University of Texas at Austin researchers lead by Ivan Ramirez have discovered what they believe to be our sun's sibling, a so-called "long-lost brother" believed to have resulted from the same space cloud as our star. The discovery could increase understanding of our solar system.
Plugging in an electric car to recharge often happens in the dark confines of a garage, but BMW wants to brings its u3 and i8 EV range into the light with a new BMW i Solar Carport Concept. Mounting translucent solar panels on top of a bamboo frame - the wood picked for its rapid regrowth - the carport could be entirely off-grid, BMW claims, though you'd obviously need to get enough sun.
A new solar-powered aircraft is being shown off called the Solar Impulse 2 that plans to make a flight that will take it around the globe. The aircraft was unveiled on April 9 in Switzerland. Pilots of the aircraft's circumnavigation of the Earth using no fuel will be Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard. Solar Impulse 2 will be used to fly around the globe in 2015.
We may not yet have achieved our Jetsons utopia, but advancements in robotics have happened at a clipped rate over the years, and slowly robotic devices have worked their way into many industries, taking over tasks that would be difficult or needlessly wasteful if performed by adults. One such task is keeping a field of solar panels in the desert clean, something Ecoppia E4 robots are doing at one Israeli solar field.
Last week we mentioned that the Ivanpah solar facility had gone online in California and was now creating 392 megawatts of electricity. We also mentioned that while the facility had just gone live that it was already outdated and the firms behind the plant were already considering upgrades to the facility.
The market has no lack of solar chargers for small gadgets, such as smartphones and tablets, but they often take longer than a wall charger and are less convenient, needing full sunlight in most cases. Such negatives aren't much incentive for gadget owners to go green, but the startup Changers hopes to change that. Those who use the company's solar charger will earn credits that can be redeemed for goods.
Batteries are a distraction: the best way to store excess solar energy for nighttime use is using it to create "solar fuels" that rely on energy-dense chemistry, one research team has concluded. The prototype takes a cue from plants and uses a new type of solar cell that relies on the sun's energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The latter is released, but the former can be stored and then later used for power, including potential in fuel-cell cars. Best of all, the system requires no external power source in order to work its hydrogen-generating magic.
Solar energy is one method for powering homes and such with renewable resources, something that has seen great strides in past years but that still suffers from various limitations. One Japanese company has a big vision for the technology that would overcome some of these limitations, and it involves putting solar panels on the moon and beaming electricity at the Earth with lasers.
In some instances, there is a need to control light and heat that enter a home or business through windows. There are basic solutions such as tinting, but that may not be ideal in all uses. A company called Sage has some very interesting electrochromic windows that are able to tint itself in response to changing light conditions.