A Special Place for Blog Lovers with a Touch of Science!

Enjoy our special posts in the fields of Earth & Planetary Sciences (EPS Blog) and Social Sciences & Arts (SSA Blog)

A Special Place for Blog Lovers with a Touch of Science!

New technology surpasses long-sought solar energy milestone

Credit: View over solar hills, Gettyimages

Engineers fabricate 30-year perovskite solar cell

Engineers at Princeton University, supported by a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation, have developed a new class of renewable solar energy technology. The team successfully manufactured a perovskite solar cell that can operate above industry standards for close to 30 years, a significant increase over the prior threshold of 20 years. The new technology is efficient and performs at the same level as silicon-based cells.

Perovskites, semiconductors that have a crystal structure compatible with solar cell technology, are less expensive and more sustainable to manufacture than silicon-based solar cells. While flexible and transparent, perovskites are fragile with a short lifespan. The new technology has increased longevity.

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Dream of unlimited, clean nuclear fusion energy within reach

Credit: Inside a fusion reactor; Gettyimages

Nuclear Fusion

The old joke is that nuclear fusion is always 30 years away. Yet the dream of abundant clean energy is no laughing matter as we meet an ITER researcher to catch up on progress at the reactor facility.

The Sun has fuelled life on Earth for billions of years, creating light and heat through nuclear fusion. Given that incredible power and longevity, it seems there can hardly be a better way to generate energy than by harnessing the same nuclear processes that occur in our own and other stars.

Nuclear fusion reactors aim to replicate this process by fusing hydrogen atoms to create helium, releasing energy in the form of heat. Sustaining this at scale has the potential to produce a safe, clean, almost inexhaustible power source.

The quest began decades ago, but could a long-running joke that nuclear fusion is always 30 years away soon start to look old?

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Energy communities bring renewable power to the people

Credit: Gettyimages

Clean energy communities

Traditional energy production in advanced economies involves the importation of large amounts of oil and gas from a small number of suppliers. Renewable energy systems under new community ownership structures are being pioneered all over the Europe. The goal is to develop cheap, clean and secure energy by bringing power generation closer to the people who will use it.

Squeezed between the war in Ukraine, the pandemic and climate change, the European energy system is experiencing an unprecedented crisis. Bill payers are coping with sharp increases in energy prices which show no signs of abating. In the second half of 2021, average prices for electricity (and gas) jumped by more than 11% in the EU, compared to the same period in 2020, according to Eurostat electricity price statistics. That was before the geopolitical crisis arising from the invasion of Ukraine by Russia in late February prompted sanctions which further squeeze energy supply.

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New batteries could share a unique bond with milk and kitchen foil

Credit: Gettyimages

The End of Lithium-ion batteries

Since the discovery of electricity, inventors have struggled with how to store it. Batteries emerged relatively quickly as the most common way to preserve energy chemically, but from portability to rechargeability, it has taken centuries of tweaking elemental combinations to create the batteries our modern devices depend on.

Lithium-ion batteries have fuelled our age of portable electronics, but they have increasingly become a victim of their own success. Lithium mining is expensive, and the metal is dangerous to handle, making processing and recycling difficult.

Demand is also outstripping available supplies, whose geographic isolation in places like the Australian outback can make supply chains difficult.

EU data shows that Europe will need up to 60 times more lithium by 2050 to fulfil the demand for electric car batteries and renewable energy storage that will form the backbone of reaching emissions goals laid out in the European Green Deal.

That has led researchers like Dr M. Rosa Palacín to try and create similarly effective batteries out of more abundant elements found right inside Europe. Based at ICMAB-CSIC near Barcelona, she and her team from around the EU aim to build a prototype battery that uses periodic neighbour calcium instead of lithium. The effort is funded by a European Innovation Council Open Pathfinder grant and has been dubbed the CARBAT project.

Found in everything from bones to chalk, calcium is roughly 2000 times more common than lithium.

'Calcium is one the most abundant elements on the earth's crust,' said Dr Palacín. 'It's not as geographically concentrated as lithium is. This could make a battery cheap because the raw material is cheap.'

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Lightweight, bendy, cheaper – the promise of organic solar panels

Organic 'solar trees', demonstrated at Expo 15 in Milan, Italy, give a glimpse of lightweight, flexible solar cells in action. Image credit - ARMOR/GerArchitektur

The future of solar energy

Today's silicon solar panels are an industry standard, but these rigid, heavy blocks may be shunted aside by plastic rivals – lightweight, flexible solar panels that could be printed and stuck onto buildings or placed in windows or cars, turning light into electricity in locations inaccessible to their heavier cousins.

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The Secret Troves of Etymology

Image credit: unsplash.com by Hal Gatewood.com

The word Energy

Energy is one of those words that most of us use on a daily basis. It has both everyday and scholarly meanings. We all know what does it mean and yet that could really mislead us whenever we are trying to examine the full range of its connotations and its origins. Let's set out on a trip towards the roots of one of the most common words today.

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Could we harness energy from black holes?

Photo credit: JPL-Caltech/NASA

Study indicates that energy can be extracted from black holes

A new study indicates that, someday, energy could be extracted from black holes.

A remarkable prediction of Einstein's theory of general relativity -- the theory that connects space, time, and gravity -- is that rotating black holes have enormous amounts of energy available to be tapped.

For the last 50 years, scientists have tried to come up with methods to unleash this power.

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SSA Recent Posts

02 December 2022
Social Sciences & Arts (SSA)
Credit: Portrait of Austrian psychologist Sigmund Freud (1856 - 1939) as he sits behind his desk in his study, Vienna, Austria, 1930s. The office is filled with figurines and statuettes of various origins. (Photo by Authenticated News/Getty Images) V...
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30 November 2022
Social Sciences & Arts (SSA)
Credit: American artist, musician and producer of Haitian and Puerto Rican origins Jean-Michel Basquiat, in front of one of his paintings, during an exhibition at the Yvon Lambert gallery. (Photo by julio donoso/Sygma via Getty Images) The art of Bas...
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27 November 2022
Social Sciences & Arts (SSA)
Credit: Portrait Franz Kafka, around 1905; Getty Images Thoughts to reflect on 1. "A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity." 2. "All language is but a poor translation." 3. "By believing passionately in something that still does not exist...
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