New solar material converts 90% of captured light into heat

By NEHA KARL

Scientists have created the ‘black hole of sunlight’ – a new nanoparticle-based material that absorbs and converts more than 90 percent of captured sunlight to heat.

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Research from the US have developed a super-Sun-absorbing material that will help concentrating solar power (CSP) plants to generate more electricity and run for longer – a huge step towards making solar a viable alternative to fossil fuels.

Traditional power plants burn coal or fossil fuel to create heat in the form of steam. This steam then turns a giant turbine that generates electricity from spinning magnets and conductor wire coils. One of the most promising clean energy technologies are CSP plants, which create the steam needed to turn the turbine by using sunlight to heat molten salt.

A world-first CSP plant in Australia has already proved that the steam generated by solar power is pressurised and hot enough to match that produced by fossil fuels.

Most CSP plants generate energy by using hundreds of thousands of large, reflective mirrors that concentrate sunlight at a tower that has been painted with a light-absorbing black paint material. Importantly, this electricity generated from the power of the Sun can be fed directly into our existing grid, and, because the mirrors can be used to concentrate light even on cloudy days, it overcomes many of the issues of solar panels.

But one downside is that the material that is currently used degrades quickly and needs to be reapplied once a year, meaning that CSP plants are shut down and no power can be generated in this time.

To combat this problem, scientists have developed a material that has a longer life cycle and allows for greater conversion of captured sunlight into heat.

Researchers from the University of California in the US created the new “multiscale” material by covering it in thousands of scale-like particles ranging from 10 nanometres to 10 micrometres. The material can withstand temperatures greater than 700 degrees Celsius, allowing it to more efficiently trap and absorb sunlight.

It can also tolerate exposure to air and humidity, enabling it to survive for many years in the outdoors. More importantly, these unique properties allow the material to convert more than 90 percent of captured sunlight to heat.

Read More at Science Alert.

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Categories: Australia, Economics, Environment, Natural resources, Science, Technology, Top stories, Wind and solar power, World news

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6 replies

  1. Excellent post, gen. I saw headlines in the media pertaining to this news but would have missed this important story if you had not shared it. Thanks.The politics standing in the way of progress in the development of renewal energy is maddening. And now, to think that James Inhofe will be the next chair of the Senate’s Environment Committee! What a nightmare.

    Developments in renewable energy technologies and in nanotechnologies are proceeding at an astonishing rate. These technologies represent the next major industrial revolution in human history. The Germans, the Japanese, the Chinese, the Australians, and every other society that believes in investing in its own future is investing in this research. In Scotland and Germany, for example, they have already reached the thresholds of meeting all of their energy demands at given times–albeit of short durations–from renewable energy sources. There is still much work to be done.

    In the United States, we still manage to make major contributions to the development of cheap, low environmental impact renewable energy technologies, but we are lagging far behind the rest of the world in science and technology. A major reason for this is that the fossil fuels industry, that is, the big oil, coal and natural gas companies–and lobbying groups that represent them, like the American Petroleum Institute, and the myriad lobbying fronts for Koch Industries–have spent billions of dollars bribing politicians, running television ad campaigns to mislead the public, and in the outright buying of elections.

    “The more you learn about our advanced sub-sea technologies…” Thus went an American Petroleum Institute television ad that ran day and night on CNN until the day that there was an explosion killing 11 and injuring 16 employees on the offshore drilling platform of the Deepwater Horizon. Then we learned all about their “advanced sub-sea technologies.” And how they had lied, distorted, concealed, mislead, and violated every conceivable federal regulation in their pursuit of untapped wealth. And continued to do so even after the disaster.

    Now, these same private entities are working hard to sell the Canadian tar sands–the greatest single environmental disaster in human history–and the XL pipeline to an uniformed and gullible American public. The API has spent millions running ads to convince Americans that the XL pipeline will create “thousands” of new American jobs, and invites them to visit their website “to learn more.” Yeah, well, I did. According to their website, 20,000 new jobs would be created by 2035. Seriously? Over 20 years from now? That’s laughable. Personally, I’m not convinced that the human race won’t be extinct by then.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Excellent comment Konigludwig. I am disappointed in the American people currently. I fear they just sold out what made this nation great.

      I found out that one of the last things the Bush administration did was give the oil companies the rights to everything under our land. If the American citizens would wake up and realize that the Koch’s have bought most of their small town and state leaders, they would be out-raged. It has happened especially in states were they want to frack or are fracking. The small town complaints are every place online where the gas and oil companies are focused. When land owners find out that they have no rights, it is too late and the damage is done. Where is the News media when we need them? They are just corporations now. Selling us lies.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Look, gen. The big corporations, the huge special interest groups that bought this election for the Republicans, waged a very smart, well-funded and well-coordinated effort to redefine the electorate through gerrymandering and voter suppression to favor Republican candidates in an off-year, midterm election. Midterm elections are notorious for low voter turnout. This election, in particular, found voters disinterested. California and Utah reported record low voter turnouts. Afghanistan has higher voter turnouts. Republicans did not receive a voter mandate by any stretch of the imagination. The Republican strategy of making government dysfunctional and irrelevant worked. A large segment of the American public considers their government useless and as having no real bearing on or importance in their lives. When you combine voter apathy with voter suppression it almost always favors the minority party. This is what we got. Democratic voter apathy was a big part of it too.

        Here’s what happens now. The Republicans got very cute about rigging an election. They disenfranchised millions of American citizens, stripping them of their right to vote. How do you think that fact is going to play in 2016? Republicans are so screwed in 2016.

        The party of old white bigots hasn’t learned anything. Ted Cruz is already planning to fight the President on immigration reform, tooth and nail. When the Latino voters realize that the Republicans despise them, how do you think that will play with the largest minority voting bloc in the United States in 2016? If Republicans were smart–and they generally aren’t, except in tiny little bursts–they would be kissing some serious Latino ass between now and 2016. Stupid is as stupid does. They will double down on their hatred of brown people.

        Women’s rights? Environmental protection? Gay rights? Rational foreign policy? Humane social policy? Sound economic policy? Oh, no! The lunatics are now in charge of the insane asylum.

        The American voter was asleep, but they will soon wake up and realize that everything that they care about is about to be violated.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I am already scared and angry. I live in a state that suppressed voters especially women and minorities. They closed most of our voting places. They closed the polls at 7pm. I agree with everything you have said and I have witnessed the abuse of power at a state level which should frighten all of us. We allowed greed to take away what the majority of us value in a midterm election.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. This was a huge step towards making solar a viable alternative to fossil fuels. Love good old fashion research which is a team project.

    Like

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