Photokina 2014 highlights

Sunlight

The prototype solar reactor that directly converts the Sun's rays into fuel

Because conventional photovoltaic panels produce electricity directly from sunlight, the energy they generate must either be used as it is produced or stored – either in batteries or by using the electricity to produce a fuel that acts as a storage medium for the energy. Now U.S. and Swiss researchers have developed a prototype device that directly converts the Sun’s rays into fuels that can be stored, allowing the energy to be used at night or transported to locations where it is needed.  Read More

An Oriental hornet, whose yellow and brown exoskeleton is able to turn sunlight into elect...

It’s no big mystery why turtles and other reptiles bask in the sun – being cold-blooded animals, they’re gathering heat to warm their bodies, so they can be active. Recently, however, scientists from Israel and the UK discovered that the Oriental hornet has been putting a “high-tech” spin on that model... the outer layers of its body work as a natural photovoltaic cell, converting sunlight to electricity. The scientists then proceeded to create a cell of their own, using the hornet as their inspiration.  Read More

Soltech Energy glass tiles help cut energy bills

Swedish company, Soltech Energy, recently received the gold medal for this year’s hottest new material at the Nordbygg 2010 trade fair in Stockholm. The award was fitting because it was for the company’s home heating system that features roof tiles made out of glass. The tiles, which are made from ordinary glass, weigh about the same as the clay roof tiles they replace but allow the sun to heat air that is then used to heat the house and cut energy bills.  Read More

A new Android app analyzes air pollution in its user's vicinity (Photo: Wurstsalat)

Is it actually smoggy outside today, or is it just you? If you have the Visibility app on your Android smartphone, you can find out. Just take a picture of the sky, and you will receive a message detailing how polluted the air is at your location. Not only will you know if you should take shelter indoors, but you will also be contributing to the scientific understanding of local air pollution.  Read More

Associate Professor Michael Strano (left) with graduate student Ardemis Boghossian and pos...

One of the problems with harvesting sunlight and converting it into stored energy is that the sun’s rays can be highly destructive to many materials, leading to a gradual degradation of many systems developed to do just that. Once again, researchers have turned to nature for a solution. Plants constantly break down their light-capturing molecules and reassemble them from scratch, so the basic structures that capture the sun’s energy are, in effect, always brand new. By imitating this strategy MIT scientists have created a novel set of self-assembling molecules and used them to create a photovoltaic cell that repairs itself.  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

IKAROS with it's solar sail successfully deployed

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s IKAROS space yacht which launched last month has successfully unfurled its solar sail. The accomplishment marks the first time a solar sail has been successfully deployed in space.  Read More

The IKAROS (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun) solar sail

Although the idea of a solar sail was first proposed some 100 years ago, to date none has been successfully used in space as a primary means of propulsion. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is looking to change all that with its IKAROS project – not a misspelling of Icarus, rather an abbreviation of Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun. Launched today aboard the H-IIA Launch Vehicle (H-IIA F17), IKAROS is a space yacht that gathers energy for propulsion from sunlight pressure (photons) by means of a square membrane measuring 20 meters (65.6 ft) diagonally.  Read More

MIT researchers have created a virus-templated catalyst solution used to harness energy fr...

A team of MIT researchers has managed to mimic the photosynthetic process in plants by engineering M13, a simple and harmless virus, to help splitting water into its two atomic components, hydrogen and oxygen, using sunlight. The researchers hope this is the first step toward using sunlight to create hydrogen reserves that could then be used to generate electricity or even produce liquid fuels for transportation.  Read More

A window frame and stirring branches projected by Adam Frank's REVEAL

Just the other day we brought you the story of SUNLIGHT, an art project featuring a giant solar-powered projection of the sun. It was designed and is being installed by Brooklyn artist Adam Frank. Upon looking over Mr Frank’s website we found an interesting little projector-type thingy-ma-jig that you can set up right in your own home. It’s called REVEAL, and it simulates the sun-cast shadows of a window frame and swaying tree branches on your inside walls. Just the thing for that dingy basement office.  Read More

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