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RE: Solar power
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PG&E signs first-of-a-kind space solar power deal.
Not many people I know think space solar is a low-cost, scalable solution.
Certainly it is worth pursuing any genuine low-carbon baseload power source if it can be practical and scalable - and affordable, which I would put at $0.15 a kilowatt hour or less for. The problem with space solar is that, like hydrogen fuel cell cars, there is little chance it could be affordable until it is massively scaled up - and no guarantee that it would be practical and affordable even then. That's one reason major utilities have been unwilling to take the risk on it.

Until now.

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A solar-powered bicycle which allows riders to go faster and use less leg power has been invented.
The bright yellow device, named "Cycle Sol", operates like a normal pedal cycle but has a canopy lined with solar cells overhead.
When the user pedals in the sunshine the rays charge a battery that powers an electric motor in the back wheel, propelling the bike at speeds up to 15mph.

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NASA scientists claim to have made a breakthrough that could help to end famine.
By condensing water from the air and soil on chilled pipes, their invention attempts to alleviate both water and food shortage problems.
It offers the ability to produce agricultural crops in most hot and humid climates by watering plants with condensation from environmental moisture, and by multiplying the number of crops that can be obtained per season.
The technology operates in remote areas, using solar energy alone and with a one-time filling of a water tank.

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Silicon as smooth as glass
Every irregularity no matter how small must disappear: Polishing silicon wafers for solar cells and computer chips demands the greatest precision. Until now, wafers could only be inspected after polishing. A new polishing tool continuously monitors the process.
Without silicon there would be no computer industry since most computer chips consist of this semiconductor material. The same is true for solar cells: They too are predominantly silicon-based. The monocrystals are cut in round slices approximately one millimetre thick, which experts call wafers. Their surfaces must be as smooth as glass; irregularities may only be a few nanometers wide, i.e. less than one ten thousandth of a hair. Therefore, after they have been cut out of a large silicon monocrystal, the wafers must be ground and polished. Until now, whether a surface had become sufficiently smooth was only apparent after polishing. If not, the tool had to be reattached and the process repeated a time-consuming procedure. Moreover, the tool can easily nick the silicon when it is being attached. When that happens, the expensive material of the entire wafer must be machined until the surface is even again.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation IFF in Magdeburg have developed a polishing tool that can constantly control the pressure on a wafer even during polishing. Its revolutionary feature: Several piezosensors and piezoactors are integrated in the tool. If it comes across an impurity or a material defect during polishing, it intensifies the tools pressure on the surface of the material. The piezosensor compresses somewhat and converts this mechanical pressure into electrical voltage. This in turn signals the actor to change the tools pressure on the silicon and remove the uneven spot.

The primary challenge was integrating the sensors and actors in such a way that the tools surface is unaffected and the sensor is nevertheless close enough to the surface being machined - Susan Gronwald, project manager at the Fraunhofer IFF.

Another advantage: The polishing tool consists of three rings lying inside one another so that a wafers edge can be ground with a different pressure than the inside.
The new tool shortens machining time and simplifies the polishing process even for optical glass lenses.

The pressure with which material is machined could not be measured here until now. Hence, the lenses had to be taken out of the polishing process again and again to inspect the surface with a laser. The final finish grinding was done manually.

The sensor-aided grinding system has been in industrial use for a short time.

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When it comes to producing earth-friendly solar energy, pink may be the new green, according to Ohio State University researchers.
Scientists here have developed new dye-sensitised solar cells (DSSCs) that get their pink colour from a mixture of red dye and white metal oxide powder in materials that capture light.
Currently, the best of these new pink materials convert light to electricity with only half the efficiency of commercially-available silicon-based solar cells -- but they do so at only one quarter of the cost, said Yiying Wu, assistant professor of chemistry at Ohio State.

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Using a novel technology that adds multiple innovations to a very high-performance crystalline silicon solar cell platform, a consortium led by the University of Delaware has achieved a record-breaking combined solar cell efficiency of 42.8 percent from sunlight at standard terrestrial conditions.
That number is a significant advance from the current record of 40.7 percent announced in December and demonstrates an important milestone on the path to the 50 percent efficiency goal set by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). In November 2005, the UD-led consortium received approximately $13 million in funding for the initial phases of the DARPA Very High Efficiency Solar Cell (VHESC) program to develop affordable portable solar cell battery chargers.

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PowerFilm
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PowerFilm® integrated solar panels (thin film on plastic) are developed and manufactured with a proprietary roll-to-roll process and are truly rollable unlike other thin film technologies that are only somewhat flexible. PowerFilm® solar panels are monolithically integrated which eliminates the need for damage-prone manual connections of individual solar cells. PowerFilm® is made of silicon, a natural resource in abundant supply. Also PowerFilm® performs well in diverse environments, including hot sun, and does not suffer from wasted over-voltage. Cadmium Free.

Source

PowerFilm ® can be easily integrated with many types of devices requiring different voltages and current.  The thin profile, durability and flexibility make it a top choice of product designers, engineers and manufacturers.

www.powerfilmsolar.com

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The global search for a sustainable energy supply is making significant strides at Wake Forest University as researchers at the universitys Centre for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials have announced that they have pushed the efficiency of plastic solar cells to more than 6 percent.
In a paper to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Applied Physics Letters, Wake Forest researchers describe how they have achieved record efficiency for organic or flexible, plastic solar cells by creating nano-filaments within light absorbing plastic, similar to the veins in tree leaves. This allows for the use of thicker absorbing layers in the devices, which capture more of the suns light.
Efficient plastic solar cells are extremely desirable because they are inexpensive and light weight, especially in comparison to traditional silicon solar panels. Traditional solar panels are heavy and bulky and convert about 12 percent of the light that hits them to useful electrical power. Researchers have worked for years to create flexible, or conformal, organic solar cells that can be wrapped around surfaces, rolled up or even painted onto structures.

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Sunlight has never really caught fire as a power source, mostly because generating electricity with solar cells is more expensive and less efficient than some conventional sources.
But a new solar panel unveiled this month by the Georgia Tech Research Institute hopes to brighten the future of the energy source.
The difference is in the design. Traditional solar panels are often flat and bulky. The new design features an array of nano-towers - like microscopic blades of grass - that add surface area and trap more sunlight.

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U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Alexander Karsner today announced that with DOE funding, a concentrator solar cell produced by Boeing-Spectrolab has recently achieved a world-record conversion efficiency of 40.7 percent, establishing a new milestone in sunlight-to-electricity performance. This breakthrough may lead to systems with an installation cost of only $3 per watt, producing electricity at a cost of 8-10 cents per kilowatt/hour, making solar electricity a more cost-competitive and integral part of our nation’s energy mix.

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