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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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  • I'm just (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @10:21AM (#32168914)

    Wondering about the time to market in the solar industry, because for the past 2 years I have been reading all about revolutionary new solar cell techniques, from baking your own solar cells in the oven for well under $1/Watt, to solar cells stacked in 3D that increase efficiency to 80%, to dies that help normal solar cells absorb light better, to flexible solar cells that could cover any surface, to special plastics that concentrate light onto solar cells. But you know what? Not a single solar cell on the market today includes these concepts.

    IMO the "cheap, efficient solar cell" will arrive just after the flying car. And the market is certainly resisting current $4-$5/watt retail prices.

  • Re:I wonder... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by codeButcher ( 223668 ) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @10:50AM (#32169284)

    My dentist uses digital x-rays: a digital pickup in your mouth, zap, picture on the computer. Allegedly uses a lower dose of rays by a factor of 10, no recurring costs for the film, and his computer system includes some image processing capability.

    During a recent stay in a hospital, a radiologist I spoke to claimed that most x-rays/sonars are transferred digitally and he often works from home, analysing stuff sent to him from various hospitals.

    On the other hand, the MRI I had taken was still transferred to film to be taken to the surgeon.

  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @10:51AM (#32169296)

    I am sick and tired of these "could have tremendous impact bla bla bla" statements. Typically nothing comes out of them in the short term and only tiny improvements to existing solutions in the longer term. Marketing speech sucks and it is time we call it "commercial lies" or maybe with Neil Stephenson "commercial bullshit".

  • Re:I wonder... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by codeButcher ( 223668 ) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @10:54AM (#32169338)

    I'm still holding out for 1-way glass/mirrors that actually WORK AS EXPECTED.

    An ex-gf's father, who is an architect, told me about this super-modern house in the town where he studied that was clad with one-way mirrors. However, after dark, the inside lights would turn them quite see-through. Favourite hang-out for students was by the bedroom wall, no x-ray glasses needed.

  • by nickersonm ( 1646933 ) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @12:39PM (#32171026)

    Not quite. The v in n=c/v is actually the phase speed [] of the light wave, which is not necessarily the speed at which the pulse of light propagates. The Wikipedia article on negative-index materials has a good animation showing this []: the bright bars are the phase peaks, while the envelope is the light pulse. The entire article is pretty good as an overview, although it doesn't go into much mathematical detail.

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.