Most people acknowledge that we need to find alternate sources of energy, given that peak oil is imminent and the Earth’s resources are finite. Nuclear energy has been advocated by environmentalists, scientists, and organizations who believe that despite the negative stigma, it might be the best alternative to the rapidly depleting fuels we currently rely on. While that may or may not be true, one can hardly blame Japan for seeking alternatives to nuclear energy. A number of sources report that the Fukishima disaster still isn’t really under control and may be leaking more radiation than ever, so Japan is directing its search for viable energy sources elsewhere — namely, space, where solar power is abundant.
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America may not be sending people to the moon anytime soon, but recently NASA has been interested in how we can use the moon to advance the scientific and space frontiers. From growing plants to using the moon as a way to destroy threatening asteroids to establishing a national park there, scientists seem to be realizing that there’s more to be done on Earth’s favorite space rock than simply sticking a flag in it. The latest idea for the moon, proposed by Japan’s Shimizu Corporation, involves turning it into a major hub for solar power by putting something called a Luna Ring around it. Would that make us married to the moon?
The moon is an advantageous venue for harvesting solar power, given that it’s constantly sunbathing. Solar-powered instruments, such as some used by Apollo astronauts and China’s recently launched Yutu moon rover have successfully harnessed the endless sunlight available to the moon. So why not increase the scale? Shimizu Corporation’s proposal involves wrapping a 250-mile-wide ring of solar panels around the moon’s equator and then beaming the solar power back to mother Earth.
What’s not to love about solar energy? It’s plentiful, relatively cheap, and it’s not going to run out any time soon. Of course, there’s a catch: what happens when it’s dark? If you’ve ever used solar powered lights or other gadgets, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that when the rays disappear, you only have a matter of minutes before your device loses power. You didn’t think that would remain a problem for long did you?
The Solana Generating Station, a solar power plant located about 70 miles outside Phoenix, has found a way to supply solar power to over 70,000 Arizona homes for up to six hours after the sun sets. This represents a major technological advance from conventional photovoltaic technology that relies on direct sunlight. It also helps that Arizonians don’t have to worry so much about winter weather and long, cold, dark nights. Can you tell how excited I am that winter is coming to Boston?
Well, how’s this for the handiest new gadget you’ll see all day? This is a portable solar electrical outlet from Yanko Design, one that you simply stick to a window and it’s ready to use. That sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? Entirely powered by the sun, this little gizmo doesn’t require being connected to the main power grid in any way shape or form.
Ease of use was front and center in the minds of the development team. Two of the designers, Kyohu Song and Boa Oh, said, “We tried to design a portable socket, so that users can use it intuitively without special training.”
It really is as easy as it sounds. It attaches to a window “like a leech,” and the small solar panels on the underside suck up the energy from the rays of the sun. The whole thing is about as big around as a baseball.
You know the expression “Bigger is better,” right? Well when it comes to energy production, many think that our biggest power supplier of all, the sun, is the future of renewable energy sources. At least until we learn how to attach a three-prong to a supermassive black hole. A new form of solar cell makes its statement that sometimes, smaller is the better way to go.
For a study published in Nature,‘s Scientific Reports, Stanford professor of engineering Xiaolin Zheng and his research team presented their discovery on creating peel-and-stick solar cells. A 300-nanometer film of nickel is set on a silicon-silicon dioxide wafer. Solar cells are placed on the nickel and are then protectively layered with a polymer coating before being covered by a thermal release tape that facilitates the transfer of solar cells from the wafer to whatever it’s attached to. The wafer is submerged in room-temperature water where the thermal tape is peeled back, allowing water to seep between the nickel and silicon dioxide layers. The cell layer is later freed from the production substrate but still affixed to the tape. Both are heated to 90°C for a few seconds before they can be applied to a surface using adhesive. The thermal tape is then removed, leaving the cells to stick to whatever surface they’re applied to, except maybe Teflon.
If you have a time-traveling DeLorean, you may not need roads, but the rest of us still do. And after this winter especially, those roads may be cracked to pieces, making biking and driving particularly unpleasant. But if U.S. company Solar Roadways has its way, those — and a host of other problems related to conventional roadways — will be problems of the past.
Solar Roadways has developed electricity-generating solar-powered panels made of tempered glass that can withstand the weight of traffic. They can do all kinds of stuff, including melt snow and ice by using embedded heating elements. They can house cables and power lines, eliminating the need to run them above-ground where they’re subject to the elements. The five colors of LEDs that operate via two-way microprocessors can warn of road dangers and lead to smart parking lots and roads. These panels will also help pave the way for driverless vehicles, as well as electric vehicles, which these panels would help charge. Solar Roadways says that, if implemented on a wide scale, these roads could provide enough clean, renewable energy to power the country, thereby diminishing our reliance on fossil fuels and decreasing our greenhouse gas emissions.