STA, 14 November 2018 - Slovenian researchers have made a tandem solar cell which transforms solar energy into electricity in the most efficient manner so far, which they see as an important step towards photovoltaics becoming more competitive in power production.
The new solar cell was developed by Marko Jošt from the Ljubljana Faculty of Electrical Engineering while on post-doctoral studies in Germany as part of a Slovenian-German project.
Jošt and several other researchers, among them fellow researchers from Ljubljana, published their findings in the prestigious journal Energy and Environmental Science.
Researchers from top-tier institutions around the globe have been competing since 2015 to develop the most efficient monolithic tandem solar cell.
Last month, Jošt, together with researchers from Germany's Helmholtz Centre and Slovenia's Ljubljana University, managed to set a new record by achieving 25.5% conversion efficiency.
The solar cell was improved with the use of a textured foil, which was produced in the lab for photovoltaics at the Slovenian faculty.
Although tandem cells are still in the R&D stage and there is a long way to go before their industrial use, lab boss Marko Topič says "such achievements prove that our goals are realistic".
The new tandem cell is according to the faculty a stone in the mosaic of knowledge and achievements which pave the way to photovoltaics being increasingly used for energy production.
Obstacles to a more wide use of solar energy are relatively low conversion efficiency of silicon solar cells, which are currently the standard in photovoltaics, and their relatively high price.
Jošt explained that silicon cells had reached their limit in conversion efficiency and low price, while the perskovite tandem cells have the potential for better conversion efficiency while increasing the price of a photovoltaic module just a bit.
Topič meanwhile believes that photovoltaics has already proved it could become "the key technology in the transformation of the energy system" and "as a low-carbon technology, the first solution to fight climate change".
Some weeks ago I was at one of the Pivo & Burger Fests in Ljubljana, researching Slovenia’s flourishing craft beer scene. Six months earlier I’d paused my investigations, overwhelmed by the number of breweries and beers that were turning up on my radar each month, anxious to reduce my drinking (and spending), and – to be frank – bored of IPAs.
Learn more about Slovenian craft beer here
It was thus with delight that I found a much evolved selection of beers at the festival, with a broader range on offer, including wheat beer, lager, porter, gose and, my new obsession, sour (and Bevog’s Lolita in particular). But beer wasn’t my only discovery that long and hazy weekend, as I also came across a stall offering samples of chili sauce – another market that’s seen a boom in Slovenian producers in recent years – and one these, the fiery but flavourful All Stars had an effect I can only describe as making me high.
A disclaimer on personal taste: I like hot food, with a preference for Indian, Sichuan and Thai, but I don’t like pure heat. Instead I crave a more rounded flavour, with bass notes to accompany the highs. I also have, like everyone else, a level of heat that tickles my brain in just the right way, just on the right side of pain to release the endorphins and have me putting down the fork, spoon or chopsticks and taking a little time out to enjoy the waves of pleasure and distress, before diving back in again and feeling the heat.
It was this level that Gorki’s All Stars hit, and I went back a couple of times to just try another dab on a breadstick, each time getting that same rush and happy high that left me smiling like a loon. I bought a bottle on the spot, and a gift pack of samples of their other sauces, and a bag of dark chili chocolates that, like the sauce, had a balance of flavours that went just far enough out of my comfort zone to flood me with joy, and that I finished the next morning with coffee.
I got talking to the two guys who run the company, Igor and Rok, learned that they produced everything in Koper, had won a big hot sauce competition in America, and were willing to give me an interview, as follows:
How did you start with chili farming?
We started four years ago, first as a hobby, simply because we love spicy food. We started with a few plants that we grew at home. Rok made a hot sauce out of the first chilies he grew and all our friends and family were enthusiastic about it. With their support we decided to grow more plants - a lot more – make more hot sauces and try to put them on the market. In the first place because the Slovenian market at that time didn't offer a lot of hot sauces or other chili products. And those few on the shelves weren't “the real thing”, in my opinion.
What problems did you face when starting your business, and how did you overcome them?
We were new to the business and there were really a lot of things to think about – taking care of the plants, cooking the sauces, creating our webstore, packaging, storage, creating a label … Somehow we managed to solve all those with good organizing and planning of the work.
Then in the fall 2014 we first created three hot sauces with different degrees of heat and started selling them through our webstore. By spring they were all gone, which was a really good start.
Two of your sauces came second and third at the 2017 World Hot Sauce Awards. Can you tell me a little about that.
We first entered the World Hot Sauce Awards competition in 2015. Back then our hot sauce Choco came third in the Latin style category. For us it was a clear sign that we were on the right track. A year after our hottest sauce, All Stars, came second and last year it was third. It’s an extra hot sauce, but besides that it tastes really good. We believe our products are special because we always put taste in the first place, rather than the heat. We choose the ingredients very carefully, we try to be creative when cooking and do as much testing as needed in order to achieve the right flavor. All this we believe is the key to quality.
Which of your sauces do you enjoy the most?
It's very hard to answer this question. You know – it's like when a father is asked which child is his favourite. To us all of them are delicious, each in its own way, suitable for a different dish or for a different kind of chili lover, from beginners to real chiliheads.
That’s what keeps this exiting, not the one “best” sauce, but searching for new tastes, creating new products, meeting new people, having face to face contacts with our customers at fairs and festivals, where we can give them advice and have interesting debates about chilies.
What are some of the other chili products you sell, beyond the sauces?
Hot paradajz is one of our bestsellers that also requires a lot of time to prepare, because it's all handmade. It consists of spicy dried tomatoes in extra virgin olive oil with garlic, capers and spices. Once you try it you can't live without it, really. We also make two types of BBQ sauce, hot marmalade, spicy chocolate, and spicy extra virgin olive oil which was named world champion at last year’s World Hot Sauce Awards.
What are your plans now?
We plan to start selling our products on foreign markets, and of course keep on developing new ones. But for the moment everything is available in Spar and InterSpar all over Slovenia, in some small gourmet stores, and of course in our webstore. We also supply a lot of restaurants and pizza places with our sauces.
Anything else you’d like to say?
Yes, our philosophy in growing chilies and producing hot sauces has two main goals: quality and taste. Of course we want our hot sauces to be hot, but the flavour is always number one. We are happiest when our customers tell us that they enjoyed our products not because they taste like fire, but because they’re delicious.
You can find Gorki products in stores, at markets, and online, with the official website here (in Slovene, English and Italian), and note the neither TSN nor myself received any compensation for this article, just a few samples at that beer festival which were enough to turn me on to this story.
Participating in the Sussex-Huawei locomotion and transportation challenge, 11 researchers of the institute's Department for Intelligent Systems, separated into two teams, won first and second prize.
Using a combination of deep and classical machine learning models, the two teams were the only among 35 participating groups to exceed 90% accuracy with algorithms helping to identify whether the person carrying a smart phone is sitting still, walking, running, cycling or taking the bus, car, train or subway.
The winners were declared at the high-profile Ubicomp conference, which was organised in Singapore this year.
The achievement was also presented today by the heads of the two Slovenian teams; intelligence system department boss Matjaž Gams and the head of the institute's ambient intelligence group Mitja Luštrek.
"If the phone knows how we are moving, it can for instance provide useful advice related to transport, choose to reduce the number of notifications when we're driving, or switch the phone from ringing to vibrating mode when we're using the noisy metro," Luštrek illustrated.
The teams were using data collected over several months by researchers from the University of Sussex during their daily commutes.
While mentioning the possibility of marketing the solutions to companies developing mobile applications and phones, Luštrek explained that similar methods were already being used at the institute in several intelligent systems projects, including for applications in healthcare.
Related: In world first, Ljubljana hospital grows new nose on patient’s forearm (video)
Slovenia has produced a number of design classics, such as the K67 kiosk by Saša Janez Mächtig, Rex folding chair by Niko Kralj (1953), Marko Turk’s MD9 microphone (1963), and the Iskra ETA 80 telephone by Davorin Savnik (1978). To this list we may soon be able to add the Nico Less chair, an item that combines the admirable qualities of style, comfort and sustainability in a design that makes use of felt that’s mostly made from recycled plastic bottles.
STA, 15 October 2018 - A Slovenian architect who moved to Argentina in 1924 has left an important mark on the city that currently hosts the Summer Youth Olympic Games. Viktor Sulčič is one of the designers of the La Bombonera football stadium in Buenos Aires and he also came up with the nickname for the home of the popular Boca Juniors club.
STA, 15 October 2018 - An exhibition presenting the work of Elza Kastl Obereigner (1884-1973), a pioneer Slovenian sculptress, opened at the Ljubljana City Museum last Thursday. The exhibits were collected in the dusty attic of the artist's home with the permission of her granddaughter Angelika Hribar.
Andreja Podlogar and Blaž Bertoncelj are Argentinian tango world champions, internationally acclaimed artists, innovative teachers, researchers, critical thinkers and global tango ambassadors, whose visionary work is gathered in a small dance studio lab in the centre of Ljubljana, called Studio BA Tango. Andreja and Blaž shared with us their knowledge and views on the dance itself, its historic development, their diverse work and future plans, which include an ambitious project to create a global creative platform for critical thinking, applied knowledge and development of new creative potentials in the field, starting with an international tango symposium, which they plan to organise in 2019 in no other place but Ljubljana.
STA, 10 October 2018 - Beno Bajda, an olive oil producer from the coastal town of Izola, has recently patented a new oil extraction method which requires no heating whatsoever. It is using ultrasound to extract oil directly from olive cells.
STA, 9 October 2018 - Experts from the UKC Ljubljana hospital presented today a new milestone in aesthetic surgery. They have become the first to successfully replace a patient's amputated nose by growing it on her own forearm, with a fully developed vascular and nerve system.
Winning the title is an important part of the Slovenian Tourist Board’s current strategy of getting visitors to enjoy more of Slovenia, at all times of the year.
STA, 3 October - For almost a month Slovenia's tallest peak, Mount Triglav, was without the Aljaž Tower, a symbol not only of Slovenian mountains but of the country at large. On Wednesday, the landmark was returned to the top of the mountain, where it had stood for 123 years before it had to be lowered to the valley for much needed repairs.