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On the way to Multiband Solar Cells

Schematic of electron/hole transfer within intermediate band solar cell with GaNAs alloy as the light absorber.

Berkeley Lab researchers have developed an intermediate band solar cell that opens the door to high-efficiency solar cells and multicolor light emitters.

Skin Tough

Robert Ritchie feature star

A collaboration of Berkeley Lab and UC San Diego researchers has recorded the first direct observations of the micro-scale mechanisms behind the ability of skin to resist tearing. The results could be applied to the improvement of artificial skin, or to the development of thin film polymers for flexible electronics.

A Micro-Muscular Break Through

Berkeley Lab researchers have demonstrated a micro-sized robotic torsional muscle/motor made from vanadium dioxide that for its size is a thousand times more powerful than a human muscle, able to catapult objects 50 times heavier than itself over a distance five times its length faster than the blink of an eye.

Overcoming Brittleness: New Insights into Bulk Metallic Glass

Berkeley Lab researchers have found a bulk metallic glass based on palladium that’s as strong as the best composite bulk metallic glasses and comparable to steel, aluminum and titanium.

Tetrapod Quantum Dots Light the Way to Stronger Polymers

Berkeley Lab researchers have developed advanced opto-mechanical stress probes based on tetrapod quantum dots (tQDs) that allow precise measurement of the tensile strength of polymer fibers with minimal impact on the polymer’s mechanical properties. These fluorescent tQDs could lead to stronger, self-repairing polymer nanocomposites.

Development of New Advanced Materials to Get Boost

The Materials Project—an open-access Google-like database for materials research developed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)—is working with Intermolecular, Inc. to enhance the tool’s modeling capabilities and thus accelerate the speed of new material development by tenfold or more over conventional approaches. New materials are key to addressing challenges in energy, healthcare and national security.

Berkeley Lab Researchers Use Metamaterials to Observe Giant Photonic Spin Hall Effect

Engineering a unique metamaterial of gold nanoantennas, Berkeley Lab researchers were able to obtain the strongest signal yet of the photonic spin Hall effect, an optical phenomenon of quantum mechanics that could play a prominent role in the future of computing.

Surprising Control over Photoelectrons from a Topological Insulator

Electrons flowing swiftly across the surface of topological insulators (TIs) are “spin polarized,” their spin and momentum locked. This new way to control electron distribution in spintronic devices makes TIs a hot topic in materials science. Now Berkeley Lab scientists have discovered more surprises: contrary to assumptions, the spin polarization of photoemitted electrons from a topological insulator is wholly determined in three dimensions by the polarization of the incident light beam.

Blocking Infinity in a Topological Insulator

The hybrid band structure of the compound topological insulator bismuth telluride, thinly layered with pure bismuth, as drawn by ARPES: The relative intensity of the bands changes (left to right) with increasing energy of x-ray photons from the Advanced Light Source incident on the sample, but the vertical line that connects the apex of bismuth telluride’s surface valence band (lower), with the apex of the hybrid conduction band (upper) doesn’t change at all, a sign of surface many-body interactions.

In bulk, topological insulators (TIs) are good insulators, but on their surface they act as metals, with a twist: the spin and direction of electrons moving across the surface of a TI are locked together. TIs offer unique opportunities to control electric currents and magnetism, and new research by a team of scientists from China

Space-Age Ceramics Get Their Toughest Test:

This CT Scan showing the formation of a microcrack in a ceramic composite under an applied tensile load at 1,750 degrees Celsius was obtained at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source through the use of a unique mechanical testing rig.

Space-age ceramics at their best promise advanced jet and gas turbine engines that burn with greater fuel efficiencies and less pollution. Berkeley Lab scientists have developed the first mechanical test rig for obtaining real-time X-ray computed microtomography images at ultrahigh temperatures for improving the composition and architecture of advanced ceramic composites.