Solar – The Novel

10 05 2012

It’s 2000, Michael Beard, aged 53, a theoretical physicist and Nobel-prize winner by the discovery of Beard-Einstein Conflation, is going through a hard time after his 5th wive, Marylin-looking and 20 years younger that him, discovers his persistent infidelities and decides to have e revengeful story with a musculous home builder.  Beard, not having really practiced physics for a long time, has been assigned the directorship of National Renewable Energy Laboratories near London, set up by Blair to compete with the famous NREL Center at Denver, Colorado. The first big project is a home wind turbine that seems ill-fated. The brightest young researcher insists to Beard that they should be focussing on nanotechnology for artificial photosynthesis…

Read Ian McEwan’s novel, “Solar”

The dye solar cell becomes a commercial reality in the mainstream market

8 05 2012

These days we are gathered at the Hybrid and Organic Photovoltaics (HOPV) Conference in Uppsala, Sweden, chaired by Anders Hagfeldt. This conference is showing the enormous vigor of the research in dye solar cells and organic solar cells.

On monday 7th may Michael Grätzel in the plenary talk, announced that the dye-sensitized solar cell (DSC) was about to become commercialized in the mainstream market, according to a joint development between DSC producer G24 Innovations and major consumer electronic producer Logitech.

This morning I happened to have breakfast with the two inventors of the DSC, Michael Grätzel and Brian O´Regan, authors of the famous Nature paper of 1991 that first proposed to form a solar cell using nanostructured titanium dioxide, a visible light absorbing organic pigment, and a redox liquid. This paper has launched investigations for 20 years that now maintain occupied several thousands of research groups across the world that continue to investigate and improve the properties and performance of the DSC.

But today it was a special day for the two coauthors, and they were utmostly happy, their faces glowing with a  wealthy and deserved success. The DSC is now sold on the Internet. It is a product anyone can buy. Appearing on the homepage of Logitech, is a keyboard for the iPad, with a strip of DSC in the backside that converts ambient light into the electrical energy needed to run the keyboard. The announcement says “The built-in Bluetooth® keyboard is powered by light—low light and lamp light, indoors and out. Fully powered, you can type on it for two years—even in complete darkness.”  Indeed, the use of the DSC gives a big advantage to this application, because this type of solar cells gives excellent performance at low light levels, and when the light is not incident perpendicular to the cell plane.

After many years of efforts, it has been finally demonstrated that the DSC is robust, stable and nice, to enter the market, starting with fancy consumer products, but who knows what is the limit?

Brian O’Regan and Michael Grätzel at HOPV12 in Uppsala

Fast increase of efficiency of organic photovoltaic cells

8 05 2012

At the Hybrid and Organic Photovoltaic Conference celebrated in Uppsala these days, Karl Leo presented the charts of the outstanding progress of power conversion efficiency of organic solar cells in the last few years. Soon both this technology and dye solar cells are going to catch up with the commercial amorphous silicon technology.

More information:

From oranges to technology

4 05 2012

30 years ago, Israel was a major exporter of oranges (like Valencia). Thanks to massive entrepeneurship, nowadays, Israel has shifted to sell software, patents, and  engineers. This doesn’t happen everywhere. In Valencia, the orange export bussiness has largely decayed, but high technonology did not replace it.

The book START-UP NATION addresses the trillion dollar question: How is it that Israel – a country of 7.1 million, only 60  years old, surrounded by enemies, in a constant state of war since its founding, with no natural resources— produces more start-up companies than large, peaceful, and stable nations like Japan, China, India, Korea, Canada, and the UK? How is it that Israel has, per person, attracted over twice as much venture capital  investment as the US and thirty times more than Europe?

Israel has more companies on the tech-oriented NASDAQ stock exchange than any country outside the US – more than all of Europe, India, and China combined. Nor is Israeli innovation limited to computers, security, and communications; the Jewish state leads the world in medical device patents, and is a strong global player in cleantech and biotech.

Drawing on examples from the country’s foremost inventors and investors, foreign policy insiders Dan Senor and Saul Singer describe how the country’s adversity-driven culture, flattened hierarchies, and government policies create a society that uniquely combines both innovative and entrepreneurial intensity.

As the authors argue, Israel is not just a country, but a comprehensive state of mind. Where Americans emphasize decorum and exhaustive prep, Israelis put chutzpah over charm. “When an Israeli man wants to date a woman, he asks her out that night. When an Israeli entrepreneur has a business idea, he will start it that week,” as one analyst puts it.

Photoelectrochemical Cell Measurements: Getting the Basics Right

3 05 2012

The measurement of semiconductor sensitized solar cells (SSSC) using a liquid electrolyte, has been several time incorrectly reported, because the voltage was refered to a reference electrode. Then it can have any value! (depending on the RE chosen) and the power conversion efficiency is arbitrarily high. A couple of years back a paper in JACS showed such mistake. Now an excellent paper in JPCLby the master Gary Hodes  clarifies every detail of the measurement. If you make photoelectrochemical measurements you must read it.

Photoelectrochemical Cell Measurements: Getting the Basics Right
Gary Hodes
Department of Materials and Interfaces, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel
J. Phys. Chem. Lett., 2012, 3 (9), pp 1208–1213

And here is a presentation from Kamat group on the same topic