Feeds

Florida researchers promise plastic circuits

Good for solar power, apparently

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The Power of One Infographic

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

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.