Imagine something that's made of glass: your home's windows, a car's windshield, the screen on your smartphone. Now imagine that glass surface acting as a power generator. That could be a reality one day soon, thanks to a new transparent solar cell developed by researchers at UCLA.
Solar cellphone chargers are a dime a dozen, but this one from British telecom company Vodafone puts a few new spins on an old idea.
It's been quite a year for artificial plant life, but Singapore has really branched out with its garden of solar-powered super trees that will reach up to 50 meters high. The Bay South garden, which is filled with 18 of these trees, will open on June 29.
You know how water is blue, right? The reason water is blue is because it absorbs the red part of the solar spectrum. This, unfortunately, is a big chunk of the energy that solar cells like to suck down, which is why we don't have solar powered submarines, but the Naval Research Lab has designed a new type of cell that does work under da sea.
The sun had a busy day last week. On Saturday, for a few hours around noon, Germany (the entire country) managed to meet half of its total demand for electricity from solar power alone. That's 22 gigawatts, or about the capacity of 20 nuclear reactors.
What we want from solar energy: inexpensive, highly-efficient solar panels that we can attach to our roofs to power our homes, with wiring so simple that any weekend handyman can set it up. What we get: Crap gadgets. Happy Earth Week, Dvicians. While we're all feeling good about skipping plastic water bottles and buying local produce, let's remember that the power of solar energy — which was at one time believed to be as transformative as nuclear power — is mostly harnessed for trinkety toys that deliver more novelty than real value. Don't believe it? Take a look in the gallery below. Have a solar-powered gadget that let you down? Have one you love? Let us know in the comments.
Space-based solar power has long promised to be a cheap and eco-friendly source of energy for Earth, and for just as long, it hasn't happened. This new concept for a giant solar microwave space flower may look crazy, but NASA liked it enough to throw some money at making it real.
The only way that solar power is ever going to contribute an appreciable amount of energy to the betterment (and cheaperment) of society is if we plaster solar panels on everything, everywhere, all the time. And we might just be able to do it now, with this new generation of panels that are thinner than a strand of human hair by a factor of 20.
An interesting new entry in the solar power market is blooming in a desert in Southern Spain. 50 mirrors track the sun and reflect its light into a 115-foot high tulip-shaped tower; the concentrated rays cause the air in the bulb to heat up to over 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. The super heated air is then forced into a combustion chamber where it expands, powering a turbine generator and creating electricity.
It's hard to beat the energy density of gasoline. Batteries don't come anywhere close, which is why nobody likes to use them for anything. But what if we could just take electrical energy and turn it into gasoline, and what if the only other ingredient we needed to do this was evil carbon dioxide, how awesome would that be? Liquid electricity: we can do it.