News / Science & Technology

    Volunteers Help Scientists in Search for Cheap Solar Cells

    Volunteers Help Scientists in Search for Cheap Solar Cellsi
    X
    July 15, 2013 6:40 PM
    Solar cells remain a relatively expensive investment for ordinary consumers of electric power. But a group of scientists at Harvard University is looking for cheaper, organic solar cells, which could be painted on rooftops and building facades. In their research, they are employing the help of thousands of volunteers around the world. VOA's George Putic has more.
    George Putic
    Solar cells remain a relatively expensive investment for ordinary consumers of electric power. But a group of scientists at Harvard University is looking for cheaper, organic solar cells, which could be painted on rooftops and building facades. In their research, they are employing the help of thousands of volunteers around the world.

    Most of today's solar cells are silicon-based and their manufacture requires sophisticated machinery and expertise. An average home in the United States uses between 20 and 24 kilowatt hours of electricity every day. And it may cost up to $20,000 to buy and install solar panels that can produce that much energy. While economical in the long run, it is an expense many cannot afford.

    But a group of researchers in the Harvard Clean Energy Project is looking for cheaper, carbon-based compounds that could substantially lower that price. Project head Alan Aspuru said that a carbon-based solar cell would have to be about 10 percent efficient to make an impact.  

    "This basically means that 10 percent of the sunlight that hits the device is converted into energy. There's about three, or four, or maybe five - a handful of molecules that we know about, that already have this efficiency. And this has been discovered in the last year or a couple of years," said Aspuru.

    Aspuru says today's most commonly used silicon-based solar cells also do not have a very high efficiency, just about 15 percent. More-efficient solar cells do exist, but they are used mainly on satellites, due to their high cost. But cheap carbon-based solar cells could cover large surfaces - compensating for their low efficiency.

    Researchers already have identified 2.3 million carbon-based compounds, out of which 35,000 potentially could have efficiency above 10 percent.

    "That does not necessarily mean that those 35,000 molecules, all of them would be above 10 percent efficient. For a solar cell that basically means they could potentially be, and more research has to be done on them," he said.

    Aspuru said further analysis of those compounds requires large computing power, which his group is getting from volunteers around the world who donate their computers' time to a "virtual supercomputer" project.

    "In my case, in partnership with [the] IBM project for the World Community Grid, hundreds of thousands of people that are registered in the database of IBM are on and off computing for many projects, including ours," he said.

    Researchers are hopeful their findings will spur innovation, and that based on this research, experimental laboratories around the world will be able to come up with new materials.  

    Results so far are encouraging. The Clean Energy Project already has discovered a powerful organic semiconductor named DA2T. It's the second best semiconductor reported in scientific literature.

    You May Like

    Saudi Arabia’s New Female Politicians in the Other Room 

    Many in Saudi Arabia say elected representatives should share unsegregated spaces; according to a recent survey, more than half the Saudi population, both men and women, prefer to work in a segregated place

    Russia Not ‘Apologetic’ for Syria Airstrikes

    With Moscow criticized for targeting armed opponents of President Assad, Russia’s UN envoy says his country ‘acting in a very transparent manner’

    Pakistan Warns of Islamic State's Growing Reach

    Aftab Sultan, General Director General of Intelligence Bureau (IB), briefed Senate Committee in closed hearing, saying that IS-linked groups have been expanding in Pakistan

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Shane Bird from: Temecula CA
    July 18, 2013 1:16 PM
    I was interested in the claim made about DA2T but I found that the claim reported here is somewhat misleading, it is actually the second best organic semiconductor.
    In Response

    by: boyce from: solarpanelcellonline.com/
    July 31, 2013 11:40 PM
    The Clean Energy Project already has discovered a powerful organic semiconductor named DA2T. It's the second best semiconductor reported in scientific literature.

    by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
    July 17, 2013 3:26 AM
    Yes, I agree solar panel is too expensive to apply the roof of my house at present. Its life expectancy is about ten to twenty years so that we have to replace it with new one before installing cost is payed.

    New solar cells using carbon or bio-based compounds sound promising for popular use. It makes sense that selecting some compounds efficient above 10 percent from 35,000 candidates needs so many calculations. I hope crowd computers offered by numerous volunteers world wide would work well.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.