David Kirkpatrick

February 19, 2010

Broadband Solar offers latest breakthrough

Seems like I’ve been doing a whole lot of solar blogging lately, and here’s the latest breakthrough courtesy of Broadband Solar. This sounds more like an incremental improvement that will possibly lead to commercially viable thin-film solar cells rather than a game-changer ready for market. Even if this announcement doesn’t make it immediately easier or cheaper to put a bank of thin-film cells on the roof of your house, it is one more step toward that goal

From the second link:

Inexpensive thin-film solar cells aren’t as efficient as conventional solar cells, but a new coating that incorporates nanoscale metallic particles could help close the gap. Broadband Solar, a startup spun out of Stanford University late last year, is developing coatings that increase the amount of light these solar cells absorb.

Based on computer models and initial experiments, an amorphous silicon cell could jump from converting about 8 percent of the energy in light into electricity to converting around 12 percent. That would make such cells competitive with the leading thin-film solar cells produced today, such as those made by First Solar, headquartered in Tempe, AZ, says Cyrus Wadia, codirector of the Cleantech to Market Program in the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. Amorphous silicon has the advantage of being much more abundant than the materials used by First Solar. The coatings could also be applied to other types of thin-film solar cells, including First Solar’s, to increase their efficiency.

Solar antenna: The square at the center is an array of test solar cells being used to evaluate a coating that contains metallic nanoantennas tuned to the solar spectrum.
Credit: Brongersma lab, Stanford

January 26, 2010

Optical computing breakthrough

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:06 pm

Via KurzweilAI.net — It really is fun watching to see where the next big advancement in computing comes from. Optical computers, quantum computers, something we haven’t even heard of yet? One thing is certain, computers will continue to become more and more powerful for the foreseeable future.

Spasers set to sum: A new dawn for optical computing
New Scientist Tech, Jan. 25, 2010

The “spaser,” the latest by-product of a buzzing field known as nanoplasmonics, based on plasmons, may lead to building a super-fast computer that computes with light.

Plasmons, which are ultra-high-frerquency electron waves on a metallic surface, overcome the speed limits of the wires that interconnect transistors in chips, allowing for converting electronic signals into photonic ones and back again with speed and efficiency.
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September 9, 2008

Nanoelectronics may face miniaturization limits

From KurzweilAI.net — Nanotelectronics may only be able to be made so small due to quantum effects.

Future nanoelectronics may face obstacles
PhysOrg.com, Sep. 9, 2008

When the size of plasmonic nanoelectronic components approaches the nanometer level, all information will disappear before it has time to be transferred, imposing a limit on miniaturization, researchers at Umea University in Sweden and the University of Maryland suggest.

They found that with plasmons (surface waves that spread at high speeds in conductors) on nanometer-size components, quantum effects kick in: electrons no longer act like particles but rather have a diffuse character, with their location and movement no longer being clearly defined, leading to the energy of the plasmon being dissipated and lost in the transfer of information.

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