Tag Archives: solar panels

Rocking Your Solar Panels

Who says only humans can feel the beat of pop-rock music. Turns out that a certain kind of solar cell can too; and in doing so, radically increase its performance.

Rocking Your Solar PanelsResearchers in the UK, at Queen Mary University of London and Imperial College London have discovered that blasting beats at zinc-oxide solar cells makes them perform up to 50% better. According to the researchers, pop and rock music gets the cells going more than classical music, but they suggest that any noise with a broad range of frequencies will produce similar effects.

Zinc-oxide nanorod designed solar cells are capable of responding to a broad range of sound frequencies, particularly that of rock music. The more energy delivered by the sound, the more the pressure wave deforms the rods resulting in a stronger electric field generated, which converts more incoming light to electricity-i.e. a higher conversion efficiency/better overall performance. The challenge now is two-fold: develop better solar cells; and optimize them for sound to energy conversion. And of course to do this as cheaply as possible. Today, zinc-oxide nanorod cells are just 1-2 percent efficient, but tomorrow they could be significantly greater.

Think of all the natural places there is a broad range of sound available to help boost nearby solar cell efficiencies, like: airports, large commercial roof-top air conditioning units, power plants, industrial process sites, railroads and transportation centers, and possibly along highways. Why let the noise go to waste……co-locate solar cells nearby.

Rock on!

Editor’s Deep Dive

Thomas Edison on Time MagazineThomas 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.”

Time ® is a registered trademark of Time Inc.


Nanotechnology Energizes Solar Panels

Something very small [nanotechnology] is happening in the world of solar panels, but it promises big changes. It cuts to the heart of solar panel engineering, and the big dream solar aficionados have harbored for decades……thin film technology that is both cost effective and practical.

With nano-solar technology, the panels themselves change as well, their manufacturing becoming more like a film making process than adhering silicon-like materials to glass substrates. The use of customized nano particles has the ability to make the cells better able to capture incoming solar radiation, thereby increasing panel efficiency; and also enabling a cheaper manufacturing process. To give you a sense of the scale, a nanometer is equal to 1 billionth of a meter.


Check out a photo below of Konarka’s, plastic, organic, thin film material, and visit them to see their typical product performance spec sheet. Konarka Technologies is located in Lowell Massachusetts, and was originally founded in 2001 by a team of researchers at UMass at Lowell, including Mr. Howard Berke, who now serves as Konarka’s Chairman and CEO.

Nanosolar, is now marketing their nanosolar panels, boasting a 15% panel efficiency. On a thin piece of aluminium, the company adds a nanoparticle ink, at a rate of printing 100 feet of solar cells a minute. They can produce panels [containing many solar cells] for 60 cents per watt, retailing them for about $1.00 a watt when production is full-scale. A fully installed Nanosolar panel system would cost about $2.50 a watt, much lower than the $6-8 a watt today with conventional solar panels. You can see an interesting video of their panel making operation and also via this photo below.

Nanosolar Scientist at Work

Nanosolar was founded in 2002, recently benefiting in 2010 from a revamped team of management talent with experience in growing technology companies into potent billion dollar organizations. The new team is headed by Mr. Geoff Tate, Chairman and CEO, and located in San Jose, CA.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory has teamed up with Microcontinuum Inc. and the University of Missouri to develop a very interesting nanoantenna which can capture up to 80% of the sun’s mid-infrared rays. Spiral nanoantennas, 1/25th the width of a human hair, do the work. These little babies can also harvest energy after the sun goes down! See photo below, and check out this website and fascinating video. Since these arrays absorb infrared radiation, they also absorb the sun’s infrared energy reradiated by the earth after dark. Similarly, they also take in heat from industrial processes. This opens up a whole series of applications for absorbing waste heat and reradiating it as electricity, effectively cooling buildings, computers, equipment, etc. … without air conditioning. This could be revolutionary in just a few more years. From tiny nanotechnology, big new applications grow.

 From tiny nanotechnology, big new applications grow

Microcontinuum was originally founded in 1998 by a former team of Polaroid scientists and engineers. Dr. W. Dennis Slafer is currently  President and CFO, Cambridge, MA.

New Energy Technologies, Inc. says it’s come up with a patent-pending method of spraying windows with a nano-thin photovoltaic material. The spray is an organic semitransparent material that converts sunlight to electricity. Using this technology the company will produce its SolarWindows, equipped with a nano film 1/1,000th the thickness of a human hair. Researchers found that its super small solar cells can harness more artificial light than other solar cells “under normal office lighting conditions, without the benefit of outside natural light from windows.” Check them out!

Mr. John A. Conklin is President and CEO of New Energy Technologies, located in Columbia, MD.

Editor’s Deep Dive

Thomas Edison on Time MagazineThomas Edison was a big fan of solar energy … “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.”

Time ® is a registered trademark of Time Inc.


Solar Panels: Google® goes Green and Petra Solar® gets Creative

The rising popularity of solar energy panels attests that something new and different is permeating our energy mix. These panels, technically known as photovoltaic energy converters, take incoming sunlight and quietly produce clean electricity for direct use. Invented at Bell labs in 1954 and first used in the space program of the 1950s and 60s, these panels now are being used on homes, schools, municipal buildings and commercial structures.

Google also has integrated solar panels into their massive, multi-building, Mountain View , California campus. There, about 9,000 solar panels will use the sun’s energy to provide about 30% of their peak electrical use. Check out this interesting website and short video to see how Google is becoming one of the greenest corporations on the planet. Shown here is a portion of the panels installed on Google’s campus.

One particularly ingenious application by Petra Solar of South Plainfield, New Jersey, involves mounting solar panels on utility poles and connecting the electrical output directly into the secondary wires of the utility electrical system. Installed by local utility company bucket truck work crews, these panel systems, known as SunWave, are a quick and economic way to bring megawatt size distributed generation to utility grids. This work by Petra Solar  is a revolutionary new application, capable of being used immediately and worldwide and interfacing to the smart utility grid of the future. Visit their website and see some videos there.

As we watch the rapid evolution of the solar industry, it is most interesting to recall that Edison was a big proponent of alternate energy forms. Shortly before his death, in 1931, Edison was advocating the use of solar energy …

Imagine what he could have done had he lived longer. He would love to see Petra Solar’s      integration of solar panels directly into a utility system. After all it was Edison who gave us the utility system in the first place!

“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.” ~ Thomas Edison Quote

Time ®, Google ® and Petra Solar ® are registered trademarks of their respective companies.