News Article | August 25, 2016
A collaboration including researchers at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) has developed a tuneable, high-efficiency, single-photon microwave source. The technology has great potential for applications in quantum computing and quantum information technology, as well as in studying the fundamental reactions between light and matter in quantum circuits.
« ABI Research: vehicle sensor crowdsourcing to transform the digital map ecosystem; need for standards | Main | Air Liquide announces locations of first four of 12 hydrogen fueling stations in northeast US; Blue Hydrogen » BOC, the UK’s largest supplier of industrial gases, signed an agreement with ITM Power to provide infrastructure for ITM Power’s new electrolyzer-based hydrogen refueling stations for passenger cars. The announcement underpins ITM Power’s ongoing plans to build a network of hydrogen refueling stations in the UK. BOC, a member of The Linde Group, will use its specialist market knowledge to source and install the most appropriate Group technology including hydrogen compressors and dispensers. These will be installed at ITM Power’s new hydrogen refueling station locations. This latest siting and refueling agreement builds on the existing successful partnership between the two companies. Opened in 2011, BOC’s hydrogen refueling station at Honda’s site in Swindon employs BOC filling technology to serve passenger cars, light goods vehicles (LGVs) and forklift trucks and offers both 350 and 700 bar refueling. BOC’s Aberdeen hydrogen production and bus refueling station is part of the Aberdeen Bus Project and fuels Europe’s largest fleet of hydrogen fuel cell buses. The station features Linde’s IC-90 ionic compressors and in its first year the station has demonstrated unparalleled reliability, with fuel availability of >99.99%, dispensing over 35,000 kg of hydrogen to the buses. It is this established technology and knowledge that is going to be delivered to the ITM Power refueling stations. Linde has delivered more than 100 hydrogen refueling stations around the world. ITM Power has plans and funding already under way to deploy eight refueling stations in and around London, having already opened one station in Rotherham. Of the eight stations, the first London refueling station will open in May 2016 at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington and the second will open in July at the Centre for Engineering and Manufacturing Excellence in East London (funded by the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking). A further three refueling stations will be sited on publicly accessible forecourts and these will open before the end of 2016. ITM Power has a hydrogen fuel contract with Toyota, which will see all Toyota Mirai FCEVs supplied with three years of hydrogen included for the consumer.
In more than three years of work, European scientists have finally made future lighting technology ready to market. They developed flexible lighting foils that can be produced roll-to-roll—much like newspapers are printed. These devices pave the path toward cheaper solar cells and LED lighting panels. The project, named TREASORES, was led by Empa scientist Frank Nüesch and combined knowhow from nine companies and six research institutes in five European countries. In November 2012, the TREASORES project (Transparent Electrodes for Large Area Large Scale Production of Organic Optoelectronic Devices) started with the aim of developing technologies to dramatically reduce the production costs of organic electronic devices, such as solar cells and LED lighting panels. Funded with 9 million Euro from the European Commission and an additional 6 million Euros from the project partners, the project has produced seven patent applications, a dozen peer-reviewed publications and provided inputs to international standards organizations. New transparent electrodes and barrier materials Most importantly, the project has developed and scaled up production processes for several new transparent electrode and barrier materials for use in the next generation of flexible optoelectronics. Three of these electrodes-on-flexible substrates that use either carbon nanotubes, metal fibers or thin silver are either already being produced commercially, or expected to be so as of this year. The new electrodes have been tested with several types of optoelectronic devices using rolls of over 100 meters in length, and found to be especially suitable for next-generation light sources and solar cells. The roll of OLED light sources with the project logo was made using roll-to-roll techniques at Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology (Fraunhofer FEP) on a thin silver electrode developed within the project by Rowo Coating GmbH. Flexible light sources for cheap and nice illumination Such processing techniques promise to make light sources and solar cells much cheaper in the future, but require flexible and transparent electrodes and water impermeable barriers—which have also been developed by the TREASORES project. The electrodes from the project are technically at least as good as those currently used (made from indium tin oxide, ITO) but will be cheaper to manufacture and do not rely on the import of indium. Tomasz Wanski from the Fraunhofer FEP said that, because of the new electrodes, the OLED light source was very homogeneous over a large area, achieving an efficiency of 25 lumens per watt—as good as the much slower sheet-to-sheet production process for equivalent devices. In the course of the project, new test methods were developed by the National Physical Laboratory in the UK to make sure that the electrodes would still work after being repeatedly bent—a test that may become a standard in the field. Special foils protect from oxygen A further outcome of the project has been the development, testing and production scale-up of new approaches to transparent barrier foils (plastic layers that prevent oxygen and water vapor from reaching the sensitive organic electronic devices). High performance low-cost barriers were produced and it is expected that the Swiss company Amcor Flexibles Kreuzlingen will adopt this technology after further development. Such high performance barriers are essential to achieve the long device lifetimes that are necessary for commercial success—as confirmed by a life cycle analysis (LCA) completed during the project, solar cells are only economically or ecologically worthwhile if both their efficiency and lifetime are high enough. By combining the production of barriers with electrodes (instead of using two separate plastic substrates), the project has shown that production costs can be further reduced and devices made thinner and more flexible. The main challenge the project had to face was to make the barrier and electrode foils extremely flat, smooth and clean. Optoelectronic devices have active layers of only a few hundred nanometers (less than one percent of the width of a human hair), and even small surface irregularities or invisibly tiny dust particles can ruin the device yield or lead to uneven illumination and short lifetimes. Knowhow form 15 partners in five nations combined The TREASORES project united nine companies with six research institutes from five countries and was led by Frank Nüesch from the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa). ”I am very much looking forward to seeing the first commercial products made using materials from the project in 2016,” says Nüesch. Michael Niggemann, Chief Technology Officer for Eight19 Ltd in the United Kingdom said: ”The TREASORES project was a success for Eight19, as it made a significant contribution to the reduction in manufacturing cost of Eight19’s plastic solar cells. This was achieved through the customized development and up-scaling of low-cost barriers and electrodes in the project consortium. It is an essential step towards the commercialization of Eight19’s organic photovoltaic based on technology developed and produced in Europe.” The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement 314068.
Scientists from the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and University College London (UCL) have converted a breast milk protein into an artificial virus that kills bacteria on contact. As well as providing all the energy and nutrients that infants need for the first months of life, breast milk protects against infectious diseases. Lactoferrin is a protein in milk which provides antimicrobial protection to infants, effectively killing bacteria, fungi, and even viruses. The antimicrobial activities of this protein are mainly due to a tiny fragment, less than a nanometer across, made up of six amino acids. Based on the metrology of antimicrobial mechanisms, the team predicted that copies of this fragment gather at the same time, and at the same point, to attack bacterial cells by targeting and disrupting microbial membranes. Recognizing the potential applications in the fight against antimicrobial resistance, the team re-engineered the fragment into a nanoscale building block which self-assembles into virus-like capsules, to effectively target bacteria (see figure below). Not only can these capsules recognize and bind to bacteria, but they also rapidly convert into membrane-damaging holes at precise landing positions. Hasan Alkassem, a joint NPL/UCL EngD student who worked on the project, explains: "To monitor the activity of the capsules in real time we developed a high-speed measurement platform using atomic force microscopy. The challenge was not just to see the capsules, but to follow their attack on bacterial membranes. The result was striking: the capsules acted as projectiles porating the membranes with bullet speed and efficiency." Remarkably, however, these capsules do not affect surrounding human cells. Instead, they infected them like viruses do. When viruses are inside human cells they release their genes, which then use the body's cellular machinery to multiply and produce more viruses. But if viral genes are replaced with drugs or therapeutic genes, viruses become effective tools in the pursuit of gene therapy to cure many diseases, from cancer to cystic fibrosis. The research team explored this possibility and inserted model genes into the capsules. These genes were designed to switch off, or silence, a target process in human cells. The capsules harmlessly delivered the genes into the cells and effectively promoted the desired silencing. With therapeutic genes, this capability could be used to treat disorders resulting from a single mutated gene. Sickle-cell disease, cystic fibrosis or Duchenne muscular dystrophy are incurable at present, but can be cured by correcting corresponding mutated genes. The capsules therefore can serve as delivery vehicles for cures. The findings are reported in Chemical Science — a journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry which publishes findings of exceptional significance from across the chemical sciences — and effectively demonstrate how measurement science can offer innovative solutions to healthcare, which build on and extend natural disease-fighting capabilities. The study was funded by EPSRC, BBSRC, and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, with measurements performed at the Diamond Light Source. Release Date: January 14, 2015 Source: National Physical Laboratory
An international team of scientists led by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) has performed novel measurements of graphene's electrical response to synthetic air, exposing a distinct knowledge gap that needs to be bridged before the commercialization of graphene-based gas sensors. Early gas detection is crucial in many fields, including environmental protection, medical diagnosis, and national defense. Graphene, the “wonder-material” consisting of a two-dimensional layer of carbon atoms, has attracted much attention for its potential gas sensing applications. When the surface of graphene is bared to certain chemicals, those chemicals either donate or withdraw electrons from graphene, causing a change in the electrical resistivity. Graphene is incredibly sensitive to this process; in fact, it is so sensitive that just a single molecule of nitrogen dioxide can cause a measureable change. A graphene-based gas sensor would use these electrical changes to detect the target chemical. However, it is not that simple. Gas sensors need to be exposed to the environment in order to detect the target species, but graphene is sensitive to such a wide variety of chemicals that its electrical resistivity changes significantly in ambient air alone. This makes it difficult to differentiate between the changes that are caused by the target gas and those caused by the natural environment. In a new study, a group of scientists from NPL, Chalmers University of Technology, and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory have used a novel technique to examine the effects of ambient air on graphene in a controlled environment in order to characterize its response. The researchers investigated the effects of nitrogen, oxygen, water vapor and nitrogen dioxide (in concentrations typically present in ambient air) on epitaxial graphene inside a controlled environmental chamber. All measurements were taken at NPL by applying Kelvin probe force microscopy whilst simultaneously performing transport (resistance) measurements. This novel combination gave researchers the unique ability to connect the local and global electronic properties together, a task that has proven to be difficult in the past. The study, published in 2D Materials, experimentally showed that the combination of gases used does not fully replicate the effects of ambient air; even at concentrations higher than those found in the typical atmosphere, there is a large difference in graphene's response. This result contradicts past literature, which has mainly attributed the changes in graphene's electronic properties to these gases. And it raises the question: "What mystery chemicals are causing this significant response?" It is clear that, while graphene-based gas sensors have great potential, there is still a lot of research to be done. Further exploration is needed to find the missing link between the effects seen in controlled laboratories and the effects seen in ambient air. Researchers are also interested in studying methods to optimize the devices by narrowing the sensitivity to specific target species, such as chemical functionalization. Source: National Physical Laboratory