Researchers at Stanford University have built a prototype of an all-carbon solar cell that includes carbon nanotubes in both the photoactive layer and the electrodes. (Source: Mark Shwartz / Stanford University)
Charlie, you took the words right out of my mouth. As a consumer, I am continually frustrated by the apparent inability of manufacturers to give performance specs about their products in terms that not only make sense to me, but that are actually usable in an on-the-ground kind of way, not abstract numbers. My anti-favorite one is "joule", used by home office UPS makers. I can never, ever remember what it means and when I look it up, it still means nothing in terms of my home office equipment. But the first thing UPS makers ask is "how many joules do you need?" Sure, I'm an electrician and I think in joules every day, uh-huh. No guys--you're supposed to tell me how many I need based on the info I can provide you.
Earlier posts mentioned 'efficiency' being the #1 issue. While that may be true, it begs the question: How do you measure efficiency? In a spacecraft, it's watts per sq in & watts per pound. But for an individual user like me who wants to make electricity for my home & vehicles, that's meaningless. The only thing I care about is watts per dollar. If this tech can reduce environmental costs, materials costs, production costs, and installation costs (all 'per watt'), that's where I'll put my money.
It's also the case that storing heat for heating water--in large sealed water bottles, rocks and even earth walls--is a lot easier to do than storing "energy" in some other form. It's also been done already.
Akwaman--You are absolutely correct. Water heating is a significant factor in energy usage and solar water heating is definitely one viable solution to that problem--when possible. Years ago, I worked for a water heater manufacturer and one item in our product line was a water heater using solar roof-top panels to "collect" the sun's rays and provide for heating. We had auxilary heating elements when needed during inclement weather. The issue in the southeast was considerable cloud cover that negated available sunlight--and lengthened the ROI. Any advancement such as the one Ann is describing is definitely welcomed to that particular industry. As advancements in solar technology progress, we will see added sales and resurgence in usage even in the most difficult environmental situations.
I especially like the part about the elimination of indium and silver in this process. As exotic and rare minerals become hard to procure (and with their unequal distribution for each country), this characteristic will make this option more and more attractive.
akwaman, I totally agree with you about solar. We've known for decades about how much energy there is free for our use and have done relatively little with that knowledge except invent an industry--PV solar--that makes all that sunlight a lot more difficult and expensive to use than it needs to be. I also agree about the hot water advantage: that's where I saw the heat storage potential of rocks and water used to best advantage--way back in the 70s.
Hats off to those forward thinkers at Stanford! Ann, I know it is hard to believe, but the best passive use for solar is... tanning! LOL... just kidding. You are correct that passive use of solar it a good thing that is certainly not utilized enough. Light tubes and better house design should absolutely be integrated into all modern designs (but they are not). But seriously overlooked is solar hot water, which would save this country an enormous amount of power requirements (the avg is 30% of utility bill from hot water), and it is VERY cost effective, much more so than solar PV. There have been recent advancements in PV that I believe will provide 25% or bettter efficiency in the next 10 years commercially, using cheaper technology than available today. But it must be coupled with other forms of solar power generation, like the hot salt method, that retains heat and provides power through the night without batteries. The sun provides more power than we can even use, we just have to figure out how to harness it the best and most efficient way.
Thanks, Cadman-LT and akwaman. Thinking out of the box is something Stanford is known for, so I like to follow that university's research efforts (along with Harvard and MIT). But I'm still not convinced that any form of active solar--PV or otherwise--is the best way to do solar. Sunlight can be used for passive solar, which has a history of a few thousand years of human engineering. I've seen some amazing results of combining that old know-how with modern, precise engineering.
This is a perfect example of thinking out-of-the-box, which is necessary to make the advancements in solar photovoltaics. It won't take much to make solar photovoltaics mainstream and part of every home, everywhere. Sunlight is the largest and most under-utilized source of energy we have on the planet.
Inspired by the hooks a parasitic worm uses to penetrate its host's intestines, the Karp Lab has invented a flexible adhesive patch covered with microneedles that adheres well to wet, soft tissues, but doesn't cause damage when removed.
Researchers at the Missouri University of Science & Technology have designed a new nanoscale material that can transmit light faster than the 186,000 miles per second it usually takes to travel through air.
It has often been said that as California goes, so goes the nation. This spring, the state's wind power is setting energy generation records and solar energy generation is expected to rise sharply during the second half of 2013.
A quick look into the merger of two powerhouse 3D printing OEMs and the new leader in rapid prototyping solutions, Stratasys. The industrial revolution is now led by 3D printing and engineers are given the opportunity to fully maximize their design capabilities, reduce their time-to-market and functionally test prototypes cheaper, faster and easier. Bruce Bradshaw, Director of Marketing in North America, will explore the large product offering and variety of materials that will help CAD designers articulate their product design with actual, physical prototypes. This broadcast will dive deep into technical information including application specific stories from real world customers and their experiences with 3D printing. 3D Printing is