Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Caravan Passes On

It's reassuring to know that there are folks out there, working all over the world, who are developing the new world technologies that will help us say goodbye to the old one. Here's the story from Renewable Energy World.

Solar Paint on Steel Could Generate Renewable Energy Soon
Renewable World.Com
by Jane Burgermeister

In three years, buildings covered in steel sheets could be generating large amounts of solar electricity, thanks to a new photovoltaic paint that is being developed in a commercial partnership between UK university researchers and the steel industry.

A laboratory built to develop the new solar technology that replicates plant's photosynthesis is due to start work on October 30th in Shotton, North Wales.

"If the solar cell paint can be successfully brought to the market, it could spell big changes when it comes to the future production of electricity," said Steve Fisher, spokesperson of the Corus Group, the Anglo-Dutch steel manufacturing group that is believed to be pouring tens of millions of euros into the venture.

The photovoltaic paint is made up of a layer of dye and a layer of electrolytes and can be applied as a liquid paste. Altogether, the sheets of steel get four coats of solar paint — an undercoat, a layer of dye-sensitized solar cells, a layer of electrolyte or titanium dioxide as white paint pigment and, finally, a protective film.

The paste is applied to steel sheets when they are passed through the rollers during the manufacturing process. The four layers of the solar cell system are built up one after the other in rapid succession.

Light hits the dye-sensitized solar cells, exciting the molecules that act as a light absorber or sensitizer. The excited molecules release an electron into the nanocrystalline titanium dioxide layer, which acts as an electron collector and a circuit. The electrons finally move back into the dye, attracted by positively charged iodide particles in a liquid electrolyte. (clip)

Because the photovoltaic paint has none of the material limitations of conventional silicon-based solar cell, it could, at least in theory, provide terawatts of clean solar electricity at a low cost in the coming decades.

These new solar cells also have the advantage of being able to absorb across the visible spectrum. That makes them more efficient at capturing low radiation light than conventional solar cells, and so well suited to the British climate with its many cloudy days." more

Swansea University is leading the research together with Imperial College London and Bangor and Bath University.

I spend a lot of time these days talking about how we are living through a great time of change that is not so different to the change that occured 100 years ago. In a matter of years, horses and carriages were replaced by horseless carriages. Almost overnight, Farriers were replaced by garagemen, and the livery stable all but disappeared. Edison, Ford, Westinghouse, and Marconi transformed a world that had just been changed in the previous century by Watt's steam engine and the locomotive and steam ship that it led to.

As we move deeper into this century we will see the coal plant, the nuclear plant, and our dependence on fuel (fossil or otherwise), eclipsed by a new solid state world where photons and electrons are converted to each other to provide power, light, heat, and cooling.

But this time, we are on the verge of leaving the age of fire.

And like a jealous older brother,

Fire would sell his brother,

to any caravan.

But this time,

the dog barks, and



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