HERE COMES THE SUN
Solar tech innovations offer new capabilities
From composting in your backyard to driving an electric car, eco-friendly practices have grown from appealing to a niche audience to the mainstream population. New innovations are making solar technology more accessible and efficient, improving quality of life for eco-conscious young consumers.
New methods of standard car ownership are changing the way consumers drive, and new solar panel innovations are changing the way cars run. Hyundai and Kia have both announced plans to incorporate solar panels into select electric, hybrid, and combustion-only vehicles beginning after 2019. The panels are being developed in three waves, with the first generation offering a 30 to 60% battery charge in hybrid vehicles on a sunny day, a second generation improving the view with a semi-transparent panoramic sunroof system, and a third generation that also builds solar charging capabilities into the hood.
Young consumers are highly conscious of making sustainable, eco-friendly choices, particularly when it comes to clothing. A new alternative to silicon in the creation of solar technology can help them take the next step. Along with higher efficiency, perovskite has multiple perks over silicon in its production and form. First, it can be printed like ink, taking much less energy to manufacture than silicon solar panels. Secondly, its comparably low rigidity makes it more flexible—literally—for a wider variety of applications than traditional large-scale solar power plants, from vehicles to electronics to clothing.
Researchers at Texas A&M University are exploring a new synthetic material that can make solar power more cost effective, efficient, and reliable. The current metal materials used to construct heat exchangers used in solar energy processes begin to break down and lose effectiveness above 550 degrees Celsius; a new composite material featuring ceramic and tungsten can withstand temperatures more than 200 degrees hotter. This capability could increase efficiency in some solar power plants by 20%. The material’s durability and low production cost will also help power plants save resources and expenses.
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