[Image above] Credit: NIST
Imagine if your clothing could release just enough heat to keep you warm and cozy. Or, picture a car windshield that stores the sun’s energy and then releases it as a burst of heat to melt away a layer of ice. According to researchers at MIT, both may be possible before long, thanks to a new material that can store solar energy during the day and release it later as heat on demand. This transparent polymer film could be applied to many different surfaces, such as window glass or clothing.
Researchers at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology have successfully demonstrated that desert sand from the UAE could be used in concentrated solar power facilities to store thermal energy up to 1000°C. The researchers studied the sands’ thermal stability, specific heat capacity, and tendency to agglomerate at high temperatures.
MIT researchers have developed a simple procedure for making a promising type of solar cell using lead recovered from discarded lead-acid car batteries—a practice that could benefit both the environment and human health. Laboratory experiments confirm that solar cells made with recycled lead work just as well as those made with high-purity, commercially available starting materials.
Scientists at the National Renewable Energy Lab and at the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology have jointly set a new world record for converting non-concentrated sunlight into electricity using a dual-junction III-V/Si solar cell. The newly certified record conversion efficiency of 29.8% was set using a top cell made of gallium indium phosphide developed by NREL, and a bottom cell made of crystalline silicon developed by CSEM using silicon heterojunction technology.
A team of chemists from ITMO University, in collaboration with research company SOPOT, has developed a novel type of firefighting foam based on inorganic silica nanoparticles. The new foam beats existing analogues in fire extinguishing capacity, thermal and mechanical stability and biocompatibility.
Detecting individual particles of light just got a bit more precise—by 74 picoseconds to be exact—thanks to advances in materials by NIST researchers and their colleagues in fabricating superconducting nanowires. The researchers used an electron beam to pattern nanowires into a thin film made of a heat-tolerant ceramic superconductor, molybdenum silicide.
In the 21st century, photonic devices will enhance or even replace electronic devices. But there’s a step needed before optical connections can be integrated into telecommunications systems and computers: researchers need to make it easier to manipulate light at the nanoscale. Researchers at Harvard University have done just that, designing the first on-chip metamaterial with a refractive index of zero, meaning that the phase of light can travel infinitely fast.
A team of researchers led by scientists from Berkeley Lab has identified several mechanisms that make a new, cold-loving material one of the toughest metallic alloys ever. The alloy—made of chromium, manganese, iron, cobalt, and nickel—is exceptionally tough and strong at room temperature, which translates into excellent ductility, tensile strength, and resistance to fracture. And unlike most materials, the alloy becomes tougher and stronger the colder it gets.
OTHER RESEARCH NEWS
The International Commission on Glass (ICG) will hold the 8th Summer School for new researchers in glass science and glass technology in Montpellier, France, July 4-8, 2016. Summer School 2016 will be organized as two parallel streams, one following a glass science theme, focused more on academic topics, and the second looking at glass technologies both from an industrial and academic perspective.
A cheaper, more environmentally-friendly concrete has been obtained thanks to an international collaboration between the Polytechnic University of Valencia and San Paolo State University. The team developed a new type of concrete that is cheaper and much less polluting to the environment. They have done so by swapping in sugar cane straw ash, a crop residue typically discarded as waste, as a substitute for Portland cement.
Self-compacting high-performance concrete has till now suffered from one weakness—when exposed to fire it flakes and splits, which reduces its loadbearing capacity. Empa scientists have now developed a method of manufacturing fire-resistant self-compacting high-performance concrete that maintains its mechanical integrity under these conditions.
Using only processes found in existing microchip fabrication facilities, researchers at MIT, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Colorado have produced a working optoelectronic microprocessor. The researchers’ chip was manufactured by GlobalFoundries, a semiconductor manufacturing company that uses a silicon-on-insulator process, meaning that in its products, layers of silicon are insulated by layers of glass.