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Research team is looking to make solar panels more efficient and give LEDs color changing capability

A pair of researchers at Arizona State University has announced a new advancement in making nanowires that could one day lead to significantly more efficient solar panels and LED lighting that is color changeable. The engineers who made the advance are Cun-Zheng Ning and Alian Pan.

The pair are working on ways to improve the quaternary alloy semiconductor nanowire raw materials. The nanowires the pair work with are nanometers in diameter and tens of microns in length. They are made from four elements, typically by alloying two or more compound semiconductors.

The researchers say that the band gap is the most important thing that controls how solar panels absorb sunlight and what color light LEDs produce. The more available band gaps for solar panels, the more of the spectrum of light panels will be able to absorb. With LEDs, more band gaps mean more colors of light can be produced. 

The big hurdle for the researchers is that naturally occurring and manmade semiconductors today only have a specific band gap. The only way to widen the band gap available to the semiconductor is to compound two or more semiconductors. The trick to accomplishing the alloy of semiconductors is that they two have to have a lattice with similar inter-atomic spaces to match and be grown together.

Ning said, "This is why we cannot grow alloys of arbitrary compositions to achieve arbitrary band gaps. This lack of available band gaps is one of reasons current solar cell efficiency is low, and why we do not have LED lighting colors that can be adjusted for various situations."

So far, the team has been able to create a zinc sulfide and cadmium selenide alloy to produce a quaternary semiconductor – this is the first time that a quaternary semiconductor has been produced in the form of a nanowire or nanoparticle. The team is now studying the application and use of the quaternary alloy materials for making solar cells and has developed a lateral multi-cell design panel.

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RE: Promises promises
By SPOOFE on 3/22/2010 6:30:35 PM , Rating: 2
By your own words, you suggested the amount of land was enough to provide "a fat percentage" of the nation's power. If something between 1 and 2% is "fat" in your book, then I concur.

But we've already seen that your numbers are hasty, inaccurate, and low-balled.

I identified several, the two largest being a) the amount of land is only enough to provide a tiny fraction of our power needs, and b) Highway siting would be far more expensive than using undeveloped land somewhere, despite the space above the highway being "free", due to the need for elevated supports.

You had two insignificant quibbles, the first of which was sloppy math on your part, and the second of which simply observed that we can't build these things out of stacks of newspaper and Q-tips. That's hardly "countless".

If you think that's still a viable alternative just from those two factors alone, I don't know that continuing the discussion will be fruitful.

You tell me if I think it's a viable alternative. Hint: I say as much in my very first post. I'm sorry your heightened emotional state has hampered your literacy.

This is a little silly. A tunnel 100' long is quite dark in the middle.

The word "tunnel" does not at all describe the described structure. I don't even know how you got that. The fact that you would even suggest that as a real counter only throws doubt on everything else you're saying.

Anyway, a "tunnel" has stupidly narrow apertures at either end, relative to the volume contained therein. A road covering would have exposed sides and let in orders of magnitude more light relative to volume.

Take a look at any large wall-less structure, for instance a large horse arena. There's one near my house, that is roughly 100' x 300'...and lit from above, even during daylight shows

For comfort, not by necessity. Attendees to a large event do not come with a pair of powerful lights attached to their faces, in addition. Again, it does not seem like you have any coherent argument; it's like you're just shouting the first thing that pops up in your ADD mind.

And, again, since you don't seem to know what you're arguing: The point was raised only to demonstrate the availability of land. I never presented it as a viable option; only your hasty fevered mind interpreted that. The land is available, public, very undeveloped for the most part, stupidly accessible (as opposed to the "middle of nowhere" option you presented), and most importantly, would cost nothing to acquire.

RE: Promises promises
By porkpie on 3/22/2010 7:03:09 PM , Rating: 2
"But we've already seen that your numbers are hasty, inaccurate, and low-balled."

Come now, don't descend to hyperbole. Even taking into account your objections on road width, it only boosts my figure from 1.0 to 1.25%...and we still haven't subtracted what's necessary for transmission and storage losses. I am generously positing a value as high as 2%.

Is 2% a "fat percentage" of our nations electric needs? Yes or no.

"The word "tunnel" does not at all describe the described structure"

It most certainly does. A strip several miles long is effectively enclosed front and back -- zero sunlight will penetrate that far. It's also enclosed top and bottom.

That leaves two sides for light to penetrate. If the strip is 100' wide, that's equivalent to a tunnel 100' long. Mathematically, they are equivalent. Would you prefer it if I formulated it as a formal boundary value problem?

"The land is available, public, very undeveloped for the most part, stupidly accessible (as opposed to the "middle of nowhere" option you presented), and most importantly, would cost nothing to acquire."

That certainly sounds like you're calling it a viable option. Which one is it? If you don't consider it viable, why are you fighting so hard to portray it as such?

And while this "land" would cost nothing to acquire, it would cost at least 10X as much to cover with solar cells as would an equivalent sized piece of undeveloped land, far outweighing any savings in acquisition costs. We have even more "free land" in the open ocean. Does that mean floating solar cells in the middle of Pacific is a better alternative than putting them in the NM desert?

RE: Promises promises
By Keeir on 3/22/2010 7:21:28 PM , Rating: 2
Here... let me add some numbers.

The US currently produces/uses ~
4 x 10 ^15 Wh a year.

Solar Insolation
I assumed Horizontal Flat Plate.

Across the US, we are looking at an Average of ~ 4500 Wh/m2/day

A really good solar panel is 20% efficient.

So that leaves use with

4 x 10 ^ 15 Wh / 4500 wh /356 days * 1 m2 / .2 efficieny = 12.45 x 10 ^ 9 m2 or about 4,800 square miles

Since you have decide that 100' wide or so is adequate, we would need approx 250,000 miles of roadway to provide 100% of the power needs, at generation source. This of course leaves off the ~10% due to current lines losses, which I can't imagine would get any better with the above system. In fact, assuming 10% line losses and near magical 20% solar panels, covering the entire ~47,000 mile could provide ~16%. I guess we could describe that as fat.

Oh, and for your information, the structure we are talking about would be a continous strip of solar panels with no breaks. It would need to be mounted a minimum of 33' in the air if you didn't want to light the area underneath and even higher in some situations. A larger problem would be the wind breaks. Since a 100' wide structure would likely catch the wind, we would need to design in ways to lighten the wind load... which would let direct sunlight down below... which is in turn would likely require the additional lighting as Human eyes can't really adjust that fast.

I doubt covering the entire US highway system would result in more than 10% of our power needs... and I doubt it could be accomplished much less than the original cost of the system (~425 Billion dollars).

(Oh by the way, nothing can really help the system if a tractor trailor full of gasoline smashes into a post. A large section will be destroyed... there are reasons why that land is not readily availble.)

RE: Promises promises
By porkpie on 3/23/2010 4:04:26 PM , Rating: 2
Spoofe, I'm going to cede the land use point to you. I made a rather shocking math error. I correctly calculated ~500 sq m for road usage, and 5000 sq. miles required for power-- but then somehow read (a) as being 1/100 of (b), rather than 1/10.

So yes...if you could solve the other myriad problems, this would give you enough land to power a 'fat percentage' of our electric needs.

"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer

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