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Organic solar cell  (Source: Blogspot)
Researchers study the effects of solar cell technology

Rochester Institute of Technology researchers have conducted a study to assess the environmental advantages and disadvantages of organic solar cells as well as the amount of energy required to make them.

Solar energy is seen as a potential alternative to petroleum for energy production, but solar-cell technology is expensive to mass produce and the total energy required to make it is high. Also, there is not enough information on what effect solar energy has on the environment. But now, Annick Anctil, a fourth-year doctoral candidate in RIT's doctoral program in sustainability and lead researcher on the study, along with Brian Landi, assistant professor of chemical engineering at RIT and faculty advisor on the study, and their research team have performed one of the first life-cycle evaluation's of organic solar cells. 

The problem with previous assessment's was that they didn't provide a component-by-component breakdown of the materials needed in an organic solar cell or what the total energy payback of these cell's are. Through the study conducted by Anctil, the environmental impact of the fabrication, material collection, mass production and use of organic solar cells as well as the total energy use was calculated. What they found is that the total energy required to make these products, or the embodied energy, is less for organic solar cells than traditional inorganic units. 

"Organic solar cells are flexible and lightweight, and they have the promise of low-cost solution processing, which can have advantages for manufacturing over previous-generation technologies that primarily use inorganic semiconductor materials," said Anctil. "However, previous assessments of the energy and environmental impact of the technology have been incomplete and a broader analysis is needed to better evaluate the overall effect of production and use."

The study also found that the energy produced from solar cells versus the energy needed to manufacture it was lower compared to inorganic cells. But the team added that continuous studies to verify the cell's stability are "still warranted."

"The data produced will help designers and potential manufacturers better assess how to use and improve the technology and analyze its feasibility versus other solar and alternative-energy technologies," said Landi. 

Anctil, Landi, and the team hope to analyze the environmental impact of solar cells further with more life-cycle assessments of varied types of solar cell technology. The team presented their study at the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers 2010 Photovoltaic Specialists Conference

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Is 'organic' a tech?
By PaterPelligrino on 9/21/2010 2:02:09 AM , Rating: 2
There is an interesting idea in this: I wonder if one could consider 'organic' itself as being a technology, and that it is superior to 'inorganic' for accomplishing many goals. Have you noticed how nature usually provides more elegant solutions to various tech problems; how we continually turn to nature for inspiration when designing products. Take the computer for instance: CPU, Ram, hard drive as brain, volatile and long-term memory. Didn't von Neumann when he first conceived this model, take inspiration from the way our minds work? Certainly our tech is very crude indeed when compared to what the organic is able to accomplish.

Or perhaps it's just that nature had had billions or years to find the most efficient solution to it's problems, that those solutions must be elegant, durable, and energy efficient - the most efficient solutions survive to replicate themselves - and that it works on a very small scale. Maybe when we're able to manipulate matter on a much smaller scale we'll be able to design machines even more efficient and durable than what nature is capable of.

However, nature isn't just about things, it's also a process. Machines that heal themselves would certainly eliminate a lot of waste and inefficiency form our present way of doing things.

I think if we ever do manage to produce intelligent machines, it will be the result of something like what IBM is doing in it's project to faithfully model a cat's(?) brain using inorganic components.

In any case, I see our tech becoming increasingly more life-like, not necessarily in having self-awareness, but in it's internal organization. Like the human body becoming a hybrid with integrated organic human-designed machine parts. What biology produces are, in fact, just machines - but infinitely more elegant and durable machines that what we are now capable of designing. Bettering nature - eternal youth! - should be our goal.

RE: Is 'organic' a tech?
By HoosierEngineer5 on 9/21/2010 10:05:01 AM , Rating: 2
In this context, I believe organic means 'contains carbon', like organic chemistry. It doesn't refer to hippies, mother nature, or feel-good science.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

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