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In this issue:
Quantum Dots Could Boost Solar Cell Efficiency
PULSE Institute Renewal Sharpens Focus on Energy Challenges
Colloquium Today: Web Science

SLAC Today

Monday - March 9, 2009

Quantum Dots Could Boost Solar Cell Efficiency

(Image - Kelly Gaffney)
Click image for the full story, including a video conversation with PULSE researcher Kelly Gaffney. (Video by Brad Plummer.)

The transition to environmentally benign energy sources is one of the most significant challenges of the 21st century. Solar power, which uses sunlight to generate electricity, is one promising source. It has many benefits: sunlight is free; operating solar cells emits no greenhouse gasses; and solar power can be generated almost anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, today's solar energy technologies are inefficient, and thus significantly more expensive than traditional power sources. But hope is on the horizon. Recent results from the joint SLAC–Stanford PULSE Institute for Ultrafast Energy Science may help increase efficiency more than previously thought possible.

"This research is one step toward making solar cells more efficient," said PULSE researcher Kelly Gaffney. The finding, he continued, shows there is a significant difference between what's on the market now and what's possible.  Read more...

PULSE Institute Renewal Sharpens Focus on Energy Challenges

PULSE Director Phil Bucksbaum in the lab with graduate student Jaehee Kim.

As PULSE Institute scientists prepare for the joint Stanford/SLAC center's triennial renewal in September, they're reinventing themselves in the spirit of their new name—the PULSE Institute for Ultrafast Energy Science—adopted late last fall.

"Names help you define your focus," said PULSE Director Phil Bucksbaum. "Energy helps us focus on what's important about what we're doing."

PULSE scientists investigate the world of ultrafast physics, whether it's the dynamics of magnetism in a material or the details of light-induced chemical reactions. During the institute's renewal process, including development of a proposal to be submitted to the Office of Science in late spring, PULSE scientists will outline their research goals for the next three years.

PULSE research already has strong relevance to energy issues such as superconductivity and solar cells, but Bucksbaum said the institute is reorganizing to focus even more closely on energy. Instead of creating teams based on areas of expertise or techniques, members are forming groups to tackle specific energy-related questions, especially those outlined in the Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee's Grand Challenges report.

"We're using our existing expertise, but our tasks are totally new," Bucksbaum said. The renewed focus on energy will guide the institute on how to direct research as the Linac Coherent Light Source opens up new opportunities this fall. "We're expanding our research, but we're doing so in ways more closely tied to energy problems," Bucksbaum said. "We've selected ways of approaching problems to help address the grand challenges."

(Image - Colliding Web Sciences)

Colloquium Today: Web Science

All are invited to Panofsky Auditorium today at 4:15 p.m. to hear computer scientist and World Wide Web expert Bebo White present "The Emergence of Web Science." White was a participant in establishing the first U.S. Web site at SLAC in 1991 and is a designated "Web Science Ambassador" and collaborator in the Web Science Research Initiative. His talk will address Web science as a new, multi-disciplinary research effort to study the Web as a dynamic entity, to better understand both its past and future. The talk is free and open to all.


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