Sandia National Laboratories engineers have been studying the most effective ways to use solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays—a clean, affordable and renewable way to keep the power on. Systems are relatively easy to install and have relatively small maintenance costs. They begin working immediately and can run unassisted for decades.
A self-contained, waterless toilet, designed and built using a $777,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has the capability of heating human waste enough to sterilize the waste and create biochar, a highly porous charcoal. The toilet, fueled by the sun, is being developed to help some of the 2.5 billion people around the world lacking safe and sustainable sanitation, and will be unveiled in India this month.
Over the first six months in their special, new, four-bedroom home in suburban Maryland, the Nisters, a prototypical family of four, earned about $40 by exporting 328 kW-h of electricity into the local grid, while meeting all of their varied energy needs. These virtual residents of the Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility (NZERTF) on the campus of NIST didn't have to skimp the creature comforts of 21st century living, either.
Organic solar cells are a compelling thin-film photovoltaic technology in part because of their compatibility with flexible substrates and tunable absorption window. Belgium-based chipmaker imec has set a new conversion efficiency record of 8.4% for this type of cell by developing fullerene-free acceptor materials and a new multilayer semiconductor device structure.
Graphene is not the only ultrathin material that exhibits special electronic properties. Ultrathin layers made of tungsten and selenium have recently been created in Austria that show a high internal efficiency when used to gather sunlight. More than 95% of light passes straight through, but a tenth of what is stopped is converted to electricity.
A new study by Berkeley Lab researchers shows that nearly 90% of the electrons generated by a hybrid material designed to store solar energy in hydrogen are being stored in the target hydrogen molecules. Interfacing the semiconductor gallium phosphide with a cobaloxime catalyst provides an inexpensive photocathode for bionic leaves that produce energy-dense fuels from nothing more than sunlight, water and carbon dioxide.
Photovoltaic spray paint could coat the windows and walls of the future if scientists are successful in developing low-cost, flexible solar cells based on organic polymers. Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory recently discovered an unanticipated factor in the performance of polymer-based solar devices that gives new insight on how these materials form and function.
Artificial photosynthesis, in which we emulate the process used by nature to capture energy from the sun and convert it into electrochemical energy, is expected to be a major asset in any sustainable energy portfolio for the future. Artificial photosynthesis offers the promise of producing liquid fuels that are renewable and can be used without exacerbating global climate change.
Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed a superabsorbing design that may significantly improve the light absorption efficiency of thin-film solar cells and drive down manufacturing costs. The superabsorbing design could decrease the thickness of the semiconductor materials used in thin-film solar cells by more than one order of magnitude without compromising the capability of solar light absorption.
A new study from the International Electrotechnical Commission and the Fraunhofer Institute in Europe has found that nanotechnology will bring significant benefits to the energy sector, especially to energy storage and solar energy. Improved materials efficiency and reduced manufacturing costs are just two of the real economic benefits that nanotechnology already brings these fields and that’s only the beginning.
Generating electricity is not the only way to turn sunlight into energy we can use on demand. The sun can also drive reactions to create chemical fuels, such as hydrogen, that can in turn power cars and trains. The trouble with solar fuel production is the cost of producing the sun-capturing semiconductors and the catalysts to generate fuel.
From the sun, a solution: Cornell Univ. and Weill Cornell Medical College researchers have remodeled an energy-intensive medical test, designed to detect a deadly skin cancer related to HIV infections, to create a quick diagnostic assay perfect for remote regions of the world. By harnessing the sun’s power and employing a smartphone application, medical technicians may now handily administer reliable assays for Kaposi’s sarcoma.
Although low-temperature fuel cells powered by methanol or hydrogen have been well studied, existing low-temperature fuel cell technologies can’t directly use biomass as a fuel because of the lack of an effective catalyst system for polymeric materials. Now, researchers have developed a new type of low-temperature fuel cell that directly converts biomass to electricity with assistance from a catalyst activated by solar or thermal energy.
In a recent early online edition of Nature Chemistry, Arizona State Univ. scientists, along with colleagues at Argonne National Laboratory, have reported advances toward perfecting a functional artificial leaf. Designing an artificial leaf that uses solar energy to convert water cheaply and efficiently into hydrogen and oxygen is one of the goals of BISfuel.
The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, which sprawls across roughly 5 square miles of federal land near the California-Nevada border, formally opened on Feb. 13 after years of regulatory and legal tangles ranging from relocating protected tortoises to assessing the impact on Mojave milkweed and other plants. The plant, the world’s largest of its type, will test a balance between conservation and green energy growth.
Abu Dhabi’s recent expensive renewable energy venture will neither allow the United Arab Emirates to forgo construction of conventional energy generation, nor will it provide more than a token reduction in carbon-emissions growth, according to a new paper from Rice Univ.’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.
An undesired effect in thin film amorphous silicon solar cells has puzzled the scientific community for the last 40 years. This effect, known as light-induced degradation, is responsible for reducing solar cell efficiency over time. Researchers in Germany have recently demonstrated that tiny voids within the silicon network are partly responsible for 10 to 15% efficiency loss as soon as they are used.
Parabolic troughs and dry-cooled towers deliver similar value for concentrating solar power (CSP) plants, despite different solar profiles, a new report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has found. The report found that the value of delivered energy of dry-cooled tower and parabolic trough CSP plants, integrated with thermal energy storage, are quite similar.
Working on the cutting edge of a newly emerging area of solar-cell research, Univ. of California, Los Angeles engineers have invented a new process for manufacturing highly efficient photovoltaic materials that shows promise for low-cost industrial production. The new process uses so-called perovskite materials, which in the past few years have significantly advanced scientists' efforts to create the next generation of solar cells.
A new type of electrical generator uses bacterial spores to harness the untapped power of evaporating water, according to research conducted at the Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard Univ. Its developers foresee electrical generators driven by changes in humidity from sun-warmed ponds and harbors.
Getting the blues is rarely a desirable experience—unless you’re a solar cell, that is. Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory and the Univ. of Texas at Austin have together developed a new, inexpensive material that has the potential to capture and convert solar energy—particularly from the bluer part of the spectrum—much more efficiently than ever before.
As part of his PhD, postdoctoral research fellow Dr. Daniel Tune in Australia has designed a computer modelling system that shows which combination of carbon nanotubes absorb the most sunlight, therefore providing the most energy. In 2011, researchers in the U.S. successfully fabricated a solar cell using carbon nanotubes, but there are more than 70 different types of carbon nanotube that could be used in such solar cells.
Researchers in Ireland and Germany have discovered a novel solid state reaction which lets kesterite grains grow within a few seconds and at relatively low temperatures. The work points towards a new pathway for the fabrication of thin microcrystalline semiconductor films without the need of expensive vacuum technology.
In only a few years, the efficiency of perovskite-based solar cells has increased from 3% to more than 16%. However, a detailed explanation of the mechanisms of operation within this photovoltaic system is still lacking. in recent work, scientists have now uncovered the mechanism by which these novel light-absorbing semiconductors transfer electrons along their surface.
A new approach to harvesting solar energy, developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers, could improve efficiency by using sunlight to heat a high-temperature material whose infrared radiation would then be collected by a conventional photovoltaic cell. This technique could also make it easier to store the energy for later use, the researchers say.