(PhysOrg.com) -- Solar cells could make fossil fuels virtually redundant if they were cheaper, but their use of rare elements and complex manufacturing processes makes them expensive. Now IBM Research has developed a prototype solar cell that solves both problems, using common, cheap elements and using an inexpensive manufacturing process. Their paper is published in the Advanced Materials journal.
With potential adverse health and environmental effects often in the news about nanotechnology, scientists are reporting that carbon nanotubes could have beneficial effects in agriculture. Their study found that tomato seeds exposed to CNTs germinated faster and grew into larger, heavier seedlings than other seeds. That growth-enhancing effect could be a boon for biomass production for plant-based biofuels and other agricultural products, they suggest.
A small molecule designed to detect cyanide in water samples works quickly, is easy to use, and glows under ultraviolet or "black" light. Although the fluorescent molecule is not yet ready for market, its creators report that the tool is already able to sense cyanide below the toxicity threshold established by the World Health Organization.
Carbon fiber composite materials (CFRPs) not only make cars and airplanes lightweight but also benefit the light weight constructions for valuable bicycle concepts. German researchers have developed a spring-loaded seat post made of CFRPs.
Physicists, chemists and engineers have demonstrated a novel method for the controlled formation of patchy particles, using charged, self-assembling molecules that may one day serve as drug-delivery vehicles to combat disease and perhaps be used in small batteries that store and release charge.
Engineers have created a new material that would allow a fingernail-size computer chip to store the equivalent of 20 high-definition DVDs or 250 million pages of text, far exceeding the storage capacities of today's computer memory systems.
Chemists have discovered a new material that allows a PEM fuel cell, known as a polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell, to work at a higher temperature. This discovery is extremely important in terms of increasing the efficiency and decreasing the cost of PEM fuel cells.
A new ceramic material could help expand the applications for solid oxide fuel cells -- devices that generate electricity directly from a wide range of liquid or gaseous fuels without the need to separate hydrogen.