Organic solar cells that convert light to electricity using carbon-based molecules have shown promise as a versatile energy source but have not been able to match the efficiency of their silicon-based counterparts. Now, researchers have discovered a synthetic, high-performance polymer that behaves differently from other tested materials and could make inexpensive, highly efficient organic solar panels a reality.
To understand how solar cells heal themselves, look no further than the nearest tree leaf or the back of your hand. The “branching” vascular channels that circulate life-sustaining nutrients throughout leaves and hands serve as the inspiration for solar cells that can restore themselves efficiently and inexpensively.
Scientists have spent decades trying to build flexible plastic solar cells efficient enough to compete with conventional cells made of silicon. To boost performance, research groups have tried creating new plastic materials that enhance the flow of electricity through the solar cell. Recently, scientists discovered that disorder at the molecular level actually improves the polymers' performance.
First Solar Inc. said Tuesday that it's buying a competing thin-film solar panel technology from General Electric Co. (GE) in exchange for a stake in the company. First Solar will acquire GE's technology for making thin-film panels. In return, GE will receive 1.75 million shares of First Solar stock, about 2% of First Solar's outstanding shares.
Low-cost solar power could supply more than a third of all energy needs in the western U.S., if the nation can hit its targets for reducing the cost of solar energy, according to a new study by researchers at the Univ. of California, Berkeley. The researchers used a detailed computer model they developed of the west’s electric power grid to predict what will happen if the U.S. Dept. of Energy succeeds with its SunShot Initiative.
Sun-drenched rooms make for happy residents, but large glass windows also bring higher air-conditioning bills. Now a bioinspired microfluidic circulatory system for windows developed by researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University could save energy and cut cooling costs dramatically—while letting in just as much sunlight.
The use of plasmonic black metals could someday provide a pathway to more efficient photovoltaics to improve solar energy harvesting, according to researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). The LLNL Materials Engineering Div. research team has made breakthroughs experimenting with black metals. These nanostructured metals are designed to have low reflectivity and high absorption of visible and infrared light.
Using a simple solar cell and a photo anode made of a metal oxide, scientists in Europe have successfully stored nearly 5% of solar energy chemically in the form of hydrogen. The significance of the advance is based on the design of the solar cell, which is much simpler than that of the high-efficiency triple-junction cells based on amorphous silicon or class III-V semiconductors.
Researchers in California have demonstrated that indium phosphide, a III-V compound, can be grown on thin sheets of metal foil in a process that is faster and cheaper than traditional methods, yet still comparable in optoelectronic characteristics. Indium phosphide is among the high-performance solar converter, but has been up to 10 times as expensive as silicon to integrate in photovoltaic cells.
Diffusion of sodium ions from the glass substrate is thought to be the primary cause of potential-induced degradation (PID) in crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells. A research institute and metals company in Japan have partnered to develop a thin film solution. The titanium oxide-based composite metal compound they have developed is inexpensive to produce and highly scalable.
Rice Univ. nanotechnology researchers have unveiled a solar-powered sterilization system that could be a boon for more than 2.5 billion people who lack adequate sanitation. The “solar steam” sterilization system uses nanomaterials to convert as much as 80% of the energy in sunlight into germ-killing heat.
Americans used more natural gas, solar panels and wind turbines and less coal to generate electricity in 2012, according to the most recent U.S. energy charts released by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Natural gas use is up in the electricity generation sector, where it has basically substituted directly for coal, while sustained low natural gas prices have prompted a shift from coal to gas in the electricity generating sector.
Each year, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory releases energy flow charts that track the nation's consumption of energy resources. According to the most recent charts, Americans used more natural gas, solar panels and wind turbines and less coal to generate electricity in 2012.
A new energy-efficient approach to building occupancy detection, a better way to detect heat loss in electric-vehicle batteries and a high-efficiency silicon solar cell—all developed or advanced at the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE)’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)—have been named among this year’s most significant innovations by R&D Magazine.
Sandia National Laboratories researchers captured three 2013 R&D 100 Awards. R&D Magazine presents the awards each year to researchers whom its editors and independent judging panels determine have developed the year’s 100 most outstanding advances in applied technologies. The Sandia winners are: Membrane Projection Lithography, Mantevo Suite 1.0 and the Solar Glare Hazard Analysis Tool.
This revolutionary solar-powered plane is about to end a slow and symbolic journey across America by quietly buzzing the Statue of Liberty and landing in a city whose buildings often obscure the power-giving sun. But the Solar Impulse’s designers and flyers hope to grab attention in a surprising way: By being silent and consuming little energy.
Engineers at Oregon State Univ. have determined that ethylene glycol, commonly used in antifreeze products, can be a low-cost solvent that functions well in a “continuous flow” reactor—an approach to making thin-film solar cells that is easily scaled up for mass production at industrial levels.
Germany's Conergy AG has become the latest victim of a global solar panel price war, which has already cost tens of thousands of jobs in the country in recent years. Hamburg-based Conergy on Friday filed for insolvency and said it hoped to find an investor to continue the business. The company, which has some 1,200 employees, specializes in planning and installing photovoltaic systems.
Technology giant Apple Inc. will pay for construction of an 18-megawatt photovoltaic solar plant in northern Nevada. The Fort Churchill Solar Array, to be built in Yerington, was included in a filing Monday by NV Energy Inc. with the Public Utilities Commission outlining the utilities integrated resource plan.
Designers of buildings typically have no choice but to use black or bluish-gray colored solar panels. With the help of thin-film technologies, however, researchers in Germany have now added color to solar cells. Optics specialists have changed physical thickness of the transparent conductive oxide layer, modifying its refractive index.
A team in Germany has, for the first time, succeeded in functionally characterizing the active layer in organic thin-film solar cells using laser light for localized excitation of the material. This method, which relies on a highly modulated focused beam, enables them to directly map the spatial distribution of defects in organic thin films.
Most efforts at improving solar cells have focused on increasing the efficiency of their energy conversion, or on lowering the cost of manufacturing. But now Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers are opening another avenue for improvement, aiming to produce the thinnest and most lightweight solar panels possible.
At the IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference in Tampa, Fla. last week, National Renewable Energy Laboratory scientist Myles Steiner announced a world record of 31.1% conversion efficiency for a two-junction solar cell under one sun of illumination. The achievement edges the previous record of 30.8% by Alta Devices.
Researchers at Chalmers Univ. of Technology have found an effective solution for collecting sunlight for artificial photosynthesis. By combining self-assembling DNA molecules with simple dye molecules, the researchers have created a system that resembles nature's own antenna system.
When it's in flight, there's no roar of engines. It's strangely quiet. And as it crisscrosses the U.S., the spindly plane doesn't use a drop of fuel. Ernest Moniz, who heads the U.S. Department of Energy, praised the efficiency of the Solar Impulse plane at a news conference Monday in Washington, where the plane landed early Sunday morning. He said the solar-powered aircraft highlighted a cleaner energy future for the nation.