A new material structure developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology generates steam by soaking up the sun. The structure—a layer of graphite flakes and an underlying carbon foam—is a porous, insulating material structure that floats on water. When sunlight hits the structure’s surface, it creates a hotspot in the graphite, drawing water up through the material’s pores, where it evaporates as steam.
One of the major road blocks to the design and development of new, more efficient solar cells...
The solar panels that Idaho inventor Scott Brusaw...
Researchers at Princeton Univ. joined with experts...
Despite five months of below-average temperatures and twice the normal amount of snowfall, NIST's Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility (NZERTF) in Washington, D.C. ended its one-year test run with 491 KW-h of extra energy. Instead of paying almost $4,400 for electricity, the experimental all-electric house actually earned a credit by exporting surplus energy to the local utility.
Experts don't fully understand how “plastic” solar panels work, which complicates the improvement of their cost efficiency and hinders wider use of the technology. However, an international team has now determined how light beams excite the chemicals in solar panels, enabling them to produce charge. Their findings were made possible with the use of femtosecond Raman spectroscopy.
Concentrating solar power (CSP) could supply a large fraction of the power supply in a decarbonized energy system, according to a new study of the technology and its potential practical application. For this research, scientists simulated the construction and operation of CSP systems in four regions around the world, taking into account weather variations, plant locations, electricity demand, and costs.
Rice Univ. scientists have created a one-step process for producing highly efficient materials that let the maximum amount of sunlight reach a solar cell. The Rice laboratory of chemist Andrew Barron found a simple way to etch nanoscale spikes into silicon that allows more than 99% of sunlight to reach the cells’ active elements, where it can be turned into electricity.
Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers have demonstrated an almost four-fold boost of the carrier multiplication yield with nanoengineered quantum dots. Carrier multiplication is when a single photon can excite multiple electrons. Quantum dots are novel nanostructures that can become the basis of the next generation of solar cells, capable of squeezing additional electricity out of the extra energy of blue and ultraviolet photons.
Researchers the world over are investigating solar cells which imitate plant photosynthesis, with the goal of using sunlight and water to create synthetic fuels such as hydrogen. Scientists in Switzerland have developed this type of photoelectrochemical cell, but this one recreates a moth’s eye to drastically increase its light collecting efficiency. The cell is made of cheap raw materials: iron and tungsten oxide.
Think those flat, glassy solar panels on your neighbor’s roof are the pinnacle of solar technology? Think again. Researchers at Univ. of Toronto have designed and tested a new class of solar-sensitive nanoparticle that outshines the current state of the art employing this new class of technology.
Wouldn’t it be nice to use solar- or wind-generated electricity to turn excess carbon dioxide into fuels and other useful chemicals? The process would store up the intermittent solar or wind energy in a form that could be used when and where it was needed, including in transportation applications, all while getting rid of some greenhouse gas.
Investigated heavily since the 1970s, solar cells have been the great unfulfilled promise for unlimited, almost free energy to power the world. The reasoning is solid: The Earth absorbs almost as much energy per hour than the entire human race uses in a single year.
A Swiss-made solar-powered aircraft has made a successful inaugural flight as its makers prepare for what they hope will be the first round-the-world solar flight. The aircraft spent 2 hours and 17 minutes in the air above western Switzerland early Monday. The Solar Impulse 2 is a bigger and better version of a single-seat prototype that first took flight five years ago and can theoretically stay airborne indefinitely.
Solar panels made in China have a higher overall carbon footprint and are likely to use substantially more energy during manufacturing than those made in Europe, said a new study from Northwestern Univ. and Argonne National Laboratory. The report compared energy and greenhouse gas emissions that go into the manufacturing process of solar panels in Europe and China.
Researchers are trying to develop solar-driven generators that can split water, yielding hydrogen gas that could be used as clean fuel. Such a device requires efficient light-absorbing materials that attract and hold sunlight to drive the chemical reactions involved in water splitting. Semiconductors are excellent light absorbers. However, these materials rust when submerged in the type of water solutions found in such systems.
Researchers at NIST have developed a laser-based instrument that generates artificial sunlight to help test solar cell properties and find ways to boost their efficiency. The novel NIST system simulates sunlight well across a broad spectrum of visible to infrared light. More flexible than conventional solar simulators, the laser instrument can be focused down to a small beam spot and shaped to match any desired spectral profile.
Solar cell technology has advanced rapidly, as hundreds of groups around the world pursue more than two dozen approaches using different materials, technologies and approaches to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Now a team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology has set a new record for the most efficient quantum-dot cells.
In an effort to better understand what persuades people to buy photovoltaic systems for their homes, researchers at Sandia National Laboratories are gathering data on consumer motivations that can feed computer models and thus lead to greater use of solar energy. A primary goal of the project is to help increase the nation’s share of solar energy in the electricity market from its current share of less than .05% to at least 14% by 2030.
When sunlight shines on today’s solar cells, much of the incoming energy is given off as waste heat rather than electrical current. In a few materials, however, extra energy produces extra electrons—behavior that could significantly increase solar-cell efficiency. A team has now identified the mechanism by which that phenomenon happens, yielding new design guidelines for using those special materials to make high-efficiency solar cells.
Northwestern Univ. researchers are the first to develop a new solar cell with good efficiency that uses tin instead of lead perovskite as the harvester of light. The low-cost, environmentally friendly solar cell can be made easily using "bench" chemistry, with no fancy equipment or hazardous materials.
Molybdenite has been instrumental in research at the Federal Institute of Technology in Switzerland (EPFL), where scientists have used it to develop a computer chip, flash memory device and a photographic sensor. Now, they have again tapped into the electronic potential of MoS2 by creating diodes that can emit light or absorb it to produce electricity.
Treating cadmium-telluride (CdTe) solar cell materials with cadmium-chloride improves their efficiency, but researchers have not fully understood why. Now, an atomic-scale examination of the thin-film solar cells led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory has answered this decades-long debate about the materials’ photovoltaic efficiency increase after treatment.
Solar Frontier and the State Univ. of New York College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering have signed a memorandum of understanding to conduct a technical and economic feasibility study for potential joint R&D and manufacturing of CIS thin-film modules in Buffalo, New York. This move is part of Solar Frontier’s plans to establish production bases for its proprietary technology outside of Japan, the company’s home market.
In the quest to make sun power more competitive, researchers are designing ultra-thin solar cells that cut material costs. At the same time, they’re keeping these thin cells efficient by sculpting their surfaces with photovoltaic nanostructures that behave like a molecular hall of mirrors.
The solar lamp developed by a start-up in Switzerland is a more effective, safer, and less expensive form of illumination than the traditional oil lamp currently used by more than one billion people in the world. Designed to be made by anyone, these solar-powered light-emitting diode lamps require nothing more than locally-found equipment. Only the solar panels are ordered from abroad.
Titan Aerospace, a maker of solar-powered drones, has been purchased by Google, which says it could help bring Internet access to remote parts of the world. Titan's atmospheric satellites, which are still in development and not yet commercially available, can stay in the air for as long as five years. Titan's website has cited a wide range of uses for the drones.
A house window that doubles as a solar panel could be on the horizon, thanks to recent quantum dot work by Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers in collaboration with scientists from Univ. of Milano-Bicocca, Italy. Their project demonstrates that superior light-emitting properties of quantum dots can be applied in solar energy by helping more efficiently harvest sunlight.
It’s an obvious truism, but one that may soon be outdated: The problem with solar power is that sometimes the sun doesn’t shine. Now a team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Univ. has come up with an ingenious workaround: a material that can absorb the sun’s heat and store that energy in chemical form, ready to be released again on demand.
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