10 March 2008

Making Photovoltaics Cheaper and Easier

Three different approaches to speeding up the production of photovoltaic surfaces--print-on PV , paint-on PV, and quantum PV--may provide product designers and architects with novel energy solutions. First, "print-on PV" uses ink-jet printer technology to rapidly print out PV surfaces.
Konarka Technologies, the Massachusetts-based company we first recognized with a 2005 Breakthrough Award for its affordable Power Plastic solar film, said this week that it has successfully manufactured those thin solar cells using an inkjet printer. In addition to decreasing production costs because it relies on existing inkjet technology, the printable Power Plastic cells can be applied to a range of small-scale, highly variable power opportunities, from indoor sensors to small RFID installations. ___PopMech__via__BayouRenaissanceMan
Next, paint-on PV
The University of Swansea said it would now begin working with Bangor University, the University of Bath and Imperial College London on the project....Dr Dave Worsley, a reader in the Materials Research Centre at the University's School of Engineering, who led the first phase of research said that the breakthrough could have enormous implications for the way new buildings are powered.

"[Corus' pre-finished steel division] Corus Colours produces around 100 million square metres of steel building cladding a year," he observed. "If this was treated with the photovoltaic material, and assuming a conservative five per cent energy conversion rate, then we could be looking at generating 4,500Gw of electricity through the solar cells annually. That's the equivalent output of roughly 50 wind farms."

It is also hoped that the solar cell material could be applied to steel using existing paint rollers used during steel manufacturing processes. The researchers said they hoped to develop a way of applying layers of solar cells to a flexible steel service at a rate of 30-40m sq per minute, potentially making the process relatively cost effective.___Source
Eventually, every conceivable (non-living) surface could be generating electricity while the sun is shining. As engineers provide more flexible methods of adding PV to virtually any product, it is up to designers to incorporate the technology in such a way as to be unobtrusive, safe, and reliable.The third new PV approach is custom-sized quantum dot PV for catching solar energy across the solar spectrum.
The researchers used four different sizes of quantum dots (between 2.3 and 3.7 nm in diameter) which exhibited absorbent peaks at different wavelengths (between 505 and 580 nm). The group observed a trade-off in performance corresponding with quantum dot size: smaller quantum dots could convert photons to electrons at a faster rate than larger quantum dots, but larger quantum dots absorbed a greater percentage of incoming photons than smaller dots. The 3-nm quantum dots offered the best compromise, but the researchers plan to improve both the conversion and absorption performances in future prototypes.

Besides investigating the quantum dots’ size quantization effect, the researchers also experimented with two different nano architectures – particle films and nanotubes – that act as scaffolds for transporting electrons from the quantum dots to the electrodes. The group found that the hollow 8000-nm-long nanotubes, where both the inner and outer surfaces were accessible to quantum dots, could transport electrons more efficiently than films. ___NextBigFuture
Solar energy is available in quantities too large for humans to use. By incorporating PV into more products and installations, we can use ever more of the plentiful resource.

Of course, the real solar revolution happens when we can store as much energy as we can collect.

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Blogger Snake Oil Baron said...

While I dislike "total energy" stats for sun, wind, biomass and the like (it is really easy to leave in an assumption when one is figuring out how much would actually be available), even given some conservative estimates on land mass, collection efficiency, the fraction of land mass that is desert and of how much desert you want to sacrifice (not all of it is completely lifeless) you can still get a lot of energy from that big yellow block. Given what Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela and Russia are spending their pocket change on I hope things get moving ASAP.

Monday, 10 March, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

The most logical approach to large scale solar energy is space based solar. The energy available from the sun is much greater in space.

Solar, geothermal, biomass. The big three in renewables for the next 50 years. Once humans wise up, if they ever do (see idiocracy label).

Once people blink a few times and slap a bit of cold water on their faces, they may begin to comprehend

Tuesday, 11 March, 2008  

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