High-performance photovoltaic cells use semiconductors to convert sunlight into clean electrical power, and transparent dielectrics or conductive oxides as antireflection coatings. A common feature of these materials is their high refractive index. Whereas high-index materials in a planar form tend to produce a strong, undesired reflection of sunlight, high-index nanostructures afford new ways to manipulate light at a subwavelength scale. For example, nanoscale wires, particles and voids support strong optical resonances that can enhance and effectively control light absorption and scattering processes. As such, they provide ideal building blocks for novel, broadband antireflection coatings, light-trapping layers and super-absorbing films. This Review discusses some of the recent developments in the design and implementation of such photonic elements in thin-film photovoltaic cells.
Combining the efforts of physicists, materials scientists, economists and resource-strategy researchers opens up an interdisciplinary route enabling the substitution of rare elements by more abundant ones, serving as a guideline for the development of novel materials.
Lithium-ion battery cathode materials have relied on cationic redox reactions until the recent discovery of anionic redox activity in Li-rich layered compounds which enables capacities as high as 300 mAh g(-1). In the quest for new high-capacity electrodes with anionic redox, a still unanswered question was remaining regarding the importance of the structural dimensionality. The present manuscript provides an answer. We herein report on a beta-Li2IrO3 phase which, in spite of having the Ir arranged in a tridimensional (3D) framework instead of the typical two-dimensional (2D) layers seen in other Li-rich oxides, can reversibly exchange 2.5 e(-) per Ir, the highest value ever reported for any insertion reaction involving d-metals. We show that such a large activity results from joint reversible cationic (Mn+) and anionic (O-2)(n-) redox processes, the latter being visualized via complementary transmission electron microscopy and neutron diffraction experiments, and confirmed by density functional theory calculations. Moreover, beta-Li2IrO3 presents a good cycling behaviour while showing neither cationic migration nor shearing of atomic layers as seen in 2D-layered Li-rich materials. Remarkably, the anionic redox process occurs jointly with the oxidation of Ir4+ at potentials as low as 3.4 V versus Li+/Li-0, as equivalently observed in the layered alpha-Li2IrO3 polymorph. Theoretical calculations elucidate the electrochemical similarities and differences of the 3D versus 2D polymorphs in terms of structural, electronic and mechanical descriptors. Our findings free the structural dimensionality constraint and broaden the possibilities in designing high-energy-density electrodes for the next generation of Li-ion batteries.
Three-dimensional (3D) structures capable of reversible transformations in their geometrical layouts have important applications across a broad range of areas. Most morphable 3D systems rely on concepts inspired by origami/kirigami or techniques of 3D printing with responsive materials. The development of schemes that can simultaneously apply across a wide range of size scales and with classes of advanced materials found in state-of-the-art microsystem technologies remains challenging. Here, we introduce a set of concepts for morphable 3D mesostructures in diverse materials and fully formed planar devices spanning length scales from micrometres to millimetres. The approaches rely on elastomer platforms deformed in different time sequences to elastically alter the 3D geometries of supported mesostructures via nonlinear mechanical buckling. Over 20 examples have been experimentally and theoretically investigated, including mesostructures that can be reshaped between different geometries as well as those that can morph into three or more distinct states. An adaptive radiofrequency circuit and a concealable electromagnetic device provide examples of functionally reconfigurable microelectronic devices.
Cells comprising a tissue migrate as part of a collective. How collective processes are coordinated over large multi-cellular assemblies has remained unclear, however, because mechanical stresses exerted at cell-cell junctions have not been accessible experimentally. We report here maps of these stresses within and between cells comprising a monolayer. Within the cell sheet there arise unanticipated fluctuations of mechanical stress that are severe, emerge spontaneously, and ripple across the monolayer. Within that stress landscape, local cellular migrations follow local orientations of maximal principal stress. Migrations of both endothelial and epithelial monolayers conform to this behaviour, as do breast cancer cell lines before but not after the epithelial-mesenchymal transition. Collective migration in these diverse systems is seen to be governed by a simple but unifying physiological principle: neighbouring cells join forces to transmit appreciable normal stress across the cell-cell junction, but migrate along orientations of minimal intercellular shear stress.
Topological invariants of electron wavefunctions in condensed matter reveal many intriguing phenomena(1,2). A notable example is provided by topological insulators, which are characterized by an insulating bulk coexisting with a metallic boundary state(3,4). Although there has been intense interest in Bi-based topological insulators(5,6), their behaviour is complicated by the presence of a considerable residual bulk conductivity(7-10). Theories predict(11,12) that the Kondo insulator system SmB6, which is known to undergo a transition from a Kondo lattice metal to a small-gap insulator state with decreasing temperature, could be a topological insulator. Although the insulating bulk and metallic surface separation has been demonstrated in recent transport measurements(13-15), these have not demonstrated the topologically protected nature of the metallic surface state. Here we report thickness-dependent transport measurements on doped SmB6, and show that magnetic and non-magnetic doping results in contrasting behaviour that supports the conclusion that SmB6 shows virtually no residual bulk conductivity.
A revolution in electronics is in view, with the contemporary evolution of the two novel disciplines of spintronics and molecular electronics. A fundamental link between these two fields can be established using molecular magnetic materials and, in particular, single-molecule magnets. Here, we review the first progress in the resulting field, molecular spintronics, which will enable the manipulation of spin and charges in electronic devices containing one or more molecules. We discuss the advantages over more conventional materials, and the potential applications in information storage and processing. We also outline current challenges in the field, and propose convenient schemes to overcome them.
Electric-field control of magnetization has many potential applications in magnetic memory storage, sensors and spintronics. One approach to obtain this control is through multiferroic materials. Instead of using direct coupling between ferroelectric and ferromagnetic order parameters in a single-phase multiferroic material, which only shows a weak magnetoelectric effect, a unique method using indirect coupling through an intermediate antiferromagnetic order parameter can be used. In this article, we demonstrate electrical control of exchange bias using a field-effect device employing multiferroic (ferroelectric/antiferromagnetic) BiFeO3 as the dielectric and ferromagnetic La0.7Sr0.3MnO3 as the conducting channel; we can reversibly switch between two distinct exchange-bias states by switching the ferroelectric polarization of BiFeO3. This is an important step towards controlling magnetization with electric fields, which may enable a new class of electrically controllable spintronic devices and provide a new basis for producing electrically controllable spin-polarized currents.