Not only are electronic devices everywhere in our homes, they also take large amounts of energy from the power grid. According to a 2015 report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, roughly a quarter of home energy consumption in the U.S. is eaten up by devices that are in idle power mode—and that doesn’t include electronics that are in use.
However, a recent discovery from Clemson University in South Carolina could make electronics faster, affordable, and less energy consuming.
In a paper published this month in Nature Communications, the researchers explained how they used solution-processed perovskite, a crystal material with unique light absorbing qualities, to spot and reduce defects in electronics that harm their efficiency.
“Perovskite materials are designed for optical applications such as solar cells and LEDs,” Kanishka Kobbekaduwa, a co-author of the study, told Phys.org. “It is important because it is much easier to synthesize compared to current silicon-based solar cells. This can be done by solution processing—whereas in silicon, you have to have different methods that are more expensive and time-consuming.”
To see what was going on in the devices, the team used a unique observation method that employs ultrafast photocurrent spectroscopy. The process permits a much higher time resolution than traditional methods.
“We make devices using this (perovskite) material and we use a laser to shine light on it and excite the electrons within the material,” Kobbekaduwa said. “And then by using an external electric field, we generate a photocurrent. By measuring that photocurrent, we can actually tell people the characteristics of this material. In our case, we defined the trapped states, which are defects in the material that will affect the current that we get.”
Researchers expect the breakthrough to dramatically enhance the efficiency of a number of common electronics. This would include LEDs, solar cells, and photodetectors for cell phones and computer chips.
New Sodium-Ion Conductor Could Revolutionize Solid State Batteries
Solid state batteries are key to creating batteries that are affordable, long lasting, and safe, but scientists have long puzzled over how to make them work—until now. A group of researchers in the U.S. recently created a sodium-ion conductor that could make solid state batteries a reality.
Sodium ion is an abundant and affordable alternative to lithium-ion, which has to be mined from the earth. This process often comes at great costs to the environment.
The team, led by UC San Diego nanoengineering professor Shyue Ping Ong, found that these sodium-ion conductors remained stable after they integrated them into higher-voltage oxide cathodes. A test version showed that the conductor could last over a thousand cycles and still maintain a capacity of 89.3%. These results are better than any previous solid-state sodium battery.
The researchers hope these conductors may someday be used in solid-state batteries that can support large-scale grid energy storage applications. Such applications could include renewable energy storage in order to reduce peak demand.
By using machine learning simulations, researchers determined what materials contained the best properties for use in higher voltage sodium-ion batteries: a specific class of halide sodium conductors.
“These findings highlight the immense potential of halide ion conductors for solid-state sodium-ion battery applications,” Ong told Science Daily. “Further, it also highlights the transformative impact that large-scale materials data computations coupled with machine learning can have on the materials discovery process.”
The researchers still need to look into potential substitutions for halide materials, as well as how to improve the battery’s power density and a way to scale manufacturing. However, the discovery offers exciting possibilities for a more energy efficient future of solid-state batteries.
Connecting Distributed Energy Resources
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The University of California – San Diego. (23 February 2021). New Material Breakthrough for Stable High-Voltage Long-Life Solid-State Batteries. SciTech Daily.
Clemson University. (12 March 2021). Researchers make breakthroughs in solar cell materials. Phys.org.
(May 2015). Home Idle Load: Devices Wasting Huge Amounts of Electricity When Not in Active Use. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc.