Atomic Switcheroo Explains Origins of Thin-Film Solar Cell Mystery

April 24, 2014 (Source: ORNL) -- Treating cadmium-telluride (CdTe) solar cell materials with cadmium-chloride improves their efficiency, but researchers have not fully understood why. Now, an atomic-scale examination of the thin-film solar cells led by the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has answered this decades-long debate about the materials’ photovoltaic efficiency increase after treatment. A research team from ORNL, the University of Toledo and DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory used electron microscopy and computational simulations to explore the physical origins of the unexplained treatment process. The results are published in Physical Review Letters (PRL). Thin-film CdTe solar cells are…

Researchers Achieve Higher Solar-Cell Efficiency With Zinc-Oxide Coating

April 23, 2014 (Source: University of Arkansas) -- Engineering researchers at the University of Arkansas have achieved the highest efficiency ever in a 9 millimeter-squared solar cell made of gallium arsenide. After coating the cufflink-sized cells with a thin layer of zinc oxide, the research team reached a conversion efficiency of 14 percent. A small array of these cells – as few as nine to 12 – generate enough energy for small light-emitting diodes and other devices. But surface modification can be scaled up, and the cells can be packaged in large arrays of panels to power large devices such as…

Solar Fuels: A Grand Challenge of 21st Century Chemistry

April 23, 2014 (Source: National Science Foundation) -- Solar panels are becoming a familiar site in communities across the United States, but what about solar fuels? A solar fuel is produced from sunlight through artificial photosynthesis, mimicking what Mother Nature has been doing for billions of years. Many chemists and chemical engineers are working to make solar fuels a viable option in the future. In fact, there's even a worldwide "Solar Army" on the job, and California Institute of Technology chemistry professor Harry Gray is known as their commanding general! Gray is director of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Center for…

Climate is right for clean energy firms

April 21, 2014 (Source: Reuters) -- If you're ecology minded, the news hasn't been all that green of late, with ice caps and glaciers melting and storms becoming more destructive. But there is a huge silver lining for long-term investors in environmentally-friendly companies and technologies. To stave off a nearly 5-degree global temperature increase by 2100, nations must cut their global greenhouse emissions by up to 70 percent by the middle of this century, according to a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. There's little consensus among developed and emerging nations on how to effectively deal with…

Apple Tries to Clean Up Its Carbon-Spewing Ways With New Data Centers

April 21, 2014 (Source: Wired) -- On a stunning cloudless day in the Nevada desert, Lisa Jackson stands with her back to an array of advanced solar cells, peering across a low chain link fence at NV Energy’s Fort Churchill Power Generating plant just a few hundred years away. The 1960s vintage facility has two giant boilers rising from the scrub brush, belching steam and god knows what else. It couldn’t be more different than the futuristic tract where Jackson is standing, with its gleaming rows of curved mirrors and palm-size silicon wafers silently drawing energy from the blinding sun.…

Obama Launches Measures to Support Solar Energy in US

April 17, 2014 (Source: Inquirer.net) -- The White House Thursday announced a series of measures aimed at increasing solar energy production in the United States, particularly by encouraging the installation of solar panels in public spaces. President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress want laws to fight climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but Republicans, who hold the majority in the House of Representatives, have blocked all legislative efforts since 2011. In response, the president has switched tactics, using his regulatory and administrative powers to enact his climate change policies. Thursday, the White House launched a program to…

Researchers Develop the First Mobile Charging System for Electric Vehicles

April 17, 2014 (Source: Phys.org) -- The Instituto Tecnológico de la Energía (ITE) in Spain has developed the first mobile charging system for electric vehicles. This system allows users to charge their vehicle from any plug -not just from a specifically designed one- as long as it has been previously authorised by an electric power company. The PREMISE project aims to update the recharging process and make it quicker through a mobile system, one that no longer requires installing a charging point but can use a normal household plug. The security of the system was one of the challenges overcome by…

Relieving Electric Vehicle Range Anxiety with Improved Batteries

April 16, 2014 (Source: PNNL) -- Electric vehicles could travel farther and more renewable energy could be stored with lithium-sulfur batteries that use a unique powdery nanomaterial. Researchers added the powder, a kind of nanomaterial called a metal organic framework, to the battery's cathode to capture problematic polysulfides that usually cause lithium-sulfur batteries to fail after a few charges. A paper describing the material and its performance was published online April 4 in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters. "Lithium-sulfur batteries have the potential to power tomorrow's electric vehicles, but they need to last longer after each charge and be…

NREL Unlocking Secrets of New Solar Material

April 16, 2014 (Source: NREL) -- A new solar material that has the same crystal structure as a mineral first found in the Ural Mountains in 1839 is shooting up the efficiency charts faster than almost anything researchers have seen before—and it is generating optimism that a less expensive way of using sunlight to generate electricity may be in our planet's future. Researchers at the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are analyzing the new material, perovskite, using the lab's unique testing capabilities and broad spectrum of expertise to uncover the secrets and potential of the semiconducting cube-like mineral. NREL…

Team Finds Electricity can be Generated by Dragging Saltwater over Graphene

April 16, 2014 (Source: Phys.org) -- A team of researchers at China's Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, studying graphene properties, has discovered that the act of dragging saltwater over a piece of graphene can generate electricity. In their paper published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, the team describes how in seeking to turn the idea of submerging carbon nanotubes in a flowing liquid to generate a voltage on its head, they came upon the idea of simply dragging water droplets across graphene instead. Because of graphene's unique electrical properties, researchers have been hard at work trying to determine if it…

Shiny Quantum Dots Brighten Future of Solar Cells

April 15, 2014 (Source: LANL) -- A house window that doubles as a solar panel could be on the horizon, thanks to recent quantum-dot work by Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers in collaboration with scientists from University of Milano-Bicocca (UNIMIB), Italy. Their project demonstrates that superior light-emitting properties of quantum dots can be applied in solar energy by helping more efficiently harvest sunlight. “The key accomplishment is the demonstration of large-area luminescent solar concentrators that use a new generation of specially engineered quantum dots,” said lead researcher Victor Klimov of the Center for Advanced Solar Photophysics (CASP) at Los Alamos. Quantum…

Switchable Material Could Harness the Power of the Sun — Even When It’s not Shining.

April 14, 2014 (Source: MIT News) -- It’s an obvious truism, but one that may soon be outdated: The problem with solar power is that sometimes the sun doesn’t shine. Now a team at MIT and Harvard University has come up with an ingenious workaround — a material that can absorb the sun’s heat and store that energy in chemical form, ready to be released again on demand. This solution is no solar-energy panacea: While it could produce electricity, it would be inefficient at doing so. But for applications where heat is the desired output — whether for heating buildings, cooking,…

Research Finds “Tunable” Semiconductors Will Allow Better Detectors, Solar Cells

April 14, 2014 (Source: Georgia State University) -- One of the great problems in physics is the detection of electromagnetic radiation – that is, light – which lies outside the small range of wavelengths that the human eye can see. Think X-rays, for example, or radio waves. Now, researchers have discovered a way to use existing semiconductors to detect a far wider range of light than is now possible, well into the infrared range. The team hopes to use the technology in detectors, but also in improved solar cells that could absorb infrared light as well as the sun’s visible rays.…

Compact and Efficient Electromotor: The “MotorBrain” Research Team Presents the First Prototype at the Hannover Messe 2014

April 11, 2014 (Source: Infineon) -- German researchers present the prototype of an electric motor that may shape the future of electromobility: Small, light and efficient. The electric motor was created and constructed by the four German partners in the European research project “MotorBrain”: Infineon Technologies, Siemens, the Institute of Lightweight Engineering and Polymer Technology at the Technische Universität (Technical University) Dresden and ZF Friedrichshafen. The prototype is being presented at the Hannover Messe “MobiliTec” fair stand of the German federal government (Hall 27, Stand H51). The MotorBrain prototype is a highly integrated electric motor that unifies the most important components of…

Yingli Starts Construction Of 25 MW Of Solar Plants In China

April 11, 2014 (Source: Solar Industry Mag) -- Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. Ltd. has started construction of two ground-mounted photovoltaic plants with a combined capacity of 25 MW in Hebei province, China. Yingli Green Energy will supply the PV modules to be used in the projects, which the company says have the required grid interconnection permissions. Once completed, they will generate approximately 28.7 GWh of electricity per year. The total investment in the projects is expected to be at least $33 million, approximately 75% of which will be funded by committed loans from domestic banks and approximately 25% of which will…

High-Altitude Wind Turbines Have Potential to Generate Large Amounts of Electricity

April 11, 2014 (Source: University of Delaware) -- Wind turbines hovering high in the air and tethered to the ground, like kites, have the potential to generate huge amounts of electricity, based on a recent wind availability study led by the University of Delaware. Researchers pinpointed tracts of the atmosphere ideal for locating airborne wind energy (AWE) devices, which convert kinetic energy from wind into electricity. Findings published in the April issue of Renewable Energy show that there are enough areas usable by airborne turbines to produce several terawatts of electric power annually — more than enough needed to meet worldwide…

Stanford Scientists Model a Win-Win Situation: Growing Crops on Photovoltaic Farms

April 10, 2014 (Source: Stanford University) -- Growing agave and other carefully chosen plants amid photovoltaic panels could allow solar farms not only to collect sunlight for electricity but also to produce crops for biofuels, according to new computer models by Stanford scientists. This co-location approach could prove especially useful in sunny, arid regions such as the southwestern United States where water is scarce, said Sujith Ravi, who is conducting postdoctoral research with professors David Lobell and Chris Field, both on faculty in environmental Earth system science and senior fellows at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. "Co-located solar-biofuel systems…

Panasonic HIT® Solar Cell Achieves World’s Highest Energy Conversion Efficiency*1 of 25.6%*2 at Research Level

April 10, 2014 (Source: Panasonic Corporation) -- Panasonic Corporation today announced that it has achieved a conversion efficiency of 25.6% (cell area*3: 143.7 cm²) in its HIT® solar cells, a major increase over the previous world record for crystalline silicon-based solar cells. The previous record*4 for the conversion efficiency of crystalline silicon-based solar cells of a practical size (100 cm² and over) was 24.7%, as announced by Panasonic in February 2013 (cell area: 101.8 cm²). The new record is 0.9 points higher and the first to break through the 25% barrier for practical size cells. This new record is also an…

Scientists Produce Solar Panels From Solar Energy And Say It Will Reduce Costs

April 9, 2014 (Source: IBTImes) -- Chemical engineers at Oregon State University are capturing the sun’s power to produce not only solar energy, but also the materials to create the solar panels and the technology could cut solar energy costs and production time. “Our system can synthesize solar energy materials in minutes compared to other processes that might take 30 minutes to two hours,” Chih-Hung Chang, lead author of the study and a professor of chemical engineering at the university, told the Daily Fusion. “This gain in operation speed can lower cost.” The researchers’ findings were published in late March in RSC Advances,…

Tesla is no ‘Apple of the car industry’, say Chinese state-owned carmakers

April 9, 2014 (Source: SCMP) -- When asked whether the cutting-edge electric carmaker Tesla Motors may be a game changer in the global car industry like Apple was to the mobile phone industry, Chinese state-owned carmakers shrugged off such comparisons. Xu Heyi, chairman of Beijing Automotive Industry Holding (BAIC), one of China's leading state-owned carmakers, answered very succinctly: “Impossible”. Xu also asserted that Tesla boss Elon Musk was not about to become the next Steve Jobs. “[I’m] certain about that,” he said at this year’s Boao Forum for Asia, an annual economic conference held in southern China’s Hainan province. California-based…