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Latest solar advances very attractive for businesses.

By JW Dowey - 07 Nov 2014 22:11:0 GMT
Latest solar advances very attractive for businesses.

The trees must laugh at our pathetic attempts to imitate their efforts, even forming another layer on top of a car park. We can but hope that the complexities of reactions like . photosynthesis will soon become more obvious to us ; Solar image; Credit: © Shutterstock

Your roof is your future, according to solar energy enthusiasts. While digging out the coal and sticking it under a boiler is the stone-age answer to energy use, equally-simple and much cheaper materials need to be used, just to compete with that early and very polluting idea. Everybody knows that the Sun’s energy is free, so why can’t we have almost free technology?

We are talking about the most abundant and regular energy resource we have. If solar voltaic cells are considered, they are tough, easily placed and useable even in low light conditions. To find the most efficient and cheap semiconductors has been the scientists’ problem so far. Also the silicon substrate used tends to be the cheaper polycrystalline, now producing up to 25% efficiency. Extra cost from a thin film of cadmium salts has caused extra concern, but these coats could be replaced soon, if in cheaper, organic solar cells can be developed such as this example we reported from Canada. This type of solar cell is this year achieving 83% of the world market. Most are made in the Far East, especially China.

Installation of solar panels is cheapest in Germany, relying on former Federal subsidies. The country has always been a world leader for solar panel development, .but falling costs have lost them the market leadership for now, although several such nations have re-invested in the Chinese solar cell industry. Compensating the German loss is yet another development at Stanford University, US, this month in the journal Angewandte Chemie. Molybdenum Phosphosulfide: An Active, Acid-Stable, Earth-Abundant Catalyst for the Hydrogen Evolution Reaction† tells the story of how to sidetrack the solar panel and actually STORE solar energy by making cheap hydrogen in sunlight, then reconverting it into water. The key to this is Thomas Jaramillo and Jakob Kibsgaard’s replacement of the most expensive catalyst known (platinum) with simple molybdenum phosphosulfide.

The natural attraction of the first available storage facility for solar power is probably the major news here. While solar panels will continue to improve in more or less the same shape as at present, this new technological advance makes big business more and more likely to invest in attractive renewable energy options, unlike their recent investment in electing Republican candidates in the US to fight their fossil fuel battles for them!