Efficient Low-Cost Solar Energy Converter

Researchers at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and the Centre Suisse d’Electronique et de Microtechnique have invented a new device to store solar power while the sun’s not shining by converting it into Hydrogen. Although many current methods use the same approach to store energy, but this device rivals them in stability, efficiency and cost.

An effective and low-cost solution for storing solar energy © Infini Lab / 2016 EPFL


They combined commercially available components that have already proven effective in industry, such as Nickel, in order to develop a robust and effective system, that is  :made up of three interconnected, new-generation, crystalline silicon solar cells attached to an electrolysis system that does not rely on rare metals. The device is able to convert solar energy into hydrogen at a rate of 14.2%, and has already been run for more than 100 hours straight under test conditions.”

In order to develop this device, the researchers used layers of crystalline silicon and amorphous silicon to allow higher voltages. Thus, three cells in series generate a nearly ideal voltage for electrolysis.

“We wanted to develop a high performance system that can work under current conditions,” says Jan-Willem Schüttauf, a researcher at CSEM and co-author of the paper. “The heterojunction cells that we use belong to the family of crystalline silicon cells, which alone account for about 90% of the solar panel market. It is a well-known and robust technology whose lifespan exceeds 25 years. And it also happens to cover the south side of the CSEM building in Neuchâtel.”

This method, which outperforms previous efforts in terms of stability, performance, lifespan and cost efficiency, is published in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society. You can check the scientific paper here.


A Christmas star with Neopixel LEDs

A geeky Christmas decoration made with 56 LED Neopixel and controlled via an Arduino Micro board:

Let’s take a look, therefore, at the project’s electrical section, that is essentially composed of a set of 56 Neopixel LEDs, that have been arranged so to form two concentric stars; the first 35 RGB LEDs (out of 56) form the bigger, external star, while the other 20 ones form the smaller and internal star. The LED number 56 is placed exactly at the center of the printed circuit board, that has the shape of a five-pointed star.
The Neopixel LEDs are connected in cascade but powered in parallel; such a configuration enables to address each single LED and to individually choose the colour; among the possible hues, the 256 possible combinations for each primary colour (therefore we have 256x256x256 combinations!) determine a total of 16,777,216 colours: that’s what one would call true colours!

A Christmas star with Neopixel LEDs – [Link]

Bitmap graphics on an Arduino Touch Screen and other top Arduino Displays

In this video tutorial educ8s.tv shows us how to load bitmap graphics in our Arduino Touch Screen projects using Adafruit’s GFX library.

The procedure that I am going to describe works with all the color displays that are supported by Adafruit’s GFX library and by the displays that use the TFTLCD library from Adafruit with a small modification. So from the displays I own I can use the color OLED display, the 1.8” ST7735 color TFT display, the 2.8” Color Touch Screen that I reviewed a few weeks ago and the 3.5” Color TFT display. You can find links for all the displays below.

Bitmap graphics on an Arduino Touch Screen and other top Arduino Displays [Link]

Buck regulators accept up to 40-V input

by Susan Nordyk @ edn.com:

A wide input range of 4.5 V to 40 V enables the TS3004x series of DC/DC synchronous buck regulators from Semtech to work in a wide range of applications, including industrial, telecommunication, and consumer. The current-mode TS30041 and TS30042 furnish 1 mA and 2 mA of continuous output current, respectively, and include integrated power switches and robust fault protection in a small 3×3-mm, 16-lead QFN package.

Buck regulators accept up to 40-V input – [Link]

MEAS: five weather sensors on one Arduino shield

by Jan Buiting @ elektormagazine.com:

In a stint of list-o-mania TE Connectivity have slapped five environmental sensors on a single board called MEAS for plugging onto the Arduino/Genuino 101 and Uno R3. Here goes in telegram style.

MEAS: five weather sensors on one Arduino shield – [Link]

Intel(r) Quark(tm) micrcontroller D2000 based Environmental sensors board

Sergey Kiselev designed and built an Intel Quark D2000 micrcontroller based Environmental sensors board:

This is a fairly small (51 x 51 mm) board, equipped with a low power Intel Quark D2000 microcontroller, and several sensors (accelerator, temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure), as well as a mikroBUS compatible header and a Grove compatible connectors, that can be used to connect additional sensors, memory, or radio modules. The board can be used to monitor the environment conditions, and store or transmit the data to a remote system for further processing.

Intel(r) Quark(tm) micrcontroller D2000 based Environmental sensors board – [Link]

Supercapacitors Surpassing Conventional Batteries

Researchers at the University of Central Florida have been looking for alternatives for lithium rechargeable batteries which are largely used in every device.

Using two-dimensional (2D) transition-metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) capacitive materials, they are building a new supercapacitor that overcomes the performance of conventional lithium battery and replaces its efficiently.

Transition metal dichalcogenide monolayers (TMDs) are atomically thin semiconductors of the type MX₂, with M a transition metal atom and X a chalcogen atom. One layer of M atoms is sandwiched between two layers of X atoms.

TMDs are considered as promising capacitive materials for supercapacitor devices since they provide a suitable current conduction path and a robust large surface to increase the structure’s high energy and power density.

Researchers have developed “high-performance core/shell nanowire supercapacitors based on an array of one-dimensional (1D) nanowires seamlessly integrated with conformal 2D TMD layers. The 1D and 2D supercapacitor components possess “one-body” geometry with atomically sharp and structurally robust core/shell interfaces, as they were spontaneously converted from identical metal current collectors via sequential oxidation/sulfurization” according to the research paper.

The new prototype is said to be charged 30,000 times without any draining, 20 times the lifetime of an ordinary battery.

“You could charge your mobile phone in a few seconds and you wouldn’t need to charge it again for over a week,” says UCF postdoctoral associate Nitin Choudhary.

This research was published in the NANO science journal, you can check the scientific paper here.

Bluetooth 5 Is Here!

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has officially launched the core specifications of the new version of Bluetooth: Bluetooth 5. These specifications include longer range, faster speed, and larger broadcast message capacity, as well as improved interoperability and coexistence with other wireless technologies than recent Bluetooth versions, making it possible to advance IoT applications and usages.

Bluetooth is revolutionizing how people experience the IoT. Bluetooth 5 continues to drive this revolution by delivering reliable IoT connections and mobilizing the adoption of beacons, which in turn will decrease connection barriers and enable a seamless IoT experience” says Mark Powell, SIG’s executive director.

Keeping up with powering IoT, Bluetooth 5 has some additional features that better enable industrial automation and whole home coverage by addressing challenges like range and download speeds. It is said to improve location awareness with a smarter technology that collects data to provide personalized experiences for the end user.

While doubling the speed to enable the making of more responsive devices, Bluetooth 5 developers didn’t miss to maintain low-power consumption that results a faster data transfer.

By 2021, ABI Research predicts 48 billion internet-enabled devices will be installed, and Bluetooth—predicted to be in nearly one-third of those devices—is a cornerstone of that growth.

“The global wireless connectivity market is growing rapidly, with an anticipated 10 billion annual IC shipments by 2021,” said Andrew Zignani with ABI Research. “The introduction of Bluetooth 5 will create new opportunities in various verticals of the IoT market by reducing complexity and cost and giving manufacturers greater flexibility in targeting multiple applications and use cases.”

Within two to six months, new products are expected to be launched using this ubiquitous technology, so stay tuned!

More details about Bluetooth 5 here: www.bluetooth.com/bluetooth5

Semiconductor radioactivity detector

Robert Gawron has been working on a semiconductor radioactivity detector project:

Currently I’m trying to make a working version of a radioactivity detector that uses semiconductor as a sensor. It’s a different approach than Geiger-Muller detectors, more complicated, but also much more interesting.
While Geiger-Muller counters can only provide information about the amount of particles in a period of time, semiconductor detectors can also measure their energy, so it’s possible to say much more about the nature of observed ionizing radiation. Some of the disadvantages of these detectors are that they are more expensive, complex and sensitivity may degrade over time.

Semiconductor radioactivity detector – [Link]

First Solid-State Multi-Ion Sensor for Internet-of-Things Applications By Imec & Holst Centre

At last week’s IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) in San Francisco (USA), imec, the world-leading research and innovation hub in nano-electronics and digital technology and Holst Centre debuted a miniaturized sensor that simultaneously determines pH and chloride (Cl-)levels in fluid. This innovation is a must have for accurate long-term measurement of ion concentrations in applications such as environmental monitoring, precision agriculture and diagnostics for personalized healthcare. The sensor is an industry first and thanks to the SoC (system on chip) integration it enables massive and cost-effective deployments in Internet-of-Things (IoT) settings. Its innovative electrode design results in a similar or better performance compared to today’s standard equipment for measuring single ion concentrations and allows for additional ion tests.

Sensors based on ion-selective membranes are considered the gold standard to measure ion concentrations in many applications, such as water quality, agriculture, and analytical chemistry. They consist of two electrodes, the ion-sensitive electrode with the membrane (ISE) and a reference electrode (RE). When these electrodes are immersed in a fluid, a potential is generated that scales with the logarithm of the ion activity in the fluid, forming a measure for the concentration. However, the precision of the sensor depends on the long-term stability of the miniaturized RE, a challenge that has now been overcome.

“The common issue with such designs is the leaching of ions from the internal electrolyte, causing the sensor to drift over time,” stated Marcel Zevenbergen, senior researcher at imec/Holst Centre. “To suppress such leaching, we designed and fabricated an RE with a microfluidic channel as junction and combined it with solid-state iridium oxide (IrOx) and silver chloride (AgCl) electrodes fabricated on a silicon substrate, respectively as indicating electrodes for pH and Cl-. Our tests demonstrated this to be a long-term stable solution with the sensor showing a sensitivity, accuracy and response time that are equal or better than existing solutions, while at the same time being much smaller and potentially less expensive.”

“We are providing groundbreaking sensing and analytics solutions for the IoT,” stated John Baekelmans, Managing Director of imec in The Netherlands. “This new multi-ion sensor is one in a series that Holst Centre is currently developing with its partners to form the senses of the IoT. For each sensor, the aim is to leapfrog the current performance of the state-of-the-art sensors in a mass-producible, wireless, energy optimized and miniaturized package.”

Source: imec