Electricity from solar power is produced via photovoltaic cells in solar panels, or mirrors reflecting the suns energy onto giant solar towers. But a team of researchers at the University of California, known as the Davis team, have just developed a revolutionary approach to solar energy that could well be the next big thing. A tree made from nano-scale silver filaments.
The scientists based their design on a tree due to the vast surface area that its leaves provide for absorbing sunlight in relation to the small support structure of the trunk and branches. They believe that their discovery could lead to a low cost method for producing highly efficient solar cells.
Trees grow in a fractal structure, where in the trunk splits into several limbs, which in turn split into smaller branches, and smaller branches until eventually the narrow branches terminate in many leaves. The result of the ever-diminishing scale is an ever-increasing area exposed to sunlight.
Costs can be saved in the production process of the solar tree because it fabricated chemically, rather than mechanically. The tree consists of silver branches 1/50th the width of a human hair which are grown in an electrochemical process involving silver nitrate layered onto a fluorine covered, tin oxide film. Then the tree, when it is big enough, is coated in a light absorbing plastic that transmits an electrical charge to the silver nano-branches.
Using the structure of trees as inspiration for clean technology is not a new idea. Stanford University has a team researching a treelike structure for capturing carbon from the atmosphere and converting it into fuel. MIT also has a team that has created a solar leaf the size of a playing card.
It would be a nice idea to populate with landscape with treelike structures that can actually help provide our energy needs.
By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com
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