A new type of nano-structured glass can bounce water and dirt off its surface, cleaning itself and preventing fogging, according to MIT researchers. It eliminates glare, too, allowing light to penetrate with pure clarity. It could be used for anything from solar panels to future car windshields to new gadget screens.
On the ground, solar power has its limitations. Solar cells are not especially efficient. It rains. The sun disappears at night. A space-based solar panel can generate five times the energy of a similar panel on Earth by circumventing both weather and hours lost to darkness. A 2007 study by the National Space Society estimates that a half-mile-wide band of photovoltaics in geosynchronous orbit with Earth could generate the energy equivalent of all the oil remaining on the planet over the course of one year. Though costly, launching working solar satellites is possible today. It's transmitting the captured energy to Earth that presents a challenge—one that scientists are just starting to work on.
Teams of viruses can help build better solar panels by ensuring nanoscale components behave properly, according to a new study. MIT researchers say their virus-assisted breakthrough could improve solar panels’ energy conversion efficiency by one-third.
I probably dont have to tell you that its been hot this week—almost every state in the country reported a high temperature above 90�F somewhere within its borders yesterday. And as we all know, oppressive heat means oppressive energy consumption, a vicious cycle that perpetuates the effects of global warming. New York Citys power company, Con Edison, reported all-time usage records earlier this week as people remained indoors with their air conditioning cranked, causing scattered blackouts across the city (our managing editor has been without power for three days). But what if our air conditioners were able to harness some of the suns wicked heat and turn it into the life-saving cool air on which our comfort depends? Florida-based Matteran Energy might be able to help us do just that.
Instead of using expensive photovoltaic cells to convert solar radiation to electricity directly, Matterans solution uses far-cheaper thermal-collection technology to heat a synthetic fluid with a very low boiling point (around 58�F), creating enough steam to drive a specially designed turbine. And although a fluid-circuit system converting heat into electricity is nothing new, Matterans innovative solution increases the systems efficiency to a point where small-scale applications make economic sense (see the animation on the companys Web site for a more thorough explanation).
So far, Matteran has created only small amounts of refrigeration, but the technology is in place to take the next step, creating a unit with the equivalent cooling of a standard window-mounted A/C that is powered entirely by the suns heat—something I dont think our carbon-choked planet will be running out of anytime soon. —John Mahoney
Link matteranenergy.com (via Treehugger)
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