Thomas Edison’s Dream of Solar Energy Realized with Solar Cells

In 1920, Thomas Edison said, “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that. I wish I had more years left.”

Today, Perovskites are transforming solar energy in just the way Edison envisioned. Solar researchers are equating the dramatic solar cell efficiency improvements recently reported at Oxford University to the original invention of solar cells at Bell Laboratories in 1954. Back then, early cells had efficiencies of a few percent at best. While today’s cells are nominally 12-25% efficient depending on technology, the Oxford work pushes efficiencies to near 30% with realistic projections in the near term approaching 40%.

This is huge news as the cost effectiveness of solar panels is today reported to be nearing competitive levels with fossil fuels. With Oxford’s work, it could easily tip the balance in favor of photovoltaic systems, even in regions where sunlight is not typically strong nor sustained.

Oxford PVAn Oxford PV commercial sized perovskite-silicon tandem cell. Perovskite is a calcium titanium oxide mineral, with the chemical formula CaTiO3. The mineral was discovered in the Ural Mountains of Russia by Gustav Rose in 1839 and is named after Russian mineralogist Lev Perovski. Via https://www.oxfordpv.com/about-us

The magic for the Oxford cells lies in the way they sandwich two technologies together in what is known as a tandem cell. The lower part of the cell is a typical silicon solar cell. Applied over this base cell is a very thin transparent cell composed of perovskite technology. Think of this sandwich as an optical sieve.

The perovskite cell parses the incoming light and slices off the high energy [short wavelength] part of the solar spectrum and makes electricity out of it. The bottom part takes the remaining part of the spectrum [long wavelength] and makes electricity out of it. Voila! More of the solar energy is utilized; and scientists can “tweak” the top and bottom layers for even more solar utilization. Plus, at some point, more layers could be added to the sandwich, further segmenting the solar spectrum even more for greater total conversion efficiencies.

Check out the video below for the full explanation!

Another perk to Perovskites cells? They can also be made into flexible solar cells that would allow designers to wrap them around architectural shapes…with some researchers trying to make the cells using 3D printers! There is much to be coming in the future.

The flexible 3D printed future of Perovskites cells via https://medium.com

Were Edison alive today, he would most probably be in his chemistry lab right now, maybe doing an “all-nighter” playing with perovskites!

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The Quotable Thomas Edison

The Quotable Thomas Edison

Mr. Edison was quoted many times in the social media of that time– newspapers, magazines, journals and personal interviews. His lesser- known quotes have not been seen by many admirers, so here are some of those “second tier” gems from the mouth of the great inventor.

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Thomas Edison felt most keenly the press of time on his life. Below is a quote that expresses his reaction to his precious and limited resource….time: 

“The only time I become discouraged is when I think of all the things I like to do and the little time I have in which to do them. I would like to live about three hundred years.  I think I have ideas enough to keep me busy that long.”

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Visionary that he was, many instances occur where Edison was way ahead of his time in predicting how technology would change the world. The quote below sets the stage for big changes in the realm of energy:

 “Someday, man will harness the rise and fall of the tides, imprison the power of the sun, and release atomic power.”  

By the way, his prediction of movies being used as a great educational tool certainly came to be, such as the Internet, smartboards, and classroom movies. These are certainly all over the education scene.

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Edison had a great love for the country, especially Revolutionary Period heroes. His favorite national Holiday was the 4th of July.

“Be courageous! Whatever setbacks America has encountered, it has always emerged as a stronger and more prosperous nation…. Be brave as your fathers before you. Have faith and go forward!“ 

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The great inventor had a profound sense of duty to country and fellow man, as exemplified here.

“The world owes nothing to any man, but every man owes something to the world.”

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A pair of Edison quotes clearly expresses the inventor’s feelings about the importance of thinking, a big theme in his daily work and exhortations to his staff.

“A person who does not endeavor to apply the custom of thinking is equal to the person who has lost all their joy in life.”

“The man who doesn’t make up his mind to cultivate the habit of thinking misses the greatest pleasure in life.”

In his West Orange Labs, Edison had this Joshua Reynolds quote tacked up on the walls of his labs and working areas…..”There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labor of thinking.” 

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Let’s conclude with a bit of humorous sarcasm from his lips!

“You will have many opportunities in life to keep your mouth shut:  You should take advantage of every one of them.”

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There they are, some not so popular, but effective quotes from Thomas Edison!

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