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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 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?

"Spreading the rumors, it's very easy because the people who write about Apple want that story, and you can claim its credible because you spoke to someone at Apple." -- Investment guru Jim Cramer
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