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May 31, 2020

Self-driving laboratory for accelerated discovery of thin-film materials

Posted by in categories: information science, robotics/AI, solar power, sustainability

Discovering and optimizing commercially viable materials for clean energy applications typically takes more than a decade. Self-driving laboratories that iteratively design, execute, and learn from materials science experiments in a fully autonomous loop present an opportunity to accelerate this research process. We report here a modular robotic platform driven by a model-based optimization algorithm capable of autonomously optimizing the optical and electronic properties of thin-film materials by modifying the film composition and processing conditions. We demonstrate the power of this platform by using it to maximize the hole mobility of organic hole transport materials commonly used in perovskite solar cells and consumer electronics. This demonstration highlights the possibilities of using autonomous laboratories to discover organic and inorganic materials relevant to materials sciences and clean energy technologies.

Optimizing the properties of thin films is time intensive because of the large number of compositional, deposition, and processing parameters available (1, 2). These parameters are often correlated and can have a profound effect on the structure and physical properties of the film and any adjacent layers present in a device. There exist few computational tools for predicting the properties of materials with compositional and structural disorder, and thus, the materials discovery process still relies heavily on empirical data. High-throughput experimentation (HTE) is an established method for sampling a large parameter space (4, 5), but it is still nearly impossible to sample the full set of combinatorial parameters available for thin films. Parallelized methodologies are also constrained by the experimental techniques that can be used effectively in practice.

May 30, 2020

Flying Around the World in a Solar Powered Plane

Posted by in categories: solar power, sustainability, transportation

The journey took a very long time—505 days to fly 26,000 miles (42,000 km) at an average speed of about 45 mph (70 kph)—but pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg successfully landed the Solar Impulse 2 aircraft in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, after flying around the world using only the power of the Sun. Solar Impulse 2 is a solar-powered aircraft equipped with more than 17,000 solar cells that weighs only 2.4 tons with a wingspan of 235 ft (72 m). Technical challenges, poor flying conditions, and a delicate aircraft all contributed to the slow pace. Gathered here are images from the record-setting circumnavigation, undertaken to help focus the world’s efforts to develop renewable energy sources.

May 29, 2020

Algorithm tracks down buried treasure among existing compounds

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, chemistry, information science, robotics/AI, solar power

A machine-learning algorithm has been developed by scientists in Japan to breathe new life into old molecules. Called BoundLess Objective-free eXploration, or Blox, it allows researchers to search chemical databases for molecules with the right properties to see them repurposed. The team demonstrated the power of their technique by finding molecules that could work in solar cells from a database designed for drug discovery.

Chemical repurposing involves taking a molecule or material and finding an entirely new use for it. Suitable molecules for chemical repurposing tend to stand apart from the larger group when considering one property against another. These materials are said to be out-of-trend and can display previously undiscovered yet exceptional characteristics.

‘In public databases there are a lot of molecules, but each molecule’s properties are mostly unknown. These molecules have been synthesised for a particular purpose, for example drug development, so unrelated properties were not measured,’ explains Koji Tsuda of the Riken Centre for Advanced Intelligence and who led the development of Blox. ‘There are a lot of hidden treasures in databases.’

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May 28, 2020

No Joke — Algeria Plans 4 Gigawatt, 5 Year Solar Power Initiative

Posted by in categories: solar power, sustainability

Make no small plans. That seems to be the logic among the leaders of Algeria.

For some perspective, I just wrote about the corporate behemoth Amazon, which hopes to get to 100% renewable electricity by 2025 (firm target of 2030) and has a whopping total of 31 utility-scale wind and solar power plants built or planned that add up to 2,900 MW of total power capacity. That’s 2.3 gigawatts (GW). Algeria is talking about building 4 gigawatts of solar power capacity in 5 years. That’s a pretty stunning target.

Continue reading “No Joke — Algeria Plans 4 Gigawatt, 5 Year Solar Power Initiative” »

May 27, 2020

Solar panel recycling: Turning ticking time bombs into opportunities

Posted by in categories: solar power, sustainability

Australia has certainly demonstrated its appetite for solar power. Now, with the average lifespan of a solar panel being approximately 20 years, many installations from the early 2000’s are set to reach end-of-life. Will they end up in landfill or be recycled? The cost of recycling is higher than landfill, and the value of recovered materials is smaller than the original, so there’s limited interest in recycling. But given the presence of heavy metals, such as lead and tin, if waste is managed poorly, we’re on track for another recycling crisis. A potential time bomb could present itself as an opportunity, however, if the global EV industry showed an interest in the recovered solar products.

May 24, 2020

India’s ReNew Power Wins 400 Megawatt Renewable Energy Project

Posted by in categories: solar power, sustainability

Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) has awarded a large tender for steady supply of renewable energy. Part of the project awarded under this tender will supply power to a high-profile area in India’s capital city.

May 24, 2020

Italians Can Now Install Rooftop Solar PV Systems For Free

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, government, policy, solar power

The Italian government had one of the early invasive experiences of the covid-19 pandemic. Scientists in Italy responded to the global crisis with serious research into the concern. Perhaps results of these inquiries and related information have affected policy makers. Italian homeowners now have new opportunities to put clean energy on the top of their roofs.

May 22, 2020

A New Bionic Eye Could Give Robots and the Blind 20/20 Vision

Posted by in categories: cyborgs, nanotechnology, robotics/AI, solar power, sustainability, transhumanism

Good news.


In a paper published last week in Nature, though, researchers from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology devised a way to build photosensors directly into a hemispherical artificial retina. This enabled them to create a device that can mimic the wide field of view, responsiveness, and resolution of the human eye.

“The structural mimicry of Gu and colleagues’ artificial eye is certainly impressive, but what makes it truly stand out from previously reported devices is that many of its sensory capabilities compare favorably with those of its natural counterpart,” writes Hongrui Jiang, an engineer at the University of Wisconsin Madison, in a perspective in Nature.

Continue reading “A New Bionic Eye Could Give Robots and the Blind 20/20 Vision” »

May 21, 2020

Transparent Solar Panels: Reforming Future Energy Supply

Posted by in categories: solar power, sustainability

Transparent solar panels are regarded as the “wave of the future” for new solar technologies. Ubiquitous Energy and Physee are 2 pioneers.

May 21, 2020

Solar Technology Breakthrough: World Record Quantum Dot Solar Cell Efficiency

Posted by in categories: nanotechnology, quantum physics, solar power, sustainability

The development of next-generation solar power technology that has potential to be used as a flexible ‘skin’ over hard surfaces has moved a step closer, thanks to a significant breakthrough at The University of Queensland.

UQ researchers set a world record for the conversion of solar energy to electricity via the use of tiny nanoparticles called ‘quantum dots’, which pass electrons between one another and generate electrical current when exposed to solar energy in a solar cell device.

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