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[Image above] Credit: NIST

Butterfly wings help break the status quo in gas sensing

Pioneering new research by a team of international scientists has replicated the surface chemistry found in the iridescent scales of the Morpho butterfly to create an innovative gas sensor. The research describes how the composition of gases in different environments can be detected by measuring small color changes of the innovative bio-inspired sensor. The findings could help inspire new designs for sensors that could be used in a range of sectors, including medical diagnostics, industry, and the military.

Researchers demo solar water-splitting technology

Rice University researchers have demonstrated an efficient new way to capture the energy from sunlight and convert it into clean, renewable energy by splitting water molecules. The technology relies on a configuration of light-activated gold nanoparticles that harvest sunlight and transfer solar energy to highly excited electrons, which scientists sometimes refer to as “hot electrons.”

Material surfaces are not just 2-D

A University of Wyoming research team focused on the interaction between electrons and ion vibrations (phonons) at the surfaces of a beryllium crystal and revealed that, for the first time, the interaction between electron and phonon at the surfaces is determined by all four major entities: electrons in bulk, electrons at surfaces, phonon in bulk, and phonon at surfaces. In particular, the broken symmetry induced surface electrons and phonon play a decisive role to enhance the electron-phonon interactions at the surfaces.

Efficiently charging a lithium-ion battery with solar cell

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University have wired four perovskite solar cells in series to enhance the voltage and directly photo-charged lithium batteries with 7.8% efficiency—the most efficient reported to date, the researchers believe. The researchers say their overall photoelectric conversion and storage outperformed all other reported couplings of a photo-charging component with lithium-ion batteries, flow batteries or supercapacitors.

Artificial leaf harnesses sunlight for efficient fuel production

Generating and storing renewable energy, such as solar or wind power, is a key barrier to a clean-energy economy. Researchers at Caltech’s the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis have made major advances toward this goal, and they now report the development of the first complete, efficient, safe, integrated solar-driven system for splitting water to create hydrogen fuels.

Efficient and low-cost semitransparent perovskite solar cells with graphene electrodes

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has successfully developed efficient and low-cost semitransparent perovskite solar cells with graphene electrodes. The power conversion efficiencies of this novel invention are around 12% when they are illuminated from fluorine-doped tin oxide bottom electrodes or the graphene top electrodes, compared with 7% of conventional semitransparent solar cells.