MRS 2009 Boston



mrs13

At yesterday’s MRS we were treated to an interesting run down of the history and future of thin film solar photovoltaics by Lawrence Kazmerski from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, US. His main point was that ‘thin film photovoltaics are no longer the outlier,’ referring to the fact that bulk silicon originally took centre stage in the solar cell area. Interesting facts he used to back up his point included that companies making thin film photovoltaics received $1 billion (£0.6 billion) in investment from venture capitalists in 2008, up from less than $400 million in 2007. And that the production of thin film solar cells doubled between 2005 and 2007. (more…)

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mrs12

 The natural glue that sticks marine mussels to rocks and boat hulls is providing inspiration for synthetic adhesives for medical applications. Phillip Messersmith at Northwestern University, US, who is leading this research, says that the fact they stick in the aqueous environments where many man-made adhesives fail that makes them really fascinating. (more…)

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mrs12

Tuesday saw me submerge myself in a number of sessions on biomaterials research, an area I’ve been fascinated by since my days on the Journal of Materials Chemistry editorial team. And as expected I wasn’t disappointed.

My favourite talk of the day was an overview of the use of state-of-the-art nanotechnology in biomedical implants given by Thomas Webster at Brown University, US. During his presentation we were told about a recent ‘happiness’ survey of army amputees, where one group was given replacement prosthetic limbs and the other group was not. The survey found that soldiers who received prosthetics were less happy than those that did not, citing reasons such as problems cleaning them and loose fits. Some researchers might have been discouraged that huge amount of reserach that has gone into this field in recent years is going unappreciated, but not Webster – he sees it as a challenge to do better. (more…)

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mrs1

This week I am in beautiful (but cold) Boston, US, attending the Materials Research Society (MRS) Fall meeting. Has any one else noticed that I always seem to attend US conferences in the winter? Well it hasn’t snowed yet, so it’s marginally warmer than when I was in Salt Lake City in March!

Yesterday I spent much of my time learning about the latest studies into the properties of, and good large scale synthetic routes to, graphene (the single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb lattice that looks like chicken wire). This material is fascinating because – as we were reminded by the first person to isolate graphene in 2004, Andre Geim (from University of Manchester, UK) in his plenary lecture – it is predicted to be the strongest known material, the stiffest known material, the most stretchable material, the material with the highest current density at room temperature (millions of times more conductive than copper)…..and so the list goes on. Graphene has a lot of hype to live up to! (more…)

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