2015 is already proving to be a big year for alternative energy, and new sophisticated technologies continue to seem like something out of a Sci-Fi. Here are five recent advancements that are taking the alternative energy industry by storm while improving the way we live and ensuring a cleaner future for us all.
1. Bionic Leaf
Scientists at Harvard recently introduced the bionic leaf, which utilizes a catalyst to make sunlight split water into hydrogen and oxygen. From there, a bacteria is engineered to convert carbon dioxide and hydrogen into a liquid fuel called isopropanol. Researches are currently approaching a 1 percent efficiency rate of transforming that sunlight into fuel, thus having effectively recreated the efficiency of photosynthesis.
2. Powerwall Battery
Following its announcement of a battery to power homes, businesses, and utilities on April 30 of this year, Tesla has since taken pre-orders worth roughly $800 million in potential revenue, according to Bloomberg Business.
Tesla’s home battery, named Powerwall, is a rechargeable lithium-ion model that mounts on the wall and comes in 7 kilowatt-hour or 10 kilowatt-hour versions. According to Tesla, deliveries will begin in late summer at prices starting around $3,000.
“Our goal here is to fundamentally change the way the world uses energy,” Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk. “We’re talking at the terawatt scale. The goal is complete transformation of the entire energy infrastructure of the world.”
Perovskites are man-made material that possess a crystalline structure, which has proven to be more efficient than silicone in many ways.
Stanford University researchers recently discovered that by using lead, ammonia, and iodine, they could produce perovskites in high volume and at a very low cost. In doing so, they hope to use perovskites to accompany silicon in improving the efficiency of solar cells—a goal that shows great promise. In fact, a silicon solar cell with an efficiency of 11.4 percent increased to 17 percent with perovskite during a Stanford test.
4. Solar Suitcase
The solar suitcase has been making recent headlines, and although it may be small, its impact has been tremendous.
When Dr. Laura Stachel stepped into a maternal health clinic in Nigeria back in 2008, she found that the off-grid facility lacked so many resources that midwives often delivered babies by candlelight. And because of something as simple as the lack of electricity, women there were 70 times more likely to die in childbirth than women in the U.S.
Together with her husband, a solar educator, Stachel devised the Solar Suitcase, a pack that comes equipped with high-efficiency LED medical lighting, a universal cell phone charger, a battery charger, and outlets for 12V DC devices.
The husband and wife team launched We Care Solar in 2009, and last year alone, the Solar Suitcase served 256,800 mothers worldwide.
5. Polymer Solar Cells
Polymer solar cells, called P1D2, are showing promise to increase solar cell efficiency. The research comes from the University of Chicago's chemistry department, in partnership with the Institute for Molecular Engineering, and the Argonne National Laboratory. In recent tests, P1D2 broke down easier, allowing more electrons to travel faster, resulting in a 15 percent increase in solar cell efficiency.
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