for organic solar cells to become truly competitive in the marketplace. Currently, the best reported PCE, achieved in laboratories, lies in the range of 6.7% to 7.6% for molecular, and 8.3% to 10.6% for polymeric OPVs.
Strange new materials experimentally identified just a few years ago are now driving research in condensed-matter physics around the world. Tthese "strong 3-D topological insulators" - TIs for short - are seemingly mundane semiconductors with startling properties. Topological insulators offer unique opportunities to control electric currents and magnetism, and are promising materials for future spintronic applications or could provide access to novel, fascinating physical phenomena. While so far, only synthetic TIs had been experimentally identified, researchers in Germany report the discovery of a natural occurring topological insulator: the mineral Kawazulite.
Unlike silicon, graphene lacks an electronic band gap and therefore has no switching capability; which is essential for electronics applications. Opening an energy gap in graphene's electron energy spectrum is therefore a critical prerequisite for instance for creating graphene transistors. One method of obtaining a bandgap is to use reduced graphene oxide, an inexpensive material with an industrial-scalable production route. Researchers have now managed to grow and extend graphene oxide out of graphene oxide flake templates.
Just like other industry sectors, the furniture industry is trying to get more efficient by minimizing material use, minimizing waste, and optimizing energy consumption while improving the performance of their products. Nanotechnology and nanomaterials can play an important role in achieving these goals. A recent project mapped current uses and near future perspective on nanomaterials in the European furniture sector. It looked at innovative materials and potentials of nanotechnology that may positively affect the furniture sector; it also considered possible health risks and steps towards workplace prevention strategies following the precautionary principle.
Currently developed nanotechnology-based drug delivery systems, either 'passively targeted' or 'actively targeted', do not significantly improve the delivery of drugs to target tumors. Scientists in China now propose a new-generation nanocarrier that integrates various desired functions into a single nanosystem, which can harmonize with the complex physiological environment and display different properties sequentially, thus resulting in an excellent targeting effect and satisfactory biodistribution of drugs.
So-called shape memory polymers have the ability to reassume their original shape following temporary deformation. This function can be activated by means of external stimuli such as temperature change, light, or magnetic fields. Researchers have now shown that they can mold shape memory polymers into shapes relevant for micro-optics, and that they can exploit shape memory effects in this context to develop new kinds of programmable optical components. They demonstrate a series of deformable, shape-memorizing micro-optics using a shape memory elastomer.
With all the rapid progress going on in research and commercialization of flexible and transparent electronics, the obvious question is not if, but when it will be possible to build a flexible and transparent truly high performance computer. A research team has now shown, for the first time, a generic batch fabrication process to obtain mechanically flexible and transparent mono-crystalline silicon (100) from bulk wafers. The researchers demonstrate a pragmatic pathway for a truly high performance computation systems on flexible and transparent platform.
Harvesting unexploited energy in the living environment is increasingly becoming an intense research area as the global push to replace fossil fuels with clean and renewable energy sources heats up. There is an almost infinite number of mechanical energy sources all around us - basically, anything that moves can be harvested for energy. This ranges from the very large, like wave power in the oceans, to the very small like rain drops or biomechanical energy from heart beat, breathing, and blood flow. In an intriguing demonstration, researchers at Georgia Tech have now demonstrated that the technology offered by nanogenerators can also be used for large-scale energy harvesting.