August 23, 2010

The littlest things boost solar cells, fuel cells, biofuels and capacitors

* Mimic or harness a newly discovered red-light-loving biomolecule and you can get more energy out of sunlight. See A Red-Shifted Chlorophyll, Science, published online August 19, 2010.

* Form thin layers of nanoscale carbon onions and you can make ultra-powerful ultracapacitors for powering microdevices. See Ultrahigh-power micrometre-sized supercapacitors based on onion-like carbon, Nature Nanotechnology, published online August 15, 2010.

* Shape a polymer membrane with lung-like bronchial channels and you can dramatically reduce the amount of platinum catalyst needed to turn fuels into electricity. See Nature-Inspired Energy- and Material-Efficient Design of a Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cell, Energy Fuels, published online August 10, 2010.

* Heat up the right kind of solar cell and you can boost the amount of electricity it produces from sunlight. See Photon-enhanced thermionic emission for solar concentrator systems, Nature Materials, published online August 1, 2010.

* Pick out the right pieces of metabolic machinery from blue-green algae and you can get more biofuel out of microbes. See Microbial Biosynthesis of Alkanes, Science, July 30, 2010.

* Stick a single layer of molecules between a polymer and a zinc oxide film and you can as much as triple the amount of electricity you get out of organic-inorganic hybrid solar cells. See Improved Photoinduced Charge Carriers Separation in Organic-Inorganic Hybrid Photovoltaic Devices, Applied Physics Letters, published online July 22, 2010.

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