'Nantennas' Boast 90% Solar Efficiency
Efficiency has been the main reason solar power has not yet taken the reins as the energy of choice around worldwide. While technological advances in the solar power market have seen solar panels that boast up to 20 percent efficiency (sunlight to electricity), and solar thermal equipment that can reach 30 percent efficiency (heat to electricity), the upfront costs of solar versus the overall pay out is still a major deterrent for investment. But what if 90 percent efficiency were possible? It would boost solar’s profit potential three to four-fold, and perhaps finally make solar the power of choice not only for the environmentally conscious, but the fiscally savvy as well.
University of Missouri professor Patrick Pinhero, along with a team from Idaho National Laboratory and University of Colorado professor Garrett Moddel, have devised a way to collect both sunlight and heat from the sun in a flexible thin-film solar sheet. The team notes that, while traditional solar technology neglects much of the solar electromagnetic spectrum, their technology captures more of that spectrum, boosting efficiency immensely.
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The product itself is a thin, moldable sheet of microscopic antennas the researchers have termed “nantennas” (a combination of “nanotechnology” and “antennas”). The nantennas collect solar irradiation from both the sun’s near infrared spectrum as well as the visible light spectrum. The device operates more efficiently by collecting both light and heat.
"Our overall goal is to collect and utilize as much solar energy as is theoretically possible and bring it to the commercial market in an inexpensive package that is accessible to everyone," Pinhero said. "If successful, this product will put us orders of magnitudes ahead of the current solar energy technologies we have available to us today."
Pinhero and his collaborators are securing funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and private investors to bring the product to market within the next five years. What’s more exciting is that Pinhero claims the technology can be retrofitted to existing solar farms to boost their efficiency and added to industrial heat-process factories to harness heat energy. Being a thin-film product, Pinhero claims the product could easily be made into roof shingles or cover a car to finally offer practical solar vehicles. There are even a host of spin-off products that could result from this technology, including improved contraband-identifying products for airports and the military, optical computing, and infrared line-of-sight telecommunications.
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.