Solar energy: breakthrough?

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eeun's picture
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Canada's CTV News reports here the creation of a new solar-energy generating material which is five times more efficient than current photovoltaic cells. The new technology catches any infra-red light source.

The material can be applied as a spray, or woven into fabric, with the potential to create wearable solar generators for charging cell phones and ipods.

Estimates are for five years to market.

Very cool news.

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That's sooooo cool, imagine h

That's sooooo cool, imagine having you're iBook's lid coated in that stuff, you would never need to plug in again!

applemac.tk

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Holy Smokes! That's WAY cool

Holy Smokes! That's WAY cool.

Dr. Bob

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IR phovoltaic, think about it. . .

. . .and because this material is photovoltaic in the IR range, your laptop could be coated inside and out (doubling the surface area) to convert the IR radiated heat from circuitry, like the CPU. Also, your body is an IR source, so they already mentioned making clothing with it. . .

Mutant_Pie

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Very cool...

But the real question is how big an area of it do you need to get usable power out of it? It's all well and good using it to charge a cellphone. But what if you want enough to keep a fridge cool if your power goes out?

I only ask as I'm currently looking into solar power and a large bank of batteries as a means of keeping a fridge running during frequent Italian power outages. If I could just paint a couple walls with solar receptors I could save covering the roof in yet more solar panels...

Honesty is the best policy, but insanity is a better defence.
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They said it was 5 times more

They said it was 5 times more efficient that current solar technologies, so doing a roof panel would probably make more power than you needed.

Dr. Bob

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But how much does / will it c

But how much does / will it cost?

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We will have to wait and see

We will have to wait and see when a product becomes available.

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Living off the grid...

Interesting article! These things are neat on a small scale, but you'd like to seem them succeed efficiently on a larger scale. Most encouraging is the idea that this is five times more efficient than solar energy. That would actually make this more practical once it's fully developed...provided that the increased efficiency doesn't lead to a misproportionate increase in price.

Alternative energy sources always intrigued me. The idea of having a home completely independant of commercial electric or gas sources always seemed fascinating. I seem to recall that people who try to live "off the grid" rarely ever recover their initial investment in alternative energy sources. The savings in energy cost never offsets the initial investment in the technology. Some are impractical, some are inefficient, and all are too expensive to use on a single home basis. Even in the long run, it would be cheaper to use commercial electric and gas.

Kankakee, Illinois has a small hydroelectric plant along the Kankakee River. You can see it from Route 45 or Illinois Route 115. It powers their wastewater treatment plant and I think it actually throws-off enough power to sell the excess to ComEd or IP. I googled and found some information, but nothing that indicated whether or not the cost of construction and annual maintenance had actually been met by their energy savings and sales of excess power.

I didn't mean to hijack the thread...

tony b.

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in the us (or just texas?) it

in the us (or just texas?) its a law that if you put power back on the grid you must get paid for it. Dont ask me, I have no idea how that works.

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That is true erverywhere

That is true erverywhere

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The "other" types fo plastic

The "other" types fo plastic solar cells were news a couple years ago: Here is a story on MSNBC If these current ones can achieve anything over 10% eff. it seems they are comercially viable. Sweet.

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Spray-On Solar panels -- environmental hazards?

I agree, this breakthrough is extremely promising -- but also, problematic. It seems that industry is pushing this new development and lining up environmental groups' support before adequate testing is done.

One conception they have is to roll plastic carpets across the
deserts to gather energy, without batting an eye as to what crisis this will undoubtedly cause the ecology of those regions.

Or, what effect will wearing a sweater woven with polymers that generate electricity have on the electromagnetic fields that surround all people, in which our brains function?

Very interesting, hopeful technology -- but the way they are spinning it enrages me, yet again.

Mitchel Cohen
Brooklyn Greens / Green Party of NY

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Re: Spray-On Solar panels -- environmental hazards?

Mitchel Cohen wrote:

I agree, this breakthrough is extremely promising -- but also, problematic. It seems that industry is pushing this new development and lining up environmental groups' support before adequate testing is done.

Oh No! Big Industry! Will their evil schemes never cease? Won't somebody please think of the children!

Perhaps a different way of looking at this might be that business planners are now seeing the profitability in getting the approval of environmental agencies for new technologies, and making more effort to 'green' their product. What a wonderful change, and one that's taken so long to accomplish. What a change to even see investor interest in solar technologies.

Also, the article clearly states it's at least five years before this hits the market, so from what information are you deriving this fanciful notion of there being 'inadequate testing?'

Methinks some people have been hating The Man for so long, they refuse to see an positive opportunity to work towards something great that's almost handed to them on a silver platter, and would rather go on hating. Ironic, that: it's like a form of bigotry.

Quote:

Very interesting, hopeful technology -- but the way they are spinning it enrages me, yet again.

See?

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Please address the concerns I

Please address the concerns I raised, instead of mocking those who make them.

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silver platter

eeun wrote:

Methinks some people have been hating The Man for so long, they refuse to see an positive opportunity to work towards something great that's almost handed to them on a silver platter, and would rather go on hating. Ironic, that: it's like a form of bigotry.

Soooo, it's intellectually impermissable to even consider all might not be perfect in such a silver platter world?

I'm also excited about the possibilities of this amazing new developement, but frankly haven't even begun to examine any of the possible consequences. I'm curious about the benefits, and the costs both, aren't you? So while Mitchel Cohen's post wasn't as positive as all get out, unlike some, he raises some important points.

Don't you think?

dan k

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Re: Please address the concerns I

Mitchel Cohen wrote:

Please address the concerns I raised, instead of mocking those who make them.

Mitchel; yes, I suppose it was mockery, and for that I apologize (I guess I was due for a rant). I did consider removing the offending sentence, but in the end left it. I was, in perhaps not the best diplomatic way, nudging you to examine why you became not just concerned, but 'enraged' by what is at this point speculation on a potential use of this potential technology.

And to you and Dan as well; no, there's absolutely nothing wrong with a touch of cynicism when someone comes heralding a discovery like this. Early enough to be asking questions, definitely, early enough to be concerned, maybe even proactive, yes. Early enough to be enraged? No, I don't think so. As I said above, I'm playing 'wait and see' until this tech. becomes a reality or just another paper promise. What got me going was what I perceived as a knee-jerk reaction to the involvement of 'industry' trying to get support and input from the environmentalists like it was automatically a bad thing, after activists fought for so many years to get them to do that very thing.

Interest in EM fields on the wearer of woven solar cells is quite valid, and I wondered about that myself, given recent articles on the effects of cell phones and such.

As to the desert arrays...well, if this tech turns out to be as advertised, you probably won't approve of my view on that.

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I've been a main proponent of

I've been a main proponent of solar energy and other alternative forms for many years. I also remember all too well when nuclear fission plants were sold to us as the panacea.

My antennae were raised by reading very close variants of the same press release under different bylines in different Reuters news feeds and magazines (National Geographic, for instance), without a single one of them raising any questions whatsoever.

I also am too aware of Exxon's grabbing, for the past two decades, of any solar energy patent they could get their hands on, and stifling decentralized, unmetered solar energy projects. The one that they were (and possibly still are) making a big push around were for dozens of satellites that would gather solar radiation and beam it as microwave radiation to huge metal plates covering huge areas (hundreds of square miles) of desert floor, which could be fed into the grid and metered, instead of helping to take local energy generation OFF the grid.

So we need to ask questions. Why THIS, and not something ELSE, for instance. I agree, reading the press release the new spray-on plastic solar cells sound incredible. But let's ask the question beforehand, to avoid what has happened so often in the past.

Mitchel Cohen

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The current issue of PopSci h

The current issue of PopSci has several articles on inkjet-based and plastic film ciruitry. The solar cell devlopments are mostly variations of those technologies that use different components in the spray that convert EMR of the IR range into useable electricity. It makes a whole lot of sense to think about possible ill effects, but getting "enraged" about what *research scientists* *forsee as possibly* viable energy sources is quite knee-jerk. I, for one, would think that combining a clean solar technology with portability is one of the most important developments for personal freedom since the rechangeable battery.

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Anyone know any harmful effec

Anyone know any harmful effects from an MRI scanner? They certainly have alot more electromagnetic interfearence than any solar powered clothes could ever have Wink

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Re: Anyone know any harmful effec

martakz wrote:

Anyone know any harmful effects from an MRI scanner?

If you forgot to take your keys and spare change out of your pockets before going in, plenty! Laughing out loud And that metal pin in your knee from when you broke it...well, you just don't want to know.

I've heard what happens to an MRI machine when a maintenance person left a wrench in the field area. It's expensive.

I think the interest was in long-term and cumulative exposure to a low-level EM field, but I figure you knew that and are being cheeky Wink

Back to the solar clothing: I probably wouldn't wear swimming trunks made out of the stuff.

What this special fabric needs is a catchy name. How about:
1) Polightester
2) Lightron, the Amazing Electro-Cloth
3) iPower - comes with lawsuit

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