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.

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 July 25, 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 July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans

TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans

AP (July 24, 2014) TSA administrator, John Pistole's took part in the Aspen Security Forum 2014, where he answered questions on lifting of the ban on flights into Israel's Tel Aviv airport and whether politics played a role in lifting the ban. (July 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers

Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers

AP (July 24, 2014) Mobile phone companies and communities across the country are going to new lengths to disguise those unsightly cellphone towers. From a church bell tower to a flagpole, even a pencil, some towers are trying to make a point. (July 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Algonquin Power Goes Activist on Its Target Gas Natural

Algonquin Power Goes Activist on Its Target Gas Natural

TheStreet (July 23, 2014) When The Deal's Amanda Levin exclusively reported that Gas Natural had been talking to potential suitors, the Ohio company responded with a flat denial, claiming its board had not talked to anyone about a possible sale. Lo and behold, Canadian utility Algonquin Power and Utilities not only had approached the company, but it did it three times. Its last offer was for $13 per share as Gas Natural's was trading at a 60-day moving average of about $12.50 per share. Now Algonquin, which has a 4.9% stake in Gas Natural, has taken its case to shareholders, calling on them to back its proposals or, possibly, a change in the target's board. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-Free Travel

Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-Free Travel

AP (July 23, 2014) 'Ray' the robotic parking valet at Dusseldorf Airport in Germany lets travelers to avoid the hassle of finding a parking spot before heading to the check-in desk. (July 23) 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:
from the past week

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