Archive for February, 2009

Are plastic solar cells going to be important?

Thursday, February 26th, 2009 by

Researchers at Canada’s National Institute for Nanotechnology (NINT) and the University of Alberta have developed an approach that could lead to improved performance of plastic solar cells (hybrid organic solar cells). Conventional solar cells require materials that are expensive or in short supply, such as silicon, thus there is a great interest in the development of plastic solar panels that could be mass-produced and inexpensive.

However, the researchers estimate that it will be 5-7 years before plastic solar cells are mass produced.   When that happens the material will be produced quickly and cheaply by ink jet like printers.   So it appears that it will be a long wait for such technology to have an impact in developing countries.   In the meantime there are other potential improvements to solar cells that will probably reach the market much earlier.

Source: Nanotechnology Researchers Increase Efficiency of Plastic Solar Cells

Full paper: Thienylsilance-Modified Indium Tin Oxide as an Anodic Interface in Polymer/Fullerene Solar Cells, (Feb 25, 2009 edition, ACS Applied Materials + Interfaces).

Where is the voice of the poor in Sri Lanka nanotechnology initiative?

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009 by

According to The Sunday Times (Colombo), 8 February 2009, Sri Lanka is hoping to be a global player in sustainable nanotechnology with the launch of the Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology (SLINTEC) in May 2009.   There is no doubt from this report that the public private partnership has established a group of leading scientists.   Ravi Fernando, CEO of SLINTECH claims that “Sri Lanka has the opportunity to differentiate itself through sustainable nanotechnology that will enhance the environment, not impact social systems negatively and contribute to economic competitiveness.”

The challenge is to grasp that opportunity and apply it for the benefit of the people of Sri Lanka as a whole, not just a relatively rich few.   The challenge is to develop products using nanotechnology that are appropriate to the needs of people in Sri Lanka not just simply wanted by the global market place.   The challenge is to include the voice of poor people in the direction and development of the research.   To fail in these challenges would be to replicate just another global centre of expertise that returns little to the people of the country that hosts it.

Nanotechnology to remove arsenic from water: latest research

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009 by

There have been many claims that nanotechnology will be able to remove arsenic from drinking water yet specific products are only just beginning to appear on the market.   One such product was reported on the A to Z of nanotechnology web site recently.

“The U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory and Water Technology Group Inc., (WTG) Harvard, Mass., signed a licensing agreement (31 January 2009) that provides exclusive rights to commercialize the Nano-Composite Arsenic Sorbent (N-CAS) that will improve the ability to remove arsenic from contaminated water supplies and is seven times more effective than previous arsenic removal technologies.

In 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency standards reduced the maximum allowable concentration of arsenic in drinking water from 50 parts per billion (ppb) to 10 ppb creating an expensive dilemma for 4,000 American municipalities and nearly 14 million homeowners whose water resources now exceed the new limits. N-CAS will provide an economical method to treat water supplies and meet these new standards.”

It is encouraging to note that Troy Tranter, who led the team’s research efforts, is reported as saying, “This technology will aid millions of Americans and more than 70 million people around the globe who are exposed to dangerous arsenic concentrations in their drinking water.”    However, this is unlikely to happen without a major initiative to spread the benefits of this technology to developing countries like Nepal and Bangladesh.   A key challenge now is for Troy Tranter and his team to find innovative ways of deploying the technology where it is most needed in the world.