Sunday, August 14, 2005

Canadian Breaks Solar Barrier

Solar power provides infinite power possibilities, but years ago I was told it's hampered by the 10% barrier. Below that mark it remains inefficient, but once it surpasses that barrier, its commercial posssibilites will blossom and it will become affordable.

Megan Ogilvie in The Sunday Star writes,
"[Ted] Sargent and his research team have invented a sprayable material that captures infrared light...and turns it into electrical energy.

The material may hold the key to creating efficient, cost-effective, large-scale solar technologies, boosting the efficiency of solar cells from about 5 per cent to 15 per cent, Sargent says."
Scientists have spent decades trying to break that barrier, and it looks like Sargent's happenstance discovery (and aren't all the best discoveries by accident?) is the ticket.

Sierra Magazine named Sargent, Nortel Networks Canada Research Chair in Emerging Technologies at the University of Toronto, one of six Earth Innovators in its July/August 2005 isssue. These are the sorts of people that both the private and public sectors ought to be investing in in Canada. This is the sort of research that will keep Canada economically viable and take us past the oil crunch that is already affecting us at the gas pumps and will soon affect us in our home. His invention will not only make solar panels on our houses affordable and more effective, but can also be used to power cars, appliances, and anything else that can be sprayed with paint or covered in fabric.

We live in a cold country and will die without heating. But as oil and gas grow more expensive, affordable alternatives need to come into full-scale production. Sargent's invention will save our air and save our pocketbooks. And those of us who freeze every winter in an effort to keep our heating costs down will be grateful. Unfortunately, it will probably be 10 years for his invention to "make the leap from lab to factory." But at least it's going to happen now.

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