SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Solar energy

246

A number of analyses, meta-analyses, and assessments, including those performed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the International Energy Agency, have concluded that deployment of a diverse portfolio of clean energy technologies makes a transition to a low-carbon-emission energy system both more feasible and less costly than other pathways. In contrast, Jacobson et al. [Jacobson MZ, Delucchi MA, Cameron MA, Frew BA (2015) Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 112(49):15060-15065] argue that it is feasible to provide “low-cost solutions to the grid reliability problem with 100% penetration of WWS [wind, water and solar power] across all energy sectors in the continental United States between 2050 and 2055”, with only electricity and hydrogen as energy carriers. In this paper, we evaluate that study and find significant shortcomings in the analysis. In particular, we point out that this work used invalid modeling tools, contained modeling errors, and made implausible and inadequately supported assumptions. Policy makers should treat with caution any visions of a rapid, reliable, and low-cost transition to entire energy systems that relies almost exclusively on wind, solar, and hydroelectric power.

Concepts: Petroleum, Fossil fuel, Renewable energy, Solar energy, Wind power, Hydroelectricity, International Energy Agency, Pumped-storage hydroelectricity

196

About 50% of the solar energy absorbed at the Earth’s surface drives evaporation, fueling the water cycle that affects various renewable energy resources, such as wind and hydropower. Recent advances demonstrate our nascent ability to convert evaporation energy into work, yet there is little understanding about the potential of this resource. Here we study the energy available from natural evaporation to predict the potential of this ubiquitous resource. We find that natural evaporation from open water surfaces could provide power densities comparable to current wind and solar technologies while cutting evaporative water losses by nearly half. We estimate up to 325 GW of power is potentially available in the United States. Strikingly, water’s large heat capacity is sufficient to control power output by storing excess energy when demand is low, thus reducing intermittency and improving reliability. Our findings motivate the improvement of materials and devices that convert energy from evaporation.The evaporation of water represents an alternative source of renewable energy. Building on previous models of evaporation, Cavusoglu et al. show that the power available from this natural resource is comparable to wind and solar power, yet it does not suffer as much from varying weather conditions.

Concepts: Energy, Water, Earth, Renewable energy, Solar energy, Wind power, Evaporation, Hydroelectricity

185

Recent advances in nanophotonic light trapping open up the new gateway to enhance the absorption of solar energy beyond the so called Yablonovitch Limit. It addresses the urgent needs in developing low cost thin-film solar photovoltaic technologies. However, current design strategy mainly relies on the parametric approach that is subject to the predefined topological design concepts based on physical intuition. Incapable of dealing with the topological variation severely constrains the design of optimal light trapping structure. Inspired by natural evolution process, here we report a design framework driven by topology optimization based on genetic algorithms to achieve a highly efficient light trapping structure. It has been demonstrated that the optimal light trapping structures obtained in this study exhibit more than 3-fold increase over the Yablonovitch Limit with the broadband absorption efficiency of 48.1%, beyond the reach of intuitive designs.

Concepts: Evolution, Energy, Topology, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Design, Solar energy, Solar thermal energy

64

Decisions determining the use of land for energy are of exigent concern as land scarcity, the need for ecosystem services, and demands for energy generation have concomitantly increased globally. Utility-scale solar energy (USSE) [i.e., ≥1 megawatt (MW)] development requires large quantities of space and land; however, studies quantifying the effect of USSE on land cover change and protected areas are limited. We assessed siting impacts of >160 USSE installations by technology type [photovoltaic (PV) vs. concentrating solar power (CSP)], area (in square kilometers), and capacity (in MW) within the global solar hot spot of the state of California (United States). Additionally, we used the Carnegie Energy and Environmental Compatibility model, a multiple criteria model, to quantify each installation according to environmental and technical compatibility. Last, we evaluated installations according to their proximity to protected areas, including inventoried roadless areas, endangered and threatened species habitat, and federally protected areas. We found the plurality of USSE (6,995 MW) in California is sited in shrublands and scrublands, comprising 375 km(2) of land cover change. Twenty-eight percent of USSE installations are located in croplands and pastures, comprising 155 km(2) of change. Less than 15% of USSE installations are sited in “Compatible” areas. The majority of “Incompatible” USSE power plants are sited far from existing transmission infrastructure, and all USSE installations average at most 7 and 5 km from protected areas, for PV and CSP, respectively. Where energy, food, and conservation goals intersect, environmental compatibility can be achieved when resource opportunities, constraints, and trade-offs are integrated into siting decisions.

Concepts: Sun, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Solar energy, Solar power, Nuclear power, Solar thermal energy, Concentrating solar power

60

Solar energy storage is an emerging technology which can promote the solar energy as the primary source of electricity. Recent development of laser scribed graphene electrodes exhibiting a high electrical conductivity have enabled a green technology platform for supercapacitor-based energy storage, resulting in cost-effective, environment-friendly features, and consequent readiness for on-chip integration. Due to the limitation of the ion-accessible active porous surface area, the energy densities of these supercapacitors are restricted below ~3 × 10(-3) Whcm(-3). In this paper, we demonstrate a new design of biomimetic laser scribed graphene electrodes for solar energy storage, which embraces the structure of Fern leaves characterized by the geometric family of space filling curves of fractals. This new conceptual design removes the limit of the conventional planar supercapacitors by significantly increasing the ratio of active surface area to volume of the new electrodes and reducing the electrolyte ionic path. The attained energy density is thus significantly increased to ~10(-1) Whcm(-3)- more than 30 times higher than that achievable by the planar electrodes with ~95% coulombic efficiency of the solar energy storage. The energy storages with these novel electrodes open the prospects of efficient self-powered and solar-powered wearable, flexible and portable applications.

Concepts: Density, Volume, Sun, Electrochemistry, Integral, Solar energy, Energy density, Energy storage

43

Power supply represents a critical challenge in the development of body-integrated electronic technologies. Although recent research establishes an impressive variety of options in energy storage (batteries and supercapacitors) and generation (triboelectric, piezoelectric, thermoelectric, and photovoltaic devices), the modest electrical performance and/or the absence of soft, biocompatible mechanical properties limit their practical use. The results presented here form the basis of soft, skin-compatible means for efficient photovoltaic generation and high-capacity storage of electrical power using dual-junction, compound semiconductor solar cells and chip-scale, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, respectively. Miniaturized components, deformable interconnects, optimized array layouts, and dual-composition elastomer substrates, superstrates, and encapsulation layers represent key features. Systematic studies of the materials and mechanics identify optimized designs, including unusual configurations that exploit a folded, multilayer construct to improve the functional density without adversely affecting the soft, stretchable characteristics. System-level examples exploit such technologies in fully wireless sensors for precision skin thermography, with capabilities in continuous data logging and local processing, validated through demonstrations on volunteer subjects in various realistic scenarios.

Concepts: Electricity, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Rechargeable battery, Capacitor, Lithium-ion battery, Solar energy, Nickel-cadmium battery

41

Young sunflower plants track the Sun from east to west during the day and then reorient during the night to face east in anticipation of dawn. In contrast, mature plants cease movement with their flower heads facing east. We show that circadian regulation of directional growth pathways accounts for both phenomena and leads to increased vegetative biomass and enhanced pollinator visits to flowers. Solar tracking movements are driven by antiphasic patterns of elongation on the east and west sides of the stem. Genes implicated in control of phototropic growth, but not clock genes, are differentially expressed on the opposite sides of solar tracking stems. Thus, interactions between environmental response pathways and the internal circadian oscillator coordinate physiological processes with predictable changes in the environment to influence growth and reproduction.

Concepts: Environment, Sun, Seed, Flower, Plant stem, Solar energy, Sunflower, Inflorescence

28

The electrostatic alignment and directed assembly of semiconductor nanowires into macroscopic, centimeter-long yarns is demonstrated. Different morphologies can be produced, including longitudinally segmented/graded yarns or mixed composition fibers. Nanowire yarns display long range photoconductivities and open up exciting opportunities for potential use in future nanowire-based textiles or in solar photovoltaics.

Concepts: Energy, Nanowire, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Solar energy, Photovoltaic module, Photovoltaic array, Waldpolenz Solar Park

28

Quantum dot nanoscale semiconductor heterostructures (QDHs) are a class of materials potentially useful for integration into solar energy conversion devices. However, realizing the potential of these heterostructured systems requires the ability to identify and synthesize heterostructures with suitably designed materials, controlled size and morphology of each component, and structural control over their shared interface. In this review, we will present the case for the utility and advantages of chemically synthesized QDHs for solar energy conversion, beginning with an overview of various methods of heterostructured material synthesis and a survey of heretofore reported materials systems. The fundamental charge transfer properties of the resulting materials combinations and their basic design principles will be outlined. Finally, we will discuss representative solar photovoltaic and photoelectrochemical devices employing QDHs (including quantum dot sensitized solar cells, or QDSSCs) and examine how QDH synthesis and design impacts their performance.

Concepts: Energy, Sun, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Solar energy, Solar power, Photovoltaic array, Solar thermal energy

28

Graphene not only possesses interesting electrochemical behavior but also has a remarkable surface area and mechanical strength and is naturally abundant, all advantageous properties for the design of tailored composite materials. Graphene-semiconductor or -metal nanoparticle composites have the potential to function as efficient, multifunctional materials for energy conversion and storage. These next-generation composite systems could possess the capability to integrate conversion and storage of solar energy, detection, and selective destruction of trace environmental contaminants or achieve single-substrate, multistep heterogeneous catalysis. These advanced materials may soon become a reality, based on encouraging results in the key areas of energy conversion and sensing using graphene oxide as a support structure. Through recent advances, chemists can now integrate such processes on a single substrate while using synthetic designs that combine simplicity with a high degree of structural and composition selectivity. This progress represents the beginning of a transformative movement leveraging the advancements of single-purpose chemistry toward the creation of composites designed to address whole-process applications. The promising field of graphene nanocomposites for sensing and energy applications is based on fundamental studies that explain the electronic interactions between semiconductor or metal nanoparticles and graphene. In particular, reduced graphene oxide is a suitable composite substrate because of its two-dimensional structure, outstanding surface area, and electrical conductivity. In this Account, we describe common assembly methods for graphene composite materials and examine key studies that characterize its excited state interactions. We also discuss strategies to develop graphene composites and control electron capture and transport through the 2D carbon network. In addition, we provide a brief overview of advances in sensing, energy conversion, and storage applications that incorporate graphene-based composites. With these results in mind, we can envision a new class of semiconductor- or metal-graphene composites sensibly tailored to address the pressing need for advanced energy conversion and storage devices.

Concepts: Nanoparticle, Sun, Nanomaterials, Composite material, Solar energy, Solar power, Boeing 787, Carbon fiber