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JOIN US AT THE BREAKTHROUGH CONFERENCE
move into the Fall, IRI is happy to promote the International Breakthrough Energy
Conference in HiIversum Holland, November 8-11, 2012. A world
class program which will
breakthrough technologies and their world-changing implications
journeying into the past, present and future of our energy
landscape with over 18 speakers, including myself, two
conference rooms and a 3 day program, this event is designed to focus
on the full scope of Breakthrough Energy Technologies. Also the
upcoming Power MEMs conference to be held
December 2-5, 2012 in Atlanta GA. I attended the conference a few years
ago and energy harvestingis a major theme of many of the papers
and more trade magazines are reporting it as a method to get "Free
Power from Thermal, Kinetic & Solar Energy"(Electronic
Design, 6/10/10). The PowerMEMs papers from 2011 are online in
PDF format so you can download a few that may be of interest.
note we are also kicking off our Fall Fundraising Drive for IRI.
If you can help us meet our goals for example, by becoming a Member of IRI this month,
your membership will be extended for two extra months throughout 2013
and you will receive a FREE gift of your choice as well as a special
December mailing for this and next year. We are all-volunteer and so
100% of your tax deductible donations go toward
Integrity Research Institute programs and not half toward
"administrative costs" as with most other nonprofit
organizations. Only $10,000 will fund the current programs we are
researching. A picture of our IRI
Laboratory today, is online showing several electrical
projects visible, with our main IRI Office across the hall, both
dedicated to researching scientific integrity in energy, propulsion and
story demonstrates a new future energy strategy to accelerate
development of a product when the research has convinced investors that
the process has merit. With Caltech and Lawrence Berkeley Lab
collaborating, a high production R&D incubator or innovation hub
promises to finally solve the artificial photosynthesis problem
by testing a wide range of possible catalysts.
second story is hot off the press...an October 18 Forbes article
summarizing the latest Defkalion documents on cold fusion
experiments that report a Coefficient of Performance (COP) of about 3
which implies three times the energy output than went in. This
was done under controlled conditions and we can add that one of our IRI
Advisory Board members was actually present during the experiments.
This was published at the same time that Popular Science did an
article on the Rossi experiments, which is linked in the Related
Article section. Cold fusion experiments may be said to be heating up.
about CO2, which is a hot topic as well since it has been directly
correlated to temperature and sea level, as well as
the increasing strength of hurricanes and tornadoes, our third story is
a major breakthrough for the future. Credit is due to GE for coming up
with the world's first greenhouse project that captures CO2 for
fertilization using 8 MW natural gas engine power generation
and to USEA for hosting an October 2nd forum on this topic.
Environmentalists hope that this will be a blueprint for the future
power plants where even the CO2 can be sold to a customer.
other side of the coin, there is a resurgence in fossil fuel production
as reviewed in our fourth comprehensive story from Time magazine.
Though we can acknowledge that having the U.S. as a new exporter of
refined petroleum contributes to the GNP, the story also cites the
dangerous process of fracking which is being investigated by the EPA.
Note that the article states natural gas emits half as much CO2 as an
equivalent amount of coal, which is an important consideration. It also
is a valuable article by covering nuclear and renewables in a
balanced way, as well as hinting at new technologies with unconstrained
supplies of energy that could revolutionize the world. This last
"wild card" was even mentioned as a possible threat to the
oil industry by one of the panelists at the latest USEA Energy Supply Forum which I
attended. We at IRI are in touch with more than one such wild cards and
will keep you posted.
story is a tribute to nanotechnology for doubling the power of solar
cells just by the structure of nanowires developed by Bandgap
Engineering, by increasing the amount of sunlight being absorbed. Other
new materials are also covered in the article related to improved
Thomas Valone, PhD
1) Making Fuel
from Water and Sunlight
October 22, 2012 Technology Review
Artificial Photosynthesis Effort
takes Root. A $122 million innovation hub could speed the development of
devices for making fuel from water and sunlight.
While a debate rages about the government's role in
funding energy innovation, sparked by high-profile failures of
government-backed companies such as Solyndra and A123 Systems, a less
controversial federal clean-tech investment strategy has been quietly
humming along, garnering bipartisan support. So-called innovation hubs,
multidisciplinary research centers meant to emulate the legendary Bell
Laboratories by combining scientific research with applied technology,
have managed to get continued government funding even as Congress works
to cut the overall federal budget.
Joint Ctr for AP
Two years after first getting funding, one of the
current hubs-a Caltech-based effort focused on using sunlight to make
liquid fuels-says it has made substantial progress toward devices that convert
sunlight and water into hydrogen and oxygen that could be used to power a
car or generate electricity on demand. Eventually, the researchers hope
to combine the hydrogen with carbon from carbon dioxide to make liquid
fuels similar to gasoline or diesel.
Researchers have been pursuing what's known as
artificial photosynthesis for decades. Progress has been slow, and making
the process economical on a large scale remains a seemingly distant goal.
The new innovation hub, which is meant to receive $122 million over five
years, plans to hurry this research along by bringing together a large
number of experts in different areas, including catalysis, optics, and
To speed up materials discovery, researchers at the
Caltech hub, who collaborate with researchers at Lawrence Berkeley
National Lab and more than 20 other research centers, have developed an
ink-jet printing process that can churn out millions of slightly
different variations on promising catalysts. Each sample is as small as a
pixel on a screen. They're also developing equipment that can quickly
test the activity of each catalyst. "It will dramatically accelerate
the rate of electrocatalyst and photocatalyst discovery from a few
candidates a year to a few every few milliseconds, producing thousands to
millions per day," says Nate Lewis, hub director at the Joint Center
for Artificial Photosynthesis.
At the same time, the hub has installed advanced
3-D printers that can make prototype devices to house the light-absorbing
materials and catalysts, feed water to them, and separate and collect
hydrogen and oxygen. So far, researchers have built two such prototypes
that can produce fuel from sunlight-though not yet economically. The plan
is to have at least four or five different versions of the devices, each
with different strengths and weaknesses. The researchers want multiple
versions because they can't predict where the next materials advance will
The idea of developing new energy technologies at
innovation hubs is far different from the approach of helping companies
scale up manufacturing through grants or loan guarantees, as the U.S.
Department of Energy did in the case of A123 and Solyndra. It is also far
different from funding research projects in the ARPA-E program, whose goal
is to take a specific advance in a lab or a company, such as the
discovery of a promising new material, and demonstrate its potential
within three years-for example, by building a working battery using that
The innovation hubs pull together researchers from
many different groups to focus on making breakthroughs on long-standing
problems. They work on many different levels, doing everything from
discovering new materials and carefully studying how they work to
designing and building devices that could use those materials. While
ARPA-E grants individual projects a few million dollars, each hub is
meant to receive more than a hundred million dollars over five years in
recognition of the larger scale of the problems they address. So far,
five innovation hubs have been funded, but funding for their five-year
term isn't guaranteed. The money has to be allocated every year, and the
budget for next year hasn't been passed. Though the relevant House and
Senate committees support continued funding for all five, Congress is
facing increasing pressure to find places to cut spending
table of contents
Fusion Gets A Little More Real
By Mark Gibbs, Contributor. Forbes
October 20, 2012
The question "is cold fusion real?" has
been around since 1989 when Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons, two of
the world's leading electrochemists, rather prematurely announced that
they had achieved this phenomena in a test tube in their lab.
Cold fusion, otherwise called Low Energy Nuclear
Reaction (LENR), is, theoretically, the fusing together (rather than a
chemical reaction) of elements at "normal" temperatures such
that they release more energy than is required to fuse them.
This is an idea that is incredibly appealing
because if it could be achieved it would provide mankind with, again in
theory, incredibly cheap energy. In practice, there could be drawbacks
such as pollution and radiation but until cold fusion is actually
demonstrated and developed, no one knows.
Hot fusion, on the other hand, is the process by
which elements would be fused together at temperatures and pressures only
found naturally in stars.
While hot fusion, yet again theoretically, would
create more energy than it would to induce fusion the conditions required
are so extreme that rather than a simple test tube it requires machines
the size of houses and enormous supporting facilities that bring the
whole project up to factory scale (see the National Ignition Facility). Hot fusion is
also guaranteed to have radioactive waste products.
Unfortunately it turned out that the Fleischmann
and Pons experiment was not reliably reproducible. In the academic fracas
that followed, both men's reputations were ruined and the field was
quickly relegated to the domain of "fringe" science along with
perpetual motion, telekinesis, and anti-gravity.
While mainstream science was apparently quite happy
with this situation and went about spending billions of dollars on
"hot" fusion (there are many who claim that cold fusion was
systematically marginalized and deprecated by establishment scientists),
a few "rogue" researchers continued with cold fusion research
and, over the last few years, evidence has piled up that cold fusion may,
in fact, be real.
I wrote "may ... be real" because until
recently the evidence looked promising but hardly conclusive.
I know that there will be a handful of people (the
"believers" I wrote about some time ago) who read that
statement and cry "lies" but the fact is that no one has yet
demonstrated, definitively, that cold fusion or LENR exists in a form
that is actually useful.
I first wrote about cold fusion in my Backspin column in Network World last year and then again a few days later in my Forbes Technobabble blog when I learned of
an Italian Inventor, Andrea Rossi, who claimed to have developed a cold
fusion device he called the Energy Catalyzer or E-Cat.
Since then just over a year has passed with Rossi
having done a couple of unconvincing demos (the biggest and least convincing was on
October 28 last year). I could go on at length about the endless news
items about Rossi but the bottom line is that to all intents and purposes
the E-Cat is still vaporware ... it's all still "jam tomorrow."
As for the rest of the companies that have
announced they're developing cold fusion devices only one stands out: Defkalion Green Technologies, a company
based in Greece
Originally this group was involved with Rossi's
company, Leonardo Corporation, but the two parties
split over a year ago for reasons that have never been made completely
clear. Since then Defkalion has issued a few press releases and a minimal
amount of hard information ... until a few days ago.
On October 18, Defkalion published two documents:
An executive summary and an extensive report of tests of their system
in which the names of third parties who witnessed the tests, which were
conducted in September in Greece, were redacted.
The reports are very interesting. Here are the
conclusions from the summary report (the emphasis is mine):
1. Defkalion was able to demonstrate an excess of energy.
2. They were able to demonstrate that they can fully control the reaction:
starting it, stopping it, increasing and decreasing it.
3. They were able to demonstrate that the reaction
is dependent on hydrogen gas.
4. The contents of the reactor were removed and
weighed to be 59 grams of mass, most of which was a ceramic encasement.
reaction appears to produce more energy than a chemical reaction from a
known amount with an equivalent mass; implying a nuclear reaction is
5. There were
error bands associated with all data obtained which have not yet been
completely established. These will need to be addressed in a detailed
analysis of this data.
is my opinion that Defkalion is sincerely attempting to accurately
measure and demonstrate the performance of their technology with
confidence that they can achieve a COP >1 for a long enough period to
exclude any possibility of a chemical reaction.
It is that last point that's the biggie ... and
another sentence in the report stood out:
Upon a preliminary look at the data, the reactor
was operating well in excess of a COP of 3.
This is potentially huge! An independent
witness asserting that the system may be outputting three times the input
energy! The question was, who was the independent witness?
The reports were published as PDFs and as I know a
thing or two about the format I checked to see if the documents had been
properly redacted. The executive summary, it turned out, was not properly
formatted so it was simple to bypass the redaction and discover that the
executive summary was written by Michael A. Nelson, a NASA employee of
some thirty years standing.
I contacted Mr. Nelson and found out that he was
not attending the tests as a representative of NASA but rather on
behalf of the New Energy Foundation . The
Foundation paid Mr. Nelson's expenses to travel to and from the event
which he attended out of scientific interest although Mr. Nelson told me
"It really never mattered to me if my expenses were covered or not.
I was willing to pay out of my own pocket for the chance to get an up
close look at what they have."
Mr. Nelson simply wants to know if there's anything
real about cold fusion and he's operating as an impartial expert to try
to establish what is real about the topic. That's it. He's not trying to
critique or disprove anything, he's simply doing what real scientists do;
investigating things that are interesting.
Now, before you jump to the conclusion that his
comments completely validate cold fusion, please re-read them very
carefully ... what he's saying is that the results look promising but further study needs to be
The reason further study is needed is simple:
Determining whether more energy is produced than is input is not a
trivial matter and requires a significant amount of equipment and
preparation which the Defkalion tests didn't adequately cover. That's not
to say there was anything wrong with the tests, simply that the test
environment wasn't a comprehensive as would be required to produce
Even so, the Defkalion tests were, as far as any
cold fusion experiment performed to date has gone, the best so far and
they were witnessed by someone who is, for want of a better description,
a serious scientist.
So, it appears that cold fusion, in the sense that
the phenomena is a real and viable basis for energy generation, looks
like a much better bet than it did a week ago. Now it's up to the other
players in the nascent cold fusion market - particularly Rossi's Leonardo
Corporation - to show more clearly what they've got.
My hat is off to Defkalion and Mr. Nelson for
giving all of us who sincerely want to see cold fusion become a reality a
little more hope.
My thanks to Sterling Allan of Pure Energy Systems for his help.
Can Andrea Rossi's Infinite-Energy Black Box
Power The World--Or Just Scam It?
back to table of
Climate Change by Capturing CO2 to Fertilize Crops
United States Energy
Association, 10/2/12, www.usea.org
and Houweling's Tomatoes CHP Project With Carbon Dioxide Fertilization
GE and its customer Houweling's Tomatoes, a leading
North American greenhouse grower, recently unveiled the first combined
heat and power (CHP) greenhouse project in America that captures carbon
dioxide (CO2) for use in plant fertilization. Using two of GE's
4.36-megawatt (MW), ecomagination-qualified Jenbacher J624 two-staged
turbocharged natural gas engines and a GE-designed CO2 fertilization
system, the plant provides heat, power and CO2 to Houweling's 125-acre
tomato greenhouse in Camarillo, California.
The first greenhouse CHP project in the U.S.also
gives an added boost to California's goal to generate 6,500 MW of new CHP
generation in the state by 2020. The project represents the launch of
GE's J624 two-staged turbocharged gas engines for the 60 Hz segment and
the first of these engines sold in the U.S. Introduced by GE in 2007, the
J624 is the world's first 24-cylinder gas engine for commercial power
generation and can be used in various applications. It also is the first
gas engine featuring double turbocharging, which makes it even more
efficient. Read the full press release here.
Travis Dauwalter, Business Development Leader, GE
Gas Engines, will present an overview of the CHP with carbon capture
project. As the CHP and Biogas business development leader for GE's Gas
Engines, Travis Dauwalter drives growth in North America through focused
engagement with end-users, industry stakeholders, and policy makers.
Travis received his MBA from Pennsylvania State Universityand his BSc in
Aeronautical Engineering from the United States Air Force Academy.
of Gas and Oil at Renewables Expense
Fareed Zakaria Monday,
Oct. 29, 2012, Time,
second debate, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney began with a spirited
discussion on energy, during which they both agreed on the goal of making
America more energy independent. This has been part of presidential
rhetoric since Richard Nixon declared energy independence his
Administration's aim. As it happens, regardless of who is elected
President, a tidal shift is taking place in energy that will matter far
more to America's energy future than anything either candidate plans or
Over the past decade, America has
experienced a technological revolution--not, as expected, in renewable
energy but rather in the extraction of oil and gas. As a result, domestic
supplies of new sources of energy--shale gas, oil from shale, tight sands
and the deepwater, natural-gas liquids--are booming. The impact is larger
than anyone expected.
In 2011, for the first time since
1949, the U.S.became a net exporter of refined petroleum products.
Several studies this year have projected that by the end of this decade,
the U.S.will surpass both Russia and Saudi Arabia and become the world's
largest producer of oil and liquid natural gas.
Much of this opportunity comes from
America's newfound ability to draw oil and gas from geological formations
that just a few years ago geologists deemed impenetrable. The
consequences of this breakthrough, both economic and geopolitical, are
difficult to assess, but they range from a manufacturing renaissance in
the U.S.to a decline of the geopolitical clout of Russia and the Middle
East. Both would obviously be welcome news.
Romney has accused the Obama
Administration of throwing obstacles in the way of this boom. But so far
they do not seem to have had much effect in slowing things down.
Of course, there are many on the left
who believe that the Obama Administration has gone soft on the oil and
gas boom and wish he had instituted more regulations. Fracking--the
procedure by which shale oil and gas are extracted from deep rock
formations stretching from the Appalachians nearly to the
Rockies--remains controversial and arouses great passion. The
Oscar-nominated documentary GasLand suggests that unlocked gas could
burst out of people's taps, allegedly because of fracking. These charges
are important, but they need more thorough investigation. Gas could end
up in water pipes for a variety of reasons unrelated to fracking.
The Environmental Protection Agency
is doing a comprehensive study of fracking, in part because we need to
better understand the ramifications of this promising new extraction
method. At this point it seems the greatest harm has come from small
fracking operations that don't worry that an environmental problem could
damage their brand name or profit margin. This makes it an industry
tailor-made for intelligent regulation, because the big companies could
well support clear rules that everyone, in a growing number of states,
The environmental impact of the
natural-gas boom is already clear--and positive. The U.S.'s
greenhouse-gas emissions in 2011 were 9% lower than in 2007. That's a
larger drop than in the European Union, with all its focus on renewables.
Why? A slow recovery and lagging demand is one answer. But the main
reason is that natural gas is replacing coal everywhere as an energy
source, and gas emits half as much carbon dioxide as coal. This point is
crucial. The conversation about natural gas cannot be had in isolation
from the alternative. If we shut down all fracking and stop using shale
gas, we will get all that energy by burning coal, which is the world's
dirtiest fossil fuel--and is associated with mining deaths and
respiratory illnesses as well.
As the oil and gas boom progresses,
however, we should not forget that there is ultimately a better future
for energy--namely wind, solar and other renewables--that provides
unending supply, low price and almost no environmental damage. Most of
these approaches continue to be plagued by the problems of cost and
energy storage. (Bill Gates has calculated that if you took all the
world's batteries, they together would have enough capacity to store 10
minutes of the world's demand for energy.) But they are gradually
becoming competitive with fossil fuels.
The best bet for theU.S.is not only
to expand oil and gas production but also to increase funding for
research and development of new sources of energy. We need more
breakthrough technologies and new designs and processes. But the
government should also aid these nascent technologies by helping them achieve scale--which
comes only from large deployment of these technologies. The
U.S.government--the Department of Defense and then NASA--bought almost
half of all the computer chips produced by Silicon Valleyin the 1950s
until the industry could sufficiently lower its costs to be commercially
We need to expect, even welcome, some
investment failures. In venture capital, if you have eight failures and
two big successes, that's a ratio to be proud of. But in government, one
Solyndra means the whole program can die. Wind and solar are relatively
small investments and needlessly controversial. The much larger question
is nuclear energy. Should the government continue to provide subsidies
for nuclear power? The emotional opposition to nuclear power has little
to do with the data--many more people die in coal mines every year than
have ever died in nuclear plants--but it does shape the political
reality. Nuclear-power-plant construction remains stalled. But if
Americans want a constant supply of large amounts of energy with zero
carbon emissions, nuclear is the only game in town right now.
The final piece of the energy puzzle
should be the least controversial. Energy efficiency--drastically
reducing the vast waste of energy in homes, offices, factories and
vehicles--is good for greens and CEOs, for America and the world.
Scientist turned activist Amory Lovins argues that the U.S. could grow
its economy to 2.6 times its size, get completely off oil, coal and
nuclear and use one-third less natural gas--all by 2050.
Efficiency means a hundred different
things, like lighter (and yet sturdier) cars made from carbon fiber or
similarly light and strong materials. It also means rethinking how we
build things: if considered as a separate nation, America's buildings
alone are the world's third largest users of energy, after the rest of
America and China and ahead of every other country! And it means simple
modifications like this one in every hotel room in Europe: when you leave
the room, taking the key out of the slot turns out the lights. It doesn't
require any sacrifice in lifestyle to have the lights off when you're not
in the room. McKinsey estimates that the U.S.could save more than $130
billion annually--or $1.2 trillion by 2020--just by maximizing efficiency.
Conservation reminds us that we
should think about energy not as a problem but as an opportunity. As we
search for new sources of economic growth, it's worth recalling how the
information revolution of the 1990s restarted America by transforming so
many aspects of life and work. Energy could have a similar transcendent
effect. New technologies that provide cheaper and unconstrained supplies
of energy could revolutionize the world. And the country that pioneers
them will be on top.
FOR MORE ON THE FUTURE OF ENERGY,
TUNE IN TO FAREED ZAKARIA'S NEW CNN SPECIAL, GLOBAL LESSONS: THE GPS ROAD
MAP FOR POWERING AMERICA, ON SUNDAY, OCT. 21, AT 8 P.M. AND 11 P.M. E.T
AND P.T. (perhaps archived on CNN.COM - TV
the playing field for wind power
One of the key ways we can continue to grow wind energy in the United
States and allow it to compete with fossil fuels and nuclear power is by
ensuring developers receive tax incentives for generating energy from
this renewable resource. Unfortunately, the federal production tax credit
for wind energy is set to expire at the end of 2012-threatening one of
the country's fastest growing industries and tens of thousands of
Urge your members of Congress to renew this
critical renewable energy tax incentive today.
to Double The Power of Solar Panels
Kevin Bullis, Technology
Review, October 2012
Bandgap Engineering is
developing a new kind of solar cell based on nanowires.
In an attempt to further
drop the cost of solar power, Bandgap Engineering, a startup in Woburn,
Massachusetts, is developing a nanowire-based solar cell that could
eventually generate twice as much power as conventional solar cells.
That's a long-term
project, but meanwhile the company is about to start selling a simpler
version of the technology, using silicon nanowires that can improve the
performance and lower the cost of conventional silicon solar cells.
Bandgap says its nanowires, which can be built using existing
manufacturing tools, boost the power output of solar cells by increasing
the amount of light the cells can absorb.
Right now most
solar-panel manufacturers aren't building new factories because the
market for their product is glutted. But if market conditions improve and
manufacturers do start building, they'll be able to introduce larger
changes to production lines. In that case the Bandgap technology could
make it possible to change solar cells more significantly. For example,
by increasing light absorption, it could allow manufacturers to use far
thinner wafers of silicon, reducing the largest part of a solar cell's
cost. It could also enable manufacturers to use copper wires instead of
more expensive silver wires to collect charge from the solar panels.
These changes could lead
to solar panels that convert over 20 percent of the energy in sunlight
into electricity (compared with about 15 percent for most solar cells
now) yet cost only $1 per watt to produce and install, says Richard
Chleboski, Bandgap's CEO. (Solar installations cost a few dollars per
watt now, depending on their size and type.) Over the operating lifetime
of the system, costs would come to between 6 and 10 cents per
kilowatt-hour. That's still higher than the current cost of natural-gas
power in the United States, which is about 4 cents per kilowatt-hour. But
it's low enough to secure solar power a substantial market in many parts
of the world where energy costs can be higher, or in certain niche markets
in the United States.
Meanwhile, Bandgap is
pursuing technology that could someday improve efficiency enough to allow
solar power to compete widely with fossil fuels. Double the efficiency of
solar cells without greatly increasing manufacturing costs, and you
substantially lower the cost per watt of solar panels and halve the cost
of installation-currently the biggest expense in solar power-by making it
possible to get the same amount of power out of half as many cells.
Both the cells Bandgap is
about to introduce and the cells it hopes to produce in the long term are
based on the idea of minimizing the energy loss that typically occurs
when light passes through a solar cell unabsorbed or when certain
wavelengths of light are absorbed but don't have enough energy to
dislodge electrons to create electricity. (That energy is wasted as
heat.) In a conventional solar cell, at least two-thirds of the energy in
sunlight is wasted-usually much more.
The company's existing
technology makes use of the fact that when light encounters the
nanowires, it's refracted in a way that causes it to bounce around in the
solar cell rather than simply moving through it or bouncing off it. That
increases its chances of being absorbed (see "Black Silicon Solar Cells to Capture More
But what Bandgap ultimately
wants to do is to change the way light is converted to electricity inside
the cell. If the nanowires can be made uniformly enough, and if they can
be formed in such a way that their atoms line up along certain planes,
the tiny structures could change the electronic properties of silicon.
These changes could allow solar cells to generate electricity from
low-energy light that normally produces only heat, says Marcie Black, the
company's founder and chief technology officer. It does this in part by
providing a way to combine energy from more than one photon of low-energy
The technology could take
many years to develop. For one thing, it requires very precise control
over the properties of each of millions of nanowires. Also, the
techniques needed to make the solar cells might not be cheap or reliable
enough to produce them on a large scale. But such solar cells could
theoretically convert 60 percent of the energy in sunlight into
electricity. That will be hard to achieve in practice, so the company is
aiming at a more modest 38 percent efficiency, which is still more than
twice that of typical silicon solar cells made now.
Researchers are taking
several other approaches to producing very high-efficiency solar cells,
such as using quantum dots or combining several kinds of materials (see "TR10: Nanocharging Solar" and "New Materials Make Photovoltaics Better").
The nanowire technology could be simpler, however. "In theory, the
approach has many potential advantages, but you've got to get it to
work," says Andrew Norman, a senior researcher at the National
Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. Bandgap hasn't yet built
solar cells using the approach it hopes to pursue in the long term, but
it's made indirect measurements showing that its nanowires can change the
electronic properties of silicon. "This is still in the research
phase," Black says. "We're being very honest with
investors-there's still a lot of work to do."
back to table of contents
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