Sunday, January 4, 2009

Solar Power Game-Changer

Over the years I have been, perhaps, overly enthusiastic regarding practical applications of nanoscale technologies. Given the huge number of announcements and the abundant zealous fervor accompanying discoveries of nanoscale material properties, it seemed that "game changing" technologies were just around the corner. Well, they’ve been around the corner for the last 10 years.

Now, however, comes an announcement from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) regarding solar energy, titled "’Near Perfect’ Absorption of Sunlight, From All Angles."

What does that mean? I’ll let them tell it: "By developing a new antireflective coating that boosts the amount of sunlight captured by solar panels and allows those panels to absorb the entire solar spectrum from nearly any angle, the research team has moved academia and industry closer to realizing high-efficiency, cost-effective solar power."

The words to watch here are "closer to realizing," so don’t count your chickens just yet. While it looks promising, and their statement "After a silicon surface was treated with (the) new nanoengineered reflective coating … the material absorbed 96.21 percent of sunlight shone upon it" could portend a game changing technology, I’m not going to step out on a limb until someone coughs up the bucks to turn this cool lab technology into a real-world cost-effective application. It does look promising. Game changing? Who knows. I’ll let the market decide.

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