A lab at the Massachusetts institute of technology has developed a new technology capable of turning a leaf into electricity. Well, not exactly. The leaf is actually a specially designed solar collector suspended in a pool of water. And the electricity it generates is from the sun. But with the new system it uses, it may prove to be over 10 times more efficient than current solar panel technology. With numbers like that, solar power may be taking the next few steps toward becoming a feasible power source.
Solar technology has been around since 1941 when Russel Ohl invented the first silicon power cell. But since then, the power sources have become increasingly efficient. Ohl’s power cell would not have been feasible for mass production and power consumption for cost and efficiency reasons, but as time rolled on newer and more powerful systems were developed using a plethora of new technologies. And since then the development of commercial solar panels there has been a race toward a cheaper and more efficient solar cell. And the new leaf developed by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology may be just the ticket.
The new leaf is suspended in water so that it maintains a cooler temperature. The method is similar to the developments made by Daniel Nocera at Nocera labs in their artificial photosynthetic model allowing scientists to turn solar energy into a fuel which can then be used in hydrogen engines. Hydrogen is one of several energy alternatives currently being explored by scientists worldwide as fuel costs continue to rise and political and economic instability due to fuel costs continues to be a problem.
Other solar technologies at the brink of hopefully changing the world include Sungeny, an Australian development firm that uses solar generators that float on top of water. The panels use magnifying glass to heat a small solar cell. The lenses track the sun to create what some might consider a solar powered laser to heat the panels. Meanwhile, the water the cell floats on keeps the cell from overheating. During hail storms and other dangerous weather conditions, the system can be pulled underwater by anchors to protect them from the airborn projectiles.
And these are only two of the myriad solar technologies coming out to heat and power the future. Unfortunately, even with their increased efficiency, solar power still has a long way to go before it is an effective system for powering the world over things such as fossil fuels and nuclear energy. But with nuclear energy fears rising over incidents such as the Earthquake and subsequent disaster at Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, the hopes for nuclear scientists are not the highest they have ever been. Will we be seeing millions of tiny power cells spreading out across the world in the near future? One of the greatest concerns with solar power is the vast amount of space they would require. But with increased efficiency, the panels developed at the Massachusetts University of Technology could reduce that amount of space up to 90%.