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Efficient | Green and Alternative Energy Information

Efficient, inexpensive plastic solar cells coming soon

ScienceDaily (Oct. 11, 2010)  Physicists at Rutgers University have discovered new properties in a material that could result in efficient and inexpensive plastic solar cells for pollution-free electricity production.

The discovery, posted online and slated for publication in an upcoming issue of the journal Nature Materials, reveals that energy-carrying particles generated by packets of light can travel on the order of a thousand times farther in organic (carbon-based) semiconductors than scientists previously observed. This boosts scientists’ hopes that solar cells based on this budding technology may one day overtake silicon solar cells in cost and performance, thereby increasing the practicality of solar-generated electricity as an alternate energy source to fossil fuels.

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Converting Waste Heat to Electricity

With rapid industrialization, the world has seen the development of a number of items or units, which generate heat. Until now this heat has often been treated as a waste, making people wonder if this enormous heat being generated can be transformed into a source of electric power. Now, with the physicists at the University of Arizona finding new ways to harvest energy through heat, this dream is actually going to become a reality.

University of Arizona Research Team: The research team is headed by Charles Staffor. He is the associate professor of physics, and he along with his team worked on harvesting energy from waste. The team’s findings were published in the September 2010 issue of the scientific journal, ACS Nano.

Justin Bergfield who is an author and a doctoral candidate in the UA College of Optical Sciences shares his opinion, “Thermoelectricity can convert heat directly into electric energy in a device with no moving parts. Our colleagues in the field tell us that they are confident that the device we have designed on the computer can be built with the characteristics that we see in our simulations.”

Advantages: Elimination of Ozone Depleting materials: Using the waste heat as a form of electric power has multiple advantages. Whereas on one hand, using the theoretical model of molecular thermoelectric helps in increasing the efficiency of cars, power plants factories and solar panels, on the other hand efficient thermoelectric materials make ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, outdated.

More Efficient Design: The head of the research team Charles Stafford is hopeful about positive results because he expects that the thermoelectric voltage using their design will be 100 times more than what others have achieved. If the design of the team, which they have made on a computer does work, it will be a dream come true for all those engineers, who wanted to catch and make use of energy lost through waste but do not have the required efficient and economical devices to do so.

No need for Mechanics: The heat-conversion device invented by Bergfield and Stafford do not require any kind of machines or ozone-depleting chemicals, as was the case with refrigerators and steam turbines, which were earlier used to convert waste into electric energy. Now, the same work is done by sandwiching a rubber-like polymer between two metals, which acts like an electrode. The thermoelectric devices are self-contained, need no moving parts and are easy to manufacture and maintain.

Utilization Of Waste Energy: Energy is harvested in many ways using the car and factory waste. Car and factory waste can be used for generating electricity by coating exhaust pipes with a thin material, which is a millionth time of an inch. Physicists also take advantage of the law of quantum physics, which though not used often enough, gives great results when it comes to generating power from the waste.

Advantage Over Solar Energy: Molecular thermoelectric devices may help in harvesting energy from the sun and reduce the dependence on photovoltic cells, whose efficiency in harvesting solar energy is going down.
How It Works

Though having worked on the molecule and thinking about using them for a thermoelectric device, Bergfield and Stafford had not found anything special till an undergraduate discovered that these molecules had special features. A large number of molecules were then sandwiched between electrodes and exposed to a stimulated heat source. The flow of electrons along the molecule was split in two once it encounters a benzene ring, with one flow of electrons following along each arm of the ring.

The benzene ring circuit was designed in such a way that the electron travels longer distance round the rings in one path, which causes the two electrons to be out of phase when they reach the other side of the benzene ring. The waves cancel out each-other on meeting. The interruption caused in the flow of electric charge due to varied temperature builds up voltage between electrodes.

The effects seen on molecules are not unique because any quantum scale device having cancellation of electric charge will show a similar effect if there is a temperature difference. With the increase in temperature difference, energy generated also increases.

Thermoelectric devices designed by Bergfield and Stafford can generate power that can lit a 100 Watt bulb or increase car’s efficiency by 25%.

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Less Power To Refrigerators! Appliances Get More Efficient From 2014

Via Conservrefrigerators.com

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) this week announced new efficiency standards for most new refrigerators as of 2014. Energy efficiency for these domestic appliances is set to increase by 25%. They account for about 10% of household electricity use.

Advocacy groups and appliance manufacturers welcomed the news. “We appreciate that DOE has moved so quickly to adopt the agreed-upon standards,” said Andrew deLaski, Executive Director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP). “The consensus standards not only save consumers a huge amount of energy and money, they also save DOE the energy, time, and money that a contentious rulemaking process can require.”

According to the proposed rule, a typical new 20-cubic-foot refrigerator with the freezer on top would use about 390 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year, down from about 900 kWh/year in 1990 and about 1,700 kWh/year in the early 1970s. On a national basis, the new standards would, over 30 years, save 4.5 quads of energy, or roughly enough to meet the total energy needs of one-fifth of all U.S. households for a year. Over the same period, the standards will save consumers about $18.5 billion. DOE will finalize the standards by year’s end, and they take effect in 2014.

“The appliance industry has a strong history in reaching agreement with a broad base of energy and water efficiency advocates, as well as consumer groups, to develop energy conservation standards for home appliances,” said Joseph McGuire, President of the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. “The new minimum energy standards are a significant part of the agreement, as is the extension of the current super-efficient manufacturers’ tax credits, which we are urging Congress to act on, and a soon-to-be-submitted petition to ENERGY STAR on smart appliances.”

Based on the July agreement, home appliance manufacturers and efficiency, environmental and consumer advocates have agreed to jointly pursue with Congress and the Administration new standards for six categories of home appliances (refrigerators, freezers, clothes washers, clothes dryers, dishwashers and room air conditioners), a recommendation that ENERGY STAR qualification criteria incorporate credit for Smart Grid capability, and a package of targeted tax credits aimed at fostering the market for super-efficient appliances.

As part of the new refrigerator standards, ice maker energy consumption also will be reflected in product energy-use ratings to help consumers gauge actual energy use choosing a refrigerator.

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Worst Excuses for Not Using Solar Power

Over the past couple of months as the team at Clean Energy Experts has talked to a number of friends and other colleagues about solar power, we’ve been hearing a lot of the same excuses for not going solar.  Time and time again, we have to explain to them why their reasoning is unfounded but still we find the same excuses wherever we go.  So we thought we’d take a little time to dispel the four most common excuses for not utilizing solar power.

First Excuse: It’s Too Expensive

Everyone seems to know that federal and state governments have significant financial incentives in place to help promote the adoption of solar power.   Even after these incentives, the average residential solar system costs between $10,000 and $30,000 and for most people, this represents a major capital investment.  As a result, most people stop there and say, “I can’t afford it.”

What they don’t know is that there are a number of financing options available to help ease the cost of solar.  For example, a number of solar installers offer financing programs, similar to small loan or mortgage, where there is little to no up front cost and finance the balance of the purchase price through a loan.  As a result, the homeowner does not have to come up with cash upfront but can amortize the cost of the solar system over time.  What’s great is that when you factor in a your reduced utility bill from solar and the amortization cost of the panels, this amount is most likely still less than your electric bill without solar power.  So you save immediately and that savings grows over time as electricity rates increase.

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Hybrid Organic Solar Cells Now More Efficient

hybrid organic solar cell Success greets the research team of National Research Council’s National Institute for Nanotechnology (NINT) and the University of Alberta. The plastic solar cells have now an operating life of 8 months instead of mere hours. And they are low-cost, environmentally efficient, unsealed plastic dollar cells – a green energy source. Developing economically viable plastic solar panels and to produce them in large scale has been the long time goal for the scientists as the cost of ultra high-purity silicon used in the traditionally manufactured solar cells is quite prohibitive. These are the solar cells of future – to be available to common man easily. A University of Alberta-NINT team has been focusing on this for quite some time.

Prototype solar cell:
A multi-disciplinary team has been successful in developing a prototype solar panel. It was operating at high capacity for about 10 hours. After that, problems developed within which reduced the efficiency of solar cells. They found that electrode’s chemical coating was the root cause of the problem. For past few months, work has been going on to correct this problem.

Role of electrode:
Producing power from solar cells is the key responsibility of electrodes and the research team found that the unstable chemical coating started leaking around the circuitry of the solar cell and reduced production capacity. They developed a new coating which solved this problem.

New polymer coating:
The team led by David Rider, consisting of Michael J. Brett, Jillian Buriak from U of A-NINT has been successful in developing a durable and longer lasting coating of polymer for the electrode which stopped the chemical leaking that reduced the production capacity. This new polymer coated electrode makes the solar cell work at high capacity continuously.

Success story:
At the time David Rider and colleagues presented their research paper in Advanced Functional Materials on June 22, 2010, the solar prototype cell had performed already for 500 hours at high capacity. In the highly competitive field of plastic solar-cell technology, this research by U of A-NINT team is considered to be a great achievement. And the cell continued to work for 8 months altogether before being damaged in transit between laboratories.

Future:
The future looks bright for hybrid organic solar cells. In Rider’s words “Inexpensive, lightweight plastic solar-cell products, like a blanket or sheet that can be rolled up, will change the solar energy industry”.

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