Monday, August 30, 2010

The Embrace Infant Warmer Acts As A Cheap Incubator For Developing Countries [Babies]


The Embrace Infant Warmer Acts As A Cheap Incubator For Developing CountriesIn developing countries, low birth weight babies don't always have the luxury of an incubator to help them. Hopefully this $25 Embrace Infant Warmer can become a viable alternative, it was successfully tested on its first baby a week ago.

The Embrace Infant Warmer Acts As A Cheap Incubator For Developing Countries
The idea behind the Embrace is rather simple. A heating pouch is slipped into the sleeping bag and a basic thermometer reads temperature. It was used on Nisha, the baby above:

Nisha, a 2.3kg, rosy-cheeked baby girl, was placed into the Warmer. Luckily, any tense feelings diffused once she was put into the device. Nisha was initially experiencing cold stress, but was safely brought to normal body temperature after being put into the warmer! Also, our device successfully maintained its temperature of 35°C – 38°C for the full four-hour duration.

More testing is still needed but it looks like the Embrace could nurse a lot of babies to full health. [Embrace via Fast Company]


Sound waves could someday cool down your refrigerator [Technology]


Sound waves could someday cool down your refrigeratorRefrigerators are the source of much joy in the world, and the fridge is made possible by continually-cycled, selectively-pressurized gas. But someday, sound waves may replace this system in your fridge.

In your modern refrigerator, the gas (called a refrigerant) starts its journey outside the fridge, where it is pumped through a series of coils which compress it. The compression heats it up, and it bleeds heat into the air around it. After it has shaken off enough heat, and is still under a great deal of pressure, it condenses into a liquid.

The liquid refrigerant is then passed through a valve which allows the liquid, a bit at a time, to move from a very high pressure chamber to a very low pressure one. The refrigerant goes from liquid to gas, and the gas expands rapidly.

Sound waves could someday cool down your refrigerator

When liquid evaporates, it cools. When gas expands, it cools. The refrigerant has moved from liquid to gas and the gas has expanded quickly. The result is a lot of extremely cold gas, which is pushed up into metal coils inside of the fridge. This cold gas rushing through the coils cools the inside of the fridge. When the gas is pushed up through the fridge and back out, it's compressed once again, and cycle starts over.

Current compressors are mechanical. It may not always be that way. Thermoacoustic compressors may be on the way. Instead of mechanics, these will use loud sound waves at resonant frequencies to generate compression of the gas. Not only will this save power, but many tests have been done using air, instead of refrigerants. Considering that many refrigerants are ecologically damaging, like chlorofluorocarbons, or dangerous for humans to inhale, like ammonia, sound waves may be a great option.

[Via Light-Science, Wired, and How Things Work]


There Is Such Thing As Dry Water [Science]


There Is Such Thing As Dry WaterDon't ask me what voodoo they used but scientists have created dry water. Well, they originally invented it back in 1968 but they've recently re-discovered it and this time, found an actual use for it.

First, dry water, how does that even make sense? Ben Carter, Ph.D, the researcher, explains:

[It's] known as "dry water" because it consists of 95 percent water and yet is a dry powder. Each powder particle contains a water droplet surrounded by modified silica, the stuff that makes up ordinary beach sand. The silica coating prevents the water droplets from combining and turning back into a liquid. The result is a fine powder that can slurp up gases, which chemically combine with the water molecules to form what chemists term a hydrate.

So what can we use it for? Apparently, those fine grains of water do a magnificent job in absorbing and storing carbon dioxide, which if you didn't know contributes to global warming.

There's also other potential uses for dry water such as jumpstarting chemical reactions and providing a safer way to transport and store harmful industrial materials. Which is all fine by me, I'm just stunned that I can say dry water and not have my brain explode. Hmm, I wonder if I can swim in it. [Science Daily]


Friday, August 27, 2010

Airborne electricity is ripe for the picking, claim researchers


Electricity might not grow on trees, but it is freely available in the air -- provided you know how to catch it. Such is the contention presented by Dr. Francesco Galembeck of Brazil's University of Campinas at the 240th annual American Chemical Society shindig. He and his crew have shown how tiny particles of silica and aluminum phosphate become electrically charged when water vapor is passed over them. This aims to prove two things: firstly, that airborne water droplets do carry an electric charge, and secondly, that metals can be used to collect that charge. Detractors have pointed out that Dr. Galembeck's team may be generating the droplets' electrical charge by the act of pumping the air over the metals -- which might imply you couldn't practice this technique with still, humid air -- while there's also the rather large caveat that the little electricity they were able to collect from vapor was a hundred million times less than what you could obtain from a solar cell of equivalent size. Still, it's another new door unto a potential alternative energy source and we don't ever like having to close those.

Continue reading Airborne electricity is ripe for the picking, claim researchers

Airborne electricity is ripe for the picking, claim researchers originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 27 Aug 2010 06:27:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Oil-Eating Bacteria Having Fun, Getting Fat, Munching BPs Spillage [Oil]


Oil-Eating Bacteria Having Fun, Getting Fat, Munching BPs SpillageYou know when you drop some food on the kitchen floor and eventually the cockroaches eat it all up and there's nothing left? The same thing is happening in the crisis-hit Gulf of Mexico, with bacteria chomping up the hydrocarbons.

The oil-eating bacteria, many of the Alcanivorax variety, are currently gorging themselves on the hydrocarbons accidentally pumped into the ocean, with a group of scientists believing they're detected twice as many of the oil-consuming lifeforms living within the plume of pollution as outside it in the neighbouring sea.

In total, 16 groups of hydrocarbon-digesting bacteria were found in the crude cloud, selflessly gorging themselves at BP's all-you-can-eat buffet for the good of mankind. [Discover]


The Next Alternative Energy Source: Electricity Out of Thin Air [Alternative Energy]


The Next Alternative Energy Source: Electricity Out of Thin Air It's been coined "hygroelectricity", which means "humidity electricity", and scientists are already in the early stages of developing devices to harness it. What is "it" exactly? "It" is electrically charged water droplets hanging in the atmosphere.

Recent experiments have shown that moisture in the air is not electrically neutral, as previously thought. Water in the atmosphere can actually accumulate electrical charge and transfer that charge to other things it comes in contact with.

This means that in the future, in areas with high humidity, hygroelectricity could be captured similarly to the way sunlight is collected in photovoltaic cells. And a similar device could even be used to help prevent lightning from striking and forming, which would help save millions in property damage, death, and injuries. But would thunderstorms still thunder? [Physorg]


NEC builds a better bioplastic from plant stems and cashew nut shells


We've already seen cellphones made from corn and bioplastics used in other products, but NEC has now come up with what it says is an even better solution: a first-of-its-kind bioplastic that's based on non-edible plant resources. That's as opposed to bioplastics based on things like corn, which are better for the environment than traditional plastics but don't necessarily represent the best use of food. What's more, NEC's new bioplastic also boasts a high plant component ratio of more than 70% -- derived from plant stems and cashew nut shells -- and it's said to boast a high durability that makes it especially well suited to electronics. As you might expect, however, it's not quite ready to be used for electronics just yet, but it's not all that far off either -- NEC says it expects to put it into production for use in a "wide range of electronic equipment" within the 2013 fiscal year. Full press release is after the break.

Continue reading NEC builds a better bioplastic from plant stems and cashew nut shells

NEC builds a better bioplastic from plant stems and cashew nut shells originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 25 Aug 2010 14:44:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Spray-On Paint Could Turn Windows into Solar Panels [Solar Panels]


Spray-On Paint Could Turn Windows into Solar PanelsEvery home has at least one window, so why not turn that window into an energy-attracting solar panel? So goes the thinking of Norwegian company EnSol, which has patented a spray-on film that turns windows into solar panels.

The spray-on film saps up solar energy because it's made from metal nanoparticles, with the Professor of Nanotechnology at Leicester University, Chris Binns, explaining that "some light has to be absorbed in order to generate power but the windows would just have a slight tinting (though a transmission of only 8-10% is common place for windows in the 'sun belt' areas of the world)."

Apparently, there's hope that this spray-on film could even be applied to the actual building, as well as the windows. That's hope for windowless residents, if ever I heard one.

Currently undergoing testing by both EnSol and the University of Leicester's Physics and Astronomy department, the patent application has already been filed to get this innovative product to market by 2016. [EnSol via GizMag]


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

High School Kids Build What Might Be the World's Most Efficient Electric Car [Cars]


High School Kids Build What Might Be the World's Most Efficient Electric CarPending confirmation by the folks at Guinness, a group of students at DeLaSalle high school in Kansas City will be able to say they've built the world's most efficient electric car, a see-thru, F1-style racer that gets 300mpg equivalent.

OK, they got some help from the folks at Bridgestone America, the world's largest tire company, who contributed resources and supplied the team with high-efficiency Ecopia EP100 tires, though the car was conceived of and developed as a class project.

High School Kids Build What Might Be the World's Most Efficient Electric Car

The ultra light weight plug-in electric was built with the customized chassis of 2000 Lola Indy. During a recent test at Bridgestone's Texas Proving Grounds, the car got the equivalent of 300 miles per gallon fuel economy, an amazing feat the students think qualifies for the world record. Their next project? Building a vehicle that harnesses the elusive power of the atomic wedgie. [Automotta via Wired UK]


Monday, August 16, 2010

Judge Bans Future Plantings of Genetically Modified Sugar Beets, Throwing Nation's Sugar Supply into Doubt


95 percent of the existing crop is genetically modified

Readers with a sweet tooth had better start stockpiling candy -- first Choc Finger started hoarding all the world's chocolate, and now it seems the U.S. sugar supply may be in jeopardy. Farmers cannot plant new genetically modified sugar beets until the U.S. Department of Agriculture finishes a study about their environmental impact, a federal judge said Friday. That could take a couple years, which means sugar beet farmers and sugar processors might have trouble meeting demand after this year's harvest.

Genetically modified sugar beets make up about 95 percent of the American sugar beet crop, according to Monsanto, which manufactures the seeds to resist their proprietary weed-killer, Roundup.

The engineered beets were approved for sale in 2005 and took hold quickly, comprising 95 percent of the crop by the 2008-2009 growing season.

In January 2008, public interest groups sued to challenge the USDA's deregulation of the crop. The Center for Food Safety (CFS), Organic Seed Alliance, Sierra Club and High Mowing Organic Seeds said new seeds should not be planted until the government completes a full environmental assessment, which is required by the National Environmental Policy Act.

Friday's ruling, by Judge Jeffrey S. White of Federal District Court in San Francisco, answers that lawsuit and appears to effectively ban new planting of the genetically modified sugar beets.

This year's crop is not included, however, meaning beets in the ground will still be milled into sugar. The problems could start next year, because the sugar industry has said there are not enough non-genetically modified seeds to make up for the loss of GM ones, according to the New York Times.

The Sugar Industry Biotech Council, an industry group, says sugar beets are planted across 1.2 million acres in 11 states every year. Half the nation's sugar supply comes from beets, which are sliced and boiled into a thick syrup that is then dried. The other half comes from sugar cane.

Next time you bake a pie, savor that sugary crust, because it might be a lot more expensive to make next year. Don't say we didn't warn you.



Tata bringing two all-electric cars to a Europe near you by March


First of all, don't worry, the spontaneously combusting Nano isn't among the pair of newly Euro-bound EVs from Tata. Going slightly more upmarket, the Indian company will be launching the Indica Vista EV hatchback for eco-conscious Brits and Scandinavians early next year, alongside the somewhat less exciting Ace, a commercial mini-truck. The Indica Vista has clearly had a few trials and tribulations in coming to market in an all-electric form, having originally been promised to Norwegian tree huggers for 2009, so let's just hope that this schedule is the one that sticks. It's about time this whole EV movement got some more affordable options.

Tata bringing two all-electric cars to a Europe near you by March originally appeared on Engadget on Mon, 16 Aug 2010 09:01:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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The Next Best Thing To Oil [Hydrocarbon]


The Next Best Thing To OilIn order to create a renewable carbon economy, you can use solar power to split carbon dioxide. Combine the resulting carbon monoxide with hydrogen and you have the beginnings of a solar fuel that could one day replace oil.

Since 2008, a European consortium led by Athanasios Konstandopoulos at the Centre for Research and Technology Hellas, Thessaloníki, Greece, has been operating a 100-kilowatt pilot plant that generates hydrogen from a combination of sunlight and steam. The plant is sited at a concentrating solar power tower – the Plataforma Solar de Almería, in Almería, Spain – which houses a series of mirrors to concentrate the sun's rays onto solar panels beneath.

The same technology can also be used to split CO2 – the resulting CO can be combined with the hydrogen to form hydrocarbon fuel, they say.

The pilot plant contains a ceramic reactor riddled with a honeycomb network of channels coated in a mixed iron and cerium oxide. Concentrated solar energy heats the reactor to around 1200 °C, releasing oxygen gas, which is pumped away. The reactor is then cooled to around 800 °C before steam is fed through the honeycomb – the depleted material steals back oxygen and in the process converts the steam into hydrogen gas.

Pilot plant

The team has run the pilot plant in several week-long bursts since its launch as part of the European Commission-funded Hydrosol II project. They claim that it is possible to convert up to 30 per cent of the steam into hydrogen.

Now, Konstandopoulos and colleagues have successfully used the same reactor technology and process to split carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide in the lab. Two reactors running simultaneously could generate hydrogen and carbon monoxide, which could be combined into synthetic fuel using one of two established chemical processes, says Konstandopoulos.

In the Sabatier process the two gases are heated at high pressure in the presence of a nickel catalyst to produce methane or methanol, while in the Fischer-Tropsch process an iron-based catalyst is used to generate liquid hydrocarbon fuels.

The process would help to make better use of the CO2 captured from power plants, which otherwise might simply be buried underground. Konstandopoulos says it could also solve the problem of storing and transporting hydrogen once it is produced – a problem that could prevent the development of a hydrogen economy.

Nature's choice

"Hydrocarbons are the best energy carriers that we have available – nature has already proven that," he says. "We just have to find a way not to use them as our primary energy source."

Generating hydrocarbons this way would also mean few changes are needed to cars and existing fuel infrastructure, he says.

Other teams are investigating different reactor designs for producing solar fuel, including rotating rings of cerium oxide. A team led by Aldo Steinfeld at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, has built a 10-kilowatt plant in which steam and carbon dioxide are reacted with zinc oxide to produce synthetic gas in one step. They plan to test a 100-kilowatt version next year.

Konstandopoulos and colleagues are now working to scale up their technology and build a 1 megawatt hydrogen-producing plant, in a project known as Hydrosol 3D.

The Next Best Thing To Oil New Scientist reports, explores and interprets the results of human endeavour set in the context of society and culture, providing comprehensive coverage of science and technology news.


Inhabitat's Week in Green: frozen energy, spray-on solar and the hydrogen peroxide helicopter


Each week our friends at Inhabitat recap the week's most interesting green developments and clean tech news for us -- it's the Week in Green.

It was a big week for green transportation as San Francisco broke ground on its massive green-roofed Transbay Transit Center and unveiled plans to install 5,000 EV charging stations throughout the Bay Area. We were also wowed by several fun new forms of alternative transportation - a single-person helicopter that emits nothing but water vapor and a human-powered car that can go 30 MPH while driving uphill!

It was also an exciting week for energy storage tech as New York prepared to power up the world's first grid-scale flywheel energy plant and researchers cracked the code on a new cryogenic energy storage system. We also showcased a plan for a ribbon-like solar field that unfurls over the desert and saw researchers unveil a transparent solar spray that can transform practically any surface into a sun-capturing source of energy.

In other news, solar tech energized the arena of interior lighting as we showcased an adorable solar-powered table lamp and were dazzled by this set of folding OLED origami lights. Finally, a team of scientists blew our minds with this light-bending invisibility cloak made from gold-coated silk.

Inhabitat's Week in Green: frozen energy, spray-on solar and the hydrogen peroxide helicopter originally appeared on Engadget on Sun, 15 Aug 2010 20:00:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

GE lands $6.3 million DARPA grant to develop 'bio-inspired' sensors


Do butterflies hold the key to the next generation of chemical sensors? DARPA apparently thinks they might, and it's just awarded GE a $6.3 million grant to further develop a project that the company's research division began three years ago. That project was sparked by the discovery that the nanostructures from the wing scales of butterflies have acute chemical sensing properties, which GE has since been working to replicate in a sensing platform that could instantly detect a wide variety of chemical threats. What's more, GE says that it's sensors could eventually be made in "very small sizes, with low production costs," which would let them be used for everything from emissions monitoring at power plants to food and beverage safety monitoring at home. Full press release is after the break.

Continue reading GE lands $6.3 million DARPA grant to develop 'bio-inspired' sensors

GE lands $6.3 million DARPA grant to develop 'bio-inspired' sensors originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 12 Aug 2010 21:03:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Monday, August 9, 2010

First Established Populations of Genetically Modified Plants Found in the Wild


Franken-canola has been found growing along roadsides in North Dakota, in one of the first known cases of genetically modified crops taking hold in the wild. The finding shows that genetically modified canola plants can survive and thrive in the wild perhaps for decades, according to a study presented today at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America.

Meredith G. Schafer, a graduate student from the University of Arkansas, and colleagues traveled along 3,000 miles of interstate, state and county roads in North Dakota and stopped every five miles to take a sample of a canola plant. Of the 406 plants collected, 80 percent of them had at least one transgene. And in at least two plants, the herbicide-resistant strains had cross-pollinated, resulting in canola resistant to both Roundup and LibertyLink (known chemically as glyphosate and glufosinate).

It's not that surprising, because most canola plants grown in North Dakota have been genetically modified to resist herbicides, especially Roundup, made by Monsanto, and LibertyLink, made by Bayer. Genetically engineered seeds en route to farmers' fields might blow off a truck and into roadside fields, where the plants take root. In some spots, the plants were as tightly packed as they would be on farms.

What was surprising was the plants' prevalence, however -- they were found along busy roadsides but also in the middle of nowhere, researcher Cindy Sagers told BBC News.

Genetically modified canola had already been found growing in the wild in Canada, and a canola relative was found in Japan, BBC reported.
St. Louis-based Monsanto said in a statement that the finding should neither be surprising nor alarming, however. Tom Nickson, the environmental policy leader at Monsanto, noted that canola is usually found near roadsides, because the seeds are small and easily carry on the wind.

"Because about 90 percent of the U.S. and Canadian canola crop is biotech, it is reasonable to expect a survey of roadside canola to show similar levels of biotech plants," he said.

Researchers from North Dakota State University, California State University-Fresno and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also participated in the study.


Inhabitat's Week in Green: lenses that magnify wind, spider silk bacteria, and the largest solar sports facility


Each week our friends at Inhabitat recap the week's most interesting green developments and clean tech news for us -- it's the Week in Green.

This week Inhabitat showcased the best and brightest new developments from the world of clean tech. Stanford opened up new horizons for renewable energy as they unveiled a solar technology that can harvest electricity from both heat and light -- a significant improvement over photovoltaics, whose efficiency wilts in the sun. We also looked at Pocono Raceway, the recently-crowned world's largest solar-powered sports facility, and an innovative new type of "Wind Lens" turbine that could increase energy generation by a magnitude of three times.

We also saw green tech take to the skies as Boeing unveiled a super-efficient airplane that could cut fuel consumption by 70% and scientists floated a plan to create gigantic orbiting balloons that could solve our space junk problem. It was a big week for alternative autos as well -- Paris announced that it will be launching its Autolib electric car sharing program next year, and a poo-powered VW Bug burned... rubber on the streets of Bristol.

In other news, we showcased an ultra-efficient Danish home that produces more energy than it needs. Future-forward biotech couture was a hot topic as well as scientists found a way to produce spider silk from metabolically engineered bacteria. And we couldn't help but want to share these adorable and amazingly detailed little LEGO CubeDudes created by PIXAR animator Angus MacLane.

Inhabitat's Week in Green: lenses that magnify wind, spider silk bacteria, and the largest solar sports facility originally appeared on Engadget on Sun, 08 Aug 2010 22:30:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Stanford's New Solar Cells Are The First to Produce Electricity From Both Light and Heat


PETE A small PETE device made with cesium-coated gallium nitride glows while being tested inside an ultra-high vacuum chamber. The tests proved that the process simultaneously converted light and heat energy into electrical current. Stanford University
Exploiting both types of radiation could be the key to making solar power competitive with fossil fuels

Though the sun offers us a couple options for exploiting its energy -- light and heat -- we've always had to choose to use one at a time, because solar-energy technology hasn't been able to capture both typs of radiation simultaneously. Stanford researchers say that's about to change, however. Their new breakthrough could put solar power on par with oil, price-wise.

Using readily available materials, a team of engineers has come up with the first solar technology to combine photovoltaic and thermal electricity generation.

Called "photon enhanced thermionic emission," or PETE, the process uses cesium to more than double existing systems' efficiency levels. PETE devices could be easily incorporated into existing solar collection systems, and they're cheap to boot.

Photovoltaic (PV) cells get less efficient as they get hot, which is one of the biggest problems in solar efficiency. What's worse, silicon -- used in most PV cells -- can only absorb energy from certain parts of the light spectrum. Ultimately, more than half the solar energy hitting each cell is wasted.

The Stanford system exploits the excess heat, turning it into extra electricity.

Researchers led by Nick Melosh, an associate professor of materials science and engineering, coated a piece of semiconducting material with a thin layer of cesium. This allowed the cell to use both light and heat to generate electricity, Melosh says.

The team used gallium nitride in the tests because it can withstand high temperatures, but PETE systems of the future would likely include gallium arsenide, commonly used in household electronics.

The system has to get extremely hot in order to work -- the hotter the better, Melosh says -- so new PETE systems will be a better fit for huge solar farms than rooftop arrays. They will need to include solar concentrators, but that creates another layer of efficiency, because less semiconducting material will be needed. Melosh says each device would require about a six-inch wafer of semiconducting material.

When used with the heat-conversion process, PETE devices could reach 60 percent efficiency, Melosh says. But as Stanford's news release points out, even 30 percent efficiency would bring solar power in line with the price of oil.

This video from Stanford further explains the process.

[Stanford University News]


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

BlackTrail BT-01 is the $80,000 electric bicycle of your dreams (video)


When Germany's PG-Bikes sets out to build a cruiser, it doesn't mess around -- the contraption above may look like an electric bike, but when it goes on sale in the US this year, you may have to register it as a motorcycle. Constructed of lightweight carbon fiber, aerospace aluminum, titanium and magnesium, the BlackTrail BT-01 travels up to 65MPH with a 1.2 kilowatt motor embedded in its 44 pound frame, and can carry you across 120 miles on a single 2.5-hour charge of the leather-clad 17Ah Li-ion battery pack. Of course, those sorts of numbers don't come cheap -- the company's marketing it to the likes of West Coast Customs, The Sharper Image and a vehicle enthusiast named Jay Leno -- and each of the 667 limited pieces will cost $80,000, the better part of a Tesla Roadster and far beyond a Brammo. Still, if anyone has an offshore bank account they care to donate, we call dibs on 666 -- the number of the beast. Video after the break.

Continue reading BlackTrail BT-01 is the $80,000 electric bicycle of your dreams (video)

BlackTrail BT-01 is the $80,000 electric bicycle of your dreams (video) originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 04 Aug 2010 01:58:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Photon enhanced thermionic emission could double efficiency of solar cells


Engineers at Stanford have developed a process which can harness the light and heat of the sun simultaneously, which could lead to solar cells that are twice as efficient as those currently available. Called photon enhanced thermionic emission -- or PETE for short -- the process differs from traditional cells which lose efficiency as temperatures rise, and the materials needed to build the cells are cheap and widely available. The engineers got around the lower efficiencies by coating a piece of semiconducting material with a thin layer of the metal cesium, which enables the material to use both heat and light simultaneously. While the materials as currently demonstrated work best in very high temperatures, the researchers indicate that in the near future, the materials could have wide enough application to make them competitive with traditional forms of energy. Hit the source for the full story.

Photon enhanced thermionic emission could double efficiency of solar cells originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 03 Aug 2010 20:25:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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