The future of Gas central heating.

The truth about global warming, whether it will destroy our planet is really irrelevant, as, by the time we find out for sure, the world will have moved on.

Almost certainly, within 10 years, we will not need to burn fossil fuels in our homes, or even in our factories. Our energy will come from super efficient Solar technology, in the form of PV cells.

At the moment most people use a gas boiler to heat radiators that warm our homes. If PV cell technology continues at the present rate, we could replace our gas boiler with an electric boiler to heat our radiators. This would be powered by electricity generated from invisible PV cells all over our buildings and electric vehicles. We would no longer be reliant on electricity from the generating stations that burn fossil fuels or use dangerous nuclear reactors.

Graphene, the new wonder material, that is stronger than steel and lighter than any other known substance, will be used to help extract energy from the skies. It also conducts electricity most efficiently.

Light bulbs are another confusing subject, where low energy means more light and less heat. This means your heating has to work a little harder, offsetting the saving in energy use. This is admittedly truer in a country like ours where we use most of our energy in the winter, and also need the lights on for longer. So not sure that they really do help our Carbon Footprint, but anyway the new LED lights are really amazing anyway.

With this amazing revolution in energy use, maybe even third world countries could generate enough electricity to desalinate all the sea water it needs to grow sufficient food crops and reclaim good usable land. Oil companies might go out of business but ‘No More Fracking’? The balance of power would be shifted, so maybe, just maybe, overcrowding of major western cities would be a thing of the past, and maybe, just maybe, we might even stop killing each other.


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Graphene and solar panels 

Graphene is made of a single layer of carbon atoms that are bonded together in a repeating pattern of hexagons. It is a 2 dimensional material with amazing characteristics, which grant it the title “wonder material”. It is extremely strong and almost entirely transparent and also astonishingly conductive and flexible. Graphene is made of carbon, which is abundant, and can be a relatively inexpensive material. Graphene has a seemingly endless potential for improving existing products as well as inspiring new ones.

Solar cells require materials that are conductive and allow light to get through, thus benefiting from graphene’s superb conductivity and transparency. Graphene is indeed a great conductor, but it is not very good at collecting the electrical current produced inside the solar cell. Hence, researchers are looking for appropriate ways to modify graphene for this purpose. Graphene Oxide (GO), for example, is less conductive but more transparent and a better charge collector which can be useful for solar panels.

The conductive Indium Tin Oxide (ITO) is used with a non-conductive glass layer as the transparent electrodes in most organic solar panels to achieve these goals, but ITO is rare, brittle and makes solar panels expensive. Many researches focus on graphene as a replacement for ITO in transparent electrodes of OPVs. Others search for ways of utilizing graphene in improving overall performance of photovoltaic devices, mainly OPVs, as well as in electrodes, active layers, interfacial layers and electron acceptors.

Recent research in the field of graphene solar cells

In June 2013, researchers from MIT announced their aim to develop a new solar cell, made from graphene and molybdenum disulfide, which will be thin, light and efficient – up to a 1,000 times more so than silicon based panels. It is hoped to achieve the “ultimate power conversion possible” due to the unique method of stacking several layers of graphene and molybdenum disulfide. In August 2014, researchers from the same university developed a flexible transparent graphene-based electrode for graphene polymer solar cell. They report that this is the most efficient such electrode ever developed.

In March 2014, researchers from the University of Cincinnati discovered that adding even a small amount of graphene flakes to a polymer solar cell can improve the performance of the cell by as much as threefold the conventional non-graphene variant.

In December 2013, researchers from Singapore’s A*STAR institute discovered that graphene outperforms ITO as solar panels transparent electrodes, when stacking four graphene sheets.

The Canadian Sunvault recently formed the Supervault Energy JV to develop graphene supercapacitor technology for solar cells. The company referred to this as a technology that  will “change the face of renewable energy generation and storage”.

The British 2-DTech,  maker and supplier of 2D materials, announced a cooperation with Australian solar technology company Dyesol to develop graphene-enhanced solid state dye-sensitized photovoltaic cells. Such thin film solar cells are relatively inexpensive to make and have numerous deployment advantages, but their use is hindered by lower power conversion efficiency and shorter operational life spans than crystalline silicon PV cells. This project aims to explore the possibility of incorporating graphene nanoplatelets (GNPs) within the perovskite charge collecting regions of solid-state dye-sensitised solar cells so that efficiency levels can be boosted. The option of monolayer graphene encapsulation of the entire cell can also prevent moisture from entering, which will increase the durability in addition to reducing the external toxicity of solar cells based on these materials.

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