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Space debris, more efficient LEDs, and thinner, cheaper solar cells

WASHINGTON -- Scientists and engineers from around the world will convene in Austin, Texas next week as experts gather to discuss recent advances in optics and photonics -- the branch of physics dealing with the science of light -- affecting renewable energy and environmental research.

Journalists are invited to the Optical Society's (OSA) Optics and Photonics Congress: Renewable Energy & the Environment, which will be held at the Omni Austin Hotel Downtown Nov. 2-3. Four co-located meetings will cover optics for solar energy, solid-state and organic lighting, photovoltaics, and instrumentation for energy and environmental applications . Press registration details are below.

In addition to seven plenary session keynote speakers from institutions such as the U.S. National Renewable Energy Lab and Stanford University, many of the research presentations at the meeting focus on the most cutting-edge discoveries in renewable energy and photonics, including new designs for solar cells and LEDs. Highlighted presentation topics include:

1. Thousands of Sensors to Keep Watch on Earth's Climate
2. Looking for CO2 Leaks
3. Let the Sunshine In
4. Studying Space Debris: NASA Uses Optics to Help Reveal Size, Composition of Space Junk
5. Novel LED Design May Boost Efficiencies
6. 'Inverted Pyramid' Design Makes Thinner Wafers, Cheaper Solar Cells
7. Toward a Simpler White Organic LED Design
8. Improving Efficiency with Photonic Crystal Sandwiches
9. 'Power Droop' Challenges of LEDs for High-power Lighting
10. Plasmonics for Better Light Trapping

1. Thousands of Sensors to Keep Watch on Earth's Climate

Science is only as good as the data on which it is based, the saying goes. To help meet the forecasting challenges of climate-change science, the U.S. National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) plans an ambitious network of more than 45,000 sensors to monitor climate indicators such as temperature, precipitation, carbon dioxide concentration, and soil characteristics. Researchers will present a strategy for automating and managing this vast array of climate sentinels. Full presentation information.

2. Looking for CO2 Leaks

One proposed method to slow anthropogenic climate change is to capture carbon dioxide emissions and store them underground. But the solution won't work if the CO2 escapes. Researchers have designed and tested an imaging system that may be able to spot leaks by the telltale way the CO2 feeds vegetation growth. Full presentation information.

3. Let the Sunshine In

Natural light is free and aesthetically pleasing, but it can't reach basements or windowless offices. Novel daylighting systems, called core sunlighting, that bring light into these building areas might solve this problem by piping the sunshine through cost-effective, mirror-lined tubes. Full presentation information.

4. Studying Space Debris: NASA Uses Optics to Help Reveal Size, Composition of Space Junk

NASA is using new optical techniques to study the ever-growing cloud of space debris encircling the Earth. NASA uses the information it gathers to help develop space debris mitigation standards and collision avoidance maneuvers for spacecraft, making space a little safer. Read full summary.

5. Novel LED Design May Boost Efficiencies

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are vastly more efficient than incandescent light bulbs and even compact fluorescent bulbs, but they still have design constraints that limit their potential. Researchers at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Japan has used a new ridge-shaped design that is 10-16 times more efficient than the current flat design. Read full summary.

6. 'Inverted Pyramid' Design Makes Thinner Wafers, Cheaper Solar Cells

The battle between solar power and fossil fuels can be fought on many fronts, but a big one is cost. Researchers at MIT will discuss their newly designed prototype silicon solar cell that promises to be just as efficient as a standard silicon cell, but that uses much less material, making it theoretically cheaper to produce. Read full summary.

7. 'Power Droop' Challenges of LEDs for High-power Lighting

The United States is currently in a transition from old and familiar incandescent light bulbs to vastly more efficient solid-state LEDs, or light emitting diodes. There remain, however, formidable challenges facing LED technologies, particularly when trying to use them for high-power lighting applications. One of the major hurdles is the so-called "efficiency droop" that occurs when attempting to ramp up LEDs to high current densities. Researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York will discuss the origin of this droop as well as ways to reduce it. Full presentation information.

8. Toward a Simpler White Organic LED Design

Organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs), because of their remarkable efficiency and low-energy consumption, show great promise in meeting home and business lighting needs. One of the remaining hurdles to deploying these more broadly, however, is the challenge of producing white light, which is currently generated through a complex design that combines multiple color emitters. Research is underway to develop an efficient white OLED that uses a single, broadband emitter. Full presentation information.

9. Improving Efficiency with Photonic Crystal Sandwiches

"Tandem" solar cells can increase energy efficiency by combining multiple materials that absorb different frequencies of light. But they are difficult to manufacture because only certain materials are compatible, and minor defects can have a major impact on the ability of two adjacent materials to work together. Researchers in Germany have discovered that 3-D photonic crystals sandwiched between two different absorbing materials can manage the flow of photons within a tandem solar cell, preventing one material from interfering with the light-absorbing abilities of the other, and making it easier to manufacture tandem solar cells on a large scale. Full presentation information.

10. Plasmonics for Better Light Trapping

In their quest for more efficient sunlight-to-energy converters, scientists are exploring the light-controlling properties of metals in the burgeoning field of plasmonics, which examines the flow of a special type of light wave along the surface of metals. Stanford University materials scientist Mark Brongersma will discuss recent progress in the development of plasmonic and other nano-sized structures that can increase the efficiency of light absorption and trapping in solar cells. Full presentation information.

About the Meeting

The Renewable Energy & the Environment: OSA Optics and Photonics Congress provides a forum where speakers present the latest results in the energy/environment arena ranging from solar energy research to photovoltaic applications. This Congress is composed of four complimentary co-located meetings dealing with the most recent, high-impact optical advances in the energy and environment areas:

  • Optics for Solar Energy
  • Solid State and Organic Lighting
  • Advanced Solar Materials and Nanostructures for Photovoltaics
  • Optical Instrumentation for Energy and Environmental Applications

Optics & Photonics Congresses (OPCs) are clusters of new and established topical meetings in order to bring together leaders among communities within optics. Congresses are designed to retain the collegial settings of OSA topical meetings and provide richer experiences for networking, information sharing and discussion across the disciplines of optical science and engineering. They also offer opportunities for more special events including plenary sessions, symposia, short courses and joint exhibits. Scientists who attend the topical meeting of their discipline will not only have the opportunity to network with colleagues within their own field but can also learn more about other fields.

Contact: Angela Stark
Optical Society of America

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