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Innovative Use of Plastics Could Cheaply Double Solar Cell Output 141

Posted by timothy
from the hot-photon-on-plastic-action dept.
doug141 writes "In standard solar cells, much energy is lost (as heat) from photons mismatched to the capability of silicon to capture them. A new technique uses a pentacene layer to down-convert each hot (un-captureable) electron to two electrons that can be captured by standard silicon cells." You can read more at the University of Texas research group's web page.
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Innovative Use of Plastics Could Cheaply Double Solar Cell Output

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  • Power companies (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bonch (38532) * on Saturday December 17, 2011 @04:30PM (#38410856)

    It would be really interesting to see what happened if solar energy became affordable enough to power people's homes. Based on current technology, the cost of solar panels is several thousands of dollars for a typical home's electricity needs. Over the lifetime of the panels, that's about 30 cents per kilowatt hour, which is three times the cost of typical utility fees. I wonder if there would be resistance from power companies if people were able to put cheap solar panels on their houses, or if they would buy up all the patents so you had to buy your panels from them.

    • Re:Power companies (Score:5, Insightful)

      by russotto (537200) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @04:32PM (#38410888) Journal

      I wonder if there would be resistance from power companies if people were able to put cheap solar panels on their houses, or if they would buy up all the patents so you had to buy your panels from them.

      They'd just institute daylight-based pricing. Use of electricity during the day = $0.05/kWh. Use of electricity an night = $0.50/kWh. Now you've got to solve the battery problem AND the solar panel problem.

      • Re:Power companies (Score:5, Informative)

        by tomhudson (43916) <barbara DOT huds ... a-hudson DOT com> on Saturday December 17, 2011 @04:35PM (#38410920) Journal

        The power companies won't mind if solar is used for large-draw things like daytime AC, when they themselves have to buy power at peak rates. They'd actually become more profitable with less demand.

        The use for night-time heating is a solved problem - store the heat in something massive during daytime hours - you don't even need to take the losses from converting to electricity and back.

        • by Spoke (6112)

          The power companies won't mind if solar is used for large-draw things like daytime AC, when they themselves have to buy power at peak rates. They'd actually become more profitable with less demand.

          Not quite. Most utilities are required to pass along energy rates directly without making any additional profit. They are only allowed to profit on the costs of building and maintaining the distribution network.

          Profits themselves are also typically regulated to a percentage of their costs. So if they want to make more money, they have to justify additional expenses on distribution network.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Regardless of what happens, you'd need smart networks, and in most cases that means a complete overhaul of the infrastructure.

            Until some changes start from the very top, solar panels won't gain that much more popularity.

            • The problem is "some changes". Which is somewhere between replacing all devices on the electrical network to support full bidirectional transmission, and replacing every last piece of transmission infrastructure we have. Ignoring that in practice we probably need to build a whole lot more in the process. In order to reach the transmission efficiency that most "solar is cheaper" systems depend on we'd need HVDC lines everywhere (not just plant -> homes, but every single location would need high capacity e

              • Our battery array is over ten years old and still going strong. In 15/18 years they will still have 80% of new rated capacity. I suspect that they will last until the day I die.
      • Re:Power companies (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fyngyrz (762201) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @05:16PM (#38411212) Homepage Journal

        They'd just institute daylight-based pricing. Use of electricity during the day = $0.05/kWh. Use of electricity an night = $0.50/kWh. Now you've got to solve the battery problem AND the solar panel problem.

        Nah, then all you need is batteries and a charging and inverter system. No solar panels at all. Because all you'd have to do is store electricity from the company during the day, and use it at night or when the power is down. Right now, there's no great price advantage to doing this, but the second the day and night prices diverge significantly, there would be. And THEN, if they caught on and changed it back, all you'd need to add would be panels. So this would be a very bad move for the power companies.

        • by nprz (1210658)

          Japan has a significant price difference between using electricity at night (11pm-7am) and during the day. Since usage is down at night, it is much cheaper, so people do things that might require a lot of electricity (e.g. washer, dish-washer).

          But I doubt the price difference is enough for people to invest in the batteries & inverter system.

        • by jbengt (874751)

          Use of electricity during the day = $0.05/kWh. Use of electricity an night = $0.50/kWh. Now you've got to solve the battery problem AND the solar panel problem.

          Nah, then all you need is batteries and a charging and inverter system. No solar panels at all. Because all you'd have to do is store electricity from the company during the day, and use it at night or when the power is down. Right now, there's no great price advantage to doing this, but the second the day and night prices diverge significantly, there would be.

          Hhmmm [nvenergy.com], it seems those sorts of rates are already [portlandgeneral.com] in [comed.com] use [oru.com].

          • Hhmmm [nvenergy.com], it seems those sorts of rates are already [portlandgeneral.com] in [comed.com] use [oru.com].

            No. You have provided four examples of the exact opposite happening. All of these rates are higher in the middle of the day when the sun is brightest.

        • by Khyber (864651)

          "No solar panels at all."

          And how do you propose to capture the energy otherwise?

        • by drgould (24404)

          Nah, then all you need is batteries and a charging and inverter system. No solar panels at all.

          Similar to this guy [youtube.com], except for him it's (much) cheaper at night.

        • by dbIII (701233)
          Yes, but in the long term batteries are more expensive than solar panels.
          Personally I like the idea of panels and batteries combined to provide some sort of independance from the grid instead of just being a fairly inefficient way for power companies and governments to pretend they are being "green" (by giving a financial incentive to those with the panels). Whatever you get taken off the bill or even paid back is going to vary with the whim of whoever you are connected to.
        • would not be very useful for me where i live it is cloudy and rainy or fogy most of the year but the idea has marret . if only tesla and edison had not bee so apposed we would have dc power in our homes and every device would not need its own intagrated converter, but dc is bad for long distant transmission if only we had dc in home and ac betwen source and the power box on the house

        • by GNious (953874)

          Dirty Jobs did a segment on a smelting/iron-work plant, where it was cheaper to pay people to work night-shift only, than to pay for daytime electricity. So price-difference must already be quite high is some areas, between day-time and night-time electricity.

          As for solar-panels on houses - it would take a load of the current infrastructure, so companies do not have to build out/fix the distribution-net as immediately. This would be a boon for them, albeit only temporary.

      • They'd just institute daylight-based pricing. Use of electricity during the day = $0.05/kWh. Use of electricity an night = $0.50/kWh. Now you've got to solve the battery problem AND the solar panel problem.

        Would this really work? How do mostly- or all-solar homes work? I'm only familiar with smaller setups, and most of them don't directly power the house; they charge a battery that will then be used (usually with a DC-to-AC inverter) to power things later--e.g., at night, so the higher fee then will actually work out in the customer's favor.

        • Re:Power companies (Score:5, Informative)

          by kkwst2 (992504) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @05:56PM (#38411480)

          Now many states have have laws requiring essentially that the power company buy or give you credit for anything you produce. So you get the panels installed and apply for a two way meter from the electric company. They keep track of how much you produce and subtract it off your consumption essentially.

          Furthermore, some states require utility companies to use so much power from solar, and this is done essentially by buying credits from people making solar. So in NJ if I have 10 kW worth of panels I might generate enough credits in a year to sell for $6000. It is essentially the state dictating that the power company has to pay me money for making solar energy. That is on top of the savings you get from using less electricity.

          So with federal rebates, a 10 kw system costs around $35k to $40k to install. But with the credits and electricity savings, it will "pay for itself" in 5 years or so.

          In NJ this fell apart a little bit because everyone saw it was a good deal and there is now an oversupply of these credits, so the value of the credits are less than half of what they were last year. Time will tell how it all shakes out. If I got no money for the credits, the panels should pay for themselves in 20 years. So it will be somewhere between a ton of free money and a marginal investment.

          • by onepoint (301486)

            Interesting that the credit is trade-able. In Florida, the net meter rules don't give you the option of trading your credits with a debit account. Also FPL ( florida power and light ) have limited the amount of KW you can produce at any given moment and pump into the system to 5KW due to line issues ( until they upgrade, that's the peak you can provide )

            I find that Florida (of all places ) is the unfriendliest when it comes to solar power. If Florida got it's act together, it could help produce and supply a

            • Re:Power companies (Score:4, Informative)

              by The Askylist (2488908) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @07:47PM (#38412182)

              It's not tradeable in the UK, either - what we have here is called a "feed-in tariff", which is a government set price per KWh that is paid for a fixed period.

              The UK solar "industry" (read: the hucksters who jumped on this money tree when it first came in) are now bleating because the FIT has been halved (though it's still 30 cents or more per KWh), and their business model is no longer profitable.

              Would be so much better if there was a market in the tariffs, and the solar option could then grow at a sensible rate.

            • I find that Florida (of all places ) is the unfriendliest when it comes to solar power. If Florida got it's act together, it could help produce and supply and export energy.

              Don't hold your breath. The Sunshine State is screwed with a crooked pencil necked cue-ball in the governors mansion.

          • There can be a catch on the trading. Some energy companies want to buy from you at wholesale, and sell back to you at retail. If that doesn't sound unreasonable, they also want to route all your energy through their meters, so even if you immediately use the energy you just generated, you still get to pay the difference between wholesale and retail.

      • Re:Power companies (Score:5, Informative)

        by CarlDenny (415322) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @05:52PM (#38411446)

        That's an insanely ignorant suggestion.

        That would incentivize people to move their power usage from off-peak times to on-peak times, forcing power companies to build *more* capacity for on-peak utilization. The pricing you describe is the *exact opposite* of the actual economy of the power industry, and any company that tried it would end up out of business.

        The fact that solar only generates during the day makes is a boon for power companies, it prevents them from having to build expensive plants for peak production while leaving lots of profits in providing baseline power with existing investments.

        • Actually, if this works, we should probably cut the gov. support for Solar and instead, move the money to energy storage. It could be as simple as car batteries, but it could also be thermal storage which would then go into coal plants that are being shut down.
      • I wonder if there would be resistance from power companies if people were able to put cheap solar panels on their houses, or if they would buy up all the patents so you had to buy your panels from them.

        They'd just institute daylight-based pricing. Use of electricity during the day = $0.05/kWh. Use of electricity an night = $0.50/kWh. Now you've got to solve the battery problem AND the solar panel problem.

        I think you've got this backwards... Most power usage is during the day, so if people's homes had a modest solar panel, the power companies would be able to generate a more even level of power 24 hours a day, meaning less of a need for reserve capacity. Also, in places that charge variable rates, currently they charge less at night, there's no reason to expect that to change. You know, obligatory wiki link [wikipedia.org]

        • meaning less of a need for reserve capacity.

          Except you will need the reserve capacity since not every day is a mid summers sunny day. That is one of the costs of non demand power generation that is typically just ignored by proponents. And no "just use water pump storage" does not solve the problem, they are expensive and huge and can't be built where you need them. In fact you can't even build enough of them, and that is the currently cheapest option.

      • by mlts (1038732) *

        The battery problem is solvable with a boring, low-tech solution: Flywheels. With magnetic bearings, they don't require that much maintenance, and barring physical damage, are harder to kill than batteries. If you drain a conventional battery to 0 volts repeatedly, it will die. Drain a flywheel to 0 RPM... and it just stops.

        Batteries are important for research for portable energy storage, such as cars and such. However, where large flywheels can be built they are the best tool for the job, until batter

        • However these are currently insanely expensive.
          • by mlts (1038732) *

            As with any technology, economies of scale would step in to make this cheap and effective. A flywheel is not that exotic a device, other than dealing with bearing friction/wear and minimizing the chance of the flywheel breaking apart (which isn't as tough as keeping batteries from exploding.) Given magnetic bearings, a flywheel can store its kinetic energy for a while.

            Of course, there are downsides to flywheels. Due to their angular momentum, they require extensive engineering to be used in moving vehicl

            • Well they still aren't cheap and need quite a lot of technology such as quite high power drive electronics. Magnetic bearings are not simple either and typically have an active component to damp down vibrations and finally the composite rotors are not simple pieces of engineering either, since they need to spin close to structural limits, not distort too much and distort perfectly evenly, but dismantle in off design conditions in a way that is "safe" (ie in small fragments).

              One way to make them cheaper i
      • by edxwelch (600979)

        > Now you've got to solve the battery problem
        No, you don't. No batteries aren't needed for home solar power, as most homes are connected to the power grid. The just sell the excess power generated during the day and use grid power during the night.

      • The solution to the battery problem is flywheels.
    • Re:Power companies (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @04:36PM (#38410926)

      Three times the cost of typical, maybe, but it still makes sense in certain places.

      Hawaii [heco.com], for example, has a typical 30c rate. The bigger issue is that most of the locals can't afford the capital to do the installation in the first place.

    • by mrmeval (662166)

      Energy companies are investing in the research into solar so they most likely would already own some patents. They will license patents from research groups as well. The nice thing about patents is they still expire but that may change in the near future to follow the path of copyright.

      That would be the true evil but it takes government to do that.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Solar passed "grid parity" in many parts of Australia last year - that is, even without the most recent developments, the whole-of-life price on a per-kWh basis is now below the power company price. It's no longer the cost of the electricity; it's the up-front capital that gets in the way.

      • by fnj (64210)

        Er, the "cost of the electricity" from photovoltaic panels *IS* nothing but the amortization of the "up-front capital." Google "present value" some time.

    • Perhaps they would switch to focusing on power distribution instead of generation. Solar panels might not provide enough power for spikes in a homes energy usage. Homes that are currently generating more power than they need could help power homes that are currently in a spike. The power companies could facilitate, monitor, and compensate homes (while taking a cut off the top) for their deficit/surplus power. Power companies also may need to help provide power throughout the night. I realize this is ba
      • by dbIII (701233)
        Yes, distribution used to be really difficult until about the 1970s.
        It also helps that the peaks are in daylight.
    • Re:Power companies (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Lumpy (12016) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @06:40PM (#38411770) Homepage

      It already is. I can buy 5KW worth of solar for under $30,000. coupled with changing energy consumption to reasonable levels and having a home that is not a giant screen door for heat like most american homes, one can spend the price of a single mid sized car to go off the grid.

      $30K is dirt cheap for that (complete with intertie inverter and battery storage) Most new homes built waste more on marble countertops and other stupidity like too large of a sq footage.

      A reasonable sized 1500 sq foot home built by an archetict that actually knows what he/she is doing can be 100% solar with heat and electric in a climate as far north as 45deg latitude and cost the same as a current stupid sized house.

      It's already there, Problem is people prefer 3 car garages, 5 bedrooms, 2900 sq foot with cathedral ceilings, marble counters and giant front yards to sane sized homes that are at least energy star in insulation and with near zero costs for Heat, AC and electricity.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I paid just paid $6k for a 2.5/3.6KW off grid (but UL certifiable) system, grid tie would have been about $1000 less. Sunelec is selling 5kw systems for $12k.

        I can easily run my entire house sans heating and cooling with a 3kw grid tie system (about $5k).

        • by Lumpy (12016)

          Was that installed? or just parts. i am talking completely installed by overpaid electricians. The customer will need to know nothing at all.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        If your local utility yield 5% dividends (many do) and your total power bill is $1500/yr or less, then you can just buy $30,000 worth of utility shares.

        Unlike the panels, the shares stand a good chance of appreciating in value.

        YMMV. Your panels might be insured as part of your homeowner's policy. With the shares, you need might want to start out doing option collars and reinvest some dividends until your shares are essentially "free" because they all come from reinvested dividends.

        Before plunking on panel

    • by thejaq (2495514)
      Dude get with the times. Panels can be had for ~$1.00/pW in bulk and there are 10s of GW in the global utility scale pipeline at $4.00/pW and even $3.00/pW. That yields 0.9 - 0.12 $/kWh in the sunbelt without tracking and without subsidies... There has been a cost revolution that no one noticed because the economy sticks and for the last ~4 yrs net energy consumption has decreased or remained stagnant.
    • It would be really interesting to see what happened if solar energy became affordable enough to power people's homes. Based on current technology, the cost of solar panels is several thousands of dollars for a typical home's electricity needs. Over the lifetime of the panels, that's about 30 cents per kilowatt hour, which is three times the cost of typical utility fees.

      I pay 20.6c/kwh for electricity (Australia) A suitably sized solar system to cover my needs would pay itself off in 10 years (3kw solar system quoted for $10k), then it's free energy.

      I wonder if there would be resistance from power companies if people were able to put cheap solar panels on their houses, or if they would buy up all the patents so you had to buy your panels from them.

      Ah the old suppressed tech conspiracy theory. If solar panels were cheap enough to go mass market then the people holding the patents would be making more money than the power companies.

    • They recently raised our water bill by 30%. Their excuse was the success of water conservation efforts. They bill based on usage, and since usage went down and yet they had the same infrastructure to support they had to raise rates. I'm not shitting you, that really happened. I'd also like to mention at this point that I live next to one of the largest freshwater seas in the world. So the need for water conservation was rather questionable in the first place.
      • by nmos (25822)

        Yep, APS in AZ has been charging us extra to subsidise the purchase of CFL bulbs and other efficiency measures and now that it's worked they also want a surcharge to cover the fixed costs.

    • by Xyrus (755017)

      "Over the lifetime of the panels, that's about 30 cents per kilowatt hour, which is three times the cost of typical utility fees."

      [citation needed]

      I'm not sure how you arrived at that number.

      You can get grid-tie kits around 9KW for less than $20K. Double that for installation, to be generous. That's $40K, before Fed and State incentives. But for the sake of argument, let's leave those out. The 9KW system provides enough power to cancel out the electrical usage of the average US home (958 KWh/month see http: [eia.gov]

      • Tax credits don't actually lower the cost, they just hide it (and distribute it across all tax payers), so no, it's not $0.12/KWh. It's $0.17/KWh, and that's before you count the cost of interest on $40k over 20 years. Even if you have $40k in savings so you don't have to borrow the money, you're still losing the interest you could earn on that money. $40k @ 5% for 20 years is $63,356, so that cost will be ~ $0.25/KWh. And that's assuming you have no maintenance costs on the panels or interconnect component

  • by JohnWiney (656829) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @04:40PM (#38410956)
    Slashdot seems to post a lot of stories about improved solar cells, but solar cells never seem to improve.
    • by vadim_t (324782) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @04:49PM (#38411028) Homepage

      Sure they do [wikipedia.org].

      There are two problems though:

      1. That somebody in a lab figured out a way to make a cell 15% more efficient doesn't mean it's going to be manufactured tomorrow.

      2. 15% more efficient means "15% more efficient than what we started with". This means "We took a cell that coverts 15% of the Sun's energy into electricity and made it covert 17.5%", not 30% as people seem to expect.

      • by fyngyrz (762201)

        Yeah... but... notice that is *research* cell efficiencies. Where's the chart for cells you can BUY? Price against watts output would be most interesting, followed by watts output against square area.

        We're all well aware that research is announced all the time with fabulous tales of benefits. What we're grinching about is the inability buy such a thing cost-effectively -- and have it not turn into silicon splinters in the first hailstorm, or lose most of its efficiency in the first few years on the roof.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by rhakka (224319)

          the cost of solar has been reducing quickly.

          I quoted a twice, from the same company, 1 year apart. the second quote added almost 30% capacity for the same price, after only 1 year.

          times they are a'changing.

      • Oblig xkcd reference: http://www.xkcd.com/985/ [xkcd.com]
      • Sure they do [wikipedia.org].

        There are two problems though:

        1. That somebody in a lab figured out a way to make a cell 15% more efficient doesn't mean it's going to be manufactured tomorrow.

        2. 15% more efficient means "15% more efficient than what we started with". This means "We took a cell that coverts 15% of the Sun's energy into electricity and made it covert 17.5%", not 30% as people seem to expect.

        3. Marketing types and news agencies intentionally phrase their statements to make it sound like the increase is 30%. Or even worse don't understand what the engineers have told them. For example, I understand that you meant 15% of the energy from the sun that contacts the panel is converted into electricity. However what you stated was:""We took a cell that coverts 15% of the Sun's energy into electricity". For this to be true, you'd probably need to construct a Dyson's sphere.

      • by Shaiku (1045292)

        It gets even better than that -- this article claims that this technique can double the output of solar cells. According to the summary however,

        if you have X electrons that can be captured, then you have Y electrons that are too hot to be captured. This technique takes Y and splits it into two X-type electrons, both of which can be captured.

        Before: Your output is energy from X electrons

        After: Your output is energy from X + 2Y electrons.

        They claim now that X + 2Y = 2X, which only happens when Y = X/2. But

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "Slashdot seems to post a lot of stories about improved solar cells, but solar cells never seem to improve."

      Slashdot is ENTERTAINMENT, and hearing about tech that (might) pan out is interesting even though it isn't really useful information early on.

    • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @04:56PM (#38411072)

      Slashdot seems to post a lot of stories about improved solar cells, but solar cells never seem to improve.

      True, but only if you define a double-digit percentage drop in unit price every year as "not improving".

    • by DamonHD (794830) <d@hd.org> on Saturday December 17, 2011 @05:07PM (#38411156) Homepage

      Only if you don't count the fact that (for example) Sanyo/Panasonic HIT panels are good enough that even on my tiny roof I sufficiently overproduce so as to be carbon neutral for all primary energy, and that for now my effective energy bills are zero too. Oh, no, no improvement.

      Rgds

      Damon

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      This is an improvement on the efficiency of traditional silicon cells, which are the low end of solar cells. This discovery won't make cells that are more efficient than the top ones, but would help making reasonably efficient cells that are affordable to the masses. While solar plants would be a far more efficient way, governments don't seem to back them up, so affordable solar cells could be another way to increase renewable energy use.

    • by Anrego (830717) *

      It's improving.. little by little..

      Actually compared to other "far off" technologies, solar is making surprising progress. I check on it every year or so, and while it's still not practical for my purposes yet.. there is definite real world "in stores now" improvement, as well as exciting stuff being done in labs.

    • by youn (1516637)

      Why is this modded troll? It is actually quite insightful.

      Pardon my ignorance but I regularly see articles speaking of a material that could double, triple... sometimes more collected energy potential... what does this really mean? compared to what? can these innovations be combined? what does it mean for the general public? Yes, these articles sound cool, yes we all want to be able to tap the potential of free energy... but if solar cells had improved that much, we'd all be running on free energy.

      To be fai

      • by thejaq (2495514)
        The boom (70% decline in solar prices) has coincided with global recession. Energy use has declined or remained stagnant. Hence no solar demand (or any demand). Massive oversupply as China scales up production. Yet still, the pipeline for solar and wind exceeds fossil fuels everywhere except China. Give them until 2015. The future is already set in stone.
    • At least it's a change from Display Tech. of the Week.
    • Slashdotters seem to be vigilant about confronting ignoramuses with actual facts, but the number of misinformed bullshit comments like yours never seems to improve.

    • by evilviper (135110)

      With so glib an interpretation, I can see why you don't understand...

      Sometimes the stories about solar panel improvements on /. are about consumer cells, but often they aren't... they might be about the high efficiency solar cells used in satellites.

      There seems to be one very simple underlying theme on solar panels across the board... there is no shortage of space. While improvements in efficiency are great, and will see some use, mostly people want the cheapest solaar panels they can get, and don't care

  • by Anonymous Coward

    from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentacene

    It turns out that Pentacene breaks down on exposure to air and light.

    Which means that more reasearch in this direction will be needed in order to have a practical use for this discovery.

    • by Guppy (12314)

      Pentacene

      I was thinking the same thing, organic substrates are so fragile. The lifespan problems involved are very much like those encountered in OLED material development, except even worse (due to the harsher usage conditions).

    • by Ken_g6 (775014)

      Fuller Wikipedia quote:

      The compound generates excitons upon absorption of ultra-violet (UV) or visible light; this makes it very sensitive to oxidation. For this reason, this compound, which is a purple powder, slowly degrades upon exposure to air and light.

      If I'm understanding this correctly, it means that exposure to both light and oxygen is necessary for it to break down. So, just cover it with a protective layer of something and it should remain stable. Preventing oxidation with oxygen would seem to be essential to the process anyway, as you want the electrons to go into...whatever the conductor is, not the air. (The summary suggests the conductor is a silicon solar panel, but TFA sounds more like the pentacene might be the sole PV

  • Vindicated (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 17, 2011 @05:24PM (#38411264)

    This effect has been known theoretically for quite a while, and experimentally for a few years at least. Look up the literature on "singlet fission" or "multiexciton generation." The process works by photon excitation to a singlet excited state, followed by the reversion of that excited state into 2 triplet excited states with roughly half the energy. Thus the extra energy that would normally be lost as heat can go into exciting another photoelectron. The neat thing about this paper is that, for the first time, the researchers were actually able to show a >100% photoelectron generation, meaning that they got more electrons out than photons that they put in. This is a huge vindication to this direction of research, which has recently been seeing quite a bit of skepticism as to its legitimacy (since not having greater than 100% photoelectron generation can be explained away by other possibly competing processes, but the result from Zhu's lab pretty much nukes those competing theories).

    • by deroby (568773)

      Man, when I started reading your comment I was close to adding ".. but I simply reconfigured the Heisenberg Modulators so the deflector shield now tripled the opticron conversion rate so its alignment is now in conflusion with the beta-cronicles defrigilator....
      Glad it started make sense after the third sentence =)

      • by kronnek (982486)

        Man, when I started reading your comment I was close to adding ".. but I simply reconfigured the Heisenberg Modulators so the deflector shield now tripled the opticron conversion rate so its alignment is now in conflusion with the beta-cronicles defrigilator.... Glad it started make sense after the third sentence =)

        Heisenberg compensators, compensators... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transporter_(Star_Trek) [wikipedia.org]

  • Oil is too important (Score:4, Interesting)

    by plopez (54068) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @08:18PM (#38412396) Journal

    to waste as fuel.

  • Seriously, where will it be installed at? Will it be licensed to American companies (where we have paid for this R&D), or will it go to China?
    • by Jeremi (14640)

      Seriously, where will it be installed at? Will it be licensed to American companies (where we have paid for this R&D), or will it go to China?

      Well, there are two options: They'll either manufacture it in China, or they'll restrict manufacture to the US, and the resulting product will sit unsold on the shelf while everyone buys the cheaper Chinese-made panels instead.

    • by LeDopore (898286)

      Does it really matter where they're made? The companies that own the intellectual property are the ones making most of the profit. If a company in China charged enough to make a killing on manufacturing, the owners could look to another company to fill the orders instead. Need proof that this actually happens? Look at how Vietnam is stealing manufacturing jobs from China.

      China gets a bad rap, and they might deserve it due to poor labor practices, environmental standards and safety policy. Complain abou

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @09:44PM (#38412886) Journal
    We use FIT and other means of subsidies to drive solar and wind, but ignore other solutions. However, in just about every single case, it is a retrofit, which is expensive. But, there is a simple solution for all of this.

    America, or even states, could require that all new homes and buildings under 4 stories, have 50% or possibly 100% of their HVAC (heating and AC required) come from on-site AE. This would actually encourage several things:
    1) a number of contractors will simply throw up solar panels equal to the amount.
    2) a number of other contractors would heavily insulate and drop the energy needs to the point, where a MINIMAL amount of AE is needed.
    3) a number would try something like geo-thermal HVAC combined with 2 to allow them to drop it to one panel.

    Basically, by adding this requirement, it would change the NEW buildings and separate them from the old ones. Considering the number of foreclosures that we have now, the last thing that we really need are new buildings that compete with many of these foreclosed buildings. At the same time, it pushes various AE without loads of incentives, while allowing contractor to move to whatever direction is economical and will sell.
    • by Jeremi (14640)

      America, or even states, could require that all new homes and buildings under 4 stories, have 50% or possibly 100% of their HVAC (heating and AC required) come from on-site AE. This would actually encourage several things:

      Don't forget

      4) Republicans would scream about this being part of the imminent arrival of the (Orwellian Socialist Nightmare / Nanny State / Muslim Antichrist / Boogie Monster) and demand (and probably get) the immediate repeal of the law to preserve Our Freedoms (tm).

    • by evilviper (135110)

      You missed a very important one...

      4) Contractors will simply NOT install central heating/cooling, thereby avoiding the requirement. Buyers will be forced to buy HVAC from a 3rd party or freeze to death. As an added bonus, the sale price of the home is now several thousand dollars lower.

      • LOL. To get your permit for ANYBODY moving in, you MUST have heating in the house. That is a requirement in every state in the union with the possible exception of Hawaii (and I think that they require it as well since they adopted the uniform building codes). Yes, even the homes in Miami have Heating.

        But you will note that I said that it MUST BE 100% of HVAC, INCLUDING HEAT AND AC. The AC for up north is not a big deal. But down south that is a huge deal. AE to cover 50 or 100% of that, will require larg
        • by evilviper (135110)

          To get your permit for ANYBODY moving in, you MUST have heating in the house. That is a requirement in every state in the union

          Okay, then we just move out a bit to the next loophole. Question, do these building codes specify a minimum capacity for these HVAC systems?

          If no, then a 600w portable electric heater/fan will do, and require just a tiny solar installation.

          If yes, then insulation is never going to be the answer, as you're still required to install X solar panels to power the XYZ BTU monster, and in

          • Every state has a building code. The most widely used one is the International Building Code [google.com]. In each case, HVAC is required AS IS A MINIMUM LEVEL OF INSULATION. IOW, you can not build without some level of insulation. Likewise, it requires a certified BUILDING heating (as opposed to spot, like you suggest), OR that you show the LOCAL CIVIC ENGINEER AT THE PERMITTING PLACE that you have a BETTER SYSTEM. IOW, if you are not going to make use of a certified HVAC system, then you have to show proof that it wi
    • by onyxruby (118189)

      I think your idea has merit, however you would need to modify it somewhat to offset initial costs. Instead of jumping straight to 50% you could use a graduated requirement instead.

      Every other year the amount has to increase by 5% instead. This allows things to start off on a small scale and gives people a chance to ramp up on things like skills, regulations and manufacturing.

      Since it isn't overly onerous in the beginning you avoid the big push back of regulation killings jobs, costing too much etc. By gradu

      • I thought the same at first. However, there are several issues with it:
        1) 11% of American homes are in foreclosure. The banks are holding them off the market. However, they know that if construction REALLY gets moving, they will lose a LOT OF MONEY ON THESE. The only way to stop that, is to have new homes be BETTER (implied costlier, but possibly not), not cheaper than the foreclosures. That way, the foreclosures will have just the older homes to compete with, but not old and new.
        2) Right now, Constructi
  • by foniksonik (573572) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @10:50PM (#38413188) Homepage Journal

    I'd still like to see all freeways lined on either side and in the middle with PV panels. Even better would be to put salt beds under to store the energy.

    • You can't PV's in the middle of the freeways! That's where the high speed monorails go! I can get behind your salt idea though.

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