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New device could make solar cells cheaper.

Roll out the micro-carpet - a new solar-cell design based on a blanket of silicon rods could produce electricity at a fraction of the cost of conventional solar devices.
The carpets have yet to be made into a working solar cell, but preliminary measurements of their ability to absorb light and generate current suggest they could become a cheap replacement for existing technology.

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Glitter-sized solar photovoltaics produce competitive results

Sandia National Laboratories scientists have developed tiny glitter-sized photovoltaic cells that could revolutionize the way solar energy is collected and used.
The tiny cells could turn a person into a walking solar battery charger if they were fastened to flexible substrates moulded around unusual shapes, such as clothing.
The solar particles, fabricated of crystalline silicon, hold the potential for a variety of new applications. They are expected eventually to be less expensive and have greater efficiencies than current photovoltaic collectors that are pieced together with 6-inch- square solar wafers.
The cells are fabricated using microelectronic and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) techniques common to todays electronic foundries.

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The cost of installing and owning solar panels will fall even faster than expected according to new research.
Their tests show that 90% of existing solar panels last for 30 years, instead of the predicted 20 years.
According to the independent EU Energy Institute, this brings down the lifetime cost.

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University of Arizona device could make solar power cheaper
The University of Arizonas Steward Observatory Mirror Lab has produced the first prototype of a solar device that inventor Roger Angel hopes will eventually produce electricity from the sun at a price rivalling the cheapest fossil fuels.

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Plastics that convert light to electricity could have a big impact
Researchers the world over are striving to develop organic solar cells that can be produced easily and inexpensively as thin films that could be widely used to generate electricity.
But a major obstacle is coaxing these carbon-based materials to reliably form the proper structure at the nanoscale (tinier than 2 millionths of an inch) to be highly efficient in converting light to electricity. The goal is to develop cells made from low-cost plastics that will transform at least 10 percent of the sunlight that they absorb into usable electricity and can be easily manufactured.


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Researchers the world over are striving to develop organic solar cells that can be produced easily and inexpensively as thin films that could be widely used to generate electricity.
But a major obstacle is coaxing these carbon-based materials to reliably form the proper structure at the nanoscale (tinier than 2-millionths of an inch) to be highly efficient in converting light to electricity. The goal is to develop cells made from low-cost plastics that will transform at least 10 percent of the sunlight that they absorb into usable electricity and can be easily manufactured.
A research team headed by David Ginger, a University of Washington associate professor of chemistry, has found a way to make images of tiny bubbles and channels, roughly 10,000 times smaller than a human hair, inside plastic solar cells. These bubbles and channels form within the polymers as they are being created in a baking process, called annealing, that is used to improve the materials' performance.

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Solar cells
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Title: Metabolic Insertion of Nanostructured TiO2 into the Patterned Biosilica of the Diatom Pinnularia sp. by a Two-Stage Bioreactor Cultivation Process
Authors: Clayton Jeffryes, Timothy Gutu, Jun Jiao and Gregory L. Rorrer

Diatoms are single-celled algae that make silica shells or frustules with intricate nanoscale features imbedded within periodic two-dimensional pore arrays. A two-stage photobioreactor cultivation process was used to metabolically insert titanium into the patterned biosilica of the diatom Pinnularia sp. In Stage I, diatom cells were grown up on dissolved silicon until silicon starvation was achieved. In Stage II, soluble titanium and silicon were continuously fed to the silicon-starved cell suspension (4 x 10^5 cells/mL) for 10 h. The feeding rate of titanium (0.85-7.3 mol Ti L^-1 h^-1) was designed to circumvent the precipitation of titanate in the liquid medium, and feeding rate of silicon (48 mol Si L^-1 h^-1) was designed to sustain one cell division. The addition of titanium to the culture had no detrimental effects on cell growth and preserved the frustule morphology. Cofeeding of Ti and Si was required for complete intracellular uptake of Ti. The maximum bulk composition of titanium in the frustule biosilica was 2.3 g of Ti/100 g of SiO2. Intact biosilica frustules were isolated by treatment of diatom cells with SDS/EDTA and then analysed by TEM and STEM-EDS. Titanium was preferentially deposited as a nanophase lining the base of each frustule pore, with estimated local TiO2 content of nearly 80 wt %. Thermal annealing in air at 720 C converted the biogenic titanate to anatase TiO2 with an average crystal size of 32 nm. This is the first reported study of using a living organism to controllably fabricate semiconductor TiO2 nanostructures by a bottom-up self-assembly process.

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Rutgers physicists have discovered unusual electronic properties in a material that has potential to improve solar cell efficiency and computer chip design. They determined that a crystal made of bismuth, iron and oxygen can act as a reversible diode, and that diodes made from this material generate current when light falls on them. The material appears sensitive to light at the blue end of the spectrum, a property that could increase solar cell efficiency.

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US researchers have developed an antireflective coating that boosts the amount of sunlight captured by solar panels.
An untreated solar cell absorbs only 67.4 per cent of sunlight, reflecting away about a third of it, "unharvested" for electricity conversion.

"To get maximum efficiency when converting solar power into electricity, you want a solar panel that can absorb nearly every single photon of light, regardless of the suns position in the sky. Our new antireflective coating makes this possible" - Shawn-Yu Lin, professor of physics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, who led the research project.

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A state-of-the-art, solar powered version of the humble cycle-rickshaw promises to offer a solution to urban India's traffic woes, chronic pollution and fossil fuel dependence, as well as an escape from backbreaking human toil.

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