15 Apr 2014:
Possible with Advances in Semiconductors
Solar-harvesting materials under UV light
New semiconductor technology is advancing the development of house windows that could double as solar panels, according to scientists
from Los Alamos National Lab and Italy. Their research into so-called "quantum dots" — ultra-small bits of semiconductors that transmit energy extremely efficiently and can be tuned toward specific colors — shows that quantum dots can be used in transparent materials to harvest sunlight with efficiencies comparable to standard solar panels. When highly transparent materials are embedded with quantum dots, they are known as luminescent solar concentrators (LSCs); the structures can absorb sunlight and re-radiate it at longer wavelengths directed toward the edge of the slab, where the energy is collected by a solar cell. "The LSC serves as a light-harvesting antenna that concentrates solar radiation collected from a large area onto a much smaller solar cell, and this increases its power output," the lead researcher explained. In tests using large LSC slabs (sized in tens of centimeters), researchers reported harvesting photons at roughly 10 percent efficiency. Typical photovoltaic solar panels have an average efficiency of about 15 percent.
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Photographer Robert Wintner documents the exquisite beauty and biodiversity of Cuba’s coral reefs, which are largely intact thanks to stifled coastal development in the communist nation. View the gallery.
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The Warriors of Qiugang
, a Yale Environment 360
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A three-part series Tainted Harvest
looks at the soil pollution crisis in China, the threat it poses to the food supply, and the complexity of any cleanup. Read the series.