Author Archives: David Russell Schilling

  1. Newly Developed Thin-Film Solar Cells Are Cheaper & 100 Times Thinner

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    Flickr CC/Marufish

    Flickr CC/Marufish

    When we normally think of solar cells, they are usually installed on a flat glass surface and backed by a panel which is at least several inches thick. But new materials breakthroughs are allowing significant advancements in thin-film solar cells. These solar cells look closer to 2D rather than a 3D technology.

    According to solar industry watchers, current thin-film solar cells provide an average efficiency of 7%-13% with the efficiency expected to climb as the technology improves. The thin-film materials contain laser-edged electrodes that significantly boost the storage capacity of solar cells by up to 300%. A recent report from Nature Energy highlighted a Japanese company, Kaneka Corporation, that has developed a solar cell with a record-taking 26% efficiency using thin-film heterojunction (HJ) silicon layering.

    According to 3DSun, traditional photovoltaic solar cells are made using monocrystalline (15%-20% efficiency) and polycrystalline (13%-16^ efficiency) while thin-film solar cells are made from materials including “amorphous silicon, cadmium telluride, and copper indium gallium selenide.”

    There is a lot of innovation occurring in the thin-film solar cell market where a US patent was recently awarded to Ecoark Holdings for its thin-film lightweight high-efficiency solar cell technologies that are created using flexible substrates.

    According to research reports, the global market for CIGS (copper, indium, gallium, selenide) used in thin-film solar cells to convert the sun into electrical energy is expected to reach $10 billion by 2020.

    The following video explains the future of solar cells and the current state of the development of thin-film solar cells.

  2. Aerospace Composites Market Set to Double to $32 Billion by 2022

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    Composite materials are now widely used in many industries and products including airplanes, sailboats, ski equipment, wind turbines, racecars, and medical equipment. Materials science and engineering continue to evolve with new classes of materials with new properties radically changing engineering and society.

    Today, materials scientists work on the atomic scale, studying atomic bonding, bond energy, and bond stiffness to determine the elasticity of materials and their thermodynamic properties. Material scientists look at the structure of atoms and the types of interactions that occur in the material. The atomic structure of materials determines their mechanical properties.

    Research and experiments on nanoscale and microscale structures are relatively new, but engineers are now able to manipulate materials and modify them at the nano or micro level. Researchers use X-ray diffraction analysis, transmission electron microscopy, and advanced scanning electron microscopy in state-of-the-art nano-laboratories.

    Today, aerospace composites are machined using equipment such as the Becker MillCut TFC which diamond machines glass-filled plastic and carbon fiber materials. Critical to any composite structure is composite failure analysis. The emergence of new materials is changing the incidence and severity of cracks bifurcation that occurs in aerospace skin, for example. As a result, composite materials are improving safety wherever they are used.

    The aerospace composites market is expected to grow nearly $6 billion between now and 2021 when it will exceed $32 billion.

    Improving Efficiency Using Composites

    Researchers from the University of Bath and the University of Plymouth are using stronger composites so that “wings can be constructed to change shape in flight, making better use of flying conditions and drastically improving fuel efficiency. Also, in the renewable energy sector, composites are essential for the manufacture of turbine blades which need to be light, strong, and durable.”

    In the following video, CEO Graham Mulholland explains how composite parts are changing aerospace manufacturing.

  3. Wave Energy Is The Largest Untapped Energy Source In The World

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    AW Energy

    AW Energy

    According to scientists, the global potential of wave energy is more than 500 GW of renewable energy. Today, wave energy is being developed so that within a few decades it will represent 10% of global energy supply. The current global installed capacity of wind is 360 GW, and solar power is 150 GW.

    Huge WaveRollers: Swaying Back and Forth on the Ocean Floor

    A new technology known as WaveRoller, from AW-Energy, is expected to be installed in Portugal to make a 180 MW wave energy plant. The idea for WaveRoller came from professional diver Rauno Koivusaari who was exploring a shipwreck in the Baltic Sea when he was nearly hit by a bulkhead door which was being pushed back and forth by underwater waves or currents.

    AW Energy

    AW Energy

    According to Koivussaari, many underwater divers have noticed this type of phenomena but he and colleagues set about designing the WaveRoller to capture the kinetic energy of waves using a “bottom-mounted moving wing.” With that movement, electricity is generated using traditional techniques.

    WaveRoller farms or arrays are planned, and AW-Energy has been identifying sites around the world that would be ideal for the new technology. The company is also looking for reliable partners and investors. WaveRollers will be installed both nearshore and offshore and be monitored remotely using control systems and sensors.

    The following video shows the WaveRoller in action.

  4. Reinventing the Auto Industry With Cheaper, Faster, & Lighter 3D Printed Car Parts

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    Wiki Commons/Strati

    Wiki Commons/Strati

    The 3D printed car industry has seen a few milestones from Local Motors building the world’s first full-size, drivable, 3D printed car to the “The Rise of Virtually Designed Products . . .” in which SpaceX has been building pieces of its spaceships using 3D or additive printing.

    Since these developments, the automobile industry has been coming closer and closer to using 3D printing in more and more of its manufacturing activities. 3D printing by automotive manufacturers is evolving rapidly and has reached a point where it will be an integral part of automobile manufacturing and tooling going forward.

    One provider of very large 3D printed automotive parts is the automotive tooling company Sciaky Metals. The company has designed and manufactured huge 3D printers that allow automotive companies to produce 3D metal prototypes and production parts. The company’s printers employ electron-beam additive manufacturing (EBAM) systems.

    In an interesting twist, according to, 3D printing company Mcor is working with Honda to create 3D molds made out of paper. According to Mcor:

    “Obviously any company that requires multiple variations on molds needs the lowest cost tooling available. Using paper-based 3D printed modules as the molds for this process reduces the cost of producing CFRPs considerably. Our 3D printed molds can be 10 times less to make than CNC molds, the current method used.”

    Honda isn’t the only company heavily involved in this new cheaper, faster, lighter technology: Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini, Porsche, and many more are now tooling up for 3D printing.

    The following video explains how innovative automotive design and manufacturing are coming about through the use of 3D printers, including Stratasys.

  5. Strong Growth in Commercial Aviation Markets Expected Through 2034

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    Aviation Markets (Image Courtesy

    Aviation Markets (Image Courtesy

    Commercial Aviation: A Huge & Growing Industry

    Airbus’ Global Market Forecast 2015-2034 suggests that the commercial air transport sector will continue to grow due primarily to demographic and economic growth trends. Regional growth through 2034 shows the Asia/Pacific region leading the way with a 39% share of new aircraft deliveries which worldwide will total 32,585.

    Airline Growth by Region (Image Courtesy

    Airline Growth by Region (Image Courtesy

    Big & Getting Bigger

    A report by Columbia University provides an outline of the global commercial airline industry indicating:

    • There are currently more than 2,000 airlines operating more than 23,000 aircraft at 3,700 airports around the world. These airlines serve a total of more than 3.5 billion passengers a year or about 96,000 passengers a day.
    • The commercial aircraft industry has been growing at 5% per year over the past 30 years and is expected to double over the next decade.

    According to a report by Price Waterhouse (PWC) 2015 Aviation Trends, to fulfill the needs of airline passengers, airlines are:

    1. Increasing the quality of the airline passenger experience by getting to know passenger needs and delivering enhanced products and services.
    2. Reducing costs and improving operational efficiency especially in the area of fuel efficiency where jet fuel gobbles up 40-55% of operating expenses.
    3. Encouraging the entire supply chain of commercial aircraft to continuously improve processes and increase efficiency.
    4. Expanding into new territories and markets in Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East.

    New Technology Improving the Airline Industry

    One of the key trends in improving technology is the complete digitization of the airline business. This includes real-time resource planning and allocation, and high-tech enabled equipment and engines that notify maintenance staff and operations centers, often while in flight, when aircraft problems arise.

    At the same time, the entire supply chain is involved in upgrading IT systems not only to improve their own operations but to prepare for the increasing data requirements that next-generation aircraft and power plants present.

    The speed and quality of improvement in commercial airlines over the next decade will depend on the speed of adoption of new technologies that will make airplanes not only better for passengers but better for operators’ bottom line.

    Following is a video created by Airbus Publishers, “Flying on Demand,” which discusses a 20-year forecast on the growth of the commercial aviation market.

    Via: Industry Tap