Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Microsolar Cell Technology

[Image Courtesy:]

A new and exciting
solar cell technology developed at the Sandia National Laboratories (USA) promises a bright future for solar power. Check out the news release on the following link.

Glitter-sized solar photovoltaics produce competitive results
Adventures in microsolar supported by microelectronics and MEMS techniques


  • A new solar cell technology developed at Sandia National Laboratories (USA)
  • The cells are fabricated using microelectronic and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) techniques common to today’s electronic foundries.
  • They use 100 times less silicon to generate the same amount of electricity as conventional crystalline silicon solar cells.
  • 14-20 micrometers thick, they are 10 times thinner than conventional 6" by 6" brick-sized cells, yet perform at about the same efficiency.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Solar Energy Storage

Today, I had the opportunity to be at the Faculty Hall where Professor Charles M. Vest, President of the US National Academy of Engineering, and President Emeritus of the hallowed Massachusetts Institute of Technology was delivering a talk titled "Engineering Education in 21st Century". Of the several germane issues touched upon during the lecture, Prof. Vest's mention of fourteen grand engineering challenges was of particular interest to me. One can take a look at the list here.

Being one with a soft corner for renewable energy, I found the first one - Make solar energy economical - to be of utmost importance. Addressing the problem of storing solar energy for times when the sun isn't in sight (nights and cloudy days), the article puts forth a very interesting idea based on mother nature's ways.

Another possible solution to the storage problem would mimic the biological capture of sunshine by photosynthesis in plants, which stores the sun’s energy in the chemical bonds of molecules that can be used as food. The plant’s way of using sunlight to produce food could be duplicated by people to produce fuel. For example, sunlight could power the electrolysis of water, generating hydrogen as a fuel. Hydrogen could then power fuel cells, electricity-generating devices that produce virtually no polluting byproducts, as the hydrogen combines with oxygen to produce water again. But splitting water efficiently will require advances in chemical reaction efficiencies, perhaps through engineering new catalysts. Nature’s catalysts, enzymes, can produce hydrogen from water with a much higher efficiency than current industrial catalysts. Developing catalysts that can match those found in living cells would dramatically enhance the attractiveness of a solar production-fuel cell storage system for a solar energy economy.

So here's a challenge for all chemical scientists and/or engineers to tackle. Anybody listening?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

List of Emerging Technologies

Wikipedia has put together a handy and impressive list of emerging technologies with their current status, potential applications etc. It's a must read for every engineer worth his salt. The technology areas covered are energy technologies, transportation, information technology, biotechnology & bioinformatics, robotics & applied mechanics, material science and others.

Here's the link: