Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Metal oxides hold the key to cheap, green energy

Date:
April 19, 2012
Source:
Binghamton University, State University of New York
Summary:
Harnessing the energy of sunlight can be as simple as tuning the optical and electronic properties of metal oxides at the atomic level to make an artificial crystal or super-lattice ‘sandwich,’ says a scientist.

Louis Piper, assistant professor of physics at Binghamton University, is harnessing the energy of sunlight by tuning the optical and electronic properties of metal oxides.
Credit: Jonathan Cohen/Binghamton University

Harnessing the energy of sunlight can be as simple as tuning the optical and electronic properties of metal oxides at the atomic level by making an artificial crystal or super-lattice 'sandwich,' says a Binghamton University researcher in a new study published in the journal Physical Review B.

Related Articles


"Metal oxides are cheap, abundant and 'green,'" said Louis Piper, assistant professor of physics at Binghamton University. "And as the study proved, quite versatile. With the right touch, metal oxides can be tailored to meet all sorts of needs, which is good news for technological applications, specifically in energy generation and flat screen displays."

Here's how it works: semiconductors are an important class of materials in between metals and insulators. They are defined by the size of their band gap, which represents the energy required to excite an electron from the occupied shell to an unoccupied shell where it can conduct electricity. Visible light covers a range of 1 (infrared) to 3 (ultraviolet) electron volts. For transparent conductors, a large band gap is required, whereas for artificial photosynthesis, a band gap corresponding to green light is needed. Metal oxides provide a means of tailoring the band gap.

But whilst metal oxides are very good at electron conduction, they are very poor "hole" conductors. Holes refer to absence of electrons, and can conduct positive charge. To maximize their technologically potential, especially for artificial photosynthesis and invisible electronics, hole conducting metal oxides are required.

Knowing this, Piper has begun studying layered metal oxides systems, which can be combined to selectively 'dope' (replace a small number of one type of atom in the material), or 'tune' (control the size of the band gap). Recent work revealed that a super-lattice of two hole-conducting copper oxides could cover the entire solar spectrum. The goal is to improve the performance whilst using environmentally benign and cheap metal alternatives.

For instance, indium oxide is one of the most widely used oxides used in the production of coatings for flat screen displays and solar cells. It can conduct electrons really well and is transparent. But it is also rare and very expensive. Piper's current research is aimed towards using much cheaper tin oxide layers to get electron and hole conduction with optical transparency.

But according to Piper, his research shows that one glove will not fit all purposes.

"It's going to be a case of some serious detective work," said Piper. "We're working in a world where physics and chemistry overlap. And we've reached the theoretical limit of our calculations and fundamental processes. Now we need to audit those calculations and see where we're missing things. I believe we will find those missing pieces by playing around with metal oxides."

By reinforcing metal oxides' 'good bits' and downplaying the rough spots, Piper is convinced that the development of new and exciting types of metal oxides that can be tailored for specific applications are well within our reach.

"We're talking battery storage, fuel cells, touch screen technology and all types of computer switches," said Piper "We're in the middle of a very important gold rush and its very exciting to be part of that race to strike it rich. But first we have to figure out what we don't know before we can figure out what we do. One thing's for sure: metal oxides hold the key. And I believe that we at Binghamton University can contribute to these efforts by doing good science and taking a morally conscious approach."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Binghamton University, State University of New York. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. Sallis, L. Piper, J. Francis, J. Tate, H. Hiramatsu, T. Kamiya, H. Hosono. Role of lone pair electrons in determining the optoelectronic properties of BiCuOSe. Physical Review B, 2012; 85 (8) DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevB.85.085207

Cite This Page:

Binghamton University, State University of New York. "Metal oxides hold the key to cheap, green energy." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 April 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120419102042.htm>.
Binghamton University, State University of New York. (2012, April 19). Metal oxides hold the key to cheap, green energy. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 26, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120419102042.htm
Binghamton University, State University of New York. "Metal oxides hold the key to cheap, green energy." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120419102042.htm (accessed March 26, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Amazon Complains U.S. Is Too Slow To Regulate Drones

Amazon Complains U.S. Is Too Slow To Regulate Drones

Newsy (Mar. 25, 2015) Days after getting approval to test certain commercial drones, Amazon says the Federal Aviation Administration is dragging its feet on the matter. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smartphone Use Changing Our Brain and Thumb Interaction, Say Researchers

Smartphone Use Changing Our Brain and Thumb Interaction, Say Researchers

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 25, 2015) European researchers say our smartphone use offers scientists an ideal testing ground for human brain plasticity. Dr Ako Ghosh&apos;s team discovered that the brains and thumbs of smartphone users interact differently from those who use old-fashioned handsets. Jim Drury went to meet him. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
China Wants to Export Its Steel Problem

China Wants to Export Its Steel Problem

Reuters - Business Video Online (Mar. 25, 2015) China is facing a crisis with a glut of steel and growing public anger over the pollution created by production. In a move to solve the problem, some steel mills are looking to relocate overseas. Jane Lanhee Lee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robot Stays on Its Feet Despite Punishment

Robot Stays on Its Feet Despite Punishment

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 24, 2015) Robotic engineers have modelled a two-legged robot to be fast and agile like an ostrich. The design is more efficient and stable than bipedal robots built to move like humans, according to its creators who abuse the poor machine to test its skills. Ben Gruber has more. Video provided by Reuters
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