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A WORLD OF INNOVATION

United States

At the University of Texas in Austin, chemical engineering professor Brian Korgel is leading a research team focused on the challenge of developing solar energy technology that can create electricity more efficiently and economically. Their technique relies on a light-absorbing liquid that is spray-painted onto plastic and metal to create solar panels as thin as a sheet of paper. This thin-film technology – which Korgel envisions being mass-produced on huge printing presses – could lower the cost of a solar roof installation by as much as 90 percent. The trick is to achieve sunlight-to-energy conversion rates high enough to make the process commercially feasible.

Northern Ireland

Researchers at the Astrophysics Research Centre are taking steps to avoid a collision involving Earth and space objects. Under the initiative, a 10-ton “gravity tractor” spacecraft would arrive at the object (for instance, an asteroid) and hover close enough to alter its trajectory.

Germany

Germany’s largest solar park was added to the country’s electrical grid in August. The park, which consists of 400 acres of solar panels, is located in Southern Bandenburg within an area that used to be the largest military training facility in East Germany. The facility, operated by Juwi Solar, is expected to offset about 35,000 tons of greenhouse gasses each year.

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