Scientific American May 2011 by Nature Publishing Goup

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Extra resources for Scientific American May 2011

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Determine if a lump is a harmless, fluid-filled cyst. But its imagEmory’s Gabram-Mendola and chemists at the Georgia Insties cannot distinguish malignant tumors from benign growths tute of Technology have found markers in the breath of 20 breast filled with harmless breast tissue. It thus gives more false nega- cancer patients that were not present in the breath of 20 control tives than mammography does, which is why it is less than ideal subjects. The team is not focusing on fully replacing mammogas a stand-alone method for initial screening.

Zhu “really showed that this concept is possible,” says Prashant Kamat of the University of Notre Dame, who was not involved in the research. Stalling the electrons is only part of the goal, however. Zhu is now looking for a way to help the conductor convert as many hot electrons as possible into current so the conductor itself does not also absorb them as heat. Many obstacles remain to a working solar cell. “We need to establish all the physics,” Zhu says—exactly how hot electrons cool, how they transfer into conductors.

One solution is to slow down how fast the electrons cool, creating more time for them to be captured. Last year chemist Xiaoyang Zhu of the University of Texas at Austin and his colleagues turned to quantum dots consisting of a few thousand atoms each. Zhu deposited lead-selenide dots onto a conducting layer of titanium dioxide, a common material. When he shone a light, the hot electrons took up to 1,000 times longer to lose their heat. Zhu “really showed that this concept is possible,” says Prashant Kamat of the University of Notre Dame, who was not involved in the research.

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