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

Concept: Solar power


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


To realize the sustainable energy supply in smart city, it is essential to maximize energy scavenging from the city environments for achieving the self-powered functions of some intelligent devices and sensors. Although the solar energy can be well harvested by using existing technologies, the large amounts of wasted wind energy in the city cannot be effectively utilized since the conventional wind turbine generators can only be installed in remote areas due to the large volumes and the safety issues. Here, we rationally design a hybridized nanogenerator, including a solar cell (SC) and a triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG), that can individually/simultaneously scavenging solar and wind energies, which can be extensively installed on the roofs of the city buildings. Under the same device area of about 120 mm×22 mm, the SC can deliver a largest output power of about 8 mW, while the output power of the TENG can be up to 26 mW. Impedance matching between the SC and TENG has been achieved by using a transformer to decrease the impedance of the TENG. The hybridized nanogenerator has a larger output current and a better charging performance than that of the individual SC or TENG. This research presents a feasible approach to maximize solar and wind energies scavenging from the city environments with the aim to realize some self-powered functions in smart city.

Concepts: Sun, Renewable energy, Solar power, Nuclear power, Wind power, Energy development, World energy resources and consumption, Wind turbine


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


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


It is highly desired to enhance the visible-excited charge separation of nano-sized BiVO4 for efficient solar utilization. Herein, different molar-ratio ZnO/BiVO4 nanocomposites are fabricated by simple wet-chemical processes, after nano-sized BiVO4 and ZnO are respectively synthesized by hydrothermal methods. It is shown by means of atmosphere-controlled steady-state surface photovoltage spectra (SS-SPS) and transient-state surface photovoltage (TS-SPV) responses that the photogenerated charges of resulting nanocomposite display longer lifetime and higher separation than those of BiVO4 alone. This leads to its superior photoactivities for water oxidation to produce O2 and for colorless pollutant degradation under visible irradiation, with about three times enhancement. Interestingly, it is suggested that the prolonged lifetime and promoted separation of photogenerated charges in the nanocomposite is attributed to the unusual spatial transfer of visible-excited high-energy electrons from BiVO4 to ZnO on the basis of the ultra-low-temperature EPR measurements and the photocurrent action spectra. Moreover, it is clearly demonstrated that the photogenerated charge separation of resulting ZnO/BiVO4 nanocomposite could be further enhanced after introducing the silicate bridges so as to improve the visible photoactivity greatly, attributed to the built bridge roles favorable to charge transfer. This work would provide a feasible way to enhance the solar energy utilization of visible-response semiconductor photocatalysts.

Concepts: Electron, Electric charge, Photocatalysis, Fossil fuel, Photocatalytic water splitting, Solar energy, Solar power, Nanocomposite


We report an efficient approach to the synthesis of AgSbS2 nanocrystals (NCs) by colloidal chemistry. The size of the AgSbS2 NCs can be tuned from 5.3 to 58.3 nm with narrow size distributions by selection of appropriate precursors and fine control of the experimental conditions. Over 15 g of high-quality AgSbS2 NCs can be obtained from one single reaction, indicative of the up-scalability of the present synthesis. The resulting NCs display strong absorptions in the visible-to-NIR range and exceptional air stability. The photoelectrochemical measurements indicate that, although the pristine AgSbS2 NC electrodes generate a cathodic photocurrent with a relatively small photocurrent density and poor stability, both of them can be significantly improved subject to CdS surface modification, showing promise in solar energy conversion applications.

Concepts: Energy, Chemical reaction, Sun, Photovoltaics, Energy conversion, Solar energy, Solar power, Solar thermal energy


Copper indium gallium diselenide-based technology provides the most efficient solar energy conversion among all thin-film photovoltaic devices. This is possible due to engineered gallium depth gradients and alkali extrinsic doping. Sodium is well known to impede interdiffusion of indium and gallium in polycrystalline Cu(In,Ga)Se2films, thus influencing the gallium depth distribution. Here, however, sodium is shown to have the opposite effect in monocrystalline gallium-free CuInSe2grown on GaAs substrates. Gallium in-diffusion from the substrates is enhanced when sodium is incorporated into the film, leading to Cu(In,Ga)Se2and Cu(In,Ga)3Se5phase formation. These results show that sodium does not decrease per se indium and gallium interdiffusion. Instead, it is suggested that sodium promotes indium and gallium intragrain diffusion, while it hinders intergrain diffusion by segregating at grain boundaries. The deeper understanding of dopant-mediated atomic diffusion mechanisms should lead to more effective chemical and electrical passivation strategies, and more efficient solar cells.

Concepts: Zinc, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Energy conversion, Solar energy, Solar power, Copper indium gallium selenide, Solar thermal energy


Sequential deposition has been extensively used for the fabrication of perovskite solar cells. Nevertheless, fundamental aspects of the kinetics of methylammonium lead iodide perovskite formation remain obscure. We scrutinize the individual stages of the reaction and investigate the crystallization of the lead iodide film, which occurs before the intercalation of methylammonium iodide commences. Our study identifies the presence of mixed crystalline aggregates composed of perovskite and lead iodide during intercalation and structural reorganization. Furthermore, Ostwald ripening occurs in the film for reaction times beyond the point of conversion to perovskite. Using cross-sectional confocal laser scanning microscopy for the first time, we reveal that lead iodide in the over-layer and at the bottom of the mesoporous layer converts first. We identify unreacted lead iodide trapped in the mesoporous layer for samples of complete conversion. We acquire kinetic data by varying different parameters and find that the Avrami models best represent them. The model facilitates the rapid estimation of the reaction time for complete conversion for a variety of reaction conditions, thereby ascertaining a major factor previously determined by extensive experimentation. This comprehensive picture of the sequential deposition is essential for control over the perovskite film quality, which determines solar cell efficiency. Our results provide key insights to realize high-quality perovskite films for optoelectronic applications.

Concepts: Quantum dot, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Geology, Wafer, Photodiode, Solar power, Lead(II) nitrate


Smart photovoltaic windows represent a promising green technology featuring tunable transparency and electrical power generation under external stimuli to control the light transmission and manage the solar energy. Here, we demonstrate a thermochromic solar cell for smart photovoltaic window applications utilizing the structural phase transitions in inorganic halide perovskite caesium lead iodide/bromide. The solar cells undergo thermally-driven, moisture-mediated reversible transitions between a transparent non-perovskite phase (81.7% visible transparency) with low power output and a deeply coloured perovskite phase (35.4% visible transparency) with high power output. The inorganic perovskites exhibit tunable colours and transparencies, a peak device efficiency above 7%, and a phase transition temperature as low as 105 °C. We demonstrate excellent device stability over repeated phase transition cycles without colour fade or performance degradation. The photovoltaic windows showing both photoactivity and thermochromic features represent key stepping-stones for integration with buildings, automobiles, information displays, and potentially many other technologies.

Concepts: Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Phase transition, Superconductivity, Solar power, Photovoltaic array, Tidal power, Solar tracker


When wind or solar energy displace conventional generation, the reduction in emissions varies dramatically across the United States. Although the Southwest has the greatest solar resource, a solar panel in New Jersey displaces significantly more sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter than a panel in Arizona, resulting in 15 times more health and environmental benefits. A wind turbine in West Virginia displaces twice as much carbon dioxide as the same turbine in California. Depending on location, we estimate that the combined health, environmental, and climate benefits from wind or solar range from $10/MWh to $100/MWh, and the sites with the highest energy output do not yield the greatest social benefits in many cases. We estimate that the social benefits from existing wind farms are roughly 60% higher than the cost of the Production Tax Credit, an important federal subsidy for wind energy. However, that same investment could achieve greater health, environmental, and climate benefits if it were differentiated by region.

Concepts: Oxygen, Carbon dioxide, Oxide, Solar power, Volcano, Wind power, Wind farm, Wind turbine