This New Molecule Can Collect Solar Energy Without Solar Panels.


A big step towards a carbon-neutral future.

 The discussion on climate has persisted for decades since we first discovered that there is a human-made influence on the environment. From then, many researchers have come together to finagle innovations that reduce our industrial carbon footprint.

One such innovation is the molecular leaf.

 Liang-shi Li at Indiana University and an international team of scientists discovered this novel way to recycle carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere.

With the use of light or electricity, the molecule built by the team can convert the notorious greenhouse gas into carbon monoxide. The molecular leaf is the most efficient method of carbon reduction to date.

The carbon monoxide generated by this molecule could be reused as fuel. Burning carbon monoxide releases an abundance of energy as well as carbon dioxide.

Because converting carbon dioxide back into carbon monoxide requires as much energy as is released by burning carbon monoxide, this potential cycle has been largely one way, leading to a build-up of carbon dioxide.

molecular-leaf-graphic

The team’s work could lead to reducing this carbon dioxide build-up by making the conversion cycle more efficient and by harnessing solar power.

 The molecule’s nanographene structure has a dark colour that absorbs large amounts of sunlight. The energy from the sunlight is then utilised by the molecule’s rhenium ‘engine’ to produce carbon monoxide from carbon dioxide.

The molecular leaf would help us tackle the greenhouse gas effects of carbon dioxide. Since the industrial revolution, we have raised the levels of carbon dioxide from 280 parts per million to 400 parts per million in the last 150 years.

Scientists agree that there is a 95 percent probability that human-produced greenhouse gases have increased the Earth’s temperature over the past 50 years.

 While Li is glad that his innovation is efficient at tackling greenhouse gases, he hopes to improve the molecular leaf by producing one that can survive in a non-liquid form.

The team is also looking for ways to replace the rhenium element with manganese, which is far more common and therefore much more affordable for reproduction.

But even without these improvements, the molecular leaf could be a powerful tool in the efforts to halt climate change.

Watch the video. URL:https://youtu.be/sTvqIijqvTg

Source:http://www.sciencealert.com

These Solar Panels Can Generate Electricity Using Rain


IN BRIEF

Scientists are now able to create electricity with the assistance of raindrops. This is thanks to a thin layer of graphene they use to coat their solar cells during testing.

SOLAR POWER FOR RAINY DAYS

More and more funding is being spent on setting up alternative sources of energy. And solar power gets a huge piece of that pie. Indeed, whole nations are relying on solar power to provide energy to their cities. This is why solving the remaining ‘kinks’ in solar energy is increasingly important.

One such ‘kink’ is, simply put, rain.

Solar power has always been spotty in less than ideal weather conditions. Are cities just going to shut down when the clouds start appearing? Alas, it seems so. But there is hope.

Fortunately, a team of Chinese scientists are working to solve this problem. In a study published in Angewandte Chemie, Chinese scientists note that they are now able to create electricity with the assistance of raindrops. This is thanks to a thin layer of graphene they use to coat their solar cells during testing.

Image credit: Qunwei Tang

 

HARD CHEMISTRY

A layer of graphene one atom thick allowed an excessive amount of electrons to move as they wished across the surface for the panel.

These new solar cells can be stimulated by incident light on sunny days and raindrops when it’s raining, yielding an optimal energy conversion efficiency of 6.53 % under 1.5 atmosphere thickness irradiation.

In situations where water is present, like rain, graphene binds its electrons with positively charged ions in a process called the Lewis acid-base interaction.

The salt contained in rain separates into ions (ammonium, calcium, and sodium), making graphene and natural water a great combination for creating energy. The water actually clings to the graphene, forming a dual layer (AKA pseudocapacitor) with the graphene electrons. The energy difference between these layers is so strong that it generates electricity.

This new concept can guide the design of advanced all-weather solar cells.

Are Solar Panels Ugly or Beautiful?


When electric lines first appeared in front of the Paris Opera House, people weren’t too keen on it. But, “Once Paris decided it was going to be modern … people got used to it,” said Emanuel J. Carter Jr., an associate professor at the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry specializing in city planning.

As America is incorporating more and more solar energy into its grids, more and more solar arrays are meeting with community opposition.

One of the common reasons for opposition is aesthetics. With aesthetic worries often also comes the fear of decreasing property values near solar arrays.

“It’s simply a design problem,” Carter said. “Figure out how to make it beautiful and useful.”

Some residential panels are poorly installed without consideration of aesthetics. Some larger-scale community arrays could also be better designed.

To see examples of panels that may be considered ugly, 

Aldwin Teo/CC BY-SA)”>A file photo of solar panels on a temple in Singapore. (Aldwin Teo/CC BY-SA)

A file photo of solar panels on a temple in Singapore.

 

A house in Prague, Czech Republic, with solar panels. (cs:ŠJů/CC BY-SA)

A house in Czech Republic with solar panels.
A file photo of solar panels in Salerno, Italy. (Roquejaw/CC BY-SA)

A file photo of solar panels in Salerno, Italy.

“Part of it is a question of taking advantage of the right roof lines and going in the right direction,” Carter said. “But part of it is also having a community get used to the idea.”

Cities and towns have had to incorporate new elements for centuries, even millennia. In the past couple of centuries, many modern elements of city infrastructure have appeared, including telephone and electrical lines.

Like transportation, roadways, and any other element of city planning, solar arrays should be carefully considered, Carter said.

“Any good urban designer, any good landscape architect can design the area around a solar array so that it actually becomes beautiful, perhaps even sculptural,” he said. “Perhaps the streets around it are heavily tree-lined so that any sense of glare or any sense of a monotonous flat field of something becomes hidden.

“It doesn’t have to be something that is ugly right across the street from a lot of houses that devalue the houses.”

(DutchScenery/Shutterstock)

 

(Olivier Le Queinec/Shutterstock)

Carter himself has solar panels on his home in Syracuse, New York, which plug into the grid and provide 80 percent of his electricity. Some of his neighbors do the same.

Many Americans have put up solar panels only to be forced by homeowner associations to take them down again. Solar Town, a clean energy systems provider, suggests people check the Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions issued by their homeowner association.

Common obstacles presented by the CC&R include:

Restrictions related to architectural style, which may open the door to objects concerning how harmonious the panel design is with the rest of the building.

Restrictions on the placement of improvements, which may dictate that the panels can’t be visible from the street.

Restrictions on the placement of structures within a certain distance of property lines.

New England Clean Energy’s founder and president Mark Durrenberger gives further insights on his blog as to what makes a residential installation good, bad, or ugly.

For example it’s good to hide conduit runs under the panels and inside attics, instead of running them over the top of the roof.

He wrote: “If you’re going to put something on your home for a few decades, it should add to your home’s appeal, not detract from it.”

Shining more light on solar panels


Solar panels are the beacon of renewable energy, yet they are not getting as much light as they could be. Joshua Pearce from Michigan Technological University and a team from Queen’s University in Canada have found a way to get more sun to shine on the panels and crank up the output by 30 percent or more. The work is published in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Journal of Photovoltaics.

Shining more light on solar panels

“We’re looking at this from a systems perspective,” Pearce says, who is an associate professor of materials science and engineering and electrical and computing engineering. He explains that the research focused on the system rather than individual panels mostly because the current set up for ground-mounted solar panel arrays is “wasting space.”

The iconic flat-faced installed in large-scale utility solar farms are spaced apart to prevent shading. As the sun shines on a photovoltaic system, sending electricity into the grid, a fair amount of that potential energy is lost as the light hits the ground between rows of panels. The solution is simple, says Pearce: Fill the space with a reflector to bounce sunlight back onto the panels.

Reflectors, or planar concentrators, are not widely used, however.

“Panels are usually warranted for 20 to 30 years,” Pearce says, explaining the warranty only guarantees under certain circumstances. “If you’re putting more sunlight on the panel with a reflector, you will have greater temperature swings and non-uniform illumination, but simple optics makes wrong predictions on the effect.”

Because of the uncertainty with potential hot spots, using reflectors currently voids warranties for operators. Pearce and his co-authors, found a way to predict the effects using bi-directional reflectance function, or BDRF.

Although the phrase sounds like a nightmare from algebra class, it is actually a set of math equations that people are used to seeing. BDRF is often used in movies and videogames to create more life-like computer generated imagery (CGI) characters and scenes. This works because BDRF equations describe how light bounces off irregular surfaces and predicts how the light will scatter, creating indirect brightening and shadows.

For their solar panel work, Pearce’s team created a BDRF model that could predict how much sunlight would bounce off a reflector and where it would shine on the array. “Real surfaces do not necessarily behave like perfect mirrors, even if they look like it,” Pearce says. “So we applied [BDRF] models to these materials, which scatter the light instead.”

By showing how the reflectors scatter light, the researchers started to take the risk out of using reflectors with solar panels. But even better, the reflectors greatly increase solar system output.

“The mathematics behind this is complicated,” Pearce says, explaining that the team wanted to “validate the predictive model, so the solar industry could start using our equations to design better solar farms.”

So the team took their model to the field and ran an experiment on Canada’s Open Solar Outdoors Testing Field in Kingston, Ontario. The results shined much more light on the problem than predicted by others.

With standard panels, not tilted at the optimum angle for the latitude, the increase in efficiency reached 45 percent. Even with a panel optimally tilted, the efficiency increased by 18 percent and simulations show it could be pushed to 30 percent with better reflectors.

“We expend a lot of blood, sweat and tears to make solar panels as efficient as possible,” Pearce says. “We work so hard to get a fraction of a percent increase on the module level; double digit returns on the systems level was relatively easy.

Such a large increase of efficiency at the system level then could greatly change how solar panels are installed, and with the economic payback, it could even mean major retrofits for existing solar farms.

“Solar farms are already beating antiquated coal technology on cost all over the US,” Pearce says. “There are more solar workers than coal workers now as both in the U.S. and Canada, coal plants are being shut down for cheaper and more environmentally-friendly solar. This just offers to sweeten the economic returns for solar farm investors.”

“The main goal here was to hand the solar farm developers the data needed on a silver platter, which they can then use to modify their farms and crank up their output and revenue by about a third,” Pearce says.

This Clear Solar Cell Could Turn Every Window Into A Power Source.


Researchers from Michigan State University have developed a transparent solar cell capable of being used as a replacement for windows!

This Clear Solar Cell Could Turn Every Window Into A Power Source

This concept was once deemed impossible, due to the fact traditional solar panels absorb light and convert it into energy. Transparent surfaces are not capable of absorbing light. Researchers accomplished this feat by developing a system called transparent luminescent solar concentrator (TLSC), which is composed of organic salts which absorb non-visible wavelengths of infrared and ultraviolet light. This light is then focused towards a traditional solar cell which is capable of trapping the energy and turning it into electricity. This material has unbelievable potential. Not only can it be utilized for windows, but it could revolutionize displays on electronic devices, giving them a significantly longer battery life.

Tesla’s home battery pack that could ‘change the way the world uses energy’: Elon Musk unveils $3,000 device that can power an entire home for eight hours


 

  • Musk unveiled Powerwall device at press conference in California
  • Daily use version will be able to store 7 kilowatt-hours of electricity 
  • It will let users store renewable energy, or pay lower, off-peak rates
  • Also revealed a larger model which is a ‘infinitely scalable system’ 

 

Tesla founder Elon Musk has unveiled a ‘revolutionary’ $3,000 (£1,980) battery which he claims can run an entire home for eight hours.

Musk introduced the Powerwall device at a press conference in California last night and said the technology could ‘change the world’.

The device, which could be in homes by the end of summer, will be able to store electricity at night when it is cheaper.

Tesla has unveiled a 'revolutionary' $3,000 (£1,980) home battery that can power an entire house for eight hours

Tesla has unveiled a $3,000 (£1,980) home battery that can power an entire house for eight hours. Powerwall is three feet wide and four feet tall, weighs 220lbs, and can be installed on an outside or inside wall

Tesla has unveiled a $3,000 (£1,980) home battery that can power an entire house for eight hours. Powerwall is three feet wide and four feet tall, weighs 220lbs, and can be installed on an outside or inside wall. The left images shows the 10kWh version while on the right is the 7kWh device

HOW DOES POWERWALL WORK?

The technology powers up overnight when electricity rates are cheaper. Users can then switch the battery on during the day to use the home during the day.

Powerwall can be used as back up power in the case of an emergency, or be used to hold power from renewable energy sources.

The ‘daily use’ version has a capacity of 7 kilowatt-hours, which is around a quarter of a home’s daily usage. The  average U.S. home uses 10,908 kilowatt-hours of energy per year, or just short of 30 per day.

Home battery packs could disrupt the utility market. In 2013, the Edison Electric Institute, the trade group for investor-owned electric companies, issued a report warning about disruption.

‘One can imagine a day when battery storage technology or micro turbines could allow customers to be electric grid independent,’ the report said.

It would then discharge this cheap electricity during the day in quantities large enough to be useful to homes and businesses.

The  Powerwall is around three feet wide and four feet tall, weighs 220lbs, and can be installed either on an outside or inside wall of a home.

The ‘daily use’ version has a capacity of 7 kilowatt-hours, which is around a quarter of a home’s daily usage.

Department of Energy figures state that the average U.S. home uses 10,908 kilowatt-hours of energy per year, or just short of 30 per day.

According to that figure, a single, fully-charged Powerwall device would be able to meet a quarter of a home’s energy needs on any given day.

However, it would likely last far less time than eight hours during the mornings and evenings, when homes use the vast majority of their electricity.

Musk said that the devices can be stacked together to provide more energy.

The system would let homeowners with solar panels or other sources of renewable energy easily store their energy at home, rather than the current model whereby they sell power back to energy suppliers as it is produced, then buy it again during peak times.

It could also let savvy consumers take advantage of power companies’ lower rates during the night and use the cheaper, stored energy during peak periods.

According to tech site Mashable, Musk told attendees at the event: ‘Our goal is to fundamentally change the way the world uses energy.

Tesla unveils batteries for homes to store solar energy

Pictured is a utility-scale version of Powerwall that can be used by businesses and scaled up for more power

Pictured is a utility-scale version of Powerwall that can be used by businesses and scaled up for more power

The 'daily use' version has a capacity of 7 kilowatt-hours, which is around a quarter of a home's daily usage

The ‘daily use’ version has a capacity of 7 kilowatt-hours, which is around a quarter of a home’s daily usage

WHAT IS THE POWERPACK?

Tesla also unveiled the ‘Powerpack’, which is the big brother of the Powerwall.

It describes it as an ‘infinitely scalable system’ that can work for businesses, in industrial applications, and public utility companies.

It comes in 100 kWh battery blocks that can scale from 500 kWH all the way up to 10 MWh.

 ‘Our goal here is to change the way the world uses energy at an extreme scale,’ it said.

‘It sounds crazy, but we want to change the entire energy infrastructure of the world to zero carbon.’

As well as the daily-use model, Tesla will also launch a 10 kilowatt-hour backup battery, designed to tide homes over during power blackouts, such as those caused by storms.

Marketing material for the device, published late Thursday on Tesla’s website, says: ‘Powerwall is a home battery that charges using electricity generated from solar panels, or when utility rates are low, and powers your home in the evening.

‘It also fortifies your home against power outages by providing a backup electricity supply.

‘Automated, compact and simple to install, Powerwall offers independence from the utility grid and the security of an emergency backup.’

Musk said that he hopes to sell hundreds of millions of the devices, which he touted as a vast improvement over currently-available models. In the past he has said such early batteries ‘suck’.

He later added that the entire showcase had been powered by a huge array of Powerwall batteries.

Pictured is the 'powerpack', an 'infinitely scalable system' that comes in 100 kWh battery blocks that can scale from 500 kWH all the way up to 10 MWh and higher
Pictured is the 'powerpack', an 'infinitely scalable system' that comes in 100 kWh battery blocks that can scale from 500 kWH all the way up to 10 MWh and higher

Pictured is the ‘powerpack’. Elon Musk (right) describes it as an ‘infinitely scalable system’ that comes in 100 kWh battery blocks that can scale from 500 kWH up to 10 MWh and higher

The technology could let savvy consumers take advantage of power companies' lower rates during the night and use the cheaper, stored energy during peak periods.  Mr Musk is already the chairman of SolarCity - a company that offers solar power systems for homes - and Tesla's home battery is an extension of this

The technology could let savvy consumers take advantage of power companies’ lower rates during the night and use the cheaper, stored energy during peak periods.  Mr Musk is already the chairman of SolarCity – a company that offers solar power systems for homes – and Tesla’s home battery is an extension of this

Musk said that he hopes to sell hundreds of millions of the devices, which he touted as a vast improvement over currently-available models. In the past he has said such early batteries 'suck'

Musk said that he hopes to sell hundreds of millions of the devices, which he touted as a vast improvement over currently-available models. In the past he has said such early batteries ‘suck’

Tesla also unveiled the ‘Powerpack’, which is the larger scale version of the Powerwall.

It describes it as an ‘infinitely scalable system’ that can work for businesses, in industrial applications and public utility companies.

It comes in 100 kWh battery blocks that can scale from 500 kWH all the way up to 10 MWh.  ‘Our goal here is to change the way the world uses energy at an extreme scale,’ it said.

The latest announcement builds on previous Tesla products, principally its range of cars.

Last year, Tesla Motors unveiled plans for a ‘Gigafactory’ designed to help the firm ramp up production of batteries for its electric cars, and now homes.

Tesla said the factory will cut current battery production costs by up to 30 per cent, and will be powered predominantly by renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar.

Elsewhere, Mr Musk is already the chairman of SolarCity – a company that offers solar power systems for homes – and Tesla’s home battery could be an extension of this.

These batteries 3ft tall (0.9 metres), and can be controlled remotely using a smartphone app. Tesla would not comment on whether the new batteries will work in the same way.

Home battery packs could disrupt the utility market. In 2013, the Edison Electric Institute, the trade group for investor-owned electric companies, issued a report warning about disruption.

Powerwall charges using electricity generated from solar panels, or when utility rates are low, and powers your home in the evening

Powerwall charges using electricity generated from solar panels, or when utility rates are low, and powers your home in the evening

Tesla reveals plans to build $5B ‘gigafactory’ in Nevada

‘One can imagine a day when battery storage technology or micro turbines could allow customers to be electric grid independent,’ the report said.

Deutsche Bank estimates sales of stationary battery storage systems for homes and commercial uses could yield as much as $4.5 billion in revenue for Tesla.

Analysts expect Tesla will build stationary storage systems around the same basic batteries it will produce for its vehicles at a large factory the company is building in Nevada.

Stationary storage systems could be part of a fossil-fuel free lifestyle in which an individual has solar panels on the roof, generating electricity that can power home appliances and recharge batteries in a Tesla Model S sedan parked in the garage.

Government subsidies and a dramatic drop in the price of lithium ion batteries are drawing more companies into the home electricity storage business.

Tesla has so far received $1.1 million from California’s Self-Generation Incentive Program. Tesla has received or is poised to receive state funding for about 600 storage projects in California, according to data from the state.

Though valued at just $200 million in 2012, the energy storage industry is expected to grow to $19 billion by 2017, according to research firm IHS CERA.

In Tesla's view, such storage systems could become part of a fossil-fuel-free lifestyle in which people can have solar panels on their roof generating electricity to power their home and recharge their electric car batteries

In Tesla’s view, such storage systems could become part of a fossil-fuel-free lifestyle in which people can have solar panels on their roof generating electricity to power their home and recharge their electric car batteries

 

 

Recycling old batteries into solar cells.


This could be a classic win-win solution: A system proposed by researchers at MIT recycles materials from discarded car batteries—a potential source of lead pollution—into new, long-lasting solar panels that provide emissions-free power.
Recycling old batteries into solar cells

The system is described in a paper in the journal Energy and Environmental Science, co-authored by professors Angela M. Belcher and Paula T. Hammond, graduate student Po-Yen Chen, and three others. It is based on a recent development in that makes use of a compound called perovskite—specifically, organolead halide perovskite—a technology that has rapidly progressed from initial experiments to a point where its efficiency is nearly competitive with that of other types of solar cells.

“It went from initial demonstrations to good efficiency in less than two years,” says Belcher, the W.M. Keck Professor of Energy at MIT. Already, perovskite-based photovoltaic cells have achieved power-conversion efficiency of more than 19 percent, which is close to that of many commercial .

Initial descriptions of the perovskite technology identified its use of lead, whose production from raw ores can produce toxic residues, as a drawback. But by using recycled lead from old , the manufacturing process can instead be used to divert toxic material from landfills and reuse it in photovoltaic panels that could go on producing power for decades.

Amazingly, because the perovskite photovoltaic material takes the form of a thin film just half a micrometer thick, the team’s analysis shows that the lead from a single car battery could produce enough to provide power for 30 households.

As an added advantage, the production of is a relatively simple and benign process. “It has the advantage of being a low-temperature process, and the number of steps is reduced” compared with the manufacture of conventional solar cells, Belcher says.

Those factors will help to make it “easy to get to large scale cheaply,” Chen adds.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-08-recycling-batteries-solar-cells.html#jCp

How our future sun-drinking glass roads will power the country.


Some of us may be squeezing solar panels on roofs to take advantage of government subsidies and make our energy use a little cleaner, but could road surfaces hold the true key to powering our cities without fossil fuels?

Billions of parking spaces and thousands of square miles of land are taken up by concrete, used to park our cars and serve as roads for drivers. In the U.S., this land soaks up huge amounts of sunlight every day — and why not take advantage of this fact?

A new crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo describes the Solar Roadways project, founded by entrepreneurs Scott and Julie Brusaw, who hope to transform our concrete pathways in to useful, solar powerhouses. The project uses custom, hexagon-shaped glass blocks which are strong enough to protect solar panels beneath.

screen-shot-2014-05-12-at-15-50-20.png

Brusaw told the publication:

“You first mention glass, people think of your kitchen window. But think of bulletproof glass or bomb resistant glass. You can make it any way you want. Basically bulletproof glass is several sheets of tempered glass laminated together. That’s what we have, only our glass is a half inch thick, and tempered, and laminated.”
According to the founders, the glass is strong enough for not only cars, but also trucks and vast amounts of pressure. The textured surface could stop cars from slipping in icy conditions, and small LED lights — powered by the captured sun — can act as lane dividers and to warn drivers of hazards ahead.

Not only can this surface act as a power generator for our homes, but it could also serve as a catalyst for the adoption of electric vehicles. The designers say that the panels may eventually be used to power charging stations for EVs, and perhaps even charge cars directly as they are driven.

Solar Roadways hopes to raise $1 million via Indiegogo to hire additional engineers, refine the surface product and test it on roads in the United States. At the time of writing, the project has raised $62,557 with 20 days to go.

Related:

Glowing highway unveiled in the Netherlands
Could driverless cars render public transit obsolete?
London tests out smart, sensor-laden crosswalks
‘Talking’ cars will soon be required in U.S.
U.K.’s A14 ‘smart road’ could automatically control driving speeds