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Power Science

New Metamaterial Means More Efficient Solar Cells 94

ElectricSteve writes "Metamaterials are man-made substances designed to do some very weird things that natural materials don't. The path of a beam of light through a natural material like glass is predictable, but scientists from the California Institute of Technology have engineered an optical material that bends light in the wrong direction. This new negative-index metamaterial (NIM) could have several valuable uses including invisibility cloaking, superlensing (imaging nano-scale objects using visible light), and improved light collection in solar cells."
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New Metamaterial Means More Efficient Solar Cells

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  • Re:more of this? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by s122604 ( 1018036 ) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @10:31AM (#32169018)
    And in the late 1800s it was proposed that we would soon have to shut down the patent office, because everything would soon be invented.

    Somehow, I think the issuer of such a proclamation would feel right at home on slashdot

    Yes, virtually all of these ideas, prototypes, theories, etc.. won't pan out. But if one idea in a million pans out, that one idea can still end up changing the world in ways unimagined.

    So yah, keep up the scoffing cynicism, odds are you will be right 99.99% of the time.

    I'd rather think/dream/imagine
  • Re:I'm just (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bill_kress ( 99356 ) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @12:59PM (#32171314)

    Solar has a SERIOUS problem that makes it completely resistant to corporate investment... It's that it is virtually impossible to monopolize the market.

    What would you invest in if you were a corporation only interested in your own profits, solar panels that everyone could buy once and put on their roofs for 10 years or a nuclear reactor where you can sell electricity every day of the year at an ever increasing cost? If you picked solar, you've just been fired by the shareholders!

    Although solar is picking up steams, the steps are slower. there is investment in research, research, experimentation, revision, testing, production, mass production--all of which are required to reach "affordable product" (Pulled that out of the air, but I hope you get what I mean)

    Anyway, when you have someone funding that entire cycle at all stages, it moves orders of magnitude faster.

    Actually a corporation might even be better off manipulating the darker/less public parts of a government to hamper solar production--not that anyone would do such a thing.

  • Re:I'm just (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @01:28PM (#32171746)

    Solar has a SERIOUS problem that makes it completely resistant to corporate investment... It's that it is virtually impossible to monopolize the market.

          I don't understand. Money can be made without monopolies. How many clothing stores are in your shopping mall? How many restaurants sell hamburgers and fries? Or Chinese food. Or fried chicken. Take your pick. The patents on acetaminophen/paracetamol expired a long, long time ago. Yet how many different companies sell this type of pain reliever? I don't buy your argument. You CAN make money without monopolies you know.

          I think the problem with solar is still one of price and efficiency, not monopoly. We have gotten used to consuming vast amounts of power in our day to day lives. Right now I am typing on a desktop computer with a 750W power supply. I have 2 monitors, at 60 W each. My hot water tank is turning on and off every hour or so, drawing another 750-1000 W. My fridge kicks on every once in a while, for another 500W. And this is just "overhead". I'm not cooking, I'm not ironing, I'm not running air conditioning. Therefore I would need around 7000W to run my house. At current prices, I am looking at at least $20k for just the solar panels. Then I need batteries, because solar only works during the day. Then I need to install and maintain the system.

          I really would love to do it. I have a roof, so surface area shouldn't be too much trouble. But price is a HUGE barrier to entry. Yes it pays for itself over time, but it's a steep up front cost. The price needs to come down for people to jump into solar, but people won't jump into solar until the price comes down. That's the "catch-22" that solar finds itself in.

Doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith. - Paul Tillich, German theologian and historian