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The Lead

New method can make cheaper solar energy storage

July 1, 2015 7:46 am | by EPFL | News | Comments

Storing solar energy as hydrogen is a promising way for developing comprehensive renewable energy systems. EPFL scientists have now developed a simple, unconventional method to fabricate high-quality, efficient solar panels for direct solar hydrogen production with low cost.

All-plastic solar cell could help power future flexible electronics

June 26, 2015 7:06 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

If you picture a solar panel, it’s most likely dark blue or black, and rigid and flat. Now...

Stretching a thin crystal to get better solar cells

June 26, 2015 6:59 am | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | News | Comments

Nature loves crystals. Salt, snowflakes and quartz are three examples of crystals—materials...

Toward tiny, solar-powered sensors

June 23, 2015 8:18 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The latest buzz in the information technology industry regards “the Internet of things”, the...

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Chemists devise technology that could transform solar energy storage

June 19, 2015 8:19 am | by Melody Pupols, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | News | Comments

The materials in most of today’s residential rooftop solar panels can store energy from the sun for only a few microseconds at a time. A new technology developed by chemists at the Univ. of California, Los Angeles is capable of storing solar energy for up to several weeks, an advance that could change the way scientists think about designing solar cells.

n this illustration, silicon quantum dots are shown in various states of “blinking.” The “on” crystals emit light (represented by a white dot) as an excited electron sheds excess energy as a photon. The “off” crystals are dark, because their electrons (ye

What the blank makes quantum dots blink?

June 16, 2015 10:05 am | by NERSC | News | Comments

Quantum dots are nanoparticles of semiconductor that can be tuned to glow in a rainbow of colors. Since their discovery in the 1980s, these remarkable nanoparticles have held out tantalizing prospects for all kinds of new technologies, ranging from paint-on lighting materials and solar cells to quantum computer chips, biological markers, and even lasers and communications technologies. But there’s a problem: Quantum dots often blink.

Hematite “re-growth” smoothes rough edges for clean energy harvest

June 16, 2015 8:16 am | by Boston College | News | Comments

Finding an efficient solar water splitting method to mine electron-rich hydrogen for clean power has been thwarted by the poor performance of hematite. But by “re-growing” the mineral's surface, a smoother version of hematite doubled electrical yield, opening a new door to energy-harvesting artificial photosynthesis.

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State-by-state plan to convert US to 100% clean, renewable energy by 2050

June 9, 2015 10:14 am | News | Comments

One potential way to combat ongoing climate change, eliminate air pollution mortality, create jobs and stabilize energy prices involves converting the world's entire energy infrastructure to run on clean, renewable energy.

Pinholes be gone!

June 2, 2015 11:39 am | by Kaoru Natori, OIST | News | Comments

Researchers at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate Univ. have eliminated problematic pinholes in the top layer of next-generation solar cells in development. At the same time, they have significantly improved the lifetime of the solar cell and made it thinner.

Fine-tuned molecular orientation is key to more efficient solar cells

May 26, 2015 10:19 am | by RIKEN | News | Comments

Polymer solar cells are a hot area of research due to both their strong future potential and the significant challenges they pose. It is believed that thanks to lower production costs, they could become a viable alternative to conventional solar cells with silicon substrates when they achieve a power conversion efficiency of between 10 and 15%.

American energy use up slightly

May 21, 2015 8:00 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

Americans' energy use continued to grow slowly in 2014, fueled by increases in the use of natural gas, wind and solar, according to the most recent energy flow charts released by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). Each year, the LLNL releases charts that illustrate the nation's consumption and use of energy. Overall, Americans used 0.9 quads BTUs more in 2014 than the previous year, an increase of about 1%.

Efficiency record for black silicon solar cells jumps

May 18, 2015 12:50 pm | by Aalto Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have obtained the record-breaking efficiency of 22.1% on nanostructured silicon solar cells as certified by Fraunhofer ISE CalLab. An almost 4% absolute increase to their previous record is achieved by applying a thin passivating film on the nanostructures by Atomic Layer Deposition, and by integrating all metal contacts on the back side of the cell.

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New shortcut to solar cells

May 13, 2015 4:38 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists have found a way to simplify the manufacture of solar cells by using the top electrode as the catalyst that turns plain silicon into valuable black silicon. Black silicon is silicon with a highly textured surface of nanoscale spikes or pores that are smaller than the wavelength of light. The texture allows the efficient collection of light from any angle, at any time of day.

Artificial photosynthesis: New, stable photocathode with potential

May 13, 2015 9:14 am | by Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin | News | Comments

Many of us are familiar with electrolytic splitting of water from their school days: If you hold two electrodes into an aqueous electrolyte and apply a sufficient voltage, gas bubbles of hydrogen and oxygen are formed. If this voltage is generated by sunlight in a solar cell, then you could store solar energy by generating hydrogen gas. This is because hydrogen is a versatile medium of storing and using "chemical energy".

Inkjet printing process for kesterite solar cells

May 6, 2015 11:33 am | by Antonia Rotger, Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin | News | Comments

The drop-on-demand inkjet printing is a promising approach allowing patterning of materials with negligible materials waste; hence, significant reduction of raw materials cost can be achieved. Furthermore, inkjet printing can be easily adapted to a roll-to-roll process, which is suitable for large scale production.

Capturing sunlight for a rainy day

May 6, 2015 8:27 am | by Jes Andersen, Univ. of Copenhagen | News | Comments

The sun is a huge source of energy. In just one hour, Earth is hit by so much sunshine that humankind could cover its energy needs for an entire year, if only we knew how to harvest and save it. But storing sunshine is not trivial. Now a student at the Dept. of Chemistry at the Univ. of Copenhagen has made a breakthrough that may prove pivotal for technologies to capture the energy of the sun and save it for a rainy day.

Engineering a better solar cell

May 1, 2015 7:57 am | by Renee Gastineau, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

One of the fastest-growing areas of solar energy research is with materials called perovskites. These promising light harvesters could revolutionize the solar and electronics industries because they show potential to convert sunlight into electricity more efficiently and less expensively than today’s silicon-based semiconductors.

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Artificial photosynthesis could help make fuels, plastics and medicine

April 30, 2015 8:15 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

The global industrial sector accounts for more than half of the total energy used every year. Now scientists are inventing a new artificial photosynthetic system that could one day reduce industry’s dependence on fossil fuel-derived energy by powering part of the sector with solar energy and bacteria.

Converter Accepts Different Power Sources

April 28, 2015 7:00 am | by Univ. of Arkansas | News | Comments

Engineering researchers have invented a novel electrical power converter system that simultaneously accepts power from a variety of energy sources and converts it for use in the electrical grid system. Innovations in this field are critical as the U.S. moves toward integration of renewable energy sources to the national power grid.

Using the photoactive zinc oxide material, scientists studied the formation and migration of so-called polarons. Courtesy of Patrick Rinke/Aalto University

Pseudoparticles travel through photoactive material

April 23, 2015 10:59 am | by Karlsruhe Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Researchers ohave unveiled an important step in the conversion of light into storable energy: They studied the formation of so-called polarons in zinc oxide. The pseudoparticles travel through the photoactive material until they are converted into electrical or chemical energy at an interface.

Analysis sees many promising pathways for solar photovoltaic power

March 26, 2015 12:07 pm | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In a broad new assessment of the status and prospects of solar photovoltaic technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers say that it is “one of the few renewable, low-carbon resources with both the scalability and the technological maturity to meet ever-growing global demand for electricity.”

Manufacturing process could yield better solar cells, faster chips

March 25, 2015 10:57 am | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | Videos | Comments

Computer chips, solar cells and other electronic devices have traditionally been based on silicon, the most famous of the semiconductors, that special class of materials whose unique electronic properties can be manipulated to turn electricity on and off the way faucets control the flow of water. There are other semiconductors. Gallium arsenide is one such material and it has certain technical advantages over silicon.

New kind of “tandem” solar cell developed

March 25, 2015 7:41 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford Univ. have developed a new kind of solar cell that combines two different layers of sunlight-absorbing material in order to harvest a broader range of the sun’s energy. The development could lead to photovoltaic cells that are more efficient than those currently used in solar-power installations, the researchers say.

A better method for making perovskite solar cells

March 16, 2015 2:33 pm | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Research led by a Brown Univ. graduate student has revealed a new way to make light-absorbing perovskite films for use in solar cells. The new method involves a room-temperature solvent bath to create perovskite crystals, rather than the blast of heat used in current crystallization methods.

Thin film clears path to solar fuels

March 11, 2015 9:39 am | by Ker Than, Caltech | News | Comments

Caltech scientists, inspired by a chemical process found in leaves, have developed an electrically conductive film that could help pave the way for devices capable of harnessing sunlight to split water into hydrogen fuel. When applied to semiconducting materials such as silicon, the nickel oxide film prevents rust buildup and facilitates an important chemical process in the solar-driven production of fuels such as methane or hydrogen.

Just Released A Product At Pittcon? Enter It Into the R&D 100 Awards

March 11, 2015 8:42 am | by Lindsay Hock, Editor | News | Comments

The editors of R&D Magazine have announced an eligibility extension for products to be entered into the 2015 R&D 100 Awards. The 2015 R&D 100 Awards will honor products, technologies and services that have been introduced to the market between January 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015.

New approach combines biomass conversion, solar energy conversion

March 11, 2015 8:21 am | by Libby Dowdall, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

In a study published in Nature Chemistry, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison chemistry Prof. Kyoung-Shin Choi presents a new approach to combine solar energy conversion and biomass conversion, two important research areas for renewable energy. For decades, scientists have been working to harness the energy from sunlight to drive chemical reactions to form fuels such as hydrogen, which provide a way to store solar energy for future use.

Detection of gamma rays from a newly discovered dwarf galaxy may point to dark matter

March 10, 2015 1:36 pm | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Scientists have detected for the first time gamma rays emanating from a dwarf galaxy. Such a detection may be the signal of dark matter particles annihilating, a long-sought prediction of many dark matter theories.        

Research Key to Artificial Photosynthesis, 'Solar Fuels'

March 10, 2015 7:00 am | by Caltech | News | Comments

Scientists, inspired by a chemical process found in leaves, have developed an electrically conductive film that could help pave the way for devices capable of harnessing sunlight to split water into hydrogen fuel. When applied to semiconducting materials such as silicon, the nickel oxide film prevents rust buildup and facilitates an important chemical process in the solar-driven production of fuels.

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