Old Blu-Ray Discs to Make Better Solar Panels

An interdisciplinary team from the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science discovered that using the data storage pattern from a Blu-ray disc improves solar cell performance and that video content doesn’t matter.Credit: Northwestern University

An interdisciplinary team from the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science discovered that using the data storage pattern from a Blu-ray disc improves solar cell performance and that video content doesn’t matter.
Credit: Northwestern University

Since its launch, the Blu-ray disc has been promoted as the bigger, better, and more impressive way to view movies at home. But researchers from Northwestern University are now telling us that Blu-ray discs are good for more than just giving us a better home viewing experience.

An interdisciplinary team from the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University has published research stating that Blu-ray discs can be used to improve the performance of solar cells.

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First Solar-Powered Bike Lane in Netherlands

SolaRoad coverts sunlight on the road surface into electricity: the road network works as an inexhaustible source of green power.Credit: SolaRoad

SolaRoad converts sunlight on the road surface into electricity: the road network works as an inexhaustible source of green power.
Credit: SolaRoad

A solar-powered cycle path – called SolaRoad – has been unveiled in the Netherlands. The path can generate enough electricity to power three households, reports BBC.

The new path has been installed in Kormmenie, which is 25 kilometers from Amsterdam. While the path is currently 70 meters long, it will be extended to 100 meters by 2016.

Dr. Sten de Wit from SolaRoad believes that this is just the beginning for solar-powered paths. Dr. de Wit foresees solar roads eventually being used to power the electric vehicles that use them, similar to Dutch developer Heijmans and designer Daan Roosegaard in their “smart highway.”

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Toyota’s Fuel Cell Car Unveiled

Recently, fuel cells have been the hot topic in energy discussions. In accordance with this, Toyota has introduced its first mass-market fuel cell car that will be available for purchase next month.

The company is calling the four-seat sedan Mirai, which means “future” in Japanese. The car will first go on sale in Japan on December 15th, followed by sales in the United States and Europe in the fourth quarter of 2015.

This from Reuters:

The ultimate “green car”, fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) run on electricity made by mixing hydrogen fuel and oxygen in the air – a technology first used in the Apollo moon project in the 1960s. Its only by-product is heat and water – water so pure the Apollo astronauts drank it.

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Lead-acid car batteries

According to engineers at MIT, we can recycle them to make long-lasting, low-cost solar panels. Credit: Christine Daniloff

The old lead-acid battery in your car may not be as useless or environmentally dangerous as was once thought. In fact, these batteries may be the answer to creating a cheap source of green energy.

According to engineers at MIT, old lead-acid batteries can be recycled and easily converted into long-lasting, low-cost solar panels. So far, the solar cells in the panels have yielded promising results – achieving over 19 percent efficiency in converting sunlight to useable electricity.

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We all know the health risks that cigarette smoking can lead to, but with over one billion smokers internationally – according to the researchers at the World Health Organization (WHO) – smoking cigarettes has also become an environmental issue. However, a group of scientists in South Korea have discovered a way to transform this waste into a positive by converting the cigarette butts into green energy in a one-step process.

This from Smithsonian:

In a recent paper in the journal Nanotechnology, the researchers demonstrated a one-step process for turning used cigarette filters (the main component of butts) into a material that can be used to store energy in supercapacitors—components that can be used alongside batteries in the electrical grid, consumer electronics and electric vehicles.

Read the full article here.

While it is unlikely that the supercapacitors will match the storage abilities of chemical-based batteries any time soon, the scientists are optimistic about the potential of this process. With trillions of cigarette butts being tossed out each year, there is no shortage of materials to build billions of supercapacitors.

Find out more about the evolving science of supercapacitors in ECS’s Digital Library.

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