David Kirkpatrick

September 5, 2008

Improving solar through stronger sunlight

Concentrating sunlight gets solar more close to competing with fossil fuels. Solar breakthroughs are really hitting the wire on a regular basis these days.

From the Technology Review link:

In his darkened lab at MIT, Marc Baldo shines an ultraviolet lamp on a 10-­centimeter square of glass. He has coated the surfaces of the glass with dyes that glow faintly orange under the light. Yet the uncoated edges of the glass are shining more brightly–four neat, thin strips of luminescent orange.

The sheet of glass is a new kind of solar concentrator, a device that gathers diffuse light and focuses it onto a relatively small solar cell. Solar cells, multilayered electronic devices made of highly refined silicon, are expensive to manufacture, and the bigger they are, the more they cost. Solar concentrators can lower the overall cost of solar power by making it possible to use much smaller cells. But the concentrators are typically made of curved mirrors or lenses, which are bulky and require costly mechanical systems that help them track the sun.

Unlike the mirrors and lenses in conventional solar concentrators, Baldo’s glass sheets act as waveguides, channeling light in the same way that fiber-optic cables transmit optical signals over long distances. The dyes coating the surfaces of the glass absorb sunlight; different dyes can be used to absorb different wavelengths of light. Then the dyes reëmit the light into the glass, which channels it to the edges. Solar-cell strips attached to the edges absorb the light and generate electricity. The larger the surface of the glass compared with the thickness of the edges, the more the light is concentrated and, to a point, the less the power costs.


August 13, 2008

Applied Materials makes over $5M gift to UC Berkeley

The University of California at Berkeley is doing some interesting work in nanotechnology (such as this “cloak of invisibility”) Applied Materials, the Santa Clara-based nanotech company is making that progress easier to achieve to the tune of more than $5 million.

Here’s a press release outlining the gift:

Applied Materials Advances Semiconductor Research at UC Berkeley With Significant Equipment Donation

SANTA CLARA, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Applied Materials (Nasdaq:AMAT) is advancing semiconductor research with an equipment and service donation to the University of California, Berkeleys Nanofabrication Laboratory in the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS). CITRIS is a center of excellence for graduate students, faculty and industrial researchers to create nanotechnology solutions for many of the worlds most pressing social, environmental and health care issues.

In order to accelerate breakthrough technologies, we believe it is important for students to work on advanced equipment and gain hands-on experience working on semiconductor devices,said Om Nalamasu, Deputy CTO and Vice President of Advanced Technologies at Applied Materials. We are pleased to be part of CITRIS and look forward to working together with students and faculty, and to a stronger affiliation with the University.

Applied Materials gift consists of processing equipment and a service contract valued in excess of $5 million. The systems complement Applied Materials equipment that was donated to the university in 2002.

These advanced systems will be used by our engineering students to accelerate groundbreaking research in semiconductor and related nanofabrication technology that may fuel an array of new discoveries,said Shankar Sastry, Dean of the College of Engineering. We thank Applied Materials for its continued support as these tools will be valuable to the Universitys programs.

CITRIS will foster work on novel semiconductor devices and their integration with nanowires/nanotubes, microelectomechanical systems (MEMS), optoelectronics, and bioelectronics. The systems donated by Applied will be used to deposit two of the most critical thin films that are part of next-generation integrated circuits: epitaxy and gate dielectrics.

In addition, as a result of Applied Materialsinvestment and continued support, UC Berkeley will dedicate a collaborative laboratory within CITRIS, known as a Collaboratory,to Applied Materials and it will be devoted to energy research. The Collaboratory is a key feature of CITRIS, providing faculty, students and industrial researchers with spaces for project-driven collaboration. The capability of The Collaboratory combines well with Applied Materials solar strategy to bring significant change to the industry by developing new technologies that enable lower cost-per-watt solutions for solar cell manufacturing with the goal of making solar power a significant alternative source of global energy.

Applied Materials Inc. (Nasdaq:AMAT) is the global leader in Nanomanufacturing Technologysolutions with a broad portfolio of innovative equipment, service and software products for the fabrication of semiconductor chips, flat panel displays, solar photovoltaic cells, flexible electronics and energy efficient glass. At Applied Materials, we apply nanomanufacturing technology to improve the way people live.

June 23, 2008

A couple of solar breaktroughs

From KurzweilAI.net — MIT students create a low-cost, low-tech solar dish, and carbon nanotubes may lower the cost and improve the performance of solar cells.

MIT team plays with fire to create cheap energy
Christian Science Monitor, June 18, 2008

A simple new low-cost solar dish developed by MIT students produces steam heat for less than the cost of heat from oil or natural gas, according to the MIT team.

The steam heat can be used cost effectively for manufacturing, food pasteurization, and heating buildings.
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Perfecting a solar cell by adding imperfections
PhysOrg.com, June 16, 2008

New research at Santa Fe Institute, Michigan State University, and Columbia University shows that a film of carbon nanotubes may be able to replace two of the layers normally used in a solar cell, with improved performance at lower cost.

Exposing the carbon nanotubes to ozone made the carbon nanotubes better catalysts, with more than a ten-fold improvement, and replaced expensive platinum. And making them longer improved both conductivity and transparency.

The carbonnanotube films might also be used in fuel cells and batteries.

Read Original Article>>