Scientists Swapped a Toxic Chemical in Solar Cells For a Tofu Ingredient

Thin-film solar cells promise to bring flexible, low-profile solar power to all kinds of surfaces. Unfortunately, constructing thin-film panels requires cadmium chloride, a finicky, expensive, and toxic material. Now, University of Liverpool scientists have figured out how to make solar cells using magnesium chloride,… » 6/26/14 7:15pm 6/26/14 7:15pm

The Solar-Powered Fridge of 1937 Made Sunbeams Into Ice Cubes In 2 Hours

We often think of solar-powered devices as pretty new. But we've been harnessing the sun since long before the first practical solar cell was introduced back in 1954. For instance, in these solar-powered contraptions from a 1937 Popular Science film — including the amazing fridge that turned sunbeams into ice cubes in… » 5/09/14 6:42pm 5/09/14 6:42pm

President Obama Pitched Solar Power At a Silicon Valley Walmart Today

Today President Obama continued his tour of California with a stop in a somewhat unlikely place: Walmart. The company has pledged to double the number of solar projects at its stores and distribution centers by 2020, and the president used the Walmart in Mountain View, California as a backdrop to discuss the… » 5/09/14 2:00pm 5/09/14 2:00pm

This Apocalypse-Ready Solar Charging Station Folds Up Behind a Bike

At the Bike Expo New York over the weekend, I got the chance to meet Jeff Crystal of Voltaic Systems, a New York-based maker of photovoltaic systems. Crystal built a mobile charging station on the back of his bike that can supply devices with a charge within minutes. If there ever was an apocalypse–this is the guy to… » 5/07/14 12:23pm 5/07/14 12:23pm

60 Years Ago Today, Bell Labs Unveiled the Solar Cell

Sixty years ago, scientists at Bell Labs in New Jersey announced that the world finally had an efficient way to turn sunlight into electricity. On April 25, 1954, Daryl Chapin, electrical engineer, Gerald Pearson, physicist, and chemist Calvin Fuller demonstrated their invention, the first practical solar cell. It was… » 4/25/14 12:20pm 4/25/14 12:20pm

The Smartest Place To Build Solar Farms? Toxic Superfund Sites

The largest solar farm in the U.S. finally got cooking this year, but not without reports of singed wildlife and displaced tortoises. It turns out that both thermal solar farms and other types of solar plants can harm the environment in unforeseen ways. But what if we limited these farms to areas where no plants… » 4/10/14 4:20pm 4/10/14 4:20pm

A Home Art Installation That Doubles As a Rooftop Solar Panel Monitor

Installing a set of solar panels on the roof of your home can lead to significant savings when your monthly power bill arrives. But how do you know how well they're performing in between without watching the meter like a hawk? With this innocuous looking piece of art that doubles as a home energy monitor. » 4/09/14 4:20pm 4/09/14 4:20pm

This Plane Will Circle the World Using Only the Power of the Sun

You've probably heard about the ambitious, almost impossible-sounding project to fly a solar-powered plane around the world without refueling. But now, about a year before the voyage is scheduled to begin, you get your first look at the plane itself. It's unlike any plane you've seen before. » 4/09/14 12:00pm 4/09/14 12:00pm

Cheap, Colorful Solar-Powered Watches That Require No Maintenance

Based on the same technology that lets Citizen's high-end watches with Eco-Drive stay perpetually charged by the sun, Q&Q (a company founded almost 40 years ago as part of Citizen) has finally made its once Japan-only SolarSmile watches available internationally. So for just $40—with free shipping—you can get a simple… » 4/02/14 5:00pm 4/02/14 5:00pm

New Interactive Map Explores State of U.S. Solar Power

The Center for Land Use Interpretation, in Culver City, Los Angeles, opened a new exhibition on Friday exploring the contemporary state of solar power in the United States. The show includes extensive photographs of all existing solar power plants in the U.S. southwest, many of which were taken "from the air, using… » 3/10/14 2:20pm 3/10/14 2:20pm

The World's Largest Solar Plant Started Creating Electricity Today

Take 300,000 computer-controlled mirrors, each 7 feet high and 10 feet wide. Control them with computers to focus the Sun's light to the top of 459-foot towers, where water is turned into steam to power turbines. Bingo: you have the world's biggest solar power plant, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. » 2/13/14 7:15am 2/13/14 7:15am