These flexible solar cells bring us closer to kicking the fossil-fuel habit

The dream: the Green Economy that could be fueled by  tandem perovskite-on-silicon devices, a potentially transformational technology, that  could achieve around 43% efficiency.

No solar material has managed to supplant silicon. Perovskites, which are far cheaper and can be made into flexible modules, could change that.

Photo illustration of a perovskite

    • Perovskite solar cells can be cheaper, lighter, more energy-efficient, and easier to produce than traditional silicon
    • They could be put on windows, irregularly shaped surfaces, or even moving vehicles and open up a whole new range of uses for solar power, like desalination
    • The biggest challenge: making them durable enough

While silicon panels might dominate the market—with around 95% market share—silicon is not an especially good solar material. It mainly uses light from the red and infrared end of the solar spectrum, and it has to be fairly thick and bulky to absorb and convert photons. The most efficient silicon solar panels on the market achieve less than 23% efficiency, while the theoretical maximum for a single layer of silicon is around 29%.

Perovskite, on the other hand, can use more of the light that reaches it and can be tuned to work with different parts of the spectrum. Oxford PV has opted for the blue end. Paired in a cell, the two materials can convert more photons into electrons together than either can deliver on its own.

Oxford PV plans to deliver solar cells based on perovskite and silicon to the market by the end of next year, using a German factory it acquired in 2016 from Bosch Solar. The two materials will come in a package that otherwise looks, ships, and installs the same way as a standard solar panel, in a kind of half step that the company believes will make it easier to introduce the technology to the market.

Oxford PV's manufacturing plant in Germany.
Oxford PV’s manufacturing plant in Germany. OXFORD PV

Perovskites… can be produced at low temperatures and used in liquid form to coat flexible materials like plastic, enabling a roll-to-roll manufacturing process similar to newspaper printing. MORE

Plastic Gets a Do-Over: Breakthrough Discovery Recycles Plastic From the Inside Out

This is a huge breakthrough with obvious environmental implications–keeping plastics out of landfills and into recycling facilities for reuse.


Left to right: Peter Christensen, Kathryn Loeffler, and Brett Helms. (Credit: Marilyn Chung/Berkeley Lab)

Scientists from Berkeley Lab have made a next-generation plastic that can be recycled again and again into new materials of any color, shape, or form

Light yet sturdy, plastic is great – until you no longer need it. Because plastics contain various additives, like dyes, fillers, or flame retardants, very few plastics can be recycled without loss in performance or aesthetics. Even the most recyclable plastic, PET – or poly(ethylene terephthalate) – is only recycled at a rate of 20-30%, with the rest typically going to incinerators or landfills, where the carbon-rich material takes centuries to decompose.

Now a team of researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has designed a recyclable plastic that, like a Lego playset, can be disassembled into its constituent parts at the molecular level, and then reassembled into a different shape, texture, and color again and again without loss of performance or quality. The new material, called poly(diketoenamine), or PDK, was reported in the journal Nature Chemistry.

“Most plastics were never made to be recycled,” said lead author Peter Christensen, a postdoctoral researcher at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry. “But we have discovered a new way to assemble plastics that takes recycling into consideration from a molecular perspective.”

The researchers believe that their new recyclable plastic could be a good alternative to many nonrecyclable plastics in use today.

“We’re at a critical point where we need to think about the infrastructure needed to modernize recycling facilities for future waste sorting and processing,” said Helms. “If these facilities were designed to recycle or upcycle PDK and related plastics, then we would be able to more effectively divert plastic from landfills and the oceans. This is an exciting time to start thinking about how to design both materials and recycling facilities to enable circular plastics,” said Helms.

The researchers next plan to develop PDK plastics with a wide range of thermal and mechanical properties for applications as diverse as textiles, 3D printing, and foams. In addition, they are looking to expand the formulations by incorporating plant-based materials and other sustainable sources. MORE

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How do you get a country to go all-in on electric cars? Ask Norway

 


The Chevrolet Bolt, one of Canada’s most popular electric car, is among the vehicles eligible for federal rebates that came into effect Wednesday. (Duane Burleson/Associated Press)

The federal government’s new $5,000 rebate for Canadians buying electric vehicles may encourage more drivers to make the switch — but will it make a dent in Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions?

The rebate will likely raise sales of electric cars by a few per cent, but “that’s not enough to … transform the market,” said Nicholas Rivers, Canada Research Chair in climate and energy policy at the University of Ottawa.

Norway has achieved this transformation through “a bunch of incentives that are all piled on top of each other,” Rivers said.

Gunnar Eskeland, a professor at the Norwegian School of Economics, is more blunt about it. There have been incentives, yes, but also a “sledgehammer” in the form of Norway’s very high national taxes on vehicles — from which electric car buyers are exempt. 

Add in free use of toll roads, access to high-occupancy vehicle lanes and free parking with charging stations readily available, and Eskeland said electric car ownership has become tough for Norwegians to refuse.

Eskeland said the Norwegian government introduced the tax exemption years ago, when people were “charmed” by the idea of electric cars, but very few were available. The widespread adoption of zero-emission cars in Norway today is largely because the government didn’t “turn off” those tax exemptions once foreign EV manufacturers — including Tesla and Nissan — entered the Norwegian market, Eskeland said.

The tax breaks have cost the government a fair bit, which may mean it’s not a model other countries will be eager to adopt. But Eskeland said Norway’s enthusiasm may still help push the electric car agenda forward globally.  MORE

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Sorry, Critics Tell Warren, Greening US Empire’s “Powerful War Machine” No Answer to Climate Crisis

“…trying to “green” the Pentagon without addressing the destructive impacts of its bloated budget and American imperialism is a misguided way to combat the emergency of global warming.”

“Fighting the climate crisis is not about enabling the largest and most powerful military in human history to be more efficient in its destructive missions.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Wednesday unveiled a climate plan for the U.S. military that was quickly criticized by progressives. (Photo: Elizabeth Warren/Facebook)

Anti-war critics are responding to Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s new climate “resiliency and readiness” proposal to reform the U.S. military with warnings that trying to “green” the Pentagon without addressing the destructive impacts of its bloated budget and American imperialism is a misguided way to combat the emergency of global warming.

The most powerful war machine on the planet is never going to be ‘green.'” —Naomi Klein, author and activist

Warren is an original co-sponsor of the Green New Deal resolution that was introduced in February, just two days before the Massachusetts Democrat officially kicked off her 2020 presidential campaign.

Like several other proposals since then, Warren unveiled the Defense Climate Resiliency and Readiness Act in a Medium post Wednesday. But unlike many of her other proposals—from breaking up big tech and wiping out student debt to establishing universal childcare—this latest one was met with deep concern, not praise, from progressives.


Naomi Klein @NaomiAKlein

<@ewarren is running a great campaign but when it comes to climate breakdown, this is *not* a plan for that. The most powerful war machine on the planet is never going to be “green.” The outrageous military budget needs to be slashed to help pay for a Global Green New Deal. https://t.co/LWQO74g2pP

— Naomi Klein (@NaomiAKlein) May 15, 2019


Klein’s comments were echoed by other critics of Warren’s proposal, who instead called for curbing the Pentagon’s massive carbon footprint “through shrinking the military and ending empire.” Some pointed out that, by contrast, another 2020 candidate and backer of the Green New Deal, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), aims to “meaningfully [confront] imperialism.” MORE

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Mission Possible: The Green Party Climate Action Plan

At last a serious climate strategy! Other points within the Green’s 2019 climate plan:

      • Ensure all new cars are electric by 2030
      • Modernize and expand Via Rail service across Canada
      • Make all buildings in Canada carbon neutral by 2030
      • Mandate agriculture, fishing, forestry equipment use biodiesel made from restaurant vegetable fat.

The Green Party has Canada’s only comprehensive plan to avoid climate catastrophe.

Download the whole action plan (PDF)
The Mission

1 – Declare a Climate Emergency

Accept, at every level of government, that climate is not an environmental issue. It is the gravest security threat the world has ever seen.

2 – Establish an inner cabinet of all parties

Modelled on the war cabinets of Mackenzie King and Winston Churchill, parties will work together to ensure that climate is no longer treated like a political football. It requires all hands on deck.

3 – Set stringent new targets

Establish our new target and file it as Canada’s Nationally Determined Contribution with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change: 60 per cent GHG reductions against 2005 levels by 2030; zero emissions by 2050.

4 – Assume leadership

Attend the next climate negotiation in Chile this year and press other countries to also double their efforts.

5 – Respect evidence

Restore funding of climate research within the Government of Canada and in the network of universities that received financial support before 2011.

6 – Maintain carbon pricing

Revenue neutrality will be achieved through carbon fee and dividend and we will eliminate all subsidies to fossil fuels.

7 – Ban fracking

No exceptions. It destroys ecosystems, contaminates ground and surface water, endangers our health and it’s a major source of GHGs.

8 – Green the grid

By 2030, remove all fossil fuel generation from our national east-west electricity grid.

MORE

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