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Electrodes containing porous graphene and a niobia composite could help improve electrochemical energy storage in batteries. This is the new finding from researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles who say that the nanopores in the carbon material facilitate charge transport in a battery.

By fine tuning the size of these pores, they can not only optimize this charge transport but also increase the amount of active material in the device, which is an important step forward towards practical applications.

Batteries and supercapacitors are two complementary electrochemical energy-storage technologies. They typically contain positive and negative electrodes with the active electrode materials coated on a metal current collector (normally copper or aluminium foil), a separator between the two electrodes, and an electrolyte that facilitates ion transport.

The electrode materials actively participate in charge (energy) storage, whereas the other components are passive but nevertheless compulsory for making the device work.

Batteries offer high energy density but low power density while supercapacitors provide high power density with low energy density.

Although lithium-ion batteries are the most widely employed batteries today for powering consumer electronics, there is a growing demand for more rapid energy storage (high power) and higher energy density. Researchers are thus looking to create materials that combine the high-energy density of battery materials with the short charging times and long cycle life of supercapacitors.

Such materials need to store a large number of charges (such as Li ions) and have an electrode architecture that can quickly deliver charges (electrons and ions) during a given charge/discharge cycle.

Read the Full Article “Holey” graphene improves battery electrodes – May be ‘The Holy Grail’ of Next Generation Batteries

The way energy is produced, distributed and consumed around the world is undergoing fundamental change of almost unprecedented proportions. This is commonly referred to as the “energy transition”. (watch the video)


The Global Energy Architecture Performance Index 2017 (EAPI), tackles elements of this transition in its fifth annual edition, as do the global Regulatory Indicators for Sustainable Energy (RISE) released by the World Bank a month earlier. Of specific interest to this essay are the underlying issues of governance and regulation and their relationship to progress towards sustainable and secure energy systems. In UN development terms, this focus helps us consider the links between Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7, which addresses energy, and SDG 16, which is about peace and justice.

Yale Fracking drinking-waterYale researchers have confirmed that hydraulic fracturing – also known as “fracking” – does not contaminate drinking water. (Photo : Flickr: Konstantin Stepanov)

Yale researchers have confirmed that hydraulic fracturing – also known as “fracking” – does not contaminate drinking water. The process of extracting natural gas from deep underground wells using water has been given a bad reputation when it comes to the impact it has on water resources but Yale researchers recently disproved this myth in a new study that confirms a previous report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted earlier this year.

After analyzing 64 samples of groundwater collected from private residences in northeastern Pennsylvania, researchers determined that groundwater contamination was more closely related to surface toxins seeping down into the water than from fracking operations seeping upwards. Their findings were recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

 Gaps in fracking-happeningx250
“We’re not trying to say whether it’s a bad or good thing,” Desiree Plata, an assistant professor of chemical and environmental engineering at Yale University, told News Three in a Skype interview. “We saw there was a correlation between the concentration and the nearest gas well that has had an environmental health and safety violation in the past.”

Researchers also noted that shale underlying the Pennsylvania surface did not cause any organic chemicals to seep into groundwater aquifers. However, these findings may not be applicable to all locations worldwide.

“Geology across the country is very different. So if you’re living over in the New Albany-area shale of Illinois, that might be distinct from living in the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania,” Plata explained.

Researchers from Duke University also recently gave people a reason to trust fracking companies. In a study published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters, scientists explained that hydraulic fracturing accounts for less than one percent of water used nationwide for industrial purposes. This suggested that the natural gas extraction processes are far less water-intensive than we previously thought.

It’s hoped that these studies will help people better understand the safety of fracking.

1366 Solar untitled1366 Technologies today announced plans to build a state-of-the-art, commercial solar wafer manufacturing facility in Genesee County New York, strategically located between Buffalo and Rochester, that will eventually scale to 3 GW, house 400 Direct Wafer™ furnaces, and produce more than 600 million high-performance silicon wafers per year – enough to power 360,000 American homes.

1366 Technologies will become the anchor tenant at the high-tech Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park (STAMP) where the company will eventually create more than 1,000 new, full-time jobs in New York’s Finger Lakes Region.

“Today is an exciting day, the culmination of a lot of hard work by a talented group of people. From day one, we have taken a deliberate, highly-measured path to scaling. The facility in Bedford, Massachusetts was our proving ground. New York brings us to commercial scale. The technology is ready and 1366 is squarely positioned to lead in an industry undergoing rapid global growth,” said Frank van Mierlo, CEO, 1366 Technologies. “We are extremely proud to become part of the Upstate New York community and are committed to the region’s vibrant future.”

The site selection marks the start of a phased program to methodically scale 1366 Technologies Direct Wafer™ technology – a transformative manufacturing process that produces a uniformly better silicon solar wafer at half the cost – from 250 MW to 3 GW. 1366 Technologies will first construct a 250 MW facility that will produce more than 50 million standard silicon wafers per year. The facility will quickly ramp to 1 GW of production capacity and employ 300 people.

“Our goal has always been two-fold: deliver solar at the cost of coal and manufacture – at scale – in the United States,” continued van Mierlo. “Today’s announcement signifies that we’re on our way to achieving both.”

To encourage 1366 Technologies to invest and establish operations in New York, Governor Cuomo’s administration offered a competitive and attractive incentive package through various state and local resources including Empire State Development, New York’s chief economic development agency; New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA); New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR); New York Power Authority (NYPA); and Genesee County Industrial Development Agency. In September 2011, 1366 was also issued a $150 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to build a commercial-scale manufacturing facility.

Construction of the 130,000 square-foot facility is slated to begin no later than Q2 of 2016 and is expected to be completed in 2017.

“Today’s announcement is an example of how we are combining this region’s natural strengths with our vision to develop New York’s entrepreneurial future and make the Empire State a true leader in developing the clean energy technologies of tomorrow. I am proud to continue building on Upstate’s economic resurgence and I am pleased to have 1366 helping us lead the way forward,” said Governor Cuomo.

“STAMP, the site of this expansion, is strategically located between Buffalo and Rochester, which enables 1366 Technologies to draw on the highly-skilled and talented workforce available in our region,” said Mark S. Peterson, president and CEO of Greater Rochester Enterprise. “1366 Technologies’ decision to expand its operations here not only marks the largest business attraction success story in our organization’s history, but it also brings two great cities even closer together, strengthening our efforts to make Upstate New York a hot-bed for high-tech development.”

“The strategy Governor Cuomo has developed to create a statewide high tech and advanced manufacturing corridor from Albany to Buffalo will change the economic fortunes for Upstate New York for generations to come,” said Steve Hyde, president and CEO, Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC). “We are very excited to welcome 1366 Technologies to Genesee County and stand ready to assist the company in any way we can as the first phase of the development of the STAMP site begins.”

“I want to congratulate 1366 Technologies and thank them for bringing this exciting project to upstate New York,” said Buffalo Niagara Enterprise President & CEO Thomas Kucharski. “1366 Technologies is bringing a revolutionary process to an industry that is transforming our regional economy. The very assets and partnerships that attracted 1366 to the STAMP site remain in place, and are well positioned to ensure the success of this company and industry well into the future.”


Adam Weber and Jeffrey Urban at ALS SAXS/WAXS Beamline 7.3.3.New projects for hydrogen storage and fuel cell performance aim to bring down cost of fuel cell electric vehicles.

With commitments from leading car and stationary-power manufacturers to hydrogen and fuel cell technologies and the first ever fuel cell electric vehicle to go on sale later this year, interest is once again swelling in this carbon-free technology. Now, thanks to several new projects from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies Office, scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) will have an important role in accelerating innovation and commercialization of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.

Berkeley Lab has been awarded $8 million for two new DOE research efforts, one to find new materials for hydrogen storage and another for optimizing fuel-cell performance and durability. In addition, Berkeley Lab is leading a range of other hydrogen and fuel cell research projects aimed at developing next-generation fuel cell and related energy-conversion technologies.

Adam Weber and Jeffrey Urban at ALS SAXS/WAXS Beamline 7.3.3.

“Berkeley Lab has had a strong fuel cell research program going back decades,” said scientist Adam Weber, who leads fuel cell research at Berkeley Lab. “With these new DOE consortiums, each national lab brings its core competences while synergistically leveraging each other. This way we’ll be able to push the state-of-the-art much faster and further than we could individually.”

Fuel cells are considered one of the most promising and fast-growing clean energy technologies. In 2014, about 50,000 fuel cell units were shipped worldwide, with a nearly 30 percent market growth every year since 2010. This year, Toyota’s Mirai will be the first fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) to be commercially available for sale in the U.S. Still, cost remains one of the biggest challenges to wider adoption.

The Fuel Cell—Consortium for Performance and Durability (FC-PAD) is led by Los Alamos National Laboratory and includes Argonne National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, with Weber serving as the consortium’s deputy director. Its goal is to improve and optimize polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells, which are used primarily for transportation, while reducing their cost. “If we can make individual cells more durable and perform better with less costly components or fewer of them, than you would drive down the cost of the vehicle,” Weber said.

Specifically one research focus of Weber’s work for FC-PAD will be trying to understand and optimize mass transport in the fuel cell, or the transport of reactants and products, such as hydrogen, oxygen, and water. Mass-transport issues can limit fuel-cell performance. “One of our core competences at Berkeley Lab is in mathematical modeling and advanced diagnostics, which we can use to study, explore, and describe the transport phenomena across length scales from the microstructural to macroscopic levels,” he said.

Like batteries, fuel cells use a chemical reaction to produce electricity. However fuel cells don’t need to be recharged; rather, they will produce electricity as long as fuel is supplied. In the case of a hydrogen fuel cell, hydrogen is the fuel, and it’s stored in a tank connected to the fuel cell.

Safe and cost-effective hydrogen storage is another challenge for FCEVs, one that the other DOE consortium, Hydrogen Materials—Advanced Research Consortium (HyMARC), seeks to address. HyMARC is led by Sandia National Laboratories and also includes Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Jeff Urban, the HyMARC lead scientist for Berkeley Lab, noted the Lab’s strengths: “Berkeley Lab brings to the consortium a combination of innovation in H2 storage materials, surface and interface science, controlled nanoscale synthesis, world-class user facilities for characterizing nanoscale materials, and predictive materials genome capabilities.”

Researchers have two goals for hydrogen storage—greater storage density at lower pressure. Greater density will allow for greater vehicle driving range while lower pressure improves safety as well as efficiency.

Urban and his group have come up with novel ways to synthesize nanoscale metal hydrides to achieve extremely high hydrogen storage capacity. Yet the kinetics, or rate of chemical reactions, is one of the main challenges with this material. “HyMARC will allow us to further probe solid-solid interfaces in metal hydrides and evaluate microstructural engineering as a pathway to improved kinetics,” he said. “The unique combination of expertise spanning these consortia gives us a peerless network of close collaboration to surmount the fundamental scientific barriers underpinning some of these sticky challenges.”

Both of these consortiums are funded by DOE’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office, part of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and follow a similar model, where the core team consisting of the national labs will serve as a resource to industry and later also collaborate on innovative projects with universities and companies.

Another research focus is in catalysts, the subject of a collaboration between Berkeley Lab materials scientist Peidong Yang and scientists at Argonne National Laboratory. Last year they reported discovery of a new class of bimetallic nanoframe catalysts using platinum and nickel that are significantly more efficient and far less expensive than the best platinum catalysts used in today’s fuel cells.

Finally Berkeley Lab last month joined several other national labs as well as dozens of companies and other institutions in signing onto H2USA, a public-private partnership whose mission is “is to address hurdles to establishing hydrogen fueling infrastructure, enabling the large scale adoption of fuel cell electric vehicles.” Infrastructure is one of the critical challenges to wider hydrogen technology adoption, and one in which California has made a strong commitment.

“I’m very bullish on hydrogen. It’s clean and carbon-free, and it’s definitely a very integral part of the future energy economy,” Weber said. “Is it a very near-term drop-in replacement technology? No, I think it’s a little bit longer term, although we have commercial products like the Mirai available today. Like any new technology we have to go down the cost and manufacturing curves. As we bring in new ideas, concepts, and materials, I think we can easily bring down the cost.”

# # #

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world’s most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab’s scientific expertise has been recognized with 13 Nobel prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. For more, visit

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit


9-disruptive-technologiesChange is pretty much a constant state of affairs in the 21st century, and in no area is this truer than that of technological development. Technology has swept aside vast, powerful established industries, transforming them fundamentally in just a few years. Take, for example, the way that music has changed, moving from LPs to CDs to music available in online files. This occurred in a very short time frame. Other organisations have found their industries transformed to a similar scale. All of this means that understanding upcoming disruptive technologies can help organisations to create new business models and adapt in good time. PreScouter developed a report which showed that there are nine disruptive technologies that promise to revolutionize the world as we know it. The nine are big data, automation/AI, Internet of Things, MEMs, nanomaterials, biotechnology, terahertz, advanced energy and 3D printing. Each of these is now described.

1. Big Data – PreScouter predicts that “Big Data will be a $50 billion industry by 2017”. This is no big news, as many have predicted how big data will shape the world and will impact industries and organizations.The volume of data that people are producing is increasing at a tremendous rate, and this is only likely to further grow as a result of technology like wearable devices. At the same time costs of storage of this data have declined and this will enable predictive relationships to be produced according to PreScouter.

Viegas user activity on wikipedia Image source: wikipedia

2. Automation and Artificial Intelligence – PreScouter believes that artificial intelligence is starting to get introduced into consumer goods and this is already a $20.5 billion industry. Pre-runners like Siri are thought to be outdated and too “gimmicky” to be useful. AI that is placed in the backend however provides websites the ability to present different information to consumers based on their own preferences. This clearly has considerable marketing implications. Another important issue is the impact of automation and robots on economy and labor. What some call the “robots economy” is revolutionizing what we know as work, and the trend promises to continue to develop.

Automation equipment

3. The Internet of Things – while so many devices are not yet connected to the Internet, by 2022 PreScouter believes that there will be a network of 50 billion connected objects. When this is paired with the technology for artificial intelligence it is believed that factories will be able to become smart, and that this could contribute a whopping $2 trillion to the global economy.

Internet of things

4. Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMs) – MEMs are reported by PreScouter to be sensors that transfer information between the worlds of the physical and the digital. It is argued by PreScouter that advances to make these devices more miniature have transformed the medical world as well as industrial diagnostics. An health revolution has been promised by many. An interesting report published by MIT´s technological review reports on the latest advancements on this important area that combine Big Data with MEMs.

MEMs Image source:

5. Nanomaterials – related to the MEMs detailed above, nanomaterials are explained by PreScouter to have driven miniaturisation. They are also able to be used to create new classes of materials, such as changing the colour, strengths, conductivities and other properties of traditional materials. The market is already thought to be worth more than $25 billion in this area.

6. Biotechnology – agricultural science is believed to be advancing to new boundaries beyond that of breeding and crossbreeding, according to PreScouter. Indeed, it is explained that biotechnology has advanced to such a point that crops are able to be developed that are drought-resistant and have better vitamin content and salinity tolerance. All of this has tremendous potential to get rid of the problem of hunger in the world. The market already exceeds $80 billion a year, argues PreScouter, and it is growing rapidly.

Plant done through biotechnology

7. Terahertz Imaging – PreScouter reports that the market for Terahertz devices is predicted to grow by 35% per year annually and to reach more than $500 million by 2021. But what is it?  Terahertz Imaging “extends sensory capabilities by moving beyond the realm of the human body”. This helps to create imaging devices that can penetrate structures, for example. They are being used to detect explosives that were previously considered to be invisible, as well as in path planning for self-driving cars (PreScouter).


8. Advanced Energy Storage and Generation – the ever expanding population of the world has an equally ever expanding need for energy, and this is being made more challenging by legislation to deal with the challenges of climate change. There have been significant advances to battery technology according to PreScouter, and this alone is estimated to have an economic impact of $415 billion. Greener products are also much more incentivised and it is thought likely that cold fusion power could become viable, argues PreScouter. Solar Power has also developed considerably and is an area that promises to grow considerably and become a viable energetic alternative,  as its becoming increasingly cheaper.

Compressed air energy storage

9. 3D Printing – last but not least, 3D printers are making tremendous strides, and PreScouter points out that this is already a $3.1 billion industry that is growing by 35% each year. This will continue to transform industries as the prices of printers drops and more people can gain access to them. On the other hand the Maker´s mouvement is gaining momentum, which is producing a new generation of people interested and with the skills to do things.

smartglassx299 MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW: A new kind of window glass can selectively block visible sunlight as well as heat-producing invisible light.

Window glass that can tint on demand is pretty slick, but a new advancement has made it even cooler—and that could help the technology finally go mainstream.


Smart glass has been around for decades, but it is quite pricey and has found only niche applications, such as the windows of a new Boeing jetliner. But a new kind of electrochromic window glass, which changes color in response to the addition or removal of electronic charge, is more versatile than the technology now on the market, and it could be cheaper, too.

Commercially available materials can block only the visible component of sunlight, allowing the invisible near-infrared component, which produces heat, to pass through. A new type of glass developed by a group led by Delia Milliron, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, can selectively block the heat-producing component as well as the visible light. Milliron says the performance is now good enough for a startup she cofounded to move forward with plans to build a prototype manufacturing line based on these recent advances.

Key to the smarter window glass is a “framework” of nanocrystals made of an electrically conductive material, embedded in a glassy material. The nanocrystals and the glassy material have distinct optical properties, which change when the materials are electronically charged or discharged. The nanocrystals can either block near-infrared light or allow it to pass through, while the glassy material can transition between a transparent state and one that blocks visible light.

The “nanocomposite” is able to block up to 90 percent of the near-infrared light and 80 percent of the visible light, and in addition to the standard bright and dark modes it features a “cool” one, which could help buildings save energy during hot days. It can switch between modes in just minutes—faster than any commercial electrochromic window material Milliron knows of. Combined with less expensive and potentially more reliable manufacturing techniques, these attributes could bolster the new material.

The manufacturing approach of the startup, called Heliotrope Technologies, is different from that of today’s electrochromic-glass makers, which have struggled with low yields, says Milliron. Whereas conventional manufacturing techniques rely on energy-intensive processes similar to those used to make certain kinds of microelectronics, the technology Heliotrope aims to commercialize is made by depositing solutions onto glass films, which is faster and requires less energy.

Milliron’s technology works much like a rechargeable battery. Imagine that the device starts out in the transparent, bright state. Applying a certain amount of voltage—say, by turning a switch—will charge the nanocrystals, which makes them absorb near-infrared light. If the device is charged for a bit longer, the glassy material also becomes charged, darkening as a result. Discharging the window glass brings back the fully transparent state.

In the latest demonstration, Milliron and her colleagues showed that arranging the nanocrystals in a specific architecture allows electrons and ions to move quickly between the glassy material and the nanocrystals, meaning the composite can switch between modes much faster than before. As an added benefit, whereas a previous iteration had a brownish tint, the new nanocrystal material creates a more neutral blue tint, which Milliron says is considered essential for many consumer applications. Heliotrope’s president, Jason Holt, says the company expects to bring its first products to the market in 2017.

Crumpled Filter Energy 061915 150619084607_1_540x360 Scientists have developed an ultra-thin, super-strong membrane to filter liquids and gases, with the potential to cut energy consumption in industry.

Membranes are selectively permeable barriers that can provide a filter for a range of processes, from removing salt from sea water in desalination plants, to filtering the blood of kidney patients in dialysis machines. Filtration processes using membranes could potentially reduce energy consumption compared to other separation methods.

However, many industries use evaporation and distillation techniques rather than membranes, because membranes can be costly to scale up and they are not resistant to the organic solvents used in many industrial refining and chemical processes.

Now, researchers from Imperial College London have developed a prototype crumpled membrane that has the potential to be used widely across industry. The prototype is extremely thin – it would take a stack of ten thousand membranes to match the diameter of a human hair — making it very permeable. It is also strong, and is able to filter organic liquids at pressures of around 50 bar, which is the equivalent to the pressure at around 500 metres below the ocean’s surface. The membrane is durable and resistant in a range of organic solvents.

Crumpled Filter Energy 061915 150619084607_1_540x360

Scientists have created a membrane with nanoscale crumples and established that this provides an increased surface area for filtering substances. It remains strong and does not buckle, even under extreme pressures.
Credit: Image courtesy of Imperial College London

In a study detailed in the journal Science, the team created a membrane with nanoscale crumples and established that this provides an increased surface area for filtering substances that remains strong and does not buckle, even under extreme pressures. The prototype is 80 millimetres in diameter, but the team is confident that it can be scaled up to industrial areas.

Ultimately, the researchers believe that their prototype membrane could be used to improve or completely replace industrial processes that process organic solvents, which currently rely on evaporation and distillation techniques. Approximately 30 per cent of the world’s energy is currently used by industry, with a substantial fraction of that being used in evaporation and distillation processes. These industries could potentially make major energy savings if they used the membranes, with consequent reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.

Professor Andrew Livingston, co-author of the study from the Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London, said: “Membranes are currently used for a range of important tasks such as making water drinkable and life-saving kidney filtering. The drawback has been that industry hasn’t been able to use membranes in organic liquid systems more widely because they’ve had cost and design limitations. Our research suggests that we can overcome these challenges, which could make these membranes useful for industries ranging from pharmaceutical companies to oil refining. The energy and environmental benefits could be massive.”

Dr Santanu Karan, co-author also from the Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London, added: “I am really excited about this research breakthrough. We now want to work even more closely with industry to further refine our membranes so that they can meet their needs. We hope our work will lead to new collaborations and ultimately, improvements in the way industries use separation processes.”

To test the effectiveness of the membrane in the lab, they team mixed together a solution containing a solvent, alcohol, and dyed molecules of different colours and sizes. They then made the solution percolate through the membrane at high pressures, using a device called a dead-end cell, to see if they could filter out everything apart from the alcohol. The team observed the process using an absorption spectroscopy device, which uses light at different wavelengths to determine what molecules are passing through the membrane. They determined that the membrane was completely effective, with only the alcohol passing through.

The researchers then compared the crumpled membrane to a conventional membrane, carrying out the same experiment. Their aim was to determine how fast their membrane could purify and concentrate the solution compared to the conventional model. They found that the crumpled membrane could separate substances 400 times faster than the conventional membrane.

The team is now planning to further develop and optimise the membrane technology so that it can be scaled up for use in industries such as pharmaceuticals, manufacturing and oil refining.

The research was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the BP International Centre for Advanced Materials.

Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Imperial College London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. S. Karan, Z. Jiang, A. G. Livingston. Sub-10 nm polyamide nanofilms with ultrafast solvent transport for molecular separation. Science, 2015; 348 (6241): 1347 DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa5058

QDOT imagesCA1L02JV 5 Just as alchemists always dreamed of turning common metal into gold, their 19th century physicist counterparts dreamed of efficiently turning heat into electricity, a field called thermoelectrics. Such scientists had long known that, in conducting materials, the flow of energy in the form of heat is accompanied by a flow of electrons. What they did not know at the time is that it takes nanometric-scale systems for the flow of charge and heat to reach a level of efficiency that cannot be achieved with larger scale systems. Now, in a paper published in EPJ B Barbara Szukiewicz and Karol Wysokiński from Marie Curie-Skłodowska University, in Lublin, Poland have demonstrated the importance of thermoelectric effects, which are not easily modelled, in nanostructures.

Since the 1990s, scientists have looked into developing efficient energy generation from nanostructures such as quantum dots. Their advantage: they display a greater energy conversion efficiency leading to the emergence of nanoscale thermoelectrics. The authors evaluate the thermoelectric performance of models made of two quantum dots—which are coupled electrostatically—connected to two electrodes kept at a different temperature and a single quantum dot with two levels. First, they using the theoretical approach based on approximations to calculate the so-called thermoelectric figure of merit, expected to be high for systems with high energy conversion efficiency. Then, they calculated the charge and heat fluxes as a means to define the efficiency of the system.

They found that the outcomes of the direct calculations giving the actual—as opposed to theoretical—performance of the system were less optimistic. For most parameters with an excellent performance, calculated predictions turned out to be surprisingly poor. These findings reveal that effects that are not easily formalized using equations are important at the nanoscale. This, in turn, calls for new ways to optimize the structures before they can be used for nanoscale energy harvesting.

Published on Apr 20, 2015

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