David Kirkpatrick

November 16, 2010

Metamaterials and artificial black holes

Yeah, I know I’m way off the blogging pace these days — just very busy. But, I couldn’t let this release go past.

The release, warm from the inbox:

Artificial Black Holes Made with Metamaterials

Design for Manmade Light Trapping Device Could Help Harvest Light for Solar Cells.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — While our direct knowledge of black holes in the universe is limited to what we can observe from thousands or millions of light years away, a team of Chinese physicists has proposed a simple way to design an artificial electromagnetic (EM) black hole in the laboratory.

(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20100714/AIPLOGO)

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20100714/AIPLOGO)

In the Journal of Applied Physics, Huanyang Chen at Soochow University and colleagues have presented a design of an artificial EM black hole designed using five types of composite isotropic materials, layered so that their transverse magnetic modes capture EM waves to which the object is subjected. The artificial EM black hole does not let EM waves escape, analogous to a black hole trapping light. In this case, the trapped EM waves are in the microwave region of the spectrum.

The so-called metamaterials used in the experiment are artificially engineered materials designed to have unusual properties not seen in nature. Metamaterials have also been used in studies of invisibility cloaking and negative-refraction superlenses. The group suggests the same method might be adaptable to higher frequencies, even those of visible light.

“Development of artificial black holes would enable us to measure how incident light is absorbed when passing through them,” says Chen. “They can also be applied to harvesting light in a solar-cell system.”

The article, “A simple design of an artificial electromagnetic black hole” by Wanli Lu, JunFeng Jin, Zhifang Lin, and Huanyang Chen appears in the Journal of Applied Physics. See: http://link.aip.org/link/japiau/v108/i6/p064517/s1

ABOUT Journal of Applied Physics

Journal of Applied Physics is the American Institute of Physics’ (AIP) archival journal for significant new results in applied physics; content is published online daily, collected into two online and printed issues per month (24 issues per year). The journal publishes articles that emphasize understanding of the physics underlying modern technology, but distinguished from technology on the one side and pure physics on the other. See: http://jap.aip.org/

ABOUT AIP

The American Institute of Physics is a federation of 10 physical science societies representing more than 135,000 scientists, engineers, and educators and is one of the world’s largest publishers of scientific information in the physical sciences. Offering partnership solutions for scientific societies and for similar organizations in science and engineering, AIP is a leader in the field of electronic publishing of scholarly journals. AIP publishes 12 journals (some of which are the most highly cited in their respective fields), two magazines, including its flagship publication Physics Today; and the AIP Conference Proceedings series. Its online publishing platform Scitation hosts nearly two million articles from more than 185 scholarly journals and other publications of 28 learned society publishers.

SOURCE  American Institute of Physics

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http://photoarchive.ap.org/
Photo:http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20100714/AIPLOGO
http://photoarchive.ap.org/
American Institute of Physics

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

November 4, 2010

Transparent solar panels?

A very real possibility. This sounds like very promising technology.

The release:

Transparent Conductive Material Could Lead to Power-Generating Windows

Combines elements for light harvesting and electric charge transport over large, transparent areas

November 3, 2010

conjugated polymer honeycombClick on the image to download a high-resolution version.Top: Scanning electron microscopy image and zoom of conjugated polymer (PPV) honeycomb. Bottom (left-to-right): Confocal fluorescence lifetime images of conjugated honeycomb, of polymer/fullerene honeycomb double layer and of polymer/fullerene honeycomb blend. Efficient charge transfer within the whole framework is observed in the case of polymer/fullerene honeycomb blend as a dramatic reduction in the fluorescence lifetime.

UPTON, NY — Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory have fabricated transparent thin films capable of absorbing light and generating electric charge over a relatively large area. The material, described in the journal Chemistry of Materials, could be used to develop transparent solar panels or even windows that absorb solar energy to generate electricity.

The material consists of a semiconducting polymer doped with carbon-rich fullerenes. Under carefully controlled conditions, the material self-assembles to form a reproducible pattern of micron-size hexagon-shaped cells over a relatively large area (up to several millimeters).

“Though such honeycomb-patterned thin films have previously been made using conventional polymers like polystyrene, this is the first report of such a material that blends semiconductors and fullerenes to absorb light and efficiently generate charge and charge separation,” said lead scientist Mircea Cotlet, a physical chemist at Brookhaven’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN).

Furthermore, the material remains largely transparent because the polymer chains pack densely only at the edges of the hexagons, while remaining loosely packed and spread very thin across the centers. “The densely packed edges strongly absorb light and may also facilitate conducting electricity,” Cotlet explained, “while the centers do not absorb much light and are relatively transparent.”

Mircea CotletClick on the image to download a high-resolution version.Mircea Cotlet, Ranjith Krishna Pai, and Zhihua Xu (seated at the microscope).

“Combining these traits and achieving large-scale patterning could enable a wide range of practical applications, such as energy-generating solar windows, transparent solar panels, and new kinds of optical displays,” said co-author Zhihua Xu, a materials scientist at the CFN.

“Imagine a house with windows made of this kind of material, which, combined with a solar roof, would cut its electricity costs significantly. This is pretty exciting,” Cotlet said.

The scientists fabricated the honeycomb thin films by creating a flow of micrometer-size water droplets across a thin layer of the polymer/fullerene blend solution. These water droplets self-assembled into large arrays within the polymer solution. As the solvent completely evaporates, the polymer forms a hexagonal honeycomb pattern over a large area.

“This is a cost-effective method, with potential to be scaled up from the laboratory to industrial-scale production,” Xu said.

The scientists verified the uniformity of the honeycomb structure with various scanning probe and electron microscopy techniques, and tested the optical properties and charge generation at various parts of the honeycomb structure (edges, centers, and nodes where individual cells connect) using time-resolved confocal fluorescence microscopy.

The scientists also found that the degree of polymer packing was determined by the rate of solvent evaporation, which in turn determines the rate of charge transport through the material.

“The slower the solvent evaporates, the more tightly packed the polymer, and the better the charge transport,” Cotlet said.

“Our work provides a deeper understanding of the optical properties of the honeycomb structure. The next step will be to use these honeycomb thin films to fabricate transparent and flexible organic solar cells and other devices,” he said.

The research was supported at Los Alamos by the DOE Office of Science. The work was also carried out in part at the CFN and the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies Gateway to Los Alamos facility. The Brookhaven team included Mircea Cotlet, Zhihua Xu, and Ranjith Krishna Pai. Collaborators from Los Alamos include Hsing-Lin Wang and Hsinhan Tsai, who are both users of the CFN facilities at Brookhaven, Andrew Dattelbaum from the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies Gateway to Los Alamos facility, and project leader Andrew Shreve of the Materials Physics and Applications Division.

The Center for Functional Nanomaterials at Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies Gateway to Los Alamos facility are two of the five DOE Nanoscale Science Research Centers (NSRCs), premier national user facilities for interdisciplinary research at the nanoscale. Together the NSRCs comprise a suite of complementary facilities that provide researchers with state-of-the-art capabilities to fabricate, process, characterize and model nanoscale materials, and constitute the largest infrastructure investment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The NSRCs are located at DOE’s Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge and Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories.

 

October 26, 2010

World’s largest solar installation coming to California

Via KurzweilAI.net — That’s some serious solar capacity.

US approves world’s biggest solar energy project in California

October 26, 2010 by Editor

The U.S. Department of Interior approved on Monday a permit for Solar Millennium, LLC to build the largest solar energy project in the world — four  plants at the cost of one billion dollars each — in southern California.

The project is expected to generate up to 1,000 Megawatts of energy, enough electricity to annually power more than 300,000 single-family homes, more than doubling the solar electricity production capacity of the U.S.

Once constructed, the Blythe facility will reduce CO2 emissions by nearly one million short tons per year, or the equivalent of removing more than 145,000 cars from the road. Additionally, because the facility is “dry-cooled,” it will use 90 percent less water than a traditional “wet-cooled” solar facility of this size. The Blythe facility will also help California take a major step toward achieving its goal of having one third of the state’s power come from renewable sources by the year 2020.

The entire Blythe Solar Power Project will generate a total of more than 7,500 jobs, including 1,000 direct jobs during the construction period, and thousands of additional indirect jobs in the community and throughout the supply chain. When the 1,000 MW facility is fully operational it will create more than 220 permanent jobs.

Adapted from materials provided by Solar Millennium, LLC.

 

 

 

October 13, 2010

3M is improving solar panels

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:34 am

This sounds like a pretty significant breakthrough.

From the link:

For years solar companies have wanted to make lightweight, flexible panels that are cheap to ship and easy to install (by unrolling them over large areas). But they’ve been held up by a lack of good and affordable glass substitutes.

Now 3M thinks it’s found a solution. This week the company unveiled a plastic film that it says can rival glass in its ability to protect the active materials in solar cells from the elements and save money for manufacturers and their customers.

The protective film is a multilayer, fluoropolymer-based sheet that can replace glass as the protective front cover of solar panels, says Derek DeScioli, business development manager for 3M’s renewable energy division. Manufacturers laminate the sheets onto the solar panels to seal them tight and shield them from moisture and other weather elements that can be deadly to the solar cells inside.

Solar protection: This polymer film seals out water far better than other plastics—it can protect solar panels for decades.
Credit: 3M

 

September 7, 2010

Low cost desalination for potable water

Via KurzweilAI.net — A theoretical device from the recently concluded Singularity University. This sounds like a fresh water solution with real promise.

From the first link:

Our approach leverages advances in 3 exponentially growing fields: synthetic biology, nanotechnology, and solar energy.  Synthetic biology is a factor because synthetic molecules are currently being developed that can create ionic bonds with sodium and chloride molecules, enabling fresh water to pass through a nanofilter using only the pressure of the water above the pipe.

Nanotechnology is relevant for reverse osmosis, because using thinner filter further reduces the amount of pressure required to separate fresh water from salt water. A filtration cube measuring 165mm (6.5 inches) per side could produce 100,000 gallons of purified water per day at 1 psi. Finally, as advances in solar energy improve the efficiency of  photovoltaics, the throughput of solar pumps will increase significantly, enabling more efficient movement and storage of fresh water.

Although the individual components described above have not advanced to a point where the solution is possible at present, we were able to speak with leading experts in each of these areas as to the timeline for these capabilities to be realized.

Synthetic molecules capable of bonding with sodium and chloride molecules have already been created, but have not yet been converted to an appropriate form for storage, such as a cartridge. This is expected to occur in the next 2-3 years. Filters are currently in the 10-15nm range, and are expected to reach 1nm over the next 3-5 years. As with the synthetic molecules, 1nm tubes have been built; just not assembled into a filter at this point. Photovoltaics are currently approximately 12% efficient, but it is anticipated that 20% efficiency is achievable in the next 5 years.

A possible implementation of our Naishio solution. The pressure from the water volume is sufficient to propel fresh water across the membrane (A), and photovoltaics (D) generate all the energy needed to pump water from the repository (C) to the water tank and circulator (E). Sensors (B) communicate between the solar pump and membrane to regulate the water level and ensure it doesn’t become contaminated. (Image: Sarah Jane Pell).

August 22, 2010

Keeping solar panels clean

By using technology developed for Mars missions. The budget for NASA gets debated, scoffed at and cut, but all too often people against giving NASA money forget how many products and processes developed for space travel ended up with solidly terrestrial applications.

The release:

Self-cleaning technology from Mars can keep terrestrial solar panels dust free

IMAGE: Researchers have developed technology for large-scale solar power installations to self-clean.

Click here for more information.

BOSTON, Aug. 22, 2010 — Find dusting those tables and dressers a chore or a bore? Dread washing the windows? Imagine keeping dust and grime off objects spread out over an area of 25 to 50 football fields. That’s the problem facing companies that deploy large-scale solar power installations, and scientists today presented the development of one solution — self-dusting solar panels ― based on technology developed for space missions to Mars.

In a report at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), they described how a self-cleaning coating on the surface of solar cells could increase the efficiency of producing electricity from sunlight and reduce maintenance costs for large-scale solar installations.

“We think our self-cleaning panels used in areas of high dust and particulate pollutant concentrations will highly benefit the systems’ solar energy output,” study leader Malay K. Mazumder, Ph.D. said. “Our technology can be used in both small- and large-scale photovoltaic systems. To our knowledge, this is the only technology for automatic dust cleaning that doesn’t require water or mechanical movement.”

Mazumder, who is with Boston University, said the need for that technology is growing with the popularity of solar energy. Use of solar, or photovoltaic, panels increased by 50 percent from 2003 to 2008, and forecasts suggest a growth rate of at least 25 percent annually into the future. Fostering the growth, he said, is emphasis on alternative energy sources and society-wide concerns about sustainability (using resources today in ways that do not jeopardize the ability of future generations to meet their needs).

Large-scale solar installations already exist in the United States, Spain, Germany, the Middle East, Australia, and India. These installations usually are located in sun-drenched desert areas where dry weather and winds sweep dust into the air and deposit it onto the surface of solar panel. Just like grime on a household window, that dust reduces the amount of light that can enter the business part of the solar panel, decreasing the amount of electricity produced. Clean water tends to be scarce in these areas, making it expensive to clean the solar panels.

“A dust layer of one-seventh of an ounce per square yard decreases solar power conversion by 40 percent,” Mazumder explains. “In Arizona, dust is deposited each month at about 4 times that amount. Deposition rates are even higher in the Middle East, Australia, and India.”

Working with NASA, Mazumder and colleagues initially developed the self-cleaning solar panel technology for use in lunar and Mars missions. “Mars of course is a dusty and dry environment,” Mazumder said, “and solar panels powering rovers and future manned and robotic missions must not succumb to dust deposition. But neither should the solar panels here on Earth.”

The self-cleaning technology involves deposition of a transparent, electrically sensitive material deposited on glass or a transparent plastic sheet covering the panels. Sensors monitor dust levels on the surface of the panel and energize the material when dust concentration reaches a critical level. The electric charge sends a dust-repelling wave cascading over the surface of the material, lifting away the dust and transporting it off of the screen’s edges.

Mazumder said that within two minutes, the process removes about 90 percent of the dust deposited on a solar panel and requires only a small amount of the electricity generated by the panel for cleaning operations.

The current market size for solar panels is about $24 billion, Mazumder said. “Less than 0.04 percent of global energy production is derived from solar panels, but if only four percent of the world’s deserts were dedicated to solar power harvesting, our energy needs could be completely met worldwide. This self-cleaning technology can play an important role.”

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The American Chemical Society is a non-profit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 161,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

July 4, 2010

Obama gives $2B to two solar companies

As a nation we must find energy sources beyond petroleum. Chiefly because it’s a finite resource and will eventually — and that eventually may be a long ways off — run out. And it is the root of almost every vexing military and statecraft problem the United States faces. The problem is oil, gas and coal are so incredibly cheap and efficient compared to any feasible alternative.

Solar power has seen breakthrough after breakthrough (see the link in the sidebar under “interesting blog topics”) over the last several years, and many of these breakthroughs affect the current solar marketplace so it’s not all pie-in-the-sky activity. One way to ramp up improvements in solar efficiency and lower practical costs is to infuse the R&D process with enough money to not have to pick and choose among untested ideas. This investment from the government will allow Abengoa Solar and Abound Solar Manufacturing to implement large solar installations, create some jobs along the way, and, yes, continue to improve solar energy as a viable alternative to petroleum.

This is good news to blog about on Independence Day. Kudos to President Obama.

From the link:

US President Barack Obama announced on Saturday the awarding of nearly two billion dollars to two solar energy companies that have agreed to build new power plants in the United States, creating thousands of new jobs.

“We’re going to keep fighting to advance our recovery,” Obama said in his weekly radio address. “And we’re going to keep competing aggressively to make sure the jobs and industries of the future are taking root right here in America.”

One of the companies, Abengoa Solar, has agreed to build one of the largest solar plants in the world in Arizona, which will create about 1,600 construction jobs. When completed, this plant will provide enough  to power 70,000 homes.

The other company, Abound Solar Manufacturing, is building two new plants, one in Colorado and one in Indiana.

US President Barack Obama (R) tours a solar energy centre in Arcadia, Florida in 2009. Obama has announced the awarding of nearly $2 bln to two solar energy companies that have agreed to build new power plants in the US, creating thousands of new jobs

April 3, 2010

Plastic electronics may lower solar costs

Seems like a lot of news in solar cost reduction of late. In a related note, I’ve added a new link group to the sidebar — “Interesting blog topics” — and each link goes to a search for all my posts in that category. If you’re interested in solar news, that link is a great way to find everything I’ve covered in one spot.

From the link, the release:

PLASTIC ELECTRONICS COULD SLASH THE COST OF SOLAR PANELS

Posted Mar 30, 2010 By Chris Emery

A new technique developed by Princeton University engineers for producing electricity-conducting plastics could dramatically lower the cost of manufacturing solar panels.

By overcoming technical hurdles to producing plastics that are translucent, malleable and able to conduct electricity, the researchers have opened the door to broader use of the materials in a wide range of electrical devices.

With mounting concerns about global warming and energy demand, plastics could represent a low-cost alternative to indium tin oxide (ITO), an expensive conducting material currently used in solar panels, according to the researchers.

“Conductive polymers [plastics] have been around for a long time, but processing them to make something useful degraded their ability to conduct electricity,” said Yueh-Lin Loo, an associate professor of chemical engineering, who led the Princeton team. “We have figured out how to avoid this trade-off. We can shape the plastics into a useful form while maintaining high conductivity.”

A multi-institutional team reported on its new technique in a paper published online March 8 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The area of research, known as “organic electronics” because plastics are carbon-based like living creatures, holds promise for producing new types of electronic devices and new ways of manufacturing existing technologies, but has been hampered by the mysterious loss of conductivity associated with moldable plastics.

“People didn’t understand what was happening,” said Loo, who co-wrote the paper. “We discovered that in making the polymers moldable, their structures are trapped in a rigid form, which prevented electrical current from traveling through them.”

Once they understood the underlying problem, Loo and her colleagues developed a way to relax the structure of the plastics by treating them with an acid after they were processed into the desired form.

Plastic transistor

Princeton researchers have developed a new way to manufacture electronic devices made of plastic, employing a process that allows the materials to be formed into useful shapes while maintaining their ability to conduct electricity. In the plastic transistor pictured here, the plastic is molded into interdigitated electrodes (orange) allowing current flow to and from the active channel (green). (Image: Loo Research Group)

Using the method, they were able to make a plastic transistor, a fundamental component of electronics that is used to amplify and switch electronic signals. They produced the electrodes of the transistor by printing the plastic onto a surface, a fast and cheap method similar to the way an ink-jet printer produces a pattern on a piece of paper.

Loo said the technique potentially could be scaled up for mass production presses akin to those used to print newspapers. “Being able to essentially paint on electronics is a big deal,” Loo said. “You could distribute the plastics in cartridges the way printer ink is sold, and you wouldn’t need exotic machines to print the patterns.”

By allowing plastic solar cells to be manufactured using low-cost printing techniques and by replacing ITO as the primary conducting material, the plastics the team developed hold potential for lowering the cost of solar panels.

Currently, the electricity generated by plastic solar cells is collected by a transparent metal conductor made of ITO. The conductor must be transparent so that sunlight can pass through it to the materials in solar cells that absorb the light energy.

A rare and pricey byproduct of mining, ITO had come under increasing demand for use in flat-screen televisions, mobile phones and other devices with display screens. “The cost of indium tin oxide is skyrocketing,” Loo said. “To bring down the costs of plastic solar cells, we need to find a replacement for ITO. Our conducting plastics allow sunlight to pass through them, making them a viable alternative.”

The researchers anticipate that the plastics also could replace expensive metals used in other electronic devices, such as flexible displays. In addition, the scientists are beginning to explore the use of the plastics in biomedical sensors that would display a certain color if a person had an infection. For instance, the plastics turn from yellow to green when exposed to nitric oxide, a chemical compound produced during ear infections in children.

If the devices could be produced at a low cost, they might be useful in developing countries that lack advanced medical facilities. “You wouldn’t need any fancy machines or lab equipment to diagnose an infection,” Loo said, “all you would need is your eyes to see the color change in the plastics.”

The co-authors of the paper were Joung Eun Yoo, who received her doctorate in chemical engineering from the University of Texas-Austin in 2009 with Loo as her adviser; Kimberly Baldwin, a high school student who spent a summer in Loo’s lab; Jacob Tarver, a Princeton chemical engineering graduate student; Enrique Gomez of Pennsylvania State University; Kwang Seok Lee and Yangming Sun of the University of Texas-Austin; Andres Garcia and Thuc-Quyen Nguyen of the University of California-Santa Barbara; and Hong Meng of DuPont Central Research and Development.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation, the W.M. Keck Foundation and the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation.

February 8, 2010

U.S. solar market about to explode

As solar technology continues to improve and costs continue to go down, predicting solar power in the United States is on the edge of a major boom is an easy call to make. A few of the major barriers to more widespread solar installations — particularly the efficiency of the solar panels and the physical difficulty of getting the panels installed and operating — are not the impediment they were just a couple of years ago.

From the first link:

In a few years, the United States is likely to be the world’s largest market for solar power, eclipsing Germany, which has taken the lead as a result of strong government incentives in spite of the relative paucity of sunlight in that country. A number of factors could make growth possible in the United States–especially changes in legislation that give utilities incentives to create large solar farms.

Last year, the U.S. solar industry got off to a slow start, but sales rebounded in the second half of the year, largely because of a drop in the prices of solar panels of up to 40 percent, partly caused by an oversupply due to the recession. Revenues for many solar companies were likely flat, but the megawatts of solar installed in the United States overall grew by 25 to 40 percent last year, says Roger Efird, the chairman of the Solar Energy Industry Association and the managing director of Suntech America, a branch of Suntech Power, the largest maker of crystalline silicon solar panels in the world.

This year, Efird says, solar installations could double, reaching a gigawatt of capacity. “That’s a big number,” he says. “If you are in the solar business, you were talking watts 15 years ago, you were talking kilowatts 10 years ago, and you have trouble even talking megawatts today.”

December 12, 2009

“Hot electrons” and solar cells

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:29 pm

The latest solar breakthrough news.

The release:

Elusive ‘hot’ electrons captured in ultra-thin solar cells

Shrinking cells snares charges in less than one-trillionth of a second

CHESTNUT HILL, MA (12/11/2009) – Boston College researchers have observed the “hot electron” effect in a solar cell for the first time and successfully harvested the elusive charges using ultra-thin solar cells, opening a potential avenue to improved solar power efficiency, the authors report in the current online edition of Applied Physics Letters.

When light is captured in solar cells, it generates free electrons in a range of energy states. But in order to snare these charges, the electrons must reach the bottom of the conduction band. The problem has been that these highly energized “hot” electrons lose much of their energy to heat along the way.

Hot electrons have been observed in other devices, such as semiconductors. But their high kinetic energy can cause these electrons, also known as “hot carriers,” to degrade a device. Researchers have long theorized about the benefits of harnessing hot electrons for solar power through so-called “3rd generation” devices.

By using ultrathin solar cells – a film fewer than 30 nanometers thick – the team developed a mechanism able to extract hot electrons in the moments before they cool – effectively opening a new “escape hatch” through which they typically don’t travel, said co-author Michael J. Naughton, the Evelyn J. and Robert A. Ferris Professor of Physics at Boston College.

The team’s success centered on minimizing the environment within which the electrons are able to escape, said Professor of Physics Krzysztof Kempa, lead author of the paper.

Kempa compared the challenge to trying to heat a swimming pool with a pot of boiling water. Drop the pot into the center of the pool and there would be no change in temperature at the edge because the heat would dissipate en route. But drop the pot into a sink filled with cold water and the heat would likely raise the temperature in the smaller area.

“We have shrunk the size of the solar cell by making it thin,” Kempa said. “In doing so, we are bringing these hot electrons closer to the surface, so they can be collected more readily. These electrons have to be captured in less than a picosecond, which is less than one trillionth of a second.”

The ultrathin cells demonstrated overall power conversion efficiency of approximately 3 percent using absorbers one fiftieth as thick as conventional cells. The team attributed the gains to the capture of hot electrons and an accompanying reduction in voltage-sapping heat. The researchers acknowledged the film’s efficiency is limited by the negligible light collection of ultra-thin junctions. However, combining the film with better light-trapping technology – such as nanowire structures – could significantly increase efficiency in an ultra-thin hot electron solar cell technology.

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In addition to Naughton and Kempa, the research team included Professor of Physics Zhifeng Ren, Research Associate Professor and Laboratory Director Andrzej A. Herczynski, Research Scientist Yantao Gao, doctoral student Timothy Kirkpatrick, and Jakub Rybczynski of Solasta Corp., of Newton MA, which supported the research. Naughton, Kempa and Ren are principals in the clean energy firm as well.

November 5, 2009

Solar energy and the artificial leaf

Very interesting solar breakthrough, or near to it at least. Plus more on the state of the solar industry.

The release:

Chemists describe solar energy progress and challenges, including the ‘artificial leaf’

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 2009 — Scientists are making progress toward development of an “artificial leaf” that mimics a real leaf’s chemical magic with photosynthesis — but instead converts sunlight and water into a liquid fuel such as methanol for cars and trucks. That is among the conclusions in a newly-available report from top authorities on solar energy who met at the 1st Annual Chemical Sciences and Society Symposium. The gathering launched a new effort to initiate international cooperation and innovative thinking on the global energy challenge.

The three-day symposium, which took place in Germany this past summer, included 30 chemists from China, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. It was organized through a joint effort of the science and technology funding agencies and chemical societies of each country, including the U. S. National Science Foundation and the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society. The symposium series was initiated though the ACS Committee on International Activities in order to offer a unique forum whereby global challenges could be tackled in an open, discussion-based setting, fostering innovative solutions to some of the world’s most daunting challenges.

A “white paper” entitled “Powering the World with Sunlight,” describes highlights of the symposium and is available along with related materials here.

“The sun provides more energy to the Earth in an hour than the world consumes in a year,” the report states. “Compare that single hour to the one million years required for the Earth to accumulate the same amount of energy in the form of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are not a sustainable resource, and we must break our dependence on them. Solar power is among the most promising alternatives.”

The symposium focused on four main topics:

  • Mimicking photosynthesis using synthetic materials such as the “artificial leaf”
  • Production and use of biofuels as a form of stored solar energy
  • Developing innovative, more efficient solar cells
  • Storage and distribution of solar energy

     

The scientists pointed out during the meeting that plants use solar energy when they capture and convert sunlight into chemical fuel through photosynthesis. The process involves the conversion of water and carbon dioxide into sugars as well as oxygen and hydrogen. Scientists have been successful in mimicking this fuel-making process, termed artificial photosynthesis, but now must finds ways of doing so in ways that can be used commercially. Participants described progress toward this goal and the scientific challenges that must be met before solar can be a viable alternative to fossil fuels.

Highlights of the symposium include a talk by Kazunari Domen, Ph.D., of the University of Tokyo in Japan. Domen described current research on developing more efficient and affordable catalysts for producing hydrogen using a new water-splitting technology called “photocatalytic overall water splitting.” The technology uses light-activated nanoparticles, each 1/50,000 the width of a human hair, to convert water to hydrogen. This technique is more efficient and less expensive than current technologies, he said.

Domen noted that the ultimate goal of artificial photosynthesis is to produce a liquid fuel, such as methanol, or “wood alcohol.” Achieving this goal would fulfil the vision of creating an “artificial leaf” that not only splits water but uses the reaction products to create a more usable fuel, similar to what leaves do.

Among the “take-home messages” cited in the report:

  • There’s no single best solution to the energy problem. Scientists must seek more affordable, sustainable solutions to the global energy challenge by considering all the options.
  • Investing in chemistry is investing in the future. Strong basic research is fundamental to realizing the potential of solar energy and making it affordable for large-scale use.
  • Society needs a new generation of “energy scientists” to explore new ways to capture, convert, and store solar energy.

     

“The meeting was an experiment worth trying,” said Teruto Ohta, executive director of the Chemical Society of Japan.

Conference organizers expressed hope that the symposium will be the first of several to tackle “the global challenges of the 21st century and the indispensible role that the chemical sciences play in addressing these issues,” said Klaus Mullen, president of the German Chemistry Association.

“Building on the success of this first symposium, we’re now gearing up for the future, convening top chemical scientists to address other, equally pressing global challenges,” said Julie Callahan of the ACS Office of International Activities and principal investigator on the project. “It is an exciting time to be a chemist!”

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The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 154,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

China dominating solar manufacturing

If you follow the solar cell industry at all that fact should be very readily apparent. The Chinese government has put great emphasis o0n and money into solar. One major advantage Chinese firms have over U.S. and European competitors that’s not going away any time soon is labor costs.

From the link:

Solar companies presenting business plans to investors at a National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) conference this week devoted particular attention to how they hope to compete with Chinese manufacturers. The audience at the NREL Industry Growth Forum in Denver consisted largely of venture capitalists and partners from private equity firms.

Stellaris, a company that assembles solar modules in Lowell, MA, has already received $6.1 million in funding to develop techniques for packaging silicon and thin-film cells. The company, represented at the conference by CEO James Paull, is seeking further financing in 2010.

September 17, 2009

Nanosolar’s panels heading to the marketplace

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:36 pm

(Note this is the replacement for this lost post without some of the additional commentary on the feasibility of alternative power.)

Via KurzweilAI.net:

Advanced Solar Panels Coming to Market

Technology Review, Sept. 17, 2009

Nanosolar has opened an automated facility for manufacturing its solar panels, and says power plants made using these panels could produce electricity at five to six cents per kilowatt hour — near the cost of electricity from coal and significantly less than most solar power, which costs about 18 to 22 cents per kilowatt hour.

The panels are made by printing a semiconductor material called CIGS (copper, indium, gallium, and selenium) on aluminum foil.


Nanosolar’s new, fully automated solar-panel manufacturing facility (Nanosolar)

Read Original Article>>

Nanosolar’s panels heading to the marketplace

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:26 pm

[Note: this post was lost in WordPress somehow. Hit this link for new post sans my expanded commentary from the lost original.]

August 27, 2009

Solar power costs coming down

Filed under: Business, Science — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:45 am

This NYT story isn’t news for anyone who’s been following solar power and the technical breakthroughs and real-world suppliers (many in China as the article points out) the industry has seen the last few years. 

It is an interesting read and lays out a lot considerations for going solar — particularly for residential structures.

From the first link:

But the cost of solar panels has plunged lately, changing the economics for many homeowners. Mr. Hare ended up paying $77,000 for a large solar setup that he figures might have cost him $100,000 a year ago.

“I just thought, ‘Wow, this is an opportunity to do the most for the least,’ ” Mr. Hare said.

For solar shoppers these days, the price is right. Panel prices have fallen about 40 percent since the middle of last year, driven down partly by an increase in the supply of a crucial ingredient for panels, according to analysts at the investment bank Piper Jaffray.

The price drops — coupled with recently expanded federal incentives — could shrink the time it takes solar panels to pay for themselves to 16 years, from 22 years, in places with high electricity costs, according to Glenn Harris, chief executive of SunCentric, a solar consulting group. That calculation does not include state rebates, which can sometimes improve the economics considerably.

American consumers have the rest of the world to thank for the big solar price break.

Until recently, panel makers had been constrained by limited production of polysilicon, which goes into most types of panels. But more factories making the material have opened, as have more plants churning out the panels themselves — especially in China.

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)

 

April 29, 2009

International solar energy conference

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:35 pm

A release from the wee hours of this morning:

International Conference on Solar Energy Features Leading Experts and World’s Top Solar Companies

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands and MUNICH, Germany, April 29/PRNewswire/ —

    – Conference in Munich, Germany Will Include Chief Executives of World’s Largest Solar Manufacturers, Top Investors and Analysts

– Forecast for Solar Industry in Coming Years Revealed, Rare Opportunity for High-Level Networking

 Solarplaza, a leading consultancy on the global solar industry, is pleased to announce “The Solar Future” Conference to be held in Munich, Germany on May 26. For a single day, the world’s top minds will come together to discuss the future of the fastest-growing renewable energy at a critical time for the industry.

Speakers will include such experts and CEO’s as Bruce
Sohn, President of First Solar, Dr. Shi, CEO Suntech Power, Anton Milner, CEO Q-cells, renowned analyst Travis Bradford of the Prometheus Institute; Stephen O’Rourke, analyst with Deutsche Bank Securities on Wall Street; and David Rubin, chairman of the board of directors of the Solar Electric Power
Association.

Solar energy, at the cusp of a historic turning point, is headed toward grid parity in the coming years. And, as demand surges worldwide, major industry leaders are preparing for unprecedented implementation in solar technologies across the globe.

“Most people think that solar energy is something for the future, when prices have come down and cell efficiencies
have further improved,” says Edwin Koot, CEO of organizer SolarPlaza. “Well, this is your wake up call, because this future is closer than you could imagine.”

With huge strides worldwide in such developments as electric-powered vehicles, the implications for the solar industry are
greater than ever. From Spain to Italy to California, solar energy is rapidly becoming competitive in pricing with conventional fossil fuel sources, which marks a new phase for the industry called grid parity.

In 2008, demand for solar energy exploded more than 100 percent. While present economic conditions has challenged the global marketplace, solar stands to win, reaching grid parity at a faster pace. Revenues in the solar industry is expected to top $50 billion in 2012.

“This grid parity is the Holy Grail for the solar industry and only the beginning of an unprecedented growth path,” Koot says. “At that time, market potential will become unlimited.”

More information, visit http://www.thesolarfuture.com.

About SolarPlaza:

Solarplaza.com is the independent global platform for knowledge, trade and events for the solar energy (PV) industry.

Source: SolarPlaza

April 9, 2009

Diatoms and solar power

Interesting press release from today on the latest in solar power. In other news, get ready for something of a release dump in the next two posts.

The release:

Ancient diatoms lead to new technology for solar energy

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Engineers at Oregon State University have discovered a way to use an ancient life form to create one of the newest technologies for solar energy, in systems that may be surprisingly simple to build compared to existing silicon-based solar cells.

The secret: diatoms.

These tiny, single-celled marine life forms have existed for at least 100 million years and are the basis for much of the life in the oceans, but they also have rigid shells that can be used to create order in a natural way at the extraordinarily small level of nanotechnology.

By using biology instead of conventional semiconductor manufacturing approaches, researchers at OSU and Portland State University have created a new way to make “dye-sensitized” solar cells, in which photons bounce around like they were in a pinball machine, striking these dyes and producing electricity. This technology may be slightly more expensive than some existing approaches to make dye-sensitized solar cells, but can potentially triple the electrical output.

“Most existing solar cell technology is based on silicon and is nearing the limits of what we may be able to accomplish with that,” said Greg Rorrer, an OSU professor of chemical engineering. “There’s an enormous opportunity to develop different types of solar energy technology, and it’s likely that several forms will ultimately all find uses, depending on the situation.”

Dye-sensitized technology, for instance, uses environmentally benign materials and works well in lower light conditions. And the new findings offer advances in manufacturing simplicity and efficiency.

“Dye-sensitized solar cells already exist,” Rorrer said. “What’s different in our approach are the steps we take to make these devices, and the potential improvements they offer.”

The new system is based on living diatoms, which are extremely small, single-celled algae, which already have shells with the nanostructure that is needed. They are allowed to settle on a transparent conductive glass surface, and then the living organic material is removed, leaving behind the tiny skeletons of the diatoms to form a template.

A biological agent is then used to precipitate soluble titanium into very tiny “nanoparticles” of titanium dioxide, creating a thin film that acts as the semiconductor for the dye-sensitized solar cell device. Steps that had been difficult to accomplish with conventional methods have been made easy through the use of these natural biological systems, using simple and inexpensive materials.

“Conventional thin-film, photo-synthesizing dyes also take photons from sunlight and transfer it to titanium dioxide, creating electricity,” Rorrer said. “But in this system the photons bounce around more inside the pores of the diatom shell, making it more efficient.”

The physics of this process, Rorrer said, are not fully understood – but it clearly works. More so than materials in a simple flat layer, the tiny holes in diatom shells appear to increase the interaction between photons and the dye to promote the conversion of light to electricity, and improve energy production in the process.

The insertion of nanoscale tinanium oxide layers into the diatom shell has been reported in ACS Nano, a publication of the American Chemical Society, and the Journal of Materials Research, a publication of the Materials Research Society. The integration of this material into a dye-sensitized solar cell device was also recently described at the fourth annual Greener Nanoscience Conference.

 

###

 

The work is supported by the National Science Foundation and the Safer Nanomaterials and Nanomanufacturing Initiative, a part of the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute.

Diatoms are ancient, microscopic organisms that are found in the fossil record as far back as the time of the dinosaurs. They are a key part of the marine food chain and help cycle carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

But in recent years their tiny, silica shells have attracted increasing attention as a way to create structure at the nano level. Nature is the engineer, not high tech tools. This is providing a more efficient, less costly way to produce some of the most advanced materials in the world.

Editor’s Note: The professional publication this story is based on can be found at this URL: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/nn800470x

March 9, 2009

NanoMarkets report on organic photovoltaics sector

News from the inbox today.

The release:

NanoMarkets Issues New Report on Materials for Organic Photovoltaics Sector

GLEN ALLEN, Va., March 9 /PRNewswire/ — NanoMarkets, a leading industry analyst firm based here, today announced the release of its newest report, “Organic Photovoltaic Materials Markets: 2009 – 2016”.  The report projects that sales of materials for both “pure” organic solar cells (OPV) and hybrid organic/inorganic dye-sensitized solar cells (DSC), are expected to reach almost $600 million ($US) by 2016. The report goes on to note that the willingness of materials firms to meet the small demands from organic PV manufacturers today stands a good chance of being rewarded with substantial orders today. Details about the report are available at www.nanomarkets.net.

The firm will also be holding a webinar to present findings from the report on Tuesday, March 17th at 10:00 EDT.  See the NanoMarkets website for details.

Other Findings from the Report:

As there are no settled architectures or materials structures for organic PV there is considerable potential for materials firms of all sizes to set industry standards. According to NanoMarkets’ new report, three areas of special opportunity are (1) more efficient organic absorber materials, (2) improved electrode materials, (3) new layers for OPV cells that enable these cells to leap to greater energy conversion efficiencies. With regard to new materials, the new NanoMarkets report discusses in depth the role of nanomaterials and new dye types for DSCs. It notes in the latter case that today’s DSCs use ruthenium, one of the rarest metals on the planet.

New materials and architectures will similarly spell opportunities for equipment makers. Today, OPV/DSC cell manufacturers require production equipment that is good enough for prototype production. The next step will be to create production equipment that is optimized for production runs of working devices.  NanoMarkets believes that OPV may eventually be helped from the development of large scale manufacturing of OLED lighting applications, which are likely to be very similar to those required for OPV and DSC fabrication, so there may be some synergistic opportunities in providing R2R production equipment for both applications.

About the Report:

Organic Photovoltaic Materials Markets: 2009 – 2016 analyzes and quantifies the markets for OPV/DSC materials of all kinds. Coverage includes the latest R&D and commercialization efforts in the area of the core absorber layers for pure OPV and DSC solar cells, as well as the materials used for electrodes, encapsulation and substrates. The report discusses the materials products and strategies of the key players and companies, including both firms that are specifically focused on OPV materials (e.g., Plextronics) and those that develop materials for their own solar panels (e.g., Konarka). The new NanoMarkets study also provides a roadmap for improvements in OPV lifetimes, materials prices, efficiencies and other factors, along with a detailed eight-year forecast of OPV/DSC materials in both volume and value terms.

This report focuses on developments at the materials level that are impacting the commercialization of OPV/DSC and will be invaluable to strategic planners and marketing managers at materials and solar panel firms of all kinds, as well as electronics companies and investors.

About NanoMarkets:

NanoMarkets tracks and analyzes emerging market opportunities in electronics created by developments in advanced materials. The firm has published numerous reports related to organic, thin film and printable electronics materials and applications and maintains a blog at www.nanotopblog.com that comments on industry trends and events. NanoMarkets research database is the industry’s most extensive source of information on thin film, organic and printable (TOP) electronics. Visit www.nanomarkets.net for a full listing of NanoMarkets’ reports and other services.

Source: NanoMarkets

Web Site:  http://www.nanomarkets.net/

November 27, 2008

High efficiency polymer solar cells

The release:

UCLA researchers create polymer solar cells with higher efficiency levels

Currently, solar cells are difficult to handle, expensive to purchase and complicated to install. The hope is that consumers will one day be able to buy solar cells from their local hardware store and simply hang them like posters on a wall.
 
A new study by researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science has shown that the dream is one step closer to reality. Reporting in the Nov. 26 edition of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Yang Yang, a professor of materials science and engineering, and colleagues describe the design and synthesis of a new polymer, or plastic, for use in solar cells that has significantly greater sunlight absorption and conversion capabilities than previous polymers.
 
The research team found that substituting a silicon atom for carbon atom in the backbone of the polymer markedly improved the material’s photovoltaic properties. This silole-containing polymer can also be crystalline, giving it great potential as an ingredient for high-efficiency solar cells.
 
“With the reality of today’s energy crisis, a new-game changing technology is required to make solar cells more popular,” Yang said. “We hope that our newly synthesized polymer can eventually be used on solar cells far beyond their current rooftop applications. Imagine a house or car covered and powered by flexible solar films. Our dream is to see solar cells used everywhere.”
 
Polymers are lightweight, low-cost plastics used in packaging materials and inexpensive products like insulators, pipes, household products and toys. Polymer solar cells utilize organic compounds to produce electricity from sunlight. They are much cheaper to produce than traditional silicon-based solar cells and are also environmentally friendly.
 
But while polymer solar cells have been around for several years, their efficiency has, until recently, been low. The new polymer created by Yang’s team reached 5.1 percent efficiency in the published study but has in a few months improved to 5.6 percent in the lab. Yang and his team have proven that the photovoltaic material they use on their solar cells is one of the most efficient based on a single-layer, low-band-gap polymer.
 
At a lower band gap, the polymer solar cell can better utilize the solar spectrum, thereby absorbing more sunlight. At a higher band gap, light is not easily absorbed and can be wasted.
 
“Previously, the synthesizing process for the polymer was very complicated. We’ve been able to simplify the process and make it much easier to mass produce,” said Jianhui Hou, UCLA postdoctoral researcher and co-author of the study. “Though this is a milestone achievement, we will continue to work on improving the materials. Ideally we’d like to push the performance of the solar cell to higher than 10 percent efficiency. We know the potential is there.”
 
“We hope that solar cells will one day be as thin as paper and can be attached to the surface of your choice,” added co-author Hsiang-Yu Chen, a UCLA graduate student in engineering. “We’ll also be able to create different colors to match different applications.”
 
The study was funded by Solarmer Energy Inc. and a UC Discovery Grant. Solarmer Energy Inc. has recently licensed the technology from UCLA for commercialization.
 
The UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, established in 1945, offers 28 academic and professional degree programs, including an interdepartmental graduate degree program in biomedical engineering. Ranked among the top 10 engineering schools at public universities nationwide, the school is home to six multimillion-dollar interdisciplinary research center in space exploration, wireless sensor systems, nanotechnology, nanomanufacturing and nanoelectronics, all funded by federal and private agencies. For more information, visit www.engineer.ucla.edu.

November 19, 2008

Solar looks strong for 2009

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:51 pm

A release from twenty minutes ago:

Solar Shines Bright In Dark Economy

Industry Experts Predict 40% Growth For Solar Installations In 2009

LIVERMORE, CA, Nov. 20 /PRNewswire/ — Industry experts are predicting a 40 percent increase in demand for residential and commercial solar installations in 2009. The boom is due mainly to increased government tax incentives and subsidies for renewable resources.

As of January 1, 2009 all Americans will be eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit on solar technology. That’s in addition to individual state tax credits, which are as high as 25 percent in regions that are pushing for a greener economy.

“I am proposing we set the most aggressive target in the nation for 33 percent renewable energy by the year 2020,” California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced this week. “That’s a third of our energy from sources like solar, wind and geothermal.”

With a global economic crisis lingering, venture capitalists are now pouring billions of dollars into the renewable resource sector, stimulating a shift in North America’s labor markets. Roofers, electricians, and contractors in slowing industries are now turning to the alternative resource sector for professional labor jobs like solar installation.

Solar Universe, a solar installation company that started franchising in August has already awarded four franchises in California and plans to award five more before going nationwide in 2009. The majority of Solar Universe’s franchise partners are construction professionals looking to capitalize on the installation of solar technology.

“Solar is the bright spot in this economy,” said Joe Bono, co-founder of Solar Universe. “We’re grateful we can help contractors in slowing industries join a rapidly expanding one.”

For more information visit: www.solaruniverse.com

About Solar Universe: Solar Universe is the first to offer the safe, simple, and cost-effective SunGen solar packages. SunGen consists of solar panels and inverters that capture natural sunlight and convert it into electricity. The SunGen saves you money by directing excess solar energy into your utility meter, thus spinning it backwards and crediting your bill. Contact us today to find out why the S.U.N. works for everyone!

Source: Solar Universe

November 7, 2008

Gratzel solar cells

It really is amazing to me the progresss going on right now in solar power. The article uses the same qualifier, but this does sound like a promising technology.

From the link:

Dye-sensitized solar cells, sometimes called Grätzel cells after their inventor, Michael Grätzel, a chemistry professor at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, in Switzerland, have long been considered a promising technology for reducing the cost of solar power. They’re potentially cheaper to make than conventional solar cells and can be quickly printed. But this potential hasn’t been realized because to achieve efficiency levels high enough to compete with conventional solar cells–about 10 percent–it’s been necessary to use volatile electrolytes that need to be carefully sealed inside the cells, an expensive and unreliable step in the manufacturing.

Now Grätzel, along with Peng Wang, a professor at the Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, have made efficient solar cells that use nonvolatile electrolytes, with the best achieving efficiencies of 10 percent. They also showed that the solar cells remained stable when exposed to light and high temperatures for 1,000 hours. The advance “pushes the technology close to over the ’10 percent hump,’ which is where a thin-film technology needs to be to be economically competitive,” says Tonio Buonassisi, a professor of mechanical engineering at MIT.

Dye-sensitized solar cells called Grätzel cells (pictured here) will be far more efficient and durable thanks to new electrolytes and dyes.

Solar flex: Dye-sensitized solar cells called Grätzel cells (pictured here) will be far more efficient and durable thanks to new electrolytes and dyes.

November 5, 2008

Last night’s election and sustainable energy

Filed under: Media, Politics, Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:28 am

This release came out today — hit my inbox about six minutes ago. I think someone got one of those robocalls one the election being pushed back to today. Otherwise, why?

Day late and a dollar short …

Election 2008: What Does the Future Hold for Sustainable Energy

  What are the energy and environmental implications of the presidential
                                election?

  Issue:                  Regardless the outcome of the presidential
                          election the impact on the future of renewable
                          energy is inevitable.

  What’s at stake:        America’s dependence on foreign oil and
                          sustainable energy sources such as hydro, wind and
                          solar.

  Obama’s platform:       *Require 10 percent of electricity come from
                           renewable sources by 2012
                          *Set national building efficiency goals
                          *Reduce federal energy consumption
                          *Invest in a Smart Grid
                          *Build more livable and sustainable communities
                          *Cap-and-trade auctions that require companies pay
                           for carbon emissions

  McCain’s platform:      *Lower corporate tax rate to foster renewable
                           energy
                          *Make greening the federal government a top
                           priority
                          *Tax credits for homeowners who utilize wind,
                           hydro and solar power
                          *Become more energy independent as a nation
                          *Invest in a SmartGrid and SmartMeter technologies
                          *Cap-and-trade auctions that allow companies free
                           access to carbon permits

  
    About Standard Renewable Energy

Founded in 2006, Standard Renewable Energy is a premier provider of energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions for homes and businesses. Operations include energy audits, high-efficiency heating and cooling products and services, spray-foam insulation, solar window film, solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems, solar thermal water heating systems, wind energy systems and more. For further information visit their website at http://www.sre3.com.

PRNewswire — Nov. 5

Source: Standard Renewable Energy

October 20, 2008

Solar may be ready to pop …

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:49 am

… if this tech holds the promise that looks, well, promising.

From the link:

Sun + Water = Fuel

With catalysts created by an MIT chemist, sunlight can turn water into hydrogen. If the process can scale up, it could make solar power a dominant source of energy.

“I’m going to show you something I haven’t showed anybody yet,” said Daniel Nocera, a professor of chemistry at MIT, speaking this May to an auditorium filled with scientists and U.S. government energy officials. He asked the house manager to lower the lights. Then he started a video. “Can you see that?” he asked excitedly, pointing to the bubbles rising from a strip of material immersed in water. “Oxygen is pouring off of this electrode.” Then he added, somewhat cryptically, “This is the future. We’ve got the leaf.”

What Nocera was demonstrating was a reaction that generates oxygen from water much as green plants do during photosynthesis–an achievement that could have profound implications for the energy debate. Carried out with the help of a catalyst he developed, the reaction is the first and most difficult step in splitting water to make hydrogen gas. And efficiently generating hydrogen from water, Nocera believes, will help surmount one of the main obstacles preventing solar power from becoming a dominant source of electricity: there’s no cost-effective way to store the energy collected by solar panels so that it can be used at night or during cloudy days.

October 18, 2008

“Light Blossom” latest in street light tech

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:35 pm

Not surprisingly from Philips. They’ve really been pushing lighting innovations these days.

Hit this link for more the whole PhysOrg story.

From the link:

One solution to the urban lighting problem is a new concept called “Light Blossom,” designed by Philips Electronics. Light Blossom is an intelligent LED lighting system that can provide bright light when it senses people walking nearby, and decrease its luminosity when people aren’t around. The technology is also energy-efficient and operates off the grid, gathering solar and wind energy during the day to use for light at night.

During the day, Light Blossom works similar to a flower, opening its “petals” to collect solar energy. As the sun moves across the sky, the petals gradually reorient themselves so they’re facing the sun head-on to operate at maximum efficiency, similar to a sunflower.

On cloudy days when the wind is strong, the Light Blossom automatically converts its petals into an upward, open position that allows them to catch the wind. As the petals rotate, they transfer the motion to a built-in rotor that converts the motion to energy.

Pocket-Lint.

The Light Blossom collects energy from the sun and wind during the day. At night, the device glows dimly when no one is around, and brighter when it senses motion, such as people walking nearby. Image: Pocket-Lint.

 

October 16, 2008

SectorWatch.biz offers solar investment advice

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:18 pm

The release:

SectorWatch.biz Issues MarketStats for Solar Related Equities GWSI, ESLR, FSLR, STP, LDK, and CSIQ

IRVINE, Calif., Oct. 16 /PRNewswire/ — SectorWatch.biz announces the availability of MarketStats for solar equities in the news and driving markets today. MarketStats offers a perspective on the aforementioned equities and the opportunity for investors to respond with articles, blogs and opinions.

Investors can view MarketStats by visiting: www.SectorWatch.biz — a division of FiSpace.net, a dynamic social networking site for investors.

Today’s MarketStats for solar companies include GWS Technologies (OTC Bulletin Board: GWSI), Evergreen Solar Inc. (NASDAQ:ESLR), First Solar Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR), Suntech Power Holdings Co Ltd. (NYSE:STP), LDK Solar Co., Ltd. (NYSE:LDK) and Canadian Solar Inc. (NASDAQ:CSIQ)

For more information on GWS Technologies  (BULLETIN BOARD: GWSI) , which has traded up over 100% in the last two trading days, and this industry visit the following link:

http://www.smallcapvoice.com/gwsi/factsheet.html

FiSpace.net is the premiere Internet destination for stock market readers and writers, allowing individuals to post blogs, articles, messages and more in organized sector channels. By posting content on FiSpace.net individuals can acquire F.A.N.S. (Financial Networked Subscribers) who help increase the author’s influence and standing on the site.

SectorWatch.biz is powered by Market Pathways, a leader in the representation of Small Cap equities for nearly thirty years. To be featured in our publications please use the number below.

To receive regular updates please register at: http://stockupticks.com/register.html

Statements herein may contain forward-looking statements and are subject to significant risks and uncertainties affecting results. SectorWatch.biz, FiSpace.net and StockUpTicks.com are properties of Market Pathways Financial Relations Inc. (MP). MP provides no assurance as to the subject company’s plans or ability to effect proposed actions and cannot project capabilities, intent, resources, or experience. The subject companies have not always approved the statements made in this report.

This report is neither a solicitation to buy nor an offer to sell securities but is for information purposes only and should not be used as the basis for any investment decision. MP is not an investment advisor, analyst or licensed broker dealer and this report is not investment advice. MP has been paid $1500 by SmallCapVoice.com for preparation and distribution of this report and other advertising services. This constitutes a conflict of interest as to MP’s ability to remain objective in its communication regarding the subject company. Market Pathways’ analyst Brian Kelly holds CRD #2880975.

Source: SectorWatch.biz
   
Web Site:  http://www.sectorwatch.biz/

October 13, 2008

GE, SunPower and Hewlett-Packard

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:15 pm

Here’s a release on a solar power installation involving a couple of pretty big corporate names.

The release:

SunPower and GE Partner to Power-Up HP in San Diego

Residential SunPower Systems Available to HP Employees At Preferred Rates

SAN DIEGO, Oct. 13 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — SunPower Corporation (NASDAQ: SPWRA)(NASDAQ:SPWRB), a Silicon Valley-based manufacturer of high-efficiency solar cells, solar panels, and solar systems, and GE (NYSE:GE) announced today the completion of a 1.1-megawatt solar-electric power system on the roof of HP’s printing technology research and development facility in San Diego. The companies are jointly dedicating the system today at the HP site.

SunPower is also providing HP employees with preferred rates on solar power systems for their homes.

At the San Diego facility, SunPower installed a SunPower(R) T10 Solar Roof Tile commercial roof system, which is a non-penetrating product that tilts at a 10-degree angle to increase energy capture. The system will reduce more than 60 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions over the next 30 years, which is equivalent to providing electricity to 3800 homes or removing more than 5250 cars from the road.

“We applaud HP’s vision for the future as well as its understanding that solar makes good business sense today,” said Tom Werner, chief executive officer of SunPower. “For leading companies and individual homeowners, clean, reliable solar power will become a core energy investment over the next decade. Solar power can be delivered anywhere, at any scale, when and where we need it.”

As an alternative to purchasing the commercial system itself, HP is buying electricity from GE Energy Financial Services, a unit of GE that owns the system under SunPower Access(TM), a power purchase agreement program. HP owns the renewable energy credits and environmental benefits associated with the system, which it may retire or sell. The solar electricity is competitively priced against retail rates, providing HP with a long-term hedge against rising peak power prices.

“Collaborating with SunPower enables us to provide HP with an efficient and cost-competitive way to realize the financial savings and environmental benefits of solar power,” said Kevin Walsh, managing director and leader of renewable energy at GE Energy Financial Services. “For us, this project diversifies our renewable energy portfolio with more solar assets and supports ecomagination, GE’s program to help its customers meet their environmental challenges while expanding its own portfolio of cleaner energy products.”

SunPower has also collaborated with HP to provide SunPower residential solar electric systems to U.S.-based HP employees at reduced rates. To date, more than 500 HP employees have signed up for the program, and about 60 have completed the installation of SunPower systems at their homes.

“HP has set aggressive goals to reduce the environmental impact of both our operations and that of our customers through product innovation,” said Ron Coughlin, senior vice president and leader of environmental strategy for HP’s Imaging and Printing Group. “By generating clean, affordable solar power with this flagship installation in San Diego, SunPower and GE are helping us achieve those goals with no initial out-of-pocket expenses, offering us long-term savings on electricity costs.”

About SunPower

SunPower Corporation (NASDAQ:SPWRA)(NASDAQ:SPWRB) designs, manufactures and delivers high-performance solar electric systems worldwide for residential, commercial and utility-scale power plant customers. SunPower high-efficiency solar cells and solar panels generate up to 50 percent more power than conventional solar technologies and have a uniquely attractive, all-black appearance. With headquarters in San Jose, Calif., SunPower has offices in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia. For more information, visit www.sunpowercorp.com.

About GE Energy Financial Services

GE Energy Financial Services’ 400 experts invest globally with a long-term view, backed by the best of GE’s technical know-how and financial strength, across the capital spectrum and the energy and water industries, to help their customers and GE grow. With $19 billion in assets, GE Energy Financial Services, based in Stamford, Connecticut, invests more than $5 billion annually in two of the world’s most capital-intensive industries, energy and water. In renewable energy, GE Energy Financial Services is growing its portfolio of more than $4 billion in assets in wind, solar, biomass, hydro and geothermal power. For more information, visit http://www.geenergyfinancialservices.com/

About GE

GE (NYSE:GE) is a diversified global infrastructure, finance and media company that is built to meet essential world needs. From energy, water, transportation and health to access to money and information, GE serves customers in more than 100 countries and employs more than 300,000 people worldwide. GE is Imagination at Work. For more information, visit the company’s Web site at http://www.ge.com/.

Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Forward-looking statements are statements that do not represent historical facts. The companies use words and phrases such as “will,” “can,” “may,” “providing,” “offering,” and similar expressions to identify forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements in this press release include, but are not limited to, the companies’ plans and expectations regarding:  (a) reducing more than 60 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions over the next 30 years, which is equivalent to providing electricity to 3800 homes or removing more than 5250 cards from the road; (b) solar power becoming a core energy investment over the next decade for leading companies and individuals; (c) solar power being delivered anywhere, at any scale, when and where needed; (d) HP being able to retire or sell renewable energy credits and environmental benefits associated with the system; and (e) the electricity providing HP with a long-term hedge against rising peak power prices and offering long-term savings. These forward-looking statements are based on information available to the companies as of the date of this release and management’s current expectations, forecasts and assumptions, and involve a number of risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those anticipated by these forward-looking statements. Such risks and uncertainties include a variety of factors, some of which are beyond the companies’ control. In particular, risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ include:  (i) actual electricity generation; (ii) the actual energy consumption rate; (iii) unexpected changes in utility service rates; (iv) variations in carbon dioxide emissions reductions; (v) and economic conditions and growth trends in the solar power industry; (vi) the continuation of governmental and related economic incentives promoting the use of solar power; (vii) the continued availability of third-party financing arrangements for the company’s customers; (viii) construction difficulties or potential delays in the project implementation process; (ix) unanticipated delays or difficulties securing necessary permits, licenses or other governmental approvals; (x) unanticipated problems with deploying the system on sites; and (x) other risks described in SunPower’s Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended June 29, 2008, and other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. These forward-looking statements should not be relied upon as representing the companies’ views as of any subsequent date, and the companies are under no obligation to, and expressly disclaim any responsibility to, update or alter their forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

SunPower is a registered trademark of SunPower Corp.  All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

Source: SunPower Corporation
   

Web site:   http://www.sunpowercorp.com/
http://www.geenergyfinancialservices.com/
http://www.ge.com/

October 10, 2008

SkyFuel announces new utility-scale solar system

The latest utility-scale solar news from SkyFuel.

The release:

SkyFuel Unveils the SkyTrough(TM): the World’s Highest Performance, Lowest Cost Utility-Scale Solar Power System.

ARVADA, Colo., Oct. 10 /PRNewswire/ — SkyFuel, Inc. today secured its position as the leader in the rapidly growing concentrating solar power (CSP) industry by unveiling the SkyTrough(TM): the highest performance, lowest cost utility-scale solar power system of any kind for generating electricity. With glass-free mirrors, a highly engineered space frame that allows compact transportation and rapid field assembly, and new more efficient drive & control systems, the SkyTrough(TM) cuts the cost of the parabolic trough concentrator by 35 percent compared to other commercially available systems. The SkyTrough(TM) is the solar collector system at the heart of several large solar thermal power plants currently planned for the southwestern United States.

The SkyTrough(TM) is 375 feet long, twenty feet tall, and features the largest parabolic trough modules ever built. It was developed with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and with a grant from New Mexico Governor Bill Richardon’s Energy Innovation Fund for SkyFuel’s research partnership with the University of New Mexico.

SkyFuel CEO, Dr. Arnold Leitner, and chief technology officer (CTO), Randy Gee, hosted a ceremonial unveiling and reception at SkyFuel’s research & development center in Arvada to present the SkyTrough(TM) solar collector assembly. More than three hundred invited guests including power industry leaders, renewable energy financiers and government officials attended the event.

“SkyFuel has harnessed two of Colorado’s greatest resources: our state’s solar energy potential and our educated workforce. The company is a great example of how Colorado is building a new energy economy and becoming a national and international leader in renewable energy,” said Colorado Governor, Bill Ritter.

Advanced Materials & Innovative Design

The SkyTrough(TM) is a breakthrough design patterned after the best of the previous utility-scale parabolic troughs with several critical innovations that improve performance and significantly reduce cost.  Chief among those improvements is the use of ReflecTech(R) Mirror Film: a low-cost, highly reflective and shatterproof silvered-polymer film, jointly designed by SkyFuel CTO, Randy Gee, and scientists at NREL to replace the expensive, heavy and fragile curved-glass mirrors, which are still used in all other parabolic trough designs used for electric power generation.

In the SkyTrough(TM), ReflecTech(R) Mirror Film is laminated to thin aluminum sheets to form light-weight, yet highly accurate mirror panels. This allows for larger and fewer panel segments than in previous trough designs that still use curved glass. In the SkyTrough(TM), ReflecTech(R) Mirror Film cuts mirror costs by approximately 50 percent compared to the price of using glass. ReflecTech(R) Mirror Film is also easily manufactured at high volume thus eliminating one bottleneck that has slowed the deployment of other solar power systems.

The SkyTrough(TM) space frame is another major advance in parabolic trough design. The all-aluminum tubular structure is 30 percent lighter per unit of mirror area than even the best of the previous utility-scale parabolic collectors — a critical aspect in a world of rising commodity prices. The SkyTrough(TM) space frame has 40 percent fewer parts and requires no welding in the field resulting in significantly faster construction time and reduced labor costs. In addition, all ready-to-assemble components of the 375-foot long SkyTrough(TM) will fit onto one flat bed truck, an important advantage with transportation fuel costs on the rise.

Top Technology Team

For SkyFuel Chief Technology Officer, Gee, the SkyTrough(TM) is the culmination of three decades on the leading edge of solar power design. “I’ve had the privilege of working with many of the pioneers and great innovators in the solar industry,” said Gee. “At SkyFuel we’ve built a team of CSP veterans and highly skilled innovators from other fields. The result is the best hardware in the solar power business.”

The careers of key SkyFuel technology team members add up to well more than 100 years’ of experience in mastering the design and deployment of solar thermal power systems. “By combining this deep experience with new talent we have created an enthusiastic ‘can-do’ team.  This superb team has delivered a home run with the SkyTrough(TM),” said Gee.

— Randy Gee, Chief Technology Officer: Prior to joining SkyFuel, Gee was Director of Research, Development and Deployment for Solargenix (now Acciona) where he designed the parabolic trough collectors for the 64 MW Nevada Solar One plant commissioned in 2007.

— Dr. David Kearney, Senior Technical Advisor:  As vice president of Advanced Technology in the US subsidiary of Luz International, Kearney helped prove the commercial applicability of CSP with the deployment of the SEGS plants in California’s Mojave Desert which are still operating.

— Coleman Moore, VP Research & Technology: Before joining SkyFuel, Moore designed the control systems for the 64MW Nevada Solar One plant.

— David White, VP, Engineering and Manufacturing: Prior to SkyFuel, as principal researcher, he led a team of engineers and subcontractors on multiple concentrating solar R&D efforts in partnership with the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories and private companies.

— Adrian Farr, VP, Structural Engineering:  Farr is a specialist in the design of aluminum space frames. Prior to joining SkyFuel, he was a Senior Structural Engineer with Conservatek Industries, a world leader in the design and deployment of aluminum geodesic dome structures.

— Dr. Randy Brost, VP, Engineering Science: Brost is a top analyst and designer of complex automated manufacturing systems. He joined SkyFuel from Eastman Kodak where he oversaw special projects in the company’s commercial copier division.  Prior to his work at Kodak, Brost led a team at the Sandia National Laboratories researching computerized robotics.

— Robert Hawkins, VP, Quality Engineering: Hawkins carries over experience from Oracle where he oversaw product lifecycle management from pre- to post-sales for a broad array of the enterprise software giant’s products. At SkyFuel, Hawkins focuses on enhancing the efficiency and manufacturability of the company’s solar thermal power designs.

At the SkyTrough(TM) unveiling, SkyFuel founder and CEO, Dr, Arnold Leitner put his company’s work in context: “Despite stunning amounts of funding and media attention for a variety of other, purportedly exotic, solar thermal technologies, parabolic trough remains the world’s only utility scale design that is commercially proven and bank financeable. The SkyTrough(TM) builds on the success of projects such as Nevada Solar One, but dramatically reduces cost while solving some of the most vexing and costly problems such as glass mirrors that shatter in the desert winds. Today’s unveiling truly marks The Sunrise of Solar Power(TM) toward being a major source in the world’s energy mix.”

SkyFuel, Inc. is a solar power technology provider with headquarters in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and research and development facilities in Arvada, Colorado. SkyFuel is emerging as a world leader in the design and deployment of concentrating solar power (CSP) systems. The Company designs turnkey large-scale solar fields that produce steam for power generation and industrial application.

Source: SkyFuel, Inc.

October 9, 2008

Solyndra offers an interesting solar design

Filed under: Business, et.al., Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:09 pm

I’m all for innovative solar installations. This design from Solyndra looks fairly promising. I’m very excited about eventually putting some solar collecters on my home and start selling electricity back to the grid.

From the link:

The company’s photovoltaic rods are able to catch rays from any direction, meaning they don’t need to be tilted to point at the sun. Also, since they’re not shaped like a silicon kite, they don’t need the same big, beefy installation brackets. This cuts installation costs in half and has helped to drive $1.2 billion in orders from eager would-be customers of this three-year-old startup. Want to see ’em for yourself? Head on down to the Solar Power International Expo next week in sunny San Diego.

(Hat tip — Wes)

October 2, 2008

Solar market growing rapidly

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:29 am

From KurzweilAI.net — According to a Lux Research report the solar industry figures to hit $100B in five years.

Solar Market Reaches $100 Billion In 2013
KurzweilAI.net, Oct. 2, 2008

Solar is poised for continued impressive growth, with new installations primed to increase nearly five-fold from 2008 to 2013. Starting in 2009, however, supply will exceed demand, leading to price decreases.

According to the new report from Lux Research entitled “Solar State of the Market Q3 2008: The Rocky Road to $100 Billion,” this change will transform the solar industry, creating a market where sales grow dramatically, but it is increasingly difficult for companies to profit.

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