10 Most-Read Friday Features for 2016

January 01, 2017 by Power Pulse1595211359

The Friday Features section on PowerPulse are staff-written articles presenting readers with insights into the latest developments in power electronics and energy at university and government research laboratories. These stories span the globe from Asia to Europe and North America. The following are the ten most-read Friday Features from the past year:

#10: Making Photovoltaic Cells 70% More Effective

Technion researchers have developed a technology that could improve the efficiency of photovoltaic cells by nearly 70 percent. The study was conducted at the Excitonics Lab, headed by Assistant Professor Carmel Rotschild at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, with the assistance of the Grand Technion Energy Program (GTEP) and the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute (RBNI) at the Technion, and as part of the lab's ERC project on new thermodynamic tools for solar cells. More.

#9: Record for Capturing and Storing Solar Energy

Solar energy has the potential to provide abundant power, but only if scientists solve two key issues: storing the energy for use at all hours, particularly at night, and making the technology more cost effective. Now an interdisciplinary team at Stanford has made significant strides toward solving the storage issue, demonstrating the most efficient means yet of storing electricity captured from sunlight in the form of chemical bonds. If the team can find a way of lowering the cost of their technology, they say it would be a huge step toward making solar power a viable alternative to current, more polluting energy sources. More.

#8: Nobel Winners in Physics Reveal Secrets of Exotic Matter

This year's Laureates opened the door on an unknown world where matter can assume strange states. They have used advanced mathematical methods to study unusual phases, or states, of matter, such as superconductors, superfluids or thin magnetic films. Thanks to their pioneering work, the hunt is now on for new and exotic phases of matter. Many people are hopeful of future applications in both materials science and electronics. More.

#7: Harvesting the 'Full Spectrum' of Solar Energy

A new concept could bring highly efficient solar power by combining three types of technologies that convert different parts of the light spectrum and also store energy for use after sundown. Combining the technologies could make it possible to harness and store far more of the spectrum of sunlight than is possible using any one of the technologies separately. More.

#6: Doubling Battery Power of Consumer Electronics

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) spinout is preparing to commercialize a novel rechargable lithium metal battery that offers double the energy capacity of the lithium ion batteries that power many of today's consumer electronics. Founded in 2012 by MIT alumnus and former postdoc Qichao Hu '07, SolidEnergy Systems has developed an "anode-free" lithium metal battery with several material advances that make it twice as energy-dense, yet just as safe and long-lasting as the lithium ion batteries used in smartphones, electric cars, wearables, drones, and other devices. More.

#5: Two-Stage Power Management Boosts Energy-Harvesting Efficiency

A two-stage power management and storage system could dramatically improve the efficiency of triboelectric generators that harvest energy from irregular human motion such as walking, running or finger tapping. The system uses a small capacitor to capture alternating current generated by the biomechanical activity. When the first capacitor fills, a power management circuit then feeds the electricity into a battery or larger capacitor. This second storage device supplies dc current at voltages appropriate for powering wearable and mobile devices such as watches, heart monitors, calculators, thermometers – and even wireless remote entry devices for vehicles. More.

#4: Key Improvement made in Solar Cell Voltage Technology

A critical milestone in solar cell fabrication will help pave the way for solar energy to directly compete with electricity generated by conventional energy sources. Researchers improved the maximum voltage available from a cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar cell, overcoming a practical limit that has been pursued for six decades and is key to improving efficiency. The work was published in the Feb. 29 issue of Nature Energy. The effort was led by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in collaboration with Washington State University and the University of Tennessee. More.

#3: Three Lessons on the Fifth Anniversary of Fukushima

It has been five years since the emergency sirens sounded at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi power plant following the massive 2011 earthquake and subsequent devastating tsunami. The partial meltdown of three reactors caused approximately 170,000 refugees to be displaced from their homes, and radiation releases and public outcry forced the Japanese government to temporarily shut down all of their nuclear power plants. The events at Fukushima Daiichi sent waves not only through Japan but also throughout the international nuclear industry. Rodney Ewing, an expert on nuclear materials with Stanford University, outlines three key lessons to be taken from the tragedy at Fukushima. More.

#2: Unexpected Discovery Leads to a Better Battery

An unexpected discovery has led to a rechargeable battery that's as inexpensive as conventional car batteries, but has a much higher energy density. The new battery could become a cost-effective, environmentally friendly alternative for storing renewable energy and supporting the power grid. A team based at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) identified this energy storage gem after realizing the new battery works in a different way than they had assumed. The journal Nature Energy published a paper that describes the battery. More.

#1: Charging an EV as Fast as Filling a Tank of Gas

Electric cars will only be truly competitive when it doesn't take longer to charge them than it does to fill a gas tank. The storage capacity of batteries is improving exponentially, but the power grid is the weak link: how could it possibly charge thousands of cars at the same time? This is especially problematic in the case of ultra-fast charging, which requires more than 10 times more power. Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EFPL) (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne) researchers claim to have found the solution: intermediate storage. More.