Everyone agrees that we are in an energy crisis, and most people generally agree that renewable energy has to be at least part of the solution. Unfortunately, at its current capabilities, renewable energies are not particularly feasible as a source for a majority of our energy. For example, solar panels typically are 11-15% efficient, reducing the practicality of using them as a replacement for conventional energy sources. Fortunately, researchers are in the process of developing solar panels that are significantly more efficient, hopefully allowing us to eventually draw a majority of our energy from the sun.
Some of the most encouraging research into this field comes from a student our age, 19-year-old Eden Full of Princeton University. Eden has developed a technology that efficiently allows a solar panel to track the sun, increasing its efficiency by 40%. Eden’s genius device is able to turn because the metals that it is composed of expand at different rates, causing the machine to turn naturally with the sun. This device is so simple that it is 1/60th as expensive as a conventional solar tracker, making the technology much more desirable.
Another interesting article that I have recently read was published by researchers at MIT, who were able to amazingly use genetically modified viruses to improve solar panel efficiency by nearly one-third. Essentially, these viruses are able to hold carbon nanotubes together. Carbon nanotubes have been proven to enhance the efficiency of electron collection from a solar cell’s surface. Until this research was conducted, the structures of these carbon nanotubes were unstable, and thus were not a practical solution. With a method of stabilizing the carbon nanotubes, hopefully this technology will soon be incorporated into our solar panels.
My environmental tip of the week is to try to be a green shopper. Reuse bags rather than getting a plastic or paper bag every time you go shopping, and try to buy products that will last, rather than disposable products that will need to be replaced in a week. More tips on how to be a green shopper can be found here.