Monday, 25 August 2008

All that solar energy is wasted overnight, but now there’s a way to capture it

Original Article

The folks at the Idaho National Laboratory say they’ve come up with a way to make solar energy work round the clock. The sporadic nature of solar energy and the need thus to store day-time solar for night-time use has long been one of the biggest bugaboos cited by solar doubters. “Yeah, solar’s okay but it’s so not 24-7. Not like nuclear, or coal.”

Now a new idea makes the darkness in many lattitudes a second solar dawn. Nanoantenna capture the residual solar energy that remains in soil, asphalt, cement, bodies of water–all those things that heat up during the day. A plastic film has been developed containing billions of nanoantennas. These can collect heat energy generated by the sun or any other radiant source. They capture the heat in the wave-length of infrared. The same radiation that allows night goggles to “see.” Current solar technology can use only visible light waves.

Here’s the press release on their findings from the federally funded lab in Idaho. Yes, tax dollars actually being used to find alternative fuel, not drilling for more oil or natural gas. Does Dick Cheney know this? Maybe he stopped caring so much.

The Idaho researchers hope to turn this captured heat into electricity. So far they have used gold, copper and manganese to make their nano-collectors. The nano tech would allow collection of a wider spectrum of the solar energy that hits the earth. This tech could also be used to cool buildings or factories that give off heat.


Here’s the front page of the Idaho Lab’s website. They are also working on advanced nuclear power plants . “This [web]site will explain how the energy created by a high temperature gas-cooled reactor can assist our national pursuit of energy independence.” Of course, their proposed plant still has to get licensing and it may need changes in outdated federal laws.


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