Friday, November 5, 2010

This week in nanotechnology - November 5, 2010

Researchers at Oregon State University have solved a quest in fundamental material science that has eluded scientists since the 1960s, and could form the basis of a new approach to electronics. The discovery outlines the creation for the first time of a high-performance "metal-insulator-metal" diode. These diodes can be used to perform some of the same functions as silicon-based materials, but in a fundamentally different way.

A team of researchers at the University of Warwick has found molecular hooks on the surface of Graphene Oxide that will potentially provide massive benefits to researchers using transmission electron microscopes. They could even be used in building molecular scale mechanisms.

Scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory have fabricated transparent thin films capable of absorbing light and generating electric charge over a relatively large area. The material - which consists of a semiconducting polymer doped with carbon-rich fullerenes - could be used to develop transparent solar panels or even windows that absorb solar energy to generate electricity. Under carefully controlled conditions, the material self-assembles to form a reproducible pattern of micron-size hexagon-shaped cells over a relatively large area (up to several millimeters).
conjugated polymer honeycombTop: Scanning electron microscopy image and zoom of conjugated polymer (PPV) honeycomb. Bottom (left-to-right): Confocal fluorescence lifetime images of conjugated honeycomb, of polymer/fullerene honeycomb double layer and of polymer/fullerene honeycomb blend. Efficient charge transfer within the whole framework is observed in the case of polymer/fullerene honeycomb blend as a dramatic reduction in the fluorescence lifetime.

Radically simple technique developed to grow conducting polymer thin films: Oil and water don't mix, but add in some nanofibers and all bets are off. A team of UCLA chemists and engineers has developed a new method for coating large surfaces with nanofiber thin films that are both transparent and electrically conductive. Their method involves the vigorous agitation of water, dense oil and polymer nanofibers. After this solution is sufficiently agitated it spreads over virtually any surface, creating a film.

Engineers have discovered a new method to speed the production rate of nanoparticles by 500 times, an advance that could play an important role in making nanotechnology products more commercially practical. The approach uses an arrayed microchannel reactor and a "laminated architecture" in which many sheets, each with thousands of microchannels in them, are stacked in parallel to provide a high volume of production and excellent control of the processes involved.

Remember the Star Wars scene in which R2D2 projects a three-dimensional image of a troubled Princess Leia delivering a call for help to Luke Skywalker and his allies? What used to be science fiction is now close to becoming reality thanks to a breakthrough in 3D holographic imaging technology developed at the University of Arizona College of Optical Sciences.