Commercialization of Solar Power

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We’ve heard of interesting stories and inspirations behind the most remarkable breakthroughs in the world of science and discovery, and few of them may just be Plants along with Spaghetti and Meatballs.

Yes that’s right, the same stuff you probably had for dinner last night, is what the UCLA scientists have used to explain their version of solar storage technology.

There have been recent proclamations that battery storage will make it possible to use renewable energy commercially in the near future. However, though less broadcasted, the solar storage technology may have even more far-reaching effects. A team for UCLA has published research about technology that will permit solar cells to store energy up to a number of weeks rather than a few micro-seconds.


The Inspiration

This technology as one of the senior co-authors of the research explains has been inspired from ancient storage masterminds; plants. As she says, plants segregate positive and negative charge which is the fundamental key. In the process of photosynthesis, when plants absorb sunlight, they use the minuscule structures within them to disperse the charges. They pull the electrons away from the positively charged part of the molecule and in this manner manage the separation.

Considering that the rapid segregation of charges is the principal element to ensure efficiency, the UCLA team is trying to develop a cheaper system using plastic cells instead of silicon, which would keep the charged particles apart for weeks. The reason they haven’t been able to achieve this earlier is because they did not know how to design the correct structures before. Once that’s achieved it’ll become easier to retain energy for a longer time.

The Model Explained

The press release from the UCLA describes the technology for explanatory purposes, as, ‘a plate of cooked pasta.’ It elucidates further that the plastic materials or organic photovoltaics are usually organized like a plate of cooked pasta; a disorganized group of long, skinny polymer (spaghetti) with randomly placed fullerene (meatballs).This is but an unreliable arrangement since the electrons sometimes hop back to the polymer and are lost in the process.

The UCLA technology proposed to have a tidier arrangement where there would be small bundles of sturdy spaghetti with precisely placed meatballs. While some of these meatballs will be placed inside the spaghetti, some of the fullerene will be placed outside. The ones inside the structure take the electrons and toss them to others. The fullerene outside the polymer can be useful in keeping the electrons away from the polymer for a long time.

Another senior co-author of the research has said that they did not have the materials assembled in an actual device just yet. But they are hopeful that once they manage this solution practically they will actually be at a firmer place.

So here we have one of the most ancient natural processes inspiring some great scientific progress that could completely change the face of the planet that we live on. If this model succeeds we will be able to commercially use solar power in the not so distant future. A huge scientific advancement based on the daily natural process. Doesn’t this remind you of Newton under the apple tree? Talk about history repeating itself!

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