While this "nanoflower" looks like a carnation, it is actually the result of a new technique in creating many-layered nanostructures that greatly amp up the amount of surface area one can work with in a small space and could lead to more efficient and safer batteries and solar cells.
The nanoflowers are created from germanium sulfide (GeS) that's been treated in a furnace. The research team at North Carolina State University developed the technique by taking powdered GeS and heating it until it vaporizes; they then carefully blow it to a cooler part of the furnace, where it turns into a layered sheet 20 to 30 nanometers thin, and up to 100 micrometers long. The process continues and the sheets are layered on top of one another until they gradually look like a flower, seen above.
The flower-like shape is perfect for improving energy storage cells: the more layers you work with, the greater the surface area and capacity to hold onto the energy.
Dr. Linyou Cao, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at NC State, and co-author of a paper on the research, explains the practical applications it could eventually be used for in a press release:
"This could significantly increase the capacity of lithium-ion batteries, for instance, since the thinner structure with larger surface area can hold more lithium ions. By the same token, this GeS flower structure could lead to increased capacity for supercapacitors, which are also used for energy storage."
GeS as a material is also very good at absorbing solar energy and converting it to usable power. Combine that with the fact GeS is relatively cheap and is non-toxic, and that could leave to more efficient solar cells.
With the efficient and environmentally responsible promise the GeS nanoflower holds to lengthen the life of certain batteries and supercapacitors and create cheap, safe and efficient solar cells, this is one discovery that is beautiful in looks and for its potential.
The North Carolina State University research team has presented their work online in the journal ACS Nano. The U.S. Army Research Office supported the effort.