New NanoMarkets report projects printed electronics market will reach $30.1 billion in 2015

February 27, 2008

PRNewswire: Markets for displays, signage, lighting, RFID tags, sensors, solar panels, batteries and other products manufactured using printing technology will reach $30.1 billion by 2015 according to a new report from NanoMarkets. The report, Printable Electronics Market Outlook: An Applications-Based Assessment, notes the progress that the printed electronics industry has made in the last few years and goes on to project which printed electronics applications will generate the most revenues in the next seven years. Details about this report are available at http://www.nanomarkets.net. Key points from this report:

— Printed electronics products are now in full-scale production. E-paper displays and RFID antennas are being routinely printed and such products are expected to generate $5.6 and $12.6 billion in revenues respectively by 2015. E-paper, in particular, has emerged as something of a killer application for printed electronics, demonstrating that printing technology can produce complex electronics products that can generate real revenue. NanoMarkets analysts also expect that as improved manufacturing equipment and materials become available further product opportunities will emerge.

— Printing also seems certain to have a major role in the manufacturing of next-generation photovoltaics with novel CIGS and nanoparticle inks being used to create low-cost, high efficiency solar panels on flexible substrates. Projected sales for printed solar panels will reach $2.5 billion by 2015. Printed electronics will also make a contribution to energy savings through printed OLED lighting, an emerging cost effective approach to solid state illumination. This type of lighting is expected to reach $1.7 billion in sales by 2015.

— Printing is no longer viewed as a wholesale fabrication technology. Instead, it is increasingly seen as an essential tool for manufacturing the new generation of flexible and large area electronics products. As products move from the lab to the fab, manufacturers are combining fabrication technologies, printing certain layers while using more conventional, sputtering, deposition and even optical lithography approaches on other layers.

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Cheaper solar cells using nanoparticles in noble metals

February 22, 2008

Scientific Blogging News Releases: …Scientists at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden say the electrons in nanoparticles of noble metal oscillate together apace with the frequency of the light. This phenomenon can be exploited to produce better and cheaper solar cells. One way to enhance the absorption of the solar harvesting material in a solar cell is to make use of nanoparticles of noble metal. Carl Hägglund at Chalmers has looked at how this can be done in his recently completed doctoral dissertation.

The particles involved have special optical properties owing to the fact that their electrons oscillate back and forth together at the same rate as the frequency of the light, that is, the color of the light. The particles catch the light as tiny antennas and via the oscillations the energy is passed on as electricity. These oscillations, plasmons, are very forceful at certain so-called plasmon resonance frequencies, which in turn are influenced by the form, size, and surroundings of the particles.

“What we’ve done is to make use of nanotechnology to produce the particles and we’ve therefore been able to determine the properties and see how they can enhance the absorption of light of different colors,” says Carl Hägglund.

In the context of solar cells, the great challenge is to efficiently convert the energy that is absorbed in the electron oscillation to energy in the form of electricity. “We show that it is precisely the oscillations of the particles that yield the energy, how it is transmitted to the material and becomes electricity. It might have turned out, for example, that the oscillations simply generated heat instead,” says Carl Hägglund.

The efficiency of the best solar cells today is already very high. The possibility of achieving even better solar cells therefore lies in using less material and in lowering production costs. With solar cells of specially designed nanoparticles of gold, which is what Carl Hägglund has looked at, a layer only a few nanometers thick is required for the particles to be able to absorb light in an efficient way.

…Abstract: Carl Hägglund, Nanoparticle plasmon influence on the charge carrier generation in solar cells, Chalmers Publication Library (CPL), ISBN/ISSN: 978-91-7385-067-4

When many chemical elements (such as most of the noble gases and platinum-group metals) freeze solid, their lattice unit cells are of the face-center cubic form, like this image from Wikimedia Commons, “Greg L”


Nanotechnology and public trust

February 20, 2008

Space Mart reports on a study of potential barriers to acceptance for nanotechnology: When the public considers competing arguments about a new technology’s potential risks and benefits, people will tend to agree with the expert whose values are closest to their own, no matter what position the expert takes. The same will hold true for nanotechnology, a key study has found.

The study results appear in a report issued today by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN). The study was based on experiments involving some 1,600 American adults and was carried out by the Cultural Cognition Project at Yale Law School – an interdisciplinary team of researchers from Yale University, the University of Washington, The George Washington University, Cornell University, and Decision Research in Eugene, Oregon.

As part of the study, participants read opposing arguments that were randomly attributed to fictional policy experts from major universities to form an opinion on nanotechnology – a cutting-edge technology about which little is known by the public.

“Because most people lack the time and expertise necessary to make sense of scientific information on complex and novel risks, they naturally rely on experts whom they trust to determine what information to believe. Individuals are inclined to trust those who share their cultural outlooks,” according to the study’s lead author Yale Law School professor Dan Kahan.

The new results are consistent with those from an earlier study – part of an ongoing series being sponsored by the National Science Foundation, PEN and the Oscar M. Ruebahausen Fund at Yale Law School – in which the same researchers found that individuals’ values influence how they respond to information about nanotechnology risks. The findings reinforce the fact that the task of engaging the U.S. public about nanotechnology will not be simple or easy, PEN Director David Rejeski says…..


Nanotechnology Research Roundtable in Boston Friday, Feb. 15

February 16, 2008

Nanotechnology Now contained a report about a February 15 press event with four of America’s foremost nanotechnology experts. The goal was a wide-ranging discussion about using the technology to more effectively treat patients and to better produce and secure energy. Also, an entrepreneur will share his company’s experience taking nanotechnology from the lab to the marketplace, and all participants will discuss the role of the federal government in supporting nanotechnology research through the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) and its member agencies.

The speakers included Rick Hess, president and chief executive officer of Lowell, Massachusetts-based Konarka Technologies Inc., a leading developer of products that provide a source of renewable power in a variety of forms for commercial, industrial, government and consumer applications. Mr. Hess discussed how Konarka works at the intersection of energy, nanotechnology, and printed electronics to print light absorbing nanomaterials that generate electricity on plastic films. He described the origin of the technology and the challenges faced in bringing the technology to a product that can be manufactured in high volume for the solar energy market.


New nanostructured thin film shows promise for efficient solar energy conversion

February 10, 2008

UC Santa Cruz press release: In the race to make solar cells cheaper and more efficient, many researchers and start-up companies are betting on new designs that exploit nanostructures–materials engineered on the scale of a billionth of a meter. Using nanotechnology, researchers can experiment with and control how a material generates, captures, transports, and stores free electrons–properties that are important for the conversion of sunlight into electricity.

Two nanotech methods for engineering solar cell materials have shown particular promise. One uses thin films of metal oxide nanoparticles, such as titanium dioxide, doped with other elements, such as nitrogen. Another strategy employs quantum dots–nanosize crystals–that strongly absorb visible light. These tiny semiconductors inject electrons into a metal oxide film, or “sensitize” it, to increase solar energy conversion. Both doping and quantum dot sensitization extend the visible light absorption of the metal oxide materials.

Combining these two approaches appears to yield better solar cell materials than either one alone does, according to Jin Zhang, professor of chemistry at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Zhang led a team of researchers from California, Mexico, and China that created a thin film doped with nitrogen and sensitized with quantum dots. When tested, the new nanocomposite material performed better than predicted–as if the functioning of the whole material was greater than the sum of its two individual components.

“We have discovered a new strategy that could be very useful for enhancing the photo response and conversion efficiency of solar cells based on nanomaterials,” said Zhang. “We initially thought that the best we might do is get results as good as the sum of the two, and maybe if we didn’t make this right, we’d get something worse. But surprisingly, these materials were much better.”

The group’s findings were reported in the Journal of Physical Chemistry in a paper posted online on January 4. Lead author of the paper was Tzarara Lopez-Luke, a graduate student visiting in Zheng’s lab who is now at the Instituto de Investigaciones Metalurgicas, UMSNH, Morelia, Mexico.

Zhang’s team characterized the new nanocomposite material using a broad range of tools, including atomic force microscopy (AFM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), Raman spectroscopy, and photoelectrochemistry techniques. They prepared films with thicknesses between 150 and 1100 nanometers, with titanium dioxide particles that had an average size of 100 nanometers. They doped the titanium dioxide lattice with nitrogen atoms. To this thin film, they chemically linked quantum dots made of cadmium selenide for sensitization.

The resulting hybrid material offered a combination of advantages. Nitrogen doping allowed the material to absorb a broad range of light energy, including energy from the visible region of the electromagnetic spectrum. The quantum dots also enhanced visible light absorption and boosted the photocurrent and power conversion of the material…


Harvesting the sun’s energy with antennas

January 31, 2008

Idaho National Laboratory: Researchers at Idaho National Laboratory, along with partners at Microcontinuum Inc. (Cambridge, MA) and Patrick Pinhero of the University of Missouri, are developing a novel way to collect energy from the sun with a technology that could potentially cost pennies a yard, be imprinted on flexible materials and still draw energy after the sun has set.

The new approach, which garnered two 2007 Nano50 awards, uses a special manufacturing process to stamp tiny square spirals of conducting metal onto a sheet of plastic. Each interlocking spiral “nanoantenna” is as wide as 1/25 the diameter of a human hair.

Because of their size, the nanoantennas absorb energy in the infrared part of the spectrum, just outside the range of what is visible to the eye. The sun radiates a lot of infrared energy, some of which is soaked up by the earth and later released as radiation for hours after sunset. Nanoantennas can take in energy from both sunlight and the earth’s heat, with higher efficiency than conventional solar cells.

“I think these antennas really have the potential to replace traditional solar panels,” says physicist Steven Novack, who spoke about the technology in November at the National Nano Engineering Conference in Boston….

In the photo, INL researcher Steven Novack holds a plastic sheet of nanoantenna arrays, created by embossing the antenna structure and depositing a conductive metal in the pattern. Each square contains roughly 260 million antennas.