Solar energy has emerged as one of the most viable forms of renewable energy. But to make it even more prevalent and a standard part of power grids, solar-energy harvesting technologies need to perform at a higher level, achieving more efficiency, or a higher ratio of electrical output to the incident energy in the form of sunlight. Manufacturing the cells also must become more cost-effective and less labor-intensive to further promote their widespread use.
Click on the image below to check out some of the latest ways researchers are working to improve the performance and manufacturing of solar cells.
A group of German and French scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, Soitec, CEA-Leti, and the Helmholtz Center Berlin recently set a new world record in efficiency of 44.7 percent in a solar cell. They achieved this percentage with a four-junction solar cell that took them three years to develop. The solar cell is comprised of four solar subcells based on III-V compound semiconductors for use in concentrator photovoltaics. (Source: Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE)
Elizabeth M. My scheme isn't so much raising the specific efficiency as in putting more sunshine on the active area so more electricity is produced. I use flat mirrors both above and below the array of solar cells reflecting more light onto them. That gives much more electric power per dollar of cost. The several solar companies representatives I have spoken to said they were selling OK for the prices they charge and besides the manufacturers won't warranty concentrated light on their panels because they might get hot from the extra sunshine and damage the panels. I said collect the heat and use it for direct thermal purposes. They said they were not in the heat business only electric power. Aparently no one is going for a better higher powered system at lower cost.
I am a multiple industry expert (A "Generalist") in many diverse technologies. I combine ideas from diverse fields to create better solutions than a specialist can...
That's interesting, Dennis. Are you sure there isn't a company working on this? Do you work in the solar cell industry? If it's such an obvious solution, I am surprised no one is doing this. I've written a lot about solar panels and efficiency but haven't come across anything like this yet.
The truth is we could make the efficiency up 2 to 10 times greater by simple reflectors concentrating the sun's energy from a larger area onto a few solar panels . But, the installers and salesmen aren't smart enough . And the labor to install panels is three times the cost of the panels . I can design panels which output twice to four times the energy but cost half as much with todays materials. But, the guloble public in their ignorance, pay thru the nose for mediocre equipment.
The engineers and inventors of the post WWII period turned their attention to advancements in electronics, communication, and entertainment. Breakthrough inventions range from LEGOs and computer gaming to the integrated circuit and Ethernet -- a range of advancements that have little in common except they changed our lives.
Neil Fromer is the executive director of the Resnick Institute, a program for energy and sustainability at the California Institute of Technology, working to develop new ideas and research technologies related to providing a sustainable future. He spoke to us about the severity of the current drought in California and how solar energy can help prevent such situations in the future.
From home enthusiasts to workers on the manufacturing floor, everyone's imagination is captured by the potential of 3D printing. Prototyping, spare parts creation, art delivery, human organ creation, and even mass product production are all being targeted as current and potential uses for the technology.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.