Posts tagged ‘new materials’

October 30, 2016

Cutting edge ways to utilise buildings for electricity

Tesla and SolarCity-owner Elon Musk has just revealed their latest product, called the ‘Solar Roof’, which is essentially tiles with integrated, high-efficiency solar cells behind tempered glass.

The new solar tiles are stylish as one can choose the most matching look for any building from the four different styles available (textured glass, slate glass, Tuscan glass, smooth glass tile). By using glass, the durability of tiles is increased and might even outlast the building’s life as claimed. There is a slight loss of efficiency (they work at 98 per cent), but the company is working on improving this rate.

Tesla claims the new roof could be more affordable than conventional ones when calculating utility costs as well, and when bundled with Tesla’s Powerwall ‘personal battery solutions’, households of the future shall be able to generate most of the power they would use.

Meanwhile researchers are also working on how to utilise windows to generate electricity. 30146569762_36de14f9b8_bScientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, have published a paper in Nature Energy claiming that a thin film layer of ‘quantum dots’ added to existing windows could enable low-cost window-based solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, which could reach higher efficiency (up to six per cent) than current systems. Quantum dots are nanometre-sized semiconductors, which enable scientists to set which type of light is absorbed. The layer is easy to apply, and the silica-protection protects against oxidation, for enabling durability.

Photos: Tesla Solar and Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico

February 15, 2012

Graphene, the Supermaterial

Its discovering scientists have been awarded with the Nobel prize last year, and two of them have just recently been knighted and every week there seems to be a new study or research published on another amazing feature. But what exactly is this new supermaterial, graphene?

Graphene is basically a one-atom thick, two-dimensional sheet of carbon.

It’s currently the thinnest material discovered and therefore it’s almost transparent. It’s great at conducting electricity, enabling faster, more efficient and more focused electricity and right now it’s the best known heat conductor.

It’s also impermeable, flexible and at the same time the ‘strongest material ever measured‘.

One of the special features of the material is that it lacks the so-called ‘band gap’, a band where electrons can move between the ‘valence’ and ‘conduction bands’. This determines the material’s conductivity, and it’s important for the development of items like transistors or solar cells.

Where can it be used?

With all these great features, graphene seems to have unlimited opportunities.

Being thin and almost transparent, it’s great for touchscreens as well as solar cells.

For solar cells, the missing band gap is also ideal, while in computing this may mean a disadvantage for the transistors. These are used to amplify and switch electronic signals and power, and are found in computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets. The absence of band gap does not allow to switch off currents, but this may be solved by doping, introducing impurities to a pure material. In this way it could also be great for photovoltaic cells.

Thanks to these many characteristics it’s being considered for replacing currently used silicon in transistors. Hence electronic devices may become faster, thinner and also cheaper.

But the number of opportunities goes on.

Being impermeable it could be great for gas detectors, and added graphene could harden tyres for safer driving, as well.

Also, the oil industry is enthusiastic about the material, having recently used graphene oxide against clogging of pores in wells.

There are already many giants undertaking research with graphene, including Samsung, IBM and Nokia, with impressive results, including faster-than-ever transistors or greatly flexible touchscreens.

One of the main questions however is whether these great features will also work at a larger scale so it could be used for mass production.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

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