Design News, February 2013

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GreenScene Environmental news engineers can use \\\ By Design News Staff Old EV Batteries Could Power Homes Partially depleted Chevy Volt batteries might one day find new life in energy storage applications outside the vehicle, parceling out power to homes during blackouts. General Motors (GM), maker of the Volt, has entered into a pilot A module with five used Chevy Volt batteries program with residential energy-provider Duke Energy to employ could provide two hours of electricity to five lithium-ion batteries in grid test demonstrations. Duke plans to use a average American homes. module incorporating five Chevy Volt batteries as a way to learn more about the concept's viability. Although little is known about Duke's test application, GM believes that five Volt batteries, packaged in a single module, would be capable of providing two hours of electricity for five average American homes. In a recent demonstration using an Energy Storage Inverter from ABB, a prototype module supplied 50 kWh of energy to support lighting and audiovisual equipment at an "off-grid" press event sponsored by GM. Stanford Engineers Make All-Carbon Solar Cell DOE invests $1M to Improve Solar Panels Researchers at Stanford University have built a prototype of an all-carbon solar cell that employs carbon nanotubes. Because carbon is abun- Researchers at Stanford University have dant and highly conductive, it could built a prototype of an all-carbon solar cell that includes carbon nanotubes in both the provide high performance and low photoactive layer and the electrodes. cost for future solar cells, Stanford researchers said. The prototype is a flexible, thin-film solar cell made from carbon that is coated from solution. In most thin-film solar cells, the electrodes are made of conductive metals, such as silver and indium tin oxide. But as demand for indium rises, it's becoming scarce and more expensive, compared to carbon. The new carbon-based cell consists of a photoactive layer made of carbon nanotubes and 1-nm-wide carbon buckyballs, sandwiched between two electrodes. The electrodes are made of single-walled carbon nanotubes and graphene. The technique used for coating the cell could reduce manufacturing costs. Potential applications include coatings on car windows and buildings to capture solar energy and generate electricity. The Department of Energy (DoE) has awarded a $1 million grant to QBotix to enhance the company's robotic system for optimizing the energy output and efficiency of solar panels. The funding, used to develop a monorail system of robots for tilting panels toward the sun, is part of the DoE's SunShot Incubator Program. The QBotix Tracking System is the first comprehensive and intelligent system to use robots to automate solar-panel tracking, reducing the electricity requirement of the system by 20 percent while increasing the output of the panels by up to 15 percent, according to the company. GREEN GREEN UPDATES UPDATES Share your sustainable engineering news with Senior Technical Editor Chuck Murray at Design News | FEBRUARY 2013 | www.d esign n –30–

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