Indian ‘fruit of the gods’ could lower cost of solar cells by 40%

May 4, 2017 by  
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Could India’s ‘fruit of the gods’ help lower the price of solar cells ? Scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee discovered jamun, a black plum, contains a pigment able to absorb sunlight. They think utilizing the fruit in mass production of solar panels could slash costs. Jamun, Syzygium cumini , is indigenous to south Asia and is sold on the street for cheap prices. Jamun trees can grow to be nearly 100 feet tall and live for 100 years, and the black plums from those trees are lauded for medicinal and nutritional value. But now they may play a role in generating clean energy as well, thanks to their pigment anthocyanin. Related: India doubles down on solar power with huge park capacity increase IIT-Roorkee assistant professor Soumitra Satapathi told Quartz India, “We were looking at why the jamuns are black. We extracted the pigment using ethanol and found that anthocyanin was a great absorber of sunlight.” Satapathi and two other researchers from the institute used that anthocyanin as a sensitizer in dye sensitized solar cells (DSSCs). They think utilizing naturally occurring dyes, like the jamun pigment, could lower solar panel costs by 40 percent. Anthocyanin is also found in blueberries, raspberries, cherries, and cranberries. DSSCs aren’t as efficient as traditional silicon-based solar cells yet, but could offer a low cost alternative – beneficial especially for India as the country aims to gain 40 percent of energy from renewables by 2030. But the IIT scientists aren’t quite there yet; their DSSCs only have an efficiency of 0.5 percent, contrasted with traditional solar cells’ efficiency of over 15 percent. Nevertheless, the scientists pointed out jamun is widely available, and could offer a biodegradable , non-toxic alternative to synthetic dyes that have been used in DSSCs. The IEEE Journal of Photovoltaics published the research online recently. Via EcoWatch and Quartz India Images via Dinesh Valke on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Panasonic investing $256M in Tesla’s Buffalo solar manufacturing plant

December 29, 2016 by  
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Following Tesla ’s recent acquisition of SolarCity, the California-based company just scored another big win. Panasonic will invest more than $256 million in Tesla’s New York solar cell factory. The Japan-based electronics company is already partnering with Tesla to build electric car batteries at its Nevada Gigafactory, and this investment, announced December 27, positions Panasonic more firmly in the automotive industry than ever before, marking the fulfillment of the company’s’s gradual shift away from consumer electronics. Tesla’s production facility in Buffalo is expected to be up and running within just a few months. According to Tuesday’s announcement, production of photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules will begin in the summer of 2017. By 2019, the two companies expect to be churning out the equivalent of one gigawatt of solar power modules each year. Related: Tesla taps Panasonic to build solar panels for their Powerwall and Powerpack systems The news of Panasonic ’s hefty investment in the Buffalo manufacturing plant is the first development since Tesla first named the electronics company as its partner in mid-October, which was contingent on the completion of Tesla’s merger with SolarCity . While that initial announcement came with very few details (in part because the merger wouldn’t be finalized for another month), this update illustrates the enormous scope of Panasonic’s commitment to the solar power market. The PV modules Panasonic produces at Tesla’s facility will be used primarily in the Powerwall and Powerpack systems, Tesla’s off-grid power solutions. While Tesla’s “solar roof” is still on deck, there is no word on when production on that line might begin. SolarCity previously promised the creation of over 1,400 jobs at the Buffalo facility and Tesla’s announcement Tuesday reaffirms that commitment and elaborates that the figure includes more than 500 manufacturing jobs—an important footnote for a city that once relied heavily on blue collar industries like steel and automotive manufacturing. Via Reuters Images via SolarCity and Panasonic

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"Invisible Dyaqua solar cells look just like stone, concrete, and wood

October 17, 2016 by  
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These familiar styles help designers avoid what the company calls “visual damage” typically associated with clunky solar panels . Buildings can be updated to include renewable energy generation without losing their historic charm. Each fixture is made from recyclable and non-toxic materials and can withstand the elements, whether affixed to a roof or patterned into a walkway. The unique assembly includes a top layer which is opaque to the eye, but allows solar rays through to the hidden photovoltaic cells inside. Related: Trailblazing slate tiles with hidden solar thermal reduce energy use by 85% Invisible Solar has already started production on its Rooftile, which is made to resemble classic clay tiles. They recently launched an Indiegogo campaign to fund their new designs, which will allow backers to gain early access to the brilliant new fixtures. Samples of each style will be sent out to each backer stamped as special edition and featuring a connection to an LED source to demonstrate the product’s power. + Dyaqua Invisible Solar Images via Dyaqua Invisible Solar

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"Invisible Dyaqua solar cells look just like stone, concrete, and wood

New 3D solar cells capture sunlight from every angle

July 20, 2016 by  
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Georgia Tech scientists developed three-dimensional solar cells which just hitched a ride to space this week on a SpaceX rocket. At the International Space Station , the solar cells will be tested to see how well they function and how they respond to space conditions. The solar cells have been designed to capture the sun’s rays from every angle, which could enable spacecraft to gain more power from a limited surface area. The experimental module blasted into space includes four different types of solar cells. One type is a “traditional planar” solar cell, and a second is a planar cell based on a formulation of low-cost materials: copper-zinc-tin-sulfide (CZTS). These materials cost about ” a thousand times less than the rare-earth elements ” like selenium and indium used in some solar cells. There are also two types of 3-D solar cells: one “based on CZTS” and the other “based on conventional cadmium telluride.” There are 18 solar cells total, and they will be tested in space for six months. Related: 2,500 orbiting solar “flying carpets” could power the planet 3-D solar cells could forever alter the way spacecrafts receive power. The Georgia Tech solar cells are described as miniature “towers” coated with a “photo-absorber.” Instead of requiring the sun to be right above them to work, the innovative 3-D solar cells can capture sunlight over longer periods of time. Georgia Tech Research Institute principal research engineer Jud Ready said in a press release , “We want to see both the light-trapping performance of our 3-D solar cells and how they are going to respond to the harshness of space.” After six months, the solar cells will return to Earth so scientists can study how they held up in space. According to Ready, “If it can survive in space, which is the harshest of environments from the standpoint of wide temperature swings, radiation, and numerous other factors, then we can be confident it will work well down on Earth.” Via Phys.org Images via Gary Meek, Georgia Tech

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Scientists create transparent wood that could brighten up your home

April 1, 2016 by  
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Leave it to a bunch of scientists to take something from nature and find a way to improve it. Researchers at Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology have developed a new transparent ‘wood’ material that could someday help homeowners bring more natural light into their abodes, thereby cutting down on artificial lighting costs. The economic new construction material could also be used in solar cell windows, adding an extra benefit for energy-conscious homeowners. Read the rest of Scientists create transparent wood that could brighten up your home

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Leonardo DiCaprio pledges abstinence until the world quits fossil fuels

April 1, 2016 by  
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Fans of Leonardo DiCaprio may be sad to learn he has pledged abstinence until we end our collective addiction to fossil fuels . Widely celebrated for his environmental activism, the Oscar-winning actor cited widespread apathy despite unprecedented concentrations of atmospheric carbon emissions as the reason behind this drastic move. He said, “by abstaining from sexual intercourse, which – don’t get me wrong – is something I enjoy very much, I am sending the message that sometimes we have to make enormous personal sacrifices for the sake of the greater good.” Read the rest of Leonardo DiCaprio pledges abstinence until the world quits fossil fuels

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MIT researchers develop thinnest, lightest solar cells ever made

February 29, 2016 by  
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MIT researchers have produced what they believe is the thinnest, lightest solar cell ever produced , capable of being installed on almost any surface or device. In lab tests, the new process results in a super-thin solar cell that is so light it can be placed on the surface of a soap bubble without causing the bubble to burst. Although the technology is still years away from commercial production, this breakthrough could one day lead to a world without cell phone charging cables, and give us the ability to power nearly any portable device with a built-in solar array without adding substantial weight or bulk. Read the rest of MIT researchers develop thinnest, lightest solar cells ever made

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Foldable Wide Path Camper is a whole different kind of bike trailer

October 25, 2015 by  
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Solar Palms bring exotic solar lighting in the shape of a palm tree to your next party

October 2, 2015 by  
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Wavy solar panels inspired by Japanese kirigami collect 30% extra energy

September 10, 2015 by  
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If you’ve ever folded a piece of paper, cut an intricate design, and unfolded it into a snowflake, you are already familiar with the latest technological advances in solar energy. Using the Japanese art of kirigami, researchers at the University of Michigan have created lattice-like strips of solar cells that can stretch to follow the sun throughout the day, collecting up to 30 percent more solar energy than conventional panels. Read the rest of Wavy solar panels inspired by Japanese kirigami collect 30% extra energy

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