Using Light to Make Solar Panels

December 30, 2011 by  
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A new optical furnace that uses intense light rather than a conventional furnace to heat the silicon to make solar cells saves about half the energy needed . The process uses a furnace with “highly reflective and heat-resistant ceramics to ensure that the light is absorbed only by a silicon wafer, not by the walls inside the furnace.” The process was developed by scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). In addition to providing improved efficiency in the production of the cells, the optical furnace also does a better job at removing some impurities, which makes for better output from the finished panels. Eventually, researchers on the project believe that this could provide a four percentage point increase in the efficiency of the solar cells produced with this method. image credit: NREL/Dennis Schroeder via: Treehugger

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Using Light to Make Solar Panels

Higher Efficiency with Quantum Dot Solar Cells

December 28, 2011 by  
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Photovoltaic technology has taken another step forward as researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have demonstrated a photocell with an external quantum efficiency over 100 percent using quantum dots . The new cell uses a process called Multiple Exciton Generation (MEG) that produces more than one electron-hole pair per absorbed photon, and reached a level of 114 percent. This development offers the possibility of increased efficiency in solar panels, and the technology is able to be manufactured using high-throughput roll-to-roll manufacturing. With the use of quantum dots, photocells could theoretically see as much as a 35 percent increase in power conversion efficiency above contemporary cells. The research cell was constructed as a “layered cell consisting of antireflection-coated glass with a thin layer of a transparent conductor, a nanostructured zinc oxide layer, a quantum dot layer of lead selenide treated with ethanedithol and hydrazine, and a thin layer of gold for the top electrode.” Note that this does not mean that the entire panel would have a total efficiency above 100% (which would be thermodynamically impossible). The quantum efficiency means only that the number of electron-hole pairs created in the cell is greater than the number of photons that are absorbed. Nonetheless, the advance provided by MEG could lead to the next generation of even more efficient solar energy collectors. image: Lawrence Berkeley Lab and CC-BY-SA 3.0 by Opticks3

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Higher Efficiency with Quantum Dot Solar Cells

Austin May Ban Plastic and Paper Bags

December 22, 2011 by  
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The City of Austin, Texas may enact one of the toughest bag bans in the country come 2016.  The city council is set to vote on the ban next month that would require retailers to only offer reusable bags. The ban would include a three-year adjustment period starting in 2013 for retailers and consumers to get prepared where single-use bags could still be purchased at 25 cents each.  Once 2016 hits though, only reusable bags would be allowed and that would include City of Austin facilities and all city events. Some single-use bags would be exempt from the ban, including:  restaurant carryout bags, bags for wine and beer, dry cleaning bags, newspaper delivery bags and bags that hold meat, fish, produce, bulk foods or pharmaceuticals. Reusable bags would be defined as bags that are made of fabric or durable materials or thick paper or plastic with some recycled content.  The city would pay for an aggressive marketing campaign to get the word out about the ban with proceeds from the 25 cent fee. via Austin Statesman Image via mtsofan

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Austin May Ban Plastic and Paper Bags

Quick-Charge Batteries Get a Boost from Defective Carbon Nanotubes

November 20, 2009 by  
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Researchers at the University of San Diego have discovered that carbon nanotubes don’t have to be perfect to do a better job.  The team of UCSD Professor Prabhakar Bandaru and grad student Mark Hoefer found that defective carbon nanotubes actually store energy more effectively than their unflawed counterparts. The effect, which was originally studied at UCSD by grad student Jeff Nichols, rests in the creation of just the right amount of defects – enough to create additional charge sites on the nanotube, but not enough to break down its electrical conductivity.  Though it’s a long way from commercialization, the breakthrough brings us one step closer to the Holy Grail of the electric car, and to the entire battery operated sustainable infrastructure of the future: a genuine quick-charging, long lasting battery

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Quick-Charge Batteries Get a Boost from Defective Carbon Nanotubes

The Healing Dish: Cayenne Pepper Spiced Organic Red Onion Spirals with Sweet Potato and Yam Chips

November 20, 2009 by  
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Organic baby sweet potatoes, yams, and red onions taste great when sliced thin, drizzled in olive oil, seasoned with a dash of organic cayenne pepper and baked. Did you know that red onions are rich in flavonoids, sulfur compounds and promote better bones? In fact, if you make them a staple in your dishes they just may help reduce certain types of cancer and the risk of heart disease

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The Healing Dish: Cayenne Pepper Spiced Organic Red Onion Spirals with Sweet Potato and Yam Chips

How Much Can Bike Commuting Curb Obesity?

November 19, 2009 by  
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GOOD excels at illustrating complex issues with infographics that are easy to understand and fun to look at.

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How Much Can Bike Commuting Curb Obesity?

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