Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Solar Cell

Researchers have boosted the efficiency of organic solar cells by 20 percent through the u...

Carbon-based organic photovoltaic cells, which use organic polymers or small molecules as semiconductors, are significantly thinner and cheaper than their inorganic silicon-based counterparts. Unfortunately, they are also much less efficient at converting sunlight into electricity. That could be on its way to changing, however, as an international team of researchers have reportedly boosted the efficiency of organic photovoltaic cells by 20 percent ... with some help from gold nanoparticles.  Read More

Ford and SunPower have teamed up to offer rooftop solar panels to Ford EV buyers

Although electric vehicles can claim to be greener by producing zero local emissions, the electricity used to charge their batteries needs to come from somewhere. For most people, that somewhere is usually a fossil fuel-powered power station, lessening the green credentials of such vehicles. In an effort to let drivers go the extra green mile, Ford and solar technology company SunPower have teamed up to offer buyers of Ford's upcoming EVs a discounted rooftop solar system to provide enough renewable energy to offset the electricity used to charge the vehicles.  Read More

Graduate student Miles Barr holds a flexible and foldable array of solar cells that have b...

We've been following MIT's progress on creating solar cell-coated paper since 2010, and we're excited to report the current findings of the project. What looks and feels like an ordinary sheet of paper with a fine layer of colored rectangles, is no ordinary piece of paper at all – once connected to a couple of wires, it instantly generates solar electricity. Additionally, the technology is almost as cheap and easy as printing a family snapshot from an inkjet printer. You can even fold it up, slip it in your pocket, then unfold it again for later use.  Read More

Solar Ivy captures the sun's energy whilst creating a pleasing visual aesthetic   (Image b...

Solar Ivy was inspired by traditional mansions, where ivy decorates the exterior walls and reflects the organic essence of nature. Created in collaboration with Brooklyn-based parent company SMIT, Solar Ivy is a series of solar cells printed with conductive ink that resemble ivy leaves. The leaves have been designed to be placed on the outside of residential or commercial buildings as a way of utilizing and absorbing solar energy, whilst also doubling as a shade screen.  Read More

Cross-sectional SEM image showing the various compounds of a new chalcopyrite solar cell c...

Traditional solar cell production techniques are usually time consuming and require expensive vacuum systems or toxic chemicals. Depositing chemical compounds such as CIGS on a substrate using vapor phase deposition also wastes most of the expensive material in the process. For the first time, engineers at Oregon State University (OSU) have now developed a process to create "CIGS" solar cells with inkjet printing technology that allows for precise patterning to reduce raw material waste by 90 percent and significantly lower the cost of producing solar cells with promising, yet expensive compounds.  Read More

Flexible thin film CIGS solar cell on polymer substrate developed at Empa (Photo: Empa)

Swiss researchers have claimed a new world record efficiency of 18.7% for flexible copper indium gallium (di)selenide (CIGS) solar cells on plastics. Flexible CIGS solar cells have the potential to drive down the price of solar electricity because they are cheaper to produce and this latest breakthrough brings them closer to the highest efficiency levels achieved by crystalline silicon and rigid CIGS cells.  Read More

The M13 virus consists of a strand of DNA (the figure-8 coil on the right) attached to a b...

Last year, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced that they had successfully used carbon nanotubes for "funneling" and concentrating electrons in photovoltaic cells – this meant that smaller solar cells created using the nanotubes could produce as much or more electricity than larger conventional cells. Now, the efficiency of these nanotube solar cells is being boosted further ... with the help of a virus.  Read More

Wake Forest University researchers say a new solar thermal device could deliver up to 40 p...

Researchers at Wake Forest University have developed a new type of polymer solar-thermal device that combines photovoltaics with a system that captures the Sun's infrared radiation to generate heating. By taking advantage of both heat and light, researchers say the device could deliver up to 40 percent savings on the cost of heating, as well as helping reduce power bills by producing electricity.  Read More

The south side of the 56th floor of the Willis Tower is being fitted with solar windows (I...

Chicago's Willis Tower, formerly known as Sears Tower, was the world's tallest building from 1974 to 1998 and remains the tallest building in the U.S. to this day. Its 1451-foot (442 m) height adds up to enough window area to keep a window washer busy for life, or space for enough solar panels to be comparable to a 10 acre solar power plant. As part of a pilot project, the south facing windows of the 56th floor of the Willis Tower will be replaced with Pythagoras Solar's transparent solar windows which cut down on heat gain – and therefore cooling costs – as well as harnessing energy from the sun.  Read More

A soldier in a fictitious but realistic urban, desert environment, with superimposed numbe...

If you’ve ever removed the battery from a laptop, then you will know that it constitutes quite a large percentage of the total weight of the computer. Well, if you think you’ve got it tough lugging that laptop battery around, consider the plight of infantry soldiers – they have to carry multiple batteries to power devices such as weapons, radios, and GPS equipment, and they have to do so for hours at a time, often under very harsh conditions. Attempts to lighten the 45 to 70 kg (99 to 154 lb) loads typically carried by soldiers currently include the use of fuel cells, li-ion batteries woven into their clothing, and autonomous pack horse-like vehicles. Now, UK researchers are adding their two pence-worth, by developing wearable solar and thermoelectric power systems.  Read More

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