A look at some clever things being done by smart people in the world of green technologies:
Solar power. Scientists in China and Japan are using the scales on butterflies wings as a template for improved light harvesting on Gratzel solar cells. Tests have shown they absorbs more light than conventional dye-sensitized cells as well as being faster and easier to manufacture. Full journal article here.
When sun light hits a solar panel on an angle, much of that light is reflected off and lost. This has a major impact on solar efficiency, especially for static urban panels. Researches at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed a new anti-reflective coating that can absorb sunlight from nearly all angles. By treating a silicon solar cell the anti-reflective coating, sunlight absorbency increased from 67.4% to 96.21%.
The cost of producing silicone based solar cells is often sighted as the reason why solar power is not yet a viable alternative to energy from fossil fuels. Canadian scientists at the University of Alberta and the National Research Council’s National Institute for Nanotechnology believe they have found the answer by making solar panels from plastic. In two years of development, they have had 30% improvements in working models. They believe that in five to seven years everyone will have access to inexpensive and mass-produced plastic solar cells made by ink jet-like printers.
Produced from sugar cane, sugar beets and other plants, the facility will produce around 10,000 gallons of liquid hydrocarbons a year which can be refined into either gasoline, jet fuel or diesel.
Robotics and fish. Students from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Technology Laboratories are working to develop “fully autonomous greenhouse, complete with robots, pots and plants connected via computation, sensing and communication.”
As yet, the project is restricted to a few tomato plants and robot care takers. Each pot, equipped with sensors that record the plants vital information, can communicate to the robots, outfitted with a robotic arm and water pump, letting it know what attention it needs and when.
Over the Atlantic, British scientists have created robotic fish capable of detecting pollution levels as they maneuver around the oceans. A video of the five foot long robo-carp can be found at Earth First