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.
One of the major barriers between solar energy and solar-derived electricity is solar cells themselves--commercial solar cells aren’t very efficient at converting sunlight to electricity, but they are the best thing we’ve got. Now, a team of University of Michigan researchers have potentially devised a better way to convert solar energy into electricity: get rid of the semiconductor-based solar cells altogether and tap into the magnetic effects of light.
A group of Swedish researchers are looking beyond plants for living models upon which to base their solar harvesting tech, turning instead to the photovoltaic prowess of the jellyfish. Tapping a protein in the jellyfish Aequorea victoria known as green fluorescent protein (GFP), the team has assembled a device that converts ultraviolet light into free electrons using a drop of green goo.
Plants are extremely efficient converters of light into energy, more or less setting the bar for researchers creating photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight into electricity. As such, researchers are constantly trying to mimic the tricks that millions of years of evolution and development have taught to plant biology. Now, a team of MIT scientists believe they've done it, creating a synthetic, self-assembling chloroplast that can be broken down and reassembled repeatedly, restoring solar cells that are damaged by the sun.
In recent years, the U.S. military has been making small strides toward a greener energy standard – the Navy wants to create a green strike group by 2012, while the Air Force has been testing biofuels in its aircraft. But for troops on the ground relying increasingly on electronic devices, solar is the way forward. With that in mind, DARPA has assembled an industry-academic team of photovoltaic leaders to create the next generation of battle-ready solar cells that achieve 20 percent conversion while standing up to harsh combat conditions.
If sustainability is key to the new energy economy, a team of University of Pennsylvania researchers has just taken a big step toward the future by developing the first photovoltaic circuit that powers itself. The circuits could eventually be packed into touchscreens and other consumer devices that would run without a battery or any other source of power, as long as they have a beam of sunlight to harvest.
When it comes to energy efficiency, there’s still no substitute for millions upon millions of years of evolution. Scientists at UC Berkeley have found a way to hack common tobacco plants to grow synthetic photovoltaic and photochemical cells that can be extracted, dissolved in solution and sprayed onto a glass or plastic substrate to create solar panels. That’s the idea, anyhow.
What happens when you add 64,000 tiny components to a base of oil and water? Depending on the nature of the components, you might end up with a delectable vinaigrette. University of Minnesota researchers found something even more tantalizing: a self-assembly method that is particularly effective at joining extremely small components in electronic devices.
Suburban rave-goers, women of Jersey Shore, and Elton John, take note: your lives just got a little bit greener. The sartorial risk-takers over at Sandia National Labs have created glitter-sized photovoltaic cells that could revolutionize solar energy collection the way Liberace revolutionized the dress code for concert pianists.
Even as some of the world moves into a future of unimaginably complex technology, many communities still lack the basic electrical infrastructure needed to power even simply electric devices like light bulbs. Unwilling to wait for the wiring to catch up to the demand, Danish researcher Frederik Krebs has created an LED lamp embedded within a flexible, printable solar panel that could replace the kerosene lamps still used around the developing world.