PCMag.com contributor) Ray Kurzweil has observed that solar power—like
computing power—follows a steady rate of increasing efficiency for diminishing
cost. Following the numbers, Kurzweil predicts that in just 20 years, market
forces will completely replace fossil fuels with solar energy. Even the most
stubborn global warming denier will step away from coal and oil—harnessing the
sun's energy will simply become a far cheaper alternative to siphoning,
processing, and transporting dead dinosaur goop.
significant in bringing about this energy overlap.
a research team at the University of Michigan suggests that they may be able to
harness solar power without the use of traditional (and relatively expensive)
semiconductor-based solar cells. The team has discovered a way to extract
electric power from light as it refracts through a non-conducting material such
as glass. This new take on solar hardware would slash the cost of panel
tech would create a sort of "optical battery" to use the words of
professor and team leader Stephen Rand. "This could lead to a new kind of
solar cell without semiconductors and without absorption to produce charge
separation," Rand goes on to explain. "In solar cells, the light goes
into a material, gets absorbed and creates heat. Here, we expect to have a very
low heat load. Instead of the light being absorbed, energy is stored in the
magnetic moment. Intense magnetization can be induced by intense light and then
it is ultimately capable of providing a capacitive power source."
worry if you didn't follow all of that.
short of it is that researchers believe this method may make solar cells far
more economically feasible. Instead of needing to process semiconductors, these
new forms of cells could be created with glass or transparent ceramics which
are already manufactured in bulk.
recent innovation comes from research at MIT. A team led by electrical
engineering professor Vladamir Bulovic says they have discovered a practical
way to create solar cells out of panes of window glass. The tech would create
photovoltaic cells from a layer of organic materials which can harness the
power of infrared light while allowing visible light to pass through.
research is in an early stage and only boasts an efficiency of 1.7 percent.
That's not great. But the team is confident that they will be able to get the
efficiencies up to near 12 percent which would be on par with conventional
solar cells. According to Bulovic, these solar windows would be far cheaper to
produce than traditional solar panels and could be easily integrated into an
existing window-manufacturing operation.
energy-collecting window panes might one day allow whole sides of sky scrapers
to become energy producers. Fortunately for this tech, we live in an
architectural era when many of our urban landscapes' largest features are giant
glass behemoths, and they may very well prove a pivotal stepping stone towards
achieving renewable cities.
sun has the potential to be used for much more than burning ants and lightly
toasting the population of New Jersey. It may just be the key to rescuing us