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Efficient next-generation solar panels on horizon following breakthrough

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Efficient next-generation solar panels on horizon following breakthrough


Efficient next-generation solar panels on horizon following breakthrough

by Staff Writers

Guildford UK (SPX) Oct 16, 2023






A scientific breakthrough brings mass production of the next generation of cheaper and lighter perovskite solar cells one step closer thanks to researchers at the University of Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI).

A nanoscale ‘ink’ coating of aluminium oxide on metal halide perovskite improves the potential of this emerging photovoltaic technology and stabilises the drop in energy output which currently plagues perovskite technology.



Hashini Perera, lead author of the study at the University of Surrey said: “In the past, metal oxides have been shown to either benefit or degrade the performance of perovskite solar cells. We’ve identified aluminium oxide which can improve performance and minimises the drop in efficiency during conditioning of perovskite solar cells. We show that this nano-oxide allows a uniform coating of perovskite material on highly promising organic molecules that self-assemble on a surface and improve device output.”



Dr Imalka Jayawardena, from the University of Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute said: “Performance limits of traditional solar cells are why researchers are switching to examining perovskite as the next-generation solar technology, especially as applications both terrestrial and in space are rapidly growing. Our key development in solar panel technology shows a cost-effective approach to scaling of perovskite solar cells, a development which could help countries around the world to reach their net zero targets faster.”



Prof. Ravi Silva, corresponding author from the ATI, University of Surrey said: “Solar and wind energy costs are rapidly decreasing based on technology improvements, to the level where worldwide over 80% of all new additional power generation capacity is based on renewables. The levelised cost of solar electricity is now cheaper than most other power generating sources. With the maturing of perovskite solar modules, the levelised cost of electricity will significantly decrease further, and that is why this is such an exciting area to work.”



The research was published in the journal RRL Solar.



Research Report:Modification of Hydrophobic Self-Assembled Monolayers with Nanoparticles for Improved Wettability and Enhanced Carrier Lifetimes Over Large Areas in Perovskite Solar Cells


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Soft, Stretchable Jelly Batteries Inspired by Electric Eels

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Soft, Stretchable Jelly Batteries Inspired by Electric Eels


Soft, Stretchable Jelly Batteries Inspired by Electric Eels

by Sophie Jenkins

London, UK (SPX) Jul 18, 2024






Researchers at the University of Cambridge have developed innovative, stretchable “jelly batteries” with potential applications in wearable devices, soft robotics, and even brain implants for drug delivery and epilepsy treatment.

Inspired by electric eels, which use modified muscle cells known as electrocytes to generate electric shocks, the Cambridge team created these batteries with a similar layered structure. This design enables them to deliver an electric current effectively.



The new jelly batteries can stretch over ten times their original length without losing conductivity, marking the first successful combination of such high stretchability and conductivity in a single material. The findings have been published in the journal Science Advances.



These batteries are made from hydrogels, which are 3D polymer networks containing more than 60% water. The polymers are interconnected by reversible interactions that control the material’s mechanical properties.



Stephen O’Neill, the first author from Cambridge’s Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry, highlighted the challenge in creating a material that is both stretchable and conductive. “It’s difficult to design a material that is both highly stretchable and highly conductive, since those two properties are normally at odds with one another,” he said. “Typically, conductivity decreases when a material is stretched.”



Co-author Dr Jade McCune from the Department of Chemistry explained, “Normally, hydrogels are made of polymers that have a neutral charge, but if we charge them, they can become conductive. And by changing the salt component of each gel, we can make them sticky and squish them together in multiple layers, so we can build up a larger energy potential.”



Unlike conventional electronics, which rely on rigid materials and electron charge carriers, these jelly batteries use ions to carry the charge, similar to electric eels.



The hydrogels’ strong adhesion is due to reversible bonds formed between layers using barrel-shaped molecules called cucurbiturils, which act like molecular handcuffs. This strong adhesion ensures that the jelly batteries can stretch without the layers separating and without losing conductivity.



Professor Oren Scherman, Director of the Melville Laboratory for Polymer Synthesis, who led the research with Professor George Malliaras from the Department of Engineering, emphasized the biomedical potential of these hydrogels. “We can customise the mechanical properties of the hydrogels so they match human tissue,” he said. “Since they contain no rigid components such as metal, a hydrogel implant would be much less likely to be rejected by the body or cause the build-up of scar tissue.”



In addition to their flexibility, the hydrogels are tough and can withstand squashing without permanent deformation. They also possess self-healing properties.



Future research will focus on testing these hydrogels in living organisms to evaluate their medical application potential.



Research Report:Highly Stretchable Dynamic Hydrogels for Soft Multilayer Electronics


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Powering The World in the 21st Century at Energy-Daily.com





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Astrobotic’s VOLT rover passes key Lunar surface tests

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Astrobotic’s VOLT rover passes key Lunar surface tests


Astrobotic’s VOLT rover passes key Lunar surface tests

by Clarence Oxford

Los Angeles CA (SPX) Jul 17, 2024







Astrobotic has advanced its efforts to create a lunar power grid by beginning a summer-long test campaign for its VSAT Optimized for Lunar Traverse (VOLT). The VOLT rover, designed to traverse the Moon’s surface, features a vertical solar array to harness solar energy for charging various lunar assets such as habitats, rovers, and scientific instruments, particularly at the lunar south pole.

The VOLT engineering model’s mobile base underwent rigorous testing at NASA’s Glenn Research Center’s Simulated Lunar Operations Laboratory (SLOPE) in Cleveland. These tests assessed the rover’s stability, gimbal functionality, and sun tracking on a simulated lunar regolith slope. Although designed for 15-degree inclines, the rover exceeded expectations by maintaining stability on a 20-degree slope without slippage.



The gimbal of VOLT kept a level position within a 3-degree tolerance, proving it can support the 60-foot vertical solar array scheduled for integration later this year. NASA Glenn’s motion capture cameras confirmed the rover’s stability on a regolith surface, ensuring its capability to navigate the expected terrain of the lunar south pole.



“To supply continuous power at the poles of the Moon, we need to take advantage of existing peaks of persistent light: locations with near constant sunlight throughout the year. Since most of these locations are at crater rims with high slope angles, we designed VOLT to deploy on extreme slopes. These tests proved that our system can operate successfully, with plenty of margin for more extreme locations,” said Robert Rolley, Astrobotic’s Principal Investigator for VOLT.



Before the test campaign, Astrobotic’s team developed, prototyped, and assembled the VOLT’s mobile base, a rover with a chassis the size of a minivan. The assembly, including electronics and the gimbal system, was completed within 12 weeks. The gimbal is crucial for orienting the solar array to capture sunlight, leveling it on uneven terrain, and maintaining stability while autonomously tracking the Sun in 360 degrees. The VOLT can be delivered to the Moon on Astrobotic’s Griffin lunar lander and operate independently without needing a tow.



VOLT is an integral part of Astrobotic’s LunaGrid system, designed to deliver power on the Moon. LunaGrid is a network of tethered VOLTs that generate and distribute power via wired connections and wireless chargers onboard tethered CubeRovers, acting as mobile power plugs. This system aims to support lunar systems during the day and ensure their survival through the lunar night.



“It’s imperative that we solve the power-generation challenge on the Moon for sustainable long-term operations,” said John Landreneau, Senior Project Manager at Astrobotic. “VOLT’s ability to precisely drive and operate in the most desirable areas for solar capture and distribution sets this technology apart. With strategic partnerships and novel tech developed in-house by our team, VOLT and the LunaGrid system are making great progress to bring reliable power to lunar surface systems like landers, rovers, habitats, and science suites.”



The complete VOLT engineering model will be unveiled in late October at the Keystone Space Conference in Pittsburgh, PA. Astrobotic aims to deploy and demonstrate LunaGrid elements on the Moon’s surface by mid-2026, with the first operational LunaGrid expected by 2028 at the lunar south pole.


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Researchers utilize recycled silicon anodes to enhance lithium-ion battery efficiency

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Researchers utilize recycled silicon anodes to enhance lithium-ion battery efficiency


Researchers utilize recycled silicon anodes to enhance lithium-ion battery efficiency

by Simon Mansfield

Sydney, Australia (SPX) Jul 17, 2024






Researchers from the Qingdao Institute of Bioenergy and Bioprocess Technology (QIBEBT) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have crafted low-cost micro-sized silicon anodes from recycled photovoltaic waste, thanks to an innovative electrolyte design.

Their important research, published in Nature Sustainability on July 16, paves the way for more sustainable, cost-effective, and high-energy-density batteries, potentially revolutionizing energy storage systems for electric vehicles and renewable energy uses.



Silicon anodes are known for significantly increasing the energy density of lithium-ion batteries compared to traditional graphite anodes but face challenges due to substantial volume expansion during charge-discharge cycles. This expansion can lead to mechanical fractures and degrade battery performance.



To address these issues, the research team, led by Prof. CUI Guanglei, developed micro-sized silicon (um-Si) particles from photovoltaic waste as a promising alternative.



When combined with a specially formulated ether-based electrolyte, these um-Si anodes show exceptional electrochemical stability, maintaining an average coulombic efficiency of 99.94% and retaining 83.13% of their initial capacity after 200 cycles.



“This work not only suggests a more sustainable supply source for silicon particles but also addresses the major challenges facing micro-sized silicon anode materials,” said Dr. LIU Tao, first author of the study.



The success of the anodes is attributed to their unique solid-electrolyte interphase (SEI) chemistry, stemming from the team’s innovative electrolyte composition of 3 M LiPF6 dissolved in a 1:3 volume ratio of 1,3-dioxane and 1,2-diethoxyethane. This formulation promotes the development of a dual-layer SEI that is both flexible and robust, holding together fractured silicon particles while enhancing ionic conduction and minimizing side reactions.



The NCM811||um-Si pouch cells with the new anode and electrolyte combination survived 80 cycles and delivered an impressive energy density of 340.7 Wh kg-1 under harsh conditions. This performance marks a significant improvement over conventional lithium-ion batteries, which are nearing their energy density limits.



Dr. DONG Tiantian, another co-first author of the study, highlighted the environmental benefits: “The sustainable sourcing of silicon from discarded solar panels mitigates both the economic and environmental impacts of photovoltaic waste. Converting waste into valuable battery components significantly reduces the cost of lithium-ion batteries and increases their accessibility.”



“By using recycled materials and advanced chemical engineering, we have demonstrated that high-performance and environmentally sustainable lithium-ion batteries are not only possible, but also within reach,” said Prof. CUI, who is optimistic that this research will lead to the development of next-generation batteries capable of powering everything from electric vehicles to grid-scale energy storage.



This major approach exemplifies how innovative recycling and meticulous materials science can converge to solve some of the most pressing challenges in energy technology today.



Research Report:Recycled micro-sized silicon anode for high-voltage lithium-ion batteries


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Qingdao Institute of Bioenergy and Bioprocess Technology

Powering The World in the 21st Century at Energy-Daily.com





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