The University of Michigan North Campus Sustainability Community

Fall 2014 Meetings:

Tuesday, Oct 7, Noon-1PM: Johnson Rooms, Lurie Bldg, North Campus
Topic: Assessing the Sustainability Challenges Facing Shale Gas Extraction
Speaker: Prof. Brian Ellis, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Wednesday, Nov 5, Noon-1PM: Johnson Rooms, Lurie Bldg, North Campus
Topic: Sustainable Solar Energy
EECS Prof. Jay Guo, EECS Prof. Steve Rand.   

Prof. Rand: Sustainable Solar Energy with Optical Capacitors?

Solar cells convert less energy into electricity than into heat, because of basic thermodynamic laws. This is the unavoidable consequence of absorbing the broad solar spectrum of light in an opaque material to liberate free charges and produce a voltage. Large scale conventional solar arrays in the megawatt range therefore contribute megawatts of heat energy to the environment while providing electrical energy deemed to be "clean and sustainable". In an era of global warming, new approaches to sustainable energy ought to be helping us somehow evade heat production in solar reactors altogether.
  In this talk the limits of converting light energy into electricity with low heat generation are reconsidered in the context of "optical capacitors". A process is outlined for charging capacitive structures with incoherent sunlight or coherent light sources such as lasers. It has the potential to reach near unit efficiency by avoiding the optical absorption that takes place in semiconductor solar cells altogether. Will much "cooler" solar energy become available in the future?

Wednesday, Dec 3, Noon-1PM: Johnson Rooms, Lurie Bldg, North Campus
Topic: Panel Discussion: Impact of the Humanities: Sustainability in the real world. Does the theory translate to practice?
Speakers: Jane Lumm, Ann Arbor City Council;
Barbara Lucas, Host of WEMU's The Green Room and an environmental media consultant for Washtenaw County;
Robert Swedberg,Associate Professor and Opera Director UM School of Music, Theatre, and Dance