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(Live Science)   Next generation of solar panels are light, flexible, and about the size of your fingernail   (livescience.com ) divider line
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14131 clicks; posted to Main » on 26 Dec 2004 at 4:14 PM (11 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2004-12-26 05:47:04 PM  
YodaTuna:

I always thought the idea of putting microscopic solar panels on our roads(or something like that, I read an article) would be an awesome idea and we would get a TON of power out of it.

How exactly would that work? If you can get 30 watts per square foot, how many microscopic collectors makes a square foot? You need about 50 square feet to run a hair dryer.
 
2004-12-26 05:48:08 PM  
Major Thomb

Ignoring blatently obvious reality does not make it go away no matter how hard you clench your eyes shut and wish.
 
2004-12-26 05:49:09 PM  
YodaTuna:

Ignoring blatently obvious reality does not make it go away no matter how hard you clench your eyes shut and wish.


Yes, that's true. That's why these "solar solves everything as long as you ignore physics" people are so laughable.
 
2004-12-26 05:55:15 PM  
Major Thumb

It's not a matter of physics. No one is saying that the current level of solar power technology is capable of powering a house completly in an economical way. However it is capable of contributing to the energy consumed in a house, in a way that is, at the very least, competitive with other types of energy. Why is solar being held to the standard of "If it doesn't fix everything immediatly it's worthless."?.
 
2004-12-26 06:04:51 PM  
Squagles:

It's not a matter of physics. No one is saying that the current level of solar power technology is capable of powering a house completly in an economical way.


The problem is the total amount of solar energy is not capable regardless of technology. There's a lot of energy falling on your average home property, but if you were to collect all of it, that land would drop to absolute zero, and you'd have to spend most of what was collected into heating it back up.
 
2004-12-26 06:10:57 PM  
Major Thomb:

The problem is the total amount of solar energy is not capable regardless of technology. There's a lot of energy falling on your average home property, but if you were to collect all of it, that land would drop to absolute zero, and you'd have to spend most of what was collected into heating it back up.


What rubbish. Haven't you heard of heat conduction or fluid transfer.. or should I say WIND?

My basement has never seen a ray of sunlight, I can tell you it's definitely not absolute zero and I don't spend a penny heating it.
 
2004-12-26 06:15:45 PM  
Major Thomb:

How exactly would that work? If you can get 30 watts per square foot, how many microscopic collectors makes a square foot? You need about 50 square feet to run a hair dryer


But that same 50 square feet can charge batteries all day long. 30 watts for 8 hours = 240 watt hours.

Enough to power your 800 watt hairdryer for 3 hours.
 
2004-12-26 06:20:49 PM  
Fresh efforts to tap solar energy (not here, in China)
---------------------------------------------------------------------
China is stepping up efforts to develop its solar energy industry, echoing the government's promise to make renewable energy resources account for 10 per cent of China's energy consumption by 2020.

Zhang Guobao, vice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, made the pledge at the International Conference for Renewable Energies held in Germany in July.

China is expected to boast a production capacity of 51 million square metres of solar heat panels by the end of the year, with a production value exceeding 10 billion yuan (US$1.2 billion). The figure will rank China first worldwide in solar heat panel production, Li Zhongming, an analyst from the National Engineering Research Centre for Renewable Energy, told China Daily.

China's solar energy power generation is expected to reach 60 megawatts by the year end, Li said.
---------------------------------------------------------------------

At some point in the next 50-100 years, we will have a, 'Oh shiat, we have to do something now', moment when fossil fuels start running low. We will then have to look at what can be done in the here-and-now, not some far off maybe. As it is now and for the forseeable future, solar is the only feasible option. The sooner and more gradual we make the change, the less painful it will be.
 
2004-12-26 06:21:17 PM  
However, I do think this solar power cell for the home thing is pretty silly in most instances. How much does that cost? It's simply not financially sensible to have solar panels.

Now... having solar panels to heat water for your pool in summer, or house in winter... that would be cool.

They need to bring the cost of that stuff down. If it's a question of manufacturing then we need critical mass which can be helped along with government subsidy until the market can fuel itself. If it's a question of materials, then forget it!

That goes for you too, Prius owners. Tell me in 20 years which would have cost you less, the Prius or the Acura, including fuel AND the original cost of the car & maintenance.
 
2004-12-26 06:23:53 PM  

Major Thomb: The problem is the total amount of solar energy is not capable regardless of technology. There's a lot of energy falling on your average home property, but if you were to collect all of it, that land would drop to absolute zero, and you'd have to spend most of what was collected into heating it back up.

How drunk are you? Seriously? You do know that even at the present primitive stage of solar power, there are homes which are almost completely energy independent? They're often earth-sheltered, with systems to temper air through earth-temp tubes (preheat in winter, pre-cool in summer, all for the energy cost of a blower.) It's true that these houses use a blend of technologies-- photovoltaics, sun-heated water, solar flywheel mass, DC lights and appliances, etc. THough these homes are currently more expensive than on-the-grid tract homes, over the life of the systems, they pay out pretty well. They will turn out to be enormous bargains if oil becomes much more expensive than it is now.

 
2004-12-26 06:24:16 PM  
Major Thomb:

You forgot the "violate the laws of the physics" part of that. U.S. households use considerably more power and have considerable less square footage for collectors.


If all american homes could take 10% of their energy needs from solar power which cost less than they pay for energy off the grid (I said "IF"... I know it's currently too expensive and therefore not possible) then it would lower their energy bills AND lessen the impact on the environment of fossil fuel sourced energy.
 
2004-12-26 06:26:46 PM  
lindseyp:

But that same 50 square feet can charge batteries all day long. 30 watts for 8 hours = 240 watt hours.

Enough to power your 800 watt hairdryer for 3 hours.



That's fine as long as the only thing you have to do each day is run a hair dryer. Most houses use in the ball park of 25 kilowatt hours per day before any HVAC.

But that still doesn't get around the problem of how you connect the potential of all these micro-collectors together to get something useful. It would be like setting a few million AA batteries in a slab of concrete.
 
2004-12-26 06:28:35 PM  
That goes for you too, Prius owners. Tell me in 20 years which would have cost you less, the Prius or the Acura, including fuel AND the original cost of the car & maintenance.

Your analysis has fairly big blind spot. You are assuming that fuel costs will remain static over the next 20 years. You will be wrong on that. When gas is five bucks a gallon in five years, tell who will be in better shape?

/I own an '89 Chevy Caprice. Just pointing out the obvious.

 
2004-12-26 06:31:31 PM  
lindseyp:

What rubbish. Haven't you heard of heat conduction or fluid transfer.. or should I say WIND?

My basement has never seen a ray of sunlight, I can tell you it's definitely not absolute zero and I don't spend a penny heating it.


That's because you don't have any theoretical 100% efficient solar collectors hanging around. If you did, there would be no energy to transfer through conduction, convection, or any other conduit.
 
2004-12-26 06:32:57 PM  
Which industries is the Bush administration invested in? Afraid solar is going the way of the fuel efficient car, boys and girls.
 
2004-12-26 06:33:58 PM  
knobmaker: They're often earth-sheltered...

Do you propose every house in the country be designed that way? How much energy would it take to pull that off assuming the geology supports it?
 
2004-12-26 06:35:43 PM  
Elvis Nixon:

Which industries is the Bush administration invested in? Afraid solar is going the way of the fuel efficient car, boys and girls.

Another retard that can't understand the science so goes for the stupid demonization crap.
 
2004-12-26 06:40:52 PM  
knobmaker:

Your analysis has fairly big blind spot. You are assuming that fuel costs will remain static over the next 20 years. You will be wrong on that. When gas is five bucks a gallon in five years, tell who will be in better shape?


Well, the Prius still uses gasoline for energy so neither really. Connecting an electricity generator to the gasoline engine and then turning the wheels with a electric motor doesn't change anything except the energy loss in the conversion. The big advantage to the hybrids is the gas motor doesn't run at idle while you're stuck in traffic.
 
2004-12-26 06:46:31 PM  
Unless they see a lot of improvement potential for this technology, it doesn't seem to be an improvement over current amorphous silicon solar cells which currently max out at something like 13% efficiency.

I think the answer to oil independance is going to be a combination of things. The first is plain unsexy improvements of efficiency and reduction of waste, most of which can be done by just applying what technology is already available. Then a combination of other sources like solar, wind, geothermal, tidal and nuclear.

We can manage to give tax breaks to people buying 6,000 lb. SUVs, why not subsidize to cost of insulation and other ways to improve energy efficiency?
 
2004-12-26 06:47:37 PM  
Enigmamf:

Your sarcasm is pretty much misplaced. Cell phones, computers, the Internet, nuclear power, modern materials, and almost all modern medicine exist only because of government funding of seemingly-unprofitable research. Corporations pretty much only do product development, not pure science research.

All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?
 
2004-12-26 07:08:03 PM  
[image from quakekare.com too old to be available]

FAP power will save us all !!!!

/farkers are safe
 
2004-12-26 07:22:13 PM  
lindseyp

But that same 50 square feet can charge batteries all day long. 30 watts for 8 hours = 240 watt hours.

Enough to power your 800 watt hairdryer for 3 hours.


Not quite. An 800W hairdryer would draw 2400 watt-hours if run for 3 hours. The aforementioned 50 square feet would power said hairdryer for 18 minutes.

IMO, slapping solar collectors on individual buildings is the wrong way to go about this. It's fine for isolated buildings (say farms) but it doesn't scale very well. IMO, concentrated solar power (CSP) is the way to go.

The Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratory maintain detailed maps of direct normal solar energy. They also maintain similar maps for wind energy potential. According to the these maps, all of Arizona receives, on average, at least 6KW-h per square meter per day. The southern 2/3rds of Arizona receives between 6.5KW-h and 7KW-h. Same goes for the southern half of Nevada. Southern California and extreme southern Nevada receive between 7KW-h and 7.5kW-h per square meter per day.

From Sandia Labs' literature:

Enough electric power for the entire country could be generated by covering about 9 percent of Nevada -- a plot of land 100 miles on a side -- with parabolic trough systems.

So, let's designate 10% of Nevada and 10% of Arizona or New Mexico for solar collection (anybody know what % of these states is already government-owned land?). This would go a long way towards eliminating our electrical dependence on fossil fuels now and it has room to expand to meet our future electrical needs.
 
2004-12-26 07:29:22 PM  
Screw photovoltaic cells. The real power of the sun is here:

[image from ecology.com too old to be available]

(middle-click image for article in new tab...does not pop, but who uses more than one window anyway)
 
2004-12-26 07:45:34 PM  
That's because you don't have any theoretical 100% efficient solar collectors hanging around. If you did, there would be no energy to transfer through conduction, convection, or any other conduit.

Seriously, put down the eggnog. You've had enough. Even if you had those 100% efficient cells sucking up every smidgeon of solar energy coming through the atmosphere, the house was still be sitting on the earth.

Of course, if the earth was entirely encapsulated with those 100% efficient cells, it is barely conceivable that at some point the earth would run out of heat and freeze solid. So it appears you are right, after all.

And I thought conservatives claimed to have common sense.

 
2004-12-26 07:52:41 PM  
arcas:

lindseyp

But that same 50 square feet can charge batteries all day long. 30 watts for 8 hours = 240 watt hours.

Enough to power your 800 watt hairdryer for 3 hours.

Not quite. An 800W hairdryer would draw 2400 watt-hours if run for 3 hours. The aforementioned 50 square feet would power said hairdryer for 18 minutes.


-----------
*ahem*

/blushes.
//hits calculator.
///sulks.
 
2004-12-26 08:03:45 PM  
anyone else read that as solar penises?
 
2004-12-26 08:26:54 PM  
Edipis

Umm, no.

You must have caught some of teh ghey.

/I keed, I keed.
 
2004-12-26 08:31:24 PM  
knobmaker: When gas is five bucks a gallon in five years, tell who will be in better shape?

It's *already* six bucks per gallon in London, and Prius is STILL uneconomical financially, even here.
 
2004-12-26 08:34:55 PM  
GIG-Incog:

Thank you. Yep. Solar furnaces and plain old convection currents...

I have a buddy hitting the sand box in three weeks who worked for a major PV fab outside Austin, and from what I understand, it really is starting to get where we want it to be.

Oh, and, dudes, stop flaming the oil companies. They're going to be around and pulling huge profits whether we use solar, nukes, or robot squirrels with laser beams in their tails. Gasoline is the WASTE PRODUCT of oil production, and we burn it cuz we don't know what else to do with it. Pharmaceuticals, plastics, and polymers will do plenty to keep oil profitable.
 
2004-12-26 09:11:33 PM  

arcas:

lindseyp


But that same 50 square feet can charge batteries all day long. 30 watts for 8 hours = 240 watt hours.

Enough to power your 800 watt hairdryer for 3 hours.

Not quite. An 800W hairdryer would draw 2400 watt-hours if run for 3 hours. The aforementioned 50 square feet would power said hairdryer for 18 minutes.

-----------
*ahem*

/blushes.
//hits calculator.
///sulks.



Wouldn't that be 240 watthours from just one square foot of material? The full output for 50 ft^2 collecting 30w each for 8 hours would be about 12 KWh's enough to run our 800W pet hair dryer for 15 hours.

Is the 30W per ft^2 even accurate? If so then a 10ft x 10ft square of material would provide 30KWh's per 8 hours and come close to breaking even on a small house or large appartment. It would provide a surplus if the occupants are mindful of their energy consumption.

I run no less than four computers in my house at any given time and my electric bill says my average consumption is about 22KWh per day.
 
2004-12-26 09:17:45 PM  
[image from uts.cc.utexas.edu too old to be available]

It will all be for not when this man rebuilds his sunblocker....
 
2004-12-26 09:32:52 PM  
And while I'm here...

If you had solar cells that absorbed 100% of the energy from the light they collect you would not have a 0 degree Kalvin freezer under it.
Unless:
- The energy collected was piped away from the collector and used elsewhere. (Can you feel the warm air blowing out the back of your computer, or the heat dissipation from your incandescent lights or the ballast for your flourescents? That was electrical energy and it was converted to heat energy when you used it.)
- The space under it was perfectly insulated from heat energy transfer from the outside environment.

AND

- The existing energy in the space is removed in spite of the perfect insulator surrounding it.


Remember, energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It can be stored, transfered, transported, converted and otherwise manipulated but in the end you still have what you started with. (so long as you don't travel faster than the speed of light, in which case you have bigger things to worry about than the temperature.) Sol and all the other stars are constantly sending light to this little rock and when it hits us it normally turns directly into heat. The whole concept of using solar energy in the case of perfect conversion would be to make the energy do something that we think is useful/nifty before it turns into heat.


As soon as you get that 100% efficient solar cell working, you can get to work on that perpetual motion machine we've been waiting for.
 
2004-12-26 09:33:19 PM  
It won't be real to me until they come out with begley cloth.
 
2004-12-26 09:50:01 PM  
cskrat:

Wouldn't that be 240 watthours from just one square foot of material? The full output for 50 ft^2 collecting 30w each for 8 hours would be about 12 KWh's enough to run our 800W pet hair dryer for 15 hours.


Peeking around at the various manufacturers, they all quote about the same numbers. BP has cells with more or less 15% efficiency, which they claim (if I'm reading it right, they don't have a breakdown) to provide something in the order of 3640 kWh per year for a 600 sq ft installation. That is not a lot. If you could come up with 1200 sq ft and didn't run any HVAC you could about run a house. But you'd be talking $70K for the installation. You could get away with no HVAC in California, maybe, but elsewhere you'd be in trouble. Even using deep ground-loop heat pumps you'd need maybe another 600 sq ft of cells to run the HVAC. Now you're paving the yard too, and you're up to 100K.

These plastic cells are only about 3% efficient, so you'd need 5x the area. Still, if they could get them up to 15% efficiency and divide the cost by 10, I'd hit it.

For fun, a moderately informative site to use as a jumpoff point is http://www.bpsolar.com.
 
2004-12-26 09:55:24 PM  
Guy In Guy Incognito: Screw photovoltaic cells. The real power of the sun is here:


The enviros are already throwing themselves on their swords to stop this. The new excuse: the convection from the tower will disturb the atmospheric layering, causing weather modifications, disasters, dogs and cats living together, etc.
 
2004-12-26 10:06:04 PM  
Befuddled:

I hope that someday fusion becomes feasible but I don't think it will be in time for the end of cheap fossil fuel. They've been trying for at least thirty years to get fusion to work, and they've not had more than a burp of a reaction.

Actually, they have been able to do fusion at about .1% efficiency 24/7 since the early 60's. That approach has not been able to get anywhere near breakeven but things may have changed. The Navy has decided to fund Dr Bussard's group for a preliminary investigation of his new approach to IEC fusion based on a demo of parts of the technology he could do with self-funding.

Of course, the Navy wants it for submarine power plants, there's not much radiation and it outputs electricity directly at about 95% thermal efficiency (= no cooling pumps). For which I couldn't blame them, but if it works I don't know if we'll get a whiff of it for about 20 years.
 
2004-12-26 10:26:03 PM  
erewhon:

I didn't look up the wattage per ft^2 info myself so I took naysayer numbers, which rationally should be pessimistic, from a previous post and ran with them. When I ran it through my calculator I found a rather significant amount of energy availible from a surface space smaller than my living room. I should have made a bit more effort to make clear that I thought such a claim was fairly incredulous.

Really I just need to step away from this thread before I start yelling at someone saying something really stupid.

(BTW the Prius may lose energy in conversion but it makes up for it by drastically reducing waste produced at idle and deceleration during normal city driving. The Acura is more suited for long hiway trips and the Prius is more suited to city/suburban commuting. The idle-waste of the Acura becomes apparent during city driving. The conversion-waste of the Prius becomes apparent during hiway trips. Yes, they both use petrolium based fuel, but as was stated earlier by someone else, fuel prices will rise in the long term and using the most appropriate vehicle for your driving conditions will produce a more pronounced effect as the average price per gallon of fuel increases.)

/I'm going to go play with my linux box for a while before the teacher tells me I'm not playing very nice with others.
 
2004-12-26 10:26:26 PM  
cskrat

Is the 30W per ft^2 even accurate?

That's a good question. I suspect it's a little optimistic even for state-of-the-art cells.

Let's see what some back-of-the-napkin math says...

From the aforementioned maps, let's assume you live in the southwestern US where you receive, on average, 6000 Watt-hours of incident solar energy per square meter (= ~10 sqft) per day. Let's assume you're using state-of-the-art photovoltaics with a 25% efficiency. That gives you (6000 W-h/m^2) * (1m^2/10ft^2) * 0.25 = ~ 150 Watt-hours/ft^2 per day. Assuming 8 hours of usable sunlight per day, that gives about 19W per ft^2. Here in Kentucky, the same solar cell technology would only generate about 10W per ft^2. (Hmm...that still seems a little high to me but what the hell).

Now, I don't think the DOE's sunlight figures take into account whether or not your cells are on some sort of tracking platform. That would tend to boost output but I don't know offhand by how much. And my numbers don't take into account the inefficiencies inherent in a physical setup. That might eat up 30% of your rated output. Should still be a ballpark figure though.

In theory, it's possible to achieve 50% efficiency with solar cells using many, many layers but in practice constructing nobody has ever succeeded in constructing such a cell because the the stacked lattices are terribly fragile. Dual-layer cells do exist and they give around 30% efficiency. I don't know if they're commercially-available yet.
 
2004-12-26 10:35:18 PM  
A third of my house is powered by 20+ % efficient solar panels and I sure as fark didn't pay 10k for them. That's either bullshiat or you talked to the biggest con artist ever.
 
2004-12-26 10:49:31 PM  
Sounds like hippie crap to me...
 
2004-12-26 11:03:33 PM  
Intentionally Left Blank:

A third of my house is powered by 20+ % efficient solar panels and I sure as fark didn't pay 10k for them. That's either bullshiat or you talked to the biggest con artist ever.


Assuming you're talking to me, I have no idea how many watt-hours a third of your house consumes. But the numbers came from BP Solar, and are in line with every other place on the net I came up with. Some are a little higher, some a little lower, but all in the same ball park. The link I posted will lead you there. Tell BP it's bullshiat if you like. Since you didn't follow the link, here is the text:

2. What is the cost to install it per dwelling?
The typical cost for a single residential system is about $10,000 per kW DC. The typical system size for a residence is 1 to 4 kW DC, giving a range of $10,000 to $40,000. AC ratings are about .7 to .8 of the DC rating depending on the technology.


Now, they use the following example installation several times so it's probably a stock one for them:

Using our lowest W/sq. ft. (also lowest price) technology, a 600 sq. ft. array would be rated about 3.3 kW DC or 2.6 kW AC and would generate about 3640 kWh per year.


Given that a 1kW DC installation = $10K, a 3.3kW DC installation would be about $30k, and would provide about 10kWH per day. Two farkers upthread have stated 25kWH and 22kWH per day as their typical usage, so you'd want more than their base installation. And this is the DC number, the AC number is actually about 70% of that but I didn't figure it in.

It is interesting to try to figure out how their numbers (note THEIR numbers..BP's numbers..and they're trying to sell you this thing) work out. If you have a 3.3kW DC installation, how does that generate 3640kWh in 365 days? I figure that 3.3kW DC number must be a peak noon time rate and it averages out to about a third of that. Note again that if you look around at various manufacturer's numbers they will all be about the same.
 
2004-12-26 11:06:00 PM  
in washington and california i hear - they govt will pay you half the cost - FOR FREE
 
2004-12-26 11:13:09 PM  
arcas: Let's see what some back-of-the-napkin math says...


Hey, do you have a link to the source for that 6000 number? I have seen most places giving a W-h number that's a yearly average noon-time number which seems fairly useless, and not so many that give average W-h per day, which is what you'd want to figure with. If that 6000 number is Wh per day, then you wouldn't have to adjust for 8 hours in a day, would you? The 6000WH/day number would already have that figured in: you're getting 6kWh over the course of a day, period.

OTOH if it's just stated as "6kWH" then it may be that noon-time peak number.
 
2004-12-26 11:41:54 PM  
Personally, I'd rather see windmills erected down the median strips of the countries interstates.
 
2004-12-26 11:45:42 PM  
Solar is so effective, we use it here in Illinois to melt the snow. Should be gone by March!

Unless it keeps getting dark at night...
 
2004-12-26 11:55:26 PM  
If that 6000 number is Wh per day, then you wouldn't have to adjust for 8 hours in a day, would you? The 6000WH/day number would already have that figured in: you're getting 6kWh over the course of a day, period.

Right. The numbers are computed in terms of KWh/day. But the question was whether or not a 1 ft^2 solar cell could output 30W so you have to adjust for the number of daylight hours to get an idea of what the instantaneous power would be.

You can get some map info here

Turns out they do assume either one- or two-axis tracking.
 
2004-12-27 03:59:33 AM  
I would like to point out how funny it is that one farker criticizes another farker's science by talking about how things would reach absolute zero under a solar panel with 100% efficency. Are we forgetting our laws of thermal-dynamics?
 
2004-12-27 04:33:06 AM  
In this forum we OBEY the laws of thermodynamics !!
 
2004-12-27 12:11:25 PM  
dear idiots saying solar is a violation of the laws of physics.

you are wrong. dead wrong. the total incident energy of the sun is 1334 Kilowatts per square foot.

admitedly that's balanced with the fact that the angle of incidence changes that as well as the fact that only 5% of that energy reaches the surface as longwave radition. but the rest of it does thing like create the ionosphere, and creation of upper atmosphere pressure gradients generating wind.

I digress.
consider the catagory 4 hurricane, 100% solar powered. it generates the daily energy consumption of the united states in one hour. one.

you're the same people who say there is no global warming because some (bribed) scientists say so, but have no understanding at all of the processes involved.

I'm in favor of coating the moon(no atmosphere) with solar cells. it won't work, but it would totally be cool.
 
2004-12-27 12:38:42 PM  
arcas: Right. The numbers are computed in terms of KWh/day.


Thanks. I see the solar salesmen throwing numbers around, and it's tough sometimes to determine what they were using for assumptions when they did their calculations. Always fun to get other inputs.

Don't get me wrong, if I had a spare $100K I would go off-grid. It would be sweet if they could get these plastic cells to run at 15% efficiency.
 
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