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.
A lot of research is being carried out around the world using carbon nanotubes for various needs. Recently a group of researchers at MIT has been using hot carbon nanotubes to help improve the performance of solar panels. The more solar energy that solar panels can convert into usable electricity, the more useful they become as an alternative energy producer.
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.
The word is spreading here near the end of 2013: USB is over, if you want it. USB PD (Power Delivery) is set to be the new standard for the next generation, working with standard specifications set to start taking effect as early as 2014. This technology may very well change the way we power electronics, first and foremost because it's able to output up to 100 watts of power, 10 times that of today's current best in regular ol' USB technology.
Though they've made clear that the decision to sell solar panels to the masses on a market-by-market basis, the results are already clear: IKEA is aiming to make solar energy mainstream. If there's one company that can take this green push to the market in a way that's not-quite-cheap but certainly not overpriced, it's IKEA. And here with the IKEA Chief Sustainability Officer Steve Howard speaking on the subject with the AP this week, "It's the right time to go for the consumers."
The teams behind the world's previous record-holding solar cell for efficiency, which was unveiled back in May, has trumped its own achievement, announcing that they've boosted that cell's efficiency even higher to 44.7-percent. The latest solar cell works by utilizing four solar subcells, allowing it to achieve nearly a 50-percent efficiency rate, and was developed based on a bit over three years' worth of research.
There's are a variety of alternative sources of energy out there that break away from the traditional, environment-dampening methods used, some of them better tailored to certain locations than others. Solar power is one such source, and Australia is a prime location for such technology, offering many bright and sunny days. One of the biggest problems with solar power has been its cost, which may be changing in the near future thanks to a machine that prints a solar cell every 2 seconds.
Space is a dangerous world. Debris is flying around everywhere, including small space rocks (read: bits of asteroid or meteoroid), which means that the International Space Station is constantly prone to getting hit by these small objects, and when you're traveling at 4.8 miles per second, even small objects can have a big impact. ISS Commander Chris Hadfield tweeted a photo of a hole in the one of the solar panels where a space rock ripped through.
The Middle East is known for their vast amounts of oil, and of course the money that comes from that oil. However, the region is also getting into renewable energy and alternative methods for providing electricity, most specifically the United Arab Emirates, which is now home to the world's largest solar power plant, located in Abu Dhabi.
For those who are always in need of a little light while camping, we have just the device for you. MpowerD has introduced a solar-powered lantern they're calling Luci. Luci is "the little solar lantern with a big impact" and we're actually really liking this neat idea. Essentially this is a fully waterproof and lightweight lantern that only needs the sun for a charge, and will last up to 12 hours.
Alta Devices has announced "the future of mobile power," claiming to have the world's lightest, most high-density military solar charging mats. Such technology has the potential to change a soldier's every day life, with about a third of their very heavy loads - which can exceed 100 pounds - being caused by batteries. By using their charging mats, Alta Devices claims to be able to reduce pack load weight by 25lbs.