Solar-Cell Squabble

Organic photovoltaics could be dirt cheap, but their efficiency is in dispute

9 min read
Solar-Cell Squabble
Illustration: Greg Mably

For a while, 2007 looked to be the year when organic photovoltaic (PV) technology would finally come into its own. Reports from leading research labs claimed record-setting breakthroughs in performance. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) began welcoming investigators working on organic PV to compete for its mainstream solar-research grants, and venture capitalists invested tens of millions of dollars in organic PV development firms like Konarka Technologies, in Lowell, Mass., and Plextronics, in Pittsburgh.

Spurring all this interest was the promise of a much cheaper and more versatile source of solar power. Unlike traditional semiconductors such as silicon, this newer class of PV employs carbon-based plastics, dyes, and nanostructures and can be manufactured via a printing process that would be far cheaper than the high-temperature vacuum processing used for inorganics. Organic PV is also much more flexible and lighter in weight than inorganics, suggesting an enormous range of uses, including portable battery chargers and power-producing coatings for roofing shingles, tents, and vehicles.

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Nuclear Energy Brinkmanship in Ukraine

The Zaporizhzhia power plant is a strategically important prize, but war damage could be calamitous

6 min read
Barbed wire in the foreground frames a power plant in the distance across a wide river.

The Ukrainian-held city of Nikopol has been the target of frequent shelling by Russian invaders from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, seen here from Nikopol, across the Dnipro River. Much of the Zaporizhzhia Region has been occupied by Russia since early in the war.

Dmytro Smolyenko/Ukrinform/Future Publishing/Getty Images

A battle of nerves and steel is raging at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, which Russia captured in March. Russian forces use the Zaporizhzhia plant as a safe haven for troops and equipment, including artillery that is shelling Ukrainian-held territory directly across the Dnipro River. Ukraine is launching a counteroffensive to retake occupied territory, including Zaporizhzhia. And, all the while, each blames the other as explosions rock the nuclear site.

According to a Reuters report today, Russia’s Defense Department may order the plant to shut down, citing shelling damage to the plant’s “back-up support systems.” Yesterday most plant workers were allegedly told not to come to work tomorrow, according to Ukranian intelligence, which warns the Russians may be planning a dangerous “provocation.”

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Nvidia’s CTO on the Future of High-Performance Computing

The company’s Earth-2 supercomputer is taking on climate change

5 min read
portrait of Nvidia’s CTO, Michael Kagan on a gray background

Nvidia’s CTO Michael Kagan is an IEEE senior member.

Nvidia

In 2019 Michael Kagan was leading the development of accelerated networking technologies as chief technology officer at Mellanox Technologies, which he and eight colleagues had founded two decades earlier. Then in April 2020 Nvidia acquired the company for US $7 billion, and Kagan took over as CTO of that tech goliath—his dream job.

Nvidia is headquartered in Santa Clara, Calif., but Kagan works out of the company’s office in Israel.

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A Multiphysics Approach to Designing Fuel Cells for Electric Vehicles

White paper on fuel cell modeling and simulation

1 min read
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Comsol

Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) often reach higher energy density and exhibit greater efficiency than battery EVs; however, they also have high manufacturing costs, limited service life, and relatively low power density.

Modeling and simulation can improve fuel cell design and optimize EV performance. Learn more in this white paper.