Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Nanowire Generates Its Own Electricity

Date:
October 23, 2007
Source:
Harvard University
Summary:
Chemists have built a new wire out of photosensitive materials that is hundreds of times smaller than a human hair. The wire not only carries electricity to be used in vanishingly small circuits, but generates power as well.

Charles M. Lieber, the Mark Hyman Jr. Professor of Chemistry
Credit: Kris Snibbe / Harvard News Office

Harvard chemists have built a new wire out of photosensitive materials that is hundreds of times smaller than a human hair. The wire not only carries electricity to be used in vanishingly small circuits, but generates power as well.

Related Articles


Charles M. Lieber, the Mark Hyman Jr. Professor of Chemistry, and colleagues created the nanowire out of three different kinds of silicon with different electrical properties. The silicon is wrapped in layers to create the wire. When light falls on the outer material, a process begins due to the interaction of the core with the shell layers, leading to the creation of electrical charges.

The idea of creating nanoscale photovoltaics is not new, Lieber said, but prior efforts used organic compounds in combination with semiconductor nanostructures that had lower efficiency and that degraded under concentrated sunlight. Lieber’s materials have several advantages, he said. The materials are more efficient, converting 3.4 percent of the sunlight into electricity; they can withstand concentrated light without deteriorating, gaining efficiency up to about 5 percent; and they’re as cheap to make as other related nanoscale photovoltaic devices.

“The real [question] is whether there’s a new geometry that will lead to better photovoltaic technology,” Lieber said. “We worked on coaxial geometry.”

The most recent development builds on Lieber’s considerable prior work on nanoscale devices. He has developed sensors with potential bioterrorism applications that can detect a single virus or other particle, nanowire arrays that can detect signals in individual neurons, and a cracker-sized detector for cancer.

A cheap nanoscale power source broadens the potential applications of such nanoscale devices. Though the tiny photovoltaic cells can generate enough electricity to power a similarly tiny circuit, Lieber said they’re not yet efficient enough to have applications on the scale of commercial power generation.

Commercial solar cells, he said, have efficiencies around 20 percent, compared with 3.4 percent for his nano-solar cells. One avenue of future research, Lieber said, will be to explore ways to boost efficiency of the nanowire photovoltaics. If they can reach 10 to 15 percent, he said, their lower cost of production — they can be made from relatively inexpensive materials and don’t require clean rooms to produce — may make them useful in larger-scale applications.

“There’s no physical reason it couldn’t be higher,” Lieber said. “I’m pretty optimistic that we’ll be able to track down the efficiency issue.”

Until then, Lieber sees a future for the nanowire photovoltaics in niche applications, such as multiple distributed sensors or durable, flexible devices, possibly sewn into clothing or worn as a patch.

“It will have to be unique to be an economically viable application, some place where you want durability and flexibility, where if it gets destroyed, people don’t care,” Lieber said.

The work was described in the Oct. 18 issue of the journal Nature.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Harvard University. The original article was written by Alvin Powell. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Harvard University. "Nanowire Generates Its Own Electricity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 October 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071022161425.htm>.
Harvard University. (2007, October 23). Nanowire Generates Its Own Electricity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071022161425.htm
Harvard University. "Nanowire Generates Its Own Electricity." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071022161425.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Friday, October 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Jaguar Land Rover Opens $800 Million Factory in Britain

Jaguar Land Rover Opens $800 Million Factory in Britain

AFP (Oct. 30, 2014) British luxury car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover opened a $800 million engine manufacturing centre in western England, creating 1,400 jobs. Duration: 00:45 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
SkyCruiser Concept Claims to Solve Problem With Flying Cars

SkyCruiser Concept Claims to Solve Problem With Flying Cars

Buzz60 (Oct. 30, 2014) A start-up company called Krossblade says its SkyCruiser concept flying car solves the problem with most flying car concepts. Mara Montalbano (@maramontalbano) explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Arm Restores Amputee Dexterity

Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Arm Restores Amputee Dexterity

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 29, 2014) A Swedish amputee who became the first person to ever receive a brain controlled prosthetic arm is able to manipulate and handle delicate objects with an unprecedented level of dexterity. The device is connected directly to his bone, nerves and muscles, giving him the ability to control it with his thoughts. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robots Get Funky on the Dance Floor

Robots Get Funky on the Dance Floor

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) Dancing, spinning and fighting robots are showing off their agility at "Robocomp" in Krakow. (Oct. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins