Solar energy

Solar energy comes in many forms. The most familiar form is that of solar cells, but there are actually many other different ways to create and store solar energy. Here are a few of those ways:

Solar Cells – These have frequently been seen on calculators with LCDs. However, they are also used in many other ways. Solar cells use semiconductors to generate electricity directly from the sunlight. This area of technology is known as photovoltaics. Of the semiconductor material used for solar cells, silicon is the most common.
Solar Fibers – This is another photovoltaic device, only it does not use silicon. Rather, it has a solar tape that is made with titanium dioxide. This tape could actually be combined with building materials or even clothing.
Solar Pond – A solar pond is made of three layers: The top layer has low salt content. The middle layer is an insulating layer with salt that prevents natural convection, or fluid molecular movement, which would normally cause heat exchange. The bottom layer has a very high salt content and can approach high temperatures. Because of all the varying densities of salt in the different layers, there are no convection currents. The heat that gets trapped in the bottom layer can be used to heat buildings, generate electricity, or in industrial processes.
Solar Chemical – There are a number of different processes that include sunlight-absorbing chemical reactions to create solar energy. However, more research is needed on solar chemical energy before we can apply it practically. Much of this research is focused on the photoelectrolysis of water.
Solar Updraft Tower – This is a type of solar energy plant in which air passes under an agricultural glass house, gets heated by the sun, and then is channeled up toward a convection tower. It is used to drive turbines which generate electricity.
Energy Tower – This tower uses water, unfortunately, but it is also a good design which works in a similar way to the solar updraft tower. Water is sprayed at the top of the tower. The water evaporates which causes a downdraft by cooling the air. This coolness increases the density of the air and then drives turbines which are located at the bottom of the tower.

This list demonstrates the variety of ways in which solar energy is created. Although solar cells are the most commonly used, many of the others are very promising and certainly have their place.