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Christmas Cheer Technology Science

The Best Of What's New 2007 66

BlaineZilla pointed us to one of the earliest annual 'best of' roundups: Popular Science's Best of What's New awards. The winner this year is a nanosolar powersheet that may someday change the way we think about renewable energy. Other winners include the corot satellite, a project aimed at searching out habitable planets in other solar systems, and the world's most advanced bionic hand.
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The Best Of What's New 2007

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  • What if.. only I had a robotic hand??? FP
  • when ? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by polar red ( 215081 ) on Sunday November 18, 2007 @04:03PM (#21400393)
    But is that solar sheet in the stores yet ?
    • by safXmal ( 929533 )
      And when are they going to be integrated in roof shingles?
    • by midol ( 752608 )
      real good point. I'd be a lot more impressed by (repeat) news like this if there as a link to a place where I could buy any of this. This film solar looks an awful lot like vaporware...
      • Re:when ? (Score:5, Informative)

        by vertinox ( 846076 ) on Sunday November 18, 2007 @04:19PM (#21400529) []

        I wouldn't say vaporware because NanoSolar does have a $9 million dollar contract with the DOE and has a working prototype production of said solar film that actually works. History Chanel had a small clip about their production line (not the History Channel Clip but shows the same machine [] ) so its out of the R&D theory stage and will have to go into mass production phase.

        Its no longer a question of "if?", but rather "when?"

        • by djradon ( 105400 )
          According to a posting from NanoSolar on their Yahoo Groups page, their entire 2008 production run is already spoken for. They suggest general availability won't come until 2009.
      • by morcego ( 260031 )

        I'd be a lot more impressed by (repeat) news like this if there as a link to a place where I could buy any of this.

        The it would tagged as slashvertasing, people would complain about the editor etc etc.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by lostraven ( 928812 )
      Not sure of the "when", but their website states...

      Please sign up here to be notified of our upcoming public product launch []

      MY question is about the practical side of it. How do
      install it? If you cut it to size, how do you "seal" the
      end where you cut it? How do you connect each length to
      the grid of the apparatus to be powered? Guess we'll find
      out soon enough.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by moosesocks ( 264553 )

      But is that solar sheet in the stores yet ?

      Just because I can't walk into a hardware store and buy a brown paper bag full of carbon nanotubes and a fistful of buckyballs doesn't make them any less relevant or significant.
      • But is that solar sheet in the stores yet ?

        Just because I can't walk into a hardware store and buy a brown paper bag full of carbon nanotubes and a fistful of buckyballs doesn't make them any less relevant or significant.

        Nanosolar is specifically touting their cost-effectiveness. Thus the price to actually buy the product is extremely relevant. Anyone can claim that their product will be a better deal, but until it ships, such claims are hot air.

        • Somewhere there's a quote of approximately 30 cents USD per watt.

          I'm not sure if this is solely the manufacutring cost, or what they'll be selling the panels for in bulk.

          And my point was that nanoSolar probably won't produce any products that you'll be able to go out any buy yourself. They're not that kind of company, and their product doesn't really lend itself to that sort of distribution channel.

          They'll instead cater to other manufacturers to allow them to package the panels into their own products. 3M
  • nanoSolar (Score:5, Insightful)

    by moosesocks ( 264553 ) on Sunday November 18, 2007 @04:09PM (#21400435) Homepage
    Although I was pretty skeptical about the buzzword-laden NanoSolar, after reading TFA, I've gotta say that their technology is absolutely incredible, and unlike most of PopSci's outlandish predictions looks like it very well break into the mainstream. Although it's not going to singlehandedly solve the energy crisis, if they can ramp up production quickly enough (and maybe cut costs even further), we'll soon begin to see a more widespread adoption of solar power.

    As long as the cells are cheap enough, the applications for it are impressively extensive. The cells themselves are incredibly light and thin, and looks like it can be applied to just about any flat surface. It won't power your car, but it might make your hybrid/electric go a few extra miles before the next charge. Flat-roofed buildings can cover themselves in the stuff, and greatly reduce their energy usage. (Alternatively, a facility such as a warehouse could possibly even break even on its energy usage by keeping itself lit during the day with skylights, and selling the energy from the roof back to the grid. During the night, power for artificial light is taken from the grid)

    You might even be able to apply the film directly to the body of a car or to roofing materials, given that the underlying backing doesn't need to be anything terribly special.

    The fact that they're doing the majority of their research and production in the US and Germany also suggest that the manufacturing process will be relatively clean, and that their workers will be paid decent wages.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by hibji ( 966961 )
      It seemed very promising to me as well. However, on further research, it seems that nanosolar may not be as rock solid as I first thought.

      In June, nanosolar lost one of its chief scientist. []
      What do other slashdotter think of this?
      • I too am skeptical (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward []

        Many companies and researchers are working on CIGS photovoltaic technology. The fact that this particular company uses the word 'nano' makes me worry even more.

        Lots of people working on the technology means that any really easy solutions don't exist. Nobody is claiming that the technology is more than half as efficient as conventional technology. The fact that this company uses marketing terminology to describe their project makes them look like
        • These CIGS sheets seem very versatile and robust, but they're also supposed to have mediocre efficiency. There may be other upcoming technologies involving quantum dots which may produce more watts per sq.ft.

          Oh well, Nanosolar's technology seems cheap and easy to deploy, which is good news.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Cadallin ( 863437 )
            How bad is it? The best Current Production Silicon Panels push around 30%, giving around 250-300Watts/m^2 (depending on latitude, season, and air quality, it can be even less). Of course, they're also relatively heavy, and quite expensive usually around $1000-$2000/m^2 (driven by low production capacities and very high demand). If these things can do at least 15-20% with flexible panels, They'd easily be able to get the prices I listed above just on the basis of being able to completely cover buildings
        • I'm pretty skeptical as well, but they seem to have produced working prototypes, and have a good idea of how they're going to be able to produce them efficiently in massive quantities, and have solid investor support. It's definitely not snake oil. It'll be some time before we know if it catches on or not, but despite the cheesy name, they do seem to have their act together.
      • Well, if nanoSolar doesn't do it, someone else will.

        Thin-film deposition is a very promising area of research for a variety of applications, allowing for very advanced surfaces to be "printed" onto ordinary materials. The fact that they've proven that photovoltaics can be produced in such a manner is extremely significant.

        nanoSolar seem to have worked the hard bits out, and actually appear to have a working prototype, along with a production strategy that's fast, efficient, and comparatively inexpensive, m
  • by jdb2 ( 800046 ) on Sunday November 18, 2007 @04:33PM (#21400635) Journal
    Here's a link to a longer and better video ( that works in Linux ) that shows off more of the capabilities of this thing : []

  • Looks like popsci doesn't like my firefox. So long popsci.
  • ...Begley Cloth? :) ( you need to be a Larry Niven fan to get this one )

  • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Sunday November 18, 2007 @05:04PM (#21400899)
    The month December. That was absolutely the best of 2007.

    St00pid lists that round up years before they are over. Almost like an OS that calls his OS for the NEXT year. Mandriva anybody?
    • There's several reasons for this...

      First and foremost... you want to be first with your list of what was best of the year. If a rival publishes theirs first, everybody will be talking about it already. By the time you publish yours, less people are going to be interested in it - and those who are, will be comparing your list to their list; which has a subtle but very important difference from people comparing their list to your list. Granted - if your list is, in content, much better than the others' the
      • by Mal-2 ( 675116 )
        When it comes to cars though, it could be said that "Car of the Year 2007" means "Best Car of Model Year 2007", where the Model Year 2007 cars rolled out some time around August or September of 2006. The 2008 cars rolled out months ago, and pre-production models have been available for review since March or April, so it is hardly surprising that they have already been reviewed, compared, and ranked.

        That said, all a list like this needs to do is say "Best of 2007" and in small print, add "(so far)". Any cons
      • This runs in the same vein as stores putting out Christmas crap earlier and earlier. It's gotten to the point where they're pushing towards October 1st now.
  • by BlueParrot ( 965239 ) on Sunday November 18, 2007 @06:44PM (#21401637)
    As of the end of 2006, the total worldwide installed PV capacity was 5.7 gigawatt at peak. Norway, a country with a population bellow 5 million, consumes more electricity than that. Single nuclear power stations can produce more electricity. Seriously, solar will NOT solve the energy crisis in any near future. Even with an exponential growth of solar power, doubling installed capacity every 5 years, it would still be more than 50 years until you get to the same order of magnitude as PRESSENT energy consumption, and this is at peak power.

    Proponents of solar power usually talk about how its efficiency is about to jump several times in the near future, but even if you improved the efficicency tenfold ( which would put you above 100% efficiency) you would still not even be within 1% of pressent energy consumption. Seriously, maybe in a century, but photovoltaics just isn't going to replace Oil before it runs out.

    To get a slight idea about what will be required to phase out fossil fuels, have a look at this diagram: []

    Solar and Wind just ins't going to solve that issue alone. Neither is nuclear, biofuels, or clean coal. It should be damn obvious from that diagram alone that we are going to need every piece of clean energy we can get our hands on. Expanding the use of nuclear and biomass 5 times, would take care of the first 50%. Carbon capture and storage with coal sticks you up at 75%, and expanding wind power 100 times can provide the remainder. All of this assumes strict energy conservation measures to keep the overall energy use at pressent levels. Of course, with the developing world industrialising this appears unlikely, so you will need some more energy, but ff we go for the optimistic goal of preventing overall energy consumption from increasing by more than 50%, then it is doable, PROVIDED we use all energy sources we can get. To reject carbon capture and storage, nuclear or other energy sources, based on some delusional pipe-dream of solar power coming to the rescue is however just wishful thinking.
    • two more (Score:3, Informative)

      by zogger ( 617870 )
      There are two more technologies that are here and now and if implemented on very large scales would do more than a lot of the other alternatives, and those are geothermal and superinsulation techniques. Ground loop geothermal *works*, and works well, as does superinsulation. I've worked on several superinsulation projects and the results are quite simply fantastic. It's not sexy or gee whizz new tech, just using old tech smarter, it doesn't produce any more energy, but dollar for dollar it has everything el
      • I did not know about the solar decathlon, and apparently, neither did the grand parent... - Thanks!
      • So, basically, you are saying the government should give you money? What a unique perspective.
        • A tax credit? That's just keeping that sum of money and staying out of the tax collection scheme. That isn't them giving you a thing, just you getting to keep it as long as it is directed towards the reason for the credit. We had it before back in the late 70s to early 80s and it worked fairly well as long as it was running.

          As to income taxes in general, that's another subject entirely, basically I am opposed to them because the US currently uses a non asset based fiat money system, with the money "injected
          • I was being more oblique than referring directly to tax credits for yourself. I assumed your reason for wanting to popularize this thing is that you "worked on several" projects doing it - meaning you personally are financially vested in government funding and more widespread use of the tech. Although, now that I know more about "superinsulation", that seems less likely unless you work for a business that provides superinsulation consulting to house builders or something like that. (Superinsulation is so
            • I'm just a long standing alternative energy enthusiast, since the 60s actually, and I frequently chime in here on slashdot if the subject comes up. For a short time I worked in the business, but now I just do farming. And I *did* work in the business way back then because I was convinced how effective it was, true believer fanboy in other words. Sort of like FOSS developers who actually get paid for what they do, they know it is a good idea overall, and getting paid for work is nice too. I tell you on the
    • I don't get it. The amazing thing about solar is very simple : it is fundamentally the CHEAPEST option. If adding more generating capacity costs less per watt than ANY other form of power, including burning coal, then solar wins by default. All NEW power plants would be solar. Sure, it may take a while to replace all of the old power plants : but it will happen. I mean, common sense dictates that making basically a high precision piece of multi-layered film that then produces power for the next 20 year
    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      Oddly enough, efficiency is exactly the WRONG measurement here. Cost per watt is the primary factor. If we could produce a 100% efficient solar cell for $10/watt, it STILL wouldn't sell except for satellite applications.

      However, a 15% efficient cell that's easy to install and costs $0.30 per watt (as the nanosolar is supposed to) will sell BIG. Given those figures, even with the rather cheap power I get from the grid, I could see a 2-4 year ROI installing that on my roof. OTOH, the $10/watt 100% efficient

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      What's missing isn't apparently money, it's political will. The amount of cash we've flushed blowing up brown people the last few years would have bought a LOT nuclear plants. Had we chosen to spend the money on something worthwhile and done the manufacturing domestically (for national security reasons, of course), we would be in a much better position today.

  • Apple sues Gow's company for trademark infringement of "i-Limb".
  • It's a 2.5G/WiFi smartphone with a touchscreen and some gesture control. Tell me why that's innovative enough to win a "Best of" award.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Solar is a great boost to existing power for building and such. It makes sense to harness all that sunlight beating down on your building.

    However, it just isn't a solution for long term major power. We can't just replace everything out ther with solar as much as we'd like to. There are a few reasons why:

    1) What happens when it's cloudy, if everything runs on sun in an area, cloudy days could mean blackouts. Now not only is there little light due to a storm, but your lights also don't work.

    2) Surface are
  • The Meraki Wireless devices in the Best of What's New for Computing is neither "New" or the "Best." It is advertisement disguised as an article. The company I've been working for has been using this technology at the same price for almost three years now. Mesh Networks are nothing new and spectacular. They are handy, available, and in use.

"Life, loathe it or ignore it, you can't like it." -- Marvin the paranoid android