Solar power has come a long way since man first used magnifying glasses to start fires in the 7th century B.C. Recent advances include the use of natural berry dyes to make solar cells more efficient, microfilm technologies that create less waste and lower costs, and concentrated solar power plants like the one the Desertec Foundation is pushing in North Africa.
Despite advances, solar technology has limitations that -- up till now -- have seemed insurmountable. For instance, to achieve maximum efficiency, solar cells must be pointed directly at the sun. Unless you mount them on mechanical tracking devices (which require energy), solar panels are only able to operate at maximum efficiency for a few hours each day.
A new breakthrough by a Japanese company may change all that. Scientists at Kyosemi are working to create spherical micro solar cells that can absorb light from any direction, including light reflected off other surfaces.
Green building isn't only about alternative energy technologies, however. It's also about the appliances that use those technologies. Have you ever dreamed of a kitchen that could turn off its own lights or a thermostat you could text to change the temperature?