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New Solar Energy Conversion Process Could Revamp Solar Power Production
RSB FAQ Now Online
Medical Services to Transition to Stanford University Management

SLAC Today

Tuesday - August 3, 2010

New Solar Energy Conversion Process Could Revamp Solar Power Production

SIMES researcher Nick Melosh stands beside the ultra-high vacuum chamber used in the tests that proved the PETE process works. (Photo: Stanford University.)

SLAC and Stanford researchers have figured out how to simultaneously use the light and heat of the sun to generate electricity in a way that could make solar power production more than twice as efficient as existing methods and potentially cheap enough to compete with oil.

Unlike photovoltaic technology currently used in solar panels—which becomes less efficient as the temperature rises—the new process excels at higher temperatures.

Called "photon enhanced thermionic emission," or PETE, the process promises to surpass the efficiency of existing photovoltaic and thermal conversion technologies.

"This is really a conceptual breakthrough, a new energy conversion process, not just a new material or a slightly different tweak," said Nick Melosh of the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Science, a joint institute of the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University. Melosh led the research group. "It is actually something fundamentally different about how you can harvest energy."

And the materials needed to build a device to make the process work are cheap and easily available, meaning the power that comes from it will be affordable.

Melosh is senior author of a paper describing the tests the researchers conducted. It was published this week in Nature Materials.

"Just demonstrating that the process worked was a big deal," Melosh said. "And we showed this physical mechanism does exist, it works as advertised."

Critical to the team's efforts to demonstrate PETE was time spent at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource, said Jared Schwede, lead author of the paper and a graduate student working with Melosh. "It's that experimental infrastructure at SLAC that made some of our experiments possible," Schwede said, along with his colleagues' expertise.

"This research was an extension of earlier work at SLAC and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory," said SLAC Chief Scientist and Director of SIMES ZX Shen. "This shows how Department of Energy support of fundamental science can lead to potentially important technology."

Read more in Stanford Report...

(Image - RSB Web site)
The RSB Web site has a new Frequently Asked Questions section.

RSB FAQ Now Online

Have all the office moves and building plans made you wonder how the square footage of SLAC office space will change over the next four years? (It won't.) Searching for answers about who decides who will move into what space? (The Associate Laboratory Directors do.) Curious about the lab's next steps as we modernize our spaces and replace aging temporary trailers with permanent buildings?

The Research Support Building Project team—which oversees the construction and renovation efforts for Buildings 41, 28 and 52—has added a FAQ section to its Web site. Your questions may very well already be answered; if they're not, just let the RSB team know!

Medical Services to Transition to Stanford University Management

The Operations Directorate serves SLAC by providing a broad range of mission support services. Services are improved and costs reduced whenever possible. These improvements include partnering with Stanford University where the lab and the university have both common needs and the opportunity to maintain or improve service and reduce costs. Recently, Marguerite Shuttle expenses have been reduced as a result of new schedule contract, and fire alarm system monitoring has been consolidated. Soon, the university's Occupational Health Center will provide SLAC medical services, including evaluation and treatment for work-related injuries and illnesses, work-related preventative medical services, medical surveillance programs for lab staff and wellness program coordination.

The Stanford University Occupational Health Center opened in 2007. It will begin providing occupational medicine services starting October 1, 2010, at significantly reduced costs. SLAC is one of the few laboratories that has contracted out occupational medical services, but with the creation and success of this campus center, it is a natural extension to begin providing services to SLAC. The location and hours of the SLAC clinic will remain the same.

The lab greatly appreciates the 14 years of service provided by the current SLAC Medical Department. Led by Dr. Maria Gherman, the Medical Department has provided a broad range of professional support throughout the lab.

SLAC has benefited greatly from the professional support of Dr. Gherman and her leadership of the clinic. We look forward to a smooth transition of occupational medicine services to Stanford under the leadership of Clinical Assistant Professor, Medicine and Medical Director of the Stanford University Occupational Health Center Dr. Patrick O'Callahan.


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