science + technology news

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

Solar-power paint lets you generate as you decorate

March 10, 2008

A consortium led by Swansea University, UK, is developing solar-power paint could allow roofs and walls of buildings to generate electricity.

The paint will be based on dye-sensitised solar cells. While less efficient than conventional cells, dye-based cells do not require expensive silicon and can be quickly applied as a liquid paste.

Solar-powered 3-D printer prints glass from sand

June 29, 2011

Solar Sinter

Markus Kaiser’s  solar sintering project explores the potential of desert manufacturing, where energy and material occur in abundance.

In this experiment, sunlight and sand are used as raw energy and material to produce glass objects using a 3D printing process, combining natural energy and material with high-tech production technology.

His work with solar-sintering aims to raise questions about the future of manufacturing and the use of solar energy.… read more

Solar-powered implant could restore vision

April 23, 2006

A solar-powered chip that stimulates retinal cells by spraying them with neurotransmitters could restore sight to blind people.

Solar-Powered Laser

September 19, 2007

A new kind of efficient, solar-powered laser developed by researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology is intended to combust the magnesium content of seawater, generating large amounts of heat and hydrogen.

Solar-Powered Plane

April 9, 2010


The maiden test flight of the first ultra-lightweight experimental solar plane, the Solar Impulse, lifted off at a military airport in the Swiss countryside Wednesday.

The plane, designed by a Swiss team headed by Bertrand Piccard, has wings as wide as a Boeing 747. Equipped with 12,000 solar cells, 880 pounds of lithium batteries and four 10 horsepower electric motors, the plane weighs about… read more

Solar-powered sea slug harnesses stolen plant genes

November 25, 2008

Mary Rumpho of the University of Maine has discovered the sea slug runs on solar power by photosynthesis, using genes “stolen” from the algae it eats.

Solaris movie: slow-paced scifi

December 2, 2002

Solaris, a movie adapted from the brilliant scifi novel by Stanislaw Lem and set on a space station, features shape-shifting reality, a mysterious planet that reads minds, and replicants, but lapses into slow-paced, soporific gloom.


New York Times
Chicago Sun-Times

Soldier of the Future: Army Turns to Nanotechnology

March 18, 2002

Backed by a US Army grant of $50 million over five years, MIT has launched a new Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies.

The institute is tasked with innovating materials and designs that will reinvent soldiers’ uniforms, turning them into high tech gear that rivals the best science fiction.
Among the capabilities of the futuristic fabrics: morphing to improve camouflage, stiffening to splint broken limbs, and storing energy that can be… read more

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