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Power Hardware

Next-Gen Glitter-Sized Photovoltaic Cells Unveiled 155

Posted by samzenpus
from the catching-the-sun dept.
MikeChino writes "Sandia National Laboratories recently announced a new breed of glitter-sized solar cells made from crystalline silicon that use 100 times less material to generate the same amount of electricity as standard solar cells made from 6-inch square solar wafers. Perfect for soaking up the sun’s rays on unusual shapes and surfaces, the tiny solar cells are expected to be less expensive, more efficient, and have promising new applications in textiles, clothing, and building facade installations."
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Next-Gen Glitter-Sized Photovoltaic Cells Unveiled

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  • by yakumo.unr (833476) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @09:13AM (#30543280) Homepage

    As of now the solar cells are producing energy with 14.9 percent efficiency, which is pretty great compared to off-the-shelf commercial modules which range from 13 to 20 percent.

    I guess that must be good for the size, but Boeing announced 41.6 percent efficient cells this year [spacefellowship.com] and I wonder how the ex NASA employee & inventor of the super soaker is getting on with his work he claims could hit up to 60% [physorg.com]

  • by ickleberry (864871) <web@pineapple.vg> on Thursday December 24, 2009 @09:17AM (#30543296) Homepage
    Over the past 5-10 years so many new efficient solar panels have been designed but you can't buy any of them.

    The best solar panel I can reasonably get my hands on is a a 15% efficient overpriced 100W monocrystalline panel off ebay for about $300 so it will take about 10 years even in Florida to break even.

    The strange thing is I distinctly remember reading a magazine article that mentioned the breakthrough that got solar panels from 10% efficiency to 15% and that was in 1999. So that means we should have the ones mentioned in this article by about 2017 if we are lucky. By that time of course we will be reading about 125% efficient solar panels that not only convert 100% of the energy from the sun but also suck up a substantial amount of ambient heat and convert that to electricity as well
  • Re:and I bet (Score:3, Informative)

    by ZeroExistenZ (721849) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @09:35AM (#30543382)

    This technology will be mass produced in only 20 years.

    I think this could lift off pretty fast once it's incorporated in fashion, affordable goodies, want-haves, and is popularized in this way.

    Say, you would design an affordable line of clothing with a nicely hidden away mini-USB-cable to power your gadgets with the glitter displayed discretely (having a certain technological cool about it but also being aesthetical and fasionable, so not the "geek gear", or the over the top 80s like neon fad, but accessable for the general public being some added "I'm environmently friendly and techno cool"-patch)

    I think you can shave off on R&D time by driving up demand for this technology and investing in it with a sense of urgency.

    Just think of the possibilities of being a walking powercollector?

  • by Red Flayer (890720) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @09:59AM (#30543510) Journal
    Spectrolab's cells are nowhere close to cost-effective for consumer (or even business) use on earth. They are a niche product to be used for satellites, other spacecraft, etc. The goal of Spectrolab's cells is to maximize power as a function of mass and volume.

    The goal of consumer-grade systems is to maximize power as a function of cost (including maintenance, etc).

    Johnson's system (the super-soaker guy) is simply a cell that harnesses a temperature gradient to generate electricity. He claims up to 60% efficiency, but the system requires an operating temp on the high-temp electrode stack of the cell of about 600 degrees C to hit this efficiency, which would require the use of a parabolic mirror setup -- hardly fit for consumer use. In truth, his cell isn't solar at all -- it's more like a special kind of fuel cell.
  • by zogger (617870) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @11:27AM (#30544134) Homepage Journal

    Here is the real sandia labs press release with more detail

    http://www.sandia.gov/news/resources/news_releases/glitter-sized-solar-photovoltaics-produce-competitive-results/ [sandia.gov]

    They suggest using an industrial "pick and place" machine to assemble the tiny cells onto a substrate for making the panel, at a cost of 1/10th a penny a "glitter", and you can also add a concentrator above each cell

    So I don't know with government work like this, do they license patents, is it automatically open (it should be) or what? Seems like a nice breakthrough, but it still just adds to the list of other incredible breakthroughs that have lead to not much at all for reducing watts per dollar at the retail level with solar PV in general. If some one company gets it and it is locked up in a for profit patent for years and years, they will just reduce their own costs then charge the normal global prices we have seen for the past long time, around ~ five bucks per watt. None of these dozens of breakthroughs we have seen are going to be all that useful until that situation changes.

    Energy independence is a national security and economic recovery issue, (along with all this climate change jazz they keep going on about) so maybe this tech will be freely licensed to drop prices and actually get this stuff to the end consumer in mass quantities.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 24, 2009 @12:42PM (#30544862)

    The best solar panel I can reasonably get my hands on is a a 15% efficient overpriced 100W monocrystalline panel off ebay for about $300 so it will take about 10 years even in Florida to break even.

      I would be worried by your statements except for the fact you are incorrect!

    $/Annual kWh is currently maximized by 8-11% CdTe, but only besting 16-22% Si by about 20%. The chinese are making complete panels for $1.09 - 1.34/peak watt. Guess what? Without installation costs that's cheaper than coal! Guess what? doubling the cost for installation & shipping puts it within 10-30% the cost of coal! LIKE OMG!!! Guess what? installation will trim by 40% when ridiculous regulations are lifted! Guess what solar is here, now, and it is the future! And the US will buy it from CHINA because we lacked any and all forsight because people listen to crazy neighbors like you! Our energy money will slowly shift from the Sheiks to the communists Ahh how funny.

    You drop in Florida as if it means you have a good solar resource. However Florida is incredibly intermittent, such that, the state has a relatively POOR solar resource on average. In fact, its bested by Minnesota a place where very few panels will produce meaningful electricity past ohh about 2pm today. There are, however, some incredibly good spots for solar resource in Florida, but without listing your location your comment is worthless.

    I'm still skeptical of your 10 yr payback. Maybe if you live in a crappy part of florida with 1) No incentives 2) A hostile utility 3) Increased installation costs due to local regulations 4) Poor solar resource THEN your payback will be 10 yr. However, DIY a few panels and your payback is 7 yrs TOPS. I know this because I'm charging roughly a 40% overhead and my MN customers for plan, install, commission and systems as recent as 2005 are paying back (14% Si) My average has gone from about 9yr in 2004 to 7 yr in 2009.

    Your goofball comment about efficiency is ridiculous. The efficiency of no machine throughout the history of man has progressed the way you envision so I don't understand what makes you think PV will. Nor does the efficiency of infinite junction quantum dot Fresnel concentrating cells really matter. The focus on the real commercial PV industry for the last 15 yr has been cost reductions. The newest tech in the field dates to about 1995... Improvements are to increase yield, reduce cost, and increase economies of scale.

    Good luck down there at sea level!

  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @01:03PM (#30545054)

    They are f*ing silicon based things where the oxidised surface layer is the same stuff that is f*ing quartz - you don't get much more durable than that.

    Ok, dude. Why don't you pull the passivation layer off of your silicon-based CPU and see how long it lasts when exposed to the air and UV radiation.

    Hint: the problem isn't the bulk semiconductor. It's things like the delicate layer of transparent conductor over the top, or doping regions that are sensitive to parts-per-billion levels of additives.

  • by Donkey_Hotey (1433053) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @05:40PM (#30547138)

    Er, you could cut Alaska in half and Texas would be the third largest state...

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