Sunday, February 14, 2010

Cheaper Solar Cells

Another nice technology advancement, courtesy of IBM:

IBM researchers have recently published a paper in the journal Advanced Materials about a very promising breakthrough in solar technology. How is it different from existing solar technologies such as silicon-based solar cells, or CIGS thin film? The main thing is that it's made from earth abundant materials that can be found in large quantities relatively inexpensively (not quite dirt cheap, but cheaper than what we have now), making it easier to scale up and drive prices down.

The layer that absorbs sunlight to convert it into electricity is made with Copper (Cu), Tin (Sn), Zinc (Zn), Sulfur (S) and/or Selenium (Se). This is pretty abundant compared to the Copper (Cu), Indium (In), Gallium (Ga), and Selenium (Se) that GIGS thin film cells use.

The beauty is that it has a "conversion efficiency of 9.6 percent, which is 40 percent higher than previous attempts to create a solar cell made of similar materials." But this is just a start. More improvements to power conversion should be possible.

This could be a really good innovation. But I was also struck by the last line of the article:
Now how about working on cheaper and efficient ways to store large quantities of energy? That's the missing half of the puzzle that would make solar power more practical on the very large scale.

Dear IBM, can I introduce you to the article I cited in this post: pygalgia: A Major Battery Breakthrough?

British scientists say they have created a plastic that can store and release electricity, revolutionising the way we use phones, drive cars - and even wear clothes.
It means the cases of mobiles and iPods could soon double up as their power source -
leading to gadgets as thin as credit cards.

Seems to me that in the spirit of Valentine's Day, perhaps an introduction should be facilitated.