Organic LEDs take electricity and convert it directly into light, a
wonderful and useful purpose that we have great hopes for. But what if
the process could run both ways. Sometimes the OLED turns electricity
into light, and other times it turns light into electricity. It's
basically the same thing, just backwards, right?
Well, apparently, it is possible, as scientists and engineers at
Cornell have done it! These have all the wonderful properties of
OLED's, they're flexible, they produce a lot of light per watt, and
they can be mass produced inexpensively. But also, when exposed to
bright light, the reaction is reversed, and a current flows out of the
OLED instead of into it.
So now, OLEDs can be both an energy collector and a light emitter,
depending on the needs of the consumer. Imagine your cell phone's
backlight collecting energy from ambient light when not in use. Or
your windows collecting energy during the day and then producing light
Soon, OLEDs may offer both low-cost lighting and low-cost energy
production. A paper on this subject was just published in the journal
Science, in which the Cornell researchers recognized that they needed
to discover ways to make the photovoltaic reaction more efficient
before it can be mass produced.
We're don't generally promote the mass slaughter of tens of thousands
of animals. But under very specific conditions, we'd say it's OK. For
example, if the animals are exotic, invasive, poisonous, dangerous, and
live in mounds of earth that likely bubbled up from the seventh circle
Kill Fire Ants...do everything you can do it. But if you can do it with
a solar ant charmer and absolutely no pesticides, do that first. This
converts the suns rays into low energy electric signals
that attract ants to the device. Once in the cone, the ants can't
escape, and simply pile up in a mass of teaming ant flesh that is
probably the most dangerous thing you will ever have in your back
yard. Frankly, I'm surprised that the government didn't develop these,
seal them, and then write up a classified plan on how to use them as
bio-terror weapons. I am so afraid of the picture on the bottom...I can't tell
you. I'll just say I've had bad experiences, bad experiences that
ended with me pantsless
After you've collected a good number of ants (there's a gauge on the
side that tells you roughly how many you've caught, topping out at
50,000,) close the device and lift it out of the ground (preferably
while wearing a bio-hazard suit.) And then add soapy water to the ants
to kill them. Wash out the device, and do it all over again.
Technically it's a very eco
-friendly way to kill the bastards, but it seems extremely frightening to me.
OK, we don't usually think of our portable music as having emissions
but, in this age, almost everything that uses electricity has some CO2
byproduct. Well, not these headphones. Just put them on your head
and, as long as it's not night time, or dreary, they'll pick up local
radio and thump it into your eardrums using the power of the sun.
And, the battery even charges while you're listening. One hour of
sunlight can provide enough juice for up to 3 hours of music. No
wires, no charging, it's all built in and you can get it all for $38
What now? Well, Taiwan is finally putting it's massive electronics
manufacturing base to work for itself. They're creating a jacket,
presumably, that will have solar panels integrated into it. The solar
panels will power some various health-monitoring devices (body heat,
heart rate, blood pressure, and an RFID emitter that will beam the
information to the health provider.
Freakin' weird. From Infoworld
: "A system could
be designed that's powerful enough
to run a laptop computer, but it would take a lot more solar panels --
and therefore a very big jacket, said Chang Cheng-tung, deputy chief of
system integration at the institute." Apparently we could see these
'e-health' jackets within a couple of years. I like the idea, I just
probably won't like the jacket.
Usually when we talk about solar cells, there are just two varieties.
Silicon and thin film. Both were our ideas. We thought, "Well, if a
photon can knock an electron off a substance a plant made, why not a
substance people made." So we came up with substances that lose
electrons when hit with photons.
But, just now, when blogging about Jimmy Stewart and the future of
as seen in 1938, I realized that EcoGeek has never once
mentioned what is still the future of solar power: Porphyrin. Instead
of creating our own substances that will lose electrons, some
scientists are using porphyrin, the chemical that plants use to convert
light into electricity.
Porphyrin chemistry is confusing and troublesome. And while it's been
going on for a while, practical applications are still a ways off.
But, when they do arrive, we can expect much broader capabilities from
solar power. Porphyrin complexes, for example, can be painted on in
huge swaths or incorporated into plastics. They're also two to three
times more efficient than anything silicon or thin film.
The Fresh Science Initiative has announced
that a team in Sydney has
taken the first steps to practical organic solar cells. By attaching
hundreds porphyrin molecules to the outside of several bucky balls, the
team has managed to create a high enough density of porpharyn molecules
to produce a significant amount of electricity. Though they're
certainly in the first stages, it will be very exciting to follow their
Leaves are extremely efficient, inexpensive, and environmentally
neutral solar cells. It's in our best interest to figure out how they
do it as soon as possible so we can rid ourselves of our clumsy first
attempts at mimicking nature.
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