From the roof of my condo complex in a sunny part of San Francisco, I can see solar panels on at least a few houses on each surrounding block.
On October 28, 1994 Calvin Souther Fuller passed away at his home in Vero Beach, Florida. He was 92.
Born on May 25th, 1902, Fuller's legacy includes 33 patents, including how to purify silicon. Some have called his inventions a pivotal step in the founding of semiconductors, the evolution of the personal computer and the development solar cell. In his 1994 New York Times obituary, AT&T spokesman Robert Ford said Fuller's invention of the silicon solar cell...
"...helped make the space program practical, because space vehicles could get power from readily available sunlight."
Born in Chicago, Fuller attended the University of Chicago he received a B.S. and a Ph.D.in physical chemistry. He joined Bell Labs (then called Bell Telephone) in 1930, where his work included research in organic insulating materials and investigations of the molecular nature of polymers.
Working with Bell Telephone scientists Daryl Chapin and Gerald Pearson, Fuller diffused boron into silicon to capture the sun's power. The invention of the 'solar battery' resulted in a 600% improvement in previous technologies to harnessing solar power and convert it into electricity. The inventors used several small strips of silicon to capture sunlight and render it into free electrons.
Here is a story told by Calvin S. Fuller's oldest son Robert W. Fuller as part of the speech preparation for Calvin S. Fuller's May 2008 induction to the National Inventor's Hall of Fame:
"In 1954, I was home from vacation from college to visit my parents. That night my father, Calvin Souther Fuller, came home with something that looked like a quarter with wires sticking out of it. This was a device that connected to a small electric windmill that stood on the table. He shined a bright flashlight on the quarter-like object, which was actually silicon solar cell, and the blades of the windmill started turning. It was so exciting to see the flashlight power the tiny windmill. While this device looked like a quarter to anyone else, it was actually the world’s first silicon solar battery - a device that later become known as the silicon solar cell."
The solar cell was given a public demonstration at Murray Hill in 1954. The first public service trial of the Bell Solar Battery began with a telephone carrier system in 1955 in Americus, Georgia. By 1958, the US Department of Defense wanted solar cells to power vehicles and satellites in space. The first time the cells were put on board an operational space vehicle, and used, was in 1962, on AT&T's Telstar communications satellite.
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Even three days wouldn't be enough to experience all of West Coast Green; I was lucky enough to be able to attend one full day, and though I saw only a fraction of what was available, it was well worth it.
After the morning keynotes I squeezed in a quick visit to the tradeshow, which featured everything from energy management to the latest in building materials, water treatment and harvesting, and electric cars. Among the solar companies represented was Luminalt, a San Francisco company that's partnered with 1 Block Off the Grid to provide solar to local homeowners. They've been very helpful in researching options for installing a solar system at my condo complex. Speaking with them led me to the PG&E booth to get information about solar rebates for multi-family dwellings. I was glad to see examples at the tradeshow of LED lights, which I'm considering for both my home and the outside lighting at our complex, and a portable solar generator, which can be used by those who are off the grid. At the Plug-in America booth, I learned more about the latest in electric cars. There was so much to see at the tradeshow.
It was hard to pick which of the many excellent sessions to attend. My quest for more information about rebates and incentives for homeowners took me to "Energy Upgrade California - Residential Retrofits Go Live!" Leif Magnusson from the EPA, Panama Bartholomy with the CA Energy Commission, Michael Wheeler from the CPUC, and Jeff Gleeson of PG&E encouraged us to pursue the conference's theme of The Power of 10 by retrofitting our own home and getting 10 friends to do the same. Electricity demands are increasing about 1.2% a year, and this increase is from the building sector; our best and most cost-effective option is to decrease demand by increasing efficiencies. California has goals to decrease energy consumption in homes and commercial buildings, and plans are in place to facilitate this. A new program provides low-cost financing and high rebates for homeowners. I was encouraged to see these diverse agencies and companies working together to find solutions for all of us. While it's easier now to implement some of these measures in single-family homes, I look forward to more incentives for multi-family dwellings, which are on the way.
At another session on buildings, "Passiv Haus: Aggressive Savings," Prudence Ferreira of Integral Impact, Inc., Nabih Tahan of Bau Technologies, and Graham Irwin with Essential Habitat discussed the rigorous Passive House standard, which greatly reduces buildings' energy consumption. While it's best to apply it to new buildings, many existing ones can benefit greatly from a retrofit - especially older buildings, which tend to leak a lot. A main principle of the Passive House is to ensure there are no leaks in the building that would let out heat (or cool air in hot weather), but that doesn't mean the air is stale. On the contrary, because the system brings in fresh air and circulates it, it increases air quality, which is beneficial for people's health as well as the building's durability. During cold times it heats the air coming in to the house and sends out cold air. The system uses the ingenious method of capturing the heat generated by appliances and people, and it works so well that their slogan is that you should be able to "heat your whole house with a hair dryer." It can be more affordable than other green options, while giving a lot of bang for the buck. In addition, the Passive House works well in many climates, including California's. And in California, AB32 has set a goal for 2020 for all new homes (2030 for new commercial buildings) to be "zero net energy," meaning the amount of energy used by the building equals the amount produced either in the building or by nearby renewable energy resources. That's an ambitious goal, and the Passive House concept can help!
Attending a day of WCG inspired me in many ways, and I'll make an effort to attend more of it next year. Even one day left me feeling much better informed; there was so much useful information in one place, as well as many people to contact for follow-ups. I look forward to the conference next year, and in the meantime I'll do my best to extend my own efforts to the power of 10!
On August 22, 1834 America astronomer Samuel Pierpont Langley is born in Boston Massachusetts (d. February 27, 1906). His invention of the bolometer helped him measure infrared radiation, which helped Svante Arrhenius make the first calculations on the greenhouse effect.
Langley’s interest in astronomy began early in his youth with a small telescope owned by his father. By age 20 he and his brother were building their own. As a young adult he taught at Harvard College Observatory the United States Naval Academy, until 1867, when he moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to direct the new Allegheny Observatory and serve as professor of astronomy at the University of Pittsburgh.
In Pittsburgh he researched the Sun and the effect of its solar radiation on the Earth’s atmosphere. To conduct his research, Langley invented the bolometer to measure infrared radiation, versions of his original design are still used today.
The bolometer is a radiant-heat detector that is sensitive to differences in temperature of one hundred-thousandth of a degree Celsius (0.00001 C) . Composed of two thin strips of metal, a Wheatstone bridge, a battery, and a galvanometer (an electrical current measuring device), this instrument enabled him to study solar irradiance (light rays from the sun) far into its infrared region and to measure the intensity of solar radiation at various wavelengths. Langley’s measurement of interference of the infrared radiation by carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere was used by Svante Arrhenius in 1896 to make the first calculation of how climate would change from a future doubling of carbon dioxide levels.
In 1886, Langley received the Henry Draper Medal from the National Academy of Sciences for his contributions to solar physics. His publication in 1890 of infrared observations at the Allegheny Observatory in Pittsburgh together with Frank Washington Very was used by Svante Arrhenius to make the first calculations on the greenhouse effect.
By 1887, Langley became Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution Secretary of the Institution, where he would serve until his death in 1906, from paralytic stroke. Pall beareres at Langley’s funeral included the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court Melville Fuller and Vice President Charles W Fairbanks.
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June 20th in clean tech history honors the death of German physicist Wilhelm Hallwachs (b. Darmstadt Germany, 9 July 1859; d. Dresden, Germany, 20 June 1922). As an experimental physicist, he laid the foundations for research on photoelectric processes and in 1904 discovered that a combination of copper and cuprous oxide is photosensitive. Modern photo cells are based off of his discoveries.
At Leipzig in 1888, Hallwachs investigated photoelectric activity. He followed the model of Heinrich Hertz’s studies, of whom he was a student. Hallwachs established that through absorption of ultraviolet light, negatively charged metal plates discharge and uncharged metal plates become positively charged.
This process, which is called the photoelectric effect or Hallwachs effect. The photoelectric effect is a phenomenon in which electrons are emitted from matter (metals and non-metallic solids, liquids or gases) as a consequence of their absorption of energy from electromagnetic radiation of very short wavelength, such as visible or ultraviolet light. Electrons emitted in this manner may be referred to as "photoelectrons."
The photoelectric effect forms the basis for the physics of the photoelectric cell and was theoretically interpreted in 1905 in Einstein’s work on light quanta. Hallwachs’ observations laid the foundation for the later development of photo cells, TV camera imaging and other light-sensitive electronic devices.