Testing spray-on solar cells

Tom Marcinko @ 06-11-2008

A microscopic sensor to detect toxins needs a power source.  Xiaomei Jiang and colleagues at the University of South Florida respond with an array of 20 polymer-based cells, each about the size of a 12-point lower-case letter O.

The polymer they selected has the same electrical properties as silicon wafers, but can be dissolved and printed onto flexible material. “I think these materials have a lot more potential than traditional silicon,” Jiang said. They could be sprayed on any surface that is exposed to sunlight — a uniform, a car, a house.”

The next step is to test the array with the sensors. The team hopes to generate 15 volts by the end of the year.

[Sun Spray by littleblackcamera]


Record photovoltaic efficiency

Tom James @ 30-09-2008

Encouraging advances is solar power technology from the US DoE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory:

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have set a world record in solar cell efficiency with a photovoltaic device that converts 40.8 percent of the light that hits it into electricity. This is the highest confirmed efficiency of any photovoltaic device to date.

But:

The 40.8 percent efficiency was measured under concentrated light of 326 suns. One sun is about the amount of light that typically hits Earth on a sunny day.

Mmm. I wonder what the efficiency will be under normal conditions (once it’s mass produced)? Still, it’s pretty impressive as a proof of concept:

…the new design uses compositions of gallium indium phosphide and gallium indium arsenide to split the solar spectrum into three equal parts that are absorbed by each of the cell’s three junctions for higher potential efficiencies.

Beautiful. Kudos to humanity’s glorious electrical engineers!

[story here via ElectricalEngineer.com and KurzweilAI.net][image from Alex // Berlin on flickr]


Is Solar feasible – absolutely!

Tomas Martin @ 07-08-2008

A Concentrating Photovoltaic array by Solfocus using mirrors to concentrate light onto a III-V photovoltaic
Earlier today TJ wrote a post about the possibility of solar power as an alternative fuel. Now I have to admit to having a vested interest in this field as recently I began work as a Solar Analyst for a renewable energy developer. I’ve spent the last six weeks conducting studies into every aspect of the solar market and its feasibility. Although some more outlandish technologies have been overstated, the future of solar is incredibly bright.

There are four main types of solar power on the horizon. Most people know about silicon photovoltaics, which are now reaching record efficiencies of 23%.


Turning windows into solar panels

Paul Raven @ 11-07-2008

apartment windowsI’d love to be able to fit solar panels to my home (not that we’ve been getting much sun this year, grouch grouch), but as I live in a flat I don’t have a roof to put them on. Thanks to a crafty hack from the boffins at MIT, that may not be a problem – they’ve found a way to turn windows into solar panels. [image by uqbar]

Sunlight is concentrated in existing solar power devices using large, mobile mirrors that track the sun as it moves across the sky. But these can be expensive to deploy and maintain. In the MIT device, called an “organic solar concentrator” and described in the latest issue of Science, the researchers painted a mixture of organic dyes onto the surface of a pane of glass. The dyes trap different wavelengths of sunlight and then guide the energy along the glass towards the PV cells at the edges.

“The point of all this is to get away with using far fewer solar cells,” said Marc Baldo, an electrical engineer at MIT. “The concentrator collects light over its whole front surface, but the solar cells need only cover the area of the edges.”

Not only does this make solar an option for people who don’t own an entire building, it also makes it a much cheaper proposition in general; solar cells aren’t cheap to make, and the industry can’t keep up with current demand as it stands.

And just to pre-empt someone piping up and saying that solar will never fully replace [energy source x], yeah, you’re probably right. But as one of a suite of renewable sources, it can make a contribution towards doing so – and right now we need every option we can get.


What can your ink-jet do?

Jeremy Eades @ 02-04-2008

253958853_dea8d75cb0_m And here I thought Xerox was for copying body parts at the office Xmas party.  Turns out, printing technology is very flexible and researchers are trying to adapt it to various applications such as water purification machines and printing solar panels.

There’s also a bit of history on PARC (Palo Alto Research Center):

PARC is one of the older–and more productive–industrial incubators. Xerox founded it in 1970, and 30 companies have been spun out of it. Inventions from the lab include the mouse, Ethernet, the Alto (the archetype of the PC), the laser printer, and, ignominiously, the computer worm. It was also one of the first industrial organizations to employ anthropologists and ethnographers. Xerox wanted to know how people actually interacted with copiers (besides hitting them and swearing at them).

I didn’t know private industry did this, perhaps these centers operate in the background and we just don’t hear about them very often.

(via DailyTech) (image via Zixii)


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