Feeds

Florida researchers promise plastic circuits

Good for solar power, apparently

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Research into how charge is stored in polymer molecule chains could pave the way for "molecular wires" that would replace silicon circuitry. Scientists at the US Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory and the University of Florida say the results could have particular application in the solar energy industry.

Unlike their silicon counterparts, the molecules need a helping hand to move electrons around, so the team used the Brookhaven's Laser-Electron Accelerator Facility (LEAF), to generate high-energy electrons for their experiment.

The researchers, led by chemist John Miller, first immersed their molecular wire in an organic fluid and then fired the high-energy electrons through the fluid. The electrons cause the wires to take on an extra positive or negative charge. The scientists can track how the charge diffuses across the wire, helping them to identify good conductors.

In conventional solar panels the energy from the sun is excites electrons in a semiconducting material such as silicon, creating the current flow. Replacing the silicon with polymer nanowires would make the solar cell much lighter, and eventually cheaper.

The so-called plastic solar cells can be made much bigger and are also more flexible, making them more versatile. Normal solar panels are rigid, expensive and their size is constrained by manufacturing techniques.

However, there is still work to do. At the moment it takes a lot of energy for an electron to move from one molecular wire to another. Miller says that the next step is to find a way to eliminate this barrier. But first they need a better understanding of which polymer materials make the best conductors. ®

Related stories

Nanotech aids green hydrogen production
UK gov backs solar power projects
Clouds cloud climate modelling

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.