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The Lead

Using “fuzzy logic” to optimize hybrid solar/battery systems

February 26, 2015 11:11 am | by American Institute of Physics | News | Comments

How did fuzzy logic help a group of researchers in Tunisia and Algeria create an ideal photovoltaic system that obeys the supply-and-demand principle and its delicate balance? In the Journal of Renewable & Sustainable Energy, the group describes a new sizing system of a solar array and a battery in a standalone photovoltaic system that is based on fuzzy logic.

Enabling solar cells to use more sunlight

February 25, 2015 9:21 am | by Britta Schlüter, Univ. of Luxembourg | News | Comments

Scientists of the Univ. of Luxembourg and of the Japanese electronics company TDK report...

Researchers identify keys to improved polymer solar cells

February 23, 2015 8:38 am | by Bill Kisliuk, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | News | Comments

Paving the way for lighter and more flexible solar devices, Univ. of California, Los Angeles...

Cheap solar cells made from shrimp shells

February 19, 2015 8:48 am | by Queen Mary, Univ. of London | News | Comments

Researchers have successfully created electricity-generating solar-cells with chemicals found...

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Limitless Photovoltaic Future

February 13, 2015 12:27 pm | by Tim Studt, Editor-in-Chief | Articles | Comments

Researchers working with photovoltaic (PV) technologies and production processes have made great strides over the past several years, such that PV systems are now considered a viable and cost-competitive energy alternative to traditional fossil fuel energy sources. The number of installations continues to increase, while panel and system costs continue to decline.

A ray of sunshine for bioenergy

February 10, 2015 8:55 am | by Lacey Nygard, Univ. of Minnesota | News | Comments

Even at historically low natural gas prices, bioenergy may not be out of the running: It just may need a little help from the sun. A new study from researchers at the Univ. of Minnesota examining the financial viability of solar-heated biomass gasification technologies that produce a natural gas substitute product concludes that combining these renewable resources can make economic sense.

Why “baking powder” increases efficiency of plastic solar cells

February 6, 2015 12:36 pm | by Barry van der Meer, Eindhoven Univ. of Technology | News | Comments

The efficiency of plastic solar cells can be doubled or tripled if an extra solvent is added during the production process, comparable with the role of baking powder in dough mixture. Exactly how this works has been unclear for the last 10 years. But now researchers at TU/e have come up with the answer in a publication in Nature Communications. This new understanding will now enable focused development of plastic solar cells.

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High-efficiency concentrating solar cells move to the rooftop

February 6, 2015 8:23 am | by A'ndrea Elyse Messer, Penn State Univ. | Videos | Comments

Ultra-high-efficiency solar cells similar to those used in space may now be possible on your rooftop thanks to a new microscale solar concentration technology. The falling cost of typical silicon solar cells is making them a smaller and smaller fraction of the overall cost of solar electricity, which also includes "soft" costs like permitting, wiring, installation and maintenance that have remained fixed over time.

Chances of saving with solar energy greater for Indiana farms than homes

February 6, 2015 8:14 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

The probability of saving money by using solar energy rather than standard grid electricity is 92% for Indiana farm businesses and about 50% for homes, Purdue Univ. energy economists find. While current energy policies play key roles in providing incentives for the use of solar energy in Indiana, businesses have an additional cost-saving option not available to residences: Businesses can deduct their investment in solar from their revenues.

Pinholes are pitfalls for high-performance solar cells

February 2, 2015 9:42 am | by Kaoru Natori, OIST | News | Comments

The most popular next-generation solar cells under development may have a problem: The top layer is full of tiny pinholes, researchers at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate Univ. in Japan have found. The majority of high-performance solar cells under development use a combination of materials including perovskite and spiro-MeOTAD.

Light-converting materials point to cheaper, more efficient solar power, LEDs

January 30, 2015 7:50 am | by Marit Mitchell, Senior Communications Office, Univ. of Toronto | News | Comments

Engineers are shining new light on an emerging family of solar-absorbing materials that could clear the way for cheaper and more efficient solar panels and LEDs. The materials, called perovskites, are particularly good at absorbing visible light, but had never been studied in their purest form: as perfect single crystals.

New technique for growing high-efficiency perovskite solar cells

January 29, 2015 3:31 pm | by Nancy Ambrosiano, Los Alamos National Laboratory | News | Comments

In Science, Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers reveal a new solution-based hot-casting technique that allows growth of highly efficient and reproducible solar cells from large-area perovskite crystals. The researchers fabricated planar solar cells from pervoskite materials with large crystalline grains that had efficiencies approaching 18%.

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New step towards future production of solar fuels

January 26, 2015 9:31 am | by Linda Koffmar, Uppsala Univ. | News | Comments

One way of storing solar energy is to transform the energy directly into a fuel. Researchers at Uppsala Univ. have shown a reaction which makes the process of creating fuel from solar energy more efficient and less energy demanding. Solar energy is abundant. In one hour, the Earth receives as much energy from the sun as humankind uses in a whole year.

Calculating the future of solar-fuel refineries

January 23, 2015 2:01 pm | by Scott Gordon, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

A team of Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison engineers has developed a new tool to help plot the future of solar fuels. In a paper recently published in Energy & Environmental Science, a team outlined a tool to help engineers better gauge the overall yield, efficiency and costs associated with scaling solar-fuel production processes up into large-scale refineries.

Technique helps probe performance of organic solar cell materials

January 23, 2015 10:33 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

A research team has developed a new technique for determining the role that a material’s structure has on the efficiency of organic solar cells, which are candidates for low-cost, next-generation solar power. The researchers have used the technique to determine that materials with a highly organized structure at the nanoscale are not more efficient at creating free electrons than poorly organized structures.

New technique for producing cheaper solar energy

January 23, 2015 9:41 am | by Jo Bowler, Univ. of Exeter | News | Comments

A team of experts from the Univ. of Exeter has examined new techniques for generating photovoltaic (PV) energy more cost efficiently. The global PV market has experienced rapid growth in recent years due to renewable energy targets and carbon dioxide emission controls. However, current, widely used commercial methods employed to generate PV energy, such as using silicon or thin-film-based technologies, are still expensive.

Perovskites provide big boost in silicon solar cells

January 22, 2015 1:04 pm | by Mark Shwartz, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Stacking perovskites, a crystalline material, onto a conventional silicon solar cell dramatically improves the overall efficiency of the cell, according to a new study led by Stanford Univ. scientists. The researchers describe their novel perovskite-silicon solar cell in Energy & Environmental Science.

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Self-assembled nanotextures create antireflective surface on silicon solar cells

January 21, 2015 8:05 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Reducing the amount of sunlight that bounces off the surface of solar cells helps maximize the conversion of the sun's rays to electricity, so manufacturers use coatings to cut down on reflections. Now scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory show that etching a nanoscale texture onto the silicon material itself creates an antireflective surface that works as well as state-of-the-art thin-film multilayer coatings.

Perovskites provide big boost to silicon solar cells

January 16, 2015 8:05 am | by Mark Shwartz, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Stacking perovskites onto a conventional silicon solar cell dramatically improves the overall efficiency of the cell, according to a new study led by Stanford Univ. scientists. The researchers describe their novel perovskite-silicon solar cell in Energy & Environmental Science.

Berkley Lab illuminates price premiums for U.S. solar home sales

January 14, 2015 8:14 am | by Allan Chen, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A multi-institutional research team of scientists led by Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, in partnership with Sandia National Laboratories, universities and appraisers, found that home buyers consistently have been willing to pay more for homes with host-owned solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems—averaging about $4/W of PV installed—across various states, housing and PV markets and home types.

Solar cell polymers with multiplied electrical output

January 13, 2015 8:52 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

One challenge in improving the efficiency of solar cells is some of the absorbed light energy is lost as heat. So scientists have been looking to design materials that can convert more of that energy into useful electricity. Now a team from Brookhaven National Laboratory and Columbia Univ. has paired up polymers that recover some of that lost energy by producing two electrical charge carriers per unit of light instead of the usual one.

Researchers synthesize lead sulfide nanocrystals of uniform size

January 5, 2015 10:26 am | by Massachusetts Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Lead sulfide nanocrystals suitable for solar cells have a nearly one-to-one ratio of lead to sulfur atoms, but Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers discovered that to make uniformly sized quantum dots, a higher ratio of lead to sulfur precursors—24 to 1—is better.

Researchers glimpse pathway of sunlight to electricity

December 19, 2014 8:02 am | News | Comments

Four pulses of laser light on nanoparticle photocells in a spectroscopy experiment has opened a window on how captured sunlight can be converted into electricity. The work, which potentially could inspire devices with improved efficiency in solar energy conversion, was performed on photocells that used lead-sulfide quantum dots as photoactive semiconductor material. 

Local market conditions, policies strongly influence solar PV pricing

December 15, 2014 2:03 pm | by Allan Chen, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Differences in local market conditions and policies, and other factors, particularly the size of the system, can lead to wide disparities in what consumers across the U.S. pay to install solar energy systems on their homes or small businesses, according to a recent study published by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. This translates into thousands of dollars difference in the price of comparable solar energy systems around the U.S.

Researchers set world record in solar energy efficiency

December 8, 2014 8:27 am | by Univ. of New South Wales | News | Comments

Univ. of New South Wales' solar researchers have converted over 40% of the sunlight hitting a solar system into electricity, the highest efficiency ever reported. The world-beating efficiency was achieved in outdoor tests in Sydney, before being independently confirmed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory at their outdoor test facility in the U.S.

Technique offers spray-on solar power

December 8, 2014 8:18 am | by Marit Mitchell, Senior Communications Office, Univ. of Toronto | Videos | Comments

Pretty soon, powering your tablet could be as simple as wrapping it in cling wrap. A Univ. of Toronto team has invented a new way to spray solar cells onto flexible surfaces using miniscule light-sensitive materials known as colloidal quantum dots (CQDs)—a major step toward making spray-on solar cells easy and cheap to manufacture.

Detecting defects in solar cells

December 2, 2014 11:06 am | by National Physical Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists at the National Physical Laboratory have developed a new method for detecting defects in solar cells using a technique called compressed sensing. Solar panels are being rapidly deployed across the world as costs fall and the need for sustainable, low-carbon energy grows. Being able to effectively characterize solar cells is a key factor in quality control during manufacturing and understanding their long-term behavior.

High-tech mirror to beam heat away from buildings into space

December 1, 2014 10:24 am | by Chris Cesare, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Stanford Univ. engineers have invented a revolutionary coating material that can help cool buildings, even on sunny days, by radiating heat away from the buildings and sending it directly into space. The heart of the invention is an ultra-thin, multi-layered material that deals with light, both invisible and visible, in a new way.

New technique could harvest more of the sun’s energy

December 1, 2014 8:32 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

As solar panels become less expensive and capable of generating more power, solar energy is becoming a more commercially viable alternative source of electricity. However, the photovoltaic cells now used to turn sunlight into electricity can only absorb and use a small fraction of that light, and that means a significant amount of solar energy goes untapped. A new technology epresents a first step toward harnessing that lost energy.

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