You've probably noticed that solar panels sitting on people's roofs appear to be broken up into grids. These grid lines are actually metal contacts and, although they're necessary for conducting the electrical current generated by the underlying semiconductor, they reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the semiconductor layer. Now researchers at Stanford University have developed a way to make these reflective metal contacts almost invisible to incoming light, thereby increasing solar panel efficiency.
The US Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon has been run and won for 2015. It’s a nationwide contest between collegiate teams to see who can build the most attractive, cost-effective and efficient solar home. Fourteen teams duked it out for this year’s competition, and the winning team from the Stevens Institute of Technology drew inspiration from Hurricane Sandy to create a sustainable, solar coastal home that opens up for entertaining in summertime but locks down to resist severe weather damage in the winter – and uses some 90 percent less energy than a typical home.
Stanford engineers have developed a transparent silicon overlay that can increase the efficiency of solar cells by keeping them cool. The cover collects and then radiates heat directly into space, without interfering with incoming photons. If mass-produced, the development could be used to cool down any device in the open air – for instance, to complement air conditioning in cars.
One of the challenges facing designers of traditional flat solar panels
is the fact that the sun doesn't conveniently stay in one place. This
means that in order for a panel to receive as much sunlight as possible,
it has to pan with the sun as it moves across the sky. While
there are motorized assemblies designed to do just that, they add
complexity, weight and expense to photovoltaic systems. Now, however,
University of Michigan scientists have developed a simpler alternative –
and it's based on the ancient Japanese cut-paper art of kirigami.
If you’ve ever scanned the comments section on an electric car or bike article, you’ll be familiar with this complaint: "that’s not green, it’s just a coal-powered vehicle." Well, not this one. The Immortus is an electric car built to generate its own power through some 7 sq m (75 sq ft) of solar photovoltaic paneling. You can charge its battery off the mains if you have to, but if conditions are sunny, the inbuilt solar panels alone will let you drive at more than 60 km/h (37 mph) for an unlimited distance.