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Schematic diagram of a thin film organic solar cell shows the top layer, a patterned, roug...

Research has already shown that at the nanoscale, chemistry is different and the same is apparently true for light, which Engineers at Stanford University say behaves differently at scales of around a nanometer. By creating solar cells thinner than the wavelengths of light the engineers say it is possible to trap the photons inside the solar cell for longer, increasing the chance they can get absorbed, thereby increasing the efficiency of the solar cell. In this way, they calculate that by properly configuring the thicknesses of several thin layers of films, an organic polymer thin film could absorb as much as 10 times more energy from sunlight than predicted by conventional theory.  Read More

When force is applied to the pedal, the stainless steel, triangular-shaped swinging mechan...

At first glance, a proposal to replace a bicycle's familiar chain and cog drive with one that uses string may sound like lunacy, but that's exactly what's been done to produce the Stringbike. The system features freewheel mechanisms on either side of the rear wheel connected by polyethylene rope to a precisely positioned, symmetrical swinging arm that drives the bicycle forward. When the unit on the right is driving the bike forward, the other is being returned to its starting position and vice-versa which is said to result in greater efficiency and makes for a more comfortable, easier ride.  Read More

Researchers at UCSD have figured out a way to harness the unused transistors in a chip to ...

Adopting a new, highly automated and reconfigurable approach to hardware acceleration, researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) have come up with a way to harness the unused silicon real estate in smartphones – the so-called "dark silicon" – as special-purpose processors dynamically optimized to perform the most common tasks in an efficient way.  Read More

The coupling of evanescence waves is key to obtaining higher-efficiency LEDs

One of the biggest challenges in creating a better light-emitting diode (LED) is the search for a way to efficiently extract the light generated in the semiconductor device into the surrounding air, while avoiding the internal light reflection that is cause for a considerable waste of energy. A team of Japanese researchers have recently managed to achieve just that, in what is believed to be a huge step toward significantly more energy-efficient LEDs.  Read More

Researchers from the University of Michigan have unveiled a more efficient, brighter and h...

Only a small percentage of backlight actually makes its way out through the multiple layers that make up the ubiquitous LCD displays we use today. That may change with the development of new filter technology at the University of Michigan. White light is sent through tiny, precisely spaced gaps on nano-thin sheets of aluminum and is said to result in brighter, higher definition color reproduction. Other benefits of the technology include efficiency gains and simpler manufacturing.  Read More

ROCR features a tail that swings like a grandfather clock’s pendulum (Image: William Pro...

Engineers have used a variety of techniques to create robots that can scale walls – “the Climber” uses a rolling seal, while the insect-like robots from SRI have caterpillar tracks with electro-adhesive properties. While such robots generally focus on speed, adhering to the wall and deciding how and when to move, the creators of a small robot named ROCR say it is the first wall-climbing robot to focus on climbing efficiently. And it does so by using the momentum of a tail that swings like a grandfather clock’s pendulum.  Read More

A small PETE device made with cesium-coated gallium nitride glows while being tested insid...

Photovoltaic solar cells convert light energy from the sun into electricity. Although significant strides have been made in increasing the efficiency of photovoltaic technology, they usually only result in incremental increases. Researchers at Stanford University have come up with a way that could more than double the efficiency of existing solar cell technology and potentially reduce the costs of solar energy production enough for it to compete with oil as an energy source. Instead of relying solely on photons, the new process, called “photon enhanced thermionic emission,” or PETE, simultaneously combines the light and heat of solar radiation to generate electricity.  Read More

The Zap Alias is one of just nine vehicles left in the Automotive X PRIZE

Well, it’s hard to believe the day is finally here, but the on-track testing phase of the Automotive X PRIZE Finals stage is finally over. Of 136 vehicles representing 111 teams that originally entered the competition, just 9 vehicles representing 7 teams remain. All that the cars need to do now is pass the Validation stage, then the winners will be announced in September. Here’s a quick look at what happened over the past few days, at the Michigan International Speedway.  Read More

Cornell Ranger gets a walking buddy in Fatemeh Hasaneini, a daughter of one of the student...

It might not have been setting a cracking pace, but a Cornell University robot named Ranger set an unofficial world record on July 6 when it walked 14.3 miles in about 11 hours on a single charge. The untethered, four-legged robot was steered around the 1/8-mile indoor track in Cornell’s Barton Hall by a human operator using a standard toy remote control some 108.5 times. On its record setting journey Ranger made 65,185 steps, beating the former record for an untethered legged robot of 12.8 miles set by Boston Dynamics’ BigDog.  Read More

SunPower Corp. has achieved a world record solar cell efficiency of 24.2 percent

Although we’ve seen sunlight to electricity conversion efficiencies of over 40 percent with multi-junction solar cells in lab environments, most mass-produced cells can only boast a conversion rate of around 15 percent. Now SunPower Corp., a Silicon Valley-based manufacturer of high-efficiency solar cells, solar panels and solar power systems, has claimed a new world record solar cell efficiency of 24.2 percent.  Read More

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