The Promising Sun!!!

16 Aug 2009, Comments: | Views: 2737 | | Category: Environment, Energy

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In a world anxious about issues from dwindling supplies of affordable oil to a human-abetted warming of the planet, the sun serves not only as the enabler of life on Earth but also as a tantalizing symbol of sunlight’s promise as a remedy for our energy woes.The sunlight that strikes the surface of the Earth in a day is enough to meet all of humanity’s energy needs for a year, yet only a fraction of one percent of World's electricity comes from the sun. Given the urgency of climate worries and other concerns, solar power in fact needs to emerge as a major player in energy. If the climate change threat is to be countered, for example, carbon emissions of all types must be reduced. Particularly imperative,  is working to decarbonize the electric power sector.So, in the quest for a low-carbon future, how do we transform this minor actor into a major force?

It requires solving two problems at once: the cost of conversion of solar energy and storage.

  • we have to achieve enough cost reductions and efficiency improvements to make solar competitive with fossil fuels.
  • we have to find affordable, reliable ways to store the sun’s energy, so power keeps flowing at night and on sunless days. (Storage turns out to be the rate-limiting technology for almost all alternative sources of power.)

Recently India Prime minister has launched a ground breaking ambitious drive for Road To Solar Energy. In this backdrop we try to capture the innovations going on in one of the most premier research institue of the Wolrd - MIT. Click Here to have a look at various projects that are being taken up by students and faculties of MIT on the MIT magazine MIT SEPCTRUM.

Highlights of MIT research

Here are few highlights of MIT 's on going research on solar energy

  • A critical factor in MIT’s growing strength in technologies that harness the energy in sunlight is its partnership with Italian energy firm Eni S.p.A. The connection was announced by company CEO Paolo Scaroni in 2008. The firm has committed $50 million over five years. Half the funds cover Eni’s participation as a founding corporate member of MITEI( MIT Energy Initiative), and the rest supports the Eni-MIT Solar Frontiers Center at the Institute.  
  • The curtain and its forebears, like the tapestry, have been a feature of dwellings for millennia. But our age is seeing the first-ever curtains that can illuminate rooms at night or power your laptop.Such capabilities, made possible by solar technology designed right into the fabric, represent a key element of the Soft House — a “hybrid house” in which solar textiles collectively generate some 15 kilowatt hours worth of electricity a day.The house, realized in a concept prototype for a German design museum, is the brainchild of Sheila Kennedy, an MIT professor of the practice in architecture. And the dwelling’s energy-harvesting curtains are a big part of its promise. Click Here for more details ( the link opens in new window).
  • Recently, the Chesonis Family Foundation gave MIT $10 million to launch the Solar Revolution Project (SRP), an effort that Chesonis believes will likely lead to solving the world energy problem.The goal of the SRP is for solar energy to replace fossil fuels as the world’s energy source. The project, which will initially fund 20 faculty and 27 students, will explore new materials and systems that could make solar energy available in the near future. Also, it will interact with other MIT solar projects, creating one of the largest interdisciplinary centers at any research university.

  • As the core component of products from computer chips to many solar cells, silicon’s the go-to semiconducting material of our age.But like any such material, it has downsides, and its limited ability to absorb the sun’s rays is a big one. Its shiny surface, for example, reflects much of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, just above the short wavelength end of the visible light spectrum. “Silicon absorbs radiation with wavelengths up to about one micron, which covers some of the infrared,” explains MIT’s Vladimir Bulovic. (A micron is a millionth of a meter). “After that, the photons just pass on through” . Bulovic's concept is to create a second solar cell, with all the functionality of the first, that can be literally printed right onto the silicon. For this he uses quantum dots - 3D crystals which can be programmed to absord the frequenices of choice. He is currently researching on them so as to improve the efficiency of solar cells. -- Click here for more details

    These are in just brief about the on going research at MIT.. to know more Click Here to havea look at the 2009 spring issue of MIT SPECTRUM magazine which is foccused on solar energy. In our coming articles we try to bring you the innovations, discoveries and inventions from various corners of the globe!!!
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