How Nanotechnology is Providing a Solution for Photovoltaic Systems


Nanotechnology-in-Solar-Energy-2

Photovoltaic (PV) systems, which harvest sustainable and clean energy from the sun, accumulate dirt or particles like dust, water and sand. This build-up leads to a reduction in the light energy reaching the solar cells and lowers their power output by up to 50%, according to some studies. Therefore, it’s crucial to keep them clean. However, the process of regular cleaning and maintenance could be costly and also waste water.

Enter the EU-funded SolarSharc project, whose highly repellent  technology will eliminate surface contamination, optimising energy efficiency and PV yield. In an interview published on the European Coatings website, David Hannan from project partner Opus Materials Technologies said developments in anti-soiling coatings are being driven by the sustainability agenda and the need for clean power. He highlighted the challenges involved in the production of solar energy and added that “dust, dirt and fouling of solar panels are major sources of inefficiency and loss in solar generation, resulting in lost generating capacity to a value in excess of EUR 40bn p.a.

In turn this causes over 100M tonnes of CO2 emission through fossil fuel generation in order to make up the shortfall.” Hannan pointed to the drawbacks of existing self-cleaning coatings, such as “a short lifetime (2-3 years), poor transparency and high cost (over €260/litre). This means that they are not usually cost-effective and are not deployed, with losses accepted as the lesser economic impact for the operation of the plant.”

Clean me Sign

Improved Efficiency

According to the project website, SolarSharc’s nanoparticle structure provides “high transparency, improving generating efficiency by 4 % and improving aesthetic quality for architectural applications. Silica chemistry is non-hazardous and permits scaleable manufacture.” In addition to being durable and self-cleaning, SolarSharc is “anti-reflective, resistant to high temperatures and offers outstanding weather resistance.” Thanks to its anti-reflective properties, SolarSharc “leads to an improvement in transmittance to enable over 93 % of all available light to reach the PV semiconductor.”

The inorganic-organic hybrid coating of SolarSharc is only a few microns thick, as explained on the project website. “Based on a silica (glass) network chemically bound to non-stick organic groups Solar Sharc [coating] readily repels water and water-borne contamination. Rather than wetting the surface, water droplets form beads on the coating and readily roll-off at low angles.” It also states that solid contamination, such as dust and sand, is “easily removed by the action of wind or by the use of minimum amounts of water.”

The markets targeted by the  are utility-scale solar and the rapidly growing building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV). Project partners hope to commercialise the SolarSharc coating and new self-cleaning BIPV modules “from the current TRL6 [technology readiness level 6] prototype to operational demonstration (TRL9) in BIPV, certification, commercialisation and supply chain measures to deliver rapid growth,” as stated on CORDIS.

 Explore further: Self-cleaning solar panel coating optimizes energy collection, reduces costs

 

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Why Scientists Are So Worried about Brexit – Should They Be?



Funding for British research and innovation is only one reason.

Passions are running high ahead of this Thursday’s vote on Britain’s continued membership in the European Union, with the “Brexit” campaign issuing overwrought warnings of five million Turks poised to invade, while the “Bremain” camp—including the government—warns of economic disaster if the country leaves.

It’s just the kind of mudslinging battle that calm, rational scientists normally avoid.
But the British research community sees Brexit as a serious threat to funding and innovation, so it hasn’t stood silently on the sidelines. Polls say 83 percent of British scientists oppose Brexit. 

Many have spoken out: in March all 159 Fellows of the Royal Society at the University of Cambridge called the move “a disaster for British science,” mainly because it would stop young scientists from migrating freely within Europe. A report by the House of Lords reported in April that “the overwhelming balance of opinion from the UK science community” opposed Brexit.

Why? Partly because the EU funds a lot of science and technology research for its member countries, with 74.8 billion euros budgeted from 2014 to 2020. Brexiters say British taxpayers should simply keep their contribution and spend it at home.

They’d take a serious loss if they did. Britain punches above its weight in research, generating 16 percent of top-impact papers worldwide, so its grant applications are well received in Brussels. Between 2007 and 2013, it paid 5.4 billion euros into the EU research budget but got 8.8 billion euros back in grants.


Illustration by Simon Landrein

British labs depend on that for a quarter of public research funds, a share that has increased in recent years. A cut in that funding after Brexit could drag down every field in which British research is prominent—which is most of them.

“It’s not just funding,” says Mike Galsworthy, a health-care researcher at University College London who launched the social-media campaign Scientists for EU. 

“EU support catalyzes international collaboration.” The EU funds research partly to boost European integration: for most programs you need collaborators in other EU countries to get a grant. This isn’t a bad thing, as collaborative work tends to mean more and higher-impact publications.

Brexiters argue that Britain can continue to participate in EU research from outside, under an “association agreement.” Several non-EU countries, like Norway and Tunisia, do that. Would it work for a major research nation?
Ask the Swiss. They are not in the EU, but in 2004 they allowed free movement of people to and from the EU, partly to qualify for EU research programs. In 2014, under the same anti-immigration pressure that pushed Britain to the Brexit vote, 50.3 percent of Swiss voted to repeal that. At the time, no one mentioned how this might affect science.

But Swiss students were summarily dropped from the EU’s Erasmus University exchange program, which is much used by young scientists. Swiss labs are major participants in EU science—one leads its flagship Human Brain Project—and the research ministry stepped in to rescue work stranded as EU funding was abruptly withdrawn. Brussels agreed to give the Swiss temporary “partial association,” with access to some programs mainly for basic research.

That will end in February, however, and the EU insists that for full association, Switzerland, like Norway, must agree to the free movement of people—putting the Swiss back where they started. Without full association, it will have to pay its own way to participate in EU research projects.

“There is no reason to think the U.K. would do any better,” says Athene Donald of Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory and the European Research Council. To get an association agreement and EU research funds, Britain would have to agree to free movement of people from the EU, the very thing most Brexiters object to most.

And then the EU-funded science would cost more. Association countries pay into the EU research budget and then compete for joint projects. This takes more admin than simply competing as a dues-paying member, and the country must pay extra for that, making the science some 20 percent more expensive, researchers estimate. Britain would also lose its right, as an EU member, to help decide how the money is spent.

The economic impact of losing access to EU-funded science has not been lost on the Swiss. Polls in May found that now only 21 percent think free movement is a bad thing. Campaigners are organizing another referendum.
Karlheinz Meier, of the University of Heidelberg in Germany, runs the neuromorphic-computing platform for the Human Brain Project, based in Heidelberg—and in Manchester, England. 

If Brexit happens, he expects Britain to find some way to keep participating. “They won’t destroy their research collaboration with Europe,” he says. “It would be crazy.”




But Britain may not have much choice. British chancellor George Osborne said last week that he would have to slash public spending to pay for the costs of Brexit, estimated to total $100 billion by 2020. That, he says, would include hitherto untouchable budgets for health care. Science seems likely to be even more vulnerable to cuts.

High-tech British companies, including Rolls-Royce and BT, have come out against Brexit, as has Coadec, a confederation of small digital startups. All need the single market and common regulations to cut costs, plus free movement—especially for programmers.

Other R&D players made their views clear at hearings in the House of Lords. The EU runs the world’s most advanced magnetic-containment fusion experiments. The JET reactor, in England, has given British physicists and engineers a unique edge in the technology, the U.K. Atomic Energy Agency told the Lords. If the next phase in this program, the ITER reactor in France, ever delivers fusion power, it will take longer without the Brits. We would all lose.


The EU’s 3.3-billion-euro Innovative Medicines Initiative is not now open to the Swiss
. The pharmaceutical industry, the largest business investor in British R&D, told the Lords it fears Brexit will mean British labs will follow. Britain is a major player in pharmaceutical research; that means slower progress towards badly needed new drugs.

MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW – Guest Contributor Debora MacKenzie June 20, 2016

Genesis Nanotech Headlines Are Out!


Organ on a chip organx250Genesis Nanotech Headlines Are Out! Read All About It!

https://paper.li/GenesisNanoTech/1354215819#!headlines

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SUBCOMMITTE EXAMINES BREAKTHROUGH NANOTECHNOLOGY OPPORTUNITIES FOR AMERICA

Chairman Terry: “Nanotech is a true science race between the nations, and we should be encouraging the transition from research breakthroughs to commercial development.”

WASHINGTON, DCThe Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade, chaired by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), today held a hearing on:

“Nanotechnology: Understanding How Small Solutions Drive Big Innovation.”

 

 

electron-tomography

“Great Things from Small Things!” … We Couldn’t Agree More!

 

Nanotechnology & Supercapacitors for Mainstreaming Electric Cars


electric cars imagesElectric cars are very much welcomed in Norway and they are a common sight on the roads of the Scandinavian country – so much so that electric cars topped the list of new vehicle registrations for the second time. This poses a stark contrast to the situation in Germany, where electric vehicles claim only a small portion of the market. Of the 43 million cars on the roads in Germany, only a mere 8000 are electric powered.
The main factors discouraging motorists in Germany from switching to electric vehicles are the high investments cost, their short driving ranges and the lack of charging stations. Another major obstacle en route to the mass acceptance of electric cars is the charging time involved. The minutes involved in refueling conventional cars are so many folds shorter that it makes the situation almost incomparable.
However, the charging durations could be dramatically shortened with the inclusion of supercapacitors. These alternative energy storage devices are fast charging and can therefore better support the use of economical energy in electric cars. Taking traditional gasoline-powered vehicles for instance, the action of braking converts the kinetic energy into heat which is dissipated and unused. Per contra, generators on electric vehicles are able to tap into the kinetic energy by converting it into electricity for further usage. This electricity often comes in jolts and requires storage devices that can withstand high amount of energy input within a short period of time. In this example, supercapacitors with their capability in capturing and storing this converted energy in an instant fits in the picture wholly.
Unlike batteries that offer limited charging/discharging rates, supercapacitors require only seconds to charge and can feed the electric power back into the air-conditioning systems, defogger, radio, etc. as required.
Rapid energy storage devices are distinguished by their energy and power density characteristics – in other words, the amount of electrical energy the device can deliver with respect to its mass and within a given period of time.
A graphene-based supercapacitor
A graphene-based supercapacitor.
Supercapacitors are known to possess high power density, whereby large amounts of electrical energy can be provided or captured within short durations, albeit at a short-coming of low energy density. The amount of energy in which supercapacitors are able to store is generally about 10% that of electrochemical batteries (when the two devices of same weight are being compared).
This is precisely where the challenge lies and what the ElectroGraph project is attempting to address. ElectroGraph is a project supported by the EU and its consortium consists of ten partners from both research institutes and industries. One of the main tasks of this project is to develop new types of supercapacitors with significantly improved energy storage capacities.
As the project is approaches its closing phase in June, the project coordinator at Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA in Stuttgart, Carsten Glanz explained the concept and approach taken en route to its successful conclusion: “during the storage process, the electrical energy is stored as charged particles attached on the electrode material.” “So to store more energy efficiently, we designed light weight electrodes with larger, usable surfaces.”
Graphene electrodes significantly improve energy efficiency
In numerous tests, the researcher and his team investigated the nano-material graphene, whose extremely high specific surface area of up to 2,600 m2/g and high electrical conductivity practically cries out for use as an electrode material. It consists of an ultrathin monolayer lattice made of carbon atoms. When used as an electrode material, it greatly increases the surface area with the same amount of material. From this aspect, graphene is showing its potential in replacing activated carbon – the material that has been used in commercial supercapacitors to date – which has a specific surface area between 1000 and 1800 m2/g.
“The space between the electrodes is filled with a liquid electrolyte,” revealed Glanz. “We use ionic liquids for this purpose. Graphene-based electrodes together with ionic liquid electrolytes present an ideal material combination where we can operate at higher voltages.”
By arranging the graphene layers in a manner that there is a gap between the individual layers, the researchers were able to establish a manufacturing method that efficiently uses the intrinsic surface area available of this nano-material. This prevents the individual graphene layers from restacking into graphite, which would reduce the storage surface and consequently the amount of energy storage capacity.
“Our electrodes have already surpassed commercially available one by 75 percent in terms of storage capacity,” emphasizes the engineer. “I imagine that the cars of the future will have a battery connected to many capacitors spread throughout the vehicle, which will take over energy supply during high-power demand phases during acceleration for example and ramming up of the air-conditioning system. These capacitors will ease the burden on the battery and cover voltage peaks when starting the car. As a result, the size of massive batteries can be reduced.”
In order to present the new technology, the ElectroGraph consortium developed a demonstrator consisting of supercapacitors installed in an automobile side-view mirror and charged by a solar cell in an energetically self-sufficient system. The demonstrator will be unveiled at the end of May during the dissemination workshop at Fraunhofer IPA.”
Source: Fraunhofer Gesellschaft