There have been many advancements in materials and processes regarding solar power, but some of the best new design applications are windows that generate solar power and innovative products like solar-powered light bulbs and chargers.
Solar Power Generating Windows:
Researchers at UCLA have developed a new polymer based solar cell that absorbs mostly infrared light which would allow glazing manufactured from this polymer solar cell (PSC) to be around 70% transparent and clear to the human eye. Yang Yang, a UCLA professor of materials science and engineering, who also is director of the Nano Renewable Energy Center at California NanoSystems Institute, states:
These results open the potential for visibly transparent polymer solar cells as add-on components of portable electronics, smart windows and building-integrated photovoltaics and in other applications – our new PSCs are made from plastic-like materials and are lightweight and flexible,” he said. “More importantly, they can be produced in high volume at low cost.
Just think of the power generation capabilities of the existing sky scrapers or if newly built homes all were required to install solar power generating windows? Granted, replacing all the glazing in a sky scraper would probably be cost prohibitive, but anybody want to do the math? Pretty sure those engineering equations are stuck with my diploma gathering dust somewhere…. UCLA, is not the only university that has or is working on something similar, MIT came out with something similar a few years ago – geek fight? Now if somebody developed a transparent solar power generating spray…. Bueller?
Spray-on Solar Panels:
Enter the University of Texas from my long lost favorite: Austin, TX; developing a spray-on solar film:
Brian Korgel, a nanomaterials chemist at the University of Texas at Austin states:
Chemical engineers are now able to take these new chemicals, like nanomaterials, and we’re trying to create the technologies that can meet the global challenge of, say, energy sustainability. We’re taking chemistry, we’re inventing new ways to actually make materials that can’t be made any other way – it’s challenging to get high efficiencies of conversion.
Solar Powered Light Bulbs:
Innovation in solar powered is not just limited to the materials, but also the application. Nokero, founded in Denver, CO; (short for no Kerosene) is helping to help the hundreds of millions of people on this planet that have no access to electricity – no night light, no flash in the dark when walking for water, star light at best:
Their innovative products enable school children to complete their homework, charge cell phones to help keep remote areas connected, and be an essential part of emergency response organizations like ShelterBox.
Another innovative solar power company is the Solar Electric Fund (SELF) which is helping to fight energy poverty with the power of the sun.
SELF works to deliver solar power and wireless communications to rural villages in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. SELF facilitates a new generation of “whole village” solar electrification projects to power water pumping and purification, drip irrigation, health clinics (including vaccine refrigeration), schools, household and community lighting, and income-generating micro-enterprises that can be scaled up through the private sector or through public/private partnerships.
SELF is taking a unique approach versus many NGOs – they help a village become energy self-sufficient instead of getting tied not only to the power grid, but the company and government providing and regulating that power.
The Solar Integrated Development Model provides targeted applications, tools and hardware such as compact fluorescent lights, sewing machine motors, oil expellers, vaccine refrigerators, water pumps, computers and barber clippers, often through microfinance loans, so that community members have the tools to turn electrical energy into economic empowerment.
Isn’t it amazing what a little sunshine can do?