science + technology news

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

Solar plane takes off for 24-hour test flight

July 7, 2010


Solar Impulse, an experimental solar-powered plane whose Swiss makers hope to one day circle the globe using only energy collected from the sun took off for its first 24-hour test flight Wednesday. If successful, the next step will be an Atlantic crossing.

Pilot Andre Borschberg took the plane to an altitude of 27,900 feet (8,500 meters).

Photos:read more

Solar Power at Half the Cost

May 11, 2007

A new mechanism for focusing light on small areas of photovoltaic material could make solar power in residential and commercial applications cheaper than electricity from the grid in most markets in the next few years.

Solar power could provide 10% of US energy: report

March 11, 2010

The U.S. could source 10 percent of its electricity from solar power by 2030, up from just 0.1 percent in 2008, according to a report produced by the independent environmental group Environment America.

Solar power game-changer: ‘Near perfect’ absorption of sunlight, from all angles

November 4, 2008

A new nanoengineered anti-reflective coating developed by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute researchers
boosts the amount of sunlight captured by solar panels (from 67 to 96 percent) and allows them to absorb the entire spectrum of sunlight from any angle, regardless of the sun’s position in the sky.

It could help to overcome two major hurdles blocking the progress and wider use of solar power.

Solar power much cheaper to produce than most analysts realize, study finds

December 13, 2011

The public is being kept in the dark about the viability of solar photovoltaic energy, according to a study conducted at Queen’s University. The real cost in 2011 is under $1 per watt for solar panels purchased in bulk on the global market, he says.

“Many analysts project a higher cost for solar photovoltaic energy because they don’t consider recent technological advancements and price reductions,”… read more

Solar Power to Rule in 20 Years, Futurists Say

February 25, 2008

Speaking on behalf of a panel of experts convened by the National Association of Engineers to address the 14 “grand challenges of the 21st century,” Ray Kurzweil said solar power will scale up to produce all the energy needs of Earth’s people in 20 years.

Members of the panel are “confident that we are not that far away from a tipping point where energy from solar will be [economically]… read more

Solar power without solar cells: A hidden magnetic effect of light could make it possible

April 15, 2011

A dramatic and surprising magnetic effect of light discovered by University of Michigan researchers could lead to solar power without traditional semiconductor-based solar cells.

The researchers found a way to make an “optical battery,” said Stephen Rand, a professor in the departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Physics and Applied Physics.

Light has electric and magnetic components. Until now, scientists thought the effects of the… read more

Solar Roofing Materials

September 12, 2008

United Solar Ovonic of Auburn Hills, MI, has teamed with Centria, a major roofing company, to create a metal roof system that integrates easy-to-install, flexible thin-film amorphous-silicon photovoltaic modules.

The partnership offers seven different prefabricated systems, ranging in capacity from 3 to 120 kilowatts, and could pay for itself in less than 10 years, Centria says.

Solar sail unfurled in orbit

January 25, 2011

artist's concept of a solar sail in Earth orbit (NASA)

NASA’s NanoSail-D spacecraft has become unstuck and has unfurled a gleaming sheet of space-age fabric 650 km above Earth, becoming the first-ever solar sail to circle our planet.

NanoSail-D spent the previous month and a half stuck inside its mothership, the Fast, Affordable, Science and Technology SATellite (FASTSAT). FASTSAT was launched in November 2010 with NanoSail-D and five other experiments onboard. High above Earth, a spring was… read more

Solar System’s ‘look-alike’ found

April 8, 2008

Astronomers have discovered a planetary system orbiting a distant star which looks much like our own.

They found two planets that were close matches for Jupiter and Saturn orbiting a star about half the size of our Sun and about 5,000 light-years away.

‘Solar thermal fuel’ polymer film can harvest sunlight by day, release heat on-demand

Clothing that keeps you warm and windshields that melt ice are two of the possible uses
January 7, 2016

Solar thermal fuel polymer film comprised of three distinct layers (4 to 5 microns in thickness for each). Cross-linking after each layer enables building up films of tunable thickness. (credit: Courtesy of the researchers)

MIT researchers have developed a new transparent polymer film that can store solar energy during the day and release it later as heat, whenever needed. The material could be applied to many different surfaces, such as window glass or clothing.

The new material solves a problem with renewable solar energy: the Sun is not available at night or on stormy days. Most solutions have focused on storing and recovering… read more

Solar X-rays may create DNA building blocks on Titan

June 29, 2009

Blasting the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan with X-rays can produce adenine, a base component of DNA, a new laboratory study suggests.

When meteoroid impacts deliver water to the moon’s surface, the finding adds to evidence that Titan may be ripe for life.

Solar-Power Breakthrough

August 1, 2008

Daniel Nocera, a professor of chemistry at MIT, has made a major advance in chemistry that could lead to a cheap way to store energy from the sun, solving one of the key problems in making solar energy a dominant source of electricity.

He has developed a low-cost catalyst that can generate oxygen and hydrogen from water, and the hydrogen can then be burned or run through a fuel… read more

Solar-power materials head in a new direction: thinner

Atom-thick photovoltaic sheets could pack hundreds of times more power per weight than conventional solar cells
June 27, 2013

The MIT team found that an effective solar cell could be made from a stack of two one-molecule-thick materials: Graphene (a one-atom-thick sheet of carbon atoms, shown at bottom in blue) and molybdenum disulfide (above, with molybdenum atoms shown in red and sulfur in yellow). The two sheets together are thousands of times thinner than conventional silicon solar cells.<br />

MIT researchers are opening a new avenue for improving solar cells, aiming to produce the thinnest and most lightweight solar panels possible.

Such panels, which have the potential to surpass any substance other than reactor-grade uranium in terms of energy produced per pound of material, could be made from stacked sheets of one-molecule-thick materials such as graphene or molybdenum disulfide.

Jeffrey Grossman,… read more

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