Oct. 11, 2012 at 1:59 PM ET
Who says innovation can't be pretty? These tiny pink nanostructures could revolutionize batteries, by storing energy with unprecedented surface area.
The "nanoflowers" are made out of germanium sulfide — a semiconductor material. The shape means more surface area in a smaller space, which makes it ideal for energy storage applications such as the batteries in your smartphone.
The breakthrough comes from Linyou Cao and colleagues at North Carolina State University.
To create the flower structures, the team first heats up a powdered form of the semiconductor material in a furnace until it begins to vaporize and then blows it to a cooler region of the furnace where it settles out into layered sheets.
The sheets are only 20- to 30-nanometers thick and up to 100-micrometers long. As additional layers are added, the sheets branch out from one another, forming a floral pattern similar to a marigold or carnation, the university explains in a news release.
The flower-like structure could increase the capacity of lithium-ion batteries because the thinner structure and larger surface area can hold more lithium ions, the team notes. By the same token, the structure could also be used to increase the capacity of superconductors.
The technique to create the nanoflowers is detailed in the journal ACS Nano.