Showing posts with label Orange County Register. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Orange County Register. Show all posts

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Fraunhofer claims world record in solar cell efficiency - 41.1%

Munich (Germany) – Solar cells remains one of the most fascinating and promising research areas these days. Scientists at the German Fraunhofer Institute of Solar Energy Systems (ISE) recently announced that they've developed a solar cell capable of providing 41.1% efficiency, which is the highest level achieved to date. They are now working to make the technology commercially available.

The new solar cell is an evolution in Fraunhofer’s metamorphous solar cell research, which has been in place since 1999. The research is focused on combinations of semiconductor materials, in this case it's GaInP / GaInAs / Ge (Gallium-Indium-Phosphid / Gallium-Indium-Arsenide / Germanium). In 1999, the scientists discovered that these materials are well-suited for converting sunlight into electricity, and today it seems their long effort is paying off.

Over the years, the research group at Fraunhofer has been working on methods to better align the material and its cell structure with spectrum received from sunlight on the surface of our planet. What makes this newly developed solar cell special is that the scientists were able to identify and correct defective areas within the non-electrical crystaline portion of the solar cell, thus creating a much more efficient cell; one that can be created virtually free from defects.

Fraunhofer's new solar cell. At 454x normal sunlight concentration, it achieved 41.1% efficiency.

A 5mm2 solar cell (Ga0.35In0.65P / Ga0.83In0.17As) built with this new material and knowledge was exposed to a concentration of sunlight 454x times normal. It achieved an efficiency of 41.1%, and at 880x normal sunlight intensity, it achieved a 40.4% efficiency. What is even more noteworthy though, is the fact that Fraunhofer is already working with Azur Space and Concentrix Solar to implement their technology into "competitive" commercial products. The researchers did not say how long it will take until the cells are available.

However, we did hear that it is unlikely mainstream consumers will be able to buy this technology and install it at home anytime soon. When available, these will be a fairly expensive solar cells that are likely to be used in large-scale photovoltaic systems as well as solar power plants - at least initially.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Asthma Inhalers To Go Green

Asthma Inhalers Going Green
By the end of the year, 22 million Americans who suffer from asthma will have to switch to a new, environmentally-friendly type of inhaler. Dr. Emily Senay reports. |

(CBS/ AP) Old-fashioned asthma inhalers that contain environment-harming chemicals will no longer be sold at year's end - and the U.S. government is urging patients not to wait until the last minute to switch to newer alternatives.

Patients use inhalers to dispense airway-relaxing albuterol during asthma attacks.

Chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, once were widely used to propel the drug into the lungs. But CFC-containing consumer products are being phased out because CFCs damage the Earth's protective ozone layer. As of Dec. 31, asthma inhalers with CFCs can no longer be made or sold in the U.S. Inhalers instead will be powered by ozone-friendly HFAs, or hydrofluoroalkanes.

The ozone layer shields the planet from harmful ultraviolet radiation.

Patients have been warned of the change for several years, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an advisory last week saying anyone still using CFC inhalers should ask their doctor about switching now.

The FDA warns that patients will face a learning curve: HFA inhalers may taste and feel different. The spray may feel softer. Each must be primed and cleaned in a specific way to prevent clogs. And they tend to cost more.

Users will have to wash the plastic mouthpiece more frequently and dry it overnight, CBS' The Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay said.

CFC-free albuterol inhaler options include GlaxoSmithKline's Ventolin HFA, Schering Plough's Proventil HFA and Teva Specialty Pharmaceuticals' ProAir HFA. Sepracor's Xopenex HFA is also CFC-free, but it contains levalbuterol, a similar medication.

The FDA said Armstrong Pharmaceuticals is the sole remaining maker of CFC inhalers and is expected to stop production even before the deadline. A spokesman for Armstrong's parent company would not say when production would stop, but sales of remaining inventory will continue until Dec. 31.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Green Gadgets


Don Willmott , Forecast Earth Correspondent

There's nothing like a room full of smart people to get tough problems solved faster. On Friday, February 1, hundreds of green thinkers will assemble in New York at the Greener Gadgets Conference to hash out issues of design, resource consumption, and recycling. Representatives from big electronics manufacturers such as Nokia, Sony, and Hewlett-Packard will be on hand to explain—and perhaps defend—their e-initiatives, and a mix of scientists, marketers, and designers will all weigh in with their thoughts. It should be fascinating.

Note that the keynote speaker will be Chris Jordan, a noted photographer who has gained fame for his astonishing large-scale images of mountains of e-waste, everything from cell phones to shipping containers. Click through his slide show, and you'll be humbled. As he puts it, "The pervasiveness of our consumerism holds a seductive kind of mob mentality. Collectively we are committing a vast and unsustainable act of taking, but we each are anonymous and no one is in charge or accountable for the consequences. I fear that in this process we are doing irreparable harm to our planet and to our individual spirits. As an American consumer myself, I am in no position to finger wag; but I do know that when we reflect on a difficult question in the absence of an answer, our attention can turn inward, and in that space may exist the possibility of some evolution of thought or action. So my hope is that these photographs can serve as portals to a kind of cultural self-inquiry. It may not be the most comfortable terrain, but I have heard it said that in risking self-awareness, at least we know that we are awake." Wow.

Also on hand at the conference will be ReCellluar, who will be standing by to collect old cell phones for recycling. Visit their site for a quick ZIP Code-based way to search for a cell phone donation/recycling site near you. After looking at Jordan's photos, you'll definitely be motivated to clear out that junk drawer.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Basel Action Network

30 January 2007 (Seattle, WA.) – The Seattle based toxic trade watchdog, Basel Action Network (BAN), is concerned that Microsoft has done little to prevent or mitigate the massive hardware obsolescence that is likely to be caused by the release of its latest operating system known as Vista. The environmental organization predicts that the software launch will create a 'tsunami' of e-waste exported to developing countries already awash in e-waste exports, as consumers in rich countries dispose of their existing computers and buy new machines capable of running the new operating system.

BAN noted the contradiction of Microsoft founder Bill Gates latest high-tech progeny in light of the charitable mission of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation "to bring innovations in health and learning to the global community."

"Today with the release of Vista, Microsoft could bring both a massive digital dump and a perpetuation of the digital divide to the global community," said Jim Puckett, coordinator of the Basel Action Network. "It is shameful how little innovation and concern the electronics industry continues to demonstrate for the long-term consequences of their products in light of their abilities to innovate front-end gadgetry to encourage sales." he said.

A study by the Softchoice Corporation[i] estimated that about half of the average business PCs in North America do not meet the minimum requirements for Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system, and 94 percent do not meet the system requirements for Vista Premium -- the enhanced business version. While some of this obsolescence can be solved with RAM upgrades, it is likely that many businesses will not bother with such labor intensive servicing but will simply discard their existing computers.

According to BAN, more than 50% of these computers globally, are exported to developing countries either whole or dissassembled, where they are processed and disposed of in a manner that causes serious damage to workers and local environments. The result of this is that the gains of the electronics industry translate into serious environmental costs externalized to the poor. BAN earlier documented the cyber-age nightmares in such countries as China, India or Nigeria where women and children 'cook' lead-tin soldered circuit boards over small fires, soak chips in dangerous acid baths along river ways, smash lead and phosphor laden cathode ray tubes, and burn wires and plastic housings in open dumps.[ii]

Further, BAN notes that every time software makes hardware obsolete, the digital divide is actually perpetuated, because the divide is not defined by the gap between those with computers and those without, but by those with the latest innovations and those without. And when exported obsolete computers are handed down to developing country consumers for re-use, a toxic timebomb is created there due to the fact that the electronics industry has made no effort to ensure that infrastructure is in put in place to properly collect and manage their products at end-of-life.

"Most developing countries have no infrastructure whatsoever to collect and recycle computers, so when they die they are simply dumped and burned," Puckett said. "A truly responsible industry will take steps to ensure that innovation does not automatically equate to obsolescence, toxic waste and a growing population of hardware have-nots," he said.

BAN hopes to work with its Seattle area neighbor Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to ensure that innovation and obsolescence are de-linked in future.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Climate Update

World's big polluters meet in Hawaii over climate

January 27, 2008 07:39 AM - Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The world's biggest greenhouse gas-polluting countries are sending delegates to Hawaii this week for a U.S.-hosted meeting aimed at curbing climate change without stalling economic growth. The two-day gathering, which starts on Wednesday in Honolulu, is meant to spur U.N. negotiations for an international climate agreement by 2009, so a pact will be ready when the current carbon-capping Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

HVAC boot cleared of Asbestos in Los Angeles