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Frankenstein, Move Over: A New Graphene/DNA “Monster” Is In Town

A Stanford University research team has just come up with a new way to work with the super-strong but super-finicky semiconductor material graphene. The idea is to use DNA as a platform for mass producing precisely engineered ribbons of graphene, and the goal is to open the door to a new age of super-efficient, super-small, ultra-fast electronic devices. What could possibly go wrong?

Nothing, we’re pretty sure, but it does seem like some strange and unanticipated results could come about when you combine DNA, the “blueprint of life” with graphene, an exotic form of carbon that is 200 times stronger than steel.

The Stanford University Graphene/DNA Combo

Graphene consists of a sheet of carbon only one atom thick. It was discovered less than ten years ago and it has already engendered thousands of research papers around the globe.

The uniquely powerful potential of graphene as a semiconductor leads to the possibility of accelerating Moore’s Law beyond anything Gordon L. Moore could have imagined (back in 1965, Moore, a co-founder of Intel, predicted that the size of transistors would shrink apace with advances in technology).

Aside from the obvious application to portable electronic devices, the next generation of low cost, high efficiency photovoltaic cells could be ushered in by replacing silicon with graphene.

The problem is, with a thickness of only one atom deep graphene is notoriously difficult to work with.

This is where the Stanford team comes in. They started with the goal of forming precise ribbons of graphene of 20 to 50 atoms across. When laid side by side, the ribbons could form extremely small, fast, and energy-efficient semiconductor circuits.

Graphene breakthrough achieved with DNA

DNA as graphene ribbon template (cropped) courtesy of Anatoliy Sokolov.

The idea of using DNA as a fabrication platform has two aspects. First, the ribbon-like structure of DNA is fairly similar to the ribbons of graphene desired by the team. Second, since DNA contains carbon atoms it shares a chemical link with graphene (that’s what set us thinking of Dr. Frankenstein, but whatever).

The Stanford team deployed a fabrication method using a silicon platter, which is somewhat ironic given that the ultimate goal is to replace silicon computer chips with graphene, but here goes. As described by Tom Abate at Stanford Engineering, the research team first dipped a platter of silicon into a solution of bacteria-derived DNA, and “combed” the strands into lines.

The next step was to introduce copper ions into the DNA, by exposing the platter to a copper salt solution. When the platter was exposed to heat and bathed in carbon-rich methane gas (much safer than lightning!), the result was a chemical reaction that freed carbon atoms from both the gas and the DNA.

The free carbon atoms joined to form the familiar honeycomb or “chicken wire” structure of graphene. Since the carbon atoms from the DNA tended to stay close to their point of origin, the result was a long ribbon of graphene rather than an amorphous sheet.

For the record, the Stanford team also succeeded in making working transistors on the ribbons.

Another Path To DNA-Engineered Graphene

Meanwhile, researchers at Harvard and MIT have also been developing a method for using DNA as a platform for fabricating precisely engineered graphene shapes, resulting in Lego-like graphene “blocks.”

In contrast to the Stanford method, which is based entirely on chemical reactions, the Harvard/MIT graphene project is partly based on a standard plasma lithography technique.

The Harvard/MIT method starts with DNA blocks formed by manipulating strands into 90-degree angles. After binding the DNA to a graphene surface, the block is coated with a micro-clusters of silver, which in turn binds to a top layer of gold.

The lithographic step is based on oxygen plasma, in which ionized molecules “wear away” excess graphene to leave a structure precisely identical to the DNA platform. Lastly, a bath of sodium cyanide washes the DNA away, leaving only the graphene.

As with the Standford research, the MIT/Harvard project is still far from commercialization, but the team was able to create precise shapes with the “Lego” approach, including rings, ribbons and X and Y junctions.

Graphene Manipulation Without DNA

DNA is just one of many platforms that are being explored as avenues for creating a cost-effective, reliable graphene fabrication process.

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Among the new developments are a technique for “unzipping” carbon nanotubes to form long ribbons of graphene, and a method for forming a graphene nanowire within a larger sheet of graphene.

Another example comes from a team at the University of Illinois, which has found that nanoscale droplets of water can be used to herd graphene into precise shapes, while the US Air Force is the funder behind a method for engineering flakes of graphene with dry ice.

Not to be outdone by the Air Force, the US Navy has funded a graphene ribbon project based on an etching technique.

An entirely different approach comes from Northwestern Engineering, where a team is using a low-cost exfoliation method to produce a printable graphene “ink.”

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Frankenstein, Move Over: A New Graphene/DNA “Monster” Is In Town was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 other subscribers: RSS | Facebook | Twitter.


100% Electric Vehicle & Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle Sales Have Record Month!

Originally published on EV Obsession.

August Electric Car & Hybrid Sales

As you can see in the table above, 100% electric cars, plug-in hybrid electric cars (PHEVs), and conventional hybrid electric cars continue to do better and better.

100% electrics were up 457.48% in August 2013 compared to August 2012. And they were up 515.51% January through August 2013 compared to January through August 2012.

PHEVs are also up considerably, as are conventional hybrids.

The increases for each of the above (compared to 2012) are quite similar to the increases we saw in July. August was clearly the best month ever for 100% electric sales in the US, as well as PHEV sales. It’s also the best month I’ve seen for conventional hybrid vehicle sales, but I haven’t been tracking those long enough to know if it was indeed the country’s best month ever in that category.

Who Are The Big Movers & Shakers?

Not much has changed as regards the leaders in EV and hybrid sales. The Tesla Model S continues to do exceptionally well. The Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt also each continue to do very well, both of which broke their monthly sales records. The Volt is now doing a little better than the Leaf in cumulative 2013 sales, but it’s neck and neck. If I’m not mistaken, this is the 4th month in a row that the two have swapped places.

Otherwise, Ford continues to do well with its sales of the Ford C-Max Hybrid and the Ford Fusion Hybrid, as does Toyota with its various Prius offerings (+ other hybrids).

As far as plug-in cars, other than the Leaf (2420 sales), Volt (3351 sales), and Model S (~1300 sales), the Toyota Prius PHEV did quite well in August (1791 sales), and Ford’s Fusion Energi PHEV (600 sales) and C-Max Energi PHEV (621 sales) did okay. Otherwise, other plug-in cars are inching along (“compliance cars” as many of us call them).

That’s what stands out to me this month.

Do you have any other thoughts?

To see how August sales compare to July sales, check out the July electric car and hybrid sales summary.

100% Electric Vehicle & Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle Sales Have Record Month! was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 other subscribers: RSS | Facebook | Twitter.


Possible Fraud Cited in Deepwater Horizon Oil-Spill Fund – Wall Street Journal


Possible Fraud Cited in Deepwater Horizon OilSpill Fund
Wall Street Journal
Former FBI director Louis Freeh found there may have been criminal fraud on the part of some lawyers overseeing payments from the Deepwater Horizon settlement fund, according to a report released Friday. But Mr. Freeh said he found no evidence that the 
BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill RESTORE Act regulations released by
BP Cuts Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Estimate – (press release)
BP Wants To Halt Deepwater Horizon Claims ProcessNPR
Financial Times –
all 21 news articles »

oil spill – read more

Lawyers Plotted to Corrupt BP Oil Spill Settlement Program, Probe Finds – DailyFinance


Lawyers Plotted to Corrupt BP Oil Spill Settlement Program, Probe Finds
NEW ORLEANS — An independent probe led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh found evidence of a plot by lawyers to "corrupt" the BP (BP) settlement program but nothing that warranted shutting down payments to victims of the company's 2010 oil spill in
Some corruption in BP oil spill settlement program, Freeh says, but not on
BP Spill Claims Administrator Cleared in Ethics ProbeBloomberg
Probe clears BP claims administrator despite staff misconductChicago Tribune

all 16 news articles »

oil spill – read more

Living in an Iceberg in Antarctica: A Possible Home in the Future? – The Weather Channel

Living in an Iceberg in Antarctica: A Possible Home in the Future?
The Weather Channel
While NASA cements plans to send a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s, a Copenhagen-based architect is presenting a proposal that could place future homes here on Earth deep inside an iceberg. David A. Garcia is the founder of MAP Architects, a firm 

antarctica – read more

Dave’s Top 10 Clean Energy News Stories From July

wind direction and speed

This continues my monthly report of 10 of the most compelling clean energy generation, energy conservation technology, and climate change stories encountered over the last month. Over a thousand articles were reviewed across the various clean energy platforms, 30+ were found to be of particular interest and are available in my newsletter upon request. Here is my pick of the “Top 10” that might have an impact on your business, your life, and the world we live in. Or, at the very least, might surprise you about what’s going on. And thanks to David Letterman for the “Top 10” idea. Articles are listed most important last.

10. China expresses “concern” about GHG emissions and citizen health from pollution and that they are constructing numerous (pollution free) wind and solar power stations. However, this report does not show a turning point until 2027, when China’s GHG emissions will peak, at which time their source of electricity from coal is estimated to decline from today’s 67% to 44%. Coincidentally, fossil fuels (coal and gas) also account for 67% of US electricity production today.

9. Here’s evidence that rising GHG emissions in CA are causing climate change: more forest fires, less precipitation as snow and less water in the Tahoe-Truckee watershed for sports, agriculture, and human consumption.

8. This U of M professor makes the case that bigger gains in reducing GHG emissions in transportation can come from controlling “upstream” sources, and less from innovations in new fuel and vehicle types. These include closing (converting) fossil fuel power plants (for EV plug-ins), amending farming methods, harvesting and shipping of biofeedstock (for ethanol or alternative fuel feedstocks), and mitigating methane leaks in natural gas production and piping.

7. Global solar energy installation grew by 58% in 2012, with the top four countries being Germany, Spain, Italy and China. Global wind installs grew 19% in 2012, with the top countries being US, Germany, Spain and the UK. Still, the combination of wind and solar only accounted for 1.7% of global energy consumed. Here’s a great chart showing the composition of (global) GHG emissions and where they come from by country and type of economic activity.

6. Claiming to be carbon neutral by applying the principles of photosynthesis from plants, a synthetic gasoline is being developed from hydrogen and CO2 by scientists from CalTech, Stanford, Berkeley Labs and 3 UC campuses with funding of $ 122M from the DOE.

5. Oregon leads 17 states considering charging motorists for miles driven vs. gas consumed. With vehicle fuel efficiency increasing due to hybrids, EVs, and the 54.5 mpg CAFE mandates of the EPA by 2025, less fuel is (and will be) consumed, reducing fuel tax funds needed by states for road construction and maintenance.

4. China hired IBM to develop a grid-scale weather forecasting technology — “Hybrid Renewable Energy Forecasting” (HyRef) — to better anticipate intermittency of wind and solar output for more cost effective integration into the utility power mix. With sales anticipated across Euro and the US, this could be a big win for “big blue.”

3. Once considered non-polluting sources of clean energy, hydroelectric damns — and the waters behind them — are being examined for the methane they release as a result of the organic sediments below. (Research tells us that methane is 20-25 times more harmful than CO2 in holding heat and contributing to global warming.) This “damn” discovery notwithstanding, it’s hard to image how to mitigate or capture the methane from 50,000 large damns and literally millions of smaller ones around the world.

2. Developed by Google nerds and dubbed by Fast Company as one of the TOP 10 data graphs, this wind map shows the velocity and direction of winds across the US — in real time. (Notably, for long-time CleanTechnica readers, CleanTechnica covered this wind map back in March 2012.)

#1 Most interesting (my opinion) clean tech news story of the month:

1. Other states and other countries considering energy cap-and-trade (C&T) are watching what appears to be a successful C&T program in CA. All of CA’s “offset” credits have been sold for 2013 and 2016. The program is a tax on energy and thus a revenue source for CA, but also is intended to help CA companies comply with AB32, enacted in 2006 to reduce GHG emissions 25% to 1990 levels by 2020. Environmentalists argue this gives companies permission to continue polluting. However, there’s been national success with previous C&T programs to reduce SO2 and NOx emissions.

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Dave’s Top 10 Clean Energy News Stories From July was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 other subscribers: RSS | Facebook | Twitter.