Next Wave of Solar Cells Are Transparent

The windows of buildings, homes and cars might be the perfect place for transparent solar materials that can supplement the energy produced by the bulkier rooftop units.

Researchers from Michigan State University (MSU) have created the transparent materials that could be applied to windows, utilizing a massive source of untapped energy to cut down on the use of fossil fuels.

The researchers developed a transparent luminescent solar concentrator that creates solar energy when placed on a window without disrupting the view. The material is thin and plastic-like and can be used on buildings, car windows, cell phones or other devices with a clear surface.

“Highly transparent solar cells represent the wave of the future for new solar applications,” Richard Lunt, the Johansen Crosby Endowed Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at MSU, said in a statement. “We analyzed their potential and show that by harvesting only invisible light, these devices can provide a similar electricity-generation potential as rooftop solar while providing additional functionality to enhance the efficiency of buildings, automobiles and mobile electronics.”

The system uses organic molecules that absorbs invisible wavelengths of sunlight.

According to Lunt, the materials can be tuned to pick up just the ultraviolet and the near-infrared wavelengths that then convert the energy into electricity.

The researchers estimated that there are between 5 billion and 7 billion square meters of glass surfaces in the U.S and transparent solar technologies have the potential of supplying about 40 percent of energy demand in the U.S.—approximately the same potential as rooftop solar units.

“The complimentary deployment of both technologies could get us close to 100 percent of our demand if we also improve energy storage,” Lunt said.

Highly transparent solar applications are recording efficiencies above 5 percent, according to Lunt, while traditional solar panels typically are about 15 to 18 percent efficient. The researchers believe the transparent units could potentially get close to the efficiency of their opaque counterparts.

“That is what we are working towards,” he said. “Traditional solar applications have been actively researched for over five decades, yet we have only been working on these highly transparent solar cells for about five years.

“Ultimately, this technology offers a promising route to inexpensive, widespread solar adoption on small and large surfaces that were previously inaccessible,” Lunt added.

cycle on water with the pedal-electric manta5 hydrofoil bike

You could say that the the aquatic equivalent of the car is the motorboat, and the aquatic equivalent of the motorcycle is the Jet Ski – but what about the equivalent of the e-bike? That’s what New Zealand outdoors entrepreneur Guy Howard-Willis wondered back in 2010, when he conceived of the Manta5. In the years since, bicycle designer Roland Alonzo brought the concept to life, in the form of an electric-assist pedal-powered hydrofoil bike. Now, it’s just about ready to enter the market.

The Manta5 has an aluminum frame, two carbon fiber hydrofoils that provide lift, and a 400-watt motor that augments the rider’s pedalling power to turn the propeller. Although it has no actual hull, it does have buoyancy modules that keep it afloat when stopped. Additionally, unlike the case with some hobbyist hydrofoil bikes, it’s possible to get back on and get it planing again, if you should dismount while out on the water.


the pedal-electric, 400-W motor propels the user across the water


The whole thing weighs around 20 kg (44 lb), and can be partially disassembled for transport in the back of a car. It’s designed for riders weighing between 70 and 100 kg (154 and 220 lb), and can be used in both fresh and salt water.

As with land-going e-bikes, riders can adjust the amount of electrical assistance provided, depending on how hard they want to work. The current prototype version can run for an average of about one hour per charge of its removable battery, and reach a top speed of 15 to 20 km/h (9 to 12 mph). Plans call for the first limited-edition production model – the Hydrofoiler XE-1, pictured below – to be faster.



So, when can you buy one? Well, the XE-1 should make its public debut in mid-November, then be available for pre-sale within New Zealand starting late this year or early next – delivery is estimated for late 2018. Pricing has yet to be established, although it will reportedly be “similar to that of other quality water sports products.” An international roll-out will follow.

“I want these bikes to go well beyond just being a leisure product – I want it to be a sports product so it’s competitive,” says Howard-Willis. “If it’s competitive it’s a whole different market it fits into, and who knows, one day it might be in the Olympic games. I can see that, it may take a while to get there, maybe I’m too ambitious, but like I say, I’ve always been a dreamer.”

Iceland gets world’s first carbon removal solution through direct air capture

Swiss cleantech company Climeworks has partnered with Reykjavik Energy to combine direct air capture (DAC) technology for the world’s first time with safe and permanent geological storage. As part of the CarbFix2 project Climeworks will demonstrate a safe, economically-viable and highly scalable carbon removal technology. This type of solution has been recognized as a crucial component in efforts to achieve global warming targets.

The EU-backed collaborative research project centers around one of the world’s largest geothermal power plants in Hellisheidi, Iceland, where CO2 is currently injected and mineralized at an industrial scale. A Climeworks DAC module has been installed on-site to capture CO2 from ambient air for permanent storage underground, thus creating a carbon removal solution. Scientific studies have warned that the two-degree climate target is not achievable without carbon removal solutions. Carbon negative solutions are also likely to be a key theme at the UN Climate Conference COP 23 starting in Bonn next month.



A testing phase has started during which the CO2 is captured from ambient air, bound to water, and sent to more than 700 meters underground. There the CO2 reacts with the basaltic bedrock and forms solid minerals, creating a permanent storage solution. Climeworks’ technology draws in ambient air and captures the CO2 with a patented filter. The filter is then heated with low-grade heat from the geothermal plant to release the pure CO2 which then can be stored underground.

During the trial Climeworks will test how its technology works with the specific weather conditions at the location in the South West of Iceland. The CarbFix2 project is a major step forward for DAC technology. Earlier this year the company made history with the world’s first commercially-viable DAC plant near Zurich which filters 900 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere and supplies it to a local greenhouse.

Christoph Gebald, Founder and CEO at Climeworks: “The potential of scaling-up our technology in combination with CO2 storage, is enormous. Not only here in Iceland but also in numerous other regions which have similar rock formations. Our plan is to offer carbon removal to individuals, corporates and organizations as a means to reverse their non-avoidable carbon emissions.”

Edda Sif Aradóttir, CarbFix project leader at Reykjavik Energy: “We have developed CarbFix at a unique location here in Iceland and proved that we can permanently turn this greenhouse gas into rock. By imitating natural processes this happens in less than two years. By integrating the Climeworks and CarbFix technologies we create a solution that is deployable where we have basalt but independent of the location of emissions. This is important to scale up the CarbFix approach on a global level.”

Oxford Is Creating a World First Zero Emission Zone by 2035

Oxford in the UK wants to become the world’s first carbon emission-free city by 2035, with a plan to ban all petrol and diesel vehicles from the city centre over the next 20 years. The initiative will run in phases, with the first restrictions coming into place in 2020.

The move is partly a response to the levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the centre of Oxford, levels which have been dropping but remain dangerously high – the gas is produced by burning fuel and causes breathing difficulties and other respiratory problems.

According to the authorities, only allowing zero-emission vehicles into Oxford city centre by 2035 would cut down nitrogen dioxide to “near-background levels”, a reduction of up to 74 percent on some of Oxford’s streets.

“Toxic and illegal air pollution in the city centre is damaging the health of Oxford’s residents,” says one of the Oxford City Council board members, John Tanner. “A step change is urgently needed; the Zero Emission Zone is that step change.”

“All of us who drive or use petrol or diesel vehicles through Oxford are contributing to the city’s toxic air. Everyone needs to do their bit – from national government and local authorities, to businesses and residents – to end this public health emergency.”

Home to the oldest university in the English-speaking world, Oxford’s city centre is characterised by tightly-packed historical buildings and narrow streets, meaning traffic often gets clogged up and vehicle emissions are heavily concentrated as a result.

Proposals on which types of vehicles should be banned first, and from which streets, will be revealed on Monday at the start of a six-week public consultation process – anyone who wants to comment on the plans will be able to do so.

Petrol and diesel taxis, cars, light commercial vehicles, and buses would be targeted first, with fuel-burning heavy goods vehicles the last to go. By 2035, you’ll have to go electric if you want to drive into the centre of Oxford.

According to data from the World Health Organisation, Oxford is one of 11 British cities that have more toxic PM10 particles in the air than is safe – that’s particulate matter like dust, soot, and smoke up to 10 micrometres (μm) in diameter.

Oxford isn’t the only city struggling with air pollution, of course, and the UK capital London also has plans of its own for an ultra-low emission zone. From September 2020, you’ll need to drive a zero-emission vehicle or pay a toll to get into parts of London city centre.

More broadly the UK is planning to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040. France has committed to the same year, and China is planning a similar move, though it hasn’t decided on a timeline yet.

All eyes will be on the pioneering scheme in Oxford to see what impact the moves have on traffic, health, and air pollution. The city already has a Low Emission Zone, put in place in 2014.

“We want to hear from everyone who uses the city centre – including businesses, bus and taxi firms and local residents so that we get the fullest possible picture,” says Councillor Yvonne Constance.

“Pragmatism will be an important part of anything we plan but we have set the ambition and now we would like to hear people’s views on our proposals.”

Oxford City Council has also put together a video on the proposals, which you can see below:



Dubai makes moves to install solar carports

Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) has launched a new project to install solar panels in the emirate, Dewa said on Friday.

The first two locations for solar carports will be at the Dewa headquarters near Wafi Mall and at the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment building.

“We aim to spread the experience to a large number of public and private buildings in Dubai, supporting national efforts to reduce [the UAE’s] carbon footprint and increase the proportion of solar energy in the environment-friendly energy mix in Dubai,” said Waleed Salman, Dewa’s executive vice president of business development.

The two projects will generate nearly 2,000 kilowatts, or the equivalent of removing 300 cars from the road.

“Through the project, we intend to provide comfort and enhance the happiness of our stakeholders, to fulfill our mission, in line with our core values, as well as promote the initiative among all stakeholders, both individuals and institutions, in the public and private sectors,” said Saeed Al Tayer, managing director and chief executive of Dewa.

The scheme is part of Shams Dubai, an initiative launched in 2015 to add solar power to buildings throughout the emirate. Mr Al Tayer said that the utility had completed linking its network with 450 residential and commercial buildings through Shams Dubai, producing 17.7 megawatts of solar energy.

Under the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050, clean energy will make up 7 per cent of the emirate’s total energy generated by 2020, 25 per cent by 2030 and 75 per cent by 2050.

Mr Al Tayer added: This will happen by providing practical examples of green and sustainable buildings, to spread a culture of sustainability, reduce energy consumption, and dependence on traditional energy sources, and help Dubai’s government organisations achieve the goal set by the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy to reduce by 20 per cent the energy consumption in all government buildings by 2020.”

Electric-hybrid planes could be in the air by 2022

Zunum Aero, the Boeing and JetBlue-backed hybrid-electric aviation startup, just set a delivery date for its first next-gen airplanes: 2022.

The company released the design specs for its debut 12-seat production aircraft, its first major announcement since emerging from stealth mode back in April with big plans to revolutionize the aviation industry.

The company introduced the hybrid-electric planes with a strategy to cut down today’s frustratingly long flight times and expensive ticket costs by focusing on short routes between the US’s underutilized system of small regional airports. Zunum claims that its smaller, more fuel efficient crafts could make regional travel much more feasible than today’s gas-guzzlers tied to the major airport system.

Zunum’s new craft design boasts a hybrid-electric system that aims for a range of up to 700 miles and a top cruise speed of 340 mph. The planes are projected to have 80 percent lower emissions and noise than traditional aircraft, which could be especially appealing for smaller, regional airports.

The craft’s batteries will be integrated into its wings, and Zunum claims that its hybrid-electric series powertrain is “future-proofed,” since it can use any type of battery technology. The company hopes that battery tech can catch up to its design, so the plane was engineered to someday transition to fly on only electric power.

Zunum is banking on a regional embrace of the hybrid planes, and if its estimates are correct, that could be great news for harried air travelers sick of long, costly trips between major airports. The company claims its regional model could, for example, cut the estimated four hour, 50 minute flight from Boston to Washington, DC down to just a two and a half hour trip — for a 33 percent discount.

Test flights are slated to begin in 2019, and Zunum plans to open up a second development center in the Chicago area to expand its operations.

Zunum could be the first to put electric or hybrid jets in the air, but they won’t fly alone forever if other aviation projects in the works are fully realized. Massachusetts-based Wright Electric has partnered with EasyJet to develop a fully-electric passenger plane with the goal to launch in the next ten years, while Airbus is also working in the space. Other companies like Boom and even NASA are working to introduce cheaper supersonic flight routes — so the way we fly could be much different in the future.

Sweltering September smashes Australia’s temperature records

Climate change blamed as continent logs hottest September day on record, with average maximum temperature of 33.47C

Australian temperature records tumbled again in September this year, with the country experiencing the hottest day since records began, and New South Wales breaking that record twice within a few days.

As always, particular weather events caused the records to be broken. But in a special climate statement, the Bureau of Meteorology said climate change also played a role, and earlier research has shown global warming has massively increased the chance of these records being broken.

On 22 September 2017 Australia experienced its hottest September day since records began more than a century ago, reaching an average maximum temperature across the continent of 33.47C – breaking the previous record set nine years ago.

NSW reached a record September temperature of 35.81C on 23 September – almost 15C above the average September temperature and more than 1.6C above the record set in 2003.

But in some locations, records tumbled multiple times in September. NSW recorded a September temperature above 40C for the first time in Wilcannia, setting a record measurement of 40.5C on 23 September. That record lasted just four days, with Wanaaring breaking it on 27 September, reaching 41.4C.

Queensland also experienced its hottest day over the whole state on 27 September, reaching 42.5C in Birdsville, and Victoria recorded a new September temperature record, measuring 37.7C for the first time at Mildura.

The average temperature for the month was not a record temperature, with that record being set by a highly unusual spring in 2013. Research conducted in 2014 by Sophie Lewis from the Australian National University found if greenhouse gases in the atmosphere were at pre-industrial levels, Australia would break that September record just once every 704 years. But current levels of greenhouse gases make that 16 times more likely.

Lewis said that estimate was now considered conservative, with actual extreme weather being seen as almost impossible without the influence of greenhouse gases.

The Bureau of Meteorology said: “While all exceptional climate events have proximate causes in antecedent and concurrent weather conditions, long-term trends now also play a role.

“Studies undertaken by the bureau and other scientific institutions have shown that climate change has contributed to the severity and frequency of recent heat events, including spring warmth.”