Scientists are eyeing the future of solar technology–specifically, fly eyes. Turns out those bubbly-looking spectators might be just the ticket to more-efficient solar cells, researchers from Penn State University say.
Blowflies have peepers that would help solar panels collect light more efficiently, and creating these fly-eye molds was a feat in itself, according to Discovery News. After plucking the corneas from blowflies,
U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu thinks one solution to the energy debate is obvious: turn all the roofs in the U.S. white. It’s true that doing so would result in major energy savings. But even if white roofs became standard tomorrow, it would take 20 years before the energy savings equaled the greenhouse emissions we produce annually.
Plus, not everyone would benefit, particularly in places where it gets so bitterly cold that having white roofs in the winter would cancel the energy savings made in the summertime.
Fortunately, MIT graduates have created a solution: color changing roof tiles that adjust to the temperature of the season. The tiles turn white when it’s hot outside (or when the tile is 80 percent covered by sunlight), and black when it’s cold (or when 30 percent or less is covered by sunlight).
MIT’s Web site reports:
[The tiles] use a common commercial polymer (in one version, one that is commonly used in hair gels) in a water solution. That solution is encapsulated—between layers of glass and plastic in their original prototype, and between flexible plastic layers in their latest version—with a dark layer at the back.
When the temperature is below a certain level (which they can choose by varying the exact formulation), the polymer stays dissolved, and the black backing shows through, absorbing the sun’s heat. But when the temperature climbs, the polymer condenses to form tiny droplets, whose small sizes scatter light and thus produce a white surface, reflecting the sun’s heat.
In the future, color-changing tiles won’t be your only option for reducing energy consumption: You might also be able to grow vegetables on your roof, or even use solar panel shingles to heat your house.
As John McCain and Barack Obama aim for the White House, the fights over experience and age, the war in Iraq and terrorism, and the economy and budget-balancing drag on. But whenever a serious science and technology debate comes up —including education, medicine, and energy—we here at DISCOVER perk up. Even if that debate is being furthered by Paris Hilton.
Granted, the point of Paris’ most recent (and perhaps only) talk about energy policy on funnyordie.com is not to start an energy debate that has teeth, but to make a humorous entry into presidential politics with faux-serious solutions. If this is an effective way to get people to discuss energy policy—an admittedly wonkish and often boring topic—so be it.
And now, let’s discuss Paris Hilton’s “energy plan.”
First of all, Hilton is taking on oil, not energy. She is not discussing nuclear, coal, wind, or solar—just the stuff that is turned into plastic water bottles, heats our homes, and makes cars go “vroom”. So this is not a comprehensive energy plan, but a look at lowering gas prices and shedding dependence on foreign oil.
Skyrocketing oil prices are driving the world crazy. States like Utah are cutting the workweek back to four days to save on gas. Even bigger news: President Bush actually agreed to join other G-8 leaders in reducing emissions by 50 percent by 2050. Biofuels seem like a solution, but demand for them has cut into our food supply. Billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens is now chasing the wind turbine. But some scientists are going to the extreme—using extremophiles, a type of microbe found in some of the most inhospitable places on earth, to solve the energy crisis.
For years, extremophiles were the stuff of science fiction, but now scientists are traveling to places like China’s western deserts to collect the microbes for scientific research. The bugs don’t need sunlight, don’t need to breathe, can bathe in acid, and can withstand radiation that would easily kill humans. Forbes reports that a microscopic bug discovered two miles underneath a South African gold mine in 2006 survives “exclusively on a diet of sulfur and hydrogen,” while other bugs flourish in boiling heat and spend their lives buried in glaciers and volcanoes.