Latest Solar Cell Breakthrough

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It must be really depressing being a solar nark these days. With the increased popularity of solar power throughout Australia and the world, and regular announcements of improvements in technology, better storage capacity and cheaper prices, solar power is going through the roof (or on the roof). The more the narks whine about what they see as the limited capacity of solar, the more breakthroughs in technology occur to push back the possibilities of clean, solar, renewable energy future for our world.

One of the key developments in recent times has been the drop in cost of solar cells along with improvements in the generation of power by each solar cell. The latest breakthrough in this latter category comes from innovative U.S startup company Bandgap Engineering.

Using nanotechnology, the firm is looking to develop a “super” solar cell that could eventually generate as much as twice the power as conventional solar cells. Double the power? Yes, but that’s not all folks as the technology will also reduce the cost of solar cells. According to this October 16 MIT Energy Review article, the firm will develop “…silicon nanowires that can improve the performance and lower the cost of conventional silicon solar cells”.

These “super” solar cells — surely a narks worst nightmare — are planned for the not-too-distant future but Bandgap is developing a version of the technology which will have an almost immediate impact. Using existing manufacturing technology the company says it’s nanowire-improved silicon cells with help boost the power output of solar cells by increasing the amount of light the cells can absorb.

“For example, by increasing light absorption, it could allow manufacturers to use far thinner wafers of silicon, reducing the largest part of a solar cell’s cost. It could also enable manufacturers to use copper wires instead of more expensive silver wires to collect charge from the solar panels,” said the MIT article.

The money pitch is that these changes could see “solar panels that convert over 20 percent of the energy in sunlight into electricity (compared with about 15 percent for most solar cells now) yet cost only $1 per watt to produce and install,” as a mid term goal, and a long term goal of efficiencies over 30% according to Richard Chleboski, Bandgap’s CEO.

So there you have it solar fans, the latest in what is the latest in a continuous line of technological breakthroughs in relation to clean energy. Congratulations to the team at Bandgap, this is great news…unless of course you’re a member of that rapidly diminishing group the solar narks.

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