New Solar Chip Converts Both Light and Heat

PETE solar chip

A new and improved version of a solar semiconductor chip developed at the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences (SIMES) converts both light and heat into electricity, and is claimed to be 100 times more efficient than the previous iteration. The solar device, based on the photon-enhanced thermionic emission (PETE) process, can use the entire spectrum of sunlight for energy production, including those wavelengths that generate heat (which are usually considered ‘waste’ heat) Current photovoltaic technology uses only a small portion of the spectrum of sunlight that hits the cells, and they get less efficient at higher temperatures. The… read more

Quantum Dot Solar Cells


More than one hundred of  the world’s first solar cells with EQE (External quantum efficiency)  were created recently showing significantly greater efficiency than regular solar cells. These enhanced solar cells generate 40% more power for every photon which falls on the solar cell. This achievement was possible with the help of Multiple Excitation Generation (MEG). MEG works by splitting and using a greater portion of the energy in the higher energy photons. The test results showed MEG produced an EQU value of 114 % for 4 eV photons. “Since current solar cell technology is still too expensive to completely compete with non-renewable… read more

DIY Solar Water Heater

Thermosyphon Technology

Solar water heaters are one way to naturally warm water for household needs. This useful project can be installed do-it-yourself style with a bit of knowledge and some construction supplies. Designs can be basic or elaborate, depending on available budgets and materials. Thermosyphon technology occurs when water warms up, causing it to swell and rise. Containers like glass and plastic bottles can be incorporated with piping, panels and a tank to make a home solar water heater. The panels and water tanks have to be placed in a certain position for optimal efficiency and heat concentration. The water in the… read more

Making Stronger, Greener Concrete with Biofuel Byproducts

cement mixer

A Kansas State University (KSU) civil engineer is working to develop a new version of concrete, using just the right mix of ingredients to to make it stronger, and to reduce the carbon footprint of this ubiquitous building material. The surprising ingredient is something that must ordinarily be dealt with as a waste product: the byproducts of biofuel production. With some 7 billion cubic meters of concrete poured every year, it is easily the most-used industrial material, and one that also carries a rather large carbon footprint – one which adds up to somewhere between 3 and 8% of our… read more

Smart Choice Wind Panels


Wind energy has come a long way since the introduction of windmills and towering turbines. While these remain a dominant source of wind energy, there have been innovations in wind energy design that are more environmentally and the economically practical. One of the most interesting is the Vibro-wind Panel, which is currently being developed by a team of professors and undergraduates at Cornell University. Vibro-wind is a form of micro-generation that harnesses motion and utilizes the resulting vibrations of its foam oscillators. Just as leaves flutter when the wind passes through them, the oscillators dance and twirl as breezes swoops around… read more

Using Concentrated Solar to Purify Drinking Water


Many people across the globe don’t have regular access to potable drinking water, so developing better and more sustainable solutions to water purification, especially low-tech solutions, fits a very real need in the world. A wide range of options are out there, from individual filter straws to family-sized filtration units and village-sized purification systems. For providing reliable clean water over the long run, especially far off the beaten path, water purification devices need to be not only dependable, but also simple to maintain or fix with just the tools and materials at hand. Having to order a replacement part and… read more

Technology Turns The Tide


It seems a contradiction, however technology and digital developments are helping us to become more energy conscious. Up to now consumers in the developed world have had an insatiable appetite for all the new mobile technology being launched each year. In fact so clever have marketing departments become, that we race out to buy the latest updates regardless of whether our existing device still functions perfectly well. The ‘must have’ mindset has set in. However, another fact of life is that everything old will be new again. Indeed the refurbishment of products by their original manufacturer has led to an upswing in demand… read more

Graphene Could Boost Solar Efficiency to 60%


Current solar cell technology, using silicon as the base, has a theoretical limit to its efficiency, which falls somewhere around 30%, but solar cells made with graphene may push that limit up to somewhere around 60%. The results of a study from researchers at the Institute of Photonic Sciences suggest that graphene might be the material of choice for the next generation of photovoltaic cells, as it is “highly efficient” at generating electrons from light. When hit by light, silicon generates just one electron for each photon absorbed, which is only a fraction of the potential energy in the photon…. read more

Join The Butts Brigade!

Join the Butts Brigade!

Cigarette butts comprise the largest single item of litter in America. Annually, worldwide cigarette butt litter amounts to 1.69 billion pounds. TerraCycle Inc., a company dedicated to stopping waste from reaching landfill sites, has teamed up with Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co. to create an alternative way to harness cigarette butt litter. The tobacco company will sponsor TerraCycle’s Cigarette Waste Brigade. Individuals and groups sign up to collect cigarette waste, print a prepaid shipping label, and then mail the cigarettes to TerraCycle. The waste will then be turned into new products such as shipping pallets, railroad ties, plastic lumber, and ash trays. The program is aimed to target… read more

Cyber Gardening

Twitter Garden

Twitter and gardening usually don’t go hand-in-hand, that is, until now. A London-based company called ecoLogicalStudio created what they call the H.O.R.T.U.S, or Hydro Organisms Responsive To Urban Stimuli. It’s basically a giant garden with bacteria and algae, controlled with computers. Basically, the garden is a mass of clear, plastic containers filled with water, algae, moss, bacteria, etc. The garden is 100% dependent on personal communication to grow the plants. One part of the system involves people breathing directly into tubes connected to the plants to help them grow. And the plants aren’t just cool green vines hanging from the… read more