Finding revolutionary solutions when it comes to extracting solar energy would depend, above all, on its potential for its general use. For this it would be necessary to find a way to improve its efficiency (performance and cost of materials) and usability.
In other words, it will be key to optimize the space necessary for the placement of panels or other elements for capturing solar energy. Either multiplying them in mobile devices, windows, walls and different surfaces with low productivity, or offering less bulky or expensive alternatives to the photovoltaic panels that are usually installed on roofs, walls or on the ground.
LuminAID, an amazing solar lamp
Our first innovation was recently unveiled at CES 2016, the biggest tech show of the year, held in Las Vegas. It is an ingenious invention developed by LuminAID Lab that is helping marginal communities, without access to electricity, to have a solar lantern that allows to emit light for a whole year.
Although the charge lasts almost a year, its creators, Anna Stork and Andra Sreshta, recommend recharging this inflatable solar lamp every 6 to 8 months for only 6 hours of charge. His great achievement has been to achieve this incredible autonomy from the absorption of solar energy through a patch. Its price is around 20 euros and is used in more than 70 countries.
Hydricity, the evolution of solar thermal energy
Solar energy has its limitations, such as not being able to be generated when there is no sun and having storage problems. In order to overcome these obstacles, a new source of energy has emerged that combines solar with hydrogen.
Specifically, the Hidricity allows combining the plants that produce solar thermal energy with the hydrogen fuel infrastructure. Thanks to this, according to their creators, scientists from Switzerland and the United States, we optimize the production of both.
This is achieved through an integrated system that produces energy ready for immediate use and also hydrogen, which can be stored for later use. In other words, hydrogen will be used to produce electricity at night or on cloudy days, achieving a use of around 46 percent, higher than that of photovoltaics.
Rawlemon, an almost magical solar sphere
The solar sphere known as Rawlemon manages to produce up to 70 percent more solar energy than a classic photovoltaic panel. However, it cannot be considered a different technology, as it is a new version of concentrating photovoltaic solar energy, known as CPV.
Its novelty is to use a sphere instead of Fresnel lenses. Of course, its spectacular nature and ability to adapt to different environments cannot be denied and, in fact, it is sold in very different sizes.
Apart from its spectacular nature, it is a giant crystal ball on a support that reminds of world globes, its operation is based on something as well known as the exposure of a magnifying glass to the sun.
Basically, the magnifying glass concentrates the light and then directs it to high-performance solar cells. In practice, therefore, this varies, as it depends on factors such as the climate of the place, the model in question or, for example, the point where it is located.
Transparent solar panel for smartphones
Miniature photovoltaic panels, the size of a mobile phone screen, let's say, and also transparent, is the proposal from Sunpartner Technologies. Its goal, as is easy to imagine, is none other than to power smartphones with solar energy.
Engineers from this startup have made a solar panel transparent while continuing to function like a conventional one. It has been achieved by miniaturizing the solar cells into a sheet with a thickness of 1 to 5 millimeters.
Leaving the phone in the sun for three minutes, we get a minute to make calls or three to listen to music. Or, what is the same, for now it is insufficient to fully charge the phone, but it can be decisive in emergency situations.
Material that captures and stores solar energy
This same week a new material developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that is capable of collecting solar energy to generate heat later, on demand, has made headlines.
Days or hours later, that same material (a transparent polymer film) can generate heat from previously absorbed energy. And it does so without the need for batteries, simply based on a chemical reaction, thus multiplying its possible applications.
It could serve, according to its creators, to melt the layer of ice that remains on the windshields of vehicles. Since a single, ultimately transparent material allows energy to be captured and then stored for use in the form of heat, it is revealed as a functional technology that can end up serving the most unsuspected purposes.
Currently, an attempt is being made to perfect the invention, as it has a slight yellowish tone, so it is not yet completely transparent. In addition, you want to increase its calorific value, from the current 10 degrees Celsius to 20.