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)
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--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.
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.
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.
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.
Hi: Very nice summary, and, I am interested in the topic. What I would like to know however is what the efficency is of the device. I know it is extremely early in its' developement, but, I like to know such things. This is extremely early: I remember when a high efficency cell was a fantastic 5% because it was that new silicon stuff!
I rarely look at the mail but I find your lead-ins enticeing.Earl.
scifi tech guy, I like your handle :). Regarding efficiency, that's a good question: it can be measured in several different ways. Also, this is a prototype, not a working product, and definitely not a product that's been transferred to a volume manufacturing process. Check out the discussion below: many of the comments concern the subject of efficiency.
Hello again Amy and tech oriented correspondents: I did as Amy suggested and found more material on subjects I am interested in. Some background: I have been interested in "alternative energy" since the 1960s. This is in part due to my long term interest in space exploration. There was a very large amount of practical ( for powering space systems version of practical) and advanced research done on systems that could be used for space power plants that we thought we would need in the relatively near future. This included thermoelectric and thermo ionic sources ( for Venus and Mercury probes Molybdenum Silicide thermoelectric conversion elements as an example). I also read about the work on Earth based applications, such as water heating devices that was mentioned as a desirable, economic way of using the Sun, during the 1970s and onward. This is a significant source of water heating for homes in Japan. As for the carbon based cells versus the present units with rare elements: I have looked into the various material used in Silicon and other cells ( and L.C.Ds. as well) and found that Indium, courtesy of Indium Corporation of America, is somewhat pricy except in thin films: a retail price for a pound ( from a Mc Master Carr catalog) was ~$350/ pound. Sorry for the long message,but, I think these points might be of interest to your audience, and you, Amy.
Thank you, Earl.
P.S.: I am intersted in energy beamed from space and have been on panels, and attended talks, on this subject.
Earl, thanks for the comments on alternative energy and space exploration. I didn't realize that alt energy projects/technologies had been developed in that context, but it sure makes sense. The high and continually rising price of indium and its projected scarcity, as mentioned in the article, is a major reason the researchers were interested in developing a carbon alternative. No problem re length--we love long comments! (BTW, my name is Ann).
Artificially created metamaterials are already appearing in niche applications like electronics, communications, and defense, says a new report from Lux Research. How quickly they become mainstream depends on cost-effective manufacturing methods, which will include additive manufacturing.
SpaceX has 3D printed and successfully hot-fired a SuperDraco engine chamber made of Inconel, a high-performance superalloy, using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). The company's first 3D-printed rocket engine part, a main oxidizer valve body for the Falcon 9 rocket, launched in January and is now qualified on all Falcon 9 flights.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and MIT have 3D-printed a new class of metamaterials that are both exceptionally light and have exceptional strength and stiffness. The new metamaterials maintain a nearly constant stiffness per unit of mass density, over three orders of magnitude.
Smart composites that let the material's structural health be monitored automatically and continuously are getting closer to reality. R&D partners in an EU-sponsored project have demonstrated what they say is the first complete, miniaturized, fiber-optic sensor system entirely embedded inside a fiber-reinforced composite.
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