5 New Projects That Advance Solar Power Technologies

Solar power is one of many emerging energy technologies that look to be the future in the way we light our world. The systems that drive solar power have come a long way in just a few decades of existence, but there are further steps that can be taken, and innovation is still basically young. Everything from detector spectral response measurements to better battery storage can improve the capabilities of solar energy. To put it simply: the future of solar is wide-ranging and integral to a modern world.

And the U.S. Department of Energy agrees. Recently they approved some $46.2 million to help fund 48 different projects that could invigorate the solar field. This all relates to the departments SunShot Initiative, which looks to lower the cost and increase the efficiency of solar energy nationwide.

Within these initiatives, five projects really stand out in their potential impact to the solar energy matrix. They include:

 

  • MIT’s Two-Dimensional Material Based Layer Transfer for Low-Cost, High-Throughput, High-Efficiency Solar Cells

 

A bit of a mouthful, but this project from Cambridge is vital in finding a way to lower the cost of substrate materials. Substrate materials grow solar cells; lower the cost of substrates drastically (and that cost is high), and the impact on solar ability cannot be overstated.

 

  • Lehigh University’s Tunneling Back-Contacted Silicon Photovoltaics

 

Researchers here want to work with atomic layer deposited (ALD) tunnel barriers in order to improve electron movement across the silicon surfaces of solar cells.

 

  • Arizona State University’s Sound Assisted Low Temperature (SALT) Spalling

 

With a grant of $222,519, the team at ASU is in the very early days of using sound waves to help improve crack formation during spalling. Spalling is, essentially, a technique that allows for less waste in silicon block creations (which leads to less waste in solar cell creation).

 

  • BrightSpot Automation LLC and Improving Solar Panel Durability

 

Easy to overlook because of its simplicity, but potentially groundbreaking nonetheless and the recipient of one of the USDE’s larger grants, the ability to improve panels tenacity is one of the biggest challenges in the solar industry.

 

  • University of Central Florida’s Characterization of Contact Degradation in Crystalline Silicon PV Modules

 

One of two large UCF grants, this one being developed by Kristopher Davis and seeks to streamline manufacturing capabilities by using a very specific metrology solution. Both UCF projects are considered fairly groundbreaking and were awarded over $1.5 million dollars each.

How can detector spectral response measurements help in this solar study? Simple: without core metrics, and stable standards, a revolutionary concept in energy and light will be flawed from the beginning. Our OL 750-DSR is the most innovative automated spectroradiometer designed with this in mind. We believe that a strong core is the building block for ground breaking technology. If you want to learn more, visit our blog!

Image Colorization Technique Paves New Way for Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence and display measurements seem like an odd pair. But one of the many ways in which researchers are improving the capability of AI is coming directly from image recognition, and one of the ways to improve images is through strict photometric standards. A new technique using colorization from a team at the University of California, Berkeley, has shown just how true this can be.

By using clumps of data, artificial intelligence in coordination with users can color in gray-scale images. This is achieved through a system called Convolutional Neural Network (CNN). The system directs users based on subtle cues gathered through mounds of data, and additionally, without the direct help of users, the AI can fill in some colors on it’s on.

The result is a steadily growing technology whose base of knowledge continues to expand. CNN has the ability to learn which colors relate to which common images, and can promote these colors in future data sets.

Automatic colorization systems are not entirely revolutionary; they’ve been around for some time, in fact. What sets the CNN system developed at Berkeley apart from its predecessors is the ability to function in real-time and to assist users in grayscale colorization with eerie accuracy. Another area where the CNN system shows improvement was an understanding of when a user was wishing to use a color outside of the normal parameters of a common data point (painting grass purple, for example). It is, in all reality, a next generation AI technology.

The researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, tested this new technology thoroughly and with positive results. The standards they placed on the AI were so stringent, that neophyte users working with CNN could produce astounding results. Famous images rendered in greyscale were filled in by amateur users with the help of CNN to nearly replicate the original representation.

This is quite a leap forward for AI image recognition, and undoubtedly opens paths for new ways to deploy the technology. It’s also a novel way of using display measurement to the furthest limits. If you’re interested, check out our OL 770-DMS and Aries spectroradiometers and our Mantis imaging colorimeter to see for yourself.

LED Myths and Safety Concerns Squashed

Even though LEDs have matured into a mainstream industry, with LED lights powering everything from road-lights to desk lamps, there still remain some lingering myths related to the technology. LEDs have become so ubiquitous in our modern day world that most people probably don’t even take note of the difference in the lighting they see around them. But even so, there’s no reason to let rumor and hearsay persist when simple LED testing can enlighten the public in regards to any long held beliefs about LEDs.

Search online and you’ll find the list of LED myths or safety worries to be somewhat long, and often, odd. LEDs have been rigorously used and tested for decades now, so why these concepts persist is a bit mysterious. One answer may be that in such a specialized field (lighting and energy), the novice member of the public has only a small base of knowledge to draw from.

But as with our cutting edge products that test LEDs, we can help. Below are some common LED myths as compared to reality.

Myth 1: The bulbs aren’t as bright:

  • For modern LED lighting, this concept has been debunked time and time again. When LEDs were in their infancy, there was some lower quality with the light output, which may have given fuel to this myth. But LEDs in 2017 often measure directly with incandescent lighting. And consider this: we use them in the majority of stoplights.

Myth 2: LEDs produce no heat:

  • This is close enough to the truth to where it may have powered the myth of heatless light. LEDs do, in fact, give off heat, just not on the level of other lighting (which can be a good thing, in many cases). LEDs do not give off infrared and ultraviolet light waves, which can allow them to run cooler.

Myth 3: They can make you go blind:

  • This may stem from a recent study in Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology in which researchers exposed retina cells to 12-continuous hours of LED light. After this, there was some damage. Of course, these were just retina cells, and if you stare at any bright light for hours on end you can damage your sight. There is no evidence of a distinct LED danger.

Myth 4: Blue LEDs are dangerous:

  • Blue light, whether it comes from LEDs or any other source, is handled in a unique way by our eyes. And to be exposed to blue light directly for long periods of time can cause minor health issues. But this doesn’t really correlate to LEDs in the sense that blue LEDs are more dangerous than those that use other parts of the spectrum.

LED testing can, and has, alleviated most of the fears regarding LEDs, but a little more knowledge never hurts. Check out our OL 770-LED and Aries spectroradiometers and our Mantis imaging colorimeter to see more of our innovative designs.

New Study Reveals Ways to Take Eye Fatigue Out of Virtual Reality

New technologies sometimes bring with them new problems, and often, it’s hard to see the issues before widespread implementation. And so it is with the booming field of virtual reality. As the industry fine-tunes what appears to be a revolutionary consumer technology, some obstacles still need to be overcome. Well designed display measurement can help here, and a recent study tackled one of the most peculiar of virtual reality bugs: eye fatigue.

Virtual reality (VR) has been around for a deceptively long time; primitive versions of the technology can be traced back all the way to 1980s. One thing that has always held it back is the uncomfortable nature of using it. That can range wildly from bulky headsets (an issue that has been solved at least to some to degree) to eye fatigue and nausea.

A new study published out of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign may have uncovered a breakthrough in this department. Using an optical 3-D mapping display, the research team there thinks it has solved the issue.

Current VR doesn’t actually use 3-D images but presents the illusion of it by presenting two 2-D images at the same time. This works in tricking the viewer’s brain into “seeing” 3-D, but it also leads to a fatigued mind (as it tries to overcompensate for what is, in essence, two images simultaneously).

Dr. Liang Gao and his team had a novel solution for that: why not just create a 3-D image? By using optical mapping and a specially designed spatial multiplexing unit, Gao’s team created a layered device that allowed images to appear at different depths.

And one of the key concepts of the overall design, as well as an aspect that sets it apart from past iterations of this general concept, is the use of organic light emitting diodes (OLED). OLEDs offer exceptional levels of resolution, which gives VR some room to grow in two areas that it needs to, energy consumption and more compact screen displays.

For VR to be a player in the consumer industry in decades to come, it will need advances in technology to make it easier to enjoy. Solving the eye fatigue issue is one such area, and there will be others. Without a doubt, Dr. Gao and his team have taken a big step forward; along the rest of the way, display measurement innovations will always need to be applied to have consistent products. Check out our OL 770-DMS and Aries spectroradiometer and our Mantis imaging colorimeter to see more.

LED Lighting Assisting Students in Norway

The linked nature of light and sleep has long been known. Whether people fall on the nocturnal or diurnal side of the spectrum, light is the key part of the circadian rhythm of sleep. As humans, we may not have known just how the process of sleep and light works, but we are learning more. As we do, we are inventing ingenious ways to promote good sleep through innovative lighting techniques. LEDs are at the forefront of this research, and LED calibration is needed for precision.

It turns out that teenagers may have the most complex relationship with light and sleep. Sleep patterns change during the teenage years, but the requirements of life and the world do not. Most teenagers will slip into natural patterns of being up later and sleeping longer in the morning, or, put in light-based terms, more sleep with more light.

This change in sleep patterns can lead to a variety of problems, from social attention to mood issues. This is something anyone with a teenager in the family can attest to. At the Holla Comprehensive School in Norway, they decided to do something about the issue. By installing LED lights that were controllable and calibrated for certain lux levels, the school seeks to have settings throughout the day that naturally promote health.

The idea is revolutionary in both depth and concept. Only lately have we begun producing LEDs that can so easily and precisely be controlled, and only recently, it seems, have we begun to take the effect of light so seriously. A study by the Norwegian Competence Center for Sleep Disorders at Haukeland University Hospital discovered that 8.4% of students reported difficulty falling asleep before even 2 A.M.

Studies that link intense, white LED light to increased focus and warm red LED light to relaxation have taken serious hold across the world. This ranges from Japanese subway stations (where LED light luminance is set to calm passengers) to road signals using complex LED patterns. Now, it appears progressive schools are using innovative LED techniques as well.

And why shouldn’t we use light research to its fullest potential? Ignoring the complexity and effect of light on our minds serves no purpose. But to fully unlock the secrets of the light spectrum, careful LED calibration will always have to be met. Gooch & Housego can help there; contact our offices at 407-422-3171 for information on our products and services.

Multispectral Imaging Leads to the Finding of Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions

Innovations and technological progress have begun to shed light on the history of the ancient world. Careful Camera calibration, and creative imaging techniques, can allow us to see artifacts from a new angle. Perhaps in few cases, that has become crystal clear, considering a recent multispectral imaging technique done on a nearly 2,600-year-old piece of pottery at The Israel Museum in Tel Aviv.

The simple shard of pottery was found in 1965 in the former castle of Arad. On the front side, archaeologists could make out a clear inscription that included a blessing by Yahweh, as well as other notes from the era (historians and scholars have been studying the exact meaning of the transcription for decades).

The back portion of this ancient shard was completely blank. That is, until the progress of 21st century light imaging techniques revealed language hidden in the darkness.

An interdisciplinary team from the University of Tel Aviv have been working with this piece of pottery for years.  By using a sensitive multispectral imaging technique, they were surprised to find lines of script written secretly into the backside of the clay. Not only that, but the precise nature of the imagery allowed the teams to make out the writing on the front of the pot a bit better as well. The words revealed are a millennia old, some of the oldest human writing we have, and date back to 600 B.C.E. Every single letter is indeed a treasure, and window to a past world.

What did the hidden inscription say? “The newly revealed inscription features an administrative text, like most of the Arad inscriptions,” said Dr. Anat Mendel-Geberovich of TAU. Added scholar Arie Shaus: “The new inscription begins with a request for wine.”

The fortress of Arad was in fact a far flung military outpost that was destroyed around 586 B.C.E, just after the clay shard was written. Logistics were always critical, considering the pottery had requests for wine, assistance, flour, and oil. They seem to be specifically addressed to Elyashiv, known to scholars as the quartermaster of the fortress.

Scholars and scientists at TAU stressed the importance of not just the wording uncovered on this pottery, but of the potential for imaging techniques to be used on huge volumes of antiquities. Housed in the world’s universities and museums, we may very well have thousands of stories from our ancient history, but have only recently been in command of technology that can allow us to read them. This discovery in Tel Aviv was proof of words of millennia in the past, coming alive today, with the help of Camera calibration. If you want to know more about LED Calibration, check out our news section or contact us today.

From Start to Finish Photopatterning Builds OLEDS

As LED light technology has evolved, so have the uses and needs that increasingly rely on them (often without even knowing it). One direction all of this LED calibration and experimentation has gone, is toward OLEDS, or organic LED lighting. OLEDs have fascinated scientists because of their potential ability to replace LCD screens completely. Simply by inserting a layer of organic material between two electrodes, OLED lights came to fruition, and built off the legacy of original LED technology.

Those organic layers have multiplied over the years, creating ever more complex displays of OLEDS. But with each step-forward, there has been increasing technical issues. These issues are due to the fabrication of OLEDs, which has always been limited by the ability to place polymers correctly. This issue, in turn, has limited the quality, light-spectrum use, and cost effectiveness of the entire class of OLEDs.

This was until researchers at the University of California, in Santa Barbara, in conjunction with scientists at Dow Chemical, came upon a workable solution. Using emissive polymer brushes with micron feature resolution, they can graft the units in order to photopattern OLEDS proficiently. This is done via a technique called photocatalysis, and the surface of the substance being targeted for the polymers must be ultra-precise in order to have positive results. This is, in essence, LED calibration at its absolute finest.

The teams focused on iridium centers to get the maximum positioning for polymer growth. And by controlling the polymer growth with an extreme level of detail, they synthesized arrays that could produce wide-spectrum color emissions due to polymer brush position, growth, and thickness.

With these achievements, the researchers from both the public and private sector that participated in this work think that they are building toward a future where OLEDS can be manufactured on a more mass scale. As we stand now, the general concept behind OLED technology is fairly well known, but the broad applications are less clear as production remains questionable. Much of this is due to the complexity of placing and growing intricate polymers in an organic setting.

While OLEDs are still in the distance in terms of widespread technical capabilities to LED, there are signs, such as the above study, that the gap may be closing. LED calibrations are made more accurate and easy with tools such as those developed by the light measurements experts at G&H Instruments.

A Low-Cost White Light that Imitates Sunlight Emerges

New variations in light technology are emerging consistently as the focus on energy preservation and maximum illumination move to the forefront of our digital world. Even as these varied techniques materialize, there will always be a requirement for new technology to be evaluated against high photometric standards. LEDs have evolved over decades to become more precise with cost, quality, and capability. Although, there could always be challenges on the horizon of light production.

One original approach appeared recently out of the University of Turku in Finland, as researchers have discovered the use of a material to make a wide-spectrum natural white light. Using a “natural hackmanite material,” the team at the Inorganic Materials Chemistry Group, was able to create an illumination that is remarkably similar in spectrum quality to sunlight.

The hackmanite material is different in chemical composition from lanthanides, which is what we currently use in nearly all LEDs. Lanthanides have two specific things working against them. The first is that they can be generally expensive when compared to the radically inexpensive hackmanite substance, and secondly, they do not create broad spectrum light capabilities at the same level.

Another massive benefit of using hackmanite is the afterglow effect that is a near replicate of the sun. This can be difficult to produce in LEDs, but researchers in Finland found that the luminance levels were tremendous when using the new material. As Mika Lastusaari, one of the head researchers from the University of Turku put it: “Our hackmanite material can produce observable white persistent luminescence for seven hours in the dark. With a spectrometer, the luminescence can be detected for more than 100 hours.”

This light technology has the potential to have an array of applications, as afterglow illuminations are used in many types of signs, particularly those for emergencies. Lastusaari noted that having the ability to stay lit through long-term power outages was a stand-out byproduct of this material’s use in lighting.
How hackmanite is used in lighting fixtures of the future, and whether it will be integrated with existing LED techniques, depends entirely on the testing done with highly accurate photometric standards. But the future does seem to be open, and as materials show new avenues for light production, we can expect innovative lighting solutions from the scientific community.

New Development in Display Resolution May Move to Private Sector

Screens are everywhere. From diners to taxis, work to school, they are in our pockets and in every room in our homes. In the 21st century, they are the ubiquitous piece of our daily environment, vital for the digital world around us, and the very portals of the information we consume. The quest to make them stronger, clearer, more intense and better with energy, is constant. Photometric standards are an important piece in the scientist’s toolbox in that continuous march toward the perfect screen.

Recently, a group of researchers at the University of Central Florida (UCF) have made some interesting findings along these lines. Using electric voltage, they have found a way to tune the pixels in screens, in order to create better resolution. The work, which began with a paper published in the journal “Nature Communications” in 2015, could completely alter the entire screen industry if replicated on a large scale.

A simple summary of current screen technology goes like this: screen pixels hold three or four sub-pixels colored green, red, blue, and sometimes, yellow (this is very similar to what was embedded in old tube boxes, for those that can remember). These colors are fixed, which makes the resolution and clarity of screens essentially static.

With a stroke of genius from the UCF researchers, a new technique allows for those sub-pixel colors to change in real-time with a targeted electric charge. This means that these pixels can be tuned. This creates screens that are extremely versatile with the color spectrum they are able to emit, and opens a world of potential innovation. It also makes the static sub-pixels a relic.

UCF’s NanoScience Technology Center is behind this work, with the guiding minds of assistant professor Debashis Chanda and physics doctoral student, Daniel Franklin.

To make this all possible, the pair created an embossed nanostructure surface with an overlay of reflective aluminum. Most of the work on this structure was completed in 2015, but the recent breakthrough came from realizing that by altering the surface roughness of the nanostructure, they could modify the full pixel range without having to create separate substructures for each individual color change.

Needless to say, this all took very accurate photometric standards. It is this exact kind of innovative work that we at Gooch & Housego look for and commend. For more information on our labs and instruments, contact us anytime at 407-422-3171.

Spectroscopy Measuring Continues to Enhance Food Production

We want and need our food to be as sustainable and healthy as possible. That idea has been around for a long time, but what is becoming more accessible are the tools and ideas with which to measure food production. Amazingly, spectroscopy has a role to play here, and for the best results, one needs a spectroradiometer or spectrometer of fine caliber.

This finding comes based on research by the University of Basque Country and its Department of Analytical Chemistry. Scientists there used a simple but elegant technique to measure the biological composition of fruit and vegetables down to the molecular level. And they did so using a relatively simple portable Raman spectrometer, a very similar instrument to the more complex spectroradiometer.

The use of laboratory-level equipment in the kitchen may seem over the top, but it is, in fact, non-invasive and completely harmless to the food you eat according to this study. Technology also provides useful data. Josu Trebolazabala was a lead researcher in the study, and he put the possible gains to be had deploying this technology thusly: “Our idea was to come up with a tool that could help producers find out when their tomatoes have reached their optimum ripeness point. This is achieved without destroying the fruit.”

By using a spectrometer, the team was able to tell the molecular composition of tomatoes and understand its phases of ripening to an extremely precise level. Taken on a larger scale, this type of research could help growers, distributors, and consumers of vegetables better coordinate the worldwide process of food consumption.

As we move into the 21st century, sustainability will continue to be a key in how we use our natural resources. Light-based calibration processes, such as those involving spectroradiometers, may play a surprising role in helping with precision crop growth. But to do so, experts in the field of molecular light measurement will need to continue to make progress for the ease and accuracy of readings. At Gooch and Housego, we can contribute in a myriad of ways with instruments that range from laboratory level complexity to those that can run on a simple Windows-based laptop. For more information on what we can do (and to find out more about the world-class spectroradiometers in our inventory), contact us anytime at 407-422-3171.