The materials’ battle in the solar cell industry is heating up. The main goals: reduce costs and boost power output. The big technology player remains first-generation solar cells that are silicon wafer based. Tight supplies and high costs have spurred activity in alternate technologies, such as conductive plastics.
General Electric announced this week that it will introduce solar cells made with thin-film cadmium telluride to complement its current line of silicon solar cells. Thin-film cells typically use less than 1 percent of the silicon required for wafer-based solar cells. The result: a big price drop per Watt peak capacity.
In 2008, GE bought a majority position in PrimeStar Solar, to build a beachhead in the cadmium telluride technology, which has a lower power output than conventional silicon approaches. Silicon cells are above 20 percent in efficiency, compared to a projected 12 percent for cadmium telluride , according to GE.
“We are excited about it because it can produce in diffuse light,” says Michael Idelchik, vice president of advanced technologies at GE Global Research. “The module (panel) life is 20 years — that’s what the customer wants. It has the right production costs and right efficiency target.”
Many of the new adhesives we're featuring in this slideshow are for use in automotive and other transportation applications. The rest of these new products are for a wide variety of applications including aviation, aerospace, electrical motors, electronics, industrial, and semiconductors.
A Columbia University team working on molecular-scale nano-robots with moving parts has run into wear-and-tear issues. They've become the first team to observe in detail and quantify this process, and are devising coping strategies by observing how living cells prevent aging.
Many of the new materials on display at MD&M West were developed to be strong, tough replacements for metal parts in different kinds of medical equipment: IV poles, connectors for medical devices, medical device trays, and torque-applying instruments for orthopedic surgery. Others are made for close contact with patients.
New sensor technology integrates sensors, traces, and electronics into a smart fabric for wearables that measures more dimensions -- force, location, size, twist, bend, stretch, and motion -- and displays data in 3D maps.
As we saw on the show floor this week at the Pacific Design & Manufacturing and co-located events in Anaheim, Calif., 3D printing is contributing to distributed manufacturing and being reinvented by engineers for their own needs. Meanwhile, new fasteners are appearing for wearable consumer and medical devices and Baxter Robot has another software upgrade.
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