Although organic semiconductor materials cannot yet be packed as densely as state-of-the-art silicon chips, they require less power, cost less and do things silicon devices cannot: bend and fold, for example. Once perfected, organic semiconductors will permit the construction of low-cost, spray-on solar cells and even spray-on video displays. Notwithstanding tremendous progress in the area of organic electronics, several major challenges still exist. To address these challenges, researchers have combined organic electronics with nanoelectronics and developed the first 2D crystal of organic semiconductors on the millimeter scale, the thickness of which is only a single molecular layer, but with perfect long-ranged crystalline order.
Currently, the most common methods for sizing nanoparticles extract data from bulk measurements. These techniques are inherently averaging and so are unable to effectively resolve mixtures of different-sized particles. While individual nanoparticles can be sized using electron microscopy, this approach is time-consuming and of little utility in assembling significant population statistics. Researchers have now developed a microfluidic device for the all-electronic analysis of complex suspensions of nanoparticles in fluid. This device is capable of detecting and sizing individual and unlabeled particles as small as a few tens of nanometers in diameter at rates estimated to exceed 100,000 particles per second.
Bacterial propulsion systems are intriguing for nanotechnology researchers because nature has already solved most of the problems that they are still struggling with in designing molecular motors and other self-sustained nanoscale actuating systems. Indeed, it has turned out to be very challenging to even move sub-micron scale structures in well directed paths, especially under biologically friendly conditions. In previous work, researchers have already shown how large numbers of bacteria can propel larger sub-mm scale structures. And in a 2005 paper, researchers demonstrated a method of using the power generated by biological motors to transport microscale loads while leaving these motors in intact cells. Scientists at Johns Hopkins University have now demonstrated a strategy to autonomously move nanostructures in well defined paths by enabling individual bacteria-cargo conjugates. They showed how approximately 500 nm-sized structures deposited on substrates can be attached to individual bacteria and when released, the bacteria stay motile and ferry this cargo.
Previous research has shown that high performance piezoelectric ceramics PZT (lead zirconate titanate) could be printed as nanoribbons onto biocompatible and flexible substrates for applications such as harvesting energy from human motion like walking or breathing. While some motions, such as walking, only require flexibility, others, such as breathing, require that the materials be not just flexible but also stretchable. However, the PZT ribbons cannot stand stretching operation modes due to their brittle nature, which leads to cracking. The research team therefore has been looking to overcome this difficulty by fashioning the piezoelectric ribbons into wavy shapes, and integrating them with stretchable silicone rubber, such that the composite material can withstand large amounts of elastic strain.
Their use in large-scale commercial applications requires cobalt nanoparticles with well-defined size and shape to be prepared in large quantities. Accurate tuning of the nanoparticle size and shape requires understanding of the mechanisms involved in particle nucleation and growth. In spite of extensive ongoing research, these mechanisms are still not fully understood owing to their complexity and interplay. Moreover, the current small-scale synthesis methods, such as the hot-injection method, can be difficult to scale to industrially relevant levels. In order to find more suitable methods for synthesizing cobalt nanoparticles, Finnish researchers revisited a widely studied hot-injection synthesis of monodisperse cobalt nanoparticles and show that the particle nucleation differs from what is expected for a hot-injection synthesis.
Nanotechnology-enabled fabrication of solar cells with conventional nanoparticle-based thin-films has a drawback in that the diffusion length of the charge carriers is too short to get charge separation, although the nanoparticles themselves provide copious surface areas; whereas photovoltaic devices fabricated by aligned or partially aligned nanowire array configurations have exhibited enhanced performance owing to improved carrier collection, reduced optical reflection, and efficient absorption. While the nanowire-based approach indeed increases the diffusion length of carriers it also reduces the available surface area. However, being able to fully capture the promising surface and transport properties of nanoscale materials in practical devices or systems relies on the capability of effectively translating the extraordinary characteristics of nanoparticles or nanowires into larger-scale, three-dimensional (3D) structures. Researchers now have come up with a promising approach to address this problem by growing uniformly distributed and high density nanorods into high-aspect ratio nanochannels.
An important consideration for practical graphene applications is the fact that the physical characteristics of graphene are strongly dependent on the number of atomic planes, i.e. the properties of few-layer graphene are different from those of single layer graphene. Unfortunately, the one-atom thickness of graphene and its optical transparency make graphene identification and counting the number of atomic planes in few-layer graphene extremely challenging. This complicates the development of industrial-scale applications that would require the handling of large wafers with graphene. Current techniques for counting the number of atomic planes in few-layer graphene samples are either destructive, too complicated, or too slow. Researchers at UC Riverside have now developed a large-scale graphene recognition and quality control technique for industrial applications.
Electrically small antennas (ESA) find use in a wide variety of communications platforms - e.g. mobile phones an other handheld devices, RFID, aerospace and defense systems - but their construction requires advances in printing as well as a robust antenna design so that their operating frequency, size, and system impedance could be easily varied. Researchers have now demonstrated the conformal printing of electrically small antennas on spherical shapes with a key performance metric (radiation quality factor or Q) that very closely approaches the fundamental limit dictated by physics. This fundamental design approach enables specification of both operating frequency and size, while achieving near-optimal bandwidth at several frequencies of interest for wireless communications.