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Gizmorama - October 30, 2017

Good Morning,

Forget about solar panels, solar windows are in the works thanks to the development of transparent solar cells. What a great idea! So simple I'm surprised that it hasn't been done before.

Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.

Until Next Time,

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*-- Michigan State scientists develop transparent solar cell technology --*

Researchers at Michigan State have developed transparent solar cell technology that could be used to make power-generating windows.

In a new paper published in the journal Nature Energy, the team of engineers argue their technology can replace or supplement rooftop solar units.

The technology consists of a thin film of organic molecules that absorb invisible wavelengths of sunlight. These ultraviolet and the near-infrared wavelengths can then be converted into electricity. The device, called a transparent luminescent solar concentrator, can be installed on the windows of buildings, a car's windshield or even on the screen of a phone.

"Highly transparent solar cells represent the wave of the future for new solar applications," Richard Lunt, an associate professor of chemical engineering and materials science at MSU, said in a news release. "We analyzed their potential and show that by harvesting only invisible light, these devices can provide a similar electricity-generation potential as rooftop solar while providing additional functionality to enhance the efficiency of buildings, automobiles and mobile electronics."

Scientists have previously described and demonstrated their technology. Their new paper, published Monday, is a call-to-arms of sorts, describing the potential to integrate transparent luminescent solar concentrators into modern infrastructure.

Scientists estimate there are 5 billion to 7 billion square meters of glass surface in the United States. If renewable energy production is to meet the demands of American consumers, the researchers say creative solutions, like the installation of transparent solar cells, are essential.

If all the glass in the United States was outfitted with transparent solar cells, the harvested energy would be enough to meet 40 percent of Americans' electricity demands.

Coupled with traditional rooftop installations and solar energy, the combination could produce nearly as much electricity as traditional energy sources.

"The complimentary deployment of both technologies could get us close to 100 percent of our demand if we also improve energy storage," Lunt said.

The best opaque solar panels reach efficiency rates of between 15 and 18 percent. Transparent solar cells achieve efficiencies at just above 5 percent. But scientists believe the technology can eventually register efficiencies closer to traditional panels.

"That is what we are working towards," Lunt said. "Traditional solar applications have been actively researched for over five decades, yet we have only been working on these highly transparent solar cells for about five years. Ultimately, this technology offers a promising route to inexpensive, widespread solar adoption on small and large surfaces that were previously inaccessible."

*-- Acoustic gravity waves help scientists pinpoint spot, time objects hit the ocean surface --*

Scientists at the University of Cardiff in Wales have developed a method for tracing acoustic gravity waves to their point of origin.

Researchers can use the method to identify the precise time and location that an object splashed into the ocean. The technique could be used to locate the entry point of meteorites, spacecraft, satellites, aircraft and more.

The method -- detailed in a new paper published this week in the journal Scientific Reports -- relies on hydrophones, microphones that can pick up underwater sound waves emitted when an object hits the surface of the ocean.

The underwater sound waves are called acoustic gravity waves, or AGWs. The waves are triggered by sudden shifts in water pressure and can travel for several miles beneath the surface of the ocean. Scientists at Cardiff have previously considered redirecting AGWs to break up onrushing tsunami waves. Researchers have also tracked similar waves in the atmosphere to predict the path of large storms.

In the lab, researchers used hydrophones to measure AGWs produced when various spheres were dropped into a water tank. Scientists analyzed the different wave patterns to develop a predictive formula. They tested the accuracy of their method using recordings from hydrophones operated by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization. The hydrophones are designed to listen for possible underwater nuclear weapons tests, but they can also record AGWs. Researchers used their method to accurately predict the time and location of an earthquake in the Indian Ocean.

"By using existing detectors dotted all around our oceans and listening out for signatures from these deep ocean sound waves, we've uncovered a completely novel way of locating objects impacting on the sea surface," Usama Kadri, from Cardiff's School of Mathematics, said in a news release. "Tracking these acoustic gravity waves opens up a huge range of possibilities, from locating falling meteorites to detecting landslides, snowslides, storm surges, tsunamis and rogue waves."

Researchers used their method to analyze hydrophone data recorded on the day the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared over the South Indian Ocean. Their analysis revealed a pair of faint signals near the projected path of the airplane.

"Though we've located two points around the time of MH370's disappearance from an unknown source, we cannot say with any real certainty that these have any association with the aircraft," said Davide Crivelli, from Cardiff's School of Engineering. "What we do know is that the hydrophones picked up remarkably weak signals at these locations and that the signals, according to our calculations, accounted for some sort of impact in the Indian Ocean."


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