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Power Earth

Hairy Solar Cells Could Mean Higher Efficiency 203

kitzilla writes "Two research groups working independently have come up with what they say are cheap processes for growing nanowires to be used with solar cells. The 'hairy' cells provide a direct path for electrons collected at the panel face to reach an electrode, something which has the potential to dramatically improve system efficiency."
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Hairy Solar Cells Could Mean Higher Efficiency

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  • by QuasiEvil ( 74356 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @05:56PM (#23467892)
    The problem is that a large portion of the lab performance-enhancing techniques are so insanely expensive that they *can't* go into production. Many of them - particularly exotic materials or multi-junction cells - are prohibitively expensive to make, given the meager performance improvements. I think Nanosolar has the right idea for now - craptastic cells made cheap. Who cares if they're large if they're incredibly inexpensive?
  • Re:Let me guess... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@gmail.BOHRcom minus physicist> on Monday May 19, 2008 @06:01PM (#23467934) Homepage Journal

    Currently there is no single device that is sensitive to the whole visible spectrum
    Then why not have some sort of dichroic reflector [wikipedia.org] pass specific wavelengths to specific PV cell banks?
  • by dunezone ( 899268 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @06:18PM (#23468080) Journal
    Yeah but this is like any technology. A few days ago there was an article on why touch table tops are just now coming around. Thats because 30-40 years ago when they were developed they were developed in labs and were extremely expensive. Now with the advancement in technology that produced them its feasible for this technology to be manufactured/developed/sold.

    Give this technology another 20-30 years, maybe even less, and the advancement of production will drop the price.
  • Re:Let me guess... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tweenk ( 1274968 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @07:19PM (#23468716)

    a good chunk of baseline power could be provided by solar thermal.
    Baseline power is the minimal power required during the day, so it has to be supplied constantly. Solar thermal plant output drops to 0 watts at night unless you use some means of energy storage, and is severely reduced during the winter or when there are thick clouds, so they're not suited to supplying baseline power unless a reliable means of storing huge amounts of energy with little loss is developed. For now, the only feasible baseline power plants are hydro, nuclear and fossil.

    Generally solar is good as long as the sky is clear. Imagine what would happen to a 100% solar economy hit by a month of thick clouds. I don't think relying on something as random as the weather for your main energy supply is a good idea. It's OK e.g. when you want to power farm machines, because if there's no power you can wait, but powering cities with it doesn't seem wise. I also think that green activists should stop pretending they can do without nuclear power (at least those of them that do), because right now they can't, and telling everybody not to invest in nuclear and wait until we come up with adequate energy storage technology is making the global warming worse by preventing substantial CO2 emission reductions.
  • by GodfatherofSoul ( 174979 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @08:39PM (#23469368)
    Wake me up when there's actually a cheap product. These articles need their own icon; maybe Bigfoot, the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, the Loch Ness Monster, or La Chupacabra.
  • Re:Let me guess... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by arotenbe ( 1203922 ) on Monday May 19, 2008 @09:45PM (#23469888) Journal
    Thus proving something everyone on Slashdot already knew: when it comes to rapidly advancing technology, patents do nothing but move the state of the art back 10 or 20 years.
  • Re:Let me guess... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mike2R ( 721965 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @05:25AM (#23472716)

    Thus proving something everyone on Slashdot already knew: when it comes to rapidly advancing technology, patents do nothing but move the state of the art back 10 or 20 years.

    I don't see its proved anything of the sort to be honest. Unless the poster who made the original suggestion is in a position to bring this product to market himself, and was willing to make what I assume would be a large investment to do so without the benefit of any patent protection, then no one has lost anything. On the flip side the patent holder may be able to find an investor willing to back development of the technology; it would be considerably harder to do so if the investor knew that if the product was a success, they'd have to very quickly face competitors selling identical products who didn't have to make as large an initial investment.

    Disclaimer: I know crap all about solar power or the validity or utility of this particular patent; I'm just trying to make a distinction between the development of software and that of physical inventions.

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