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Archive for the ‘solar power’ category

Mar 24, 2020

Team develops photosynthetic proteins for expanded solar energy conversion

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biological, solar power, sustainability

A team of scientists, led by the University of Bristol, has developed a new photosynthetic protein system enabling an enhanced and more sustainable approach to solar-powered technological devices.

The initiative is part of a broader effort in the field of to use proteins in place of man-made materials which are often scarce, expensive and can be harmful to the environment when the device becomes obsolete.

The aim of the study, published today in Nature Communications, was the development of “chimera” complexes that display poly-chromatic solar energy harvesting.

Mar 21, 2020

Focus: Molecule’s Long-Lived Vibration in Superfluid Helium

Posted by in categories: solar power, sustainability

Trapping a molecule inside a liquid helium nanodrop allows clean measurements of the molecule’s vibrations.

The solvent in which a molecule is suspended can strongly influence the molecule’s motion. Now researchers have demonstrated that a molecule dissolved inside a superfluid helium nanodrop experiences very little effect from the solvent. The researchers measured, with femtosecond resolution, the intramolecular vibrations of an indium dimer (In2) in a helium nanodrop. They say that their method could be used to study molecules relevant for light-harvesting technologies, such as solar cells, that have been difficult to observe because of solvent effects.

Mar 21, 2020

Innovative new fabrication approach for reprogrammable photonic circuits

Posted by in categories: computing, quantum physics, solar power, sustainability

Modern society relies on technologies with electronic integrated circuits (IC) at their heart, but these may prove to be less suitable in future applications such as quantum computing and environmental sensing. Photonic integrated circuits (PICs), the light-based equivalent of electronic ICs, are an emerging technology field that can offer lower energy consumption, faster operation, and enhanced performance. However, current PIC fabrication methods lead to large variability between fabricated devices, resulting in limited yield, long delays between the conceptual idea and the working device, and lack of configurability. Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology have devised a new process for the fabrication of PICs that addresses these critical issues, by creating novel reconfigurable PICs in the same way that the emergence of programmable logic devices transformed IC production in the 1980s.

Photonic integrated circuits (PICs) – the light-based equivalent of electronic ICs—carry signals via visible and . Optical materials with adjustable refractive index are essential for reconfigurable PICs as they allow for more accurate manipulation of light passing through the materials, leading to better PIC performance.

Current programmable PIC concepts suffer from issues such as volatility and/or high optical signal losses—both of which negatively affect a material’s ability to keep its programmed state. Using hydrogenated (a-Si: H), a material used in thin-film silicon , and the associated Staebler-Wronski effect (SWE), which describes how the of a-Si: H can be changed via light exposure or heating, researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology have designed a new PIC fabrication process that addresses the shortfalls of current techniques and could lead to the emergence of universal programmable PICs.

Mar 4, 2020

Solar panels may be much worse than we thought

Posted by in categories: solar power, sustainability

Solar panels may be worse for than environment than we thought, but researchers say there’s still time to change that with a new panel design.

Mar 3, 2020

Freeman Dyson, 1923–2020

Posted by in categories: physics, solar power, sustainability

Reeman Dyson, one of the 20th century’s greatest theoretical physicists, died this week aged 96. He is known for popularising the Dyson Sphere – a hypothetical megastructure that could surround an entire star, capturing all of its solar energy.

Feb 26, 2020

Unmanned Solar Aircraft Aims to Compete Commercially With Satellites and Drones

Posted by in categories: business, drones, robotics/AI, satellites, solar power, sustainability

At 35 meters, the wingspan of the new BAE Systems aircraft equals that of a Boeing 737, yet the plane weighs in at just 150 kilograms, including a 15 kg payload. The unmanned plane, dubbed the PHASA-35 (Persistent High-Altitude Solar Aircraft), made its maiden voyage on 10 February at the Royal Australian Air Force Woomera Test Range in South Australia.

“It flew for just under an hour—enough time to successfully test its aerodynamics, autopilot system, and maneuverability,” says Phil Varty, business development leader of emerging products at BAE Systems. “We’d previously tested other sub-systems such as the flight control system in smaller models of the plane in the U.K. and Australia, so we’d taken much of the risk out of the craft before the test flight.”

The prototype aircraft uses gallium arsenide–based triple-junction solar cell panels manufactured by MicroLink Devices in Niles, Ill. MicroLink claims an energy conversion efficiency of 31 percent for these specialist panels.

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Feb 19, 2020

Scientists develop safer lead-based perovskite solar cell

Posted by in categories: solar power, sustainability

Researchers at Northern Illinois University and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, are reporting today (Feb. 19) in the journal Nature on a potential breakthrough in the development of hybrid perovskite solar cells.

Considered rising stars in the field of solar energy, convert light into electricity. They’re potentially cheaper and simpler to produce than traditional silicon-based solar cells and, on a small scale in laboratory settings at least, have demonstrated comparable efficiency levels. But key challenges remain before they can become a competitive commercial technology.

One major challenge is the use of lead. Most top-performing hybrid solar cells contain water-dissolvable lead, raising concerns over potential leakage from damaged cells.

Feb 19, 2020

The breakthrough material that can turn any surface into a solar cell

Posted by in categories: quantum physics, solar power, sustainability

Researchers have developed quantum dot solar cells that can be made into thin, flexible films and used to generate electricity even in low-light conditions.

Feb 18, 2020

The Value of Space Exploration

Posted by in categories: robotics/AI, solar power, space travel, sustainability

Steven Hawking: “I don’t think we will survive another thousand years without escaping beyond our fragile planet.”


Probably the most notable direct result of space exploration is satellites. Once we could position a ship in orbit and take telemetry, we knew we could place unmanned pieces of equipment there and just let it orbit, running on its own, while receiving orders from the ground. From those satellites, we have created a global communication system and the global positioning system (GPS) that powers most of our communications capabilities today. What can bring peace and harmony on the planet more than our ability to communicate with each other beyond geographic and political boundaries? These technologies have been enhancing and saving for years.

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Feb 13, 2020

The ESA is about to turn one of its spacecraft into a fireball

Posted by in categories: physics, solar power, space, sustainability

Next week, the European Space Agency is going to jettison a cubesat called Qarman from the International Space Station and watch it burst into a fireball as it reenters Earth’s atmosphere—all on purpose.

What’s the mission: Qarman (short for “QubeSat for Aerothermodynamic Research and Measurements on Ablation”) is a shoebox-sized experiment meant to help researchers better understand the physics at play when objects plummet into the planet’s atmosphere and burn up. Qarman was brought up to the ISS in December during a cargo resupply mission. On February 17, it will be cast back out into space and begin slowly drifting toward Earth before entering the atmosphere and burning up in about six months.

Tell me more: Qarman has four solar-cell-covered panels that are designed to increase atmospheric drag and hasten reentry. Its nose is made from a special kind of cork that’s typically used in thermal protection systems on spacecraft. Ground testing shows that when the cork heats up, it chars and flakes away a bit at a time. The Qarman team is interested in learning how this process works during reentry.

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