Advanced Materials & Processes

NOV-DEC 2013

Covers developments in engineering materials selection, processing, fabrication, testing/characterization, materials engineering trends, and emerging technologies, industrial and consumer applications, as well as business and management trends

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industry news briefs Natural gas is an important exception to the trend of rising prices for energy sources used by manufacturers. The 36% decrease in the average natural gas price paid by manufacturers between 2006 and 2010, from $7.59 to $4.83 per million Btu, was large enough that the total cost of energy from all sources fell by 11% between 2006 and 2010, from $9.19 to $8.22 per million Btu (in 2005 dollars), according to data from the 2010 Manufacturing Energy Consumption Survey (MECS). manufacturing/index.cfm. HyperSolar Inc., Santa Barbara, Calif., jointly filed a nonprovisional patent application along with the University of California, Santa Barbara, for the "protection and stability of electroactive units used for production of fuels and chemicals." A key feature of the technology is the ability to allow the solar absorber to function while submerged in water, preventing photo-corrosion or short-circuiting. In laboratory experiments, the protective coating also dramatically extends the number of charge/discharge cycles of low cost batteries. Air Liquide, Paris, finalized the acquisition of electronics materials company Voltaix, Branchburg, N.J., which complements Air Liquide's line of advanced precursors, and brings together synergies in molecule discovery and scale-up to accelerate development of new high-tech materials for semiconductor manufacturers. Michael J. Graff, senior VP Americas at Air Liquide, says, "This acquisition creates growth opportunities to expand our markets and product offerings for semiconductor manufacturers and meet the growing consumer demand for increasingly powerful flat screens, tablets, and smart phones.", 12 ENERGY TRENDS Innovation drives competitive photovoltaic manufacturing A new study by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, and the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Golden, Colo., shows that factors other than low labor cost and strong government support are more significant in making China the dominant manufacturer of The radiation materials science group solar panels. These findings suggest that the U.S. at Texas A&M University, College could once again become cost-competitive in photoStation, led by Dr. Lin Shao, associvoltaic (PV) manufacturing. ate professor of nuclear engineering, Researchers developed a bottom-up model and made progress toward understandestimated costs for virtually all materials, labor, ing the fundamentals of defects in equipment, and overhead involved in the PV manunuclear materials. By using molecular dynamics simulation and the superfacturing process. While China has a small advancomputer facility on campus, the tage in labor costs, the study found, it has relatively team found a unique mechanism for little impact on prices because solar-panel manufachow grain boundaries in metals returing is highly automated. The lower cost of labor in move defects. The knowledge can China provides an advantage of 7 cents/W, relative to explain why some alloy structures are a factory in the U.S., but that amount is countered better than others for self-repair of neutron-induced damage in reactor by other country-specific factors, such as higher inenvironments. flation. The bottom line, says Tonio Buonassisi, associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, is that today's regional price differences in making photovoltaic modules are "not inherent [and] not driven by country-specific advantages." For more information: Tonio Buonassisi, 617/324-5130,, Quantum dots or nanowires for energy harvesting Researchers at North Dakota State University, Fargo, and the University of South Dakota, Vermillion, used computational chemistry models to predict the electronic and optical properties of three types of nanoscale silicon structures with a potential application for solar energy collection: a quantum dot, one-dimensional chains of quantum dots, and a nanowire. "We used Density Functional Theory, a computational approach that allows us to predict electronic and optical properties that reflect how well the nanoparticles can absorb light, and how that effectiveness is affected by the interaction between quantum dots and the disorder in their structures," says Andrei Kryjevski. "Based on our findings, we believe that putting the amorphous quantum dots in an array or merging them into a nanowire are the best assemblies for maximizing the efficiency of silicon nanomaterials to absorb light and transport charge throughout a photovoltaic system." For more information: Andrei Kryjevski, 701/231-7046,, ADVANCED MATERIALS & PROCESSES • NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2013 Amorphous silicon nanowire (yellow network) facilitates harvesting of solar energy in the form of a photon (wavy line). In the process of light absorption, a pair of mobile charge carriers is created. Red clouds depict an electron smeared in space, while blue clouds visualize the so-called hole, which is a positively charged carrier. The energy of their directed motion is then transformed into electricity. Electron and hole charge distributions are often located in different regions of space due to multiple structural defects in amorphous silicon nanowires. Courtesy of A. Kryjevski, S. Kilina, and D. Kilin/JRSE.

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