Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

'Sea urchin'-shaped nanostructures grown in the lab

Date:
August 1, 2010
Source:
Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA)
Summary:
Researchers have succeeded in growing sea-urchin shaped nanostructures from minute balls of polystyrene beads using a simple electrochemical process. The spines of the sea urchin consist of zinc oxide nanowires. The structured surface should help increasing the efficiency of photovoltaic devices.

These are "sea urchins" made of tiny polystyrene balls, with zinc oxide nanowire "spines" are created using a simple electrochemical process.
Credit: Empa

Empa researchers have succeeded in growing sea-urchin shaped nanostructures from minute balls of polystyrene beads using a simple electrochemical process. The spines of the sea urchin consist of zinc oxide nanowires. The structured surface should help increasing the efficiency of photovoltaic devices.

Processes which lend materials new characteristics are generally complicated and therefore often rather difficult to reproduce. So surprise turns to astonishment when scientists report on new methods which not only produce outstanding results despite the fact that they use economically priced starting materials but also do not need expensive instrumentation.

Just a simple framework made of polystyrene

This is exactly what Jamil Elias and Laetitia Philippe of Empa's Mechanics of Materials and Nanostructures Laboratory in Thun have succeeded in doing. They used polystyrene spheres as a sort of scaffolding to create three-dimensional nanostructures of semiconducting zinc oxide on various substrates. The two scientists are convinced that the (nanostructured) "rough" but regularly-structured surfaces they have produced this way can be exploited in a range of electronic and optoelectronic devices such as solar cells and also short wave lasers, light emitting diodes and field emission displays.

The scientific world reacted promptly. The paper in which the results were reported was published in January 2010 in the on line edition of Advanced Materials. In the same month it became the most frequently downloaded article, and in April it was selected to appear on the Inside Front Cover of the journal.

The principle behind the process is quite simple. Little spheres of polystyrene a few micrometers in diameter are placed on an electrically conducting surface where they orient themselves in regular patterns. Polystyrene is cheap and ubiquitous -- it is widely used as a packaging material (for example for plastic yoghurt pots) or as insulating material in expanded form as a solidified foam.

Hollow bodies with prickles for photovoltaic applications

The tiny balls of polystyrene anchored in this way form the template on which the nanowires are desposited. Jamil Elias has succeeded in using an electrochemical method which himself has developed to vary the conductivity and electrolytic properties of the polystyrene balls in such way that the zinc oxide is deposited on the surface of the microspheres. Over time regular nanowires grow from this surface, and when this process is complete the polystyrene is removed, leaving behind hollow spherical structures with spines -- little sea-urchins, as it were! Tightly packed on the underlying substrate, the sea-urchins lend it a three-dimensional structure, thereby increasing considerably its surface area.

This nanostructured surface is predestined for use in photovoltaic applications. The researchers expect that it will have excellent light scattering properties. This means the surface will be able to absorb significantly more sunlight and therefore be able to convert radiated energy into electricity more efficiently. In a project supported by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE), Laetitia Philippe and her research team are developing extremely thin absorbers (ETAs) for solar cells, based these zinc oxide nanostructures.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jamil Elias, Claude Lιvy-Clιment, Mikhael Bechelany, Johann Michler, Guillaume-Yangshu Wang, Zhao Wang, Laetitia Philippe. Hollow Urchin-like ZnO thin Films by Electrochemical Deposition. Advanced Materials, 2010; NA DOI: 10.1002/adma.200903098

Cite This Page:

Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA). "'Sea urchin'-shaped nanostructures grown in the lab." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 August 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100729074910.htm>.
Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA). (2010, August 1). 'Sea urchin'-shaped nanostructures grown in the lab. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100729074910.htm
Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA). "'Sea urchin'-shaped nanostructures grown in the lab." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100729074910.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Argentina's Tax Evaders Detected, Hunted Down by Drones

Argentina's Tax Evaders Detected, Hunted Down by Drones

AFP (Sep. 30, 2014) — Argentina doesn't only have Lionel Messi the footballer, it has now also acquired "Mesi" the drone system which monitors undeclared mansions, swimming pools and soy fields to curb tax evasion in the country. Duration: 01:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) — More and more studies are showing positive benefits to playing video games, but the jury is still out on brain training programs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
CERN Celebrates 60 Years of Science

CERN Celebrates 60 Years of Science

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 29, 2014) — CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, celebrates 60 years of bringing nations together through science. As Joanna Partridge reports from inside the famous science centre it's also planning to turn the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator back on after an upgrade. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
This 'Invisibility Cloak' Is Simpler Than Most

This 'Invisibility Cloak' Is Simpler Than Most

Newsy (Sep. 28, 2014) — Researchers from the University of Rochester have created a type of invisibility cloak with simple focal lenses. 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