September 25th, 2008
A new invention could revolutionize solar energy – and it was made by a 12-year-old in Beaverton, OR.
Despite his age, William Yuan has already studied nuclear fusion and nanotechnology, and he is on his way to solving the energy crisis.
It all started with Legos – after he learned nanotechnology to make robots take off. The seventh grader then got an idea inspired by the sun.
“Solar it seems underused, and there are only a few problems with it,” Yuan said.
Encouraged by his Meadow Park Middle School science teacher, the 12-year-old developed a 3D solar cell.
“Regular solar cells are only 2D and only allow light interaction once,” he said.
And his cell can absorb both visible and UV light.
“I started to realize I was actually onto something,” Yuan said.
At first, he couldn’t believe his calculations.
“This solar cell can’t be generating this much electricity, it can’t be absorbing this much extra light,” he recalled thinking.
If he is right, solar panels with his 3D cells would provide 500 times more light absorption than commercially-available solar cells and nine times more than cutting-edge 3D solar cells.
“Which would make solar energy actually a viable energy source for the Pacific Northwest,” Yuan said.
While college students have come up with unusual solar cars and the state of Oregon recently unveiled solar panels to power highway lights, Yuan is thinking global.
“It’ll have a really positive impact on society and the environment,” he said.
His next step is to get a manufacturer and market it.
Yuan is flying out to Washington D.C. on Monday to accept a $25,000 scholarship for his research. He earned the Davidson Fellow award, which is for those 18 and under.
August 30th, 2008
The basic yellow school bus hasn’t changed much in 30 years: a shoe-box-on-wheels built to transport kids safely at low cost.
Now Ewan Pritchard wants to turn that soot-spewing school bus into a clean, green plug-in-hybrid machine. High mileage. No more exhaust cloud at each stop.
When Mr. Pritchard, a mechanical engineer, unveiled his plan to a major bus manufacturer in 2002, snickering officials nearly laughed him out of the room. That was before hurricane Katrina hit, and diesel prices skyrocketed.
“When we first talked about this, manufacturers acted as if we were asking them to build flying cars or something,” says Pritchard, hybrid program manager for Advanced Energy, a small nonprofit energy-consulting company in Raleigh, N.C.
That laughter has subsided. Now, the nation’s biggest school-bus maker has orders for 19 buses from districts in 11 states – including Washington, California, Texas, Iowa, Arkansas, and North Carolina.
In Bradenton, Fla., Manatee School District officials last month became proud owners of the nation’s first two plug-in hybrid school buses. Students are catching the spirit of their new ride, too. Emily Mulrine, a district student, helped name her middle school’s new plug-in hybrid bus “Limpio,” the Spanish word for clean.
Such plug-in hybrid buses use both a diesel engine and an electric motor – plugging into a power socket at night to charge batteries. Environmentalists and energy-security hawks love the idea.
“Buses are a great way to use off-the-shelf technology that can reduce pollution and energy use,” says Roland Hwang, senior policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This move creates greater pressure on the automakers to produce similar technology.”
Indeed, while big automakers tout plans to build plug-in hybrid cars a few years from now, Navistar International Corp.’s school bus division, IC Corp., is already rolling out plug-in hybrid buses. This week, another one will be delivered in Pennsylvania.