Posts from the ‘energy’ Category

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*ding* Solar cells are done!

Nope… that’s my lunch.


Microwave Ovens Can Make Greener Solar Cells

The same type of microwave oven technology that most people use to heat up leftover food has found an important application in the solar energy industry, providing a new way to make thin-film photovoltaic products with less energy, expense and environmental concerns.

Engineers at Oregon State Univ. have for the first time developed a way to use microwave heating in the synthesis of copper zinc tin sulfide, a promising solar cell compound that is less costly and toxic than some solar energy alternatives.

Read more:

A small refugee town in Pakistan is demonstrating the power of solar energy in changing lives. A few dozen families, many of them led by single mothers, are experiencing a revolution in not just green energy, but social acceptance and prosperity.

Each small house has four solar panels powering it, allowing for basic electrical amenities such as ceiling fans. The panels cost about $1500 each, and were paid for by a joint Chinese/German company. Many of the appliances were previously impossible for the families, many of whom had never known about solar energy. Most of the single mothers are able to own the houses outright, a usually rare occurrence that has fostered a more equal attitude toward women in the town.

Outside of the home, panels also power irrigation systems, water pumps, and city streetlights. This, combined with the strict attitudes of the residents, has resulted in greater production and virtually no crime.

As we work toward creating alternative energies that allow us to power large-scale grids, we need to be mindful of the effect that even small amounts of electricity can have on the impoverished of the world. If this small Pakistani village is any sort of example, it’s clear that electricity is more than just a luxury but a force that can change the world. 

It has baffled scientists for while now why the Sun’s atmosphere is hotter than its surface; a situation akin to having to shed clothing as you climbed Mt. Everest. Recent mathematical and astrophysics research from the University of Sheffield indicates that there are many magnetic plasma vortices (tornadoes) that bring up energy from inside the Sun and release it into the atmosphere. They’re relatively small compared to some of the ones that make the news occasionally, but still reach sizes greater than Great Britain and temperatures of several millions degrees kelvin.

Not only is the research answering questions about space, but the applications are important here too. If we can learn to use similar magnetic fields to control plasma here, there are ways to produce clean, green energy. The more ways we can do that, the better!

In another big step for solar energy, researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a cheaper method of manufacturing solar cells. They are as much as 7 times thinner with the same productivity. The method is easily adaptable by the current machinery in factories, so hopefully this will serve as another big step toward making solar energy a viable fossil fuel replacement. 

Nanotubes allow for much thinner, cheaper solar panels

Made entirely of carbon and stable in open air, the transparent layer of carbon nanotubes and buckyballs can pick up infrared light, in addition to letting visible light through to conventional cells below. Although efficiency is only about .1%, it is expected to increase quickly. Because carbon is so cheap, the cost should be relatively low and therefore can go into use with a low efficiency. Every bit helps! Hopefully this can push solar energy to become a more powerful alternative.

MIT researchers develop working prototype of infrared-absorbing solar cells



Powerhouse Solar Cell Inspired by Leaf Biomimicry

A team of scientists headed up by Princeton University has achieved a whopping 47 percent increase in electricity generation from flexible plastic solar cells, simply by texturing the surface to mimic the wrinkles of a typical leaf.

Full Story: Cleantechnica

via emergentfutures:

1) Biomimicry is amazing. I love that human design is now recognizing that it has so much to learn from natural design. Especially when it can replace eco-questionable solutions with much more eco-friendly solutions – such as simply creating wrinkles on a surface as opposed to something like nano-sprays with unknown side-effects.

2) As the article notes, solar is getting very, very close to the 10-15% efficiency needed to make it competitive with traditional energy sources. And with the various solar innovations coming out, I expect we’ll hit that goal soon… and then surpass it by quite a bit. But of course, this requires research and funding. *cough*fund_science*cough*

Just look at Germany right now; their solar energy now provides almost half of their national need