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Researchers Develop Recyclable Solar Cells From Trees
4/10/2013

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have derived material from trees to create a new solar cell that they believe paves the way for recyclable, sustainable, and renewable solar-cell technology.   (Source: Georgia Institute of Technology)
Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have derived material from trees to create a new solar cell that they believe paves the way for recyclable, sustainable, and renewable solar-cell technology.
(Source: Georgia Institute of Technology)

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Elizabeth M
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Lots going on in this space
Elizabeth M   4/10/2013 6:06:28 AM
This is one of the latest advancements in solar-cell research, as scientists try to make them more renewable, efficient, powerful and less dependent on non-organic materials. Trees are a natural fit for this technology, though it's interesting that the material taken from trees was used not in the electricity converter but the inert part of the panel that's usually made of plastic or glass.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Lots going on in this space
Rob Spiegel   4/10/2013 9:33:38 AM
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Nice story, Elizabeth. It will be interesting to see how this technology compares to existing technology on price. While the green aspect and the efficiency look good, it would be interesting to see cost comparisons.

Elizabeth M
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Re: Lots going on in this space
Elizabeth M   4/11/2013 10:24:35 AM
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Yes, if they can keep the price down then it could definitely be a good alternative to glass or plastic for solar cells, reducing use of synthetic materials and the waste those materials cause. Anything that can do that is definitely a step forward ecologically. While it's good to use natural energy like solar, sometimes the technology itself isn't doing much for the environment. Then again, I hope that if wood from trees is used to make cells, it is also replenished in some way.

naperlou
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Re: Lots going on in this space
naperlou   4/11/2013 10:45:34 AM
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This is a good development.  With the number of cells that would be required to be a viable energy source, the idea that they would not be easily recycled is a problem.  It also adds to their carbon footprint.  If course, the real problem with solar energy is not the cells, but energy storage.  Until that is solved, their use will be limited.

StephanieMartus
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Iron
Re: Lots going on in this space
StephanieMartus   4/25/2013 8:36:27 AM
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That's a great invention by scientists there.Great job.

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tekochip
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Less Rigid?
tekochip   4/10/2013 8:35:27 AM
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It would be great if they hit 10% efficiency with a less rigid cell. The higher efficiency cells are rather fragile and it makes mounting and protecting them rather costly.


William K.
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Recyclable solar cells.
William K.   4/11/2013 10:24:02 PM
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I see a serious rliability problem with solar cells that break down when watter is applied. This is because the intended product lifespan is over 20 years. Quick decomposition is just not the way for a product to last 20 years. Doesn't anybody else see a problem with that?

William K.
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Recyclable solar cells.
William K.   4/11/2013 10:24:03 PM
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I see a serious rliability problem with solar cells that break down when watter is applied. This is because the intended product lifespan is over 20 years. Quick decomposition is just not the way for a product to last 20 years. Doesn't anybody else see a problem with that?

Elizabeth M
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Re: Recyclable solar cells.
Elizabeth M   4/15/2013 4:33:43 AM
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I can see your concern, William K. But I think the idea is to recycle and reuse rather than have a product with a long lifespan that once it's over, becomes yet another piece of garbage in a landfill or in the ocean (where a lot of trash ends up). I am sure this process will be addressed and refined--and better explained--as scientists progress further in their research.

William K.
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Re: Recyclable solar cells.
William K.   4/15/2013 11:00:43 AM
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Elizabeth, my point is that giveen the cost and effort to set up a reliable solar cell system it only makes sense to have it last a while. After all, much of the expense is in the installation and supporting system, not in the cell arrays themselves. And based on what I have seen in many other products it is clear that a long product lifetime is not one of the concerns of the makers. Sometimes customers do force a reliability requirement to be considered, but it does not often happen.

Elizabeth M
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Re: Recyclable solar cells.
Elizabeth M   4/16/2013 4:10:08 AM
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Yes, I totally see your point, William K, and solar systems typically last 20 to 25 years. I am pretty sure the designers of this cell are thinking of reliability as well and the cells won't just dissolve under a few drops of water. But I would have to speak more to them about the cells to find out for sure how the recylcling process works.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Recyclable solar cells.
Ann R. Thryft   5/2/2013 11:44:39 AM
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William, like Elizabeth I suspect that the researchers may have already figured out under just what circumstances water will make the cells break down. It's quite possible that, like other recyclable materials, this will only occur under certain circumstances, like the anaerobic conditions of landfills, or at certain temperatures.



Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Recyclable solar cells.
Ann R. Thryft   5/2/2013 11:40:38 AM
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Thanks for reporting on this, Elizabeth. Looks like a complete win-win to me, and a form of biomimicry we don't often see: using plant biology, not animal biology, as a model. I'm not surprised this comes from Georgia Tech--besides leading robotics research, they've also been working on alternative energy and power sources for a long time.

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