New groundbreaking advances promise to revolutionize solar technology
We all know that fossil fuel is insufficient to sustain the growth and developmental aspirations of mankind for long. Scientists world over are working to find alternative sources of energy that will fuel the technical advances in future. Of all the alternative and renewable energy sources solar power is the most suitable for become the driving energy source of future. Sunshine is available for free anywhere on the globe and if harnessed efficiently it has the potential to fulfill the current energy requirements of our world many times over. However, it is imperative to improve the efficiency of solar cells and bring down their prices considerably to make the solar technology popular and within reach of masses.
Recently, 2 very interesting and groundbreaking developments have been reported by researchers that would have a definite and positive impact on efficiency and commercial availability of newer versions of solar cells and panels.
- Solar Cell Technology Improves Efficiency by Overcoming 60-year-old practical limit
The latest issue of Nature Energy, published on February 29, 2016, carries the groundbreaking work of researchers from U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory,
the University of Tennessee and Washington State University. The researchers have overcome a 6-decade old practical barrier that has been limiting the efficiency of solar cells. This research is going to improve the maximum voltage available from a special type of solar cell (cadmium telluride (CdTe)) which offer a low cost alternative to the currently popular silicon solar cells.
The CdTe solar cells offer great advantages as below:
How will the new technology boost solar cells efficiency?
- It can soon offer an affordable alternative to silicon solar cells which have 90% market share for solar cells at present
- These cells offer lowest carbon footprint when compared to any other solar technology
- Robust and work best in real word conditions
- Higher efficiency even in extremely hot, humid or low light conditions
The output of CdTe cells has been limited to 900 millivolts which was its practical limit for almost 60 years. The low voltage meant that these type of cells were not suitable for making solar panels
that could properly capture and convert solar energy into electricity. Using solar cell fabrication, the researchers were able to break the 1-volt barrier for the very first time in decades. This critical milestone will make CdTe solar cells commercially viable and would enable solar power to be at par with any other conventional source of energy in terms of upfront cost. Till date the upfront cost of solar panels installations has been the biggest deterrent in the popularity of solar energy.
- Latest Plastic solar cell to minimize photon energy losses
Scientists have been working hard to find out various variations of solar cells with the aim to make solar technology popular and more affordable. An article from the December 2, 2015 issue of Nature Communications, explains that a new polymer based plastic solar cell has been developed which would limit the photon energy loss. The loss of photon energy results in lower voltage output which means lower efficiency.The new plastic solar cell offers superb power conversion efficiency and paves the way for further research in the area which will lead to increased use of plastic solar cells in future.
Benefits of Plastic solar cells
Polymer based solar cells can be the future of solar power technology for the great flexibility they can offer. Let us check some biggest advantages of these cells:
- Plastic solar cells offer great flexibility which is at par with thin-film photovoltaics
- cheaper than thin film PV cells
- offer solutions for developing flexible and portable solar panels. Using these cell solar panels than can be rolled out on any surface, say rooftop, window etc. can be manufactured.
- The technology used for production of polymer solar cells is much more cost effective than the PV (photovoltaic) solar cells and production can be up scaled easily.
- Plastic cells can be made with low cost materials and also uses scarce materials minimally. First and second generation PV (photovoltaic)solar cells use many scarce materials which increases the price of solar panels.
Both these researches promise to revolutionize the solar energy technology in the coming decades. The plastic and CdTe solar cells will offer new solutions which would be aesthetically and commercially more suitable for the homes, office and industries of the future.
If you know about any other groundbreaking researches in the solar technology, feel free to share in comments below.