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Electronics & Test
Solar Cells Power Underwater Sensors
6/12/2012

Graph shows the power density of GaInP and crystalline silicon cells, underwater, as a function of depth. Scientists found that by using GaInP cells, they could generate more power from sunlight filtered through water.   (Source: US Naval Research Lab.)
Graph shows the power density of GaInP and crystalline silicon cells, underwater, as a function of depth. Scientists found that by using GaInP cells, they could generate more power from sunlight filtered through water.
(Source: US Naval Research Lab.)

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Jack Rupert, PE
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Platinum
Re: 9 meters not quite enough?
Jack Rupert, PE   6/24/2012 2:21:06 PM
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Interesting thought.  I was wonder what type of sensor and systems are we talking about?  My first thought was this was going to be part of a large array of sensors which only recorded a few KB of data.  If thats' the case, they would be somewhat disposable so if i ship or curious fish took some out there wouldn't be an issue.

bobjengr
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Platinum
UNDERWATER SOLAR
bobjengr   6/15/2012 4:45:28 PM
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Elizabeth—great story.   I have my reservations about the degree of ultimate success for this technology but then again stranger things have happened.  I think tomw is on to something when he mentions the debris that can accumulate on a flat plate collector.  I will say this; the amount of energy for the depth involved is impressive.  I wonder if the degree of salinity has a great effect on the transference of light to the collector.    Robatnorcross mentioned subs an ocean-going ships interfering with the installations.  How about curious fish (big fish) and migrating schools of "whatever".  At any rate, certainly an interesting topic to follow.  Thank you for the information.

solardude
User Rank
Iron
Re: 9 meters not quite enough?
solardude   6/14/2012 11:02:14 PM
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I agree with your thoughts about total watt producting being blocked under water like that.


Ryan @ Portable Solar Power Generator

 

 

robatnorcross
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Gold
Re: 9 meters not quite enough?
robatnorcross   6/13/2012 7:01:42 PM
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large ships EASILY have a draft of 29 feet. What about subs? This gives them something to bump into or grind up with the props. Seems to me that the thing will have to be anchored to the bottom anyway (like a mine) so why not just use the ocean movement (spelled waves)?

I'm REALLY skeptical about the amount of energy (Watts) you can get from the things as in the already mentioned seaweed, etc. not to mention barnacles that seem to like ship hulls.

Ann R. Thryft
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Blogger
Re: Solves a big logistic challenge
Ann R. Thryft   6/13/2012 12:40:35 PM
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Thanks for reporting this. There are several different materials that can be used for PV solar, as well as for non-PV solar technologies. The predominance of silicon for PV solar, most particularly crystalline silicon, happened mostly because it was a cheaper, ubiquitous material and because the entire sourcing and manufacturing process could be easily integrated into the existing manufacturing infrastructure using existing processes, knowledge and equipment. Solar cells based on gallium arsenide (GaAs), such as triple junction GaAs, and other forms of gallium like GaInP are highly efficient, but the material cost is very expensive.

tomw
User Rank
Iron
Problems keeping the collector clean
tomw   6/13/2012 11:01:46 AM
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I'm sure that using the correct materials that an efficient solar cell can be made. The devil is in the packaging.  I have never seen a shallow underwater surface that was not covered with silt, algae or some manner of marine growth.

TJ McDermott
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Blogger
9 meters not quite enough?
TJ McDermott   6/12/2012 11:57:58 PM
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Is 9 meters deep enough?  One would think that depth still puts the solar collector in danger of being hit by surface vessels.

7 watts though, is impressive at that depth.  It gets the sensor powered.

I wonder how much power is needed to get the data collected by the sensor back to a place that can use it.

Charles Murray
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Blogger
Re: Solves a big logistic challenge
Charles Murray   6/12/2012 7:24:03 PM
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Great story. It's been said that in some (northern) geographical areas of the U.S. solar cells produce usable energy about 15-20% of the time. I wonder how much of the time an underwater solar cell can produce usable current.

naperlou
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Blogger
Solves a big logistic challenge
naperlou   6/12/2012 8:43:49 AM
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Elizabeth, this can go a long way toward solving a logistic challenge for naval sensors.  I assume that some of them might be associated with ASW technology.  These have to be around for a long time.  An autonomous power source like this will decrease cost to service and enhance security, since they do not have to have their batteries replaced by ships that can be tracked.  The decision to use a different material for the solar cells is also interesting.  All too often we use materials, like silicon, that are familiar and easy to work with.

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