Thursday, January 12, 2006

Tiny Crystals, Big Benefits

Even as we read and hear of Iran breaking the seals on its nuclear program and we hear more yammering of the need to drill for oil in the Arctic, there are those who are working to make this earth a more peaceful and prosperous place.

There is little doubt in my mind that an international effort to bring about nanobased solar technologies which would bring the benefits of affordable, sustainable energy supplies is certainly within our technological grasp and abilities.

The question is not so much when,

But why not right now?

Here is another announcement which supports that belief.

Tiny Crystals Promise Big Benefits for Solar Technologies
January 6, 2006

Los Alamos, New Mexico

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists have discovered that a phenomenon called carrier multiplication, in which semiconductor nanocrystals respond to photons by producing multiple electrons, is applicable to a broader array of materials than previously thought.

The discovery increases the potential for the use of nanoscrystals as solar cell materials to produce higher electrical outputs than current solar cells.

In papers published recently in the journals Nature Physics and Applied Physics Letters, the scientists demonstrate that carrier multiplication is not unique to lead selenide nanocrystals, but also occurs with very high efficiency in nanocrystals of other compositions, such as cadmium selenide.

The Los Alamos findings point toward practical photovoltaic technologies that may utilize such traditional solar cell materials as cadmium telluride, which is very similar to cadmium selenide.

Other interesting opportunities may also be associated with the use of carrier multiplication in solar-fuel technologies and specifically, the production of hydrogen by photocatalytic water splitting. The latter process requires four electrons per water molecule and its efficiency can be dramatically enhanced if these multiple electrons can be produced via a single-photon absorption event."

The last paragraph is particularly interesting,

and encouraging.

If we, as a civilization, are going to survive.

We must begin to move towards a hydrogen based economy.

And that hydrogen must be made from

very cheap windpower,

very cheap solar power,

through biological means,

or through direct heliohydrogen processes.

This announcement provides another key to the latter.

Carrier multiplication may be the answer to

the production of hydrogen by photocatalytic water splitting.

On this planet, we spend about a trillion dollars a year on Arms.

If we spend more on Peace.

We might get it.


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