New Designs Could Boost Solar Cells Beyond Their Limits

The sun blankets the Earth with enough photons every hour to meet the entire world’s energy needs for a year. The question is how to efficiently convert them into electricity. Even under small-scale laboratory conditions, the world’s best single-junction solar cells—the kind found in most solar panels—still max out at capturing 29 percent of the sun’s energy. That puts them just shy of the hard limit of about one third that solar researchers calculated half a century ago. But scientists studying photovoltaics—the process by which sunlight is converted into electricity—have also long suspected that this limit is not as hard as it once seemed. The ceiling on solar cell efficiency, known as the Shockley-Queisser limit, is between 29 and 33 …

Call to arms: how can Australia avoid a slow and painful decline?

Australia has been warned it risks drifting into the future if it fails to respond to challenges in a fast-changing world Australia is at a crossroads. Drift towards a future of slow decline economically and socially or, if action is taken now to address our most important challenges, create a future of greater prosperity for all, globally competitive industries and a sustainable environment. That is the conclusion of a major report bringing together the thinking of more than 50 leaders in business, academia, NGOs and the community sector, working with the CSIRO to model alternative futures for Australia. The report is described as a clarion call for the nation. The Australian National Outlook 2019, two years in the making, aims …

Climate crisis: aviation industry hears clamour for electric planes

Shift from fossil fuels top of agenda for Paris air show, industry having lagged behind other sectors Faced with growing calls for action on the climate crisis, aerospace companies gathering for the Paris air show next week are turning their thoughts to a future run on electricity rather than fossil fuels. The scale of the challenge is considerable. The target for net zero carbon emissions by 2050, recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and emissions laggard compared with the car industry or power generation, but improvements in the German startup Lilium and US firm Bell Helicopter small hybrid-electric commuter aircraft to market in the early 2020s, and Aurora Flight Sciences, which is also targeting air taxis. Yet for …