These new materials, known as solar textiles, work like the now-familiar photovoltaic cells in solar panels. Made of semiconductor materials, they absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity.
Kennedy uses 3-D modeling software to design with solar textiles, generating membrane-like surfaces that can become energy-efficient cladding for roofs or walls. Solar textiles may also be draped like curtains.
"Surfaces that define space can also be producers of energy," says Kennedy, a visiting lecturer in architecture. "The boundaries between traditional walls and utilities
Harvesting sunlight before turning it into electricity could become easier thanks to an exotic organic dye developed in the US.
Coated onto an ordinary sheet of glass, the dye traps light inside the glass allowing it to be channelled to photovoltaic cells placed along the edges of the sheet.
The technique, say its inventors, could turn up to 20% of incident light into electricity at a fraction of the cost of conventional photovoltaic cells.
One way to reduce the cost of photovoltaic power is to focus light from a large area onto a small cell. In that way, a small cell can harvest light from a larger area. But the collecting optics must track the Sun's path across the sky, requiring expensive machinery and control systems.
The dye-covered glass works differently. The dye molecules absorb sunlight over a wide range of visible wavelengths and then emit light at a longer wavelength.
Toyota's next generation of Prius hybrid cars will be fitted with solar panels to power on-board electrical items such as the air-conditioning system, it is reported.
The third generation model of the car, which can be driven by its petrol engine or its electric motor, or both, will be launched next year.
It is not yet known how much the solar panels on the new Prius cars would cost, or how many solar-mounted versions Toyota would build.
UK prime minister Gordon Brown wants to build 3000 turbines around the UK's coast, part of a plan that will see renewable energy provide 30 per cent of the nation's electricity by 2020. The US Bureau of Land Management is less bullish. It plans to defer any further applications for solar power projects while it conducts an environmental review, with the fate of the desert tortoise one cause for concern. The review is expected to take about two years.
The CNR Bologna team has also applied the technique to studies of organic photovoltaic materials, plastic solar cells in other words, which could significantly cut the costs of renewable solar energy and make it commercially viable. They are testing structurally well-defined plastics known as polyisocyanopeptide polymers as scaffolds on which they can arrange thousands of electron-accepting molecules, among them a group of organic molecules known as the perylene-bis(dicarboximides).
The result is that they can produce hundreds of nanometre-long light-absorbing wires
Imagine windows that not only provide a clear view and illuminate rooms, but also use sunlight to efficiently help power the building they are part of. MIT engineers report a new approach to harnessing the sun's energy that could allow just that.
The work, reported in the July 11 issue of Science, involves the creation of a novel "solar concentrator." "Light is collected over a large area [like a window] and gathered, or concentrated, at the edges," explains Marc A. Baldo, leader of the work and the Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Career Development Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering.
As a result, rather than covering a roof with expensive solar cells (the semiconductor devices that transform sunlight into electricity), the cells only need to be around the edges of a flat glass panel. In addition, the focused light increases the electrical power obtained from each solar cell "by a factor of over 40," Baldo says
Sometime within the next decade your electric company might very well be a thing of the past.
Imagine being completely off of the grid, no need for ugly power lines, power outages during a storm, or an ever rising electric bill. Instead you simply paint your house with a photovoltaic paint!
Scientists are currently developing just such a thing. Using a combination of a plastic composite and nano-carbon tubes this photovoltaic paint converts the suns energy into electricity. In fact these nano-solar cells can actually harness the suns infra-red rays and could one day be up to 5 times more efficient than current solar cells.
This is not a pipe dream, nor is it a technology so far away that we’ll never see it. This is a current reality that will most likely be available to the public within the next decade. In fact the only thing left with this technology to perfect is the ability to get the nano-cells to correctly align themselves to allow an efficient flow between cells. And this is perfectly workable problem.
5 years from now you may very well take a trip down to the hardware store and buy some of this photovoltaic paint, spray your home with it, and never pay an electric bill again!
Researchers at TU Delft and the FOM Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter have found irrefutable proof that the so-called avalanche effect by electrons occurs in specific, very small semiconducting crystals. This physical effect could pave the way for cheap, high-output solar cells. The findings are to be published in scientific journal Nano Letters.
In some semiconducting nanocrystals, however, one photon can release two or three electrons, hence the term avalanche effect. This could theoretically lead to a maximum output of 44 percent in a solar cell comprising the correct semiconducting nanocrystals. Moreover, these solar cells can be manufactured relatively cheaply
Researchers have devised an inexpensive way to produce plastic sheets containing billions of nanoantennas that collect heat energy generated by the sun and other sources. The technology, developed at the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory, is the first step toward a solar energy collector that could be mass-produced on flexible materials.
Anyone who has walked barefoot across a parking lot on a hot summer day knows that blacktop is exceptionally good at soaking up the sun’s warmth. Now, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has found a way to use that heat-soaking property for an alternative energy source.
Through asphalt, the researchers are developing a solar collector that could turn roads and parking lots into ubiquitous—and inexpensive–sources of electricity and hot water
Requiring nothing but abundant, non-toxic natural materials, this discovery could unlock the most potent, carbon-free energy source of all: the sun. "This is the nirvana of what we've been talking about for years," said MIT's Daniel Nocera, the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy at MIT and senior author of a paper describing the work in the July 31 issue of Science. "Solar power has always been a limited, far-off solution. Now we can seriously think about solar power as unlimited and soon."
Inspired by the photosynthesis performed by plants, Nocera and Matthew Kanan, a postdoctoral fellow in Nocera's lab, have developed an unprecedented process that will allow the sun's energy to be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases. Later, the oxygen and hydrogen may be recombined inside a fuel cell, creating carbon-free electricity to power your house or your electric car, day or night.
The key component in Nocera and Kanan's new process is a new catalyst that produces oxygen gas from water; another catalyst produces valuable hydrogen gas. The new catalyst consists of cobalt metal, phosphate and an electrode, placed in water. When electricity — whether from a photovoltaic cell, a wind turbine or any other source — runs through the electrode, the cobalt and phosphate form a thin film on the electrode, and oxygen gas is produced.
Combined with another catalyst, such as platinum, that can produce hydrogen gas from water, the system can duplicate the water splitting reaction that occurs during photosynthesis.
The new catalyst works at room temperature, in neutral pH water, and it's easy to set up, Nocera said. "That's why I know this is going to work. It's so easy to implement," he said.