Trapping Light: A “Perfect” Solar Absorber?

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

The news item from David L. Chandler at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) claims that researchers there have come close to realizing the “ideal” for solar absorption, trapping and containing all of light’s wavelengths that reach earth’s surface from the sun.  This absorbed sunlight is converted to heat by a two-dimensional metallic dialectric photonic crystal, which can absorb sunlight from a wide range of angles and withstand extremely high temperatures.  Even better, it can be made cheaply and in large quantities, according to MIT. One aspect of the design that might make it difficult to use on aircraft is its high operating temperature.  A solar-thermophotovoltaic (STVP) device, the energy from the sunlight hitting the cells is “first converted to …

Lighter, Stronger, and Morphable

Dean Sigler Sustainable Aviation 2 Comments

If you have a pre-teen roaming around the house, you more than likely know the shared delight of assembling the biggest possible thing you can make from Lego® blocks.  There must be something of that delight in the Center for Bits and Atoms at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). There, researchers have invented, “A new approach to assembling big structures — even airplanes and bridges — out of small interlocking composite components,” according to a story by David L. Chandler of the MIT News Office. Neil Gershenfeld, director of the Center, and post-doctoral student Kenneth Cheung recently co-authored a paper published in the journal Science, in which they describe assembling strong lightweight structures with “cubocts,” lattice structures that are …

Thinner than Kleenex®, as Powerful as the Sun

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

David L. Chandler of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) News Office reports that an MIT research team headed by Jeffrey Grossman has found a way to make sheets that push “towards the ultimate power conversion from a material” for solar power.  His team has managed to fabricate molecule-thick photovoltaic sheets which could pack hundreds of times more power per weight than conventional solar cells. Senior author of a new paper on the team’s study in Nano Letters, Grossman found that despite the interest in two-dimensional materials such as graphene – only an atom thick – few have studied their potential for solar applications.  Grossman says, “They’re not only OK, but it’s amazing how well they do.” Stacking sheets of …

Cambridge Crude and Range Euphoria

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants 1 Comment

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) scientists have announced what they claim is a “Significant advance in battery architecture [that] could be breakthrough for electric vehicles and grid storage.”    According to a story by David L. Chandler from the MIT News Office, the new battery system is lightweight and inexpensive, and could make recharging “as quick and easy as pumping gas into a conventional car.” Seemingly requiring some active components within the battery, this “semi-solid flow cell” pumps solid particles suspended in a carrier liquid which form the cathodes and anodes through the system.  According to the MIT news item, “These two different suspensions are pumped through systems separated by a filter, such as a thin porous membrane.”  Mechanically more …