It is an exciting time in the solar industry right now, with various breakthroughs and important discoveries made lately to further the quest for better and better solar cells. Scientist from around the world, including top notch Australian researchers, have developed ingenious ways of making solar energy more viable and cost effective.
Thin Film Solar Cells
Scientists have discovered that thinner solar cells are capable of trapping more sunlight than traditional arrays of solar cells. By making them thinner and intentionally roughing the surface of the cells, the light bounces inside the cell which results in better absorption and efficiency.
Thinner solar cells are also cheaper to manufacture, and by improving the absorption of electrons also further boost efficiency and output. University of New South Wales professor Martin Green recently revealed that this breakthrough will also serve as a backbone to organic semi-conductors and even plastic solar cells.
Though plastic is not an ideal material for solar panel arrays, Professor Green said that the thickness that the researchers are dealing with will allow plastic to work because of the low optical density that the thin solar cell processing will require.
Nano-sized solar cells
Recently this year Australian researchers invented a nano-sized solar cell about 1/100th the size of an average solar cell found in regular solar panels. These solar cells, or quantum dots, are made from cadmium telluride, which has good light absorbing characteristics.
The quantum dots are so small that they can be suspended in a liquid medium.
This will allow solar manufacturers to directly mass produce roofing materials that have built in solar cells, and they will be a cheaper price because of its less complex process.
The reduced size of the quantum dots hasn’t greatly compromised their efficiency rate; researchers said that the solar cells have an efficiency rate of 12% against the current 18% of traditional solar panels. This new technology will not be limited by your available roof spaces though, so you can generate more energy per home.
Stacked printable Solar cells
Lead researcher Dr.Udo Bach from the Monash University in Melbourne, in collaboration with the University of Ulm in Germany, discovered that stacked printable solar cells are capable of producing more energy than a single active electrode solar cell.
Dr. Bach explained that printable solar cells already have 2 electrodes stacked on each other,however one of them is inactive. The breakthrough is thatDr. Bach and his team found a way to replace that inactive electrode with an active one making it more efficient.
Although this technology is still under extensive research and development because of the relatively low efficiency rate compared to today’s solar panels, researchers believe that due to the fact that it can be printed onto cheap polymers, this technology will someday revolutionise the solar industry.
3-D solar panels
Dr Zhong Wang of the Georgia Institute of Technology, together with US scientists, is now developing the so called “3-D” solar panels which use fibre optic technology instead of the typical solar cells.
The fibre optics work by collecting sunlight into the protruding tip, and as the light travels down the length of the cable the zinc oxide converts it to electricity. The two stage conversion process allows the zinc oxide to convert any missed light during the first stage.
Currently the technology has an efficiency rate of 3.3%, which as an example means that a 10 watt light bulb will be powered per 4 inches of fibre optics.
While mostly still in the development phase these innovations in solar power promise an exciting and better future for us, with sustainable and clean energy becoming cheaper and more effective, and the bonus of greatly reducing carbon emissions around the world.
Premier Solar is committed to being Australia’s leading Solar Power & Renewable Energy solutions provider for both homes and medium to large scale commercial solar projects. We are specialists in effective and affordable solar panel System design and use only fully certified installers and product components which pass all government standards and certifications, to enable our customers to access full discounts and rebates, as well enjoy the peace of mind of 25 year warranties from long established manufacturers.
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