Top stories on our radar this week in the world of clean tech.
Luminescent 'LED-type' Solar Cell Design Breaks Efficiency Record UC Berkeley scientists have discovered that the key to solar cells being able to absorb more light is designing them to also be good at emitting light. They created a prototype solar cell made of gallium arsenide that broke the efficiency record, jumping from 26 percent to 28.3 percent efficiency by designing it to allow light to escape easily. This was achieved by increasing the reflectivity of the rear mirror, among other things.
Australian Scientists Report Breakthrough in Solar Cell Efficiency Scientists at the University of Sydney have developed a technique called photochemical upconversion that allows energy, normally lost in solar cells, to be turned into electricity. One of the scientists, Professor Tim Schmidt explains, "We are able to boost efficiency by forcing two energy-poor red photons in the cell to join and make one energy-rich yellow photon that can capture light, which is then turned into electricity."
Gaming Consoles Consume Copious Amounts of Energy A study by Carnegie Mellon University shows that gaming consoles are using more electricity than ever before -- 1 percent of all U.S. energy consumption in 2010 -- and 68 percent of that is while the consoles are in idle mode. The study concludes an auto power-down feature could cut energy consumption by 75 percent.
Data Centers / Computing
IBM Optical Microchip for Faster, Power-Saving Computing IBM scientists have developed a prototype optical chipset named Holey Optochip that is the first parallel optical transceiver to be able to transfer one terabit of information per second -- the equivalent of downloading 500 high-definition movies -- while only consuming 5W of power. That speed at that power efficiency is one of the best ever recorded.
Where does free cooling make sense? Greenbiz.com takes a look at new maps from The Green Grid, a nonprofit aimed at improving energy efficiency at data centers, that show all of the areas in the world where data centers could use free cooling from outside air instead of air conditioners and chillers. More than 75 percent of North America and 97 percent of Europe could facilitate free cooling.
Facebook, eBay Win Awards for Data Center Efficiency The two tech giants were honored at the Green Enterprise IT Awards which recognizes advancements in energy efficient data centers. eBay and Dell received an award for their super-efficient modular Project Mercury data center in Phoenix, while Facebook was awarded for their Open Compute Project where they open-sourced their designs for servers and data centers in order to bring more efficient practices to the marketplace.
GE Engineers Squeeze Savings from the Digital Cloud GE has come up with a software solution called eBoost that can cut data center energy use by five percent by bypassing the filters that tune the electricity fed from the grid. The filters are only really needed a couple times a year (like when lightning strikes) and if all data clouds bypassed filers when they're not needed, it would save 4 GW of electricity a year.
From Smart Meters to Streetlights: Sensus Expands Its Network Smart meter maker Sensus is now getting into the business of networking LED streetlights in cities. Its first project will be in Chattanooga, TN where 27,000 LED streetlights are being installed. Sensus's smart meter network technology will allow utilities or police to remotely turn on, turn off, dim or flash the streetlights in patterns, all from a utility’s central command center or the laptop in a police car.
Smart Grid Venture Capital Continues to Shrink A new report shows that smart grid investments continue to shrink since 2010, even though smart grid spending in China and Europe is strong.