Building off of Tomas’ post on nanowires and the cool stuff they can do, we see a letter to Nature discussing the possibility of nanowires that can be powered by the sun, thereby requiring no external power source. Supposedly, these nanowires would be more efficient than a crystal in creating electricity from solar energy.
(via Ars Technica) (image from Inexpressible is possible)
Lots of advances have been made in solar energy, as we’ve reported recently. But solar energy may not be all dandelions and sunflowers, and there are worries not just about efficiency. Simple production capacity dictates that even if we wanted to, we couldn’t produce nearly enough to meet our current energy needs. A post by scienceblogger James Hrynyshyn over at the aptly named The Island of Doubt has some more information of solar pessimism.
Just like at that business seminar you attended, constructive criticism is best. These add a dose of realism and keep us from wondering in five years why we’re still being told we’re just around the corner from a breakthrough. As Mr. Hrynyshyn said, "Don’t get discouraged guys. Just keep plugging away…."
(image from Rob!)
A few weeks ago, Tobias posted about the US military and eco-technology. In it, he jokingly suggested an eco-DARPA. As it turns out, the military seems headed in that direction, specifically with a space-based solar power station that would beam energy down to the surface.
The idea is that the Pentagon has decided that energy independence is now a national security issue, and as such falls under their purview. In addition, this orbiting power station would negate the need for long fuel supply lines. Units could have needed energy beamed down directly from orbit. Another benefit of having the military act as the early adopter is that prices should begin to decrease almost immediately, making it more affordable for commercial enterprises to license the technology for civilian consumption.
As with all things governmental, we’ll have to wait and see. This may just be pie-in-the-sky, it may be an enormous financial boondoggle for no-bid contracts, it may work spectacularly, or more probably something in between. But keep your eyes peeled on this one over at its very own blog.
(via DailyTech)) (image from NSSO/Pentagon pdf)
The weather is a fickle thing. Typically, riding my bicycle to work is hard going and easy coming home because of wind patterns, but sometimes the wind decides to switch, or perhaps not blow at all, really messing with my commute. Thus the problems with wind energy. The wind doesn’t blow all the time, and it may decide to quit right at peak hours, or blow up a storm when no one’s using electricity. So what to do?
A test wind park in Iowa, as described by Environmental Science & Technology, proposes to help solve these problems by using excess wind energy to store compressed air in underground aquifers until such time that demand rises. This maximizes the turbines’ efficiency and allows companies to sell energy when they can make the most from it and when demand is highest – peak hours.
This could be a real boon to wind farms, making it more economical than it already has become to run turbines.
(via SciTechDaily) (image from article)
Whilst close to where I live the UK government is looking at proposals for the biggest tidal barrage in the world, elsewhere in Europe similarly ambitious projects are even closer to fruition. In Portugal the first ever commercial wavefarm is due to start any day now. A couple of huge wind turbines tapping into the vast wind energy of the North Sea have been a success and a farm of 200 of the 300ft high towers is now in planning, powering as much as a whole city. As I reported a few weeks ago, algae is looking more and more like the ultimate source for biofuels. Advances in nanotube growing and temperature controlled soldering are making big leaps in solar panel efficiency.
Even without the dual spectres of climate change and dwindling resources our future is likely to be wedded to many of these nascent technologies. When the Earth provides so much energy currently left untapped, it would be a shame not to use it. Economic centres in the future will be invariably tied to the amount of natural energy the environment nearby provides. It’s exciting to think that many of these technologies are reaching the point where they may soon be economically viable on large scale.
[photo from the guardian article on wave power]