Thursday, March 28, 2013

Faking Miniature Pictures Using GIMP Software - Part 2

Faking Miniature Pictures Using GIMP Software

I am learning how to create a miniature picture without spending thousand and thousand dollars on camera lenses. Following the instruction in How to Fake a Tilt-Shift Miniature Photograph in GIMP I have tried to fake few photos using the free graphic software called GIMP.

Recyclable Solar Cell Made From Trees

Researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology and Purdue University, USA, have developed efficient solar cells using natural substrates derived from plants such as trees, which making these solar cells can be quickly recycled in water at the end of their lifecycle.

The solar cells are fabricated on the cellulose nanocrystal (CNC) substrates which are optically transparent, enabling light to pass through them before being absorbed by a very thin layer of an organic semiconductor. Researchers have achieved 2.7% of cell efficiency. During the recycling process, the solar cells are simply immersed in water at room temperature. Within only minutes, the CNC substrate dissolves and the solar cell can be separated easily into its major components.

“The development and performance of organic substrates in solar technology continues to improve, providing engineers with a good indication of future applications,” said Bernard Kippelen, director of Georgia Tech’s Center for Organic Photonics and Electronics (COPE). “But organic solar cells must be recyclable. Otherwise we are simply solving one problem, less dependence on fossil fuels, while creating another, a technology that produces energy from renewable sources but is not disposable at the end of its lifecycle.”

To date, organic solar cells have been typically fabricated on glass or plastic. Neither is easily recyclable, and petroleum-based substrates are not very eco-friendly. Paper substrates are better for the environment, but have shown limited performance because of high surface roughness or porosity. However, CNC made from wood are green, renewable and sustainable. The substrates have a low surface roughness of only about 2 nanometers.

“Our next steps will be to work toward improving the power conversion efficiency over 10%, levels similar to solar cells fabricated on glass or petroleum-based substrates,” said Kippelen. The group plans to achieve this by optimizing the optical properties of the solar cell’s electrode.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

10 False Facts Most Of Us Think Are True

1. Going out in the cold with a wet head will make you sick
Numerous studies addressing the topic, people who are chilled are no more likely to get sick than those who were not. And a wet or dry head makes no difference.
2. Vikings wore horned helmets
Horned hats were not worn by the warriors. Although the style did exist in the region, they were only used for early ceremonial purposes and had largely faded out by the time of the Vikings.
3. Sugar makes kids go bonkers
The Journal of the American Medical Association published a review of 23 studies on the subject of kids and sugar, the conclusion: sugar doesn’t affect behavior. And it's possible that it is the idea itself that is so ingrained as fact that it affects our perception. Case in point: in one study mothers were told that their sons had consumed a drink with a high sugar content. Although the boys had actually consumed sugar-free drinks, the mothers reported significantly higher levels of hyperactive behavior.
4. You lose most of your body heat through your head
Everyone knows that you lose somewhere around 98% of your body heat through your head, which is why you have to wear a hat in the cold. Except that you DON'T. As reported in The New York Times and elsewhere, the amount of heat released by any part of the body depends mostly on the surface area — on a cold day you would lose more heat through an exposed leg or arm than a bare head.
5. You will get arthritis from cracking your knuckles
There is no evidence of such an association between cracking knuckles and arthritis, and in limited studies performed there was no change in occurrence of arthritis between "habitual knuckle crackers" and "non crackers." There have been several reports in medical literature that have linked knuckle cracking with injury of the ligaments surrounding the joint or dislocation of the tendons, but not arthritis.
6. Napoleon was short
Napoleon's height was once commonly given as 5 feet 2 inches, but many historians have now given him extra height. He was 5 feet 2 inches using French units, but when converted into Imperial units, the kind we are accustomed to, he measured almost 5 feet 7 inches tall.
7. You have to stretch before exercise
Stretching before exercise is the main way to improve performance and avoid injury, everyone stretches … but researchers have been finding that it actually slows you down. Experts reveal that stretching before a run can result in a 5% reduction of efficiency; meanwhile, Italian researchers studying cyclists confirmed that stretching is counterproductive. Furthermore, there has never been sufficient scientific evidence that pre-exercise stretching reduces injury risk.
8. Cholesterol in eggs is bad for the heart
The perceived association between dietary cholesterol and risk for coronary heart disease stems from dietary recommendations proposed in the 1960s that had little scientific evidence, other than the known association between saturated fat and cholesterol and animal studies where cholesterol was fed in amounts far exceeding normal intakes. Since then, study after study has found that cholesterol found in food does not negatively raise your body’s cholesterol. It is the consumption of saturated fat that is the demon here. So eat eggs, don’t eat steak.
9. Dogs age at seven years per one human year
Your 3-year-old dog is 21 years old in human years, right? Not according to experts. The general consensus is that dogs mature faster than humans, reaching the equivalent of 21 years in only two, and then aging slows down to more like four human years per year.
10. George Washington had wooden teeth 
1st president of USA starting losing his teeth in his 20s and most American believe that his dentures were made of wood. NO! Washington had four sets of dentures that were made from gold, hippopotamus ivory, lead, and human and animal teeth.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

BMW i3 - New Electric Vehicle

BMW i3 electric vehicle (EV) is setting to launch this year. Powered by innovative eDrive technology, the i3 generates zero emissions and incomparable driving exhilaration, but also provides a calm, virtually silent driving experience ranging from 130 km to160 km before requiring charging. And through its optional DC fast charging, the battery can be replenished to 80% charge within less than 30 minutes. The BMW i3’s electric engine generates an output of 170 hp at 250 lb-ft of torque. It can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in less than 8 seconds. The new i3 prices at about US$52,000 (RM161,000).

A New Maximum Theoretical Efficiency Of Solar Cell Might Have Been Set

In physics, the Shockley–Queisser Limit refers to the maximum theoretical efficiency of a solar cell using single p-n junction to collect power from the sun. The limit was set to 33.7%. This means every 100 watts of solar power received, only 33.7 watts converts to electricity.

Scientists from the Nano-Science Center at the Niels Bohr Institut, Denmark and the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland, might have reset this limit. They showed that a single nanowire, which is a cylindrical structure with a diameter of about 10,000 part of a human hair, can concentrate the sunlight up to 15 times of the normal sun light intensity. The results are surprising and the potential for developing a new type of highly efficient solar cells is great.

The diameter of a nanowire crystal is few hundred times smaller than the wavelength of the light coming from the sun it can cause resonances in the intensity of light in and around nanowires. Thus, the resonances can give a concentrated sunlight, where the energy is converted, which can be used to give a higher conversion efficiency of the sun's energy.

However, it will take some years before production of solar cells consisting of nanowires becomes a reality.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Apple's 75% Power Consumption Coming From Renewable Sources

Apple, Inc., is having an ambitious goal of  powering its entire facility with renewable energy. Apple is investing in its own onsite energy production, establishing relationships with suppliers to procure renewable energy off the grid, and reducing energy needs even as the employee base grows.

Currently, Apple has already achieved 100% renewable energy at all data centers. And for all of Apple’s corporate facilities worldwide 75% are supplying from renewable energy. The ultimate goal will be achieving 100% renewable energy throughout Apple.

According to Apple, below are the elements to achieve energy-efficient design:
  • A chilled water storage system to improve chiller efficiency by transferring 10,400 kWh of electricity consumption from peak to off-peak hours each day
  • Use of “free” outside air cooling through a waterside economizer operation during night and cool-weather hours, which, along with water storage, allows the chillers to be turned off more than 75% of the time
  • Extreme precision in managing cooling distribution for cold air containment pods with variable-speed fans controlled to exactly match airflow-to-server requirements from moment to moment
  • Power distributed at higher voltages, which increases efficiency by reducing power loss
  • White cool-roof design to provide maximum solar reflectivity
  • High-efficiency LED lighting combined with motion sensors
  • Real-time power monitoring and analytics during operations
  • Construction processes that utilized 14% recycled materials, diverted 93% of construction waste from landfills, and sourced 41% of purchased materials within 500 miles of the site 
In 2012, Apple completed construction on the nation’s largest end user–owned, onsite solar photovoltaic array on land surrounding the data center. This 100-acre, 20 MW facility has an annual production capacity of 42 million kWh of clean energy. Currently, they’re building a second 20-MW solar photovoltaic facility on nearby land that should be operational in late 2013. In addition, Apple built an onsite 10-MW fuel cell installation that uses directed biogas and provides more than 83 million kWh of 24/7 baseload renewable energy annually — it’s the largest non-utility fuel cell installation operating anywhere in the country. By 2014, Apple will be producing total of 167 million kWh of clean energy, equivalent to 17,600 homes annual consumption.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Malaysia Solar FiT Degression Rate Increases To 20% Per Year

Malaysia’s photovoltaic (PV) feed-in tariff (FiT) degression rate for installations above 24kW will be increased to 20%, compared to the current 8%. This revised degression rate is expected to take effect in March 2013 and is said to be the final revision for 2013.

Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water (KeTTHA) deputy secretary-general Datuk Badaruddin Mahyuddin announced this at a dialogue organised by SEDA at Universiti Tenaga Nasional in Kajang, Selangor on February 26th. He cited the following reasons for the steep hike in degression rates:
  • the drastic drop in global prices of PV modules in recent years.
  • an anticipated price decline of 5% to 10% annually in overall cost for solar PV technology in Malaysia over the next two to three years.
  • to reflect current market conditions that could translate into a lower amount of subsidies required for the same capacity.
  • to expand and diversify the RE portfolio in the country, especially for new resources such as wind and geothermal.
  • to ensure the RE sector remains competitive and innovative to become more sustainable and profitable for all, taking into account that the RE Fund under the feed-in tariff mechanism is funded by citizens and needs to be managed prudently.
  • to tackle the issue of windfall profit, which is perceived to have largely profitted the PV service providers.
Badaruddin adds that the degression rate for small capacity solar PV projects of up to 24 kW is retained at the current rate 8%, while the bonus degression rates for use of locally manufactured PV modules and inverters have been reduced to 0%.

The PV industry has a mixed response to the hike. Malaysian Photovoltaic Industry Association secretary John Hng believes that the 20% degression rate will “kill the industry”, while some others indicated that this move could trigger their withdrawal from the industry. However, one industry observer lauded the move towards a higher degression rate because the FiT rate set on December 2011 were based on 2009 PV prices, which were then high and prices have since plummeted. 

Since the implementation of the FiT mechanism on December 1st, 2011, SEDA has received a total of 1,569 applications for a total capacity of 655 MW as of January 31st, 2013. Solar PV received an overwhelming response with 1,505 applications or 96% of the total applications received.

Of the total, 993 applications, for an equivalent capacity of 437 MW, have been approved, of which solar accounts for 169 MW or 38.7%.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

"Unfortunately, the process has stopped" Error In Galaxy S3

Today, my wife Samsung Galaxy S3 gave me any challenge again! She suddenly couldn't launch Facebook app, open Google Play Store, check email using Samsung Email app... We had tried to restart the phone few times but didn't really help. Every time the phone booted up an error message "Unfortunately, the process has stopped" appeared. I had tried several methods found in the internet:

(1) Go to Settings > Accounts > Google > tab on your gmail account and uncheck "sync internet" if it's checked. DIDN'T WORK FOR ME!

(2) Go to Settings > Accounts > Google > tap on your gmail account and click "Remove account". Some had to reboot the phone and some didn't have. DIDN'T WORK FOR ME!

(3) Go to Settings > Application Manager > All tab, scroll down to  "Download Manager" and enable it if not. DIDN'T WORK FOR ME!

(4) FACTORY RESET your phone. Wait!

I DIDN'T go that far to factory reset my phone.

(5) I installed "AVG AntiVirus Free" in my Galaxy Tab 10.1" and used the app "App Backup & Restore" to back it up. Then transferred the backup apk file to my wife S3. I did this because, as I said above, Google Play Store couldn't be launched in the S3. Make sure you go to Settings > Security > check "Unknown sources". Only with this option checked you are able to install app which are not directly install from Google Play Store.

Then I launched AVG AntiVirus and performed a scan. The scan found few apps that were possible threat. So I uninstalled them. Magically, my wife S3 immediately returned to normal and able to launch Facebook, open Play Store, check email...
went to Settings->Application Manager->All tab. I scrolled to the bottom. Download Manager was diabled. I enabled it.

Read more: How to fix has stopped working on samsung vibrant? - I installed cyanogen mod 7 custom rom on my samsung vibrant and now i keep getting this message :: Ask Me Fast at
Settings->Application Manager->All tab. I scrolled to the bottom. Download Manager was diabled. I enabled it

Read more: How to fix has stopped working on samsung vibrant? - I installed cyanogen mod 7 custom rom on my samsung vibrant and now i keep getting this message :: Ask Me Fast at
Settings->Application Manager->All tab. I scrolled to the bottom. Download Manager was diabled. I enabled it

Read more: How to fix has stopped working on samsung vibrant? - I installed cyanogen mod 7 custom rom on my samsung vibrant and now i keep getting this message :: Ask Me Fast at

Air Freshener Made From Cow Dung

Two Indonesian high school students, Dwi Nailul Izzah and Rintya Aprianti Miki, have impressed the judges at the 2013 Indonesian Science Project Olympiad (ISPO) with their ingenious air freshener made from cow dung. They managed to defeat 1,000 other participants and won the gold medal. Believe it or not, the organic product actually has a pleasant plant-like fragrance.

According to the judges and everyone else who had the chance to sniff the air freshener, it has a surprisingly nice herbal fragrance. Also, the air freshener contains none of the chemicals found in similar commercially-available products, and it’s also more affordable. A conventional 275g air freshener costs US$4, where their 225g air freshener costs just US$2.

To make the manure air freshener, Dwi Nailul Izzah and Rintya Aprianti Miki collected the necessary material from a cattle farm in Lamongam, East Java, and let it ferment for 3 days. Then they extracted the water from the fermented manure and mixed it with coconut water. Finally, they distilled the liquid to eliminate all impurities to get the air freshener. The whole process took 7 days.

The two girls are getting ready to showcase their unique invention at the International Environment Project Olympiad (INEPO), in Istanbul, and are getting ready to file for a patent.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Solar Island

Nolaris, Switzerland, is a company providing small to medium-scale (20 – 200 meters diameter) tracking platforms “Solar Islands” for solar installations.

Nolaris is joining force with Swiss energy company Viteos to build 3 solar islands in Lake Neuchâte, Switzerland. The floating man-made island has a diameter of 25 meters, makes out of plastic and steel platforms that will rotate with the sun. An array of 100 PV panels with total power of 33 kW will be installed on the island. Estimated every year could generate 37,100 kWh of electricity.

Nolaris solar island has couple advantages over land-based PV system. They are:
  • The sun tracking is achieved by simple rotation of the entire island thus avoiding the costs of motorizing each solar receiver when builds on land.
  • Solar island can serve a dual purpose, generating energy while reducing water evaporation and thus water loss when builds on dry area like desert.
Nolaris has provided an unique solution to clients with limited or expensive land space. Soon we might see this unique scene around our river.

Is Skyscraper With Planter And Tree A Realistic Architectural Design?

On 1st February this year I blogged about World First Man-Made Vertical Forest. It was a new architectural concept for improving  city's air quality. Now, questions have raised whether it was a practical and realistic design.

I am quoting few phrases from "Are architects going overboard with the trees on buildings?" on how others viewed.

Tim De Chant, Senior Digital Editor at WGBH, said that it is just one of many that architects are drawing these days.
Want to make a skyscraper look trendy and sustainable? Put a tree on it. Or better yet, dozens. Many high-concept skyscraper proposals are festooned with trees. On the rooftop, on terraces, in nooks and crannies, on absurdly large balconies. Basically anywhere horizontal and high off the ground. Now, I should be saying architects are drawing dozens, because I have yet to see one of these “green” skyscrapers in real life.
There are plenty of scientific reasons why skyscrapers don’t—and probably won’t—have trees, at least not to the heights which many architects propose. Life sucks up there. For you, for me, for trees, and just about everything else except peregrine falcons. It’s hot, cold, windy, the rain lashes at you, and the snow and sleet pelt you at high velocity. Life for city trees is hard enough on the ground. I can’t imagine what it’s like at 500 feet, where nearly every climate variable is more extreme than at street level.

 Lloyd Alter, Design / Green Architecture, also commented that,
City trees have enough trouble finding enough space for their roots at ground level in sidewalk planters, and even if they survive, they rarely grow much bigger than they were when they were planted. So are the trees on this building ever going to look like they do in that rendering?
It seems like building a skyscraper embedded in trees is still a technically challenged concept. It is very nice to view on the rendering. In reality, the design could come out very different. I guess there is still a long way to go for "Man-Made Vertical Forest".

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Electricity From Lake

Lake Kivu, along the western border of Rwanda, is one of the world’s 3 known “exploding lakes,” presenting a threat as well as an opportunity for local communities. Deep below the surface of lake, volcanic vents release large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2), which is then converted to methane gas by subsurface bacteria. Both the CO2 and methane are currently trapped at the bottom of the lake, dissolved in water. The lake’s dense layers prevent vertical mixing for the time being, but there is significant concern that a geologic disturbance in the area or a saturation of the water with CO2 and methane within the next 2 centuries could lead to a significant and lethal release of gases. Current concentrations of dissolved CO2 in Lake Kivu are estimated at 250–300 billion cubic meters, while methane concentrations are nearing 55–60 billion cubic meters. Experts predict that the lake could become saturated within the next 50 to 200 years. If safely extracted, however, the methane could provide a source of electricity and reduce the geochemical risks associated with the untapped gas.

To harness the lake’s energy potential, ContourGlobal, an international energy development company, designed and implemented Phase 1 of Project KivuWatt, an innovative extraction and power plant system that taps the dissolved gas to generate electricity, a unique technological solution that translates potential risks into both socioeconomic development and geochemical stability. ContourGlobal raised a total debt funding of US$91.5 million to finance both the methane gas extraction and production facility and a 25 MW power plant located on the shore of Lake Kivu.

Unfortunately, the momentum of KivuWatt is waning only a few short years later. Although Phase 1 was financed and is complete, there are 3 more phases left to reach the project’s ambitious 100 MW planned capacity. Both private and public sector investors are reluctant to invest in a region that is currently, and is likely to continue, experiencing political instability.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

China To Become The World Biggest Solar Market in 2013

In 2013, China is aiming to become the biggest solar producer and buyer. Over the past decade, China has come to dominate the solar manufacturing industry thanks to huge capital investments. Even with many solar companies have gone out of business, the overall effect has been good thanks to lower costs and more total capacity. Cost has gone down 20% just last year and total production capacity is forecast to be 34.1 GW in 2013, an increase of 14% over 2012.

Bloomberg writes:
China, the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, is forecast to unseat Germany as the largest solar market in 2013, according to analysts at BNEF. Projects have multiplied as the nation provides financial support to its solar companies in a bid to diversify the coal-dependent energy industry... The Chinese government expects 10 gigawatts of new solar projects in 2013, more than double its previous target and three times last year’s expansion. The country plans to install 35 gigawatts by 2015, compared with a previous goal of 21 gigawatts, government adviser Shi Dinghuan said Jan. 30.
With the increase of production and demand, we foresee that the cost of solar installation will continue to drop and soon could reach grid parity. By then the world could be less dependent on coal, and stop building new plants and close old ones.

12-Year-Old American Girl Building Her Own Solar-Powered House

Is solar powered house still a myth for many of us? 12-year-old student Sicily Kolbeck is building her own "Le Petite Maison", a 128 square-foot solar-powered home. The idea was inspired by Deek Diedricksen’s YouTube channel and Kirsten Dirksen’s documentary, We, the Tiny House People.

Kolbeck is building the house as part of her curriculum for the year at HoneyFern School in Marietta, Georgia, USA. The house will be powered entirely by a rooftop solar energy array, and should easily be able to meet all the energy requirements for one or more people living in the space. The project was funded through an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign. Kolbeck has invited all contributors to tour the house during an open house in May 2013.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Malaysia Is Pushing For 2nd-Generation Biofuel

Malaysia is stepping up in the production and usage of 2nd-generation biofuel. This will help the nation to achieve the 40% reduction of greenhouse gases emission by 2020. The process of producing the 2nd-generation fuel can be produced by converting biomass to liquid fuel via fast pyrolysis.

Unlike the current burning of empty fruit bunches in oil mill boilers, fast pyrolysis process rapidly, typically in few seconds, heats the biomass to temperatures between 300°C and 550°C at high pressure without any oxygen. The gases released by the burnt biomass enter a quench tower, where they are quickly cooled and recycled back to the reactor as fuel.

Fast pyrolysis is a simple, low-cost technology capable of processing a wide variety of feedstocks producing gases, bio-oil, bio-chemicals, and charcoal. A promising approach is the production of a bio-oil that can be used to power ethanol, biodiesel or other local industries facilities.
According to PM Koh, Lipochem Sdn Bhd managing director, “2nd-generation biofuel, like bio-oil, is more environmentally friendly than biodiesel or bio-ethanol. This is because bio-oil is derived from biomass and this circumvents the food versus fuel dilemma."

2nd-generation biofuels are a realistic alternative to fossil fuels. This is because bio-oil can be used to produce steam to push turbines for electricity generation. This is a valuable means of replacing depleting fossil fuels like petroleum, coal and natural gas.

“Bio-oil plants are the way forward as they are far more energy efficient and make the industry more carbon neutral,” Koh told Business Times at the 2013 Palm and Lauric Oils Conference and Exhibition.

Currently, Lipochem’s demo plant in Klang is capable of processing 5 tonnes of dry biomass a day. Koh said a 100-tonne plant will cost around RM30 million, and the investment could payback in around 3 years.

Koh said bio-oil has many of the advantages of petroleum fuels since it can be stored, pumped and transported. It is currently being combusted directly in boilers, gas turbines, and slow and medium speed diesels for steam and power plants.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Re-Harvesting Waste Power From Pressurized Water

Pressurized water has been used in many industrial processes, like oil refining, chemical and food processing, seawater desalination, etc. Much of the potential energy that is created when those liquids are pressurized is lost. And yet, a good amount of it can be re-harvested.

Energy Recovery, an equipment supplier in California, has been re-harvesting energy in desalination plants for 20 years. In the desalination plant, huge pumps push seawater through a membrane, leaving about 40% of the fluid potable, and sending the rest back to the ocean. Energy Recovery's device will re-harvest energy from the returned seawater flow and inject back to the original flow. This process helps to reduce 60% of the energy needed for pumping.

Energy Recovery has installed 14,000 devices on seven continents, and reduced about 12 billion kWh of energy per year. Tom Rooney, CEO of the company, says the plants can make back their investment in 3 to 6 years.

He sees opportunities in other industries and with municipalities. "You have a very clumsy assortment of pressure up and pressure down throughout large municipal distribution systems. There’s no question that there is an enormous opportunity to go in and harvest the pressure," he says.

Natural Gas As An Alternative Energy Source For Sabah

As the scarcity of energy becomes increasingly more pressing worldwide today, the search for an alternative and renewable energy source intensifies.

Sabah Energy Corporation, a Sabah government-linked agency, organized a talk on the "Alternative Energy Source - Compressed Natural Gas" recently.

In his welcoming remarks, The state Deputy Chief Minister cum Minister of Resource Development and Information Technolgy Datuk Dr. Yee Moh Chai said the discussion on finding an alternative source of energy is is particularly relevant for Sabah as the state has a large natural gas reserve.

He said with more than 12 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves, Sabah is able to fuel the growth of various industries over a few decades.

Datuk Dr. Yee told the meeting that a renewable energy source is not only important in the light of the increased cost of energy, it is also in line with the growing environmental awareness of the  need to switch to energy that is environmentally friendly.

Natural gas is a hydrocarbon gas that is lighter than air. It is a cleaner alternative as it produces relatively low pollutants and has fewer emissions than coal or oil. According to the number published by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of United Nations in 2011, greenhouse-gases emission from burning natural gas is half less than coal for electricity. Below table shows the result published by IPCC for various technologies.

Natural gas is relatively cheap as the natural gas market is still not a global one. The promotion of natural gas usage is consistent with the Malaysia Government's five-fuel policy that is aimed at avoiding over dependence on a single energy source.

Monday, March 4, 2013

New Graphene Photovoltaic Cell Could Achieve 60% Efficiency

Graphene is a substance composed of pure carbon, with atoms arranged in a regular hexagonal pattern similar to graphite, but in a one-atom thick sheet. It is very light, with a 1-square-meter sheet weighing only 0.77 milligrams. Several potential applications for graphene are under development, and many more have been proposed. These include display screens, electric circuits, various medical, chemical, and industrial processes enhanced or enabled by the use of new graphene materials.

Recently, researchers have applied graphene to photovoltaic cells. They showed that it is highly efficient at generating electrons when light was shined.

When light strikes silicon and gallium arsenide, single electron was generated for each photon absorbed. Since a photon contains more energy than one electron can carry, much of the energy contained in the incoming light is lost as heat. Now, new research reveals that when graphene absorbs a photon it generates multiple electrons. This means that graphene could be more efficient than the devices commonly used today.

Previous theoretical work had inspired hope that graphene had this property, says Frank Koppens, a group leader at the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Spain, who led the research. Although the work only hints at possible solar applications, it shows that graphene could be considered a candidate for use in so-called third-generation solar cells. Today’s silicon cells have a theoretical efficiency limit of around 30%. Graphene could improve the theoretical limit to over 60%.

Graphene was already exciting as a photovoltaic material because of its unique optical properties which covers a very broad spectrum of the sunlight. It is also flexible, robust, relatively cheap, and easily integrated with other materials.