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New device harnesses sun and sewage to produce hydrogen fuel

October 11, 2013 7:47 am | News | Comments

A research team, led by the Univ. of California, Santa Cruz, developed a solar-microbial device that combines a microbial fuel cell (MFC) and a photoelectrochemical cell (PEC). In the MFC component, bacteria degrade organic matter in the wastewater, generating electricity. The biologically generated electricity is delivered to the PEC component to assist the solar-powered splitting of water that generates hydrogen and oxygen.

Major leap towards graphene for solar cells

October 8, 2013 3:33 pm | News | Comments

Researchers at the Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin Institute for Silicon Photovoltaics have shown that graphene retains its impressive set of properties when it is coated with a thin silicon film. These findings have paved the way for entirely new possibilities to use in thin-film photovoltaics. Graphene has extreme conductivity and is completely transparent while being inexpensive and nontoxic.

NREL calculates emissions, costs of power plant cycling for wind, solar expansion

September 25, 2013 9:20 am | News | Comments

New research from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has quantified the potential impacts of increasing wind and solar power generation on operators of fossil-fueled power plants in the West. To accommodate higher amounts of wind and solar power on the electric grid, utilities must ramp down and ramp up or stop and start conventional generators more frequently to provide reliable power for their customers—a practice called cycling.


Harnessing the sun’s energy with tiny particles

September 17, 2013 8:43 am | News | Comments

Engineers at Sandia National Laboratories, along with partner institutions Georgia Institute of Technology, Bucknell Univ., King Saud Univ. and the German Aerospace Center, are using a falling particle receiver to more efficiently convert the sun’s energy to electricity in large-scale, concentrating solar power plants.

NRL achieves highest open-circuit voltage for quantum dot solar cells

September 13, 2013 12:05 pm | News | Comments

Using colloidal lead sulfide nanocrystal quantum dot (QD) substances, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) research scientists and engineers have recorded an open-circuit voltage of 692 mV using the QD bandgap of a 1.4 eV under one-sun illumination. The achievement highlights the potential for improvements in QD solar cells by employing smaller quantum dots.

Solar boat reaches Paris after crossing Atlantic

September 12, 2013 7:53 am | by Greg Keller, Associated Press | News | Comments

The world's largest solar-powered boat has docked on the banks of the Seine River, its final port of call after a three-month voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to study how the Gulf Stream and climate change could influence each other. Starting from Miami, Univ. of Geneva scientists sailed across the Atlantic, taking water and air measurements that should allow them to better understand the interaction between the ocean and the atmosphere.

GIEC signs MOU with Pakistan universities to enhance scientific cooperation

September 11, 2013 11:52 am | News | Comments

Guangzhou Institute of Energy Conversion, Chinese Academy of Sciences (GIEC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Univ. of Agriculture Faisalabad, Pakistan and the Univ. of Engineering & Technology Lahore, Pakistan in Lahore to enhance scientific cooperation and the exchange of scientists, young scholars and technicians between the two sides.

New method for harvesting energy from light

September 10, 2013 7:42 am | News | Comments

Researchers from the Univ. of Pennsylvania have demonstrated a new mechanism for extracting energy from light, a finding that could improve technologies for generating electricity from solar energy and lead to more efficient optoelectronic devices used in communications.


Solar cell manufacturing costs: Innovation could level the field

September 6, 2013 10:38 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

It’s widely believed that China is the world’s dominant manufacturer of solar panels because of its low labor costs and strong government support. But a new study by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows that other factors are actually more significant, suggesting that the U.S. could once again become cost-competitive in photovoltaic manufacturing.

New connection between stacked solar cells can handle energy of 70,000 suns

September 6, 2013 8:57 am | News | Comments

North Carolina State Univ. researchers have come up with a new technique for improving the connections between stacked solar cells, which should improve the overall efficiency of solar energy devices and reduce the cost of solar energy production. The new connections can allow these cells to operate at solar concentrations of 70,000 suns worth of energy without losing much voltage as “wasted energy” or heat.

Cheaper Chinese solar panels are not due to low-cost labor

September 5, 2013 9:29 am | News | Comments

A study of the photovoltaic industries in the U.S. and China shows that China's dominance in solar panel manufacturing is not driven solely by cheaper labor and government support, but by larger-scale manufacturing and resulting supply-chain benefits. Researchers say a balance could be achieved through future innovations in crystalline solar cell technology.

Arizona State, Sandia Labs sign renewable energy agreement

September 3, 2013 4:36 pm | News | Comments

A formal partnership agreement to encourage collaborative research, build educational and workforce development programs and inform policy endeavors regarding renewable energy efforts has been signed by Sandia National Laboratories and Arizona State Univ. The move will facilitate multidisciplinary collaborations and help them secure research funding.

Shedding new light on the “electron highways” of organic solar cells

September 3, 2013 9:07 am | News | Comments

Researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratory and Stony Brook Univ. have developed a way to map out the degree of "traffic congestion" on the electron highways within the photoactive layer of organic solar cells. Their new measurement and tracking technique uses optical-guided modes to help scientists better understand how the materials used in the photoactive layers influence the speed and efficiency of electron travel.


New nanoparticles to make solar cells cheaper to manufacture

August 29, 2013 4:43 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Canada have found that abundant materials in the Earth's crust can be used to make inexpensive and easily manufactured nanoparticle-based solar cells. The team has designed nanoparticles that absorb light and conduct electricity from two very common elements: phosphorus and zinc. These are much more plentiful than scarce cadmium, and safer than lead.

Unique semiconductor-catalyst generates hydrogen fuel from sunlight

August 29, 2013 3:54 pm | by Lynn Yarris, Berkeley Lab | News | Comments

Bionic leaves that could produce fuels from nothing more than sunlight, water and carbon dioxide, with no byproducts other than oxygen, represent an ideal alternative to fossil fuels but also pose numerous scientific challenges. In a major advance, researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have developed a method by which molecular hydrogen-producing catalysts can be interfaced with a semiconductor that absorbs visible light.

Efficient PV, Low Cost

August 28, 2013 10:58 am | Award Winners

The photovoltaic industry is particularly sensitive to cost, and while pushing the envelope on conversion efficiency is a priority, efforts to reduce manufacturing costs is also a priority. Toward this end, TetraSun Inc. and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have developed TetraCell solar cells, which offer a bifacial, high-efficiency ($3.09 per Watt-peak) solution for photovoltaic applications.

Study suggests costs gap for western renewables could narrow by 2025

August 28, 2013 9:06 am | News | Comments

A new Department of Energy study conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory indicates that by 2025 wind and solar power electricity generation in the western U.S. could become cost-competitive without federal subsidies, if new renewable energy development occurs in the most productive locations. The report is now available.

First Solar sells projects to group led by GE

August 26, 2013 9:05 am | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

First Solar Inc. said that it sold a collection of solar projects in Canada totaling 50 MW to an investment partnership led by GE Energy's financial services arm. Financial terms were not disclosed. First Solar has completed construction of the power plants, which are all located in Ontario, and the plants providing power to the grid. First Solar will provide operations and maintenance services under long-term contracts.

Breakthrough advances nanomaterials for printable solar cells

August 23, 2013 1:21 pm | News | Comments

A RMIT Univ. research collaboration with top scientists in Australia and Japan is advancing next-generation solar cells. Currently, cadmium or lead elements dominate colloidal nanocrystals synthesis, despite toxicity concerns. In its research, the team has discovered a new selective synthesis of tetrahedrite and famatinite copper antimony sulphide nanocrystals, which could be promising for printable solar cell applications.

Chemical engineers' research may lead to inexpensive, flexible solar cells

August 22, 2013 8:46 am | News | Comments

Most solar cells today are inorganic and made of crystalline silicon. These cells tend to be expensive, rigid and relatively inefficient when it comes to converting sunlight into electricity. Work by a team of chemical engineers at Penn State Univ. and Rice Univ. may lead to a new class of inexpensive organic solar cells, one that skips difficult-to-scale fullerene acceptors and relies on molecular self-assembly instead.

Lab-made complexes are “sun sponges”

August 21, 2013 1:29 pm | News | Comments

In diagrams it looks like a confection of self-curling ribbon with bits of bling hung off the ribbon here and there. In fact it is a carefully designed ring of proteins with attached pigments that self-assembles into a structure that soaks up sunlight. The scientists who made it call it a test bed, or platform for rapid prototyping of light-harvesting antennas that take the first step in converting sunlight into usable energy.

3-D graphene: Solar power’s next platinum?

August 20, 2013 1:51 pm | News | Comments

One of the most promising types of solar cells has a few drawbacks. A scientist at Michigan Technological Univ. may have overcome one of them. Dye-sensitized solar cells are thin, flexible, easy to make and very good at turning sunshine into electricity. However, a key ingredient is one of the most expensive metals on the planet: platinum.

Plastic solar cells’ new design promises bright future

August 14, 2013 9:53 am | by Megan Fellman, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Polymer, or plastic, solar cells contain Earth-abundant and environmentally benign materials, can be made flexible and lightweight, and can be fabricated using roll-to-roll technologies. But the cells’ power-conversion efficiency has been limited. A Northwestern Univ. research reports the design and synthesis of new polymer semiconductors a plastic solar cells with fill factors of 80%. This number is close to that of silicon solar cells.

The positive sides of doping

August 14, 2013 9:45 am | News | Comments

Flexible thin film solar cells that can be produced by roll-to-roll manufacturing are a highly promising route to cheap solar electricity. Researchers in Switzerland report that they have designed a low-cost cadmium telluride solar cell technology based on metal foil substrates. By doping the cells with cooper, they have elevated efficiency from 8 to 11.5%.

NRL develops low-cost, high-efficiency solar sensor

August 12, 2013 11:13 am | News | Comments

Research scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory have developed a novel low-cost, highly efficient spectral sensor for field analysis of solar cell irradiance performance and spectral distribution. Mobile solar power units have been recognized as a promising route toward decreasing the dependence of the military on fossil fuel generated power. To date, a multitude of mobile solar powered systems are under development.

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