You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2008.

I was looking into skylights recently, thinking about some options for making the home a little greener. These are kinda cool – they install into the roof and allow for some natural light in the home. I love the idea of natural light coming from overhead instead of solely relying on windows to provide it.

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Efficient conversion of the sun’s energy into human usage will be crucial to maintaining clean energy. Researchers are spending time looking into the photosynthesis mechanisms of cyanobacteria – one of the most ancient organism groups. As research continues for the photosynthesis hack that MIT developed recently, there other pieces of the photosynthesis puzzle that can provide valuable lessons for us.

According to Science Daily there are two avenues of development in process. One is working on genetically engineering real plants and cyanobacteria in order to produce the elements we want – not just oxygen released by photosynthesis, but other fuels such as hydrogen, alcohols, and hydrocarbons. The other direction of research is in line with the MIT discovery, which is mimicking photosynthetic processes in human-made products.

Researchers agree that these two parallels are necessary in the road to renewable energy resources – but we are on our way to a greater understanding of not just how it all works, but how we can emulate the mechanics in our lives.

According to cleantechnica.com, researchers at the US Department of Energy’s labs in Idaho have developed a technology that may supercede solar cells in efficiency and cost-effectiveness. The answer? Nanoantennas.

Nanoantennas can be set in sheets of plastic and used to harvest Earth’s abundant infrared rays that are radiated as heat after absorbing energy from the sun all day. Currently, the most affordable solar cells work at about 20% efficiency – that is, they only use about 20% of the light they collect from the sun. The most efficient ones available (and not considered cheap enough for mass production) run at about 40% efficiency. Nanoantennas are projected to be able to harvest 92% of the energy available in infrared wavelenths. Additionally, because they’re absorbing heat from infrared rays rather than solar light, they can even work at night.

Research on nanoantennas is in its earliest phases, and it may be quite a while before we see any results at the consumer level. But the promise is there, and hopefully solar power will be a viable addition – or even alternative – to our traditional power sources before too long.

A solar home designed by students from the University of Colorado at Boulder for the 2007 Solar Decathlon will be on display in Denver at the Democratic National Convention this August.

In October 2007, 20 colleges and universities worked together to display a “solar village” in the National Mall. Each of the homes was a Solar Decathlon entrant – homes designed to be off-grid and sustainable fully through solar power. The homes were judged in categories like lighting, engineering, architecture, and market viability.

The solar village that was constructed offered a variety of designs and self-sufficient technologies proving that it’s possible to build homes that are eco-friendly, relying on renewable sources of energy.

In case last month’s solar developments weren’t fantastic enough, researchers at MIT have now found an inexpensive yet efficient way to store solar energy for use. The process involves splitting hydrogen and oxygen from water into gases which can be recombined, when necessary, within a fuel cell.

Read more about it here: MIT: Solar power storage breakthrough could bring energy ‘nirvana’