David Kirkpatrick

September 5, 2010

Acid bath creates cheaper solar cells

A relatively simple brute force manufacturing step creates solar cells at much lower cost. The big, sexy breakthroughs are great  and technological leaps are fun, but a lot of the time it’s the almost mundane “a ha” moment that puts together well-known materials and processes that take a technology to the next step. This particular discovery sounds very promising since it both reduces production costs and almost retains maximum solar efficiency.

From the link:

A new low-cost etching technique developed at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory can put a trillion holes in a silicon wafer the size of a compact disc.

As the tiny holes deepen, they make the silvery-gray silicon appear darker and darker until it becomes almost pure black and able to absorb nearly all colors of light the sun throws at it.

At room temperature, the black silicon wafer can be made in about three minutes. At 100 degrees F, it can be made in less than a minute.

The breakthrough by NREL scientists likely will lead to lower-cost  that are nonetheless more efficient than the ones used on rooftops and in solar arrays today.

R&D Magazine recently awarded the NREL team one of its R&D 100 awards for Black Silicon Nanocatalytic Wet-Chemical Etch. Called “the Oscars of Invention,” the R&D 100 awards recognize the most significant scientific breakthroughs of the year.

Also from the link (and conveniently making my point above about “almost mundane ‘a ha’ moment”s):

In a string of outside-the-box insights combined with some serendipity, Branz and colleagues Scott Ward, Vern Yost and Anna Duda greatly simplified that process.

Rather than laying the gold with vacuums and pumps, why not just spray it on? Ward suggested.

Rather than layering the gold and then adding the acidic mixture, why not mix it all together from the outset? Dada suggested.

In combination, those two suggestions yielded even better results.

A silver wafer reflects the face of NREL research scientist Hao-Chih Yuan, before the wafer is washed with a mix of acids. The acids etch holes, absorbing light and turning the wafer black. Credit: Dennis Schroeder

July 16, 2010

Solar plus nanotech equals lower cost cells

I always love covering news that combines solar and nanotechnology, particularly when the combo leads to lower costs for solar power. I’ve previously blogged about nanopillars leading increased solar efficiency.

From the first link:

A material with a novel nanostructure developed by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley could lead to lower-cost solar cells and light detectors. It absorbs light just as well as commercial thin-film solar cells but uses much less semiconductor material.

The new material consists of an array of nanopillars that are narrow at the top and thicker at the bottom. The narrow tops allow light to penetrate the array without reflecting off. The thicker bottom absorbs light so that it can be converted into electricity. The design absorbs 99 percent of visible light, compared to the 85 percent absorbed by an earlier design in which the nanopillars were the same thickness along their entire length. An ordinary flat film of the material would absorb only 15 percent of the light.

Thick and thin: A scanning electron microscope image shows dual-diameter light-trapping germanium nanopillars.

Credit: Ali Javey, UC Berkeley

June 15, 2010

Organic nanoelectronics

As the title of this release puts it, “one step closer.”

The release:

Organic nanoelectronics a step closer

Researchers use metal crystal to organize organic materials, overcoming key stumbling block

This release is avaiable in French.

IMAGE: This image shows the polymers that were created at a resolution of 5 nanometers (the average strand of human hair is 80,000 nanometers wide).

Click here for more information.

Although they could revolutionize a wide range of high-tech products such as computer displays or solar cells, organic materials do not have the same ordered chemical composition as inorganic materials, preventing scientists from using them to their full potential. But an international team of researchers led by McGill’s Dr. Dmitrii Perepichka and the Institut national de la recherche scientifique’s Dr. Federico Rosei have published research that shows how to solve this decades-old conundrum. The team has effectively discovered a way to order the molecules in the PEDOT, the single most industrially important conducting polymer.

Although Dr. Perepichka is quick to point out that the research is not directly applicable to products currently in the market, he gives the example of a possible use for the findings in computer chips. “It’s a well known principle that the number of transistors in a computer chip doubles every two years,” he said, “but we are now reaching the physical limit. By using molecular materials instead of silicon semiconductor, we could one day build transistors that are ten times smaller than what currently exists.” The chips would in fact be only one molecule thick.

The technique sounds deceptively simple. The team used an inorganic material – a crystal of copper – as a template. When molecules are dropped onto the crystal, the crystal provokes a chemical reaction and creates a conducting polymer. By using a scanning probe microscope that enabled them to see surfaces with atomic resolution, the researchers discovered that the polymers had imitated the order of the crystal surface. The team is currently only able to produce the reaction in one dimension, i.e. to make a string or line of molecules. The next step will be to add a second dimension in order to make continuous sheets (“organic graphite”) or electronic circuits.

###

Perepichka is affiliated with McGill University’s department of chemistry and Rosei is affiliated with Institut national de la recherche scientifique – Énergie Matériaux Télécommunications Center, a member of the Université du Québec network. Their research was published online by theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and Asian Office of Aerospace Research and Development of the USA, the Petroleum Research Fund of the American Chemical Society, the Fonds québécois de recherche sur la nature et les technologies, and the Ministère du Développement économique, de l’Innovation et de l’Exportation of Quebec.

The thick or thin solar question …

… has been solved by nanotech based on coaxial cable.

From the link:

“Many groups around the world are working on nanowire-type solar cells, most using crystalline semiconductors,” said co-author Michael Naughton, a professor of physics at Boston College. “This nanocoax cell architecture, on the other hand, does not require crystalline materials, and therefore offers promise for lower-cost solar power with ultrathin absorbers. With continued optimization, efficiencies beyond anything achieved in conventional planar architectures may be possible, while using smaller quantities of less costly material.”

Optically, the so-called nanocoax stands thick enough to capture light, yet its architecture makes it thin enough to allow a more efficient extraction of current, the researchers report in PSS’s Rapid Research Letters. This makes the nanocoax, invented at Boston College in 2005 and patented last year, a new platform for low cost, high efficiency solar power.

Boston College researchers report developing a “nanocoax” technology that can support a highly efficient thin film solar cell. This image shows a cross section of an array of nanocoax structures, which prove to be thick enough to absorb a sufficient amount of light, yet thin enough to extract current with increased efficiency, the researchers report in the journal Physica Status Solidi. Credit: Boston College

April 20, 2010

Nanophotonic technology and solar cell efficiency

Fascinating research on the upper limit of light absorption by solar cells. Utilizing nanophotonic technology and thin-film solar cells, the efficiency is given an impressive boost. I keep hammering on the same point, but cost and efficiency in combination are the key to making solar a commercially viable option. Throw in some short-term government subsidies (I know, I know) and we are getting close to that sweet spot.

From the link:

But things have changed since the 1980s, not least because it is now possible to make layers of silicon much thinner than the wavelength of the light they are expected to absorb and to carve intricate patterns in these layers. How does this nanophotonic technology change the effect of light trapping?

Today, Zongfu Yu and buddies at Stanford University in California, tackle this question and say that nanophotonics dramatically changes the game.

That’s basically because light trapping works in a different way on these scales. Instead of total internal reflection, light becomes trapped on the surface of nanolayers, which act like waveguides. This increases the amount of time the photons spend in the material and so also improves the chances of absorption.

Because of the geometry of the layers, some wavelengths are trapped better than others and this gives rise to resonances at certain frequencies.

What Yu and co show is that by designing the layers in a way that traps light effectively, it is possible to beat the old limit by a substantial margin.

Also from the link:

Physicists have long known that thinner solar cells are better in a number of ways: they use less material and so are cheaper to make and the electrons they produce are easier to collect making them potentially more efficient. Now they know that light trapping is more effective in thinner layers too.

March 16, 2010

Increasing plastic solar cell efficiency

Even though I think it’s going to be the thin-film photovoltaic space is where we will see the most market ready advances in cost and efficiency, breakthroughs in other areas, like polymer solar cells, keep the entire field moving forward and might well lead to the next big thing down the road. It truly is promising to follow and read about the sheer volume of basic research and incremental improvements going on in solar and other alternative energy sources. The faster the United States can end dependency on Middle East petroleum, the faster one of the more vexing national security issues gets solved.

From the second link:

Polymer solar cells are finding use in solar charging backpacks and umbrellas, but they still only convert around 6 percent of the energy in sunlight into electricity–or around a third of what conventional silicon panels are capable of. If the efficiency of polymer solar cells–which are cheaper and lighter than silicon cells–can be boosted significantly, they could be ideal for plastering on rooftops or laminating on windows.

Solarmer Energy, based in El Monte, CA, is on target to reach 10 percent efficiency by the end of this year, says Yue Wu, the company’s managing director and director of research and development. Organic cells will likely need at least that efficiency to compete on the photovoltaic market.

Hit the first link above in the very first sentence of this post for a story on U.S. firms seeking to push the cost of thin-film solar cells down.

March 5, 2010

Silicon nanowires may improve solar costs

Silicon photovoltaics offer incredible solar cell efficiency and now it looks like nanotechnology may offer a way to add low production cost to that mix. This type of headway and improvement is what will make solar a market-viable power option.

The release:

Trapping Sunlight with Silicon Nanowires

MARCH 03, 2010

Lynn Yarris

This photovoltaic cell is comprised of 36 individual arrays of silicon nanowires featuring radial p-n junctions. The color dispersion demonstrates the excellent periodicity present over the entire substrate. (Photo courtesy of Peidong Yang)

This photovoltaic cell is comprised of 36 individual arrays of silicon nanowires featuring radial p-n junctions. The color dispersion demonstrates the excellent periodicity over the entire substrate. (Photo from Peidong Yang)

Solar cells made from silicon are projected to be a prominent factor in future renewable green energy equations, but so far the promise has far exceeded the reality. While there are now silicon photovoltaics that can convert sunlight into electricity at impressive 20 percent efficiencies, the cost of this solar power is prohibitive for large-scale use. Researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), however, are developing a new approach that could substantially reduce these costs. The key to their success is a better way of trapping sunlight.

“Through the fabrication of thin films from ordered arrays of vertical silicon nanowires we’ve been able to increase the light-trapping in our solar cells by a factor of 73,” says chemist Peidong Yang, who led this research. “Since the fabrication technique behind this extraordinary light-trapping enhancement is a relatively simple and scalable aqueous chemistry process, we believe our approach represents an economically viable path toward high-efficiency, low-cost thin-film solar cells.”

Yang holds joint appointments with Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division, and the University of California  Berkeley’s Chemistry Department. He is a leading authority on semiconductor nanowires – one-dimensional strips of materials whose width measures only one-thousandth that of a human hair but whose length may stretch several microns.

“Typical solar cells are made from very expensive ultrapure single crystal silicon wafers that require about 100 micrometers of thickness to absorb most of the solar light, whereas our radial geometry enables us to effectively trap light with nanowire arrays fabricated from silicon films that are only about eight micrometers thick,” he says. “Furthermore, our approach should in principle allow us to use metallurgical grade or “dirty” silicon rather than the ultrapure silicon crystals now required, which should cut costs even further.”

Yang has described this research in a paper published in the journal NANO Letters, which he co-authored with Erik Garnett, a chemist who was then a member of Yang’s research group. The paper is titled “Light Trapping in Silicon Nanowire Solar Cells.”

A radial p-n junction consists of a layer of n-type silicon forming a shell around a p-type silicon nanowire core. This geometry turns each individual nanowire into a photovoltaic cell.

A radial p-n junction consists of a layer of n-type silicon forming a shell around a p-type silicon nanowire core. This geometry turns each individual nanowire into a photovoltaic cell.

Generating Electricity from Sunlight

At the heart of all solar cells are two separate layers of material, one with an abundance of electrons that functions as a negative pole, and one with an abundance of electron holes (positively-charged energy spaces) that functions as a positive pole. When photons from the sun are absorbed, their energy is used to create electron-hole pairs, which are then separated at the interface between the two layers and collected as electricity.

Because of its superior photo-electronic properties, silicon remains the photovoltaic semiconductor of choice but rising demand has inflated the price of the raw material. Furthermore, because of the high-level of crystal purification required, even the fabrication of the simplest silicon-based solar cell is a complex, energy-intensive and costly process.

Yang and his group are able to reduce both the quantity and the quality requirements for silicon by using vertical arrays of nanostructured radial p-n junctions rather than conventional planar p-n junctions. In a radial p-n junction, a layer of n-type silicon forms a shell around a p-type silicon nanowire core. As a result, photo-excited electrons and holes travel much shorter distances to electrodes, eliminating a charge-carrier bottleneck that often arises in a typical silicon solar cell. The radial geometry array also, as photocurrent and optical transmission measurements by Yang and Garrett revealed, greatly improves light trapping.

“Since each individual nanowire in the array has a p-n junction, each acts as an individual solar cell,” Yang says. “By adjusting the length of the nanowires in our arrays, we can increase their light-trapping path length.”

While the conversion efficiency of these solar nanowires was only about five to six percent, Yang says this efficiency was achieved with little effort put into surface passivation, antireflection, and other efficiency-increasing modifications.

“With further improvements, most importantly in surface passivation, we think it is possible to push the efficiency to above 10 percent,” Yang says.

Combining a 10 percent or better conversion efficiency with the greatly reduced quantities of starting silicon material  and the ability to use metallurgical grade silicon, should make the use of silicon nanowires an attractive candidate for large-scale development.

As an added plus Yang says, “Our technique can be used in existing solar panel manufacturing processes.”

This research was funded by the National Science Foundation’s Center of Integrated Nanomechanical Systems.

Berkeley Lab is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory located in Berkeley, California. It conducts unclassified scientific research for DOE’s Office of Science and is managed by the University of California. Visit our website at http://www.lbl.gov.


Peidong Yang (Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt, Berkeley Lab Public Affairs)

Peidong Yang (Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt, Berkeley Lab Public Affairs)

Additional Information

For more about the research of Peidong Yang and his group, visit the Website at http://www.cchem.berkeley.edu/pdygrp/main.html

For more about the Center of Integrated Nanomechanical Systems (COINS) visit the Website at http://mint.physics.berkeley.edu/coins/

July 7, 2009

Nanotech and solar

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:49 am

Via KurzweilAI.net — Two of my blogging interests together in one post. Looks like nanotechnology may lead to a cost breakthrough with solar cells.

Nanopillar Solar Cells
Technology Review, July 6, 2009

An array of upright nanoscale pillars grown on aluminum foil could lead to solar cells that cost less than conventional silicon photovoltaics, say researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.


(Ali Javey, UC Berkeley)

 

May 11, 2009

EntreTech Forum coming May 19

Warm (this morning) from the inbox:

The EntreTech Forum Presents … PHOTONICS/OPTICS – Understanding the Latest Applications of Light-based Technologies in Medical, Consumer, Industrial, and Defense Sectors

BOSTON, May 11 /PRNewswire/ — On May 19th, The EntreTech Forum will bring together some of the region’s educators, researchers and entrepreneurs to focus on photonics/optics academic/commercial nexus of innovation, and to answer key questions around:

  —  understanding the local resource base for photonics-based innovation
  —  distilling the key drivers that define success or failure for
      early-stage research-driven photonics entrepreneurs
  —  defining for the audience what the next great ideas in
      photonics/optics technology will look like

Whether for treating disease, advancing solar energy cells or enhancing semiconductor performance, recent advances in photonics and optics have created myriad opportunities for entrepreneurs to break new ground across a tremendously wide spectrum of commercial activity. As ever, the Greater Boston area’s potent mix of university resources and entrepreneurial culture have made our region a leader in a new and constantly evolving technological field.

  Tuesday, May 19, 2009 6:30 – 9:30 p.m.

      The Enterprise Center at Foley Hoag,
      The Bay Colony Corporate Center
      1000 Winter St., Ste. 4000
      Waltham, MA
      Cost: $25 – public;  $10 – students & active military

For information, registration and directions visit our web site http://www.entretechforum.org/

  Pre-Registration Available Online http://theentretechforum.camp7.org/

  Directions & Map http://www.entretechforum.org/7_contact.htm

  — Moderator:
      Andrew Fairbairn, Managing Principal, Fairbairn Ventures

  — Panelists:
      Jonathan Rosen, Executive Director, Institute for Technology
       Entrepreneurship and Commercialization, BU School of Management

      Stephen Saylor, President & CEO, SiOnyx

      George Tegos, Instructor at MGH, Wellman Center for Photonics

  About The EntreTech Forum

The EntreTech Forum consists of moderated monthly panel discussions on emerging academic research and the commercialization of this technology. It was designed for those interested in technology innovation and marketing collaboration and networking with fellow entrepreneurs, business and government executives, investors, and technology researchers.

The technology-innovation presentations feature entrepreneurial and corporate accomplishments along commercialization pathways with discussions of tech transfer and technology incubation and research from universities, industry and government. The multi-disciplinary subjects of raising and utilizing different forms of capital, building alliances and structuring deals are included as part of the programming, and serve as tools for the entrepreneur and researcher to commercialize science and technology.

The EntreTech Forum is an affiliate of Northeastern University’s School of Technological Entrepreneurship (STE) and is directed by a governing board of business principals, investors, and researchers.

For information and directions visit our web site at http://www.entretechforum.org/

Source: The EntreTech Forum
   

Web Site:  http://www.entretechforum.org/

March 14, 2009

Nanocups to improve optics

I’ve already bloggedon this nanotech breakthrough from Rice University before, and here’s the latest news straight from the source.

The release:

Nanocups brim with potential
Light-bending metamaterial could lead to superlenses, invisibility cloaks

Researchers at Rice University have created a metamaterial that could light the way toward high-powered optics, ultra-efficient solar cells and even cloaking devices.

Naomi Halas, an award-winning pioneer in nanophotonics, and graduate student Nikolay Mirin created a material that collects light from any direction and emits it in a single direction. The material uses very tiny, cup-shaped particles called nanocups.

In a paper in the February issue of the journal Nano Letters, co-authors Halas and Mirin explain how they isolated nanocups to create light-bending nanoparticles.

In earlier research, Mirin had been trying to make a thin gold film with nano-sized holes when it occurred to him the knocked-out bits were worth investigating. Previous work on gold nanocups gave researchers a sense of their properties, but until Mirin’s revelation, nobody had found a way to lock ensembles of isolated nanocups to preserve their matching orientation.

“The truth is a lot of exciting science actually does fall in your lap by accident,” said Halas, Rice’s Stanley C. Moore Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering and professor of chemistry and biomedical engineering. “The big breakthrough here was being able to lift the nanocups off of a structure and preserve their orientation. Then we could look specifically at the properties of these oriented nanostructures.”

Mirin’s solution involved thin layers of gold deposited from various angles onto polystyrene or latex nanoparticles that had been distributed randomly on a glass substrate. The cups that formed around the particles – and the dielectric particles themselves – were locked into an elastomer and lifted off of the substrate. “You end up with this transparent thing with structures all oriented the same way,” he said.

In other words, he had a metamaterial, a substance that gets its properties from its structure and not its composition. Halas and Mirin found their new material particularly adept at capturing light from any direction and focusing it in a single direction.

Redirecting scattered light means none of it bounces off the metamaterial back into the eye of an observer. That essentially makes the material invisible. “Ideally, one should see exactly what is behind an object,” said Mirin.

“The material should not only retransmit the color and brightness of what is behind, like squid or chameleons do, but also bend the light around, preserving the original phase information of the signal.”

Halas said the embedded nanocups are the first true three-dimensional nanoantennas, and their light-bending properties are made possible by plasmons. Electrons inside plasmonic nanoparticles resonate with input from an outside electromagnetic source in the same way a drop of water will make ripples in a pool. The particles act the same way radio antennas do, with the ability to absorb and emit electromagnetic waves that, in this case, includes visible wavelengths.

Because nanocup ensembles can focus light in a specific direction no matter where the incident light is coming, they make pretty good candidates for, say, thermal solar power. A solar panel that doesn’t have to track the sun yet focuses light into a beam that’s always on target would save a lot of money on machinery.

Solar-generated power of all kinds would benefit, said Halas. “In solar cells, about 80 percent of the light passes right through the device. And there’s a huge amount of interest in making cells as thin as possible for many reasons.”

Halas said the thinner a cell gets, the more transparent it becomes. “So ways in which you can divert light into the active region of the device can be very useful. That’s a direction that needs to be pursued,” she said.

Using nanocup metamaterial to transmit optical signals between computer chips has potential, she said, and enhanced spectroscopy and superlenses are also viable possibilities.

“We’d like to implement these into some sort of useful device,” said Halas of her team’s next steps. “We would also like to make several variations. We’re looking at the fundamental aspects of the geometry, how we can manipulate it, and how we can control it better.

“Probably the most interesting application is something we not only haven’t thought of yet, but might not be able to conceive for quite some time.”

The paper can be found at http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/nl900208z?prevSearch=mirin&searchHistoryKey.

January 16, 2009

The latest in organic solar cells

Another subject I haven’t had the opportunity to cover in a while. I really get the impression that basic research into advanced solar cell technology has passed a critical point where it’s when, and not how — and more importantly, the when part is now sooner than later.

The release:

U of T chemistry discovery brings organic solar cells a step closer

Inexpensive solar cells, vastly improved medical imaging techniques and lighter and more flexible television screens are among the potential applications envisioned for organic electronics.

Recent experiments conducted by Greg Scholes and Elisabetta Collini of University of Toronto’s Department of Chemistry may bring these within closer reach thanks to new insights into the way molecules absorb and move energy. Their findings will be published in the prestigious international journal Science on January 16.

The U of T team — whose work is devoted to investigating how light initiates physical processes at the molecular level and how humans might take better advantage of that fact — looked specifically at conjugated polymers which are believed to be one of the most promising candidates for building efficient organic solar cells.

Conjugated polymers are very long organic molecules that possess properties like those of semiconductors and so can be used to make transistors and LEDs. When these conductive polymers absorb light, the energy moves along and among the polymer chains before it is converted to electrical charges.

“One of the biggest obstacles to organic solar cells is that it is difficult to control what happens after light is absorbed: whether the desired property is transmitting energy, storing information or emitting light,” explains Collini. “Our experiment suggests it is possible to achieve control using quantum effects, even under relatively normal conditions.”

“We found that the ultrafast movement of energy through and between molecules happens by a quantum-mechanical mechanism rather than through random hopping, even at room temperature,” explains Scholes. “This is extraordinary and will greatly influence future work in the field because everyone thought that these kinds of quantum effects could only operate in complex systems at very low temperatures,” he says.

Scholes and Collini’s discovery opens the way to designing organic solar cells or sensors that capture light and transfer its energy much more effectively. It also has significant implications for quantum computing because it suggests that quantum information may survive significantly longer than previously believed.

In their experiment, the scientists used ultrashort laser pulses to put the conjugated polymer into a quantum-mechanical state, whereby it is simultaneously in the ground (normal) state and a state where light has been absorbed. This is called a superposition state or quantum coherence. Then they used a sophisticated method involving more ultrashort laser pulses to observe whether this quantum state can migrate along or between polymer chains. “It turns out that it only moves along polymer chains,” says Scholes. “The chemical framework that makes up the chain is a crucial ingredient for enabling quantum coherent energy transfer. In the absence of the chemical framework, energy is funneled by chance, rather than design.”

This means that a chemical property – structure — can be used to steer the ultrafast migration of energy using quantum coherence. The unique properties of conjugated polymers continue to surprise us,” he says.

 

###

 

Greg Scholes and Elisabetta Collini are with the Department of Chemistry, the Institute for Optical Sciences and the Centre for Quantum Information and Quantum Control at the University of Toronto. The research was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

October 9, 2008

Solar done thin, flexible and silicon

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:18 pm

Seems like solar is a very exciting industry right now.

Here’s the latest from Technology Review:

Conventional solar cells are bulky and rigid, but building lightweight, flexible cells has come with trade-offs in efficiency and robustness. A new method for making flexible arrays of tiny silicon solar cells could produce devices that don’t suffer these trade-offs. Arrays of these microcells are as efficient as conventional solar panels and may be cheaper to manufacture because they use significantly less silicon. The tiny solar cells could be incorporated into, among other applications, window tinting, and they might be used to power a car’s air conditioner and GPS.

October 1, 2008

International Symposium on Alternative Energy

This conference begins tomorrow at Chicago State University.

The release:

International Symposium on Alternative Energy Opens October 2-3 at Chicago State University

CHICAGO, Oct. 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — A group of scientists and engineers from around the world will share their research on the latest alternative energy and technologies at a symposium co-sponsored by Chicago State University, October 2-3. The Center for Alternative Energy Technology’s second annual global symposium will focus on fuel cells, bio-fuels, solar cells, hydrogen (generation, separation and storage), wind power, and sustainable energy for urban and rural buildings. Sessions will be held in the university’s New Academic Library, 9501 South King Drive.

“The significance of this conference can not be over emphasized,” said CSU Professor of Physics Justin Akujieze. “Oil-based energy brings with it enormous pollution that puts our mother earth in danger. Already, signs of this danger can be seen with the overall trend in global warming resulting in the melting of the polar ice caps. This warming will produce changes in the weather that will affect prime agricultural regions and alter food production.”

Val R. Jensen, Vice President of Marketing & Environmental Programs for Commonwealth Edison, will be the keynote speaker on Thursday at 9:40 a.m. in the library’s fourth floor auditorium. Mr. Jensen is a nationally recognized expert in the field of energy efficiency, and has been affiliated with some of the most progressive programs in the United States.  He is leading various Com Ed environmental programs and initiatives, including the recently approved “Energy Efficiency Portfolio,” designed to boost Illinois into the number two spot for energy saved through voluntary customer usage reductions.

Several alternative energy experts from Chicago State University’s faculty are delivering research papers at the symposium: Fuel Cell Technology: Concise Module Introducing Students to Electrocatalysis and Integrating Fuel Cell Concepts into Undergraduate College Science (Justin Akujieze, LeRoy Jones II and Asare Nkansah); Sulfonated Dendritic Polymer Membranes for Fuel Cell (Setor Akati and Asare Nkansah); Using Scanning Electrochemical Microscopy to Investigate Electron-Transfer Processes in Dye Sensitized Solar Cells (Robert J. LeSuer and Nichole Squair); Computational Investigation of the Effect of Oxidation State on Conformational Ensembles: Applications to Possible Molecular Wires for Solar Energy Devices (A. Eastland, Q. Moore and K. L. Mardis)

In addition, representatives from various local and state government officials, including representatives from Senator Barack Obama’s and Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.’s offices, will attend the symposium.

The first CAET Symposium was held in August 2007 at Chicago State. Leading scientists and engineers from the U.S., China, India, France, Canada and the U.K. contributed to the symposium. Activities included technical sessions and panel discussions focusing on the research and development of processes and materials for cost effective, real world energy production from alternative sources.

Chicago State University was founded as a teacher training school in Blue Island, Illinois on September 2, 1867. Today, the university is a fully accredited public, urban institution located on 161-picturesque acres in a residential community on Chicago’s Southside. CSU is governed by a Board of Trustees appointed by the Governor of Illinois. The university’s five colleges — Health Sciences, Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, and Pharmacy — offer 36 undergraduate and 25 graduate and professional degree-granting programs. CSU also offers an interdisciplinary Honors College for students in all areas of study and has a Division of Continuing Education and Non-Traditional Programs that reaches out to the community with extension courses, distance learning and not-for-credit programs.

 
Source: Chicago State University

September 23, 2008

High-performance solar breakthrough

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:21 am

This is the latest in high-performance solar news.

From the Technology Review link:

A cheap new way to attach mirrors to silicon yields very efficient solar cells that don’t cost much to manufacture. The technique could lead to solar panels that produce electricity for the average price of electricity in the United States.

Suniva, a startup based in Atlanta, has made solar cells that convert about 20 percent of the energy in the sunlight that falls on them into electricity. That’s up from 17 percent for its previous solar cells and close to the efficiency of the best solar cells on the market. But unlike other high-efficiency silicon solar cells, says Ajeet Rohatgi, the company’s founder and chief technology officer, Suniva’s are made using low-cost methods. One such method is screen printing, a relatively cheap process much like the silk-screen process used to print T-shirts.

Update 9/23 — KurzweilAI.net dropped this item into today’s mail. Here’s that take:

Efficient, Cheap Solar Cells
Technology Review, Sep. 23, 2008

Suniva has developed 20 percent- efficient solar cells using lower-cost screen printing to add a reflective layer, with a goal of 8 to 10 cents per kilowatt-hour — the average cost of electricity in the United States and far less than prices in many markets.


(Suniva)

 
Read Original Article>>

September 12, 2008

A great solar idea

Integrating solar cells into roofing materials is a great solar power idea on many levels.

From the Technology Review article:

In an effort to promote the adoption of solar technology, United Solar Ovonic of Auburn Hills, MI, has teamed with a major roofing company to create a metal roof system that generates electricity from sunlight. The partnership offers seven different prefabricated systems, ranging in capacity from 3 to 120 kilowatts. Tests show that the solar roof panels are rugged and can withstand winds in excess of 160 miles per hour.

In addition to being more aesthetically pleasing than bulky rooftop-mounted panels, solar roofing materials can cut the cost of household solar installations by doing double duty, generating electricity while protecting buildings from the elements. “Ultimately, if you can use one product to do two things, you can save a lot of money,” says Cecile Warner, principal engineer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s National Center for Photovoltaics, in Golden, CO.

Building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) have been around since the late 1980s, Warner says, but only lately have they begun to see some success with large commercial and residential developments. Recent advances in flexible thin-film photovoltaic materials–such as those sold by United Solar–are allowing manufacturers to more easily integrate photovoltaics directly into the roofs and facades of buildings.

The solar system shown here (darker panels) integrates thin-film solar modules directly into a metal roof. Such systems offer cost savings in labor and materials and blend well with buildings’ designs.

Seamless solar: The solar system shown here (darker panels) integrates thin-film solar modules directly into a metal roof. Such systems offer cost savings in labor and materials and blend well with buildings’ designs.