Cheaper, Better Cells May Give Solar Energy a Market Boost

A new type of low-cost, high-energy cell could make solar power much more affordable and widespread.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn


What's the Latest Development?

RTI International, a nonprofit R&D center based in North Carolina, has announced the creation of a new kind of solar cell that can provide the same amount of energy as traditional photovoltaic cells but can be produced for up to 75% less cost. In addition, the potential is there for this type of cell to produce even more power than its predecessor. According to one researcher, "There are many well-known techniques to enhance absorption, which suggests that the performance can increase substantially." The cell also has increased access to infrared light, giving it more of the light spectrum for energy creation.

What's the Big Idea?

Although the idea of converting sunlight to energy has been around for quite a while, solar power only makes up less than 1 percent of the world's energy supply, and that largely has to do with the production costs involved in making photovoltaics. The new RTI-designed cell can "be manufactured using high volume roll-to-roll processing and inexpensive coating processes, which reduces capital costs and increases production." The ability to create these cells at room temperature also saves money on energy requirements.

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The world and workforce need wisdom. Why don’t universities teach it?

Universities claim to prepare students for the world. How many actually do it?

Photo: Take A Pix Media / Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Many university mission statements do not live up to their promise, writes Ben Nelson, founder of Minerva, a university designed to develop intellect over content memorization.
  • The core competencies that students need for success—critical thinking, communication, problem solving, and cross-cultural understanding, for example—should be intentionally taught, not left to chance.
  • These competencies can be summed up with one word: wisdom. True wisdom is the ability to apply one's knowledge appropriately when faced with novel situations.
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What the world will look like in the year 250,002,018

This is what the world will look like, 250 million years from now

On Pangaea Proxima, Lagos will be north of New York, and Cape Town close to Mexico City
Surprising Science

To us humans, the shape and location of oceans and continents seems fixed. But that's only because our lives are so short.

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From zero to hero in 18 years: How SpaceX became a nation-state

SpaceX's momentous Crew Dragon launch is a sign of things to come for the space industry, and humanity's future.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk celebrates after the successful launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the manned Crew Dragon spacecraft at the Kennedy Space Center on May 30, 2020 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Earlier in the day NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley lifted off an inaugural flight and will be the first people since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011 to be launched into space from the United States.

Photo:Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • SpaceX was founded in 2002 and was an industry joke for many years. Eighteen years later, it is the first private company to launch astronauts to the International Space Station.
  • Today, SpaceX's Crew Dragon launched NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the ISS. The journey will take about 19 hours.
  • Dylan Taylor, chairman and CEO of Voyager Space Holdings, looks at SpaceX's journey from startup to a commercial space company with the operating power of a nation-state.
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Six-month-olds recognize (and like) when they’re being imitated

A new study may help us better understand how children build social cognition through caregiver interaction.

Personal Growth
  • Scientists speculate imitation helps develop social cognition in babies.
  • A new study out of Lund University shows that six-month-olds look and smile more at imitating adults.
  • Researchers hope the data will spur future studies to discover what role caregiver imitation plays in social cognition development.
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