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A Plug-and-Play Microgrid for Rooftop Solar

The future of solar energy depends on making residential power good enough for the grid

12 min read
Photo-illustration of a hand holding the sun with neighborhood homes and engineers in background.
Photo-illustration: Lincoln Agnew
Yellow

A few years ago, I found myself in the laundry room of a house in Austin, Texas, looking at some disturbing electrical signals on an oscilloscope. In my capacity as chief technology officer for the nonprofit clean-energy-research firm Pecan Street, examining the effect on the grid of homes with rooftop photovoltaics is my job. But what I was seeing that day in the house's connection to the grid sparked an idea. “If I added energy storage to this house, I could fix this," I remember saying.

If only it were that simple. Rooftop solar seems like it should be straightforward. When the sun shines, you should be able to reduce or eliminate your home's input from the grid and maybe even sell some of your power back to your utility company. With a home battery-storage unit, you should be able to do that even after dark.

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For Better AR Cameras, Swap Plastic Lenses for Silicon Chips

Metalenz adds the power of polarization to its innovative PolarEyes chips

5 min read
Silicon Nanostructures

Metalenz uses standard semiconductor manufacturing processes to build metasurfaces comprising nanostructures that control light, with one chip replacing multiple traditional camera lenses.

Metalenz

This week, startup Metalenz announced that it has created a silicon chip that, paired with an image sensor, can distinguish objects by the way they polarize light. The company says its “PolarEyes” will be able to make facial authentication less vulnerable to spoofing, improve 3D imaging for augmented and virtual reality, aid in telehealth by distinguishing different types of skin cells, and enhance driving safety by spotting black ice and other hard-to-see road hazards.

The company, founded in 2017 and exiting stealth a year ago, previously announced that it was commercializing waveguides composed of silicon nanostructures as an alternative to traditional optics for use in mobile devices.

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How Quantum Computers Can Make Batteries Better

Hyundai partners with IonQ to optimize lithium-air batteries

3 min read
A tan car with a Hyundai logo. Overlayed is a rendering of lithium-air batteries with a call-out showing a rendering of a molecular compound
Hyundai

Hyundai is now partnering with startup IonQ to see how quantum computers can design advanced batteries for electric vehicles, with the aim of creating the largest battery chemistry model yet to be run on a quantum computer, the companies announced yesterday.

A quantum computer with high enough complexity—for instance, enough components known as quantum bits or "qubits"—could theoretically achieve a quantum advantage where it can find the answers to problems no classical computer could ever solve. In theory, a quantum computer with 300 qubits fully devoted to computing could perform more calculations in an instant than there are atoms in the visible universe.

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Electric utility infrastructure habitually falls prey to overgrown Right-of-Way, high winds, and harsh weather. Impactful events causing outages are increasing in frequency, and need to be endured without major disruptions in electric service. This webinar will discuss the application of covered aerial conductor to "harden" the electric utility grid so that unpredictable events don't result in unsustainable outages.

Speaker:

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