NISKAYUNA, N.Y. - GE Global Research has announced a breakthrough that could lead to a new generation of solar cells, as well as a wide variety of improved electronic devices.

The organization, which is the central research arm of General Electric Co., has developed a diode from carbon nanotubes - tubes of carbon on the scale of about a billionth of a meter - that operates at the best possible performance for diodes, the theoretical limit. The diode is also able to convert sunlight into electricity, which means it could be used to build a solar cell. Diodes are the fundamental building block for many electronic devices, including solar cells, transistors, computer chips, sensors, and light-emitting diodes (LEDs), so an "ideal" diode could result in a variety of more efficient devices, says the research lab.

The full technical paper about this research is available in the Aug. 15, 2005 issue of Applied Physics Letters or online at

Publication date: 08/29/2005