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  • richardmitnick 3:05 pm on February 2, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Shock/shear” platform, , , Material Sciences,   

    From LLNL: “NIF experiments shed light on turbulent mix” 


    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

    NIF Bloc
    LLNL NIF
    NIF

    LLNL NIF target on the National Ignition Facility (NIF) target positioner
    Cryogenics operator John Cagle mounts a target on the National Ignition Facility (NIF) target positioner for an experiment. An area backlighter disc is seen on-edge on the right of the assembly. The front of the target is covered with a gold shield with a diagnostic slit.

    Scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) are leading an experimental campaign on the National Ignition Facility (NIF) designed to further understand turbulent mix models used in both high energy density (HED) and inertial confinement fusion (ICF) experiments. NIF is the only facility with the energy and shot-to-shot reproducibility needed for the experiments.

    During shots using what’s known as the “shock/shear” platform, NIF fires 300 kilojoules of laser energy at each end of a target comprised of two half-hohlraums to produce shock waves from opposite ends of a foam-filled shock tube. These waves turn the foam into plasma and allow the shocks to travel and create a counter-propagating shear mixing effect across a metal foil.

    The target has evolved over time — different experiments have used titanium, copper, aluminum and roughened aluminum, and more materials are to come — but they all have one thing in common: each experiment enhances understanding of turbulent mix models in the HED regime. These models, developed and calibrated by LANL using hydrodynamic test data from the 1980s through the present, are now being examined through the lens of the shock/shear HED experiments to see how the data matches up to more extreme conditions.

    “We have created a system that reproduces instability features similar to those of traditional hydro experiments that have not previously been seen in HED experiments,” said LANL scientist Kirk Flippo, the lead experimental investigator. “This kind of experiment is rapidly evolving our understanding and we’ve discovered a lot of behaviors that we didn’t expect.”

    This enhanced understanding and refined data is vital for ICF. According to Flippo, it has become increasingly clear that ICF capsules experience some kind of mix as they are imploding.

    “Some of the outstanding issues in ICF are how does the capsule mix, how does this play into the degradation of the yield and how does it affect ignition,” he said. “It’s important for us to make sure that when we run a code to model an ICF implosion, we get all of the details correct. These experiments will help us quantify precisely how much of an effect this type of shear mixing has.”

    Shock/shear experiments initially were fielded on the OMEGA Laser at the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics, but due to the limited volume that could be driven, the experiments experienced boundary effects. The LANL project manager, scientist John Kline, believed the platform was mature enough to be deployed on NIF and pushed hard for its implementation. Kline knew that by scaling the experiments up to NIF energies, the researchers would be able to take advantage of larger volumes to eliminate the edge effects and do the experiments they wanted to do.

    “We cannot do experiments in this way anywhere but at NIF,” Flippo said. “In the regimes that we are in at NIF, the experiment behaves much more like a traditional hydro experiment and scales like a hydro experiment would scale.”

    Data from the NIF experiments already has been used by the campaign’s principal investigator, LANL scientist Forrest Doss, to refine the way the model is implemented in the code — producing a direct, immediate impact. But the work isn’t complete just yet.

    “Now that this platform is available, and has been shown to produce really nice data, we can start modifying it by changing the shock velocities, changing the materials or foams and using different shocks,” Flippo said. “This platform has infinite variation and infinite complexity.”

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  • richardmitnick 10:33 am on January 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Material Sciences, , Switchable material   

    From MIT: “Switchable material could enable new memory chips” 


    MIT News

    January 20, 2016
    David L. Chandler | MIT News Office

    Temp 1
    This diagram shows how an electrical voltage can be used to modify the oxygen concentration, and therefore the phase and structure, of strontium cobaltites. Pumping oxygen in and out transforms the material from the brownmillerite form (left) to the perovskite form (right).
    Courtesy of the researchers

    Small voltage can flip thin film between two crystal states — one metallic, one semiconducting.

    Two MIT researchers have developed a thin-film material whose phase and electrical properties can be switched between metallic and semiconducting simply by applying a small voltage. The material then stays in its new configuration until switched back by another voltage. The discovery could pave the way for a new kind of “nonvolatile” computer memory chip that retains information when the power is switched off, and for energy conversion and catalytic applications.

    The findings, reported in the journal Nano Letters in a paper by MIT materials science graduate student Qiyang Lu and associate professor Bilge Yildiz, involve a thin-film material called a strontium cobaltite, or SrCoOx.

    Usually, Yildiz says, the structural phase of a material is controlled by its composition, temperature, and pressure. “Here for the first time,” she says, “we demonstrate that electrical bias can induce a phase transition in the material. And in fact we achieved this by changing the oxygen content in SrCoOx.”

    “It has two different structures that depend on how many oxygen atoms per unit cell it contains, and these two structures have quite different properties,” Lu explains.

    One of these configurations of the molecular structure is called perovskite, and the other is called brownmillerite. When more oxygen is present, it forms the tightly-enclosed, cage-like crystal structure of perovskite, whereas a lower concentration of oxygen produces the more open structure of brownmillerite.

    The two forms have very different chemical, electrical, magnetic, and physical properties, and Lu and Yildiz found that the material can be flipped between the two forms with the application of a very tiny amount of voltage — just 30 millivolts (0.03 volts). And, once changed, the new configuration remains stable until it is flipped back by a second application of voltage.

    Strontium cobaltites are just one example of a class of materials known as transition metal oxides, which is considered promising for a variety of applications including electrodes in fuel cells, membranes that allow oxygen to pass through for gas separation, and electronic devices such as memristors — a form of nonvolatile, ultrafast, and energy-efficient memory device. The ability to trigger such a phase change through the use of just a tiny voltage could open up many uses for these materials, the researchers say.

    Previous work with strontium cobaltites relied on changes in the oxygen concentration in the surrounding gas atmosphere to control which of the two forms the material would take, but that is inherently a much slower and more difficult process to control, Lu says. “So our idea was, don’t change the atmosphere, just apply a voltage.”

    “Voltage modifies the effective oxygen pressure that the material faces,” Yildiz adds. To make that possible, the researchers deposited a very thin film of the material (the brownmillerite phase) onto a substrate, for which they used yttrium-stabilized zirconia.

    In that setup, applying a voltage drives oxygen atoms into the material. Applying the opposite voltage has the reverse effect. To observe and demonstrate that the material did indeed go through this phase transition when the voltage was applied, the team used a technique called in-situ X-ray diffraction at MIT’s Center for Materials Science and Engineering.

    The basic principle of switching this material between the two phases by altering the gas pressure and temperature in the environment was developed within the last year by scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. “While interesting, this is not a practical means for controlling device properties in use,” says Yildiz. With their current work, the MIT researchers have enabled the control of the phase and electrical properties of this class of materials in a practical way, by applying an electrical charge.

    In addition to memory devices, the material could ultimately find applications in fuel cells and electrodes for lithium ion batteries, Lu says.

    “Our work has fundamental contributions by introducing electrical bias as a way to control the phase of an active material, and by laying the basic scientific groundwork for such novel energy and information processing devices,” Yildiz adds.

    In ongoing research, the team is working to better understand the electronic properties of the material in its different structures, and to extend this approach to other oxides of interest for memory and energy applications, in collaboration with MIT professor Harry Tuller.

    José Santiso, the nanomaterials growth division leader at the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology in Barcelona, Spain, who was not involved in this research, calls it “a very significant contribution” to the study of this interesting class of materials, and says “it paves the way for the application of these materials both in solid state electrochemical devices for the efficient conversion of energy or oxygen storage, as well as in possible applications in a new kind of memory devices.”

    The work was supported by the National Science Foundation.

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  • richardmitnick 11:17 am on January 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Material Sciences, , Perovskites, Silicon and solar materials   

    From MIT Tech Review: “Promising New Solar Material Boosts Performance of Silicon” 

    MIT Technology Review
    M.I.T Technology Review

    January 7, 2016
    Mike Orcutt

    Silicon probably won’t be replaced as the dominant solar material anytime soon, but it might not be too long before it gets a partner from a promising class of materials called perovskites.

    A group led by Henry Snaith, a physicist at the University of Oxford and leading perovskite researcher, has demonstrated what it says is a viable pathway to a device that combines a conventional silicon cell with a perovskite cell to boost the efficiency of that silicon cell by several percentage points.

    Perovskites, which have captured the interest of solar researchers and energy policy experts because of their rapidly improving performance and low cost, are distinguished by a chemical structure that gives rise to unique electronic properties that make them attractive for solar technology (see “Could a New Solar Material Outperform Silicon?”). Snaith and his colleagues say the new composition they’ve developed overcomes a fundamental obstacle to designing a highly efficient device that combines the light-absorbing characteristics of silicon with those of a perovskite material.

    The researchers say the result suggests it should be possible to make a silicon-perovskite “tandem” device that is more than 25 percent efficient, higher than the performance of today’s commercially available silicon cells, which are about 17 to 20 percent efficient. The measurements they took were in a laboratory environment, but the approach could eventually be used to achieve significantly higher efficiencies than the best silicon panels on the market today.

    High-performance tandem devices made of semiconductors other than perovskite have already achieved efficiencies in the lab of over 40 percent, but they are extremely expensive because they require very technically complex manufacturing processes. Making perovskite solar cells is much simpler and cheaper, and the process could be integrated into existing silicon panel manufacturing lines by adding a few steps. Many experts believe the most realistic near-term commercial application of perovskites will be a tandem device with silicon.

    Several groups have demonstrated working tandem devices made of a silicon cell and a perovskite cell, but the efficiencies have been limited because the range of the solar spectrum the perovskite absorbed did not fully complement the range that silicon absorbs. Attempts to tweak the range of light the perovskite absorbs led to instabilities within the material’s structure that compromised performance. Snaith and his colleagues came up with a method, which relies on substituting certain ions in the material with cesium ions, to achieve the desired photovoltaic properties while maintaining the material’s structural stability.

    The researchers have only demonstrated the new composition at a small scale, and a lot of work would be needed before we might see it in commercially available panels. But a company Snaith cofounded, Oxford PV, is also focused on developing silicon-perovskite tandem devices.

    Chris Case, chief technology officer of Oxford PV, says results like this reflect how quickly researchers are addressing the inherent challenges to making reliable, high-performing tandem cells. Case won’t reveal the specifics of his company’s technology, but says Oxford PV is close to demonstrating full-size devices that are 23 percent efficient and could hit 25 percent shortly thereafter. Case says it’s not unrealistic to think 28 or even 30 percent efficiency is possible within just a few years.

    Perovskite-based technologies still face challenges due to the material’s sensitivity to moisture and air, and questions remain about whether perovskite cells can be made durable enough to survive the long lifetimes required of power systems. Still, Case says Oxford PV is on track to deliver a commercial product—aimed at silicon panel manufacturers who want to “upgrade” the efficiency of their products—in 2017.

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  • richardmitnick 6:24 pm on December 23, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Material Sciences,   

    From UCLA: “UCLA researchers create exceptionally strong and lightweight new metal” 

    UCLA bloc

    UCLA

    December 23, 2015
    Matthew Chin

    Temp 1
    At left, a deformed sample of pure metal; at right, the strong new metal made of magnesium with silicon carbide nanoparticles. Each central micropillar is about 4 micrometers across.

    A team led by researchers from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science has created a super-strong yet light structural metal with extremely high specific strength and modulus, or stiffness-to-weight ratio. The new metal is composed of magnesium infused with a dense and even dispersal of ceramic silicon carbide nanoparticles. It could be used to make lighter airplanes, spacecraft, and cars, helping to improve fuel efficiency, as well as in mobile electronics and biomedical devices.

    To create the super-strong but lightweight metal, the team found a new way to disperse and stabilize nanoparticles in molten metals. They also developed a scalable manufacturing method that could pave the way for more high-performance lightweight metals. The research was published today in Nature.

    “It’s been proposed that nanoparticles could really enhance the strength of metals without damaging their plasticity, especially light metals like magnesium, but no groups have been able to disperse ceramic nanoparticles in molten metals until now,” said Xiaochun Li, the principal investigator on the research and Raytheon Chair in Manufacturing Engineering at UCLA. “With an infusion of physics and materials processing, our method paves a new way to enhance the performance of many different kinds of metals by evenly infusing dense nanoparticles to enhance the performance of metals to meet energy and sustainability challenges in today’s society.”

    1
    Xiaochun Li

    Structural metals are load-bearing metals; they are used in buildings and vehicles. Magnesium, at just two-thirds the density of aluminum, is the lightest structural metal. Silicon carbide is an ultra-hard ceramic commonly used in industrial cutting blades. The researchers’ technique of infusing a large number of silicon carbide particles smaller than 100 nanometers into magnesium added significant strength, stiffness, plasticity and durability under high temperatures.

    The researchers’ new silicon carbide-infused magnesium demonstrated record levels of specific strength — how much weight a material can withstand before breaking — and specific modulus — the material’s stiffness-to-weight ratio. It also showed superior stability at high temperatures.

    Ceramic particles have long been considered as a potential way to make metals stronger. However, with microscale ceramic particles, the infusion process results in a loss of plasticity.

    Nanoscale particles, by contrast, can enhance strength while maintaining or even improving metals’ plasticity. But nanoscale ceramic particles tend to clump together rather than dispersing evenly, due to the tendency of small particles to attract one other.

    To counteract this issue, researchers dispersed the particles into a molten magnesium zinc alloy. The newly discovered nanoparticle dispersion relies on the kinetic energy in the particles’ movement. This stabilizes the particles’ dispersion and prevents clumping.

    To further enhance the new metal’s strength, the researchers used a technique called high-pressure torsion to compress it.

    “The results we obtained so far are just scratching the surface of the hidden treasure for a new class of metals with revolutionary properties and functionalities,” Li said.

    The new metal (more accurately called a metal nanocomposite) is about 14 percent silicon carbide nanoparticles and 86 percent magnesium. The researchers noted that magnesium is an abundant resource and that scaling up its use would not cause environmental damage.

    The paper’s lead author is Lian-Yi Chen, who conducted the research as a postdoctoral scholar in Li’s Scifacturing Laboratory at UCLA. Chen is now an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology.

    The paper’s other authors from UCLA include Jia-Quan Xu, a graduate student in materials science and engineering; Marta Pozuelo, an assistant development engineer; and Jenn-Ming Yang, professor of materials science and engineering.

    The other authors on the paper are Hongseok Choi, of Clemson University; Xiaolong Ma, of North Carolina State University; Sanjit Bhowmick of Hysitron, Inc. of Minneapolis; and Suveen Mathaudhu of UC Riverside.

    The research was funded in part by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

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    For nearly 100 years, UCLA has been a pioneer, persevering through impossibility, turning the futile into the attainable.

    We doubt the critics, reject the status quo and see opportunity in dissatisfaction. Our campus, faculty and students are driven by optimism. It is not naïve; it is essential. And it has fueled every accomplishment, allowing us to redefine what’s possible, time after time.

    This can-do perspective has brought us 12 Nobel Prizes, 12 Rhodes Scholarships, more NCAA titles than any university and more Olympic medals than most nations. Our faculty and alumni helped create the Internet and pioneered reverse osmosis. And more than 100 companies have been created based on technology developed at UCLA.

     
  • richardmitnick 4:11 pm on September 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Material Sciences, SLAC UED   

    From SLAC: “SLAC’s Ultrafast ‘Electron Camera’ Visualizes Ripples in 2-D Material” 


    SLAC Lab

    September 10, 2015

    1
    Researchers have used SLAC’s experiment for ultrafast electron diffraction (UED), one of the world’s fastest “electron cameras,” to take snapshots of a three-atom-thick layer of a promising material as it wrinkles in response to a laser pulse. Understanding these dynamic ripples could provide crucial clues for the development of next-generation solar cells, electronics and catalysts. (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

    2
    Illustrations (each showing a top and two side views) of a single layer of molybdenum disulfide (atoms shown as spheres). Top left: In a hypothetical world without motions, the “ideal” monolayer would be flat. Top right: In reality, the monolayer is wrinkled as shown in this room-temperature simulation. Bottom: If a laser pulse heats the monolayer up, it sends ripples through the layer. These wrinkles, which researchers have now observed for the first time, have large amplitudes and develop on ultrafast timescales. (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

    SLAC Electron Camera UED
    SLAC’s electron Camera

    SLAC electron camera schematic
    SLAC’s electron Camera schematic

    New research led by scientists from the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University shows how individual atoms move in trillionths of a second to form wrinkles on a three-atom-thick material. Revealed by a brand new “electron camera,” one of the world’s speediest, this unprecedented level of detail could guide researchers in the development of efficient solar cells, fast and flexible electronics and high-performance chemical catalysts.

    The breakthrough, accepted for publication Aug. 31 in Nano Letters, could take materials science to a whole new level. It was made possible with SLAC’s instrument for ultrafast electron diffraction (UED), which uses energetic electrons to take snapshots of atoms and molecules on timescales as fast as 100 quadrillionths of a second.

    “This is the first published scientific result with our new instrument,” said scientist Xijie Wang, SLAC’s UED team lead. “It showcases the method’s outstanding combination of atomic resolution, speed and sensitivity.”

    SLAC Director Chi-Chang Kao said, “Together with complementary data from SLAC’s X-ray laser Linac Coherent Light Source, UED creates unprecedented opportunities for ultrafast science in a broad range of disciplines, from materials science to chemistry to the biosciences.” LCLS is a DOE Office of Science User Facility.

    SLAC LCLS Inside
    LCLS


    download mp4 here.

    Extraordinary Material Properties in Two Dimensions

    Monolayers, or 2-D materials, contain just a single layer of molecules. In this form they can take on new and exciting properties such as superior mechanical strength and an extraordinary ability to conduct electricity and heat. But how do these monolayers acquire their unique characteristics? Until now, researchers only had a limited view of the underlying mechanisms.

    “The functionality of 2-D materials critically depends on how their atoms move,” said SLAC and Stanford researcher Aaron Lindenberg, who led the research team. “However, no one has ever been able to study these motions on the atomic level and in real time before. Our results are an important step toward engineering next-generation devices from single-layer materials.” The research team looked at molybdenum disulfide, or MoS2, which is widely used as a lubricant but takes on a number of interesting behaviors when in single-layer form – more than 150,000 times thinner than a human hair.

    For example, the monolayer form is normally an insulator, but when stretched, it can become electrically conductive. This switching behavior could be used in thin, flexible electronics and to encode information in data storage devices. Thin films of MoS2 are also under study as possible catalysts that facilitate chemical reactions. In addition, they capture light very efficiently and could be used in future solar cells.

    Because of this strong interaction with light, researchers also think they may be able to manipulate the material’s properties with light pulses.

    “To engineer future devices, control them with light and create new properties through systematic modifications, we first need to understand the structural transformations of monolayers on the atomic level,” said Stanford researcher Ehren Mannebach, the study’s lead author.

    3
    Visualization of laser-induced motions of atoms (black and yellow spheres) in a molybdenum disulfide monolayer: The laser pulse creates wrinkles with large amplitudes – more than 15 percent of the layer’s thickness – that develop in a trillionth of a second. (K.-A. Duerloo/Stanford)

    Electron Camera Reveals Ultrafast Motions

    Previous analyses showed that single layers of molybdenum disulfide have a wrinkled surface. However, these studies only provided a static picture. The new study reveals for the first time how surface ripples form and evolve in response to laser light.

    Researchers at SLAC placed their monolayer samples, which were prepared by Linyou Cao’s group at North Carolina State University, into a beam of very energetic electrons. The electrons, which come bundled in ultrashort pulses, scatter off the sample’s atoms and produce a signal on a detector that scientists use to determine where atoms are located in the monolayer. This technique is called ultrafast electron diffraction.

    The team then used ultrashort laser pulses to excite motions in the material, which cause the scattering pattern to change over time.

    “Combined with theoretical calculations, these data show how the light pulses generate wrinkles that have large amplitudes – more than 15 percent of the layer’s thickness – and develop extremely quickly, in about a trillionth of a second. This is the first time someone has visualized these ultrafast atomic motions,” Lindenberg said.

    Once scientists better understand monolayers of different materials, they could begin putting them together and engineer mixed materials with completely new optical, mechanical, electronic and chemical properties.

    The research was supported by DOE’s Office of Science, the SLAC UED/UEM program development fund, the German National Academy of Sciences, and the U.S. National Science Foundation.

    4

    To study ultrafast atomic motions in a single layer of molybdenum disulfide, researchers followed a pump-probe approach: They excited motions with a laser pulse (pump pulse, red) and probed the laser-induced structural changes with a subsequent electron pulse (probe pulse, blue). The electrons of the probe pulse scatter off the monolayer’s atoms (blue and yellow spheres) and form a scattering pattern on the detector – a signal the team used to determine the monolayer structure. By recording patterns at different time delays between the pump and probe pulses, the scientists were able to determine how the atomic structure of the molybdenum disulfide film changed over time. (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

    Citation: E. M. Mannebach et al., Nano Letters, 31 August 2015 (10.1021/acs.nanolett.5b02805)

    Press Office Contact: Andrew Gordon, agordon@slac.stanford.edu, (650) 926-2282

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    SLAC is a multi-program laboratory exploring frontier questions in photon science, astrophysics, particle physics and accelerator research. Located in Menlo Park, California, SLAC is operated by Stanford University for the DOE’s Office of Science.
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  • richardmitnick 4:01 pm on September 9, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Material Sciences, ,   

    From MIT: “How to spawn an ‘exceptional ring'” 


    MIT News

    September 9, 2015
    David L. Chandler

    1
    A schematic drawing of how a ring of exceptional points (shown in white) can be spawned from a Dirac point (a dot), and thus change the dispersion from the normal, widely known conical shape into an exotic lantern-like shape. Courtesy of the researchers

    2
    A schematic picture showing the conical dispersion of a Dirac cone being deformed into a new hour-glass-like shape due to radiation. Courtesy of the researchers

    The Dirac cone, named after British physicist Paul Dirac, started as a concept in particle and high-energy physics and has recently became important in research in condensed matter physics and material science. It has since been found to describe aspects of graphene, a two dimensional form of carbon, suggesting the possibility of applications across various fields.

    4
    Graphene is an atomic-scale honeycomb lattice made of carbon atoms.

    Now physicists at MIT have found another unusual phenomenon produced by the Dirac cone: It can spawn a phenomenon described as a “ring of exceptional points.” This connects two fields of research in physics and may have applications in building powerful lasers, precise optical sensors, and other devices.

    The results are published this week in the journal Nature by MIT postdoc Bo Zhen, Yale University postdoc Chia Wei Hsu, MIT physics professors Marin Soljačić and John Joannopoulos, and five others.

    This work represents “the first experimental demonstration of a ring of exceptional points,” Zhen says, and is the first study that relates research in exceptional points with the physical concepts of parity-time symmetry and Dirac cones.

    Individual exceptional points are a peculiar phenomenon unique to an unusual class of physical systems that can lead to counterintuitive phenomena. For example, around these points, opaque materials may seem more transparent, and light may be transmitted only in one direction. However, the practical usefulness of these properties is limited by absorption loss introduced in the materials.

    The MIT team used a nanoengineered material called a photonic crystal to produce the exceptional ring. This new ring of exceptional points is different from those studied by other groups, making it potentially more practical, the researchers say.

    “Instead of absorption loss, we adopt a different loss mechanism — radiation loss — which does not affect the device performance,” Zhen says. “In fact, radiation loss is useful and is necessary in devices like lasers.”

    This phenomenon could enable creation of new kinds of optical systems with novel features, the MIT team says.

    “One important possible application of this work is in creating a more powerful laser system than existing technologies allow,” Soljačić says. To build a more powerful laser requires a bigger lasing area, but that introduces more unwanted “modes” for light, which compete for power, limiting the final output.

    “Photonic crystal surface-emitting lasers are a very promising candidate for the next generation of high-quality, high-power compact laser systems,” Soljačić says, “and we estimate we can improve the output power limit of such lasers by a factor of at least 10.”

    “Our system could also be used for high-precision detectors for biological or chemical materials, because of its extreme sensitivity,” Hsu says. This improved sensitivity is due to another exotic property of the exceptional points: Their response to perturbations is not linear to the perturbation strength.

    Normally, Hsu says, it becomes very difficult to detect a substance when its concentration is low. When the concentration of the target substance is reduced by a million times, the overall signal also decreases by a million times, which can make it too small to detect.

    “But at an exceptional point, it’s not linear anymore,” Hsu says, “and the signal goes down by only 1,000 times, providing a much bigger response that can now be detected.”

    Demetrios Christodoulides, a professor of optics and photonics at the University of Central Florida who was not involved in this work, says, “This represents the first observation of an exceptional ring in a 2-D crystal associated with a two-dimensional band. The MIT work opens up a number of opportunities … in particular, around exceptional points where systems are known on many occasions to behave in a peculiar fashion.”

    The research team also included Yuichi Igarashi of NEC Corp. in Japan and MIT research scientist Ling Lu, postdoc Ido Kaminer, Harvard University graduate student Adi Pick, and Song-Liang Chua at DSO National Laboratory in Singapore. The work was supported, in part, by the Army Research Office through MIT’s Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy.

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  • richardmitnick 10:41 am on August 26, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From ars technica: “Quantum dots may be key to turning windows into photovoltaics” 

    Ars Technica
    ars technica

    Aug 26, 2015
    John Timmer

    1
    Some day, this might generate electricity. Flickr user Ricardo Wang

    While wind may be one of the most economical power sources out there, photovoltaic solar energy has a big advantage: it can go small. While wind gets cheaper as turbines grow larger, the PV hardware scales down to fit wherever we have infrastructure. In fact, simply throwing solar on our existing building stock could generate a very large amount of carbon-free electricity.

    But that also highlights solar’s weakness: we have to install it after the infrastructure is in place, and that installation adds considerably to its cost. Now, some researchers have come up with some hardware that could allow photovoltaics to be incorporated into a basic building component: windows. The solar windows would filter out a small chunk of the solar spectrum and convert roughly a third of it to electricity.

    As you’re probably aware, photovoltaic hardware has to absorb light in order to work, and a typical silicon panel appears black. So, to put any of that hardware (and its supporting wiring) into a window that doesn’t block the view is rather challenging. One option is to use materials that only capture a part of the solar spectrum, but these tend to leave the light that enters the building with a distinctive tint.

    The new hardware takes a very different approach. The entire window is filled with a diffuse cloud of quantum dots that absorb almost all of the solar spectrum. As a result, the “glass” portion of things simply dims the light passing through the window slightly. (The quantum dots are actually embedded in a transparent polymer, but that could be embedded in or coat glass.) The end result is what optics people call a neutral density filter, something often used in photography. In fact, tests with the glass show that the light it transmits meets the highest standards for indoor lighting.

    Of course, simply absorbing the light doesn’t help generate electricity. And, in fact, the quantum dots aren’t used to generate the electricity. Instead, the authors generated quantum dots made of copper, indium, and selenium, covered in a layer of zinc sulfide. (The authors note that there are no toxic metals involved here.) These dots absorb light across a broad band of spectrum, but re-emit it at a specific wavelength in the infrared. The polymer they’re embedded in acts as a waveguide to take many of the photons to the thin edge of the glass.

    And here’s where things get interesting: the wavelength of infrared the quantum dots emit happens to be very efficiently absorbed by a silicon photovoltaic device. So, if you simply place these devices along the edges of the glass, they’ll be fed a steady diet of photons.

    The authors model the device’s behavior and find that nearly half the infrared photons end up being fed the photovoltaic devices (equal amounts get converted to heat or escape the window entirely). It’s notable that the devices are small, though (about 12cm squares)—larger panes would presumably allow even more photons to escape.

    The authors tested a few of the devices, one that filtered out 20 percent of the sunlight and one that only captured 10 percent. The low-level filter sent about one percent of the incident light to the sides, while the darker one sent over three percent.

    There will be losses in the conversion to electricity as well, so this isn’t going to come close to competing with a dedicated panel on a sunny roof. Which is fine, because it’s simply not meant to. Any visit to a major city will serve as a good reminder that we’re regularly building giant walls of glass that currently reflect vast amounts of sunlight, blinding or baking (or both!) the city’s inhabitants on a sunny day. If we could cheaply harvest a bit of that instead, we’re ahead of the game.

    Nature Nanotechnology, 2015. DOI: 10.1038/NNANO.2015.178 (About DOIs).

    See the full article here.

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    Ars Technica was founded in 1998 when Founder & Editor-in-Chief Ken Fisher announced his plans for starting a publication devoted to technology that would cater to what he called “alpha geeks”: technologists and IT professionals. Ken’s vision was to build a publication with a simple editorial mission: be “technically savvy, up-to-date, and more fun” than what was currently popular in the space. In the ensuing years, with formidable contributions by a unique editorial staff, Ars Technica became a trusted source for technology news, tech policy analysis, breakdowns of the latest scientific advancements, gadget reviews, software, hardware, and nearly everything else found in between layers of silicon.

    Ars Technica innovates by listening to its core readership. Readers have come to demand devotedness to accuracy and integrity, flanked by a willingness to leave each day’s meaningless, click-bait fodder by the wayside. The result is something unique: the unparalleled marriage of breadth and depth in technology journalism. By 2001, Ars Technica was regularly producing news reports, op-eds, and the like, but the company stood out from the competition by regularly providing long thought-pieces and in-depth explainers.

    And thanks to its readership, Ars Technica also accomplished a number of industry leading moves. In 2001, Ars launched a digital subscription service when such things were non-existent for digital media. Ars was also the first IT publication to begin covering the resurgence of Apple, and the first to draw analytical and cultural ties between the world of high technology and gaming. Ars was also first to begin selling its long form content in digitally distributable forms, such as PDFs and eventually eBooks (again, starting in 2001).

     
  • richardmitnick 10:29 am on August 26, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Material Sciences,   

    From EMSL: “A new material for transparent electronics” 

    EMSL

    EMSL

    August 17, 2015
    No Writer Credit

    Specialized crystalline films revealed to be highly conductive and transparent

    1
    Scanning transmission electron micrograph of a p-Sr0.12La0.88 CrO3/n-SrTiO3(001) heterojunction.

    Results: The performance of solar cells, flat panel displays, and other electronics are limited by today’s materials. A new material, created by modifying a transparent insulating oxide, replacing up to 25 percent of the lanthanum ions in the host material with strontium ions, offers considerable promise. The new perovskite film, with the formula SrxLa1-xCrO3, (x up to 0.25), conducts electricity more effectively than the unmodified oxide and yet retains much of the transparency to visible light exhibited by the pure material.

    Why It Matters: Materials that are both electrically conductive and optically transparent are needed for more efficient solar cells, light detectors, and several kinds of electronic devices that are by nature transparent to visible light. Of particular importance are new materials that conduct electricity by using missing electrons, otherwise known as “holes.” The new perovskite film falls into this category.

    Methods: The development of high-performance transparent conducting oxides (TCOs) is critical to many technologies ranging from flat panel displays to solar cells. Although electron conducting (n-type) TCOs are presently in use in many devices, their hole-conducting (p-type) counterparts have not been commercialized as candidate materials because they exhibit much lower conductivities. Scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory along with collaborators at Binghamton University and the Paul Drude Institute in Berlin show that La1-xSrxCrO3 (LSCO) is a new p-type TCO with considerable potential. The researchers demonstrate that crystalline LSCO films deposited on SrTiO3(001) by molecular beam epitaxy show figures of merit which are highly competitive with best p-type TCOs reported to date, and yet are more stable and structurally compatible with the workhorse materials of oxide electronics, as seen in the image. Being structurally and chemically compatible with other perovskite oxides, perovksite LSCO offers considerable promise in the design of all-perovskite oxide electronics.

    See the full article here.

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    EMSL campus

    Welcome to EMSL. EMSL is a national scientific user facility that is funded and sponsored by DOE’s Office of Biological & Environmental Research. As a user facility, our scientific capabilities – people, instruments and facilities – are available for use by the global research community. We support BER’s mission to provide innovative solutions to the nation’s environmental and energy production challenges in areas such as atmospheric aerosols, feedstocks, global carbon cycling, biogeochemistry, subsurface science and energy materials.

    A deep understanding of molecular-level processes is critical to gaining a predictive, systems-level understanding of the impacts of aerosols and terrestrial systems on climate change; making clean, affordable, abundant energy; and cleaning up our legacy wastes. Visit our Science page to learn how EMSL leads in these areas, through our Science Themes.

    Team’s in Our DNA. We approach science differently than many institutions. We believe in – and have proven – the value of drawing together members of the scientific community and assembling the people, resources and facilities to solve problems. It’s in our DNA, since our founder Dr. Wiley’s initial call to create a user facility that would facilitate “synergism between the physical, mathematical, and life sciences.” We integrate experts across disciplines; experiment with theory; and our user program proposal calls with other user facilities.

    We proudly provide an enriched, customized experience that allows users to connect with our people and capabilities in an environment where we focus on solving problems. We collaborate with researchers from academia, government labs and industry, and from nearly all 50 states and from other countries.

     
  • richardmitnick 4:22 pm on August 23, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Material Sciences, ,   

    From Yale: “With Polymer Blend, Researchers Develop More Efficient Solar Cells” 

    Yale University bloc

    Yale University

    08/12/2015
    No Writer Credit

    1

    Yale researchers have significantly increased the efficiency of a polymer solar cell by using a technique that mimics how plants use solar energy and forcing two otherwise incompatible molecules to work together to cover the full color spectrum.

    The researchers, in Dr. Andre Taylor’s Transformative Materials & Devices Lab, developed a solar cell that performed 22.5 percent better than conventional organic solar cells. Their results were published online this month in the Journal of Materials Chemistry A demonstrating a power conversion efficiency of 8.7 percent.

    Most commercial solar cells today are made from silicon. But polymer cells cost less and weigh less, making them an appealing alternative. The problem is that they’re not very efficient – they fail to convert nearly half their absorbed light energy to electrical power. That’s partly because the polymers used in these cells don’t line up well enough to allow energy to exit the cell easily.

    However, because polymers have a mechanical flexibility that silicon cells don’t, researchers are hopeful that they will find ways around these shortcomings.
    “We are starting to approach the limits for improvements that can done with conventional silicon solar cells,” Taylor said. “But with organic polymers you can tweak and do things to them with significant results.”

    In a 2013 study in Nature, Taylor’s lab was the first to show that this can occur between small molecules and a polymer known as P3HT. It’s now demonstrating some of those same benefits in polymer blends.

    Conventional organic solar cells, known as binary solar cells, have one polymer serving as an electron donor and a fullerene derivative as the electron acceptor. Ternary cells – the kind used in this study – can have either two donors and one acceptor or one donor and two acceptors. In most cases, though, more efficient ternary cells usually have two donors and one acceptor since donors are predominantly responsible for light absorption.

    The most recent study uses two polymers, P3HT and PTB7, which are both light-sensitive molecules known as chromophores. In one sense, the two are complementary: P3HT absorbs the blue-green side of the light spectrum, while PTB7 absorbs primarily at the yellow-red spectrum. Together, the two cover a large portion of the visible-light spectrum. Rather than working independently, the proximity of the two polymers also facilitates what’s known as Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) to occur. That’s when energy is transferred between two chromophores over long distances.

    The problem is how these two polymers align.

    “We are blending two different types of polymers, so they align in different ways,” said TengHooi Goh, lead author of the paper. “P3HT aligns in a way that it stands like a wall and PTB7 is positioned more like a stack of pancakes.”

    “They work well optically, but the contradicting alignment is bad for electron transport,” added Taylor, senior author of the paper.

    To get around this problem, the researchers used a technique known as solvent vapor annealing (SVA), in which they chemically modify the properties of the polymers to better align. The more commonly used method is thermal annealing, but heat has been found to diminish the performance of the polymers. Goh said that SVA can potentially solve incompatible alignment problems in complex polymer systems and drive the efficiency of organic photovoltaics to a new heights.

    The other authors of the paper, Panchromatic Polymer-polymer Ternary Solar Cells Enhanced by Förster Resonance Energy Transfer and Solvent Vapor Annealing, are Jing-Shun Huang, Benjamin Bartolome,Matthew Y. Sfeir, Michelle Vaisman, and Minjoo Lee.

    See the full article here.

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    Yale University Campus

    Yale University comprises three major academic components: Yale College (the undergraduate program), the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the professional schools. In addition, Yale encompasses a wide array of centers and programs, libraries, museums, and administrative support offices. Approximately 11,250 students attend Yale.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:09 am on August 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Material Sciences,   

    From MIT: “Going solid-state could make batteries safer and longer-lasting” 


    MIT News

    August 17, 2015
    David L. Chandler

    1
    llustrations show the crystal structure of a superionic conductor. The backbone of the material is a body-centred cubic-like arrangement of sulphur anions. Lithium atoms are depicted in green, sulfur atoms in yellow, PS4 tetrahedra in purple, and GeS4 tetrahedra in blue. Researchers have revealed the fundamental relationship between anion packing and ionic transport in fast lithium-conducting materials. Image: Yan Wang

    New research paves the way for rechargeable batteries with almost indefinite lifetimes, researchers say.

    If you pry open one of today’s ubiquitous high-tech devices — whether a cellphone, a laptop, or an electric car — you’ll find that batteries take up most of the space inside. Indeed, the recent evolution of batteries has made it possible to pack ample power in small places.

    But people still always want their devices to last even longer, or go further on a charge, so researchers work night and day to boost the power a given size battery can hold. Rare, but widely publicized, incidents of overheating or combustion in lithium-ion batteries have also highlighted the importance of safety in battery technology.

    Now researchers at MIT and Samsung, and in California and Maryland, have developed a new approach to one of the three basic components of batteries, the electrolyte. The new findings are based on the idea that a solid electrolyte, rather than the liquid used in today’s most common rechargeables, could greatly improve both device lifetime and safety — while providing a significant boost in the amount of power stored in a given space.

    The results are reported in the journal Nature Materials in a paper by MIT postdoc Yan Wang, visiting professor of materials science and engineering Gerbrand Ceder, and five others. They describe a new approach to the development of solid-state electrolytes that could simultaneously address the greatest challenges associated with improving lithium-ion batteries, the technology now used in everything from cellphones to electric cars.

    The electrolyte in such batteries — typically a liquid organic solvent whose function is to transport charged particles from one of a battery’s two electrodes to the other during charging and discharging — has been responsible for the overheating and fires that, for example, resulted in a temporary grounding of all of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner jets, Ceder explains. Others have attempted to find a solid replacement for the liquid electrolyte, but this group is the first to show that this can be done in a formulation that fully meets the needs of battery applications.

    Solid-state electrolytes could be “a real game-changer,” Ceder says, creating “almost a perfect battery, solving most of the remaining issues” in battery lifetime, safety, and cost.

    Costs have already been coming down steadily, he says. But as for safety, replacing the electrolyte would be the key, Ceder adds: “All of the fires you’ve seen, with Boeing, Tesla, and others, they are all electrolyte fires. The lithium itself is not flammable in the state it’s in in these batteries. [With a solid electrolyte] there’s no safety problem — you could throw it against the wall, drive a nail through it — there’s nothing there to burn.”

    The proposed solid electrolyte also holds other advantages, he says: “With a solid-state electrolyte, there’s virtually no degradation reactions left” — meaning such batteries could last through “hundreds of thousands of cycles.”

    The key to making this feasible, Ceder says, was finding solid materials that could conduct ions fast enough to be useful in a battery.

    “There was a view that solids cannot conduct fast enough,” he says. “That paradigm has been overthrown.”

    The research team was able to analyze the factors that make for efficient ion conduction in solids, and home in on compounds that showed the right characteristics. The initial findings focused on a class of materials known as superionic lithium-ion conductors, which are compounds of lithium, germanium, phosphorus, and sulfur, but the principles derived from this research could lead to even more effective materials, the team says.

    The research that led to a workable solid-state electrolyte was part of an ongoing partnership with the Korean electronics company Samsung, through the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Ceder says. That alliance also has led to important advances in the use of quantum-dot materials to create highly efficient solar cells and sodium batteries, he adds.

    This solid-state electrolyte has other, unexpected side benefits: While conventional lithium-ion batteries do not perform well in extreme cold, and need to be preheated at temperatures below roughly minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit, the solid-electrolyte versions can still function at those frigid temperatures, Ceder says.

    The solid-state electrolyte also allows for greater power density — the amount of power that can be stored in a given amount of space. Such batteries provide a 20 to 30 percent improvement in power density — with a corresponding increase in how long a battery of a given size could power a phone, a computer, or a car.

    The team also included MIT graduate student William Richards and postdoc Jae Chul Kim; Shyue Ping Ong at the University of California at San Diego; Yifei Mo at the University of Maryland; and Lincoln Miara at Samsung. The work is part of an alliance between MIT and the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology focusing on the development of materials for clean energy.

    See the full article here.

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