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Published on February 25th, 2013 | by James Ayre

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Graphene Breakthrough — One Photon Can Be Converted Into Multiple Electrons

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February 25th, 2013 by
 
A new discovery by researchers at the ICFO has revealed that graphene is even more efficient at converting light into electricity than previously known. Graphene is capable of converting a single photon of light into multiple electrons able to drive electric current. The discovery is an important one for next-generation solar cells, as well as other light-detecting and light-harvesting technologies.

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A paradigm shift in the materials industry is likely within the near-future as a variety of unique materials replaces those that we commonly use today, such as plastics. Among these new materials, graphene stands out. The single-atom-thick sheet of pure carbon has an enormous number of potential applications across a variety of fields. Its potential use in high-efficiency, flexible, and transparent solar cells is among the potential applications. Some of the other most discussed applications include: foldable batteries/cellphones/computers, extremely thin computers/displays, desalination and water purification technology, fuel distillation, integrated circuits, single-molecule gas sensors, etc.

“In most materials, one absorbed photon generates one electron, but in the case of graphene, we have seen that one absorbed photon is able to produce many excited electrons, and therefore generate larger electrical signals,” says Frank Koppens, group leader at ICFO.


 
This ability makes graphene extremely appealing for any technology that requires the conversion of light into electricity, particularly because it allows the development of light detectors with improved efficiency, and should lead to solar cells that are able to capture light energy from all of the solar spectrum with lower loss.

The discovery was made during an experiment that consisted of sending an exact quantity of photons possessing different energies (different colors) onto a monolayer of graphene. “We have seen that high energy photons (e.g. violet) are converted into a larger number of excited electrons than low energy photons (e.g. infrared). The observed relation between the photon energy and the number of generated excited electrons shows that graphene converts light into electricity with very high efficiency. Even though it was already speculated that graphene holds potential for light-to-electricity conversion, it now turns out that it is even more suitable than expected!” says KJ Tielrooij, a researcher at ICFO.

There are some issues with graphene that need to be resolved before they can be used for ‘direct applications’ though. But once these are resolved, graphene holds a revolutionary potential, especially with regards to technologies currently based on conventional semiconductors. “It was known that graphene is able to absorb a very large spectrum of light colors. However now we know that once the material has absorbed light, the energy conversion efficiency is very high. Our next challenge will be to find ways of extracting the electrical current and enhance the absorption of graphene. Then we will be able to design graphene devices that detect light more efficiently and could potentially even lead to more efficient solar cells,” Koppens says in conclusion.

The new discovery was made by researchers at the Institute of Photonic Science (ICFO), in collaboration with researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Germany, and Graphenea S.L. Donostia-San Sebastian in Spain.

The new research was just published in the journal Nature Physics.

Source: ICFO-The Institute of Photonics Sciences
Image Credit: Graphene via Wikimedia Commons

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.



  • R.M.

    Indium gallium nitrides to match solar spectrum is big contender. Maybe the
    two can make solar better at making electricity. LED lights technology help
    with nano materials, and solar moore’s law is 5 years 1/2 the price PV electricity.
    1950 $10,000.00 /watt PV electricity now about $1.00/watt. Do the math
    on your calculator and every 5 years (much like computers) 1/2 the price
    is accurate to about the penny.

  • nonz

    does no one realize the implication of this discovery? The “One Electron” theory is gaining significant ground…

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  • Les

    I read an article from Manchester university UK about 4 years ago discussing their breakthrough with Graphene if you get time I would recommend it it goes into detail or the strengths and energy that can be created by Graphene I’m in no doubt that in the very near future we will see something like Graphene panels or a liquid that can be painted on roofs that will create a film that can be then used to make the energy to run your household.

    I would suggest that those interested in this type of science should keep a careful eye on this new development of carbon forget the solar panels that are available now that this atom has been discovered it will now move on rapidly.

    Manchester university states that if you compare a sheet of cling film made of Graphene then you put a sharpened pencil in the centre then stand a full grown elephant on top it will only then crack the Graphene. This is going to be amazing for all sorts of things plus it’s bio degradable.

    • Ricky

      Sorry to tell you, but all the good people with good ideas do get bought up by large companies, including oil, and car companies, etc., and the technology gets “shelved” for many years. I can remember GM and Ford crying when the government told them “they better start selling 60 MPH cars by 2019, or you are out of business”. How and why did the government finally have the “stones” to tell them that? One reason only. Having the government bail them out during the 2008 financial crisis, means the gov’t had access to their R & D areas, and THEY saw what was “on the shelf” gathering dust. That is why it took SO LITTLE TIME, to get them on the road. Yet, since the 1960′s, they have been crying that it can’t be done. What else is sitting on the shelves, a 2 GIGAWATT 9VOLT BATTERY?

      • Bob_Wallace

        What the big oil and car companies have hidden away is a pill that cures paranoia….

  • http://twitter.com/DebtSlave7bn Earth Debt

    There are many Truths…Barry’s is just one…Drae’s was another with no shortage of evidence…Stan Myers for example…many inventors get screwed…Tesla…my great uncle Willy that invented the train carriage link….etc. etc. if we don’t destroy our life support or kill each other, many wonderful techs. could be…but the real challenge is to learn to live in harmony with life & end our anti life ways.

  • Hans

    Graphene is just one of the materials that is investigated te develop so-called third generation solar cells.

    In traditional solar cells one photon can excite only one electron over the band gap. If a photon has not so much energy, e.g. an infrared photon, it is no use. If a photon has a lot of energy, e.g. an ultraviolet photon, it excites an electron and the rest of the photon energy is wasted as heat. Some of the (theoretical) third generation solar cells can use low energy photons to excite the electrons in steps and/or excite multiple electrons with one high energy photon.

    More background:

    http://www.sintef.no/uploadpages/24509/Erik%20S%20Marstein.pdf
    http://solar.calfinder.com/blog/solar-information/solar-genealogy-on-three-generations-of-solar-cells/

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000593917662 Denver Garkie

    More to the point of the article, I have a question/suggestion/request, could you please try to stack multiple graphene layers on top of each other, I don’t mean like flake graphite, I mean perfectly alligned so that the hex shapes would make a tube, and maybe insulate the layers with a thin non conductive by highly ransparent solution, my though is that sense the graphene sheet will excite electrons with any given wave length but is clear allowing the unqbsorbed light through, what if a high energy wave passes through one sheet, dumps energy, and changes wavelength enters the second sheet, dumps more energy and changes wave length and so on d forth until you’ve harvested as much ft as possible and are left with nearly in usable low energy wave lengths like a 5m wave length just a thought, I mean what do know I’m only 21years old with a high school degree.
    also firmly believe that “big fossil” companies are buying up patents for renewable and more efficient uses of energy and fuel. But not to permanently keep them off the market, only to milk the fossil fuel cash cow until it s dry, Imean why would they try to sell a product that would earn less to no residual income, while simultaneously reducing the demand on their biggest source f income (forcing them to lower the price which would reduce profits even further) no they are waiting until fossil fuels become too hard to produce, and too expensive for the poor to buy before they start to release these renewable technologies. They’ve know that pre-heating liquid fuels before combustion vastly improves efficiency for decades, but do any production cars use ? None that I know of, I did this to y 1993cadillac Seville, a car that is supposed to get17-22mpg, but now I get 30 or more just by vaporizing the fuel before injection, I also get higher torque and horsepower (increased roughly 8% from stock. And we’ve had turbos for nearly 3/4 of a century but we’re just now seeing their wide adoption in the automotive market.also propane and NGVs are just now becoming “mainstream” even though they have been around just as long as petrol or diesel, and they don’t suffer from the hort comings of gas, the fuel is already vaporized, if there is a leak the vapor rapidly rises instead of staying near the ground, and they re less corrosive, meaning engine parts last longer nd can be made out cheaper aterials, also the oil doesn’t need to be changed as often because there is little to no carbon build up it makes me frustrated and queasy knowing that all of these technologies are so close yet out of my reach, and the reach of every other citizen

  • agelbert

    This is great news! Hey Zachary, I’m happy to see David Roberts is plugging Cleantechnica on Grist. They get a lot of readers so your site should start getting more actividy. GOOD!
    :>)

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Thanks. :D Didn’t notice a recent link/Grist traffic — did he link to this? But we do get a good little traffic boost when they link to us, and very helpful in other ways. David writes great stuff, and they have a great audience. I’m happy David’s putting more time into renewable energy topics — useful ally to get involved in promoting the solutions (more than railing about the problems). Always interesting posts.

      • agelbert

        He mentioned your site in reference to the subject of his article. He, like myself, is a “decentralize” energy maniac. :>)

        • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

          Ah, yes, we are too. :D

          Want to focus on that a bit more than we actually do. :D

  • ahclausen

    I’m just stoked that people dare to dream beyond their present capabilities. “Only those people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” We’ll be nowhere without them, let alone on mars. Just dream along once in awhile, this idea is thrilling and a huge breakthrough in itself, perfecting it is the rough part.

  • Zackary Chiragwandi

    I hope it gives som results not only empty words. I personally think it goes fast without any applications and problem diffculities.

  • http://www.facebook.com/geoff.sherrington Geoff Sherrington

    Why does it matter if you can excite more than one electron per input photon? You are stuck with the number of input photons and the energies that Nature gives you in a beam of sunlight, which I assume to be the input. Only tiny incremental efficiency gains in conversion efficiency seem possible in future, absent a re-write of quantum physics.

    That is the ultimate reason for failure of large scale solar. Input fixed, conversion near the limit. Why publish what you did? It’s Wernher von Braun/Tom Lehrer stuff, ‘who cares where they come down? That’s not my department, says Wernher von Braun.’

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Actually, conversion efficiency for cost-competitive solar panels is nowhere near its theoretical limit. Have a post on this coming.

  • http://profiles.google.com/hibbard.tyler Tyler Hibbard

    I await anxiously the day when these myriad potential applications become actual applications.

  • Pretbek

    It would have been great to hear what those “issues that need to be resolved” are, before “direct applications” can be realized.
    What are the challenges that need to be overcome before we can have graphene solar panels? How much effort and time would those challenges take? Just naming the issues would have been quite insightful and educational.

    • BrunoStAujus

      I’m going to guess that graphene has been found to cause cancer in California.

    • http://www.facebook.com/henrythechemist Henry Le

      Graphene requires single layer (single atom thick) chemistry, and the layers cannot be stacked, otherwise graphenes becomes graphite and all of its special traits are lost. Current technology allows solar cells to be layers deep. Although current technology is not very efficient, having several layers allows current systems to output a decent amount electricity. Additionally, cheap synthesis of finely “tuned” graphenes doesn’t exist, and most of the current work is nanoscale, and we’d obviously need a method for bulk synthesis worked out. And many other things I haven’t listed…

      • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

        Thanks for chiming in.

  • Drae

    Give it a few weeks, and I’m fairly sure we won’t hear anything new about graphene solar panels for years. Just like every ‘two … tenfold’ breakthrough we hear about regarding battery capacity and energy efficiency.

    It’s cheaper to give inventors millions for exclusive rights to make sure their tech never sees the light of day, than to lose billions from less oil being burned to keep powering our homes, cars and everything else.

    • BarryG

      Oh baloney, no oil company is buying up this stuff. You don’t hear about these inventions because reality hits they hope and hype. Most work in a lab if you have a staff of full time PhD students tweaking it, but can’t be converted to large scale manufacturing. Many of the ideas are just simply wrong, some fake. Very often, the idea itself, while true, has a fatal flow that just cannot be overcome — depends on ultra levels of purity that simple will never exist in a real product etc etc.

      Often the inventors hold the stuff but it turns out they have no real business skills and no self awareness that though they may be brilliant at science they are idiots at business. Or, they are just people who don’t work well with others (can’t give up power to an expert in manufacturing) or they are just bad ego-head personalities that no one wants to work with.

      Often these ideas are just one piece of the puzzle. OK, electrons are generated, but how to transport them out, at what temperature, maybe moisture ruins the device. People try to max their inventions when the only possible way is to sell it as just the small piece of the puzzle it is to a larger scheme. Or, the other pieces of the puzzle are yet to be invented and might be 10-20 years off.

      So, for 100 ideas that actually work, only one sees the light of day, and that one may wait 10 years to become feasible at scale.

      • Ronald Brakels

        That’s a good explanation, Barry.

      • http://www.facebook.com/onlyuros Uros Stankovic

        A breakthrough has to happen. Also I wouldn’t dismiss the idea of lobbying that some ideas don’t see the light of day for lets say a decade or something.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jim-Housman/1334326330 Jim Housman

          Wrong on every count. First “a breakthrough” is not inevitable. Just ask the Mayans, the Romans, General Westmoreland. Sometimes you lose. Nothing with the genuine potential to make a lot of people very rich is ever likely to be suppressed. Such nonsense.

          • http://www.facebook.com/onlyuros Uros Stankovic

            What are you talking about? Mayans, Romans wth? Also if a product gives more money than a more eco friendly one off course its going to be delayed. Please think before posting.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jim-Housman/1334326330 Jim Housman

            The point about earlier events/cultures is that “breakthrus” don’t actually happen every time there is a crisis. Wars are lost, societies collapse, people die. So don’t count on some distant “scientists” to make everything you like to happen happen.

            With regard to a product “giving more money” delaying some other (eco) product; well neither life nor business work like that. The market is a competitive place. If your “eco” product isn’t wanted by enough people to allow you to make a profit it won’t be on the market for very long. The silly idea that the oil companies are interfering with or able to stifle businesses that are somehow better is as old as the Fish carburator. It wasn’t true then and it isn’t true now.

          • http://www.facebook.com/onlyuros Uros Stankovic

            You are talking about civilizations several millenniums old. Definitely not comparable. Also this is about improved light to current conversion not star travel. But its really surprising that you don’t believe in oil lobbies, that is just naive.

      • Marcus Shields

        Or they are business savvy, well funded, smart, effective at marketing and delivering a truly exceptional product. But big oil, by way of the New York Times maliciously sabotages their media coverage in an attempt to continue our dependence on oil.

        • brettuce

          If there was profit in the industry or invention, and it had the capability of a complete paradigm shift in the way we view and use energy sources, oil companies actually have the capital to invest in the technology and get it off the ground. Why would they limit an energy technology they could profit from? The companies in a way are controlled by their shareholders, the investors. If I was able to create an abundant energy source that cost 1/10th of the current market value, but sell it at 1/5th of the current market value… of course i would!

          Like our increased use of computer and internet bandwidth, societies from the civilian to the multinational conglomerate corporation will adjust to the increased bandwidth(extra supply for same cost) of electricity that is provided negating any perceived losses of selling KWh’s for less.

          • ThomasGerke

            Because that technology will harm their incredible profitable fuel cycle. Especially since renewable energy sources kill the market at the consumer end, devaluating all investments in the fuelcycle (distribution, refining, transport, drilling) as their market share rises.

            A energy-technology market can not be dominated / controlled like a fuel-market.

            Big Oil companies can not survive if such technologies take off, because massiv operation & maintainance cost have tied them to their value chain.

          • http://twitter.com/Kompulsa Kompulsa

            If residential off-grid solar, for example, was to take off, that would enable consumers to generate their own electricity, rather than provide a constant source of revenue for oil and coal companies.

            If you sell an off-grid solar system to a resident, they generate their own electricity and buy nothing from you for the next 30 years.

            That isn’t popular among the greedy. They want a continuous income.

            We have seen that companies in general would rather manufacture products that require services such as maintenance more often that force consumers to keep buying from them, they do whatever they can to make you continue paying.

            I can’t even buy a cellphone without being forced to buy credit for it every month, even though I almost never use the phone.

            So the credit keeps accumulating, and I have to keep buying it, even though i’m not using it.

          • agelbert

            Exactly right! If the big boys can’t put a meter on your energy supply, they want to kill it.

          • PaperRoses2012

            Innovation and plain old tenacity garners rewards. I hear you loud and clear; about your cell phone that is. I had the same problem about 6 years ago, so I walked into my Verizon store and handed them to phone and told them it wasn’t worth keeping for the monthly minimum cost. As I started to walk away the salesperson asked what I was going to do about not having a phone. I told him I would buy a “disposable” one, you know the “Tracphone”type if I found the need for one. He quickly recovered at seeing me turn again to walk out and asked if I would consider a Verizon PrePay plan and he would throw in any new phone for $50. I said yes and I’m still on the plan and my second new cell phone.
            My point? The time will come when we may not have any other choice but to go Solar and advancements in Graphene technology will catch up etc. I wouldn’t wait by the phone for the call, but you get the idea……….

          • http://twitter.com/Kompulsa Kompulsa

            Because oil specifically, is particularly lucrative. The other part of the answer is that they make the most profits by continuing to use their existing infrastructure and equipment, as switching to alternative equipment and infrastructure entails a massive capital cost.

            So no, it is not profitable for oil companies to switch to renewable energy right now because that cannot top the profits of their oil operations, and furthermore, some oil companies are trying to do that and failing such as BP, who sells solar panels.

            Oil companies would rather have their existing equipment pay for itself.

          • agelbert

            Actually, the oil companies are putting some rather large money in algae fuel development. Study the board of directors and management of this corporation and you will see what I mean,

            Heliae – Measuring Algae by the Barrel

            by Joanna Schroeder –
            Sun and algae go together like peanut butter and jelly. Just ask Karl Seitz, Co-Founder of Heliae. I sat down with Seitz during the Advanced Biofuels Leadership Conference in DC to learn a little more about his company and their technology. The first unique attribute of the company is their name. Heli is Greek for the sun and the ae was added for algae so their name is the combination of the sun and algae.

            Heliae was formed about four years ago when the team met two professors at Arizona State University (ASU) who told them about a new process by which they could take algae and turn it into jet fuel. The more they heard and understood about the technology, the more hooked they became.

            “We looked in to it more and what was of particular interest to us was that their particular strains of algae grew very rapidly, doubled its weight every day, it was high in oil content, greater than 30 percent, and it had the right oil components,” said Seitz. That means it has a component of carbon that goes from C8 to C16 and that happens to be roughly the same carbon string that kerosene has. Kerosene is the main component of aviation fuel.”

            Another pro of algae, said Seitz, is that not only can you produce fuel, but also food.

            I asked Seitz about their technology and how they were going to go from pilot to commercial scale. “We’re going to start off with our proprietary strains of algae and improve upon them. We do not use a GMO strain. We use a strain that has been chemically altered and provides us with higher oil content and a faster growth rate,” said Seitz. “We also combine that with our closed photobioreactor and then we use our proprietary and patented extraction formulas and techniques to get the fuel out as well as the protein and carbohydrates.”

            Seitz said the other issue they are focusing on is developing algae strains that are suited for different parts of the country or different regions around the world.

            There are still questions about whether or not algal fuels and products can be competitive with petroleum based fuels and products. Seitz said their initial goal was to produce one barrel per day per acre and at that rate they think they can be competitive. And while many other companies are measuring success by the liter or the gallon, Heliae is measuring success by the barrel. The reason is that the world needs billions of barrels of renewable fuels to replace just aviation fuels. So in the future, Heliae hopes to play a major role in helping the world achieve that goal.

            http://domesticfuel.com/2011/05/03/heliae-measuring-algae-by-the-barrel/

            Heliae, a Gilbert, Arizona-based algae technology solutions company, has raised $15m in funding.

            The investment was made by international conglomerate Salim Group’s agribusiness company, PT. PP London Sumatra Indonesia Tbk, through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Agri Investments Pte. Ltd.

            The company intends to use the financing for continued research and development at its demonstration facility in Arizona and taking steps toward operating an R&D center in Indonesia that will serve the region.

            Co-founded in 2008 by Chairman of the Board Frank Mars as a spin out form Arizona State University, and and led by President and CEO Dan Simon, Heliae aims to develop and validate technology solutions for the commercial production of algae for a variety of potential uses including food & feed, fertilizer, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and fuel.

             

            http://www.finsmes.com/2012/05/heliae-raises-15m-funding.html

          • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

            And BP actually left the solar industry (dropped it’s solar panel subsidiary) because it could compete in this market.

            Great comments explaining why Big Oil is sticking with oil.

          • agelbert

            The fossil fuel economy is not simply about profits. If it was, it would have been replaced by renewables long ago. The fossil fuel economy is about centralization of power in both energy AND politics. It boils down to controlling our energy supply. Renewable energy, because it threatens centralized power sources and control of resources by a small elite group that can engineer “price shocks” and wars of choice, is attacked by both overt and surreptitious means (the bought and paid for media and astroturf “grass roots” efforts) to abort the renewable fetus before it gets out of hand. It won’t work this time like it did in the 1980s. The renewable “baby” has been born and it is going to eat the fossil fuel dinosaur alive!

        • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan
          • globi

            Here’s an interesting NYTimes article:

            http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/25/opinion/25lynch.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

            Oil remains abundant, and the price will likely come down closer to the historical level of $30 a barrel…

            …we can’t let the false threat of disappearing oil lead the government to
            throw money away on harebrained renewable energy schemes or impose
            unnecessary and expensive conservation measures…

      • you

        You don’t know about scientist well. Scientist are not God and they can’t produce such goods that light human life. As things are getting smaller like atom thick materials, we are not able to see them and it is not intuitive to understand how they behave. Imagine that you are teleported to a random washroom that has no light. It is completely dark and you can’t see anything. How will you pee at where you never been and you can’t see anything? First you have to find a toilet by tapping anywhere. Tapping everywhere will find you toilet eventually. This is the silmilar analogy. Scients do anything and find how it works.

      • http://www.facebook.com/DanBlanco Daniel Blanco

        Nice try Exxon CEO….

      • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

        We should place that as an endnote on every article about a scientific advancement.

        And I do understand people getting disillusioned with not seeing scientific breakthroughs go directly into a product, but the thing is that these take time to go from lab to product. (Furthermore, as you note, about 9 times out of 10 — or even more than that — the advancement will never make it to a product anyway, for a whole host of reasons, those you took the time to explain and even several others.)

      • arne-nl

        BarryG, perhaps you’d like to read this: http://www.greencarcongress.com/2013/02/calbattery-20130226.html Scientific discovery not shelved (and no oil company involved). The scientists simply cooperate with businessmen (mostly not very good science) to market the discoveries. (And this invention happens to involve graphene too).

        That scientists have no business skills doesn’t matter that much. Most business men (or women) have no science skills either. Each one better focus on where their talents lie.

        This discovery adds to the body of knowledge that helps other scientists discover something that will make it to market. Standing on the shoulders of giants, etc.

        • BarryG

          Perhaps you misunderstood me. I didn’t mean that scientists couldn’t work with business people to bring their work to market, I mean that they often do not do this for many reasons, some of which I stated.

          Also, note that it can be as hard to find the right top tier business person as it is to find a the right top tier scientist. I’m running a startup now and one of our biggest achievements was simply finding the right business team.

          We already had the right technical team and had built up a lot of technology. That part was “easy” for us and what we do all day. The business side was harder and it took us a full year to find our way, learn enough to even know who to hire in business. Many technical people wouldn’t know how to do that kind of networking and/or wouldn’t take off that year to learn enough that they’d even recognize the right business person when they meet them. Sometimes a good VC can facilitate this, but sometimes not — the VC really slots in a controller etc.

          • BarryG

            BTW one of my pet peeves with the US is that the right wing has killed industrial policy as a “bad thing”. And, it often can be taken too far. But it does work. I defy anyone to say how the internet would have arisen in a “free market”. The problem is that corporations are local optimizers (that’s what markets do) but the internet was a global move.

            Note that the internet happened as a defense project. Note the same for GPS, microchips, radar and pretty much Space-X (yes NASA, but all the tech came first from or for missiles. That’s because when the military does industrial policy, the right thinks that’s OK.

            Clearly with energy we need the government to make some global moves. If you really knew what went into oil extraction, you’d see that every barrel would cost $10K … except for the 100 years of technology backing up its extraction. If we put enough into solar, batteries, I’d argue for thorium breeders, they will also become cheap, but only if gov provides the market for them in the beginning (look at Space-X, I believe they will establish an industry in space travel, but only after 10 years of government contracts at big margins).

            Anyhow, if I were Obama, I would go all in military: We need the green battery for defense project, the solar military base energy development project, the tank force green algae fuel program etc etc. Accuse any right wing who opposed these of being un-American, not caring about our war fighters, not willing to defend the United States, wanting us to be weak etc etc.

          • http://twitter.com/Kompulsa Kompulsa

            Without calling it a “green” battery of course, because the Republicans are going to opposite it just because of that. :)

          • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

            great comments. need more of that spread everywhere.

      • agelbert

        While it is true that many inventions with promise are not marketed due to factors you point out, it is wishful thinking to believe we have a truly free marketplace and invention suppression does not take place. Just google the gas mileage of a model T early Ford engine to see how fuel economy actually got WORSE or remained the same for several decades when several carburation and fuel injection innivations made it engineering child’s play to achieve 70 miles per gallon (or more) efficiencies. And that is just in car engines. I can show you chapter and verse how NASA was stopped in their tracks from developing solar power for Native American poorly served communities because the utility corporations were worried (IN WRITING) that they would be forced to “lower utility rates”. And this was in the 1970s. Even though the photelectric effect was known and understood at the beginning of the 20th century, we didn’t get serious about it until we had no other choice (spacecraft onboard energy demands). Big oil didn’t want and did not permit competion, period. The Tyranny of Oil shows how it was (and is) done. http://www.amazon.com/The-Tyranny-Oil-Powerful-Industry/dp/B0064XOAFI
        A complete study titled “Waste Based Society” with several detailed articles and well researched history can be read here:
        http://www.doomsteaddiner.org/forum/index.php?topic=478.0

        • http://twitter.com/Kompulsa Kompulsa

          It is interesting how alternative energy technology for so many alternative energy sources can never get off the ground, however, technologies that big, rich companies want to sell always get off the ground, and it happens every year, as long as it does not disrupt any major industries, if it does, it does not get off the ground.

          Disruptive technologies never, ever, make it off the ground, this fact is why I am wary of oil companies and their probable interest in buying out anything that would put them under.

          • agelbert

            Mark my words. Decentralized energy sources will kill big oil. People have absolutely had it with engineered price shocks and contrived oil wars for war profiteering. See my other comments for a full explanation of why the oil dinosaur is a wounded beast thrashing madly around right now. It will get ugly for a while because of big oil’s money but it will eventually die. The few individuals in big oil that can accurately discern the renewable trend are probably pumping money into algea fuel corporations like Heliae Development, LLC and Sapphire Energy (Sapphire has already developed breakthrough technology to produce fungible, drop-in transportation fuels—including 91 octane gasoline, 89 cetane diesel, and jet fuel—all out of algae, sunlight, and carbon dioxide (CO2). Or, what they like to call Green Crude).

      • StevenR

        BarryG,

        Your analysis is spot on and hits a number of cogent points that are often overlooked in most analyses.

        Technically I suspect that this is not practical right now because it requires a source of continuous graphene of virtually infinite length and suitable width, perfectly formed and defect free, and only one atom thick. This material does not exist even though there is global recognition of its value and everyone of note is pursuing it. We simply are not there yet and it will be some time before we get there, as I think we ultimately will. The question is “When?”

        However, one cannot discount your observation about inventors. The world would be a very different place today if many of them would learn to stick with what they know and invest just a bit of the time they spend defying the rest of the world in finding collaborative partners who compliment their weaknesses.

        I hope that the pieces of this puzzle come together. It is an important discovery. I am not certain that it will happen before any patentable IP expires.

        StevenR

  • http://www.facebook.com/amanda.buckles Amanda Buckles

    This is so interesting. I work with a professor who is on the cutting edge of graphene carbon lattice research, Tim Fisher at Purdue. He’s actually offering an online course that discusses the how lattice structure is involved with phonons and electron called “Thermal Energy at the Nanoscale”. If you use the coupon code “Reddit”, we are offering a 20% discount. Check it out!

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Nice. Thanks for the note.

  • shaurz

    This could also be used in optronics when interfacing back to electronics.

  • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

    This graphene stuff is going to be incredibly important – not only this application, but also in high capacity energy storage; and probably many other things, too.

    http://www.kcet.org/news/rewire/science/more-good-news-on-those-carbon-supercapacitors.html

    Neil

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