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Power Science

Researchers Improve Solar Cell Performance 292

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the it's-the-mirrors dept.
Vegematic writes "Researchers at MIT have improved solar collectors using dyes. They just increased their performance results by a factor of 4. These paint-on materials can increase the power obtained from existing solar cells by a factor of over 40 without needing to track the sun. 'By collecting light over their full surface and concentrating it at their edges, these devices reduce the required area of solar cells and consequently, the cost of solar power. Stacking multiple concentrators allows the optimization of solar cells at each wavelength, increasing the overall power output.' There is also a shorter FAQ available."
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Researchers Improve Solar Cell Performance

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11, 2008 @05:18PM (#24158299)

    Before the make more energy than it takes to build them.

  • by EdIII (1114411) * on Friday July 11, 2008 @05:22PM (#24158359)

    I have heard about a ton of solar technologies in the last 24 months that are supposed to revolutionize the way we get energy.

    However, I don't see a product.

    This is an uber product. The ability to generate electricity up to 40 times the amount of existing solar while allowing as low as 10% of the light to enter?

    Commercial Buildings? This technology is off the hook. It not only generates electricity, it SAVES electricity being used to cool the building.

    I am sure this would be used on new and existing residential buildings as well. The ability to create skylights while providing power?

    I hope this one actually makes it to the market within 5 years.

  • by Necreia (954727) on Friday July 11, 2008 @05:27PM (#24158405)
    For those that didn't RTFA (aka, almost everyone)

    The focus of the article is on how this could work in place of a regular window// not just as something to amplify solar cells. Since it can push the light to the edges, only the rim has to be fitted with collectors.

    Pretty cool
  • by oever (233119) on Friday July 11, 2008 @05:53PM (#24158721) Homepage

    All sentences in the linked article are artfully crafted to contain snippets like 'increases power', 'decreases cost'.

    However the linked movie [mit.edu] is fairly insightful.

    What they're saying is: we absorb light in the coating. Most of then energy that's absorbed is transmitted through the glass to the frame, where it is converted into electrical energy. This idea is from the '70s, but advances in the materials used have improved the efficiency.

    Nevertheless, no word is uttered on any practical installations, nor is there any mention of the efficiency compared to the most efficient currently available system, which is very suspicious.

    If this becomes popular and oil prices go up, you better get used to living in an orange environment.
    Since this coating absors mainly non-orange, it might be possible to combine this with greenhouses. The plants get the orange light and the coating takes the rest.

  • RTFA! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11, 2008 @06:13PM (#24158945)

    The researchers didn't do a thing to improve solar cells; they designed what will eventually be a better solar concentrator. The problem with concentrators is that the photovoltaics degrade faster when exposed to more intense light... this is not the "breakthrough" we've been waiting for folks.

  • by Dripdry (1062282) on Friday July 11, 2008 @06:19PM (#24159029) Journal
    So this would imply a new way to recharge an electric car during long drives? Just install them in each window and let the car recharge on the go. The alternator of the future!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11, 2008 @06:28PM (#24159119)

    What's your phone number? Current panels, like the panels on my roof, generate about 200w per square meter. That's roughly 20w per square foot. So 1,000 sq ft = 20kw.

  • by element-o.p. (939033) on Friday July 11, 2008 @06:36PM (#24159187) Homepage
    Okay, just being contrarian, but in a free-market society, what bureaucracy is responsible for implementing solutions? I thought the market would demand, and businesses would respond?

    Granted, government can do a lot to encourage the growth of a new industry, but is it really government's job to produce industries?
  • by KGIII (973947) on Friday July 11, 2008 @06:47PM (#24159279) Journal
    I've been watching those folks over at M.I.T. for a while now, of all the projects out there this [raw-solar.com] looks to be the more promising in the near term.
  • by cyberseptic (1315171) on Friday July 11, 2008 @06:55PM (#24159361)
    Solar cells undergo degradation with light exposure. The degradation is usually proportional to the number of photons incident on the cell. Does this method *shorten* the effective lifetimes of existing solar cells by a factor of 40? Are there cells that exist that this solution is practical for? Do the gains outweigh the costs if I use this system to "upgrade" my solar cell array and end up slashing the array's lifetime by a factor of 40?
  • by Emperor Zombie (1082033) on Friday July 11, 2008 @07:02PM (#24159399)
    It's people. Vetrolium is made out of people. They're making our fuel out of people. Next thing they'll be breeding us like cattle for fuel. You've gotta tell them. You've gotta tell them!
  • by Original Replica (908688) on Friday July 11, 2008 @07:04PM (#24159415) Journal
    but in a free-market society, what bureaucracy is responsible for implementing solutions?

    That bureaucracy would be the government. Not because they want stop solar, but because they feel the need to intervene where certain crucial resources are concerned because you can't have retired Floridians that live on fixed incomes dying because they can't pay the electric bill and keep the AC running. I'm not saying that my example is a likely outcome of an unregulated power market, but it is most certainly an example that is used in making sure that the power market stays regulated. California has struggled with an unregulated power supply industry. [spur.org] All argument about the pluses and minuses of government regulation aside, the fact is that in most places electricity is a regulated utility and that serves to help contain fluctuating costs and ensure a steady supply. That government assurance lessens the attraction of being energy self sufficient, and that lessened desirability fails to counterbalance the added costs and maintainance of home solar, for most homeowners. If electricity were seen less as a city supplied utility and more of a commodity with many consumer options (like gasoline or groceries) I think that the public interest in solar would be much higher and the available solar products would be more refined.
  • by Original Replica (908688) on Friday July 11, 2008 @07:15PM (#24159527) Journal
    oil prices don't have a whole lot to do with the price of electricity.

    They will if coal to gasoline ever takes hold. [anl.gov] Every dollar that oil rises makes that more likely, and once there is a huge new demand for coal prices for electricity from coal powered plants will rise accordingly. Coal accounts for 49.7% of US electrical power. Coal and oil will also begin to effect each other if/when electric commuter cars become common. I admit that I only present ways in which oil prices might effect electricity prices, but I think they are both distinct possibilities in the near future. (kinda like every new solar break through we read about)
  • by AmericanInKiev (453362) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:29PM (#24161043) Homepage

    When government chooses winners; it can never go back to a free economy. Unfortunately, the government has been choosing winners in Energy for a long time. It is one of the areas in which we are a communistic country; and it shows, we have aging decrepit energy infrastructure - while our television/telephone/internet infrastructure is quite modern by comparison. The FCC has done a much better job of providing competition for wire services than the Energy Department has for its wire services.

    (Also, the gov. must internalize externalities - but in asking the question, you've identified yourself as probably not understanding those two words. A little econ 101 might help, as it's an important point.)

  • nuclear power (Score:5, Interesting)

    by falconwolf (725481) <falconsoaring_20 ... minus herbivore> on Friday July 11, 2008 @11:47PM (#24161577)

    A massive country wide nuclear power plant building spree would need to take place. Right now we have over 100 nuke plants that supply 20% of our electricity

    Nuclear power isn't needed. By 2050 solar power [sciam.com] could provide 69% of the US's electrical needs. Wind [nrel.gov] can also supply a lot, I read where the Rocky Mountains alone contain enough potential wind power to supply the lower 48 states but I didn't find a reference. Then a lot of waste heat [orionmagazine.org] goes up smokestacks daily. Here's a quote from TFA: "Here's a Maxwell House coffee roaster in Duval County. They're roasting beans, so all that heat has to go somewhere. About twelve megawatts' worth of potential electricity is going up the stack." In Hawaii about 30% of the big Island's, Puna, is from geothermal power [energy.gov]. Geothermal sources produced about 13,000 gigawatt hours [ca.gov] in California in 2007, with more available.

    Add all these together and every coal fired plant should be able to be closed without any more nuclear power plants being built and still have plenty of electricity.

    Falcon

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 12, 2008 @08:38AM (#24163601)

    So seeing as consumers pay around twenty years of electricity revenue for a solar panel do we assume they are 75% pure profit?

  • by benhattman (1258918) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @11:08AM (#24164325)
    There's such a thing as "The Commons", which would be the parts of society we are all forced to share. The Commons can not be cared for via capitalism, because there's no profit in helping everybody else. Energy is a funny thing, because while energy production is not a part of the commons, its environmental impact is. So is it's impact on national security.

    So, if there's a energy solution that is not quite economically viable, but solves a number of the problems in the commons, it is the governments responsibility to encourage transition to that energy source. FWIW, the right way to do this is by taxing harmful energy and subsidizing clean energy.

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