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Today in History: Bell Labs Announced Invention of First Practical Silicon Solar Cell, 1954
On April 26, 1954 — 61 years ago today — executives of Bell Labs introduced a silicon-based solar cell with a 15x increase in efficiency over previous models. These cells were developed by Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller, and Gerald Pearson in their work at Bell Labs, who found that silicon when combined with certain “impurities” became highly sensitive to light, and who were able to gain a 6% efficiency (sunlight converted to electricity). Theoretical findings indicated that this 6% efficiency figure could be increased to about 24% — about the efficiency of today’s cells.

At the time, the U.S. was embarking on an “Atoms for Peace” program to overcome its global image as the only government to have used an atomic bomb on innocent civilians (in order to end World War II with Japan). According to John Perlin, author of Let It Shine: the 6,000 Year Story of Solar Energy, the U.S. government allocated about $10 billion to nuclear power and “not a penny to solar.” Hans K. Ziegler, who came to the U.S. with rocket engineer Wernher Von Braun in a program designed to recruit German engineers and scientists immediately after World War II, examined the Bell Labs’ cells and wrote about them:Future development [of the silicon solar cell] may well render it into an important source of electrical power [as] the roofs of all our buildings in cities and towns equipped with solar [cells] would be sufficient to produce this country’s entire demand for electrical power.

More from the first link provided under Web sources:

One journalist thought it important for the public to know that “linked together electrically, the Bell solar cells deliver power from the sun at the rate of 50 watts per square yard, while the atomic cell announced recently by the RCA Corporation merely delivers a millionth of a watt” over the same area. An article in U.S. News & World Report speculated that one day such silicon strips “may provide more power than all the world’s coal, oil, and uranium.” The New York Times probably best summed up what Chapin, Fuller, and Pearson had accomplished. On page one of its April 26, 1954, issue, the Times stated that the construction of the first solar module to generate useful amounts of power marks “the beginning of a new era, leading eventually to the realization of one of mankind’s most cherished dreams—the harnessing of the almost limitless energy of the sun for the uses of civilization.”

YouTube sources:
•Energy 101: Solar Power (cartoon format; length 03:23). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDZzAIcCQLQ
•Cost of Solar (length 00:58). http://gizmodo.com/60-years-ago-today-bell-labs-unveiled-the-solar-cell-1567543841
•The History of Solar Energy - Part 5 (length 07:59). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ez92w8ytZAM

Web sources:
http://www.nrel.gov/education/pdfs/educational_resources/high_school/solar_cell_history.pdf
http://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/200904/physicshistory.cfm
http://www.solareworld.com/2011/08/09/solar-history-bell-labs-and-the-first-modern-silicon-solar-cell/
http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/Happy-60th-Anniversary-to-the-Modern-Solar-Cell
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_solar_cells
http://www.popsci.com/article/science/invention-solar-cell?src=SOC&dom=fb
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_K._Ziegler
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calvin_Souther_Fuller
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Pearson
http://inventors.about.com/od/sstartinventions/a/solar_cell.htm
http://gizmodo.com/60-years-ago-today-bell-labs-unveiled-the-solar-cell-1567543841

Books:
The Making of a Scientist: A Memoir by Calvin S. Fuller. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00KFXZQ9C/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00KFXZQ9C&linkCode=as2&tag=historyknowledge-20&linkId=ZX2LIS5MVV42ZZFA
Let It Shine: The 6,000 Year Story of Solar Energy by John Perlin. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00E512102/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00E512102&linkCode=as2&tag=historyknowledge-20&linkId=PEBIRVNVPXVMAZ4E

Photo Credit:
•Top Left: Inventors of the Solar Cell (left to right): Gerald Pearson, Daryl Chapin, and Calvin Fuller (1954). Courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center via John Perlin:http://www.nrel.gov/education/pdfs/educational_resources/high_school/solar_cell_history.pdf
•Top Right: Bell Labs Solar Battery. Courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center.
•Bottom: Price history of crystalline silicon solar cells in $ per watt since 1977. By Hanjin, Rfassbind [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3APrice_history_of_silicon_PV_cells_since_1977.svg

#history #solarcell #solarenergy #solarpower

Additional April 26 events in history:
•A catastrophic nuclear explosion occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, 1986.
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from the book "Why the West Rules - for Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future" by Ian Morris
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http://www.ianmorris.org/socdev.html
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Find statistics from around the globe on topics like GDP, employment and population with Google Public Data, a feature that aggregates statistics and other information from sources like the World Bank and the World Resources Institute in Google search. For example, if you search for [india population], at the top of the search results you'll see a graph related to the metric—in this case, the population growth of India over time. Clicking on the graph will take you to a more detailed graph with the option to explore additional indicators such as literacy rate and life expectancy. Using these filters, you can then compare India's metrics with other countries. 

#searchtips  
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“Solar Lull Could Trigger Another ‘Little Ice Age,’ Sun Scientists Say” http://b4in.org/r0CJ

By Macrina Cooper-White

“If you thought the polar vortex was bad, get a load of a new climate phenomenon that just might be coming our way. Scientists say we could be headed for another “Little Ice Age,” given how eerily calm the sun has been in recent years.

First, a bit of background. The sun goes through cycles that last roughly 11 years, marked by the ebb and flow of sunspots on its surface. At peak sunspot activity, the so-called solar maximum, the sun sports lots of sunspots and is steadily unleashing solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs). Since our current solar cycle, Number 24, kicked off in 2008, the number of sunspots observed has been half of what heliophysicists expected.

“I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” Dr. Richard Harrison, head of space physics at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in England, told the BBC. “If you want to go back to see when the sun was this inactive in terms of the minimum we’ve just had and the peak that we have now, you’ve got to go back about 100 years.”

Now, being in a “solar lull” does not mean the sun is completely dormant. “The sun is most definitely not ‘asleep,’” Dr. C. Alex Young, solar astrophysicist and associate science director in the Heliophysics Science Division of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, told The Huffington Post in an email. In fact, on January 7th, 2014, NASA observed a massive solar flare burst from a sunspot group measured to be “some seven Earth’s across.”

More http://b4in.org/r0CJ
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Egypt and China: how do they compare? “They had similar GDP per capita for most of the last 2,000 years,” wrote Catherine Mulbrandon in a post from 2011, which I stumbled upon only now (http://bit.ly/egyptchina). “However, there are three points when they cross: 1100 (China surpasses Egypt), 1850 (Egypt surpasses China), and 1994 at which point China leaps ahead.” The gap must be even greater today than it appears on this graph. Is Egypt simply lagging China by 20 or 30 years? (That argument, here: http://bit.ly/egyptlag.) Or is Egypt caught in a developmental trap?
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Little Ice Age Was Global: Research Rekindles Debate Of Sun’s Role http://b4in.org/pC3n

A team of UK researchers has shed new light on the climate of the Little Ice Age, and rekindled debate over the role of the sun in climate change. 

The new study, which involved detailed scientific examination of a peat bog in southern South America, indicates that the most extreme climate episodes of the Little Ice Age were felt not just in Europe and North America, which is well known, but apparently globally. The research has implications for current concerns over ‘Global Warming’.

Climate skeptics and believers of Global Warming have long argued about whether the Little Ice Age (from c. early 15th to 19th Centuries) was global, its causes, and how much influence the sun has had on global climate, both during the Little Ice Age and in recent decades. This new study helps clarify those debates.

The team of researchers, from the Universities of Gloucestershire, Aberdeen and Plymouth, conducted studies on past climate through detailed laboratory examination of peat from a bog near Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego. They used exactly the same laboratory methods as have been developed for peat bogs in Europe. 

Two principal techniques were used to reconstruct past climates over the past 3000 years: at close intervals throughout a vertical column of peat, the researchers investigated the degree of peat decomposition, which is directly related to climate, and also examined the peat matrix to reveal the changing amounts of different plants that previously grew on the bog.

The data show that the most extreme cold phases of the Little Ice Age—in the mid-15th and then again in the early 18th centuries—were synchronous in Europe and South America. There is one stark difference: while in continental north-west Europe, bogs became wetter, in Tierra del Fuego, the bog became drier—in both cases probably a result of a dramatic equator-ward shift of moisture-bearing winds.

These extreme times coincide with periods when it is known that the sun was unusually quiet. In the late 17th to mid-18th centuries it had very few sunspots—fewer even than during the run of recent cold winters in Europe, which other UK scientists have linked to a relatively quiet sun.

More http://b4in.org/pC3n
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