Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Think solar not nuclear for the energy of the future, say scientists

02.03.2006


Solar rather than nuclear energy should be the UK government’s priority in planning future energy production, according to scientists writing today in the journal Nature Materials.



Challenging advocates of the nuclear option, researchers from Imperial College London argue in their Commentary article that photovoltaics, the direct conversion of sunlight to electricity, could match and exceed the nuclear industry’s current output before any new reactor could begin operating.

The UK currently generates 12 gigawatts of electricity from nuclear power stations, around one sixth of the country’s total electricity output. This is the same amount of electricity that it is predicted Germany will generate through photovoltaics by 2012 if it continues to expand its solar energy programme at its present rate.


The researchers write that the UK, which has a similar sunshine profile to Germany, could produce 12 gigawatts of solar electricity by 2023 if production is expanded by 40% per year, less than the world increase of 57% in 2004.

However, in contrast to other developed countries, the UK has recently halted its programme of solar panel installation on 3,500 rooftops halfway through. This compares to the completed installation of 70,000 installations in Japan and 100,000 in Germany. Lead author Professor Keith Barnham of Imperial College London says:

"The UK is clearly taking a very different decision to its industrial competitors and, I believe, a less sensible one. The sun is our largest sustainable energy source and the technology needed to tap into it is very simple. As research continues, this will become an increasingly cheap and efficient way of meeting our energy needs."

One obstacle to the development of a competitive solar energy industry in the UK, according to the article, is a pro-nuclear bias within its scientific and government establishments. Pointing out that the UK Research Councils spent seven times more in 2004-2005 on nuclear fusion research and development than it did on photovoltaic research, Professor Barnham says:

"Fusion is still perhaps 40 years away from being effectively developed and in any case is likely to produce electricity at one quarter the electrical power density which the solar cells that we are working on are already producing in London. It’s absurd that these funding bodies are putting huge amounts of money into something that may not deliver rather than supporting something that already does."

The next generation of photovoltaic cells, known as quantum well cells, now under development convert direct sunlight and can track the sun to keep light focussed on the cell. Early testing suggests that these concentrated systems could produce twice as much electricity per unit area as the conventional systems now in use. Professor Barnham adds:

"These new cells are highly efficient and are based on technologies similar to those used for the amplifiers in mobile phones, so the ability to manufacture them on a large scale is already in place. This is the kind of technology the UK should be investing in if we are serious about producing pollution-free energy."

Abigail Smith | alfa
Further information:
http://www.imperial.ac.uk

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dry landscapes can increase disease transmission
20.06.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

nachricht 100 % Organic Farming in Bhutan – a Realistic Target?
15.06.2018 | Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Temperature-controlled fiber-optic light source with liquid core

In a recent publication in the renowned journal Optica, scientists of Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT) in Jena showed that they can accurately control the optical properties of liquid-core fiber lasers and therefore their spectral band width by temperature and pressure tuning.

Already last year, the researchers provided experimental proof of a new dynamic of hybrid solitons– temporally and spectrally stationary light waves resulting...

Im Focus: Overdosing on Calcium

Nano crystals impact stem cell fate during bone formation

Scientists from the University of Freiburg and the University of Basel identified a master regulator for bone regeneration. Prasad Shastri, Professor of...

Im Focus: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Creating a new composite fuel for new-generation fast reactors

20.06.2018 | Materials Sciences

Game-changing finding pushes 3D-printing to the molecular limit

20.06.2018 | Materials Sciences

Could this material enable autonomous vehicles to come to market sooner?

20.06.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>