science + technology news

Solar cells feel the butterfly effect

February 16, 2009

Jiao Tong University scientists have produced a titanium dioxide deposit derived from the Paris peacock butterfly to make a solar cell photoanode with 10 per cent higher efficiency than normal.

Solar cells get a boost from bouncing light

August 1, 2011

Engineers from the University of Minnesota have improved the efficiency of a type of solar cell by as much as 26 percent.

These cells, known as dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSC), are made of titanium dioxide (TiO2), a photosensitive material that is less expensive than the more traditional silicon solar cells, which are rapidly approaching the theoretical limit of their efficiency.… read more

Solar cells in smartphone screens

January 19, 2012

To extend the time between cellphone charges, researchers at the London Centre for Nanotechnology, University College London, built a prototype device that converts ambient light into electricity, using an array of solar cells made of thin-film hydrogenated amorphous silicon that sits below the display. It can also harness wasted light that escapes at the edges of  displays.

Solar cells more efficient than photosynthesis — for now

May 13, 2011

Legacy Biochemistry I: Light Saturation

Solar cells are currently more efficient at converting light to energy than plants, but that will change with synthetic biology and genetic engineering, Robert Blankenship of Washington University and colleagues argue in an article in the latest issue of Science.

In a detailed analysis, they compare the pros and cons of photosynthesis and solar cells. Plants are naturally less efficient because they must power a… read more

Solar cells that can be recycled

March 27, 2013

Photograph of a solar cell fabricated at Georgia Tech on nanocellulose substrates derived from trees. Photo courtesy of Canek Fuentes-Hernandez

Georgia Institute of Technology and Purdue University researchers have developed efficient solar cells using natural substrates derived from plants such as trees.

By fabricating them on cellulose nanocrystal (CNC) substrates, the solar cells can be quickly recycled in water at the end of their lifecycle.

The technology is published in the open-access journal Scientific Reports.

The researchers report that the organic solar cells reach a… read more

Solar Cells That Work All Day

April 17, 2007

Georgia Tech Research Institute researchers have developed solar cells designed to operate at relatively high efficiencies during much of the day.

Its surface consists of hundreds of thousands of 100-micrometer-high towers that catch light at many angles.

A first application is powering spacecraft and satellites, which could benefit from solar cells that don’t require a failure-prone mechanical means of moving the orientation of the cell to keep it… read more

Solar could meet California energy demand three to five times over

March 17, 2015

Parabolic trough mirrors used for steam generation in concentrated solar power plants (credit: NOAA)

Carnegie Science researchers have found that the amount of energy that could be generated from solar equipment constructed on and around existing infrastructure in California would exceed the state’s demand by up to five times.

“Integrating solar facilities into the urban and suburban environment causes the least amount of land-cover change and the lowest environmental impact,” according to Carnegie’s Rebecca R. Hernandez (now at… read more

Solar distributed generation system prices to fall by 15% to 30% by 2020

January 23, 2014

Falling module prices have helped to bring down the cost of solar installations, but now balance of system (BOS) components like racking and mounting are key targets of cost reduction, as distributed generation system prices fall by between 15% and 30% by 2020 depending on geography, according to Lux Research.

Along with continuing module efficiency improvements, these advances willread more

Solar for Dark Climates

July 8, 2009

A system developed by Cool Energy that produces heat and electricity from the sun could help make solar energy competitive with conventional sources of energy in relatively dark and cold climates.

The system combines a conventional solar water heater with a new Stirling-engine-based generator. In cool months, the solar heater provides hot water and space heating. In warmer months, excess heat is used to drive the Stirling engine and… read more

‘Solar funnel’ concentrates solar energy 100 times

September 13, 2010

This filament containing about 30 million carbon nanotubes absorbs energy from the sun as photons and then re-emits photons of lower energy, creating the fluorescence seen here. The red regions indicate highest energy intensity, and green and blue are lower intensity. (Geraldine Paulus)

Using carbon nanotubes, MIT chemical engineers have found a way to concentrate solar energy 100 times more than a regular photovoltaic cell. Such nanotubes could form antennas that capture and focus light energy, potentially allowing much smaller and more powerful solar arrays.

Solar cells are usually grouped in large arrays, often on rooftops, because each cell can generate only a limited amount of power. However, not every… read more

Solar Industry: No Breakthroughs Needed

August 3, 2009

Incremental advances have made transformational technologies unnecessary, challenging the federal government’s new investments in research into “transformational” solar technologies that represent radical departures from existing crystalline-silicon or thin-film technologies, which will take decades to come to market, industry experts say.

Solar Map: More Than 30 Utility-Scale Solar Plants in the U.S.

August 29, 2008

A Google map shows more than 30 utility-scale solar power plants one megawatt or larger in various stages of development in the U.S.

Solar Market Reaches $100 Billion In 2013

October 2, 2008

Solar is poised for continued impressive growth, with new installations primed to increase nearly five-fold from 2008 to 2013. Starting in 2009, however, supply will exceed demand, leading to price decreases.

According to the new report from Lux Research entitled “Solar State of the Market Q3 2008: The Rocky Road to $100 Billion,” this change will transform the solar industry, creating a market where sales grow dramatically,… read more

Solar paint is inefficient but simple to make

January 4, 2012


Notre Dame researchers have developed a simple, cheap alternative to traditional solar cells: solar paint, IEEE Spectrum Energywise reports.

The paint, made with semiconducting nanoparticles, achieved a one percent conversion rate when tested using artificial sunlight. This is far behind other solar technologies — which fall in the 10 to 15 percent range, generally — but the ease of manufacturing and use are clear advantages.

Ref.:… read more

Solar Panel Drops to $1 per Watt: Is this a Milestone or the Bottom for Silicon-Based Panels?

March 2, 2009

A solar power milestone was reached last week when First Solar Inc brought its manufacturing costs for cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar panels down to $1 per watt, eclipsing silicon panels, which are still in the $3 range.

The company estimates that it needs to get manufacturing costs down to $0.65 to $0.70 per watt and other installation costs down to $1 a watt to reach grid parity — goals… read more

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