Get Prepared Now is NOT Just a Slogan

Monday, February 28, 2011

Forcing mismatched elements together could yield better solar cells

In what could be a step toward higher efficiency solar cells, researchers have invalidated the most commonly used model to explain the behavior of a unique class of materials called highly mismatched alloys.

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Debunking solar energy efficiency measurements: Physicist 'recalculates' efficiency paradigm for thin film solar panels

Solar energy developers have been hopeful that new advances in thin-film solar panels will make the technology more marketable. Now a physicist is putting a lid on some of the current hype surrounding the technology -- and may bring the development of solar energy more down-to-earth.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Planar power: Flat sodium-nickel chloride battery could improve performance, cost of energy storage

A redesign of sodium-nickel chloride batteries promises to overcome some of the obstacles long associated with rechargeable batteries. Replacing their typical cylindrical shape with a flat disc design allows the battery to deliver 30 percent more power at lower temperatures, according to new research. Scientists say these sodium-beta batteries could eventually be used in electricity substations to balance the generation and delivery of wind and solar power on to the grid.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Researchers design, fabricate innovative energy harvesting device

Electrical engineers have reported success in designing and fabricating a device that allows microscale electronic devices to harvest their own wasted energy.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Which methods of heating are most efficient?

ScienceDaily (Dec. 13, 2010) — Carsten Beier from the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT in Oberhausen, Germany does not believe that "anyone would burn a 50-dollar bill just to keep warm. It's obvious that it simply is too valuable for that." But, in contrast to dollar bills, most energy carriers are all too frequently burned for less than they are worth. Take wood, for example. Beier and his colleagues have analyzed the efficiency of heat supply systems and he explains that "wood is a high-quality fuel that can be compared to natural gas. With adequate technologies we could utilize it for power generation. As a fuel, there's a lot more in wood that we are taking advantage of at the moment."

Beyond this, the researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology have come up with a model for comparing various systems and technologies in heat supply ranging from heating boilers for single-family dwellings right down to district heating networks for whole cities. They apply exergy as a criterion of analysis which is a thermodynamic parameter defined by the quantity and quality of an energy. In contrast to the CO2 balance sheet and primary energy consumption, the exergy analysis indicates whether we are sufficiently taking advantage of the potential lying dormant in the energies we use. Carsten Beier has come to the conclusion that "if we used fuels such as natural gas or wood for power generation and only use the waste heat for heating, we would be able to save large quantities of primary energy and avoid generating CO2 emissions."

Cogeneration plants are taking advantage of these potentials. While large-scale power plants lose an average of 60 percent of the energy as waste heat through the cooling tower, cogeneration plants use this flow of heat for heating purposes, which means that they achieve overall efficiency of more than 80 percent. The researchers distinguished four categories of heat generation in their analyses: burning, cogeneration and using heat pumps or waste heat from industrial processes. Comparing these categories, using waste heat was particularly good in connection with heat networks. That said, it also became apparent that the way drinking water was heated was a key factor in exergy efficiency. Beier reveals that "even heating a room with waste heat has a poor overall exergy balance sheet if the service water for the household is electrically heated."

Researchers derived one basic recommendation from their comparison of systems and technologies. Beier demands "we should take advantage of all sources of heat whose temperature level corresponds to our heating requirements." And we could take advantage of the fact that there are a whole series of applications where heat is needed at different temperature levels. Beier explains how. "Any type of cascade is very efficient. For instance, if you use fuel for power generation first, then the waste heat for water heating and finally the remaining heat for space heating." He confesses that there might be discussions on the economic efficiency of these scenarios, especially because the initial investments are rather high. "But, on the other hand, it is essential to restructure our energy system quickly and an exergy analysis is an excellent tool for identifying how power supply should be designed in future."

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

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New reactor paves the way for efficiently producing fuel from sunlight

Using a common metal most famously found in self-cleaning ovens, Sossina Haile hopes to change our energy future. The metal is cerium oxide -- or ceria -- and it is the centerpiece of a promising new technology developed by Haile and her colleagues that concentrates solar energy and uses it to efficiently convert carbon dioxide and water into fuels.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Microchip harvests its own energy

ScienceDaily (Dec. 15, 2010) — Microchips that 'harvest' the energy they need from their own surroundings, without depending on batteries or mains electricity. That will be possible now that researchers from the University of Twente's MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology, together with colleagues from the universities of Nankai (China) and Utrecht, have for the first time succeeded in manufacturing a microchip with an efficient solar cell placed on top of the microelectronics.

The researchers presented their findings at the International Electron Device Meeting in San Francisco.

The placement of a solar cell directly on top of the electronics means the autonomous chip does not need batteries. In this way, for example, a sensor chip can be produced, complete with the necessary intelligence and even an antenna for wireless communication. However, the chip's energy use must be well below 1 milliwatt, say the researchers. The chip can then even collect enough energy to operate indoors.

The simplest solution would seem to be to manufacture the solar cell separately and then fit it on top of the electronics, but this is not the most efficient production process, so instead the researchers use the chip as a base and apply the solar cell to it layer by layer. This uses fewer materials, and also ultimately performs better. But the combination is not trouble-free: there is a risk that the steps in the production of the solar cell will damage the electronics so that they function less efficiently.

For this reason the researchers decided to use solar cells made of amorphous silicon or CIGS (copper -- indium -- gallium -- selenide). The manufacturing procedure for these cells does not influence the electronics, and these types of solar cells also produce sufficient power, even in low light. Tests have shown that the electronics and the solar cells function properly, and the manufacturing process is also highly suitable for industrial serial production with the use of standard processes.

The research was carried out in the Semiconductor Components group led by Prof. Jurriaan Schmitz. The researchers collaborated with colleagues from Nankai University in Tianjin, China and the Debye Institute of Utrecht University. The research was made possible by the STW Technology Foundation.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by University of Twente, via AlphaGalileo.

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

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ESA’s Mercury mapper feels the heat

Key components of the ESA-led Mercury mapper BepiColombo have been tested in a specially upgraded European space simulator. ESA’s Large Space Simulator is now the most powerful in the world and the only facility capable of reproducing Mercury’s hellish environment for a full-scale spacecraft.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Power grid of the future saves energy

Green energy too comes out of the electricity socket, but to get there it has to travel a long journey -- from wind turbines in the North Sea or regional solar, wind and biogas power plants. On the way to the consumer lots of energy is lost. New electronic components will change things in future.

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Sunforce 50022 5-Watt Solar Battery Trickle Charger

The Sunforce 50022 5-Watt Solar Battery Trickle Charger gives you another reason to love the sun--it can help keep your vehicle's battery charged. It provides up to 5-Watts or 350mA of power to prevent the natural voltage drain of batteries over time. It includes both a lighter socket adapter and alligator clips to give you flexible connection options.

The Sunforce 5-Watt Solar Trickle Charger is compact and easy to install.
Convenient Power That Helps Keep Your Batteries Charged
The Sunforce 50022 5-Watt Solar Battery Trickle Charger lets you harness the power of the sun, the most powerful and plentiful source of energy available to us. Unlike nuclear and fossil fuels, solar power is clean and pollution-free, and the equipment requires very little maintenance to operate.

This trickle charger is designed to stave off the natural voltage drain that 12-Volt batteries undergo over time. It can also maintain the charge of a 12-Volt battery while it is providing energy to small electronics like cell phone chargers or small pumps and motors. The Sunforce 50022 5-Watt Solar Battery Trickle Charger is constructed with durable ABS plastic and features amorphous solar cells and an ultra-bright blue LED charging indicator. Four mounting holes are pre-cut in the frame for easy permanent installation. It is weatherproof and remains effective even on cloudy days. The built-in overcharge/discharge protection prevents overcharging and reverse-current drain. This trickle charger is an ideal choice for automobiles, recreational vehicles, all-terrain vehicles, tractors, boats and more.

Sunforce Solar Panels are effective in areas of both high and lower
sun exposure, making them ideal for use in the United States.
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About Amorphous Solar Power
Amorphous solar panels are created by spraying silicon on to glass in very thin layers, and are commonly known as thin film solar panels. This process allows them to be better at generating electricity in all lighting conditions, including cloudy or shady environments. Sunforce amorphous solar panels are weatherproof and suitable for outdoor use. They have a maximum operating temperature range of -40 to 176-degrees Fahrenheit, require virtually no maintenance, and are also effective on cloudy days.

Solar cells convert sunlight into an electric current; they do not actually store power. The Sunforce 50022 5-Watt Solar Battery Trickle Charger is designed to maintain an existing battery charge, and not to fully recharge a battery. It can remain connected to a vehicle battery at all times and will not adversely affect its operation or electrical components. Unless the trickle charger is permanently mounted, you should remove and store it to prevent physical harm while the vehicle is in motion.

Price: $69.99

Click here to buy from Amazon

Friday, February 18, 2011

Homebrew Wind Power

Homebrew Wind PowerA Hands-on Guide to Harnessing the Wind

Have you ever wondered how wind turbines work and why they look like they do? Are you interested in adding wind power to your off-grid electric system, but have been put off by the high cost of equipment and installation? Well, now you can build and install your own wind turbine!

Harnessing the wind can be a tricky business, but in this groundbreaking book the authors provide step-by-step, illustrated instructions for building a wind generator in a home workshop. Even if you don't plan on building your own turbine, this book is packed with valuable information for anyone considering wind energy. It covers the basic physics of how the energy in moving air is turned into electricity, and most importantly, will give you a realistic idea of what wind energy can do for you--and what it can't.

Full-scale, actual size blueprints for the 10-foot diameter wind turbine featured in this book are also available from Amazon to help you along in the construction process. Search Amazon books for "Homebrew Wind Power Blueprints" by Tyrone Banderet!

Price: $39.95

Click here to buy from Amazon

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Green Science Windmill Generator by Toysmith

Green Science Windmill Generator by ToysmithAges 8 & up. Learn about renewable energy with this wind generator. LED light will glow as it is powered by free energy from the wind. No batteries required!

Price: $11.99

Click here to buy from Amazon

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Living Off The Grid

The shortage of power, the rapid consumption of nonrenewable energy, the ever-increasing demand for power supply, the daily warnings about our environment are not signs to tell us that it's time we do something.

Don't know where to start?  How about living off the grid?  Living off the grid not only helps the environment and help save power; it also cuts down our electric bill substantially.  Reducing our eliminating your electricity bill is a tangible benefit apart from the good you can do the world.

Here is a list of some advantages of living off the grid.
1.  Reduced dependability on exhausting resources.  Who wants to depend on public utilities all the time?  Living off the grid helps you rely only on your resources and not the one supplied by governments or corporations.  How often have you cursed when faced with the power outage in the mist of some important work?  Wouldn't you like to take charge of such factors affecting your life?  With alternative power solutions, you can.
2.  Freedom from usage of naturally available resources.  How would you feel when you don't have to pay for the power you use?  Wouldn't it be delightful to use as much power as you want without worrying about the electric meter?  You can make use of the abundant power available in the nature to light your home and make your food.  The solar power solution and the wind power solutions are the answer to your power solution guest (literally!).
3.  Reduce power costs, helping save your money.  How would you feel if the electric bills stopped coming in your letter box?  The alternate power solutions give you a return on investment very soon, that's making the power supply to your home eventually free!
4.  Making way for a healthier environment.  Don't you bless the people who planted trees years ago not expecting them to miraculously grow?  They planted those trees for future generations.  Make the future of your future generations secure by giving them a greener, healthier world.  Try to use water minimally.  There is not much drinking water left for the next generations.

If you are thinking it is not feasible to live off the grid, research the alternative power solutions and you will be surprised to learn that they are not only cost effective but also extremely feasible.

Elusive intermediary: Newly discovered protein may help improve crop yields, solar cells

ScienceDaily (Oct. 8, 2010) — Plants use specialized protein complexes to collect the light that drives photosynthesis. Researchers at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet in Munich have now identified a protein that is necessary for the assembly of one such complex. The discovery could lead to improved crop yields and might even form the basis for new types of solar cells.

Photosynthesis is the process used by plants to convert atmospheric carbon dioxide into the energy-rich chemicals upon which all life-forms depend. The energy trapped in these compounds comes from sunlight, and photosynthetic organisms -- plants, algae and certain types of bacteria -- capture this energy in a usable form with the help of protein complexes called photosystems. Photosystems include antenna proteins that collect incident light, and green plants have two sorts of photosystems, which respond best to light of different wavelengths.

A team of researchers at LMU, led by Professor Dario Leister, has now identified a protein named PAM68 that is essential for the assembly of Photosystem II in green plants. The protein is also found in photosynthetic cyanobacteria, but there it serves a different function. "It turns out that PAM68 itself does not form part of the functional photosystem II at all," says Leister. In the longer term, the new finding may make it possible to improve the yields of important crops and might even form the basis for new types of solar cells.

The research is published online in the journal Plant Cell.

Photosynthesis can be thought of as the central pillar of the biosphere, because this set of biochemical reactions provides the oxygen and energy-rich foodstuffs upon which other organisms, including humans, subsist. The energy for the process comes from sunlight, and is captured by molecules that act as solar collectors in photosynthetic organisms, such as plants, algae and cyanobacteria. "All of these organisms possess two different photosystems, each of which responds most efficiently to light of a particular wavelength," says Professor Dario Leister of the Department of Biology I at LMU Munich.

The photosystems consist of light-absorbing chlorophyll pigments and a variety of proteins. "Assembly of these multiprotein complexes takes place in several steps and requires the participation of specific accessory proteins," explains Leister. In their latest study, he and his team set out to identify assembly factors necessary for correct formation of photosystem II in the model plant thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) and in the cyanobacterial species Synechocystis. They showed that a previously unknown protein, which they called PAM68, interacts with several of the components of photosystem II and is required to put the functional complex together.

"PAM68 is found in both the plant and the cyanobacterium," Leister points out, "but it has quite different functions in the two organisms." In both cases, the newly discovered assembly factor is essential for the first steps in the construction of Photosystem II. In thale cress mutants that lack PAM68, however, these early intermediates accumulate. Inactivation of the cyanobacterial protein, on the other hand, actually facilitates the assembly of larger complexes. Strikingly, although it is required in the building of Photosystem II, PAM68 is not a member of the fully assembled, functional complex. "This is one case where the whole is less than the sum of the parts," says Leister.

The new work has uncovered common features of plant and bacterial photosynthesis, but also points to distinct differences between the two. "In the long term, a comprehensive understanding of the function of Photosystems I and II should enable us to utilize solar energy more efficiently," says Leister. It could, for instance, contribute to the development of artificial systems that mimic photosynthesis, perhaps leading to new types of solar cell. The new results will also be of interest to agronomists, as they suggest that it should be possible to produce more robust strains of crop plants that can cope with higher levels of light stress and produce better yields. At all events, Leister and his team will continue their quest for the new factors involved in photosystem assembly. (CA/suwe)

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universit√§t M√ľnchen, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Journal Reference:

U. Armbruster, J. Zuhlke, B. Rengstl, R. Kreller, E. Makarenko, T. Ruhle, D. Schunemann, P. Jahns, B. Weisshaar, J. Nickelsen, D. Leister. The Arabidopsis Thylakoid Protein PAM68 Is Required for Efficient D1 Biogenesis and Photosystem II Assembly. Plant Cell, 2010; DOI: 10.1105/tpc.110.077453

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

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