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Power Science

New Record For Solar Cell Power Efficiency 351

Posted by kdawson
from the onward-to-50% dept.
mdsolar writes "Renewable Energy Access is reporting that a consortium led by researchers at the University of Delaware has achieved 42.8% efficiency with a silicon solar cell. The method uses lower concentration (factor of 20 magnification) than the previous record holder (40.7% efficiency) so that it may have a broader range of applications, since tolerances for pointing the device will be larger. They are now partnering with DuPont to build engineering and manufacturing prototypes. They expect to be in production in 2010. On a roof, such cells would require less than half the surface area to produce the same amount of power as today's standard solar panels, which have an efficiency of about 17%."
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New Record For Solar Cell Power Efficiency

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  • The real question.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @04:27AM (#20068217) Homepage Journal
    Yes, but will it run Linux?

    Actually, while I'm glad they are making a more efficient solar panel, when will they make a cost-effecient solar panel for mass-adoption?
  • by suv4x4 (956391) on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @04:30AM (#20068245)
    On a roof, such cells would require less than half the surface area to produce the same amount of power as today's standard solar panels, which have an efficiency of about 17%.

    Let me guess: you'll leave how your roof empty to produce the same electricity, or take the whole roof to produce more than twice the electricity. Hard dilemma...

    At this point solar energy seems inevitable in our future. Not long from now we'll have more efficient electric motors and even more efficient solar cells, so that would make it a viable backup to a car battery charge and mean you can drive for days and days at long distance without recharging.

    The big money now will go to those people who manage to best make use of our existing infrastructure and our new technologies (stellar examples include Toyota's hybrids... imagine if that electric motor they use also has few solar panels to help it in the next models).
  • How much power? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @04:32AM (#20068261)

    On a roof, such cells would require less than half the surface area to produce the same amount of power as today's standard solar panels, which have an efficiency of about 17%."

    OK, but how much of a typical house's power would that supply? (I realize this depends on location and time of year.)

    Or how many panels would it take to give you a daily, full recharge of a plug-in hybrid in, say, Los Angeles? (Imagine that that would do for LA's smog.)

  • by Shivetya (243324) on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @04:38AM (#20068281) Homepage Journal
    that renewable sources of energy are a good thing.

    why?

    because my HOA (home owners association) does not permit them. As such it would take State or local laws to override the HOA; because in many States the HOA rules have strong legal backing at the State level.

    This is akin to the problems satellite TV faced in many locales. There were numerous ordinaces, both at the HOA and local level which blocked satellite dishes. Even the small ones we are accustomed to today were blocked. It took a Federal Law to end that restriction. Unfortunately its going to take another such law to allow many of us to use renewable energy. Hell, I cannot even get rain barrels approved even though they would not be visible from the street.
  • by fringd (120235) on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @04:46AM (#20068325) Homepage
    The real problem with solar power is not getting more watts per square inch; it's getting more watts per dollar. From what I hear, high grade silicon is prohibitively expensive. It takes more than 3 years to pay back your monetary investment. This information is probably based upon old panels though.

    These new panels may produce twice the energy, but is there any chance that they cost less than twice the dollars? What is the limiting factor in solar panel costs?

    I've heard that some people are working on polymer solar panels, this would seem to deal with the dependence on expensive silicon...
  • Re:hmmm. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NeilTheStupidHead (963719) on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @04:53AM (#20068347) Journal

    Everybody wants wind power (but not in their back yard)
    That's one thing that I've never understood. I used to live about an hour's drive from a wind turbine and drove by it several times a day. I could never wait to drive by because I loved the sight. My new home is very windy and could benefit greatly from wind power. I simply cannot fathom the resistance to wind turbines.

    One thing I have always wondered though: given the fairly large surface area of the turbine blades, would it be possible to add a photosensitive material and pull a bit of power from the sun too? Probably not terribly practical at the moment, but I seem to recall reading, probably on /., about a paint on solar panel.
  • Re:hmmm. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Calinous (985536) on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @05:11AM (#20068413)
    The wind turbines convert some of the wind power in electricity, some of it goes in vortexes, and some goes into sound. A small wind turbine will spin at higher rpm in wind, and the noise might become unpleasant.
          As for solar power from blades' surface - the tower where the turbine is seated has more surface area than the blades, extra mass is not usually a problem, and you have a sun-facing side - the blades don't always have a sun-facing side (so you'll need to put panels on both sides), the shape of the blades is critical for efficiency, and mass in a fast rotating, very long blade is always a problem
  • Re:hmmm. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pzs (857406) on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @05:21AM (#20068459)

    What really depresses me is seeing the general public in interview and their complacency and dismissiveness about global climate change. People's sense of entitlement is astonishing: "I work hard so I have the right to a low-cost long-haul flight," even if we've done without that "right" for thousands of years and those flights are ultimately destroying the planet.

    There is also the huge number of people who believe that the consensus of thousands of scientists on climate change is a "global conspiracy" and their fear that it may eventually mean, shock horror, more taxes. This from people who will never know hunger, get free education and health care and live in the extreme safety and tranquiltiy of a developed nation. If you think I'm making this up, try looking at the "Have Your Say" debates on the BBC News web page.

    It really is enough to make me think this [vhemt.org] is a good idea.

    Peter

  • Re:feasible (Score:2, Interesting)

    by evilviper (135110) on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @05:22AM (#20068465) Journal

    The most efficient use of solar power is the water heating system.

    I'm not too sure about that. How about a PV panel powering a ground-source heat pump? I'm willing to bet that would give you more hot water than direct solar heating, at least in most climates.
  • Re:hmmm. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by monk.e.boy (1077985) on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @05:50AM (#20068573) Homepage

    My friend lives about a mile away from a small wind farm. I is very noisy, it sounds like cars on a freeway, but far too regular. Almost like a loud heart beat. And when the sun catches the blades you get a nice strobe effect which sends you fucking crazy after an hour or so.

    My friend is selling up.

    I can't wait, we never visit him any more. His house sucks.

    Wind farms are ok - so long as they aren't in your back yard. Solar and Nuke is the real future.

    monk.e.boy

    PS check my .sig for Open Source Flash Charts (bar, line, area and pie)

  • by Linker3000 (626634) on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @06:02AM (#20068629) Journal
    The development of solar power will go a good way to lowering our dependency on fossil fuels, but to be practical we need to deploy the cells in a massive scale - I'm thinking thousands of square miles of solar farms - so what we really need is a relatively flat landscape in a location with significant sunshine levels. It would also be ideal if the region could provide the raw materials for the manufacture of the cells to save in transportation costs, but to be perfect the region would also have an abundant supply of fossil fuels to power the manufacturing plants until such time as construction was complete.

    In summary, the ideal location would have:

    Sun
    Sand
    Oil

    You see what I did there!?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @06:41AM (#20068765)
    What matters to me: Do those new cells finally "produce" more energy during their life than they required during manufactoring?
  • Re:hmmm. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pjabardo (977600) on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @07:46AM (#20069185)
    These are *VERY* wise words!

    Instead of making more money, people could work less. Instead of buying all sorts of shit, people could do much cleaner things such as talking, writing, riding a bike, going to a brothel, taking a walk, singing, playing a part on a play, painting, fighting (if not pushed too far it is not necessarily bad for some people...).

    It is way too simplistic to say that there is a law of nature that says we will end up using every resource available. We are supposed to be rational beings even if we often do stupid things. One of the things of being rational (or partly rational) is that we can choose what we do. We don't simply answer any call of the wild (even if there is such a thing).

    We are changing from a production society to a consumer one. We are becoming a bunch of morons that just sit and receive stuff. Not very different from the Eloi in H. G. Wells' The Time Machine. I don't think just consuming is satisfying enough. It is much easier (and faster) just to watch a movie than it is to tell a story and we end up watching 10 movies. Maybe a little boredom is good for creativity. It certainly is much cleaner than riding a car 100 km to do anything "new".
  • by mdsolar (1045926) on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @08:33AM (#20069703) Homepage Journal
    I razzed New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson on my blog yesterday saying he is trying to keep the southerneastern US off solar so he can build a huge New Mexican Solar Power Monopoly to supply them: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/07/new-mexicans-c onspire.html [blogspot.com](tinfoil hat warning). One of the projects linked there aims to do just this, havesting the heat generated at the panels for building heating. Engulf and Devour, that's his motto.
    --
    Register your home for solar power; fixed competitive rates for up to 25 years: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/slashdot-users -selling-solar.html [blogspot.com]
  • Re:hmmm. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sandbags (964742) on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @09:17AM (#20070307) Journal
    We don't even need a true power on off switch that has to be flipped manually. What we need is a remote power switch that cuts main power, and a small, rechargeable battery cell that can respond to the remote and re-activate main power. A tiny battery and a capacitor to have enough juice to throw a 2.5 volt magnetic switch would add about $1 in manufacturing costs to home theater devices, but save dozens per year in electric fees per home for "trickle" devices. All network devices should support Wake on LAN, but unfortunately, most don't (or do, but people don't know what that means or how to use it).

    Unfortunately, a lot of devices are always on, like DVRs, game stations with online access, and more. They do a lot of work at night updating databases, downloading new content, etc, and simply have to remain on. The fact that an XBox 360 doesn't spin down the graphic system power and down clock it's CPUs is a design issue we can change. An Apple TV box uses less than 20 watts when "asleep" and that included downloading content over wireless. Why can't the XBox and PS3 do that? They could even drop into an even lower power state when idle, spin down the HDD, and only "wake up" every 90 minutes or so to check for content without spinning the drive up again unless it needs to.

    Unfortunately, there are even more devices we can't really do anything about that are the real sappers in the house. The cable modem, wireless router/firewall, VoIP modem, second access point to cover downstairs, possibly an extra switch to add more than 4 wired devices (I have 7), and base station and answering machine for wireless phones. That's just the network. Now add the garage door opener, automatic sprinkler system, home alarm and smoke detectors (most run on house power and rechargeable batteries now), safety lights in your halls and bathrooms (night lights), and several clocks.

    I work for a computer systems manufacturer. We've got a meter (magnetic ring type thing) at the office that encircles a power line and displays the power being used by the device. We have it so we can document in our white papers the power consumption of our devices. I brought it home and played with it a few months ago when having a forum argument with another individual on this. My 27" tube TV used about 2 watts when sleeping. My 37" LCD used less than 1. My PS2 used no power (but the transformer was using 2 watts). My cable box used 12 watts when asleep, DVR used between 20 and 50 depending on what it was doing when asleep. What surprised me was the coffee pot was using 3 watts when off (it has a tiny built in clock). The 2 alarm clocks we have each use 5 watts. Adding up all my idle devices I was just over 220Watts in use! 10% of that was in scent plug-ins around the house and night lights, about 20% was in our cable boxes alone. 25% was in devices I can't turn off, like the garage opener, stove clock, built in microwave, etc. Another 20% was in my home theater equipment (amp, dvd, vcr, and TVs). There were some other random devices around as well, not including my network setup...

    After finding this out, I installed a "step on" power extension (like people use under the Christmas tree) in line between the wall and home theater, so I can press one switch at night to turn off all the device in the HT setup (except the DVR which has to stay pugged in all the time per the cable company or they'll void the warranty on the device). I threw out all the scent plug-ins in favor of passively diffused oils and popuri. I changed the few night lights we had out for LCD versions. I now have a programmable timer power strip in the computer room that I have 2 laptops, a small TV, a printer and a network switch hooked up to. Each night at 11:00PM the adapter cuts power to the laptops (which hibernate automatically after 15 minutes when on battery), my printers, the switch they're connected to, and the TV and cable box in there. My HTPC now uses sleep mode with Wake on Lan to save power and automatically shuts down and powers
  • Re:hmmm. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ambitwistor (1041236) on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @09:21AM (#20070365)

    That does not mean that all conclusions are incorrect or made up, but very often peer reviews are sorely lacking,
    The actual scientific literature published in journals is peer reviewed.

    and many reports have had chapters and sections stricken in the final draft, because those sections could cast doubt on the severity or existence of human impact on the climate. In many cases scientists voicing such doubts have not been gainsaid, but fired from "scientific" institutions.
    Please, give examples.

    And while you've raised the issue, shall we discuss political meddling in the opposite direction (cough EPA report cough)?

    Why are long term trends not taken into account in these reports, for example.
    They look at century time scales, but not longer, because (despite what you say) predictions are very hard to do for longer timescales, especially given the uncertainty in what humans will be doing in terms of atmospheric emissions and land use changes. Remember, climate physics is not the only input into climate prediction; you need projections of human activity as well. (See here [sciencemag.org].)

    Winter is coming, and in 10.000 years we'll be in an ice age. The start of the downward trend in average temperatures is imminent (which means anywhere between now and 1.000 years)...
    It is far from established when the next ice age cycle is going to start, and there are some who claim that due to patterns in orbital dynamics, the current interglacial could be exceptionally long (as long as 50,000 years). (See here [sciencemag.org].)

    Perhaps that is why the IPCC report does not look any further than the year 2100
    Perhaps it is, as I said, hard to project much more than a century or two in advance.

    the scary hockeystick curve will flatten out after that year, and if you look even further it will drop
    The current rate of warming far exceeds the natural rate of cooling during glaciation. That rate of warming will eventually level off, but it's not going to be outweighed by glaciation any time in the next few centuries.

    It is true that eventually we will enter a new ice age, regardless of global warming, but no one is "ignoring" this fact. It's just farther off into the future; right now, the warming is what we have to deal with. If warming is a problem, you can't just ignore it because someday it will be cooler.

    Our distant descendants (if any) may even be grateful for the extra CO2 we have released, since it might make the next ice age a little less severe.
    If that turns out to be the case, it's better to release the CO2 then, rather than now, when we don't need it. As we have seen already, it's far easier to raise the temperature quickly than it is to cool it, having to do with the ease in emitting CO2 as a byproduct of civilization and with the long residence time of CO2 in the atmosphere.
  • Re:hmmm. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @09:41AM (#20070651) Journal

    Please, give examples.
    Here's one [heartland.org]. The same happened with two scientists in a Dutch government-run climatological research institute. I'm sure you can find others, and I am also sure each of these examples can (and have) been countered by arguments of these scientists being fired for bad science or using "improper channels" to release their counter-claims.

    And while you've raised the issue, shall we discuss political meddling in the opposite direction (cough EPA report cough)?
    My point is that the entire climate debate is no longer about science, but about politics. That goes for both sides of the table, however most politicians, scientists and activists have far more to gain by a "let's impose controls" attitude than with a "nothing to see here, move along" attitude, the global warming camp is far more influential than the sceptics camp.

    The current rate of warming far exceeds the natural rate of cooling during glaciation.
    The current rate of warming is nothing exceptional, and might even be just a ripple in the trend. The past has seen increases in temperature of higher rates and over a larger range. That's also the pattern to most ice ages (and we're at the peak following a small one of a couple 100 years ago): a slow decline in temperature, followed by a sharp ramp upwards.

    It is true that eventually we will enter a new ice age, regardless of global warming, but no one is "ignoring" this fact. It's just farther off into the future; right now, the warming is what we have to deal with. If warming is a problem, you can't just ignore it because someday it will be cooler.
    Warming and cooling are natural trends, on which we have some (small influence). We should be worried about the warming trend, but not exaggerate our supposed influence. Thart's like worrying about a small wave, while the normal tide raises and drops the water level by several meters.

    As we have seen already, it's far easier to raise the temperature quickly than it is to cool it, having to do with the ease in emitting CO2 as a byproduct of civilization and with the long residence time of CO2 in the atmosphere.
    We have seen nothing yet. The current increase in temperature might be a ripple in the trend, it fits the trend itself, and it might also be caused or aggravated by human influence. But in the history of the earth it is most certainly not anything out of the ordinary.
  • by tjstork (137384) <todd...bandrowsky@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday August 01, 2007 @10:24AM (#20071497) Homepage Journal
    I've got my black colored glasses on, but to me it seems like almost every headline lately is either bad news for some group, or at least provokes a political brawl. But finally, after what seems like a brutal decade, there's been a bit of good news for Team USA. GM and Ford are both making money, and now someone has made a real advance in solar cell efficiency. As someone who lives in Delaware, and has seen banks slash their staff and Chrysler announce the closure of a key auto plant, the prospect of any industrial expansion is a welcome bonus.

    Let's say something political, now. Let's hope that the Government can come together with the kind of tax incentives they are waiving around for Ethanol and Oil production to help building owners migrate to solar cells. I think we've beaten the crap out of each other enough debating energy independence and its just time to get rolling.

"Never ascribe to malice that which is caused by greed and ignorance." -- Cal Keegan

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