Nanocones Make Solar Cells More Efficient
Well it’s official…. Nanotechnology is the future of energy. Week after week it seems like new discoveries in nanotechnology are leading to advanced energy generation breakthroughs, some of which even seem to challenge traditionally held laws of physics as in last week’s story on the nanotube heat wave effect.
This week’s nano-breakthrough comes from Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the form of solar panel “nanocones”—microscopic n-type semiconductor cones made of zinc oxide surrounded by a p-type polycrystalline cadmium telluride semiconductor. Yes, that all sounds very technical, but what it all boils down to is a 3.2 percent light-to-electricity efficiency compared to 1.8 percent in conventional flat solar cells made from the same materials. That’s roughly an 80 percent improvement in efficiency, and may be the answer to making solar power far more affordable.
“To solve the entrapment problems that reduce solar cell efficiency, we created a nanocone-based solar cell, invented methods to synthesize these cells and demonstrated improved charge collection efficiency,” said Jun Xu, a member of Oak Ridge Natural Laboratory’s Chemical Sciences Division. “We designed the three-dimensional structure to provide an intrinsic electric field distribution that promotes efficient charge transport and high efficiency in converting energy from sunlight into electricity.”
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“The important concept behind our invention is that the nanocone shape generates a high electric field in the vicinity of the tip junction, effectively separating, injecting and collecting minority carriers, resulting in a higher efficiency than that of a conventional planar cell made with the same materials,” Xu said.
It’s interesting to note that the focusing effect noticed at the tips of these nanocones may be linked to what fringe researchers have been claiming for years… that cones (along with pyramids) exhibit unique and misunderstood properties insofar as their ability to channel energy. Considering that nanotechnology has already opened many scientists’ minds to the possibilities of subtler energies present and perhaps exploitable at the quantum level—i.e., zero-point or vacuum energy—nanocones may be just another small stepping stone toward a better understanding of these future energy sources. It would come as no surprise at all if research into nanocones reveals even greater potential (and mysteries) than simply higher efficiency in light-to-electricity conversion for solar panels.
Itronics successfully tests manganese recovery process
Itronics - a Nevada-based emerging cleantech materials growth company that manufacturers fertilisers and produces silver - has successfully tested two proprietary processes that recover manganese, with one process recovering manganese, potassium and zinc from paste produced by processing non-rechargeable alkaline batteries. The second recovers manganese via the company’s Rock Kleen Technology.
Manganese, one of the four most important industrial metals and widely used by the steel industry, has been designated by the US Federal Government as a "critical mineral." It is a major component of non-rechargeable alkaline batteries, one of the largest battery categories sold globally.
The use of manganese in EV batteries is increasing as EV battery technology is shifting to use of more nickel and manganese in battery formulations. But according to the US Department of Interior, there is no mine production of manganese in the United States. As such, Itronics is using its Rock Kleen Technology to test metal recoverability from mine tailings obtained from a former silver mine in western Nevada that has a high manganese content.
In a statement, Itronics says that its Rock Kleen process recovers silver, manganese, zinc, copper, lead and nickel. The company says that it has calculated – based on laboratory test results – that if a Rock Kleen tailings process is put into commercial production, the former mine site would become the only primary manganese producer in the United States.
Itronics adds that it has also tested non-rechargeable alkaline battery paste recovered by a large domestic battery recycling company to determine if it could use one of its hydrometallurgical processes to solubilize the manganese, potassium, and zinc contained in the paste. This testing was successful, and Itronics was able to produce material useable in two of its fertilisers, it says.
"We believe that the chemistry of the two recovery processes would lend itself to electrochemical recovery of the manganese, zinc, and other metals. At this time electrochemical recovery has been tested for zinc and copper,” says Dr John Whitney, Itronics president.
“Itronics has been reviewing procedures for electrochemical recovery of manganese and plans to move this technology forward when it is appropriate to do so and has acquired electro-winning equipment needed to do that.
"Because of the two described proprietary technologies, Itronics is positioned to become a domestic manganese producer on a large scale to satisfy domestic demand. The actual manganese products have not yet been defined, except for use in the Company's GOLD'n GRO Multi-Nutrient Fertilisers. However, the Company believes that it will be able to produce chemical manganese products as well as electrochemical products," he adds.
Itronics’ research and development plant is located in Reno, about 40 miles west of the Tesla giga-factory. Its planned cleantech materials campus, which will be located approximately 40 miles south of the Tesla factory, would be the location where the manganese products would be produced.
Panasonic is operating one of the world's largest EV battery factories at the Tesla location. However, Tesla and other companies have announced that EV battery technology is shifting to use of nickel-manganese batteries. Itronics is positioned and located to become a Nevada-0based supplier of manganese products for battery manufacturing as its manganese recovery technologies are advanced, the company states.
A long-term objective for Itronics is to become a leading producer of high purity metals, including the U.S. critical metals manganese and tin, using the Company's breakthrough hydrometallurgy, pyrometallurgy, and electrochemical technologies. ‘Additionally, Itronics is strategically positioned with its portfolio of "Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies" to help solve the recently declared emergency need for domestic production of Critical Minerals from materials located at mine sites,’ the statement continues.
The Company's growth forecast centers upon its 10-year business plan designed to integrate its Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies and to grow annual sales from $2 million in 2019, to $113 million in 2025.