solar innovation

Scientists design solar cell that captures nearly all energy of solar spectrum

A George Washington University researcher helped design and construct a prototype for a new solar cell that integrates multiple cells stacked into a single device capable of capturing nearly all of the energy in the solar spectrum.

The new design, which converts direct sunlight to electricity with 44.5 percent efficiency, has the potential to become the most efficient solar cell in the world.

The approach is different from the solar panels commonly seen on rooftops or in fields. The new device uses concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) panels that use lenses to concentrate sunlight onto tiny, micro-scale solar cells. Because of their small size – less than one millimeter square – solar cells that utilize more sophisticated materials can be developed cost effectively.

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Apple’s data centers now use 100% renewable energy, including solar, wind and geothermal energy – the company no longer powers any of its operations with coal or other fossil fuels. In fact, last December, Apple powered up a 100-acre solar farm adjacent to a North Carolina data center. Using fuel cells made by Bloom Energy Corp., which generates energy from biogases, Apple is able to generate 60% of all the energy it needs to run the data center onsite. Read more about it from Bloomberg, here

The unbelievable size of SpaceX’s Interplanetary Transport System 

Last week (27. Sept), Elon Musk outlined SpaceX’s plan to colonize Mars. In the core of it lies the HUGE Interplanetary Transport System (ITS). It consists of a 254 feet tall (77.4 meters) booster featuring 42 Raptor engines, and a 162 ft (49.4 m) tall spaceship to ultimately carry humans in the future. Standing over 400 feet (122 m) high would make ITS the largest spaceflight system ever built.

Musk later explains that it needs to be this size in order to fit 100 people (to reduce the cost per person) in the pressurised section, and all the unpressurized cargo, which there is a lot - e.g. luggage, fuel tanks and an iron foundry for building stuff on Mars. He envisions a self-sustaining colony on the red planet within the next 50 to 100 years.

The key component of ITS is reusability, which is beautifully visualized in the 4-minute Mars travel animation. See Musk’s whole presentation here.


Solar Innovations, Inc.’s greenhouse experts are continuing the series on the aquaponic project.  The aquaponic growing system has successfully produced plant material and the greenhouse experts are eager to share their success.  One of the keys to success in aquaponic growing is monitoring and maintaining the water on a regular basis.  The pH levels need to be tested to ensure that the correct balance is maintained for both the plants and any living creatures that may be part of the aquaponic system.  Solar Innovations, Inc. has included tilapia and shrimp that together create a sustainable system.  With the addition of animal life, the water quality becomes the top concern for continued success.  A regular maintenance check of the circulation system is completed to ensure all the tanks and pumps are continuing to function properly and that there will be no build up of unwanted bacteria due to a lack of circulation.  

Soon, the tilapia will be carefully evaluated to ensure that the school is thriving and the success of the aquaponic project will continue.  Each fish will be pulled from the tank, measured individually, and evaluated for any potential problems.  

Overall, the project has been a huge success and the greenhouse experts are enjoying the success of the project on a daily basis.  Stay tuned for more information throughout the Fall and Winter seasons.

Eco-Bot: Nature’s Caretaker

“Solar-powered robots that protect nature from harm would be my ideal invention to make this world a better place. With all the pollution affecting our world, robots would serve as caretakers and defenders of the earth, protecting our planet from environmental dangers.”

Kristyn D. Ardrey, Home School, Florida

This Google Doodle is in the 10-12 grade group.


Solar Innovations, Inc.’s greenhouse experts are excited to announce the implementation of the sustainable aquaponic growing system.  The byproducts of the fresh water shrimp and tilapia are utilized as fertilizer for the plants.  The aquaponic structure was created from multiple tanks and connected through a custom designed pump and piping system.  This piping system regulates the spread of the water and the nutrients that are contained in the water evenly across multiple grow beds.  Maintaining the water flow and ensuring an even spread across all of the grow beds provides the opportunity for better nutrient absorption for all the plants.  This ensures each plant and grow bed receives the required amount of nutrients.  This also provides the opportunity to successfully monitor the growth rates of the plants and make the necessary adjustments as needed to achieve the maximum potential of the aquaponic system.  For this project Solar’s greenhouse experts selected to create an even flow by drilling holes every two inches in the feed pipe, creating a consistent water flow.  The greenhouse experts here at Solar Innovations, Inc. are incredibly happy with the success of the project so far and will continue to update throughout the Fall season.

Solar-Powered Plane Passes Point of No Return on Pacific Crossing

Solar Impulse, the airplane powered solely by the sun, has traveled past the point when it could safely return to land during the longest leg to date of its round-the-world trip. The aircraft left Nagoya, Japan 22 hours ago on its five-day flight to Honolulu, Hawaii.

It is now traveling at around 28 mph more than 8,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean in the blackness of night, around 2 a.m. local time. Pilot Andre Borschberg has just settled down for the second 20-minute rest period of the 10 he will take today. The aircraft’s batteries, meanwhile, have about 50 percent charge left in them as they power the four electric motors and the vehicle flies to meet the sun again in the next few hours.

The plane has already traveled more than 900 miles of the 4,300-nautical-mile trip. If this leg goes as planned, Solar Impulse will next complete the rest of the Pacific crossing with a flight from Honolulu to Phoenix. See a live transmission from the cockpit below, or go to the Solar Impulse site to see the flow of real-time data from the aircraft.

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Neat Technology We All (kind of) Need :

from a photo to a stamp

my phone dies so often this is basically for survival

theres one plug outlet by me and too many things i need to charge: the never-ending tale

for the baker/ baker challenged who just want stuff to look good

wooden keys so hipster

solar charging tree for anything 

dictionary pen because school and reading

tetris lamp

for camping: burn twigs and obtain warmth and phone charger energy

Fiber-Optic Solar Toilet Turns Sewage To Plant Friend

by Michael Keller

World Water Day is coming up this Saturday. One of the event’s goals is to bring attention to the billion people who live without access to safe drinking water.

A major obstacle standing before that objective is a lack of the sanitation that would prevent human waste from polluting water supplies. One innovation, a solar-powered, fiber-optic-equipped toilet that requires no water and sanitizes sewage with high heat, is among several that are trying to fix the problem and improve public health.

Developed by engineers at University of Colorado Boulder, the system uses eight parabolic mirrors that focus sunlight onto an area the size of a postage stamp. This energy is then piped through fiber-optic cables to a reaction chamber that heats waste to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. 

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I mean, can we just do this already? They’re Solar Freakin’ Roadways!!!

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The Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., goes green with solar panels that will generate 61,000 kilowatt-hours per year and help offset the energy used during the four-day June festival. It’s the kind of greening practice that USA Today says is becoming more the “expectation than the exception.” Watch the video to learn more, or read all about it here.