Graphene and Semiconductor Technology: Smaller, Cheaper, Better
Mobile phones that bend, self-powered nanodevices , new and improved solar cell technology and windows that generate electricity are but a few of the potential products from the union of semiconductors and graphene.
Renewable Energy World.com
Semiconductors grown on graphene at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) may be the most important research breakthrough of 2012 in Norway. At the centre of the research efforts are Professor Helge Weman, Professor Bjørn-Ove Fimland and post-doctoral fellow Dong-Chul Kim. The team is now working on translating the results of their basic research into an initial prototype.
Just One Atom Thick
In the 1960s, researchers envisioned that graphite (pure carbon) could be cut into layers measuring only one atom in thickness – resulting in the material known as graphene.
In the 1990s, researchers managed to create a layer as thin as 100 atoms, but there was no progress after that until 2004, when Russian-born Andre Geim grabbed a tape dispenser from his desk at the University of Manchester, pressed a bit of tape over a thin layer of graphite and peeled it away. When he examined the tape under a microscope, he discovered a layer only one carbon atom thick. Graphene was born!
In 2010, Dr Geim and his colleague, Konstantin Novoselov, were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work in demonstrating the unique properties of graphene.
Ahead of the Pack at NTNU
Six months before Dr Geim and Dr Novoselov arrived in Stockholm to receive their prize, and before graphene had become an item of interest, South Korean post-doctoral fellow Dong Chul Kim at NTNU had suggested to Professors Helge Weman and Bjørn-Ove Fimland at the Department of Electronics and Telecommunications that they should take a closer look at precisely this material. The suggestion came shortly after the NTNU group already had succeeded in growing semiconductor nanowires made of gallium arsenide (GaAs) on silicon substrates. This led Dr Weman to wonder if it would be possible to grow semiconductor nanowires directly on graphene instead.
The collective expertise of Professor Weman, Professor Fimland and Dr Kim proved to be a fruitful combination. The researchers quickly achieved their first breakthrough of growing semiconductors nanowires on a one-atom-thick base in September 2010, and in the summer of 2012 they published their results in the American journal Nano Letters.
These active semiconductors normally grow to be one micron (a millionth of a metre) in thickness.
Will Silicon Become Obsolete?
Graphene is definitely the hottest topic right now among nanomaterial researchers. The pure-carbon material is by far the thinnest and strongest known to exist. It is 200 times stronger than steel, conducts electricity 100 times faster than silicon and is superior to any other material in conducting heat. It is impermeable, yet pliable and transparent at the same time. And inexpensive large-scale production of graphene is now becoming a reality.
At present, electronics and solar cells are using thick silicon substrates. But silicon has clear limitations, including size. Large technology companies are struggling to produce silicon-based electronics that are smaller than those currently on the market. Another challenge with using silicon is that silicon-based electronics generate a great deal of heat. Many people consider graphene to be the prime candidate for replacing silicon.
Large multinational corporations such as IBM and Samsung have poured a lot of effort into research on both semiconductors and graphene. But the real breakthrough in growing semiconductors on graphene actually took place at NTNU in Trondheim.
The findings of these researchers in Trondheim may be used to make electronics and solar cells that are several hundred times thinner than current models. This will make it possible to produce electronics that are both pliable and transparent, in addition to being less expensive and more energy-efficient.
More Efficient Solar Cells and LEDs
It will probably not be long before simple graphene products begin appearing on the market. Some of them will be based on semiconductor technology.
Semiconductors are a main component in almost all modern electronics. Without them, it would not be possible to have computers, smartphones, solar cells, LED lights or devices using lasers, i.e. everything from printers to fibre communications. All these items can be made smaller and better using graphene. Graphene can both supplant the semiconductor substrate and serve as a transparent electrode for a pliable nanowire solar cell.
“Solar cell and LED technology will be the initial areas to see new products using semiconductors grown on graphene,” Dr Weman believes.
Under-priced fossil-fuel energy is the primary contributor to global warming. Sunlight is an alternative source with enormous potential, but solar energy will have to become less expensive and more efficient. Semiconductor nanowires based on graphene may just finally tip the scales in favour of solar energy.
“If semiconductor nanowires grown on graphene are used in solar cells, the same amount of sunlight can be converted to energy using one-tenth the volume of materials used in thin-film solar cells. And that means we’ve cut down on even more material by growing the semiconductors on graphene instead of on a thick semiconductor substrate. New research also shows that graphene has additional unique properties that enhance the efficiency of a solar cell,” Dr Weman explains.
LED light bulbs are superior in terms of energy efficiency, but have been more expensive to produce because of costly semiconductor substrates. Semiconductor nanowires on graphene will make it possible to supply the world with LED lamps that are far cheaper and much more efficient while also being more pliable and weighing less than today’s lamps.
Industrialisation on the Horizon
The work on graphene at NTNU has drawn the attention of many international companies interested in collaborating with the Trondheim-based researchers and their start-up company, CrayoNano. But the potential industrial queries so far have come solely from Asia and the US. Actors in Norway and Europe have yet to express any interest.
“We are pioneers in that we are using graphene for something other than basic research. We may already have our first prototype in place by the end of 2013, but we don’t wish to reveal what it is yet,” Dr Weman says.
“The field we are working with – using graphene as a replacement for silicon and other semiconductor substrates in electronics and solar cells – entails many new opportunities. But the potential is just as great for applications using graphene in areas other than electronics, such as in the medical sector. Graphene can be used in the body without causing any harm,” Dr Weman explains.
“In a world where drinking water is in short supply, employing oxygen-modified graphene filters to purify water is yet another exciting application. It’s a whole new way to turn seawater into fresh water.”
In any case, research and development activities will be needed for many years. Dr Weman likens the current state of graphene research to where silicon was in the early 1960s.
Research Council Funding Paved the Way
The Research Council of Norway has been a key source of funding for the Trondheim-based researchers throughout. Helge Weman makes it clear that funding under the Commercialising R&D Results (FORNY2020) programme and the Funding Scheme for Independent Basic Research Projects (FRIPRO) is what made it possible to achieve the unexpected research breakthrough. The researchers have also benefited significantly from funding allocated under the Research Programme on Nanotechnology and New Materials (NANOMAT) and the Large-Scale Programme Clean Energy for the Future (RENERGI).
The professor points out that NTNU’s strategic initiative on nanotechnology launched in 2005 is a good example of what future-oriented research policy can help to achieve.
Nicholas Keyes, The World Bank
June 12, 2013 |
About 1.2 billion people still lack access to electricity, and 2.8 billion have to rely on wood or other biomass to cook and heat their homes, said a recent report produced by a multi-agency team led by the World Bank.
The Sustainable Energy for All Global Tracking Framework report is also clear about where the energy gap is concentrated: in Sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia. These are countries and regions where children do not have light to study at night, where communities are often insecure after dark, and where businesses lack the reliable power to get off the ground. Changing this picture will require a concerted international effort.
In response, the World Bank Group is launching a global program to help countries achieve universal energy access, as part of its support to the Sustainable Energy for All initiative. The Sustainable Energy for All Technical Assistance Program (S-TAP), with US$15 million in initial funding from the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP), will start in five countries in Sub-Saharan Africa: Burundi, Guinea, Liberia, Mozambique and Senegal.
The program will deliver a comprehensive package of support to help countries expand energy access, and build a prospectus of investment-ready projects that will facilitate that expansion. Together, these are expected to catalyze further funding and investment from donors and the private sector that will allow countries to achieve universal access to electricity and safe household energy solutions by the year 2030.
“We cannot end extreme poverty without tackling energy poverty,” said S. Vijay Iyer, Director of the World Bank Group’s Sustainable Energy Department. “The low access rate in these countries is both a cause and result of poverty. Change will require investment, knowledge sharing, and a long-term, collaborative effort with governments and development partners.”
Discussions are underway to expand the program beyond the first five countries to Central America and Asia. The program will also work to support the further development of regional power pools in Sub-Saharan Africa. The program is designed to eventually extend to 20 countries, with an end goal of catalyzing access to electricity and modern cooking fuels for 200 million people by 2030.
The current participating countries are characterized by low rates of energy access. Senegal is working to double rural electrification to 50 percent by 2017, and to minimize power outages. Liberia is rebuilding infrastructure damaged by its recent civil war, but at present less than 2 percent of the population is connected to the grid – one of the lowest rates in the world.
“The scale of the challenge for these countries is daunting, but experience shows that it can be done,” said Rohit Khanna, Manager of the World Bank’s ESMAP, which will implement the program. “Take Rwanda, which was able to triple household energy access in only three years. Or Vietnam, where a generation ago fewer than 15 percent of rural homes had access to electricity. Today, over 95 percent do.”
S-TAP will focus on developing a detailed action plan and an investment prospectus for each country. The investment prospectus will determine the policy and financing support needed for each country to meet its targets, and will include pre-feasibility studies for specific investment opportunities. These opportunities are expected to cover both expanding electricity access and solutions for cleaner household cooking and heating.
Other activities include a stock-taking of current energy access programs, capacity development, and policy and regulatory advice focused on two areas:
- improving the power sector investment climate by helping countries develop more credible and predictable regulations, and adopt global procurement standards;
- improving the governance and financial viability of power companies, through better accountability, autonomy and cost recovery.
Taken together, this support is expected to lay out a clear roadmap for each country to achieve universal energy access by 2030.
This article was originally published on World Bank and was republished with permission.
Solar power has been around since the earth has had a sun, and will continue to exist as long as that remains true. In fact, we have been using solar power as long as life as we know it has been in existence.
At the very bottom of the food chain, plants convert sunlight into glucose, therefore converting solar energy into a usable form. This stored energy moves up the food chain as the plants are eaten by animals, and those plants and animals are eaten as well. What this means is that all life is powered and sustained by solar energy.
We use solar power to warm our homes, by opening the windows and letting the sunlight stream through. We use it to heat our swimming pools, to cook food, and, at the very least, to see. Solar power is nothing new—but the way that we are able to use and apply it to our everyday lives has changed dramatically in recent history.
In ancient times, houses were constructed into the side of hills and mountains to use the heat that was stored from sunlight during the day, and released after sunset. Fast forward to the late 1800’s, and a solar powered steam engine was created, along with the first solar powered water heater, and an early version of photovoltaic cells.
The price of these new inventions was too high to be feasible for use by the masses. However, following the trends of all forms of technology, the price decreased over time. Today, solar power as we know it has become more affordable, and continues to become a more viable option for homeowners everywhere.
Many consumers, even those who consider themselves greenies, won’t bother to investigate purchasing solar energy systems for their home. Even the smartest consumers among us have a difficult time understanding how solar could possibly be a viable, affordable energy choice. This disconnect happens for the simple reason that communication about the personal benefit solar can bring to a homeowner as well as the economic benefit it can bring to our nation is lacking.
We Americans are bombarded daily with news stories that support our addiction to fossil fuels. For example, there are twice as many news stories about the Keystone Pipeline and the economic benefits it might bring to America, than there are about the economic benefits that solar energy is providing. In addition there is a lot of noise made by politicians and pundits who seem almost gleeful when an American company like Solyndra fails because this supports their political viewpoint that there is no market in America for solar.
Of course, this is total nonsense. When the horseless carriage was first invented, some start-up auto manufacturers went out of business, but obviously others survived and prospered. Those who are selling the idea that solar is not ready for prime time and so should be ignored either do not know what they are talking about, or stand to benefit from killing competitors to the fossil fuel industry.
The fact is that the solar energy industry is actually booming and as a result, it is creating lots of green jobs every year. Solar industry leaders in America are working hard to make the USA a leading manufacturer and exporter of solar technologies with the goal to one day we can outperform China. However, stories about the positive economic benefits of solar are few and far between.
Solar is a technology that has been around for decades. Although the industry has been experiencing record growth, the technology itself remains stable and dependable.
Can we help you to switch to solar energy? To receive a thorough consultation to explore how solar could work for your home and budget, schedule an appointment with one of our solar consultants by clicking here: www.solareworld.com. You might be surprised by what you learn.
To stay updated on the ever improving world of solar power, follow Solar Energy World on Facebook.
It is going to reach 90 degrees in Baltimore, today, but customers that have had a solar power system installed by Solar Energy World will be able to keep cool while still saving money on their electricity bills. Take a look at some of the recent comments that our customers have shared on GuildQuality, where we recently earned the Guildmaster with Distinction Award for excellent customer service.
“They were extremely professional from the beginning all the way through to the end. Any time I had questions I could reach someone. From the installation crew cutting the frame to the electricians they did an awesome job; it took way less time than I thought it would.” - Jeremiah S., Glen Burnie, MD
“Solar Energy World was very professional and organized. They handled the project well considering the complexity of the job at hand and worked well together as a team. They really make sure the client was satisfied before moving forward. With Crown Rose Estates being a historic estate, we had to get approval from FEMA for the solar panels on the water way. They were very willing to wait for that process . They were mindful of that, and we wanted to make sure we were not making an eye sore with panels for the guests or taking too much land from the farmer. The waterway was a good location for it.” - Tara L., Knoxville, MD
“Thanks for helping us go green. All I had to do was choose a system and solar energy world took care of the rest. They did all that was required from securing the permits required for the installation to the installation itself.. The entire process was hassle free and the staff are very courteous and always eager to help.” - Sathish A., Severn, MD
Get your free estimate from Solar Energy World, and find out what all of the buzz is about!
Once you have chosen to have a solar power system installed on your home, you may have a lot of questions. The right solar power company will be able to answer your questions, while making you feel comfortable about the decision to work with them. Try asking friends and neighbors about their experience with certain solar installers, or read reviews of solar companies in your area. A company with high customer satisfaction scores, and a willingness to resolve any issues that arise, is more likely to provide a positive experience.
There is more involved in your decision to go solar than the installation of solar panels. Permits, inspections, grants, and financing all involve time and paperwork. A solar installation company that will handle everything for you will save you a significant amount of headache. You should also consider any warranties or maintenance plans that your chosen solar installer offers.
If you are looking for a solar power installation company in Maryland, Washington, DC, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, or Delaware, Solar Energy World can simplify the process for you. In fact, we recently earned the Guildmaster with Distinction Award for our excellent customer satisfaction scores on GuildQuality. Contact us today to see how we can help your home or business go solar!
We have previously talked about community solar projects as an alternative to individually owned solar power systems. The Boulder Cowdery Meadows Solar Array in South Boulder County, Colorado is the first community solar project in Boulder, and it is now generating solar power for subscribers. According to Chris Meehan of SolarReviews.com, this is not Colorado’s first community solar installation, and several more are already underway.
“Clean Energy Collective is already working on its next community solar gardens in and outside of Colorado,
Sweeny says, though the next few to reach completion will be in Colorado. “The next one completed should be for
the City of Aurora. That’s a 500 kilowatt array as well.” He adds that the company also just broke ground on a
400 kilowatt community solar garden at the Lowry redevelopment project in Denver. Two additional 500 kilowatt
projects will also be completed in Summit County near Breckenridge.”
For the full article about Boulder’s first community solar garden, visit SolarReviews.com.
Today is the first day of May, which marks the beginning of National Home Improvement Month. Solar power is a wise choice for your next home improvement project, which can save, and even earn you money. Don’t believe us? Keep reading to see why solar power should be your next home improvement of choice.
Solar Power Saves Money
Your electricity bill will likely continue to rise, and if you cannot significantly reduce the amount of electricity that you use, solar power can offset the amount that you consume from the utility company. Depending on factors such as energy usage, sun exposure, and available roof space, you could save up to 100% of your electricity costs. Plus, with the available financing and leasing options, along with grants and incentives to offset the purchase price, your monthly payments for the solar power system will remain easily affordable.
Solar Power Earns Money
Wise investments earn money, and solar power is no exception. In fact, typical ROI on a solar power system over a five year period is 125%, reaching 500% by year 20! SRECs, or Solar Renewable Energy Credits, generated by your solar panels’ production can be sold at current market rates for additional income. Additionally, the value of a home increases by $40,000 on average with the installation of a solar power system.
If you would like to…
- save $35,700 in energy costs over the next 10 years*
- increase your home value by $40,000*
- reduce your household’s impact on the environment
…then solar is a wise investment for you.
Contact us today for your free solar analysis, and start National Home Improvement Month with the right choice for your home! Call 410-579-2009, to schedule your appointment.
You may also be interested in:
Sunshine on a Rainy Day: Solar Panels Still Produce Electricity
Longer Days Mean More Solar Power
True or False: Solar panels do not generate electricity when the skies are overcast.
Answer: False. Just because the rain is falling, doesn’t mean that your solar power system is not producing electricity. In fact, some of our Facebook fans chimed in just to let us know how much power they were producing during cloudy, rainy weather.
“Rain coming and very overcast. Solar system still generating almost 2kw!
We generated 86% of our needed electricity yesterday.
Thanks Solar Energy World!” – Mark L. via Facebook
What differences do you see in your solar power output on cloudy days? Let us know by posting on the Solar Energy World Facebook page.
When designing and building energy efficient, solar powered homes, it is important to keep a few criteria in mind: the houses must be comfortable, safe, attractive, affordable, and provide the energy to operate appliances and electronics. The Solar Decathlon Competition, held by the US Department of Energy, challenges teams of college students to design and build their own interpretation of a home that meets these criteria.
The competition has been held every two years since it was started in 2002. This October, it moves from Washington, DC, where all previous competitions were held, to Orange County Great Park in Irvine California. 20 teams comprised of students representing at least one college will display their completed solar powered homes to the public, and will be judged on criteria such as architecture, and market appeal.
For more information about the Solar Decathlon, check out United States’ Solar Decathlon Readies for its First Road Trip by Chris Meehan of SolarReviews.
This article contains excerpts from “Solar Powered Zoos Gain Popularity, Increase Solar Visibility”, by SolarReviews.
It might be surprising to consider how much electricity a zoo consumes. Besides the power needed for visitor attractions, such as shops, and kiosks, the zoo also needs to support its animal inhabitants 24 hours a day. This means that special features of habitats, such as climate control, need to be regulated constantly. All of these electricity expenditures add up quickly. For example, the Knoxville Zoo in Tennessee spends $825,000 on utilities annually!
This has caused several zoos to turn to solar power over the past several years, including the Knoxville Zoo, the Cincinnati Zoo, as well as those in Milwaukee, San Diego, and Oakland. Several of the solar arrays have been placed over parking lots, to create a canopy for visitors to park in the shade, while the panels power the zoo. The San Diego Zoo took the concept even further, and installed an electric vehicle charging station beneath the solar canopy.
To read more about zoos that have gone solar, click to read the article on SolarReviews.com.