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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 thomasdz (178114) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @09:03AM (#30543244)

    OK, we have a new standard of measurement... "glitter"
    I can handle that. After all I understood volkswagon-sized meteors, a station wagon full of backup tapes, a library of congress -sized disk farm, and of course the old favorite, a football field sized nuclear storage facility.

    • *must fight urge to put a joke about Garry Glitter in this comment*

      *must fight...*

      GAAAAHHH *head explodes into a cloud of glitter*

      • by MiniMike (234881)

        GAAAAHHH *head explodes into a cloud of glitter*

        What kind of glitter?

        • GAAAAHHH *head explodes into a cloud of glitter*?

          What kind of glitter

          He stopped being able to type with his brain after exploding. His mental capacities have been reduced to glittering only. I'm not sure how many IQ points that requires still though, but not enough to explain and elaborate on the type of glittering his being has been reduced to...

      • *must fight urge to put a joke about Garry Glitter in this comment*

        *must fight...*

        HEEEEYYY *head explodes into a cloud of glitter*

        Fixed that for you.

    • The problem with using "glitter" as a new standard non-standard measurement is that there is probably already a NSSU for particles of that size. Duplicate functionality. This is in addition to the fact that glitter is of an uncertan size -- I've seen glitter particles nearly a cm square, and I've seen glitter particles in the sub-mm range.

      If we are measuring in only one plane (since solar cells are pretty much flat), then the correct unit would be a nanoacre (about 2 mm square).
    • by FatdogHaiku (978357) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @10:25AM (#30543638)
      My favorite measure is still the "buttload" as in, "We have a buttload of these old 1.6 gig Celeron machines, should we make a beowulf cluster?" There are instances of confusion when working between Asia or Europe and America, as the American (or imperial) buttload is larger that the metric buttload, however a buttload does imply plenty so things tend to workout in the end...

      I'm sorry, I'll get a cup of coffee and take my meds now....
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Waffle Iron (339739)

        Hmm... I always thought that a "metric buttload" was bigger, because people I've known tend to use it as a superlative over an unadorned buttload.

        • by Jesus_666 (702802)
          It's a definition thing. Metric butts are smaller than imperial butts but the metric buttload is actually not defined through the butt at all, for consistency reasons. Instead the metric buttload is specified for a butt that exactly fills out one square meter when seated - which is quite a bit larger than even the imperial butt.
    • by Graff (532189)

      I still want to know how you use 100 times less material. So you have x amount of material, you use 100 times less than that:

      x - 100x = -99x

      It gives back 99 times the original amount? Hmmmm...

      Maybe they meant to say that it uses one hundredth the amount of material? Nah, if they meant that they'd have said it correctly, right?

      • by ArcherB (796902)

        I still want to know how you use 100 times less material. So you have x amount of material, you use 100 times less than that:

        x - 100x = -99x

        It gives back 99 times the original amount? Hmmmm...

        Maybe they meant to say that it uses one hundredth the amount of material? Nah, if they meant that they'd have said it correctly, right?

        Actually, since the result is negative 99x, it returns 99 times the original amount in anti-material. You want to make sure you keep the two separate as 1x material will annihilate itself with 1x of anti-material (-1x) leaving you with just 98x anti-material and one Imperial buttload of energy.

    • Peter Griffin: A palette? Am-am I readin' this right? Y-You need a palette of chocolate-covered pretzels? Wh-wh-where the hell am i supposed to - a-an-an-and wh-what is this, a drum of grape jam? Is that - wh-what is that - is that like a drum like, they ship oil in? Is that - a-a-an-and wh-wh-wha - look at this one: A desk of Cheez-its. A desk - wh-where are you gettin' these units of measurements from? Jackée Harry: Mary. Peter Griffin: [laughs] That is still funny. Okay you stay right here, big funn
  • by Red Flayer (890720) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @09:05AM (#30543256) Journal
    Up until now we have all known that trench-coat ninjas > glitter vampires > eye-liner pirates.

    Does this invention change this? Will glitter vampires now be able to overpower both eye-liner pirates and trench-coat ninjas?

    Or does the "solar" aspect of these tiny solar cells make them useless, even deadly, to glitter vampires?

    Also, can someone please explain where heroin-chic werewolves fit into the hierarchy? I'm having trouble placing them.

    These are the questions that wake me in the middle of the night, sweating and with racing heart.
    • by Culture20 (968837)

      Up until now we have all known that trench-coat ninjas > glitter vampires > eye-liner pirates. Does this invention change this? Will glitter vampires now be able to overpower both eye-liner pirates and trench-coat ninjas? Or does the "solar" aspect of these tiny solar cells make them useless, even deadly, to glitter vampires?

      This doesn't change anything. Vampires can wear them, but they won't get energy from the sun, only candlelight. It's just like the speaker-laden trench-coats, or pro-football grade eye-liner. Ninjas can't sneak while blaring music, and eye-liner's only half-useful when you're wearing an eye-patch.

  • Where the hell is my Nanosolar panel? They promised they would have them for sale to residential customers way back in 2009. It's almost 2010 now, and only one panel has been sold to an individual, on eBay. It has many of the same advantages, plus it's not crystalline. But they won't sell them to the public...

    • An interesting thing to do is to find any solar advancement promised, theorized or in testing from the last decade, and find what big oil company bought the company.

      No, it's not conspiracy theories or speculation. It's just simple fact - with the added fact that such oil companies find it NOT in their best interest to further (or even release) such technology.

      That's part of the reason why (at least according to them), British Petroleum is the largest manufacturer of (rather mundane, unimpressive) solar

  • and I bet (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Pikoro (844299) <init@iPOLLOCKnit.sh minus painter> on Thursday December 24, 2009 @09:13AM (#30543276) Homepage Journal
    This technology will be mass produced in only 20 years.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ZeroExistenZ (721849)

      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 accessabl

  • 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 gbutler69 (910166) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @09:56AM (#30543486) Homepage
      Efficiency alone is useless. You also must consider durability and cost. If something is 99.99% efficient, costs $ 1,000,000,000.00 per kW/Hr to produce and has a lifespan of 10 years, then, it's useless. If, on the other hand, it is 25% efficient, costs $ 5.00 per kW/Hr to produce, and has a life-span of 1 year, then "IT IS WICKED USEFUL!"
      • by dbIII (701233)

        Efficiency alone is useless. You also must consider durability

        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. I really do not understand where you guys get your ideas about limited life from (it comes up a lot and I do not understand why), I wouldn't be surprised if the photovoltaic materials that Einstein was playing with are still in one piece.
        The clue here people is think of whatever mode of failure

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Patch86 (1465427)

          You don't need econ101 voodoo where something of infinite value which lasts forever is discounted to nothing to show that more efficient cells that don't cost much more and have a similar long lifespan are worth it (and especially so if they cost less than some things in use).

          Cost is all important. 2 devices might both last 500 years, and one might be 3 times as efficient as the other. But if it costs 10 times as much, it's not going to fly with average Mr Commercial.

          If I want to kit my house out with solar panels, it wouldn't make sense to buy the more expensive one. Sure it might pay off as the centuries tick by, but that just doesn't enter in to it. You want something affordable now, which will pay off over the next few years before you move house/die.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Waffle Iron (339739)

          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.

          • Hint - solar cells are different and the bulk properties are what matters since you are not interested in semiconducting properties of doped regions at all. The exceptions are the ones where a thin film coating on a substrate does all the work - but this article was about multi-crystalline lumps of silicon and not thin films. The most delicate parts end up being copper tracks.
            Einstein didn't have silicon diodes to play with a hundred years ago, it's the bulk material that matters.
            • Solar cells are doped. They're basically LED diodes run in reverse. Look at the crystalline silicon diagram [wikipedia.org] on Wikipedia for example. It has lots of delicate thin layers on the top. It wouldn't work without the n-doped and p-doped areas. Dicing it into glitter doesn't change the physics.

              • by dbIII (701233)
                Yes, some coatings to improve the optical properties and then a single really big junction on a really hard material. Scratches make the junction a bit smaller, compare say a 50 micron wide scratch to a junction 50mm wide and you'll see why I'm not taking you seriously. Take an angle grinder with a silicon carbide wheel or sandpaper to it and you can do a lot of damage - but that's not really what I would call delicate.
                Your CPU comparison is somewhat misleading.
                • Ok, now that you finally admit that a solar cell is more than just a simple mineral crystal, you can begin to understand that they have a limited lifetime (this all started when you asserted that "durability" has no meaning for solar cells), typically due to UV damage over the long term.

      • Excellent post - but you forgot size and (installation) flexibility, which is a very large constraint for many applications of this technology. We'd go solar if we could fit enough panels on the roof... but with the added draw of our stand-alone office and it's 7' high stack of servers (and the AC needed to keep the office cool and other server related things), we'd only cover half our needs.

        Fortunately, we dont heat the office in the winter... the servers do that quite nicely. ;-) In the 20's outside rig

    • 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.
      • Mirrors are cheap. If your solar panel is 60% efficient, you can afford the 70% reflectivity of polished aluminum. A unit that would power a NE home in the winter would be no larger than a C-band satellite dish. A NE home with electric resistance heating.

    • You're mistakenly using watts per lumen, which is very similar to watts per pound (the important factor in space). For the vast majority of energy production, the important factor is watts per dollar.

      Glitter sized cells scare me because they must be approaching the point where the kerf size is exceptionally relevant to the product size.

    • The most frustrating thing about that, is that he is working on the solar side of this. In my mind that is just foolish to focus his efforts there. Instead, he should be making that work with Natural Gas, Gas, or Diesel. The reason is that if takes that, combines it with a battery that will drive a vehicle say 5 miles, and obviously an electric drive system, he will FAR FAR outstrip the ICE. The motor operates at 95+% and the battery at least as high as 90%. If his JTEC will do just 50%, then his total is
  • When can I buy it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Danathar (267989) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @09:14AM (#30543286) Journal

    Like most sensational announcements of breakthroughs in engineering on Slashdot; If I can't buy products that use it at my local hardware store or via Amazon for my iphone/laptop/electronic device, it might as well not exist.

    So what that it was invented. The REAL story would be an announcement of a product that will be SOLD. This story is just a teaser.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MathFox (686808)
      They say that some oil companies are heavy into alternative energy, buying start-ups and shelving their products. For them, "Never" is the answer to your question!
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by dlt074 (548126)

        at the risk of yet another -Troll mod from the socialist whack-jobs running around here.

        which ever technology makes the most profit and has the best ROI is the one any real free market company will use. it's only when you get government involved and disturbing the free market that you have issues with political moves and motivations. such as shelving something to make a point.

        i'd be more concerned about the EPA coming in and saying that we can't manufacture this product on US soil because the process of mak

        • the environmentalists in the US are all for alternative technologies, as long as they get manufactured in someone else's back yard

          It depends on whom you call an environmentalists as they range from moderate conservationists to the eco-terrorist Greenpeace types. Let be honest here. It's the later that seeks the destruction of America in favor of some form of misguided communist ideology. You know it, I know it! That's what it all comes down to. Greenpeace is the new haven of Communism since the fall of the

        • which ever technology makes the most profit and has the best ROI is the one any real free market company will use.

          The free market is good at finding local maxima, not global ones. It's unlikely to nudge itself out of its current fossil fuel rut any time soon.

          That's where government "interference" can be useful.

        • which ever technology makes the most profit and has the best ROI is the one any real free market company will use. it's only when you get government involved and disturbing the free market that you have issues with political moves and motivations. such as shelving something to make a point.

          Wait, are you trying to say that the only reason a large company would buy and then suppress technology that might threaten their profits is because there's government interference instead of a "real free market"? Wouldn't a "real free market" absolutely allow this kind of dirty trick, while preventing it from happening is what would require government interference?

          • Suppression requires either secrecy or a patent system. The patent system is time-limited, therefor can't suppress forever; furthermore the patent system involves government, which has a dubious relation to any "real free market." Also, there are countries that don't honor the US patent system, so development of a sufficiently advantageous technology could take place outside the US.

            Suppression by secrecy can happen under any political/economic system, so the relation to a "real free market" is moot.

        • by cas2000 (148703)

          which ever technology makes the most profit and has the best ROI is the one any real free market company will use.

          what gives you the crazy idea that there's anything like a "free market" in operation, anywhere in the world? or that corporations are "free market companies"? or that they're "rational" in any meaningful sense (i.e. significantly beyond the next quarterly results).

          The "Free Market" is a mythical *ideal*, not an accurate description of anything possible in reality.

          it's only when you get gove

      • by hcdejong (561314)

        [citation needed]

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If you're not interested in science en technology news then /. is not the site for you.
      There are plenty other sites that do only product reviews.

    • Slashdot: Product Reviews For Nerds, Stuff That You Can Buy?

      Something tells me we wouldn't spend nearly as much time here if thats all Slashdot posted.

    • by dbIII (701233)
      It has been said that in general Americans hate science intensely and distrust scientists but love technology - hence the evolution, vaccination and climate change fiascos going on in the USA when it is accepted elsewhere.
      Is that the view you have or am I just looking at things far too simplisticly?
      BTW, the first hybrid car I saw used commercially was in 1987 (passenger vehicle in a mine) - it usually takes a very long time before advances hit the mass market
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by plover (150551) *

        It has been said that in general Americans hate science intensely and distrust scientists but love technology - hence the evolution, vaccination and climate change fiascos going on in the USA when it is accepted elsewhere.
        Is that the view you have or am I just looking at things far too simplisticly?

        Oh, no, you've nailed it squarely on the head. Ignorance is easy -- just stop doing hard stuff like going to school, and there you are -- ignorant. Those who follow that path usually end up working hard in low paying jobs, resentful of the intellectuals who have "easy" high paying jobs. And they pass this prejudice to their ignorant children, who are in no position to understand why their mom and dad work hard but make no money, but dad's boss, the MBA, makes lots of money for doing "nothing". Thus we h

        • by atomic777 (860023)
          This is a largely American phenomenon, and certainly not universal as your post seems to suggest.

          For example, in countries like Germany and Russia, engineers are highly respected members of the educated classes, and any average blue collar worker would be extremely proud to see his child become an engineer (or a doctor or lawyer for that matter)

          American intellectuals lament the poor decisions that the uneducated masses make and the people that they vote for. Perhaps the 'intellectuals' should focus mo

    • If I can't buy products that use it at my local hardware store or via Amazon for my iphone/laptop/electronic device, it might as well not exist. ... The REAL story would be an announcement of a product that will be SOLD.

      Please turn in your nerd card on the way out the door.

      • by Danathar (267989)

        OH don't get me wrong, the science is interesting but unless something actually gets made from it it's about as interesting as reading an article in Science Magazine and about as useful to my everyday life as well.

  • 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
    • by tibman (623933)

      The cells themselves seem to be really easy to get, just not completed panels.

      http://www.goldmine-elec-products.com/products.asp?dept=1174 [goldmine-e...oducts.com]

  • by nloop (665733) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @09:17AM (#30543298)
    Does anyone else notice every few months an amazing breakthrough in solar cells that will increase solar efficiency by 10^x power or lower the cost to nearly free? Meanwhile, the solar panels for useful applications are still expensive and space consuming?

    I'm [slashdot.org] kind [slashdot.org] of [slashdot.org] getting [slashdot.org] tired [slashdot.org] of [slashdot.org] it. [slashdot.org]
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by RandomFactor (22447)

      "or lower the cost to nearly free?"

      I think the term you are looking for is 'too cheap to meter' :-\

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 24, 2009 @09:27AM (#30543348)

      There is a reason for this. Up until about the past 5 years there has been minimal manufacturing capacity globally. Everything was limited to laboratory experiments at universities or venture capital companies that like press releases. Now that we actually have companies making cells in volume the $/Watt has been driven down immensely. Take a look at first solar currently running somewhere near $0.90/Watt (solar cell production not end cost to consumer)

    • by savuporo (658486)
      Not quite. Google on "first solar, grid parity". Also, news.google.com : nanosolar.
      • by nloop (665733)
        Nanosolar looks great! I'd love to purchase some for my house and boat. Except it's not available yet. Call me when it's ready.

        The grid parity is indeed news worthy, and I would not refer to that as vaporwear.

        I'm just saying articles like this one, or the human hair to solar power etc. etc. etc. are nothing but PR crap that will most likely never see the light of day (no pun intended). I like the idea of solar power and agree that it has a fantastic future. Just better moderation of obvious vaporwear
    • Does anyone else notice every few months an amazing breakthrough in solar cells that will increase solar efficiency by 10^x power or lower the cost to nearly free? Meanwhile, the solar panels for useful applications are still expensive and space consuming?

      There are two kinds of breakthroughs - ones that can be used to go to manufacturing and ones that can be used to go to venture capital.

  • Wiring them up (Score:3, Interesting)

    by flyingfsck (986395) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @09:22AM (#30543316)
    Hmm, I guess it is good news for China, since hundreds of millions of girls will need to be employed to wire these things up.
  • Huh? 100 times more efficient? How does that work when current cells are more than 1% efficient to begin with. You can't pull out energy that isn't there? What am I missing?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by JrGrouch0 (778235)
      Glitter?
    • by nloop (665733)

      100 times less material to generate the same amount of electricity as standard solar cells made from 6-inch square solar wafers

      from the article: 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.

      Gotta read them things!

  • PR BS (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pz (113803) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @09:40AM (#30543402) Journal

    One hundred times less material? More efficient? Glitter?

    Sounds suspiciously like sound bites designed by a PR office for pickup by the press. I thought that Slashdot editors saw through that sort of malarky.

    I'm going to go out on a limb: does anyone know if the limiting factor in determining the costs of a solar cell is the amount of material used? I had thought it was the intensive processing required to create a solar cell, rather than the cost of the silicon, which, thanks to the gargantuan and heroic efforts of integrated circuit manufacturers, is vanishingly small for incredibly high quality (what other industry delivers seven 9s purity?). If the amount of material isn't relevant, then reducing it by a factor of 100 isn't that interesting, is it?

    • They are not 100x more efficient. They use 100x less silicon. Which, if my math is correct, means that the manufacture of one unit of these things generates 99x as much silicon as the manufacture of a similarly performing "standard" unit costs.

      • by pz (113803)

        They are not 100x more efficient. They use 100x less silicon. Which, if my math is correct, means that the manufacture of one unit of these things generates 99x as much silicon as the manufacture of a similarly performing "standard" unit costs.

        Um, yes, which is why those were separate sentences. I didn't imply they were 100x as efficient -- at least in terms of insolation conversion. They are, however, supposedly 100x efficient in terms of material used.

        But, you seem to be ignoring the issue I tried to raise: if the costs of materials is irrelevant, then 100x lower material costs isn't interesting. No one has claimed that the retail costs for generating X amount of energy will be 100x less, and since, as I posited, the materials costs are not

  • I'd like to know how one would go about wiring these tiny solar cells up. It probably wouldn't be too bad on a flat surface but It doesn't seem like it would be very easy on flexible surfaces like textiles.
    • by Dunbal (464142)

      I'd like to know how one would go about wiring these tiny solar cells up.

            I agree that wiring is often the big problem when dealing with brittle, fragile solar cells. However it would be interesting if these small chips could be woven into a flexible, layered fabric. Then installation could be as simple as stretching/gluing the fabric over a surface, and inserting the electrodes in the appropriate layer. Now THAT would be a leap forward!

  • A couple of mirrors, a tube with water or oil, some turbines and some HVDC lines. Very simple, cheap, easy to fix, known technology. Every African desert country can build them and have more energy than they can use.

    Sure, photovoltaic cells are useful and cool to have. But my bets and my money are on this. :)

    Anyway, all we need now, is a energy storage system that is just as nice and simple. :)

  • Where is my flying car promised to me in the 1960s'?
    • by kimvette (919543)

      The Jetsons lied to us!

    • by mikael (484)

      There are flying cars for around $120,000 ... but the gotcha is that you need a pilot's license and still need permission to "take off" from an airport as well as submit a flight plan to the FAA.

  • by srothroc (733160) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @10:30AM (#30543680) Homepage
    It would be interesting if these "glitter cells" could be suspended in some kind of "paint" or perhaps embedded in a capacitative tile. The paint especially would have a lot of interesting uses -- cover your car, for example.
  • what about those of us that have an irrational fear of glitter?

    The glitter... It's everywhere! IT"S IN MY EYES!
  • by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @10:55AM (#30543880)

    I'm awfully tired of these articles predicting something will be better, cheaper to make and therefore much cheaper to buy.

    Nothing in the history of the world that is better than an existing product has been sold for less.

        Things end up being sold at a price very near what they're worth to the end user, which often has no relation to their cost of manufacture. Think of perfume, diamonds, or celebrity-diet plans.

    Also for something exposed to the elements that has to last many years, there are so many ways to fail. Temperature cycles, moisture, UV, hail, corrosion-- all of these have to protected against,
    and the cost of these goes up as you make the cells smaller and more fragile.

    It's swell to have better (in some sense) cells, but that's just a small part of the overall picture.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cellocgw (617879)

      I'm awfully tired of these articles predicting something will be better, cheaper to make and therefore much cheaper to buy.

      Nothing in the history of the world that is better than an existing product has been sold for less.

      You ever looked at the prices of, say, TV sets, or..... PCs?

      • >You ever looked at the prices of, say, TV sets, or..... PCs?

        I meant at a instant in time, not over time.

        When the first LCD TV's came out, were they cheaper than CRT's? Nope. They were priced proportionally to their perceived worth, not in relation to their cost of manufacture.

        Same with PC's. Faster CPU's command a premium price.

        The price of these things does go down over time, sometimes very quickly.

        But the main point remains-- something better is going to be priced higher, independent of the cost of

  • The reduction in material use is very important for silicon. Nanosolar is at the point where its solar cells are a smaller cost component in solar panels than the glass in the panels. http://www.nanosolar.com/sites/default/files/NanosolarCellWhitePaper.pdf [nanosolar.com] To compete, silicon needs to do the same. In some ways, thin film amorphous silicon does this, but the low efficiency means that you need more glass to generate the same amount of power. Crystalline silicon with low material requirements and higher e
  • 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.

  • Great (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @12:15PM (#30544566) Journal
    Now, sell the rights to an American company and require that the work be done in America. It is frustrating that America does all this RD, and then sends it to places that will not even respect the patents.
  • Why is it that every innovation has to mention clothing as a potential market to sound real?
    Where is my aluminum suit again?

    And will this actually get something useful to market like a 50W 0.1m solar panel?

You can do more with a kind word and a gun than with just a kind word. - Al Capone

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