In-house magazines can surprise you. The latest issue of Salt, Swarovski‘s magazine, has an article on an apparently established idea, that of growing crystals in space. And it’s interesting stuff.
As journalist Nick Smith explains in the article, scientists have been experimenting with the idea since the 1970s: beyond the Earth’s gravitational pull, crystals are able to grow quickly, and with fewer flaws. Termed as ‘off-world’, the process enables us to create semi-conductors (the useful, tiny crystal parts of computers and solar cells) with hugely increased efficiency. And if it helps make solar power more efficient, it’s a very important breakthrough right now.
A program exploiting the discovery is due to launch in 2013, but realistically we won’t see results until the end of the decade. Something to keep an eye on… and for more developments in the world of crystal, this article on NASA Science News is also worth looking at.