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Graphene’s star is rising as a material that could become essential to efficient, environmentally sound oil production. Rice University researchers are taking advantage of graphene’s outstanding strength, light weight and solubility to enhance fluids used to drill oil wells. The Rice University lab of chemist James Tour and scientists at M-I SWACO, a Texas-based supplier of drilling fluids and subsidiary of oil-services provider Schlumberger, have produced functionalized graphene oxide to alleviate the clogging of oil-producing pores in newly drilled wells. The patented technique took a step closer to commercialization with the publication of new research this month in the American Chemical Society journal Applied Materials and Interfaces.
Researchers from Purdue and Harvard universities have created a new type of transistor made from a material that could replace silicon and have a 3-D structure instead of conventional flat computer chips. The approach could enable engineers to build faster, more compact and efficient integrated circuits and lighter laptops that generate less heat than today’s. The transistors contain tiny nanowires made not of silicon, like conventional transistors, but from a material called indium-gallium-arsenide. The device was created using a so-called “top-down” method, which is akin to industrial processes to precisely etch and position components in transistors. Because the approach is compatible with conventional manufacturing processes, it is promising for adoption by industry, said Peide “Peter” Ye, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue.
US Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) hailed the passage of an amendment they sponsored to close loopholes that put American manufacturers of solar technology at a disadvantage to foreign competitors. The Buy American Solar Amendment, which passed as part of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, will ensure that “Buy American” requirements apply to all photovoltaic (solar) devices that supply power Department of Defense property or facilities. The amendment was also cosponsored by Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).
No electric car has ever caught fire under real-world conditions, but the battery packs of two Chevy Volts have in test crashes. The controversy that followed could have been predicted, unfortunately. For all our talk of embracing innovation, there is always someone ready to declare that the growing pains of disruptive new technologies are in fact their death knell.
Suntech Power is the world’s largest maker of solar cells and panels. It reached this position through a combination of clever advances in manufacturing equipment with judicious use of cheap labor, a strategy apparent when Technology Review took a tour of the company’s factories this fall.