Cloaking Principle Could Boost Solar Cell Performance

Invisibility cloaking may be a long way from reality, but the principle could help improve the performance of solar cells in the near term. 
In a series of simulations, researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology have demonstrated how cloaks made of metamaterials or freeform surfaces could eliminate shadows cast by energy-harvesting components onto the active surfaces of solar cells. 
Contact fingers, which extract electric current, cover up to one-tenth of the surface area of a solar cell. By guiding light around these features, more of the sun's energy could be captured by the solar cell. 
"Our model experiments have shown that the cloak layer makes the contact fingers nearly completely invisible," said doctoral student Martin Schumann.  Cont'd...
 

Researchers develop cool way to improve solar cell efficiency

By Kelly Hodgkins for Digital Trends:   A team of engineers from Stanford University have invented a cool way to improve the performance of solar panel arrays. A new material that the team produced literally will lower the temperature of solar cells even while they are operating in full-strength sunlight. As the solar cells cool, their efficiency will rise, leading to significant gains in the amount of energy harvested from the sun.

Solar panel technology has improved by leaps and bounds, but the technology has a flaw that limits the efficiency of the system. The panels must face the sun to operate, but the heat from this exposure diminishes their ability to convert light into energy. The hotter they get, the less efficient they become. This issue has perplexed the industry for years, but the Stanford team may have discovered a material that can help dissipate this excess heat without affecting the operation of the solar array.

The solution, proposed by Stanford electrical engineering professor Shanhui Fan, research associate Aaswath P. Raman, and doctoral candidate Linxiao Zhu, uses a material that is able to capture and emit thermal radiation (heat) away from the solar call. While deterring heat buildup, the thin, patterned silica material does not block sunlight, allowing the photons to enter the solar panel where they are converted to energy. It’s a win-win situation, allowing the free flow of sunlight and the removal of excess heat from the system.  Cont'd...

Solar windows can power buildings

By Lucas Mearian for Computerworld:  Manhattan has approximately 47,000 buildings with around 10.7 million windows, according to a 2013estimate from The New York Times.

Now imagine if just 1% -- or 100,700 -- of those windows could generate electricity through transparent photovoltaics.

That's the idea behind solar power windows, and at least two companies are hoping to sell the technology to window manufacturers, saying once installed in a building the technology will pay for itself in about a year.

"If you look at the glass that's manufactured worldwide today, 2% of it is used for solar panels; 80% of it is used in buildings. That's the opportunity," said Suvi Sharma, CEO of solar panel maker Solaria.  Cont'd...

Watch SolarWindow Generate Electricity on Glass in First-Ever Video, Released Today

"Today's demonstration marks the Kitty Hawk moment for our SolarWindow™ technology"

SolarWindow Announces Revenue and Industry Partnership Initiatives

"SolarWindow has calculated the fastest financial return I've ever seen, under one year."

Pink film 'antenna' can double solar cell efficiency

Megan Treacy for TreeHugger:  When we think of antennas we mainly think of the type that transmit and receive radio waves, letting us listen to radio stations in our car or watch TV in our homes, but in this case the researchers are using the term to describe a new thin film material that captures more of the light spectrum, converting it into wavelengths of light that solar cells can convert into electricity.

Many scientists are working on building better solar cells, but researchers at the University of Connecticut wanted to figure out how to boost the efficiency of the technology we already have. Thus, the antenna.

As Phys.org reports, Challa V. Kumar, Ph.D and his team "built an antenna that collects those unused blue photons and converts them to lower energy photons that the silicon can then turn into current."

"Many groups around the world are working hard to make this kind of antenna, and ours is the first of its kind in the whole world," Kumar said.  Cont'd...

The Most Innovative Companies In Renewable Energy

By Michael McDonald for OilPrice.com:  As the oil price bust continues, renewable energy and sustainability innovation is continuing unabated. For instance, an architecture company recently unveiled a set of plans for a smart floating farm project that helps preserve land space and improve food production efficiency. The plans are just hypothetical at this point and it is unclear if they will ever be built, but that’s not really the point. The project shows that, around the world, companies and individuals continue to devote time and resources to innovation in sustainable living.

In a similar vein for instance, in the solar field, small companies are creating a host of new innovative products like new inverters and module level electronics. Many of these innovations may seem trivial and iterative. And many are, but a series of trivial and iterative innovations can still lead to big change and that has solar proponents excited. 

Big changes are also occurring on more visible systems. A company called Ripasso Energy is pushing its new, more efficient solar generators. In a highly visible effort, Tesla is pressing ahead with its home and business battery storage systems. Desalinization with solar and even solar planes are also on the horizon.

The vast majority of these innovations are too early stage for investors to make serious bets on, and even if an investor could be in on an individual technology, that approach is risky. Instead, investors are better off putting their dollars into firms that consistently show an innovative spirit and are pressing forward with a broad portfolio of product innovations. These kinds of broad sets of innovations are important to the future of the planet and they can generate serious returns for sage investors as well.  Cont'd...

How SolarWindow is Bringing World's First-of-Their-Kind Electricity-Generating Windows to Market - August 20th Webcast

The company's scheduled webcast is an online town-hall style forum led by Mr. Conklin. He will present the commercialization plan for SolarWindow products and address participant questions.

New Material to Increase Solar Cell Efficiency

A team of researchers has come up with a solar cell that produces fuel rather than electricity. A material called gallium phosphide enables the solar cell to produce clean fuel hydrogen gas from liquid water.

To connect an existing silicon solar cell to a battery that splits the water may well be an efficient solution; but it is very expensive.

So, researchers were streamlining their search to a semi-conductor material that is able to both convert sunlight into an electrical charge and split water.

The team found gallium phosphide (GaP), a compound of gallium and phosphide, useful in this respect.

GaP has good electrical properties but the drawback is that it cannot easily absorb light when it is a large flat surface as used in GaP solar cells, said the study thatappeared in Nature Communications.

The researchers overcame this by making a grid of very small GaP nanowires, measuring five hundred nanometres (a millionth of a millimetre) long and ninety nanometres thick.

"That makes these kinds of cells potentially a great deal cheaper," said lead author Erik Bakkers from Eindhoven University of Technology, the Netherlands.  Cont'd...

Start of test with solar energy generating noise barriers alongside highway

Alongside the A2 highway near Den Bosch, The Netherlands, two test noise barriers are installed that generate solar energy. The aim of this practical test, that was officially launched 18 June is to assess the economic and technical feasibility of this form of energy generating noise barriers. Playing a key role in the test are the LSC panels, developed by researcher Michael Debije at TU/e.
The translucent, colored panels are a new type of energy source, developed jointly by TU/e. These 'luminescent solar concentrators' (LSCs) receive sun light and guide it to the side of the panels. There, it lands in concentrated form on traditional solar cells. "Thanks to their many colors the LSC are visually very attractive, which makes them ideal for use in many different situations in the built environment", explains Debije of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry, who has carried out years of research into these panels. "Further benefits are that the principle used is low cost, they can be produced in any desired, regular color, is robust, and the LSCs will even work when the sky is cloudy. That means it offers tremendous potential." Debije published his latest research findings on this subject last March in Nature.
On 18 June a one-year practical test started in 's-Hertogenbosch, led by the building company Heijmans. The researchers intend to assess the feasibility of generating electricity using solar cells integrated in noise barriers or SONOBs (Solar Noise Barriers).  Cont'd...

New Formula Expected to Spur Advances in Clean Energy Generation

UH Researchers Say the New Method Will Speed Development of Modern Materials

24M Introduces the Semisolid Lithium-Ion Battery

Today, 24M emerged from stealth mode to introduce the semisolid lithium-ion cell, a revolutionary technology that solves the grand challenge of energy storage by enabling a new, cost-effective class of the lithium-ion battery. 24M’s semisolid lithium-ion is the most significant advancement in lithium-ion technology in more than two decades and combines an overhaul in battery cell design with a series of manufacturing innovations that, when fully implemented, will slash today’s lithium-ion costs by 50% and improve the performance of lithium-ion batteries. The technology will accelerate the global adoption of affordable energy storage.
Until now, the energy storage field has had two options to try to drive down costs – build massive and complex factories to produce lithium-ion batteries in high volumes or pursue entirely new chemistries that may never move from the lab to the commercial floor. With the invention of the semisolid lithium-ion battery, 24M presents a third option – work with the world’s preferred energy storage chemistry and unlock new opportunities for cost reductions through new cell design and manufacturing innovations. 24M’s platform is the most significant advancement in lithium-ion technology since its debut more than 20 years ago.

Designer Carbons Are Getting a Boost from Nanotechnology

By Richard Martin for The MIT Technology Review:  A group of Stanford researchers have come up with a nanoscale “designer carbon” material that can be adjusted to make energy storage devices, solar panels, and potentially carbon capture systems more powerful and efficient.
The designer carbon that has reached the market in recent years shares the Swiss-cheese-like structure of activated carbon, enhancing its ability to catalyze certain chemical reactions and store electrical charges; but it’s “designed” in the sense that the chemical composition of the material, and the size of the pores, can be manipulated to fit specific uses.
The designer carbon tested at Stanford is “both versatile and controllable,” according to Zhenan Bao, a professor of chemical engineering and the senior author of the study, which appeared in the latest issue of the journal ACS Central Science.
“Producing high-surface-area carbons with controlled chemical composition and morphology is really challenging,” says Bao. Other methods currently available, she says, “are either quite expensive or they don’t offer control over the chemical structure and morphology.”  Cont'd...

"Designer carbon" boosts battery performance

Mark Shwartz, Stanford Univ.:  Stanford Univ. scientists have created a new carbon material that significantly boosts the performance of energy-storage technologies. Their results are featured in ACS Central Science.
"We have developed a 'designer carbon' that is both versatile and controllable," said Zhenan Bao, the senior author of the study and a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford. "Our study shows that this material has exceptional energy-storage capacity, enabling unprecedented performance in lithium-sulfur batteries and supercapacitors."
According to Bao, the new designer carbon represents a dramatic improvement over conventional activated carbon, an inexpensive material widely used in products ranging from water filters and air deodorizers to energy-storage devices.
"A lot of cheap activated carbon is made from coconut shells," Bao said. "To activate the carbon, manufacturers burn the coconut at high temperatures and then chemically treat it."
The activation process creates nanosized holes, or pores, that increase the surface area of the carbon, allowing it to catalyze more chemical reactions and store more electrical charges.

Berkeley lab unveils new solar energy center aimed at producing fuel from sunlight

Jeremy Thomas for Inside Bay Area News:  In a christening hailed as a key moment in the effort to harness the sun's energy to create fuel, Lawrence Berkeley Lab officials on Tuesday unveiled a $59 million Solar Energy Research Center.
Named after former Energy Department Secretary and Lab Director Steven Chu, the 40,000-square-foot Chu Hall will be a place of world-changing research in producing cheaper, more efficient renewable energy to replace fossil fuels, said Chu, who was honored for inspiring the mission.
"This is one of the most important problems that science, technology and innovation really need to solve," Chu said. "It's a very big deal. ... We simply need to save the world, and it's going to be science that's going to be at the heart of that solution."
The facility will be home to the Berkeley hub of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, a Department of Energy-funded collaboration led by the California Institute of Technology that is attempting to create solar fuel as plants do by using sunlight and other catalysts to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gas and convert carbon dioxide into liquid fuels such as methanol and ethanol. The byproduct of producing such a fuel would be oxygen.

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