Stanford engineers develop transparent coating to improve solar panel efficiency

By Shawn Knight
Sep 23, 2015
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  1. Solar panels are a great way to capture energy from the sun but they’re far from perfect. A common misconception is that they use the sun’s heat to generate renewable energy when in fact, it’s the light that solar cells are after. Ironically enough, heat is the enemy of solar cells as they become less efficient as they warm up.

    In a bid to improve their efficiency, a team of engineers from Stanford have developed a transparent overlay that helps cool the cells as the sun beats down on them.

    The overlay is based on a somewhat simple but not always obvious concept. When you step outside, your head emits heat into space as infrared light (think of the sky as a giant heatsink).

    The overlay, a thin, patterned silica material, allows the visible sunlight to pass through to the solar cells while simultaneously collecting and emitting heat back into the atmosphere.

    The engineers tested the overlay using a custom-made solar absorber which mimics the properties of a solar cell without actually producing electricity. Testing revealed the overlay allowed light to pass through normally but reduced the temperature of the absorber by as much as 23 F.

    For a typical solar cell, that level of temperature reduction could improve absolute efficiency by more than one percent. That doesn’t sound like much although if scaled (and if the overlay can be produced affordably), it could deliver a significant gain in energy production.

    Image courtesy Stanford Engineering

    Permalink to story.

  2. MilwaukeeMike

    MilwaukeeMike TS Evangelist Posts: 2,729   +1,093

    So they understand that heat is bad for solar panels, and they know that infrared light carries heat (that's actually how they discovered infrared light), and they just now figured out they could improve solar panels by blocking the infrared light? That sounds really obvious.
    And films that block infrared aren't new technology... you can buy them at home depot for own windows.

    There must be something more to this... it sounds like such a 'no duh' solution.

    Still... interesting story, and I think this is now my new favorite example of irony
    MoeJoe likes this.
  3. EClyde

    EClyde TS Maniac Posts: 616   +143

    Still ugly still stupid still don't work well enough..GO COAL !!
  4. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,430   +2,822

    And that is the way it will be as long as people don't conform to better ways. I keep telling myself it is corporate that is preventing change, then I continually hear phrases from common people like the one you just said.
    1. Continually using resources that have a limited capacity is ridiculous.
    2. Not even considering resources that will continue to be available regardless whether we use them is even more ridiculous.
    I don't know about you. I can imagine a world where we are all connected. A world where everyone around the globe is collecting power for the rest of the planet instead of just ourselves. A world where we are not burning coal, or storing batteries for nightly use. It is so sad that we are so selfish and petty, we don't want to make it happen.
    wiyosaya, Evernessince and ekg84 like this.
  5. MoeJoe

    MoeJoe TS Maniac Posts: 357   +171

    No doubt about the irony.
    Stanford fail or TS fail.
    Not sure which ...
  6. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Maniac Posts: 932   +238

    It is a complicated problem, believe it or not. There are many ways of blocking IR, but when you do that, the method may also block the wavelengths of light that are beneficial. In that they have found a way to pass the wavelengths that are beneficial and reflect those that are not it does sound like an advancement to me.

    Now they just have to put it in to practice and measure how well the cells perform with the IR blocker.
  7. EClyde

    EClyde TS Maniac Posts: 616   +143

    OH Brother......First place you are wrong ....oil and coal are not finite. Imagine if you will (can) the amount used in all products on a daily basis....if it was finite it would be gone.
    I don't want to imagine a world connected to all. Cumbaya to you pal
  8. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,430   +2,822

    Imagine if you will (can) the size of this planet.
    wiyosaya and ekg84 like this.
  9. ekg84

    ekg84 TS Rookie

    BUT BUT BUT what you're describing is a socialism and everything about socialism is baaad and scaaary! /end of sarcasm ;)
    On a serious note, you said it very well, to move forward we need to start functioning as a united society where everyone is motivated to contribute to common good, which is how civilized society should be, and not as a bunch of exclusively self concerned greedy individuals.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2015
    cliffordcooley and wiyosaya like this.
  10. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Maniac Posts: 932   +238

    Straw man argument. If it were finite, it would be gone. So, that you may have milk in your fridge means the amount of milk you have is infinite. Interesting concept.
    ekg84 and cliffordcooley like this.
  11. MilwaukeeMike

    MilwaukeeMike TS Evangelist Posts: 2,729   +1,093

    It's our selfishness that WILL make it happen. The first people to figure out how to get decent energy out of the sun will be super rich and there's a huge race to do it. Look at cars... Toyota, Audi, GM and all the rest aren't building electric vehicles because they believe in a better world where no one is selfish. They're doing it to MAKE MONEY.

    Not at all. Some more fun irony.... the only resources we're running out of on earth are renewable (like rain forests). The ones we have 'limited capacity' of seem to have no end in sight (like oil and coal).
    What resource are you talking about? We (humans) use everything we can get our hands on. Just because we can't get the same electrical energy from the sun as we can from a coal generator, doesn't mean we aren't trying.

    You seem to think people aren't using the sun for power because they prefer to use dirty, polluting, hard to dig up, hard to transport coal and oil. People all over the world are trying to solve this problem... You say you 'imagine a world'... well... so does everyone else. We just have a lot of issues to solve first.
  12. MilwaukeeMike

    MilwaukeeMike TS Evangelist Posts: 2,729   +1,093

    (you need to go look up 'straw man argument')

    Sure, oil is 'finite' but if it runs out 500 years after we're done with it, does that really matter? Every time we think we're running out we find more. 30 years ago we thought we'd run out by 2000. Now the world has so much oil they don't know where to keep it all.

    But we will never run out of oil. Once we start getting just a little low, the price of using oil will go up and people will stop using it. This will happen decades before we run out. I'd worry more about supplies of Lithium and other high tech material that's required for the technology that's replacing oil.

    The reason we have so much oil today is because the price went UP. Higher oil prices means expensive drilling techniques become profitable.
  13. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,430   +2,822

    Yes let me take you back to your first few sentences. That is where you lost all credibility on the topic with me. Think of it this way big business buying up little business, just to prevent them from getting a foothold in the industry. Sure there is a race but there is also a barrier that is preventing the race from taking place. That barrier is greed and selfishness.
    Now can you imagine a race without those getting super rich, you know the ones that have allot to loose in the race?

    Don't, just stop with the "it will not happen in our lifetime, so we will pass the problem to our kids". That is the absolute worst selfish statement I will likely hear on this topic.
    wiyosaya and ekg84 like this.
  14. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Maniac Posts: 932   +238

    You tell us. Does it matter if we have left the planet a gigantic garbage heap for your great-great-great-great grandchildren to clean up? Most people do not realize it, but go anywhere in the world, even if man has not been there - yes, places like that still exist- and you will find man-made particulate, I.e., pollution. How did it get there but through the acts of humanity, and if it is through the acts of humanity, humanity is having an impact on the planet.

    Actually, there's current research out there that shows that we might be able to use Sodium instead of Lithium in batteries. Also, there is a lot of research going on that is directed at using capacitors which will also not need Lithium. Science does not stand still even though some seem to think it does.
    ekg84 likes this.
  15. MilwaukeeMike

    MilwaukeeMike TS Evangelist Posts: 2,729   +1,093

    that's exactly the opposite of what I said. You put quotes around something and added a 'not' in the middle.

    if you were talking about banking or finance I'd believe you. But in green energy and technology there's nothing further from the truth. A good example of both (green and tech) is tesla. they are busting into a dominated industry and doing well.

    The biggest reason though is govt credits. The govt gives money to those who do the work, not just the big ones. Schools, small companies (like Solar City) and others can compete. We know this because we've heard of them.
    And when a big business buys a little one, they don't wipe out their product... they use it. Apple bought nuance and turned into Siri, they didn't buy it and throw it out. Facebook bought Whatsapp, but they didn't kill it, they use it. No one buys something to get it out of the way. They buy it to keep it away from the competition, but that doesn't hurt us or the industry.
  16. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Maniac Posts: 932   +238

    You give famous examples of where a shark has devoured its pray and then used it for fuel. I've worked for sharks that have devoured the prey and then spat them out for one reason or another. In reality, it is almost certainly not a one side or the other side matter. I would, however, be willing to wager that when a company buys another to kill the competition it is rarely, if ever, publicized.
  17. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Maniac Posts: 932   +238

  18. ekg84

    ekg84 TS Rookie

    The problem is not with using oil in general, we need it, so many things that we use every day are made from it, the problem is with burning it. It is quite clear that we don't have another 500 years of burning fossil fuels at the current or higher rate cause it'll turn our environment into a hellish dump and a LOT of people will suffer and die. Everyone with half a brain understands the necessity of transitioning to sustainable and clean energy sources vs burning dead plants. Whether there is a lot of oil left or not we have to develop clean energy tech, because if we persist not giving a damn about the environment, we are the ones who will eventually get kicked in the nuts. It is not just irresponsible, it is stupid to pump 30 billion tons of CO2 every year and expect nothing to happen.

    And by the way, It's NOT the selfishness and greed that drive the progress. It's passion combined with desire to bring change and knowledge. Sure, there are companies that prioritize profits over everything else but that's not what I'd call a responsible business behavior. Companies should be contributing to improving the life of the society that they benefit from. So when CRAPorations try to rape consumers or the environment *cough* VW *cough* they must be publicly punished but it is also up to us to pressure them and not give them our money until they change their behavior.

    It's companies like Tesla, mentioned above that bring the change by spearheading the progress of underdeveloped but promising industries forcing other dinosaurs to either keep up of die. If it wasn't for them there would likely be no Nissan leaf, no Chevy Volt and no electric car market for many more years.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2015
  19. MilwaukeeMike

    MilwaukeeMike TS Evangelist Posts: 2,729   +1,093

    Of course it matters. But we were talking about whether oil was finite, not whether pollution was bad. Did you change the subject and bring up pollution so you could ask the rhetorical question about our great-great grandkids to make it sound like it was something I was disagreeing with? You know what that's called right?

    The Chevy Volt won the green car of the year in 2009, two years before Tesla's first car was even for sale. Tesla is not responsible for 'forcing them to adapt'. If anything, it was the Prius.

    Why do you think it's one or the other? Yes, passion for a better society brings change, but so does the desire to make money. And the desire to make money is much stronger for far more people than the desire to change society for the better. If it weren't, we'd have a wonderful society and Wall Street would be a lot smaller.

    We see real change when those two desires intersect with one another. That's what happened with Tesla. They didn't just believe they could make an electric car, they knew they could also SELL an electric car. If you can't make money pursuing your passion, you won't be pursuing it very long. Ask a former restaurant owner.

    There's nothing wrong with prioritizing profits. That's the entire point of any business that isn't non-profit. The whole reason we even have businesses called 'non-profit' is to highlight the fact that they are different. For everyone else, the goal is to make money. Even if your goal is to put a solar panel on every home in the country, you will only accomplish that if you can make money doing it.
  20. ekg84

    ekg84 TS Rookie

    First Tesla car was the roadster which was revealed to the public in 2006 and started selling in 2008. The Volt went on sale in 2010, and received the Green Car of the Year title as well as many other awards the same year (2010). Obviously, no Tesla model ever directly competed with Chevy Volt, Volt is not even a pure electric car, but Tesla made it very clear that electric cars are reality. GM was clearly influenced by Tesla's progress. Even GM's CEO at a time Bob Lutz stated in public that if some guy from CA could make it happen we sure can do it as well.
    I certainly agree that every for profit business has to make money, money is what creates opportunities for growth and development, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to make money, however when greed overcomes common sense companies as well as people tend to start cutting corners and neglect other people's well being, so whether it's the consumers, employees or the environment that suffers, it's a problem. And that type of behavior, in my opinion, should be severely punished and publicly shamed. I believe that it is a moral obligation of every business to contribute to common good, whether it's a non or for profit business. So if one cannot offer a quality product or a service without compromising society's or environmental well being in any way they should not be in business.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2015
  21. EClyde

    EClyde TS Maniac Posts: 616   +143

    This is great. I like most of the comments except for the milk must be in college
    MilwaukeeMike likes this.

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