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Researchers Find a Novel Way to Potentially Double Solar Cell Efficiency

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Solar Cell

Affordable solar cells could soon be a reality

Researchers looking into new and sustainable energy have achieved a breakthrough in solar cell technology by reporting the development of a “green antenna” to potentially double the efficiencies of certain solar cells and significantly, make them more affordable.

Solar energy is a proven, inexhaustible source of energy and is slowly findings its way into communities. While installations of solar cells are an upward trend, the implementation of the technology is growing at a slow pace due to certain disadvantages. Initial costs are expensive and aren’t recouped for years, even with the best-subsidized neighborhoods and solar technology is, currently, notoriously inefficient. In proving a much-welcome shot in the proverbial arm for more adopters of solar technology, the development of a new “antenna” as an add-on to certain existing solar cells could potentially double the cells’ efficiency. The researchers behind it also claim that they intend to make consumer-end solar technology, more affordable.

The researchers will be presenting their work at the 250th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Boston, today.

 

Solar Cell Efficiency Gets a Level Up

ElectricitySolar energy helps produce electric current when sunlight is harvested from a broad spectrum of wavelengths, explains Challa V. Kumar, Ph.D., and a part of the research team at the University of Connecticut.

“Most of the light from the sun is emitted over a very broad window of wavelengths,” says Kumar. “If you want to use solar energy to produce (an) electric current, you want to harvest as much of that spectrum as possible.”

However, silicon solar cells that are often purchased by consumers aren’t entirely efficient in the blue area of the light spectrum. To overcome this inherent hurdle, Kumar and his team of researchers built an antenna that collects those unused blue photons before proceeding to convert them into lower energy photons. With this solution, silicon cells can then turn the lower energy photons into electric current, improving the cell’s efficiency.

Many groups around the world are working hard to make this kind of antenna, and ours is the first of its kind in the whole world – boasts Kumar.

Commercially used solar cells that are available in the market today are only about 11 to 15 percent efficient. While they do an able job of converting light from 600 to 1,000 nanometers (nm) into electric current, they fail at the 350 to 600 nm range. Higher-end panels routinely reach 25 percent efficiency, but are very expensive and are unaffordable to most end-users. Certain lab prototypes that are currently being tested can scale, even higher efficiencies, but aren’t viable as an affordable product.

The process of converting unused portions of the light spectrum to the wavelengths acceptable by solar cells is equally expensive, but Kumar and his team found a workaround by using organic dyes.

Dye molecules turn happy when introduced to photons in light, which could then, under the right factors, help relax and emit less frenetic but more silicon cell-friendly photons. In order to get the dye molecules to work together, it’s required that they are wrapped individually and densely in order to adhere to certain quantum mechanics. Here’s how the research team tackled the issue:

  • The dyes were embedded inside a protein-lipid hydrogel after mixing them together, warming them first and then cooling them down to room temperature.
  • This accelerated the material into wrapping around individual dye molecules, whilst still keeping them separated.
  • Now packed densely, the outcome is a thin membrane of pinkish film that can be coated on top of a solar cell.

“It’s very simple chemistry,” Kumar says.

It can be done in the kitchen or in a remote village. That makes it inexpensive to produce.

Moreover, these antennas are also made exclusively from biological and non-toxic materials. They’re even edible, in theory. “Not that you would want to eat your solar cells, but they should be compostable so they won’t accumulate in the environment,” Kumar adds.

Kumar and his team are actively working with a Connecticut-based company to figure out ways in implementing the artificial ‘green’ (and edible) antenna to commercially available solar cells. Furthermore, they are also trying to use the highly-versatile hydrogel for white light-emitting diodes and drug delivery, confirms Kumar.

Images from Shutterstock and Pixabay.

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4 stars on average, based on 1 rated postsSamburaj is the contributing editor at Hacked and keeps tabs on science, technology and cyber security.




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Altcoins

Cardano (ADA) Has Big Security Boost as Trezor Ready to Support ADA

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  • Hardware wallet manufacturer set to support Cardano’s ADA, which is a big security boost.
  • ADA/USDT still demonstrates some near-term vulnerabilities to the downside. 

Trezor Set to Support Cardano’s ADA

IOHK were very much pleased to announce, that Trezor are currently undergoing preparation to support Cardano (ADA). Trezor are a globally known hardware wallet, which facilitates cryptocurrencies to be stored. They are renowned for the security and being able to store the key to the wallet safely. The company is a large manufacturer of hardware wallets. A huge boost in security for the foundation’s native token, something token holders should be pleased about.

The update came from the Cardano founder, Charles Hotkinson, via his Twitter account, indicating this could be the case before the month of November. Separately, Trezor themselves tweeted, “have you ever wondered what we are working on? Have a look at our newly created roadmap, where you can see all the new stuff that is coming up! https://wiki.trezor.io/Roadmap It lists other tokens which will be receiving support in addition to Cardano’s ADA that day. This includes the likes of Monero (XMR), Stellar (XLM), Ripple (XRP), Zencash (ZEN) and Zcash (ZEC).

What Next for Cardano?

The Cardano Founder, Charles Hoskinson, was recently speaking about how the team is going to be providing more insightful updates. He noted that they will soon start the creation and posting of videos with their future projects.

There is much anticipation from token holders regarding the imminent 1.4 update. Given Cardano’s growing number of users, this is said to be a large factor to the development of a new update from the foundation. This 1.4 update is expected to help Cardano gain further traction in bringing in more users to its platform and the use of its native token.

Technical Review ADA/USDT – 4-hour Chart

ADA/USDT 4-hour chart

Downside pressure continues to keep ADA/USDT at bay. The lack of announcement from Cardano with regards to its ecosystem update, as mentioned above, perhaps could be also taking its toll on the price. It is currently running within its 8th consecutive trading session in the red. No sign of bounce yet.

ADA/USDT price action remains stuck and dictated within this triangular pattern formation. The market bears, with the current losing streak, are set to test the key near-term support to the downside. This is seen at the lower part of the above-mentioned pattern, tracking at $0.0728 area, also within a touted demand zone. A breach potentially seen here, could see a very fast move back down to 18th September low area, around $0.0620. As a result, it is hard to ignore that the current technical set up, suggest of vulnerabilities.

In terms of resistance, this can be seen at the upper part of the pattern, tracking at $0.0800 mark. Enough upside momentum could see a breakout higher, back towards $0.0950 territory, price last within this proximity on 23rd September. Further north, any breach of the mentioned areas, $0.10000, will quickly be back in the picture.

ADA/USDT daily chart

To conclude as mentioned above, the near-term support $0.0728, is vital for ADA/USDT to hold. A failure of comfort here, could open the doors to a fresh wave of selling pressure.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Cybersecurity

Israeli Researchers Turn Speakers/Headphones Into Eavesdropping Microphones

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In the current age, even the most secure software and the best security practices might not be enough to prevent someone from being spied upon. Researchers continue to find novel and inventive ways to gather more data on everyday computer users, and the latest research from Israel’s Ben Gurion University is exceptional in this regard.

Using software alone, Mordechai Guri, Yosef Solewicz, Andrey Daidakulov, and Yuval Elovici were able to convert a given pair of headphones or speakers into Orwellian microphones beyond the user’s control or ability to patch. Their method [PDF] exploits a flaw in RealTek hardware chips, which are one of the most widely used chips in motherboards around the world. Companies like Dell, HP, and Compaq regularly utilize RealTek’s industry standard audio chips in their products. Beyond that, motherboards sold to consumers wishing to build their own systems often also include the hardware.

A simple patch or firmware upgrade will not fix this flaw, making the exploit particularly delightful to intelligence agencies, profit-motivated hackers (think boardroom conference calls), and others. Basically, anywhere a computer has an audio output, which in the case of laptops is everywhere, audio can now be intercepted and then relayed with roughly the same quality as if a microphone itself had been compromised. The images of people like Mark Zuckerberg covering up their webcam and microphone with electrical tape now seem trivial.

Jack re-tasking – the process of converting an output jack to either an input or a two-way port – has long been a possibility, but few developers make use of it. Most laptops and desktops will have separate ports for each, while smartphones and the like often require hardware that can do both. But the innovation on the part of Ben Gurion’s researchers involves making any regular output hardware capable of doing as much with only software. They write:

The fact that headphones and earphones are physically built like microphones, coupled with the fact that an audio port’s role in the PC can be altered programmatically from output to input, creates a vulnerability which can be abused by hackers.

The researchers noticed that the design of most audio input and output hardware was basically identical at the metal, drawing the following illustration for clarification:

Source: Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Cyber Security Research Center

Source: Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Cyber Security Research Center

One saving grace is that the audio output device must be “passive,” or unpowered. This means that if your speakers require power to work, they are not currently able to use these to listen to you. However, the vast majority of laptop speakers and earbuds are, by nature and necessity, passive. The researchers note that while they focused on RealTek codec hardware because of their popularity, other manufacturers also have the ability to retask jacks, which is the heart of the exploit.

While this may seem scary at first, it should be noted that, like anything else on your computer, audio input and output are data. They can therefore be encrypted with keys that are local to the machine, and it would seem that this new exploit opens up a new avenue of research for cryptographic researchers to institute audio encryption in the same way that full-disk encryption has become normalized.

Here is a demonstration of the method in action:

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5 stars on average, based on 2 rated postsP. H. Madore has covered the cryptocurrency beat over the course of hundreds of articles for Hacked's sister site, CryptoCoinsNews, as well as some of her competitors. He is a major contributing developer to the Woodcoin project, and has made technical contributions on a number of other cryptocurrency projects. In spare time, he recently began a more personalized, weekly newsletter at http://ico.phm.link




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Electronics

Chinese Physicists Achieve Record-Breaking Quantum Cryptography Breakthrough

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Researchers at the University of Science and Technology of China and other Chinese labs, with the collaboration of a lab in the US, have implemented a secure quantum protocol known as Measurement-Device-Independent Quantum Key Distribution (MDIQKD), suitable for practical networks and devices, over a distance of 404 km. The breakthrough, which doubles the previous MDIQKD record, opens the door to secure wide area quantum communication networks.

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