A diagram of Jiang's proposed design. The top layer of each photovoltaic cell is a conventional photo electrode. While most electrons flow out of the device to support a power load, some are directed to a polyvinylidene fluoride polymer (PVDF) coating on zinc oxide nanowires at the bottom, which serves as energy storage. Credit: Hongrui Jiang; University of Wisconsin

A diagram of proposed new solar panel design. The top layer of each photovoltaic cell is a conventional photo electrode. While most electrons flow out of the device to support a power load, some are directed to a polyvinylidene fluoride polymer (PVDF) coating on zinc oxide nanowires at the bottom, which serves as energy storage. Credit: Hongrui Jiang et al.; University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Solar cell supplies, stores energy simultaneously

Researchers at University of Wisconsin (Madison) have developed a new solar panel design they say can simultaneously generate power from sunlight and store power reserves for later without a bulky battery. Hongrui Jiang and his students came up with the design, which consists of a conventional photovoltaic cell that diverts some of the electrons created to a polyvinylidene fluoride polymer coating on zinc oxide nanowires. Acccording to Jiang, the PVDF has the high dielectric constant required to serve as an energy storage solution. “When there’s no sunlight, the stored power will come back through the nano wires to power the load,” he explained. The design scales up easily, he says Jiang, possibly allowing use of the devices, for example, to power small grids used to balance power sources in energy-efficient buildings.

Canadian Light Source joins network of composite materials researchers

Shining synchrotron light on questions facing the composites industry is the goal of an Agreement signed today in Vancouver between the Canadian Light Source (CLS) and the Composites Research Network (CRN). The CRN is an initiative of the University of British Columbia in collaboration with academia and industry partners, which supports the composites industry in Western Canada and beyond. It was launched in January 2012 with a $9.8 million investment from Western Economic Diversification Canada. Clustered into geographical nodes, CRN lead participants include UBC-Vancouver and Okanagan, the University of Victoria, the Composites Innovation Centre in Winnipeg, and now the CLS in Saskatoon. “We’re very excited about the research opportunities that will come from this agreement,” says Jeffrey Cutler, CLS Director of Industrial Science. “Our scientists are doing leading science in applying synchrotron techniques to the composite materials’ sector. We look forward to partnering our capabilities with CRN’s expertise and experience, to benefit Canadian industry.” The only synchrotron in Canada, the CLS will add unique research capabilities and knowledge to the network, and will help to make available materials and knowledge for the development of next generation composite materials for the aerospace, manufacturing, automotive, agriculture, and recreational vehicles sectors. With an initial emphasis on the stress in composite structures caused by the manufacturing process, the CLS will bring unique insight into improving composite structure mechanical properties.

UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics: Positioning NY in the national spotlight

The Obama administration has identified advanced manufacturing as a national priority, establishing the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership and the Materials Genome Initiative to spur discovery and development through research. A key component of the federal government’s investments in advanced manufacturing research and development is advanced materials. University of Buffalo is uniquely positioned to play a leadership role in materials informatics on the national and international stages. The university currently has 50 faculty members engaged in materials science research who have extensive funding from federal agencies and private industry. In addition, NYSUNY 2020 is enabling UB to hire approximately 25 new faculty members who specialize in materials science research. They will be recruited across disciplines vital to advancing innovation in this field including engineering, physics, chemistry, medicine and computer science.

China likely to become No. 1 in supercomputing this week

(Computerworld) China has produced a supercomputer capable of running at 54.9 petaflops that will likely be recognized as the world’s fastest system in the forthcoming Top500 list of the world’s most powerful computers. The new system –called Tianhe-2, or Milkyway-2 —has 3.1 million cores, 32,000 multicore Intel Xeon Ivy Bridge chips and 48,000 Xeon Phi co-processors, along with technologies produced in China. The 24-megawatt system, which cost about $290 million, runs more than twice as fast as any supercomputer in the U.S. The current Top500 leader is an 18-petaflop Cray supercomputer at the DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The Top500 list is updated twice a year, with the newest version set to be released at this week’s International Supercomputing Conference in Leipzig, Germany, where the Chinese system is expected to be unveiled. Jack Dongarra, a professor of computer science at the University of Tennessee and an academic overseer of the Top500 supercomputing list, posted a detailed description of the new Chinese system early this month. The description is based on information he obtained in a briefing he had with a Chinese official from the National University of Defense Technology at a high-performance computing conference in Changsha. Dongarra’s report suggests that China may have the top system for a couple of years. “The next large acquisition of a supercomputer for the [DOE] will not be until 2015,” he wrote.

Optimized light management: Fraunhofer CSP develops new test to reduce optical losses in solar module

Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM, the Fraunhofer Center for Silicon Photovoltaics CSP and the companies F Solar GmbH, Kuraray Europe GmbH and Schlenk AG are working together to increase solar panel energy efficiency: The three companies are combining their respective products into test panels and research is underway to determine the best possible combination. Fraunhofer CSP is contributing to the project with the development of an innovative method of characterization that examines and evaluates each individual component. The exact calibration of each individual component leads to an overall increase in efficiency of the newly created system of more than 5 percent. The goal of the three companies is to reduce optical losses in solar panels and, in the process, maximize overall yield. For this purpose, for example, 2 mm thin solar glass with an anti-reflection coating (ARC) from F Solar, plus special UV-permeable polyvinyl butyral (PVB) plastic film from Kuraray and Light Harvesting Strings (LHS) from Schlenk, a surface-finished cell connector equipped with longitudinal grooves, are combined in a single solar panel. The independent research institution Fraunhofer CSP investigated the improvements that resulted from each combination. For this task, electrical and optical methods of characterization were used to analyze, determine and verify the effect and reciprocal effect of each individual component in the “total system panel.” The solar panels were manufactured and electrically and optically measured at Fraunhofer CSP. In doing so, a number of single-cell mini-panels of varying material combinations and then optimized 54-cell panels were initially manufactured and compared with standard panels: “We were able to show that the optical losses in the combined (glass-glass) panels, with 2 mm anti-reflection coated glass, special UV-permeable PVB and LHS connectors were able to be reduced by nearly 40 percent in comparison with a standard panel”, explains Jens Schneider, director of the Panel Technology Center at the Fraunhofer CSP. The power gain resulting from each approach to reducing optical losses was measured on 54-cell panels. In comparison with a conventional panel, power and efficiency increased by more than 5 percent, relatively.

Materials scientists build chlorophyll-based phototransistor

(Physics arXiv Blog) Despite decades of research, artificial light-gathering systems are no match for their chlorophyll-based competitors. Not by any means. But there may be a quick way of catching up. Instead of designing and making artificial materials that attempt to copy chlorophyll, researchers have begun to think about using this naturally-occurring material itself and attempting to bend it to their will. Now, Shao-Yu Chen at the Institute of Atomic and Molecular Sciences in Taiwan and a few buddies reveal how they have incorporated chlorophyll into graphene transistors to make light-activated switches. The new phototransistor design is relatively simple. It consists of two silver electrodes connected by a sheet of graphene. The graphene is then covered by a layer of chlorophyll using a method known as drop casting. This involves placing a drop of liquid containing chlorophyll on top of the graphene and letting it evaporate. This coats the graphene with a layer of chlorophyll. This layer has a significant influence on the electronic characteristics of the device. When a voltage is set up between the silver electrodes, relatively little current flows. However, when the chlorophyll is zapped by light of certain frequencies, the current increases dramatically.