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 January 27, 2015 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 January 27, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Cablevision Enters Wi-Fi Phone Fray

Cablevision Enters Wi-Fi Phone Fray

Reuters - Business Video Online (Jan. 26, 2015) The entry by Cablevision and Google could intensify the already heated price wars for mobile phone service. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hector the Robot Mimics a Giant Stick Insect

Hector the Robot Mimics a Giant Stick Insect

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 26, 2015) A robot based on a stick insect can navigate difficult terrain autonomously and adapt to its surroundings. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Model Flying, Walking Drone After Vampire Bats

Scientists Model Flying, Walking Drone After Vampire Bats

Buzz60 (Jan. 26, 2015) Swiss scientists build a new drone that can both fly and walk, modeling it after the movements of common vampire bats. Jen Markham (@jenmarkham) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama's Wildlife Plan Renews Alaska Drilling Debate

Obama's Wildlife Plan Renews Alaska Drilling Debate

Newsy (Jan. 26, 2015) President Obama&apos;s proposal aims to protect more land in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but so far, all that&apos;s materialized is a war of words. Video provided by Newsy
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