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Optical Fiber for Solar Cells

These materials enable new solar-powered devices that are small, lightweight, and can be used without connection to existing electrical grids. Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California Polymeric and inorganic semiconductors offer relatively high quantum efficiencies, and are much less expensive and versatile to fabricate than non-amorphous silicon wafers. An optical fiber and cladding can be designed and fabricated to confine light for transport within ultraviolet and near-infrared media, using evanescent waves, and to transmit visible wavelength light for direct lighting.

Posted in: Briefs, Energy Storage, Solar Power, Fiber Optics

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Carbon Nanotube Tower-Based Supercapacitor

Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California A new technology to create electrochemical double-layer supercapacitors is provided using carbon nanotubes as electrodes of the storage medium. This invention allows efficient transport between the capacitor electrodes through the porous nature of the nanotubes, and has a low interface resistance between the electrode material and the collector. Carbon nanotubes directly grown on a metal surface are used to improve the supercapacitor performance. The nanotubes offer a high surface area and usable porosity for a given volume and mass, both of which are highly desirable for supercapacitor operation.

Posted in: Briefs, Energy Storage

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Developing Ceramic-Like Bulk Metallic Glass Gears

This technology has applications in gears, bearings, and gearboxes for automotive, spacecraft, and robotics. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California This invention describes systems and methods for implementing bulk metallic glass-based (BMG) macroscale gears with high wear resistance. This invention creates bulk metallic glasses (BMGs) with selected mechanical properties that are very similar to ceramics, such as high strength and resistance to wear, but without high melting temperatures. Ceramics are high-strength, hard materials that are typically used for their extremely high melting temperatures. Because of their extreme hardness, ceramics are optimal materials for making gears, due to their low wear loss. Unfortunately, ceramics suffer from low fracture toughness (typically <1 MPa·m1/2), and their high melting temperatures prevent them from being cast into net-shaped parts. Ceramic gears, for example, must be ground to a final shape at great expense.

Posted in: Briefs, Ceramics, Metals

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Zinc Oxide Materials Power Tiny Energy Harvesting Devices

Many types of smart devices are readily available and convenient to use. The goal now is to make wearable electronics that are flexible, sustainable, and powered by ambient renewable energy. This last goal inspired researchers to explore how the attractive physical features of zinc oxide (ZnO) materials could be used to tap into abundant mechanical energy sources to power micro devices. They discovered that inserting aluminum nitride insulating layers into ZnO-based energy harvesting devices led to a significant improvement of the devices’ performance. The group’s findings are expected to provide an effective approach for realizing “nanogenerators” for self-powered electronic systems such as portable communication devices, healthcare monitoring devices, environmental monitoring devices, and implantable medical devices. Source:

Posted in: News, Electronic Components, Energy Harvesting, Renewable Energy, Metals

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Glass as Electrode Makes Batteries More Efficient

Today’s batteries provide a reliable power supply for our smartphones, electric cars and laptops, but are unable to keep up with the growing demands placed on them. Researchers have discovered a material that may have the potential to double battery capacity: vanadate-borate glass. The glass is being used as a cathode material, which is made of vanadium oxide (V2O5) and lithium-borate (LiBO2) precursors, and was coated with reduced graphite oxide (RGO) to enhance the electrode properties of the material. The vanadate-borate glass powder was used for battery cathodes, which were placed in prototypes for coin cell batteries to undergo numerous charge/discharge cycles. In tests, the glass electrodes demonstrated a vast improvement in these batteries’ capacity and energy density. Source:

Posted in: News, Batteries, Electronic Components, Energy Efficiency

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Microcapsule Method Captures Carbon

Researchers has developed a novel class of materials that enable a safer, cheaper, and more energy-efficient process for removing greenhouse gas from power-plant emissions. The team, led by scientists from Harvard University and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, employed a microfluidic assembly technique to produce microcapsules that contain liquid sorbents, or absorbing materials, encased in highly permeable polymer shells. The capsules have significant performance advantages over the carbon-absorbing materials used in current capture and sequestration technology.The new technique employs an abundant and environmentally benign sorbent: sodium carbonate, which is kitchen-grade baking soda. The microencapsulated carbon sorbents (MECS) achieve an order-of-magnitude increase in CO2 absorption rates compared to sorbents currently used in carbon capture. The carbon sorbents are produced using a double-capillary device in which the flow rates of three fluids — a carbonate solution combined with a catalyst for enhanced CO2 absorption, a photo-curable silicone that forms the capsule shell, and an aqueous solution — can be independently controlled.The MECS-based approach could also be tailored to industrial processes like steel and cement production, which are significant greenhouse gas sources.SourceRead other Materials tech briefs.

Posted in: News, Greenhouse Gases, Remediation Technologies

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Modeling Transmission Effects on Multilayer Insulation

New mathematical modeling of multilayer insulation performance extends over a much wider range of performance criteria than other known models. John F. Kennedy Space Center, Florida Recent experimental results within the NASA community have shown apparent degradation in the performance of multilayer insulation (MLI) when used in low-temperature applications, e.g., in liquid hydrogen tanks. There was speculation that this degradation was due to the appearance of radiative transmission of energy at these low temperatures since the black-body emission curve at low temperatures corresponds to long wavelengths that might be able to partially pass through the MLI sheets. The standard models for MLI could not be extended to include transmission effects, so a new mathematical system was developed that generalizes the description of the performance of this insulation material.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Coatings & Adhesives

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