27 July 2011

A multi-nano tool can introduce something new under the sun

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Basic operations in the field of nanotechnology that are currently very difficult or impossible to perform can become easy with a new multi-nano tool called FIBLYS. Nanosized components in for example solar cells will be designed and studied in an entirely new way, which the researchers hope will increase the solar cells’ energy output with up to 15 percent

In the European funded project FIBLYS (or FIB anaLYSis) three industry and four research partners from Czech Republic, France, Germany and Switzerland have created a multi-nano tool named FIBLYS. This tool is made up of a dual Focused Ion Beam (FIB) and Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) together with Scanning Probe Microscope (SPM) as well as a possibility of important analytical capabilities. FIBLYS can help researchers achieve goals, which earlier were impossible, by showing surface elevations merely ten nanometer high.

The researchers aim to make problematic or impossible basic operations in the field of nanotechnology easy. With the FIBLYS tool offering several techniques it will be possible to perform imaging, analysis, nano-scale manipulation and surface modification of nanostructures during and directly after production. This makes it possible to avoid degradation by oxidation and contamination of the measurement, which could occur during long separated production and control lines. The researchers think that corrections of defects found early may be feasible. This multi-nano tool can also be cheaper for the user, since no transport of samples between different apparatuses that cost to operate separately is needed.

FIBLYS, though still only a prototype, can aid in the development of more efficient solar cells where nanowires, very small spikes, are something new under the sun. By introducing these nanowires on the solar cells’ surfaces the scientists estimate a ten to fifteen percent increase in energy output can be achieved. However, it is crucial that these nanowires are spread out evenly on the surface to reach this estimated effect. FIBLYS is used for looking at the nanowires on the solar cells’ surfaces and make this possible. In this way the instrument could change this industry.

Another area where this powerful eye could make a different is in the battery industry, where engineers are also searching for easier and cheaper approaches to move very small particles into desired nanostructures, to improve batteries’ energy storage capacities. Recently, the nanotechnology company Nanosys announced the use of silicon nanocomposites to improve lithium ion cell storage capacity.

By tying production, analysis and controlling together FIBLYS can both speed up the production of nanomaterials and improve product quality substantially.

 

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