Yvonne Carts-Powell

Posts Tagged ‘materials’

Nobels Make a Great Year for Light

In beautiful, Science, technology on November 25, 2014 at 8:17 pm

Wow, what an excellent year for researchers in light, with two Nobel Prizes firmly in the optics regime. In Physics, Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura won “for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources”. Those LED lightbulbs you are starting to see at reasonable prices at Home Depot? The ones that work even more efficiently than Compact Fluorescents (and without the wait to turn on in cold weather, or the ballast’s buzz, or the cold tint)? You can thank Nakamura for those, among other things.

And in Chemistry, Eric Betzig, Stefan W. Hell, and William E. Moerner all won “for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy”. In other words, we can now see things the size of molecules, we can see things smaller than half the wavelength of light. (Besides the developments being astonishing and immediately useful, as a journalist I have had a lot of fun watching the horse race between the labs at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry and Stanford University.)

The editor of Applied Physics Letters explains a little more about both achievements: Editorial: Nobel Prizes honor ground-breaking innovations in applied science. The journal is also providing free copies of seminal and recent papers by the researchers: papers by the researchers in APL.

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Funneling the sun’s energy

In beautiful, Science, technology on December 3, 2012 at 11:41 am

funnel scaled
A material that is strained by varying amounts does a better-than-average job of separating electrical charges, which is a necessary part of collecting energy from solar cells. Researchers at MIT are experimenting with strain in a thin sheet of molybdenum disulfide. It acts sort of like a funnel, pushing electrons in towards the area of highest strain.

The metaphorical electronic funnel also, oddly enough, assumes the physical shape of a funnel, since the strain is caused by a needle pressing down on the middle of the sheet. Near the needle the strain is large, while at the edges of the sheet the strain is small, and there’s a smooth change of strain in between.

Strain has been investigated for crystal growth in the past, but I haven’t heard of people using elastic strain to change electronic properties before.

Read the MIT press release about the work: Funneling the sun’s energy. or
the paper in Nature Photonics

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