Sunday, October 28, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Taiwan’s ITRI Introduces Award-Winning Green Tech, Including Low-Cost, High-Efficiency Concentrating Solar PV Film/Panel

Posted: 27 Oct 2012 01:56 PM PDT

Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) is on a bit of a roll when it comes to winning awards for new, innovative green technology that reduces carbon emissions and energy consumption. ITRI in recent years has focused its efforts on developing new "green" technologies.

The Hsinchu-based non-profit applied technology research organization on Oct. 16 introduced its three latest award-winning innovations: Light&Light, the first A19 all-plastic LED light bulb; a low-cost, easy-to-use voltage and current meter called AVA-Clamp; and SideLighter, billed as "the first low-cost, high-performance, transparent concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) solar panel” that can be used both as a structural panel or window and to generate clean, renewable electricity.

As the institute states, "The greenhouse effect continues to be a serious issue. The only way to curb this trend is to actively reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions…. ITRI is commited to developing technologies that are environmentally sustainable across all phases of development—innovation, design, function and manufacturing processes."



R&D 100 Award-Winning PV Film/Panel, LED Lighting, and Household Energy Monitoring

All three of ITRI’s latest green technology innovations have been chosen to receive 2012 R&D 100 Awards from R&D Magazine.

A ‘light-guiding solar concentrator film/panel,’ ITRI’s SideLighter can be incorporated into windows and building and roofing materials, as well as solar power systems. "A light-guiding solar concentrator panel/film can be integrated with a small number of solar cells to develop a rooftop solar system with building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) systems that can save the cost of silicon cells substantially and is also transparent," ITRI explains in a press release.

Sidelighter’s solar PV cells cost 93% less to produce than current PV cells, which contributes to a 46% reduction in building CPV solar panels, according to ITRI. The institute is already working with Infinite Solar Optics Enterprise and Chi Lin Technology to mass produce SideLighter for some applications. ITRI has posted a video showing and describing SideLighter’s applications and performance on YouTube.

Similarly, at less than 100 grams, the Light&Light A19 all-plastic LED light bulb is small and highly efficient. According to ITRI, it uses less than 10 watts to produce the same amount of light as a 60-watt incandescent light bulb, with an illumination angle of 300 degrees at a price that’s 10-20% that of competing LED light bulbs. That can save 85% on light bulb power consumption.

Finally, as the name indicates, the AVA-Clamp is a clamp-on voltage and current meter that can be easily attached to typical household or commercial appliances, such as a microwave or TV, or an industrial machine to measure and display the electric current being used. Employing the micro-electromechanical system (MEMS) metering technology to monitor and manage their electricity consumption, users can save up to 10% on energy bills, ITRI says.

Photo Credit: ITRI, Hsinchu, Taiwan

Interview with Designer of World’s 1st Net Zero–Energy Skyscraper & World’s 1st Large-Scale Positive-Energy Building — Gordon Gill

Posted: 27 Oct 2012 10:00 AM PDT

I recently had the fortunate chance to interview Gordon Gill, “one of the world's preeminent exponents of performance-based design” and a trendsetter in the realm of net–zero energy and net-positive–energy design. Gordon will be a featured speaker at the upcoming Total Energy USA conference (you can still register for that conference here).

Gordon’s work, “which ranges from the world's largest buildings to elements of a single home, is driven by his philosophy that there is a language of performance: a purposeful relationship between design and the performance-based criteria placed on the subject,” a Total Energy USA news release notes.

Masdar Headquarters by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture. (Copyright)

“A founding partner of award-winning Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, Gordon's work includes the design of the world's first net zero-energy skyscraper, the Pearl River Tower (designed at SOM Chicago), and the world's first large-scale positive energy building, Masdar Headquarters.” Those are some big accomplishments.

“These landmark projects achieve energy independence by harnessing the power of natural forces on site, striking a balance with their environmental contexts,” the news release adds.

Masdar Headquarters by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture. (Copyright)

Hopefully net zero–energy and net positive–energy architecture will be the norm soon… but can this quality of design ever be the norm?

As noted above, I was lucky enough to have the chance to interview Gordon recently. Here’s what came out of that interview:

1. You have designed the world's first net zero–energy skyscraper, the Pearl River Tower (designed at SOM Chicago), and the world's first large-scale positive-energy building, Masdar Headquarters. These are stunning achievements, and I imagine you must be pretty happy to have claim to those world firsts. How did you get involved in those projects?

In both cases, these were invited competitions, Pearl River at SOM and Masdar HQ at AS+GG. They were both extraordinary opportunities to display the full extent of holistic design for all the teams involved. Both of these projects have confirmed the principles of the design philosophy that Adrian and I have developed, and for that we’re extremely pleased.

2. And what are some of the main sources of inspiration and guidance you used in designing those?

In all cases, the inspiration is a confluence of evaluating environmental assets (and deficits) — to create solutions that work for all conditions. We merge those findings, along with indigenous principles, which hopefully leads to beautiful solutions that are genuinely better performing and increase savings for our clients. In both cases (Pearl River and Masdar HQ), the design for these projects was driven by adherence to the principle "Form follows Performance," which is both scientific and artistic.

3. When did you decide to focus on green design? And what pulled or pushed you to it?

I've always been interested in the relationship between nature and technology and how different cultures and disciplines solve the implied conflict between them. I have chosen to embrace them both as mutually supportive of each other because I believe they’re both critical to our souls and our future. I believe that their futures are mutually inclusive.

4. Do you have any big green designs in the works that you could share with us?

We have been very fortunate to have many interesting projects where we can exercise our performance based principles. We have a large-scale master plan for 100,000 people in China; we are working on supertall buildings that test and integrate wind as a formal aspect of their expression and performance; we have designed net zero water buildings; and we are currently doing an in-depth research study on the relationship between density and carbon emissions within regional typologies, so we can understand the impact of certain building types on their cities and proposed plans. All of these generate vast amounts of discoveries for us that allow us to advance all our projects.

Those certainly are some awesome-sounding projects! We’ll have to check in with Gordon in the future to find out more about them as they come along.

Measuring Organisations’ Carbon Footprints

Posted: 27 Oct 2012 07:30 AM PDT

A new easy-to-use smartphone app tells you your carbon footprint according to your transport choices. With total privacy guaranteed, CarbonDiem works out which mode of transport you use (bicycle, bus, car, foot, plane, subway, tram) and calculates your carbon emissions and ongoing footprint.

Personal measurement made painless to drive behaviour change.

I spoke to CarbonDiem founder Andreas Zachariah about this new tool. Here’s what I found out:

To start with, Zac told me that transport emissions are forecast to account for over half of all global emissions within the next twenty years. He explained that his platform, currently in use in the UK, will soon spread to the rest of Europe and North America.

Alternate metrics like efficiency (Km per Kg CO2 and calories).

Scalability and Convenience with a Swift Payback

Zac says, "North America and the EU are recognised as the two largest contributors of transport Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) and consequently they represent the greatest opportunity too… Fortunately, these two economic zones also have the greatest smartphone penetration, with more than half of their populous already owning smartphones."

His team of developers, risk analysts, and system architects has built CarbonDiem out of Zac's Royal College of Art (RCA) project, a design for a carbon calculator with zero hassle. The platform has six key USP's:

  • Automation
  • Ease of use
  • Fast client ROI (6-12 weeks)
  • Great scalability
  • Painless deployment
  • Privacy

Like a millipede, organisations can have thousands of footprints. CarbonDiem works with organisations such as the BBC and BT to quantify the carbon emitted as a result of their employees' locomotion. Big-name clients have been eager to sign up, attracted by the intelligence the platform gives: granular, time and cost efficient, and private. In the case of the BBC, where reporters' and their sources' privacy was paramount, CarbonDiem disables tracking as you know it. Yes, it measures your movement, but no, it doesn't identify you or memorise where you've been.


CarbonDiem has the Potential to Utilise Smartphone Infrastructure for an Entirely New Purpose

Zac says CarbonDiem could have a massive impact on transport emissions: "Theoretically we're limited by only the number of smartphones in circulation and operating systems we can support. We'll be able to run on 21m devices in the UK alone and over 150m smartphones between the EU and North America alone — we already support Android and BlackBerry operating systems (with Apple support due soon)."

Only the user sees their journeys marked on a map. Privacy is key.

Life for the CarbonDiem team has been increasingly busy in the last few months, with new projects and partnerships in the pipeline that Zac isn't allowed to talk about yet. I asked Zac how the app has been received. "Sustainability practitioners tend to be amazed this is even possible, and companies are relieved to find out we can solve a pain of theirs: although one might like to think sustainability and employees' interests in the matter rank near the top, the reality is somewhat different and so simplifying the problem is of great benefit.

"Sustainability is becoming more of an important metric for employees, and equally enterprises are increasingly faced with a raft of legislation around emissions reporting. CarbonDiem's value proposition is about utilising an existing infrastructure they are already paying for, namely smartphones, for a whole other purpose."

"Culture is what we enjoy after engineers and scientists have made sure we have been fed, watered and housed."

For the last few minutes Zac and I spoke about the relationship between technology and sustainability.

"Technology should be about making something easier, more accessible, more scalable, safer, and to raise understanding to name just a few goals. From gunpowder to submarines, sundials to sextants, penicillin and X-rays, to the archimedes screw and the wheel. We tend to think of technology as electronic gadgets, when in practice it has actually defined human civilisation.

"Technology and sustainability are bound by a common quest to be more efficient in our use of resources so that we can further the collective cause. Culture is what we enjoy after engineers and scientists have made sure we have been fed, watered and housed."

The Web Portal CSR UI Dashboard – Instant satisfaction showing current total, forecast and overview.

Thanks to Zac for the interview. For more information and to download the CarbonDiem app visit:

About the author:  writes about clean technology and solar power for The Eco Experts, and about energy efficiency for You can speak to him at @theecoexperts and @gduk

New High-Efficiency Quantum Dot Solar Cells Developed

Posted: 27 Oct 2012 03:07 AM PDT

The first solar cell with an external quantum efficiency (EQE) that exceeds 100 percent for photons with energies in the solar range has been created. With these new solar cells, every blue photon that is absorbed can generate up to 30 percent more current than with current technologies.

The external quantum efficiency is the measure of how many photons are converted into electrons within a device.

“While traditional semiconductors only produce one electron from each photon, nanometer-sized crystalline materials such as quantum dots avoid this restriction and are being developed as promising photovoltaic materials,” an AVS news release notes. “An increase in the efficiency comes from quantum dots harvesting energy that would otherwise be lost as heat in conventional semiconductors. The amount of heat loss is reduced and the resulting energy is funneled into creating more electrical current.”

The researchers made use of a process named multiple exciton generation (MEG), so that every blue photon that is absorbed can create at least 30 percent more electric current than other technologies currently allow.

Multiple exciton generation works by “efficiently splitting and using a greater portion of the energy in the higher-energy photons.” Doing this, the researchers were able to create an EQE value of 114 percent for 3.5 eV photons. This proves that the concept can be functional in an actual working device.

Joseph Luther, a senior scientist at NREL, believes MEG technology is going in the right direction. “Since current solar cell technology is still too expensive to completely compete with non-renewable energy sources, this technology employing MEG demonstrates that the way in which scientists and engineers think about converting solar photons to electricity is constantly changing,” Luther said. (Editor’s note: “too expensive” only if you don’t take into account health or environmental costs of fossil fuels; and, not even taking those into account, solar is cost competitive with other energy options in some regions now.)

“There may be a chance to dramatically increase the efficiency of a module, which could result in solar panels that are much cheaper than non-renewable energy sources,” Luther adds.

Source: AVS: Science & Technology of Materials, Interfaces, and Processing
Image Credits: Quantum Dots via Wikimedia Commons

Reposted from Solar Love with full permission.

Solar Cells Could Receive Huge Boost in Efficiency Thanks to Next-Gen Antireflection Coatings

Posted: 27 Oct 2012 01:17 AM PDT

Solar cell efficiency is set to greatly increase in the next few years thanks to newly created next-gen antireflection coatings. The new nanomaterial coatings will help to limit the amount of light that is reflected away by the surfaces of solar cells.

solar panel anti reflection research

In the past few years, materials with a ‘tunable’ refractive index have been developed, and are showing a lot of potential for use in photovoltaics. New research led by Professor E. Fred Schubert, of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Department of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering, has been exploring possible uses for this in the solar power field.

“The refractive index is the property of a material that changes the speed of light, and is computed as the ratio of the speed of light in a vacuum to the speed of light through the material,” a press release on the new research notes. “Among the most fundamental properties of optical materials, the refractive index determines important optical characteristics such as Fresnel reflection, Bragg reflection, Snell refraction, diffraction, and the phase and group velocity of light.”

Most gases, including air, possess a refractive index that is very near 1.0, but obviously their potential use in thin-film optoelectronic applications would be extremely limited. “Among transparent dense materials suitable for use in thin-film optoelectronic applications, magnesium fluoride (MgF2) has the lowest refractive index (n=1.39); no dense materials with a lower refractive index are known to exist.”

The range between 1.0 and 1.39 had remained more or less unexplored until the recent advent of tunable-refractive-index materials.

“Optical thin-film materials with a refractive index as low as 1.05 have been demonstrated. Tunable-refractive-index materials are based on ‘nanoporous’ silicon dioxide (SiO2), indium-tin oxide (ITO), and titanium dioxide (TiO2), and we can precisely control porosity by using oblique-angle deposition — a technique in which the substrate is at non-normal angle of incidence with respect to the deposition source,” says Schubert.

The researchers used those materials to create a four-layer antireflection coating. “The fabrication process of this coating is additive and purely physical, so it’s fully compatible with current manufacturing processes of solar cells,” he notes. “Our customizable approach readily lends itself to the incorporation of antireflection coating design into solar cell device structures for application-specific requirements.”

The new coating is readily applicable, viable, and is a huge plus to the development of next-gen antireflection solar panel coating technologies.

Source: AVS: Science & Technology of Materials, Interfaces, and Processing
Image Credits: University of Houston

Benefits of Using Solar Panels to Charge Small Devices

Posted: 27 Oct 2012 01:04 AM PDT

Apart from major appliances that you need to wash clothes, preserve food, and heat water, you may want to stay connected to the internet and keep your phones/tablet PC charged during power outages.

This article is primarily about long power outages caused by hurricanes that last days or even weeks (Hurricane Ivan left me without power for two weeks).

If you don’t want to spend much and just want to keep your phones charged, then you could do so at a lower cost by using a small solar setup (depending on how many devices you want to charge) instead of a typical gasoline-powered generator that would cost hundreds of dollars.

This is due to the fact that generators are normally larger than necessary (often over 1,000 watts), and therefore more expensive than necessary.

Before you buy a factory-prebuilt solar charger or set one up yourself, you should know the power consumption of the devices you need to sustain.

To sustain your wi-fi internet connection, you probably need at least 10 watts of power. As an example, the DSL modem that I have uses 6 watts, and the wi-fi router uses 4 watts.

Cell phones use a fraction of a watt, and tablet PCs use less than 3 watts. Cellphone chargers, however, draw about 5 watts (example: Blackberry 8320) if they are smartphones — generally, for less than an hour. The power consumption averages out to less than 1 watt.

Parts list (to sustain 1 smartphone and wi-fi internet connection only):

  • Inverter — all the inverters I have seen are over 100 watts, and those cost very little (less than $30).
  • 12 volt, 7 Ah deep-cycle lead-acid battery — this size has much better than average value ($20).
  • 20 watt solar panel with a charge controller if your area enjoys more than 10 hours of sunny weather daily ($70).

Total cost: $120.

Other notes:

The inverter will beep when the battery is low. Start conserving stringently as soon as it starts occasional beeping.

Fast beeping means that your time is up. Turn off the modem and router first so you can save the battery for the phone.

Cost of phone-only USB solar charger: less than $30.

Image: solar panel via Shutterstock

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