Solar power could get even more affordable as scientists discover way to replace platinum components with 3D graphene


Image: Solar power could get even more affordable as scientists discover way to replace platinum components with 3D graphene

(Natural News) Although solar power is one of the most popular forms of green energy, it certainly is not without flaw. For example, according to Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Director of Economics at the Manhattan Institute, solar energy is responsible for less than one percent of the country’s electricity, yet it costs almost twice as much to produce as natural gas. However, with technology advancing everyday, Americans are constantly finding new ways to manufacture products so that they are cheaper yet just as effective.

Dye-sensitized solar cells, which are one of the most promising types of solar cells in existence, are very efficient at transforming sunshine into energy, yet they are very expensive. This is because dye-sensitized solar cells are made primarily out of platinum, which costs a whopping $1,500 an ounce. Obviously, the cost of producing these cells is passed along to the consumer, making them anything but affordable.

Now, a Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Michigan Tech University claims to have a solution.

Professor Yun Hang Yu has created a new material that could both maintain the quality of the solar cells while significantly reducing the cost. The material is known as 3D Graphene, a honeycomb-like structure that combines lithium oxide with carbon monoxide to form lithium carbonate (Li2CO3) and the honeycomb graphene. The lithium carbonate shapes and molds the graphene and then separates them from one another, which prevents it from transforming into the garden-variety graphite. It is important to note that 3D graphene is different than regular graphene, which is two-dimensional and just one molecule thick.

The science behind Professor Yun Hang Yu’s creation is intriguing at the least. Researchers found that the 3D graphene has high conductivity and catalytic activity, which could potentially allow it to store and convert energy. To find out more, the researchers decided to test the 3D graphene by placing it inside of a solar cell and measuring energy output as it sat outside under the sun. They found that the 3D graphene converted 7.8 percent of the sun’s energy into electricity, which is only .2% away from the amount that is converted via the traditional solar cell technology. In other words, the cost was significantly less because platinum was no longer a key ingredient, yet the effectiveness was virtually the same. (RELATED: Find out other reasons why solar power is getting cheaper).

As it turns out, solar power isn’t the only form of green energy that is receiving a major makeover. Recently, researchers and scientists have been experimenting with new technology to improve wind power, and more specifically, wind turbines. A Spanish company called Vortex Bladeless has created a new wind turbine that is capable of generating power without any rotating blades.

When an object stands in the way of the wind, it creates a vortex behind the object itself. The new wind turbine from Vortex Bladeless takes advantage of this vortex to harness the wind’s power and produce electricity. While traditional wind turbines have motors at the top, this design has motors at the bottom for the purpose of ensuring sturdiness. The wind’s vortex spins simultaneously along the surface of the entire cone-shaped turbine, creating swirls of wind that are then transformed into energy. Much like the 3D graphene in the solar cells, the bladeless wind turbine is just as effective when it comes to generating electricity, yet the cost is lowered. Another thing that’s beneficial about Vortex Bladeless’s design is that, obviously, it does not have massive rotating blades. This decreases the chances of maintenance issues, and also spares the lives of birds, which are often the victims of traditional wind turbines. (RELATED: Comparing solar power and wind power: which is the power of the future?).

Technology is an incredible thing. It is constantly changing and improving, and in turn, our world is doing the same. Read more news about solar power at POWER.news.

Sources

MTU.edu
NCPA.org
IFLscience.com

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