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Displaying Available Technologies results for Materials

SOL-GEL DEPOSITION PROCESS

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Sol-gel deposition is a common fabrication method used to create solids from small molecules. Yet, sol-gel deposition processes have limited commercial applications due to batch-to-batch inconsistencies and the inability to produce uniform thin-film materials.

University of Utah researchers have developed a three step process for sol-gel fabrication that involves deposition from liquid precursor solutions, dehydration in flowing and heated air, and a final heat treatment at 250- 500˚C. A unique shock-cooling procedure suppresses crack formations during the cool-down process and ensures the deposition of high-quality thin-films. This enables large area thin-film deposition. The process can be repeated multiple times with alternating oxide compounds, allowing for multi-layer films. Additionally, the deposition method can be applied to many substrates and shapes without sacrificing sample quality.


CdTe DEPOSITION PROCESS FOR SOLAR MODULES

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Cadmium telluride (CdTe) films have become the leading alternative to polycrystalline silicon, which is used in photovoltaic (PV) technology, because CdTe offers similar efficiencies, but uses more abundant raw materials. Current CdTe films, however, have significant fabrication costs that result in high effective price per watt of CdTe based photovoltaics.

University of Utah researchers have developed a novel, low-temperature CdTe thin film deposition process to reduce CdTe manufacturing costs. The process is carried out at room temperature, with atmospheric pressure, using a spin coater to alternately deposit cadmium and tellurium onto a substrate. Standard rinse and thermal annealing processes follow deposition to improve crystalline quality. This process streamlines manufacturing of solar modules, maintaining efficiency while decreasing fabrication costs.


HIGH EFFICIENCY PEROVSKITE SOLAR CELLS

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Perovskite solar cells are fabricated from low-cost, earth abundant materials and can be processed over large areas with low energy methods. In the last ten years, efficiencies of these perovskite-based solar cells have shown an unprecedented increase from 3 percent to over 22 percent, making them competitive with mature thin film solar cell technologies. Current perovskite fabrication techniques, however, fail to monitor and regulate nucleation and crystal growth kinetics. This inability to regulate crystallization prevents the commercial development of high-quality and high-efficiency perovskite thin films.

Researchers at the University of Utah have developed a method for thermally inducing recrystallization of perovskite thin films to create superior solar cell devices. Using an amine gas atmosphere technique, perovskite is recrystallized from a liquid intermediate. This technique provides enhanced control of crystallization, thereby improving thin film quality. The resulting thin films exhibit an increase in grain size and crystallinity of up to two orders of magnitude over the state-of-the-art fabrication techniques. When implemented into solar cell devices, this increases the overall performance and stability due to reduction of detrimental grain boundaries.


DIAMOND-POLYMER CONSTRUCT FOR CATALYTIC REACTIONS

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Over 75 percent of chemical synthesis utilizes catalysts. During catalytic reactions, reactants compete for active surface sites, leading to unstable, high energy sites. This causes particle aggregations and reduces catalytic activity. The use of constructs reduces catalyst aggregation, but these silica-based materials demonstrate poor stability in extreme conditions.

This new material is a robust diamond-polymer construct which demonstrates improved stability in a variety of reaction conditions. The catalytic nanoparticle has a nanodiamond core, with a thin-layer polymer applied to the outer surface of the core and a catalyst immobilized outside of the polymer film. Radical initiated polymerization modifies the surface of the diamond to allow compatibility and adhesion for catalytic materials. The diamond interior is nearly indestructible mechanically and will not react to acids, bases, solvents, or moderately elevated temperatures. The polymer exterior is also chemically robust and stable, making it suitable for industrial, biological, aqueous, and nonpolar catalysis reactions.


AEROGEL MEMBRANE FABRICATION PROCESS

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Aerogels lack connectivity between pores, which limits their use in environmental remediation and hazardous waste disposal.

A new aerogel fabrication process increases interconnectivity between pores. This connectivity increases the aerogel’s surface area and improves its ability to capture hazardous volatiles. By combusting nitrocellulose, the aerogel is formed with higher porosity and greater adsorption capacity, which allows the aerogel to act as a filter. The aerogels can also be made with hydrophobic surfaces for use in water applications, such as specialized filters for contaminant removal. Additionally, the process can be tailored to create nano- to micron-scale interconnectivity.


MULTICOMPONENT NANOCOMPOSITE ELECTROTHERMAL COATING

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Electrothermal coatings provide an alternative to metal-wire resistor heating cables in many heating applications. Many coatings, however, use metal fillers that have low conductivity, low sticking coefficients, and short lifetimes, which limits their application to certain surfaces.

A new electrothermal coating with multi-component nanocomposites does not require the use of metal particles. The coating is made using low-dimensional carbon nanostructures in polymer solvents for a higher bonding affinity and increased conductivity. The coating binds to a wider variety of surfaces and the conductivity of the material can be adjusted based on the application by varying nanocomposite composition and concentration. This technology requires less input energy to achieve the same output as metal-wire resistor heating cables and has potential use in home, automotive, military, and industrial applications.


THERMOELECTRIC ENERGY HARVESTER

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Thermoelectric power generators harvest energy from waste or natural heat without producing any direct emissions of greenhouse gases. As one of the most promising clean energy conversion technologies, thermoelectric materials transform temperature gradients into electrical power without any moving parts. Existing thermoelectric materials are limited by toxicity at high temperatures and low conversion efficiency.

This new thermoelectric energy harvester is a novel oxide-based thermoelectric material that exhibits high electrical and thermal conductivity for increased performance. The material has a “cool” side and a “heated” side that uses the temperature differential to generate electrical power. Possible uses in automobiles, power plants, generators, or anything with heat.


FUNCTIONALLY GRADED TANTALUM/NIOBIUM CARBIDE

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Hard materials resist wear, but are prone to fracture. Tough materials resist fracture, but are susceptible to wear. Ideally, a material should possess a combination of high hardness and high fracture toughness, but designing such a material has proven difficult. A novel tantalum or niobium carbide (TaC or NbC) results in a composite with superior strength and fracture toughness. The material consists of two-phases, a hard carbide on the outside and a tough carbide in the interior. The carbide substrate can be produced using conventional powder processing methods to fabricate complex shapes and surface-treatment. The proposed material outperforms tungsten carbide in applications that require hardness, fracture toughness, and corrosion resistance.


3D PRINTING IN THE BODY

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Implantable medical devices, such as artificial joints, coronary stents, and artificial organs increasingly are customized for individual patients using 3D printing technologies. After surgical implantation of externally printed devices, the soft tissue surrounding the implant or repaired bone must heal on its own. This process can result in disfiguration and debilitating scar tissue. Short-term implants provide temporary tissue support to assist the healing process, but eventually require surgical removal.

The proposed invention facilitates printing soft structures inside the body. Heat-enabled cross-linking polymers are inserted into a body cavity as a liquid and then activated with heat, causing them to solidify. The polymers conform to a specific shape creating 3D soft structures directly in the body. The technology could repair soft tissue damage, as well as create reconstructive implants or antennae for improved transmissivity.


HYDROGEL AND COACERVATE BASED ADHESIVES

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Adhesives and sealants are ubiquitous in numerous industries, including automotive, aerospace, packaging, and construction. Many adhesives and sealants, however, are toxic, which results in harmful effects on health and the environment. Two new adhesives formed without toxic byproducts have been developed. The first is a complex coacervate based adhesive formed by mixing oppositely charged polyelectrolytes (PEs). The PEs can rapidly change forms as solution conditions alter, allowing the adhesive to be injected as a liquid and then coagulate into a solid hydrogel adhesive as pH or salt concentrations adjust. Gelation would keep the material in place to fill voids and the material could be either biodegradable or non- biodegradable depending on the application. Initially designed for physiological conditions, the coacervate offers potential application in depots, fillers, and adhesives. The second adhesive is a viscoelastic hydrogel with an adhesive surface comprised of cross-linked acrylic polymers. The new adhesive exhibits resilience and high stiffness at low strains but low resilience and high flexibility at high strains. Heat is released as covalent bonds break and the hydrogel recovers its original stiffness as strain is alleviated, preventing failure. The adhesive layer adheres to wet and submerged substrates, enabling underwater use.