Feb 18, 2010

Science Scene - Minority Report Imminent?

If sustainability is key to the new energy economy, a team of University of Pennsylvania researchers has just taken a big step toward the future by developing the first photovoltaic circuit that powers itself. The circuits could eventually be packed into touchscreens and other consumer devices that would run without a battery or any other source of power, as long as they have a beam of sunlight to harvest.
Like any incremental technology, these circuits aren’t going to be powering the next generation of cellphones or replace silicon photovoltaic cells anytime in the immediate future. Right now researchers can only get a tiny amount of power from the circuits. But as the technology scales and becomes more efficient, it should open up some exciting possibilities for the future.

But in the nearer term, the circuits could lead to devices that function sans power source and electrical transmission pathways. Devices that don’t need to carry power with them in a battery could obviously be pared way down in size, and – material hazards aside – would leave a negligible carbon footprint behind. Most practical devices would require some sort of backup power supply for the times when shade is unavoidable, but a mostly sustainable device is still a nice notion. Which makes it all the more frustrating that commercial applications of the tech are still likely years out.

Original entry at PopSci


  1. Makes the idea of a self sustain world sound a lot more feasible.

  2. As I age, I more and more appreciate technological innovation, regardless of where it first finds application. I recall that many of the advancements in health and well-being that were introduced in the fifties and sixties were birthed in military creches in WWII. Each technological step spells hope for my grandson's life. Bring 'em on.

  3. Yes, progress moves slowly unless it's for hair growth or fat removal, or anti aging. Then, the corporate world pushes it along. Stuff like this, that threatens to remove our dependency on anything, will get caught up in the lobbyist red tape for ever.

  4. I'm not sure I'm following. We've had battery-less calculators for 30 plus years. This is just a scaling of already available technology. Isn't it?


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