Lab Partnering Service Discovery
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Iowa State University and Ames Laboratory researchers have developed a process for fabrication of solar cells with increased efficiency.
A 20% increase in efficiency has been observed experimentally, and ISU is seeking partners interested in commercializing this technology. Polymer-based photovoltaic devices have received intense interest in recent years because of their potential to provide low-cost solar energy conversion, flexibility, manufacturability, and light weight. However, the efficiency of organic solar cells is about 4-6%, and increasing this efficiency is critical for developing practical applications and commercially viable devices. One approach to increasing efficiency is to increase the light absorption on the organic film without increasing the thickness of the photoactive layer, and various light management techniques have been tried for enhancing optical absorption, such as collection mirrors, patterned substrates and microprism substrates. However, these approaches require extra processing steps or technically challenging coating technologies. To overcome these limitations, ISU and Ames Laboratory researchers have developed a process for conformal coating of polymer photovoltaic layers on microtextured substrates for increased light trapping. The light management architecture of these solar cells enables a high degree of light absorption in even very thin photoactive films and leads to improved power conversion efficiency.
Iowa State University and Ames Laboratory researchers have developed a method to produce sintered, final-shape magnets with high density and aligned microstructure.The resulting permanent magnets feature higher energy product and improved remanence versus standard processing, with improved performance in motors and generators.
Iowa State University and Ames Laboratory researchers have developed a process to create AlNiCo magnets in near final shape with improved energy product and remanence versus magnets produced without using directional solidification or zone refinement. Magnets resulting from this process are characterized by highly controlled and aligned microstructure in the solid state.Magnet alloy precursor powder is aligned while being added to the mold, with compression molding locking the aligned particles in place. The resulting microstructural template for grain growth persists through a thermal de-binding treatment and sintering of the magnet. Magnets produced by this molding process display enhanced energy density, as well as optimized coercivity and magnetization, and have the potential for high volume manufacturing because they are manufactured in near-final shapes.
Iowa State University and Ames Laboratory Critical Materials Institute researchers have developed a cost effective step that easily separates rare earth oxalates into a light rare earth stream and a heavy rare earth stream.
For many rare earth ores, the percentage of the valuable heavy rare earths (in particular, terbium, europium, dysprosium, yttrium and gadolinium) in the ore is very low, making separation and recovery of these elements from the other rare earths not cost-effective. Iowa State University and Ames Laboratory researchers have developed a process that can be added on to conventional ore processing that readily separates rare earth oxalates into two streams, one containing the light rare earths (La – Sm) and the other containing heavy rare earths (Gd – Y). This one step process requires no special equipment and minimal capital investment. The process is water-based, and uses a “green” extractant to remove the heavy REEs from the light REEs.
Iowa State University researchers have developed a flexible pathway to turn glucose into nylon or PET using inexpensive catalysts and moderate reaction conditions.
Using a combination of biological, electrochemical, and catalytic processes, ISU researchers have developed a pathway to convert glucose into precursors for both nylon and PET manufacture. The first phase utilizes an engineered strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae to produce high levels of muconic acid from a glucose feedstock (a titer of 752mg/L). Next, muconic acid can be partially hydrogenated to hexenedioic acid or fully hydrogenated to adipic acid via an electrochemical process. Both hexenedioic acid and adipic acid can be combined with hexaminediamine to make Nylon 6,6. If hexenedioic acid is used in the nylon backbone, the remaining double bond can be further modified using controlled radical polymerization to create a functionalized nylon with potential applications in packaging and other areas. Alternately the muconic acid can undergo a series of reactions to produce terephthalic acid (one of the building blocks for PET, the most common thermoplastic polyester). These steps include electrocatalytically isomerizing the cis,cis- or cis,trans- muconic acid to the trans,trans- variant for PET and other high-value chemical production. This suite of technologies enables the production of a variety of similar polymers with different physical characteristics that can be targeted toward specialized end products. This technology is related to ISURF #4289: Electrocatalytic Hydrogenation of Muconic Acid for the Production of Biorenewable Synthetic Polymer Precursors (http://isurftech.technologypublisher.com/techcase/4289), and ISURF #4402: Electrochemical Isomerization of Muconic Acid (http://isurftech.technologypublisher.com/techcase/4402)
Iowa State University and Ames Laboratory researchers have developed a method to create gadolinium silicide nanoparticles which retain ferromagnetic properties at room temperature.
This innovative method creates Gd5Si4 nanoparticles that retain the ferromagnetic properties of the bulk material at room temperature. These nanoparticles may be useful as a MRI contrast agent or for other applications that would benefit from materials that highly respond to a magnetic field, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation, MRI thermometry, and hyperthermic cancer treatment. The gadolinium-based ferromagnetic particles are produced using ball milling in an inert atmosphere. The resultant particles retain an order of magnitude greater magnetization compared to conventionally prepared gadolinium particles. Ordinary preparation methods destroy the ordered structure required for ferromagnetism, resulting in materials with the much weaker paramagnetic properties - ferromagnetic materials have a high susceptibility to magnetization when subjected to a magnetic field and retain that magnetization after the field is removed; paramagnetic materials respond to a magnetic field but do not retain any magnetization when removed from the field.
ISU and Ames Lab researchers have developed a method for producing AlNiCo magnets that employs the substitution of less expensive materials for cobalt in the AlNiCo alloy.
AlNiCo magnets account for a little more than four thousand metric tons of material with a market value of $280mn. AlNiCo magnets are often used as a replacement magnet for ferrite magnets when high temperature performance is required. Raw materials are estimated to account for approximately 33% of the cost of AlNiCo magnets, with the most expensive element being cobalt. The technology involves the substitution of less expensive materials for cobalt therefore significantly reducing production costs. Previous attempts at this substitution have almost exclusively used a 1:1 substitution of iron for cobalt. The results have been a decrease in the performance of the magnet with the increased substitution. The inventors have used a different approach to substitution, substituting several low cost elements for cobalt. The resulting magnet not only matches the performance of a traditional AlNiCo magnet, but production time is significantly reduced and can occur a much lower temperatures further reducing production costs.
Iowa State University and Ames Laboratory researchers have developed a process to produce extremely flat and smooth surfaces on hard materials without involving a chemical etchant.
Chemical mechanical polishing (CMP) is a process used to create defect-free, smooth and flat surfaces, primarily for the semiconductor industry, and involves both mechanical polishing and chemical etching. CMP slurries (which provide the physical interface between the sample and the polishing equipment) typically consist of an abrasive (most often a metal oxide such as silica, ceria, alumina or zirconia), a liquid medium (normally water, but can be others depending on the application), and chemical agents (oxidizers, bases, acids) which treat the surface.By tweaking the abrasive composition and size as well as the liquid medium, this technology removes the need for a chemical agent and can provide a nearly atomically flat surface. Through multiple steps, this process can create much flatter and smoother surfaces than produced using commercial materials (rough mean square roughness of 0.314nm versus 0.753nm for conventional polishing).
Iowa State University and Ames Laboratory researchers have developed an improvement to KBBF crystal systems for the generation of ultraviolet laser light by creating an alternative prism geometry that eliminates the need for contacting fluid or optical coupling devices.
Lasers consisting of light from the ultra-violet portion of the spectrum have both scientific and commercial applications. Scientifically, vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) lasers can be used in angle resolved photoemission spectroscopy to study the electronic parameters of solids. Commercially VUV lasers are of interest in semiconductor manufacturing, as the wavelength of the higher frequency spectra could produce much finer structures using photolithography. One source for generation of VUV lasers is passing a lower frequency laser beam through potassium beryllium fluoroborate (KBBF) crystals, resulting in a harmonic frequency laser. For economic reasons, KBBF crystals are grown very thin; as incident light upon the crystals is at a very acute angle, the resultant VUV laser has a low efficiency as most of the light is subsequently reflected off the surface of the crystal.
Samples are available for testing, and ISU is seeking commercialization partners for this technology.
Superconductors are materials which carry electrical current without dissipation. However, feeding electrical current into a superconductor generates heat dissipation in the contacts and degrades maximum attainable current value. The degradation in contacts is also different depending on the different chemical nature of the superconducting materials. Iron-pnictide based superconductors have a number of superior properties as compared to other known high temperature superconductors, and due to their high critical magnetic fields, can be competitive alternatives for generating high magnetic fields without loss of resistance. In order to take advantage of these properties, Iowa State University and Ames laboratory researchers have discovered a contact material and developed a method for its application which provides the necessary low electrical resistivity for iron-pcnitide superconductors. This new technology is easily adaptable to current solder methods used for creating electrical contacts and has the advantage of being very economical.
Iowa State University and Ames Laboratory researchers have developed a process for the synthesis of alane with quantitative yields at ambient temperature and moderate hydrogen or ambient gas pressure while controlling side reactions.This novel synthesis route significantly increases yields and reduces the production costs for this compound.
Alane exceeds the DOE performance criteria for hydrogen storage for transportation vehicles, but does not have a cost-efficient production route. Synthesis of alane by metathesis reactions in organic solvents is inefficient because of the need to remove solvents from the resultant alane solvates that inevitably leads to thermal decomposition of a substantial fraction of the formed alane. Traditional mechanochemical synthetic routes require cryogenic processing to control side reactions leading to decomposition of more than 60% of the formed alane. This new method allows for the use of a mechanochemical process at ambient temperatures and slightly elevated hydrogen or inert gas pressures to produce alane while still suppressing side reactions to produce alane in quantitative yields. By eliminating the desolvation step inherent in the solvent-based route and the cryogenic environment of traditional mechanochemical synthesis, this novel synthesis route significantly increases yields and reduces the production costs for this compound.
Iowa State University and Ames Laboratory researchers have developed a modular sample stage and thermal conductivity measurement device that is compatible with a variety of cryogenic and magnetic field apparatus. This modular device allows for easy switching between apparatus to perform a variety of measurements without sample or thermometer remounting.
The thermal conductivity of a material is of great importance for determining suitability for a given application. While many techniques have been developed to measure thermal conductivity at moderate temperatures, measurement at low (sub-kelvin) temperatures are difficult to achieve. These low temperature measurements are important to characterize novel materials, particularly in determining the superconducting state while isolating electronic degrees of freedom. As there is no singular cyrogenic solution for measurement of thermal conductivity that can cover broad ranges of temperature, magnetic field strength, and magnetic field direction, thorough characterization requires the sample to be tested in multiple apparatus. A modular and portable sample stage and conductivity measurement device that can be readily moved between apparatus, and is compatible with broad temperature and magnetic field ranges, is desirable to reduce the error introduced by multiple setups as well as different thermometers and calibrations.
Iowa State University and Ames Laboratory researchers have developed a fast solver for the Gutzwiller approximation for electronic structure of atoms.
State of the art computational tools for atomic modeling use the Local Density Approximation Density Functional Theory (LDADFT).However, LDADFT often has issues in properly describing situations which include van der Waals forces, charge transfer and transition states. Simultaneously optimizing the three sets of parameters in the Gutzwiller approximation can address some of these specific situations and produce a more accurate model. ISURF #03958 provides a solver for the Gutzwiller approximation from first principles. ISURF #04135 takes an alternative approach, starting with a set of common parameters for optimization rather than starting from first principles. For the majority of applications, ISURF #04135 produces as an accurate model as does ISURF #03958 but in a much faster computation. This technology is related to ISURF 4135: A General Efficient Gutzwiller Solver for Electronic Structure Simulation Package (software: http://isurftech.technologypublisher.com/techcase/4135).