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Crystal Light: New Family of Light-Converting Materials Points to Cheaper, More Efficient Solar Power and LEDs

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Engineers have shone new light on an emerging family of solar-absorbing materials that could clear the way for cheaper and more efficient solar panels and LEDs. The materials, called perovskites, are particularly good at absorbing visible light, but had never been thoroughly studied in their purest form: as perfect single crystals. Using a new technique, researchers grew large, pure perovskite crystals and studied how electrons move through the material as light is converted to electricity.

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Making Smart Materials Even Smarter – Earns an Engineer a Prestigious Air Force Award

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Virginia Tech’s Pablo Tarazaga, an expert in the field of smart materials, has received a prestigious 2015 Air Force Young Investigator Award, valued at $449,600 over a three-year period. Tarazaga, a mechanical engineer, is one of only 57 scientists and engineers in the U.S. to receive this honor.

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ORNL Researchers Tune Friction in Ionic Solids at the Nanoscale

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Experiments conducted by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have uncovered a way of controlling friction on ionic surfaces at the nanoscale using electrical stimulation and ambient water vapor.

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How Ionic: Scaffolding Is in Charge of Calcium Carbonate Crystals

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Nature packs away carbon in chalk, shells and rocks made by marine organisms that crystallize calcium carbonate. Now, research suggests that the soft, organic scaffolds in which such crystals form guide crystallization by soaking up the calcium like an “ion sponge,” according to new work in Nature Materials. Understanding the process better may help researchers develop advanced materials for energy and environmental uses, such as for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

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Self-Assembled Nanotextures Create Antireflective Surface on Silicon Solar Cells

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Scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory show that etching a nanoscale texture onto silicon creates an antireflective surface that works as well as state-of-the-art thin-film multilayer antireflective coatings for solar cells.

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New Laser-Patterning Technique Turns Metals Into Supermaterials

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By zapping ordinary metals with femtosecond laser pulses researchers from the University of Rochester in New York have created extraordinary new surfaces that efficiently absorb light, repel water and clean themselves. The multifunctional materials could find use in durable, low maintenance solar collectors and sensors.

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Laser-Generated Surface Structures Create Extremely Water-Repellent Metals

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Scientists at the University of Rochester have used lasers to transform metals into extremely water repellent, or super-hydrophobic, materials without the need for temporary coatings.

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Humanity Has Exceeded 4 of 9 ‘Planetary Boundaries,’ According to Researchers

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An international team of researchers says climate change, the loss of biosphere integrity, land-system change, and altered biogeochemical cycles like phosphorus and nitrogen runoff have all passed beyond levels that put humanity in a “safe operating space.” Civilization has crossed four of nine so-called planetary boundaries as the result of human activity, according to a report published today in Science by the 18-member research team.

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Two-Dimensional Metamaterial Surface Manipulates Light

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A single layer of metallic nanostructures has been designed, fabricated and tested by a team of Penn State electrical engineers that can provide exceptional capabilities for manipulating light.

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Zinc Oxide Materials Tapped for Tiny Energy Harvesting Devices

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Today, we’re surrounded by a variety of electronic devices that are moving increasingly closer to us – we can attach and wear them, or even implant electronics inside our bodies. Many types of smart devices are readily available and convenient to use. The goal now is to make wearable electronics that are flexible, sustainable and powered by ambient renewable energy.